BAGHDAD Jan 12 - Four relatives of U.S. victims of the Sept. 11 attacks ended a peace mission to Baghdad on Sunday with a call on world leaders to use some imagination to find ways to avoid war in the Iraq crisis.
"The Iraqi people have used great imagination to make do with what very little they have these days," Colleen Kelly, a New York nurse who lost a brother on Sept. 11, 2001, told reporters at the end of a six-day trip to a country crippled by 12 years of U.N. sanctions.
"We'd like to call upon governments around the world to also use their imagination," Kelly said. Her group visited hospitals, universities and schools in Baghdad and the city of Basra in the far south.
Washington is massing troops in the Gulf ahead of a possible invasion unless Iraq gives up chemical, biological and nuclear weapons that Baghdad says it does not have.
Colleen Kelly, second from left, a member of the U.S. anti-war group Peaceful Tomorrows, speaks Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2003 before Baghdad's Amiriya shelter in Iraq, which was bombed by the U.S.-led allied forces in the Gulf War (news - web sites) in 1991. Members of the organization, set up by relatives of victims of the Sept.11 terror attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, arrived here for a peace prayer to oppose a possible war on Iraq. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Liang Youchang)
The sanctions, imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, have impoverished the oil-rich country which says hundreds of thousands of children have died because of lack of medicines.
The Bush administration has said it seeks "regime change" in Iraq, under 23-years rule of President Saddam Hussein who Washington thinks could put doomsday weapons in the hands of anti-U.S. Islamic groups.
"You can make changes without war and that's what we're challenging our leaders to do," said Kathleen Tinley, a student whose uncle died when suspected Islamic militants slammed hijacked aircraft into the World Trade Center towers in New York.
The women are members of the anti-war Peaceful Tomorrows group set up by families of September 11 victims.
Baghdad has seen a stream of solidarity groups visit in recent weeks and has promised that some activists will act as "human shields" against a U.S. attack.
"Personally, I will stay," said Bret Eartheart, a construction worker from Indiana who is a member of an international anti-war group called the Iraq Peace Team.
"There are a lot of options and for me war is not the best of them," he said.
©2003 Reuters Ltd