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Czech Republic: Iraq Planned Rocket Attack On Radio Free Europe

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PRAGUE — Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime planned to use an anti-tank rocket to attack the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Prague, the Czech Republic's counterintelligence service said Monday.

Iraqi spies posing as diplomats were supposed to have carried out the attack, from a window of an apartment building near the radio's location in downtown Prague, the Czech Security Information Service, or BIS, said in a statement.

The service said it learned in 2000 that Saddam had ordered the attack but it did not say when the alleged command was issued or when the rocket strike was supposed to occur.

"Saddam Hussein gave its intelligence service an order to use force to disrupt the broadcast of Radio Free Europe to Iraq and released large financial funds for this action," BIS said.

The radio began broadcasting to Iraq in 1998.

The Iraqi spies used a diplomatic vehicle to smuggle in the weapons for the attack, including an RPG-7 anti-tank missile, six machine-guns and ammunition, the statement said.

Iraqi officials were warned in 2000 that the Czechs were aware of the plan, BIS spokesman Jan Subert said.

Following the warning, the Czech authorities expelled six Iraqi diplomats accused of spying, the first one in 2001 and five others in March 2003, Subert said.

In April 2003, a month after the U.S.-led war in Iraq began, officials at the Iraqi Embassy in Prague handed over the weapons to Czech authorities, BIS said.

RFE/RL is a private, nonprofit corporation that receives funding from the U.S. government. It was established in 1949 to spread pro-Western news to countries behind the Iron Curtain and to promote democratic values and institutions.

The station moved its headquarters to Prague from Munich in 1995 after communism collapsed in the Czech Republic in 1989. It now broadcasts in 28 languages to 20 countries, including Iran and Iraq, since 1998, and Afghanistan, from 2002.

The Czech and U.S. governments agreed to move the station after the Sept. 11 attacks out of fear that its location, near an opera house, a museum and a train station, made it vulnerable to potential attack despite tight security measures.

The network began broadcasting from its newly built five-story facility in the Czech capital in February.

Czech authorities previously said they thwarted a plot to attack the radio after intercepting a message from Baghdad to an Iraqi intelligence operative in Prague. The message indicated Iraq was intent on stopping the station's broadcasts to Iraq. Details were not given.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Czech officials said they believed that hijacker Mohamed Atta met with a senior Iraqi intelligence official in Prague in April 2001. That purported meeting was cited as evidence of a possible al-Qaida connection to Iraq. The 9/11 commission said that meeting never happened.

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