Iraqi rebellion put down, fleeing soldiers contend


IN U.S.-OCCUPIED SOUTHERN IRAQ -- Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's loyalist forces have effectively crushed a three-week-old armed rebellion in southern Iraq, according to Iraqi soldiers who arrived in the U.S.-controlled zone yesterday. The soldiers were the latest of scores who are surrendering to U.S. forces deployed in the desert here.

Civilian refugees reaching U.S. lines told the same story and said that reprisals and executions were occurring now that Mr. Hussein's forces were back in control of Basra and other major cities in the South that were centers of rebellion against the regime by Shiite Muslims.

Iraq has begun shifting troops into the embattled North -- another signal of Mr. Hussein's control of the South. Despite the shift, anti-government Kurdish rebels said they controlled a large portion of northern Iraq after two weeks of fighting.

In the last five days, occupation authorities said, U.S. troops at heavily fortified checkpoints along the Euphrates Valley demarcation line have begun accepting hundreds of deserting Iraqi troops as prisoners of war, instead of simply disarming them and sending them back to Iraq.

"They all say they want political asylum," said Sgt. Scott Dixon, an Arabic-speaking Utah National Guardsman at a U.S. checkpoint on the road to Basra. "They all say, 'Take me to any country but Iraq.' One guy said, 'If you don't take me, just shoot me. I cannot go back.' "

Meanwhile, in Baghdad, Mr. Hussein's regime lashed out at U.S.-proposed conditions for a permanent cease-fire in the Persian Gulf conflict.

The harshly worded criticism came from the official Iraqi News Agency, which published the text of a 12-page document under discussion by the U.N. Security Council.

The cease-fire document would fix the long-disputed border between Iraq and Kuwait, establish a U.N. truce observer force and set up a mechanism to deduct the costs of war reparations for Kuwait from future earnings of Iraqi oil exports. It also demands the destruction of Iraq's ballistic missile forces and chemical, biological and nuclear weapons facilities and stockpiles.

"The U.S. draft resolution demonstrated the U.S. intent to rob Iraq of its sovereignty and to mortgage Iraq's resources," the INA said.

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