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* Russia to aid Iraq Defence * Three more casualties of air attacks - ongoing US "damage assessment" * UN proposal to use "oil-for-food" money to fund the Hajj rejected by Iraqi government * Iraq begins week of mourning for the victims of the Gulf War (All articles from Associated Press) ******************** