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* UN workers ordered out of Iraq (Associated Press) * Iraq's ex-POWs struggle to rebuild their lives (Agence France-Presse) * Sanctions a Boon for Iraq Merchants (Associated press) * Robin Cook wants to know about Arab point of view (Arabic News) * Egypt's position on Iraq sanctions (Arabic News) ******************** UN Workers Ordered Out of Iraq By Edith M. Lederer, Associated Press Writer, Wednesday, February 3, 1999; 8:06 p.m. EST (extract) UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The United Nations ordered its American and British employees out of Iraq on Wednesday after Baghdad refused to guarantee the safety of all U.N. workers from those countries, officials said. U.N. security chief Benon Sevan issued the order after the government of President Saddam Hussein said it could only vouch for the safety of three American U.N. workers. U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said the Iraqis guaranteed the safety of American U.N. employees Darlene Bisson, deputy director of the World Food Program, and the secretary to Prakash Shah, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special representative to Iraq. Her name was not released. The third American was Abdoullah Odeh, the head of the U.N. Development Program, U.N. officials said. But Hans von Sponeck, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Baghdad, told Associated Press Television News on Wednesday that there were no American or British workers left in Iraq. He said the last ones left Tuesday. Before the United States and Britain launched airstrikes on Iraq in mid-December, there were 12 to 15 American and British nationals among the 400 U.N. employees in Iraq. In December, many U.N. employees went on vacation and the Americans and Britons ``were advised not to return,'' Eckhard said. The 130 members of the U.N. Special Commission charged with disarming Iraq -- including 15 to 20 Americans and Britons -- pulled out on Dec. 16. Iraq has banned the commission's weapons inspectors from returning. In Washington, State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said the reason for the order was a lack of security guarantees -- and ``not some new problem.'' White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said the evacuation wasn't linked to any impending attack on Iraq. ******************** Iraq's ex-POWs struggle to rebuild their lives BAGHDAD, Feb 3 (AFP) - Khadum Fadel says he was reborn the day he crossed the border back into Iraq, painfully thin and trembling after 16 long years in a prison camp in northern Iran. "I cannot describe the feelings. It's as if I had died and was given another life," said Fadel, whose shock of silver-grey hair makes him look much older than his 42 years. "It was like a dream. Every year they told us you will return to Iraq, the next year it was the same story. For years we waited for our freedom, to see our families again." He was among almost 5,600 Iraqi prisoners who returned home in an exchange with Iranian authorities in April -- almost 10 years after the ceasefire ended the bloody conflict between the two neighbours. Fadel, a reservist who went to war as a driver, struggled to remember fragmented details of his ordeal. "It was a terrible time, miserable ... little food, and often very cold. Sometimes we were chained up. The camp was surrounded by barbed wire and mines." His return was traumatic and confused. He was underfed, suffering rheumatism and a stomach inflammation, and Baghdad had changed so much since 1982 that at first he didn't recognise his own neighbourhood. But five months ago, Fadel married Suad, who had waited 16 years for her fiance's return. A mechanic by trade, he has also since returned to the ramshackle Baghdad car repair yard where he used to work. Nowadays he does little more than tinker, as he tries to survive on the 130,000 dinars (70 dollars) the government paid him as his army salary for 16 years. More than 90,000 Iraqi and Iranian POWs have been repatriated since the end of the 1980-1988 war, but the issue remains a key stumbling block between the two, with both sides arguing over the number of its nationals still captive. Baghdad says 20,000 Iraqi POWs are in Iranian jails, while Iran claims at least 5,000 of its soldiers are still in Iraq. "It's the forgotten conflict," rued Daniel Duvillard, deputy head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which supervises the repatriation process and occasionally acts as mediator. "It's very long process, but even if it's a few hundred at a time it's a positive step," he said, adding that for many returnees another ordeal was only just beginning; to rebuild their lives in their sanctions-hit country. Iraq has a grandiose memorial to the war which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides: an esplanade straddled at each end by soaring arches made of swords gripped by the hands of Saddam Hussein, and iron nets containing thousands of battered and bullet-scarred Iranian helmets. Iranian helmets are also implanted into the road "so everyone must walk over them or drive over them," said a soldier on duty at the site. Khalad al-Saadi, chairman of Iraq's parliamentary human rights committee, said repatriation of war veterans and their welfare was a key concern of the government. He said returning servicemen received "gifts" from the president, along with their accumulated salaries. But he declined to say how much aid was handed out. The last handover of Iraqi POWs was on December 16, with around 200 Iraqis returning just as US and British forces launched their four-day Desert Fox air war on the country. Satar Jaber, who served as a regular soldier, also has the date of his release etched on his memory. "I was born anew on August 24, 1990. That was the date of my return to Iraq and now it's my birthday." The 40-year-old, bell captain at Baghdad's Sagman Hotel, was released in the first major prisoner exchange since the war, after being held captive for eight years in a tent camp in a mountainous region of northeast Iran. "We ate only a little, some rice, no meat, and a small piece of bread, that was all for a day. We had no shoes and in the winter it was freezing. The snow was more than a metre (three feet) deep, enough to cover half a man, and we tried to make paths digging out the snow with our plates," he said. "When they punished me, I pretended it was a gift, a medal, that's how I got through it. And even after all that time, I always knew we would return, but we had no news of the outside, no radio and we didn't even know when the war was over." But Jaber said life under sanctions was little better. "The Iranians put a sort of