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South Korea's Roh says Iraq shootings intolerable
( 2003-12-01 10:26) (Agencies)

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, who faces a tough decision on what kind of additional troops to send to Iraq, urged a security review on Monday after what he called the intolerable shooting of four civilians there.

Gunmen killed two South Korean electrical workers in Sunday's incident near ousted president Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit and wounded two, one critically.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun speaks during a meeting with aids at the presidential house in Seoul, Monday, Dec. 1, 2003.  [AP]
"This incident is not terror against the military or a public organization but terror against civilians," Roh told his aides, the presidential Blue House said in a statement. "This kind of inhumane activity is intolerable."

Sunday's attack will almost certainly have major political ramifications for Roh -- although it seems unlikely he will change his October decision to deploy more troops.

His national security chief, Ra Jong-yil, told reporters: "It's not desirable to link this issue with the additional troop dispatch plan."

A spokeswoman for the presidential Blue House said Roh had been briefed overnight and the National Security Council would meet at 0200 GMT. Ra chairs the meetings and briefs Roh.

"Today's meeting will focus on whether the incident was targeted against South Korea or just an accident," Ra said. He said a number of unregistered civilians were in the region.

A South Korean Foreign Ministry official told Reuters the two wounded civilians were being treated at a U.S. military hospital.


Roh said a further alert should be issued to overseas diplomatic missions to guard against possible attacks. He said the security team should come up with additional safety measures.

Many South Koreans disagree with sending more troops and opposition has grown since the latest spate of attacks on non-U.S. foreigners. But one major conservative newspaper, the Chosun Ilbo, took a different tack in an editorial.

"Although the deaths of the two South Koreans is shocking to South Korean people, we should remain firm in sending additional troops to Iraq," it said. "It is now meaningless to discuss whether to send combat troops or not, the president should make a decision as soon as possible."

Lee said the four civilians were working as sub-contractors from a South Korean company for an unspecified U.S. firm at a construction site for a power distribution plant.

The incident came a day after two Japanese diplomats were shot dead in a similar attack in the same area. Seven Spanish intelligence agents were also killed that day south of Baghdad.

Roh has committed to sending more troops to Iraq but has yet to decide whether to include combat forces in the expected 3,000-strong contingent. Some 675 medical and engineering troops have been based in Nassiriya, southern Iraq, since May.

A fact-finding team that included members of parliament returned last week from Iraq and is to report its findings to Roh soon.

History might question the decision to send troops to Iraq, Roh said on SBS television on Friday.

"The most important factor is whether strengthening ties with the United States will help resolve the North Korea issue, not economic benefits," he said, referring to a crisis over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons ambitions.

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