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IRANIAN ATTEMPT IN S. IRAQ HALTED, SADDAM SAYS

Saddam Hussein says Iraq has crushed an attempt by infiltrators from Iran to penetrate its southern marshes, where the United States and its allies are policing an air exclusion zone to protect Shiite dissidents.

"The evil coming from Iran is incessant," Saddam said in Baghdad Wednesday at a ceremony honoring Baath Party officials and southern tribesmen from Qurna, who he said had defeated the infiltrators.Saddam said he was arming the southern tribesmen to help them fight infiltrators who were taking advantage of the Western air cover over Iraq's Shiite south.

"We are sending a lot of weapons to the tribes," he said as officials and tribal leaders stood shoulder-to-shoulder to receive medals honoring their bravery. The 20 Iraqis honored recounted to their leader how they managed to "wipe out" the infiltrators.

"I killed 18 of them," one said in the ceremony at Qurna, a southern Shiite district at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, in the heart of Iraqi marshlands.