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Belly dancers can't stomach idea of Iraq's secret agents

Britain's belly dancers have reacted angrily to reports that Iraq's President Saddam Hussein has been training female agents in the guise of exotic performers to target the country's dissidents in London, complaining it will undermine their business.

"There is already little work for belly dancers in Britain these days," said Ms Kathy Salford, who has been a belly dancer for more than 30 years and has performed in most of the well-known clubs across the Middle East. "This will deter customers from attending legitimate clubs or taking dance classes."

According to reports, Saddam's intelligence chiefs have decided to use women to report on and eliminate Iraqi opposition abroad. A 45-day intensive training course focusing on poisoning and organising car "accidents" was held outside Baghdad last month for agents, some of whom are believed to have already arrived in London, and the Foreign Office is on maximum security alert.

"Already a very, very glamorous Iraqi dressed up to the nines has been to the Baghdad Cafe in London's Westbourne Grove offering to dance for free," Ms Salford said. "How can anyone dance for nothing when the costumes alone cost more than #500 [$1,295]? It's highly suspicious."

There is such fierce competition for places to belly dance in London that one restaurant runs a contest on Lebanese television where the prize is a one-month contract to perform here.

Members of the Midlands Arabic Dance Network, which represents 600 belly dancers, are particularly concerned about reports that a well-known Iraqi belly dancer plans to set up a school in London as a cover for giving support to Saddam's spies. They fear potential clients would desist because of fears they could be turned into "Mata Haris".

"Most of our members make their living giving classes," one said. "Probably only five British belly dancers make a full-time living from performing."

Ms Salford fears that talk of links between belly dancing and the Iraqi regime may end chances of obtaining a charity grant such as one recently awarded to belly dancers of Manchester to bring over a famous Egyptian teacher.

In the coffee shops of west London where Arabic dancers meet, the talk is of little else.

"We belly dancers are a very tight-knit community and know when outsiders appear," one woman said. "Saddam has really chosen the wrong thing."
The Telegraph, London


Stop laughing! This is serious. It's discriminatory and denial of open competition. Imagine yourself as a belly dancer in this predicament. How would you feel if things start blowing up all about the joint. Huh, Eh? Stop laughing, I said! ...I'm trying to...

Regards from OZ

-- Pieter (, August 11, 2000


what happens, if you stand on head-while taking a shower-i mean if you overdue it??

-- al-d. (, August 12, 2000.

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