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Iraq's Hussein Defends His Grandiose Palaces

IRAQI President Saddam Hussein will carry on building palaces and other projects to infuriate the United States until ``it dies of rancor.''

The president's comments, carried by the official press, were made during a Cabinet meeting yesterday.

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Saddam was reacting to US Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright's accusation that he spends lavishly on palaces and retreats while ordinary Iraqis suffer under four-year-old trade sanctions. Ms. Albright on Monday showed satellite photos of palaces and luxury homes being built for Iraq's elite she said cost $500 million. The Security Council that day voted to retain its sanctions against Iraq.

Iraq is under stiff UN trade sanctions for invading Kuwait in 1990. The embargo forbids trade with Iraq apart from urgent humanitarian supplies. It also blocks its key oil exports. But the trade ban has not stopped Iraq from embarking on gigantic irrigation and construction projects.

Before embarking on such projects, Iraq had repaired and rebuilt war-damaged bridges, power stations, refineries, dams, and other infrastructure, Saddam said.

Algeria accused of mass executions

A SENIOR US official on Tuesday condemned a threat by Algerian President Liamine Zeroual to step up military activities against Muslim extremists, calling instead for a negotiated settlement to the conflict.

Robert Pelletreau, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, said Mr. Zeroual had harshly denounced both Muslim and secular opposition leaders in a speech at the end of October.

French officials familiar with intercepted Algerian military communications confirmed that a massive crackdown was under way. While the average death toll in recent months had been about 300 a week, they said at least 700 people had been killed in the last week of October, according to Algerian Army figures, which were regarded as a minimum.

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Muslim extremists accused Algerian security forces yesterday of torturing and killing more than 1,000 people in the first nine days of November. The exiled leadership of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) said the killings followed the failure of talks between the government and Islamists to end worsening civil strife.

Western experts say up to 30,000 people have died in the conflict that broke out when the Army-backed government canceled 1992 elections that FIS was poised to win.

War games in the Aegean Sea

ANKARA played down the threat of armed conflict between Turkish and Greek navies exercising in the Aegean Sea Tuesday, one day before a new treaty took effect giving Greece the right to expand its territorial waters.

``There will be no incidents if nothing comes from the other [Greek] side,'' Foreign Minister Mumtaz Soysal was quoted as saying to the Anatolian news agency. Mr. Soysal spoke in The Hague after meeting Greek counterpart Karolos Papoulias.

His words were the latest reaffirmation of Ankara's position that it will fight if Greece extends its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles in the Aegean Sea, a move that Turks say would effectively deny Turkish ships passage to the high seas.

Greece says its parliament will ratify the Law of the Sea Convention - an international treaty - granting the 12-mile limit, but has not said if and when it will enforce it. Turkey has no plans to sign the treaty.

Ankara says the 12-mile limit for each of about 2,000 islands dotting the Aegean would overlap to cover 71.5 percent of the Aegean. Currently, Greek waters make up 43.7 percent of the Aegean, against 7.4 percent for Turkish territorial waters.

Turkey sent warships and aircraft on a 10-day, live-ammunition exercise in the international waters of the Aegean Monday. The Greek Navy and Air Force are holding similar maneuvers in the Aegean from Nov. 10 to 21, although farther south.

Washington has sent a warship into the Aegean ``to demonstrate US interests in the region,'' the Pentagon said.

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