AN IRAQI living in North Yorkshire was desperately trying to contact his family in Baghdad after Friday night's intense bombardment of the capital.

Hadi Chiad, who has three sisters living in Baghdad, said he watched the allied onslaught on TV with growing trepidation as the Iraqi regime claimed about 250 people had been injured since the air raids began.

Speaking from his home, in a village near Tadcaster, Mr Chiad said: "It's a terrible time for us and very worrying.

"I will be trying to contact them today but it isn't easy to get information about what's going on because their phones are tapped.

"They are too frightened to say anything because Big Brother is listening."

Mr Chiad, an accountant and treasurer of Tadcaster Chamber of Commerce for the past ten years, fled Iraq with his wife, Samera, in 1983 during the Iran/Iraq war.

His 21-year-old brother, Kathem, who joined the Iranian underground operating in Iraq to try to overthrow Saddam, was tortured and killed by Saddam Hussein's henchmen.

When Kathem's brother-in-law tried to help him, he too suffered a similar fate.

It was the last straw for Mr and Mrs Chiad, and they managed to escape from Iraq with their four children, with the help of friends at the airport.

The couple struggle daily with the paradox of hating Saddam but fearing the inevitable civilian casualties of war.

They desperately want to see the evil dictator removed to end the abject poverty of the ordinary people of Iraq, who live in constant fear of their leader.

Mr Chiad, 62, said today: "Our thoughts are with our family in Iraq, but what can you do? Sacrifices have to be made to get rid of Saddam, who doesn't respect human rights and governs by force.

"The people of Iraq always look over their shoulder before they speak. They can't express their opinions because the next day they will be dead or in prison.

"I went back to Iraq last year and the poverty is unbelievable. One of my sisters is a teacher earning £3 a month. She and her family can only survive with our help.

"The repressive regime and economic sanctions are crippling the country. The vast majority of people in Iraq want a regime change to make a better life for themselves."

Mrs Chiad, a former teacher, said: "Don't believe the demonstrations you see on TV in favour of Saddam. It is all rigged and the people are doing it to protect themselves.

"I spent 13 years in Iraq and it was a lovely country until Saddam came to power.

"I don't think war is justified, but a regime change would make an enormous difference to the lives of the long-suffering people of Iraq."