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From the news

*       UN workers ordered out of Iraq (Associated Press)
*       Iraq's ex-POWs struggle to rebuild their lives (Agence
*       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


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'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.

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