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Kurd presses U.S. to knock Iraqi TV off air

IN NORTHERN IRAQ—A senior Kurdish military leader is urging that U.S. forces quickly eliminate the Iraqi government's ability to broadcast on television. He said Saturday that the broadcasts were instilling doubts among Iraqi commanders about whether they should surrender.

"Psychology is 50 percent of the battle," said Lt. Col. Wagih Barzani, the commander of the 1st Army Special Forces of the Kurdistan Democratic Party. "When the Iraqis see pictures of a downed American helicopter, the Iraqis believe Saddam is still in control."

Despite U.S. bombing of the Iraqi Information Ministry building in Baghdad, the BBC reported Saturday that television programming is being broadcast in the capital.

Barzani, 33, the younger brother of KDP leader Massoud Barzani, said he had been told that the Information Ministry in Baghdad had been bombed three times, but he said the Iraqi regime had always managed to find ways to broadcast.

"They have many local stations," he said.

Barzani on Saturday visited the KDP installation that is housing large parts of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, which parachuted into northern Iraq on Wednesday night.

"Anything the Americans need, we are ready to provide," he said, and promptly offered a meal of rice, bread and fish. His men have been providing U.S. soldiers, who are living on packaged military meals, with bread and soup each morning.

Barzani said KDP forces, which he said numbered 70,000, were ready to help the Americans fight the Iraqi army in the north, including in the oil-rich regions of Mosul and Kirkuk. He said he thought the Iraqi army commanders in those cities were ready to surrender as soon as they could be sure that Saddam Hussein's regime was over.

"If you encircle Baghdad, then you get Mosul and Kirkuk in one week" because the commanders there will capitulate, he said.

If that prediction proves faulty, it's not clear at this point how U.S. forces would take those cities. Some tanks and armored vehicles can be flown into the airfield that the 173rd controls at Bashur, but probably not enough to take a large city, U.S. officers say.

The Kurds, spread out over lands in Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey, have long aspired to their own nation. But the younger Barzani said Iraq's Kurds would be satisfied with a parliamentary democracy under a federation that provided for Kurdish autonomy and self-governance.

Asked who would control the high-producing oil fields in Iraqi Kurdistan, he said, "the central government."

Barzani also warned that if Turkish forces move into northern Iraq in significant numbers, "We will fight them."


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.