blockade on us, gave their 40,000 Iraqi prisoners a little to eat, some clothes, some medicine," he said. "Now I see the same blockade but from the direction of the United States and Britain, and this time it's not just against me, but all the people are suffering here, especially children." ******************** Sanctions a Boon for Iraq Merchants By Louis Meixler, Associated Press Writer, Wednesday, February 3, 1999; 1:51 p.m. EST BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Yellow stone mansions with courtyards filled with orange trees dot Baghdad neighborhoods, evidence of a merchant class that has grown rich under sanctions and is a new source of support for Saddam Hussein's regime. In the countryside, newly wealthy farmers drive Mercedes sedans smuggled from Jordan in defiance of U.N. economic sanctions that have left most Iraqis so poor that buying food has become a struggle. The U.N. embargo imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait has isolated Iraq and crushed its middle class. But it has also created a boom for merchants who import or smuggle goods across the porous borders. In some cases, the newly rich merchants are simple war profiteers, supplying a country in desperate need. But in others, Saddam's besieged regime has encouraged merchants from key families and tribes to help cement their backing, diplomats and analysts say. The patronage is clearest in rural areas, where the government gives land, seed, fertilizers and farm machinery to tribal leaders, who in turn patrol the countryside for the government. The farmers also get government price supports. ``The regime is trying to co-opt those who are not openly opposed to it and get them under their fold,'' said Moraiwid Tell, a professor at the University of Jordan. ``The families know they can't do anything about the regime, so they live with it.'' Some say Saddam's closest associates have profited from the cross-border trade, including his son Odai, who is widely believed to have made millions of dollars. It is estimated thousands of merchants -- if not tens of thousands - are involved in the cross-border trade. In Baghdad, hundreds of new mansions have been built since the sanctions were imposed. In the Doura neighborhood, many of the spacious new homes have courtyards filled with olive and orange trees, and tile mosaics depicting birds and trees grace the outer walls of some. Mohammed Abdul Kareem al-Madani is typical of the new merchant class. The scion of a prominent Shiite Muslim family from the holy city of Nejaf, al-Madani grew wealthy from government contracts during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. But his construction business collapsed after the U.N. sanctions cut back government investment in infrastructure. So, al-Madani sold his concrete mixers, dump trucks, graders and shovels, and began importing needed items like sugar, cooking oil, rice and tea. His business again faded after December 1996, when the U.N. oil-for-food deal began, allowing Iraq to export some oil to buy food and medicine. The agreement brought heavily subsidized rice, flour and cooking oil, sending prices plummeting. So, al-Madani switched to importing tires and car batteries, which are in short supply and can be sold at a high profit. He said he has U.N. certificates for the imports, although he admits that sometimes his Jordanian suppliers had to pay ``tips'' for those permits. ``We have friends in Jordan,'' he said. ``They get some benefits and so do we.'' Al-Madani's four-story yellow brick house in the wealthy Yarmouk neighborhood mimics an ancient Babylonian fortress. It has a sheer stone facade topped with light- and dark-colored bricks that give the appearance of battlements. In the living room, a picture of Saddam greeting al-Madani's father, a leading Shiite cleric, sits atop the television set. Iraq, land of the legendary Sinbad the sailor, has a long tradition of trading. But its merchant class was destroyed after the Arab Socialist Baath Party took power in 1963, nationalizing industries and driving many wealthy traders from the country. Under Saddam, the party began to relax its control over trade during the Iran-Iraq war, when the government desperately needed imports. After the U.N. sanctions were imposed, the government, again hard-pressed to provide for its people, further eased its restrictions on trade. Al-Madani says that if the sanctions are lifted, the new merchants will soar. "The hard conditions have made good businessmen,'' he said. "It is good training for us.'' Labib Kamhawi of the University of Jordan disagrees, saying the new merchants are simply war profiteers. "The business class which invested in infrastructure and industry has been destroyed,'' he said. The new merchants are "parasites ... It is a transient class.'' ******************** Iraqi file on top of al-Sharaa's talks today with Fatchett Arabic News, Syria, Politics, 2/3/99 The Iraqi issue is expected to be on top of the agenda of talks to be held today between Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa and his British counterpart, Robin Cook, in London today. A source at the British Foreign Office said that al-Sharaa will hold today two meetings with the British state minister Robin Cook and with Fatchett. The sources noted that Britain wants to learn more details on the Arab perception to settle the crisis, especially means of putting an end to the sufferings of the Iraqi people and the implementation of UN resolutions. "The two meetings will deal with means of supporting bilateral relations," the British source said. ******************** Egyptian position regarding a solution to the Iraqi problem Arabic News, Egypt, Politics, 2/3/99 Egyptian Assistant Foreign Minister for International Affairs Sayed Kassem confirmed that the position of Egypt is fixed, committed to ending the suffering of the Iraqi people and allowing a new system for inspection and supervision of Iraqi weapons. Kassem emphasized the importance of the international community performing its role in this crisis through the United Nations Security Council, saying that Egypt approves of the French and Russian suggestion in many respects, which calls for new mechanisms to deal with Iraq and the United Nations and refuse military action. Moreover, Kassem confirmed that the division of the security council toward the Iraqi crisis is a fact, adding that the outcomes of the Arab consultative meeting in Cairo on January 24 formed the most important elements in the position of the Arab group in New York, headed by Bahrain. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email email@example.com, NOT the whole list. Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html