YORK author and street entertainer Michael Mime is today back in Turkey after being assaulted, abused and threatened with death as he tried to enter Iraq.

Michael, whose real name is Michael Todd, is trying to get into the war-torn country to trace his daughter, born after he had a relationship with an Iraqi woman.

He tried to cross into Iraq from Syria, but turned back because the border was closed.

He said anti-British and American feelings in Syria were running high.

Michael, of Bishophill, said: "In Damascus I received death threats, was punched in the face in a souk, spat at, and was physically removed from a taxi by a protesting crowd. I stood in the shadows as Union flags were burned."

Michael claims that while in Damascus he saw three separate convoys of luxury Iraqi licensed vehicles, driving under armed escort.

He said: "They were not diplomats as they didn't have diplomatic licence plates. I took photos, but the police piled into me, took the camera, ripped out the film and threw me and the camera to the floor. I was then chased away.

"The support in Syria for the Ba'ath party is understandable as Syria is ruled by a party with the same founder. If Saddam is anywhere, he is in Syria."

Michael now plans to try to get into Iraq across the Turkish border through Kurd-controlled areas. As well as searching for his daughter, Michael has taken hundreds of cuddly toys, donated by kind-hearted York residents, to give to Iraqi children.

Anyone who would like to donate a toy should send it to Lindsay Blenkhorn, 11 Ayton House, Cole Street, York.

Updated: 10:34 Saturday, April 19, 2003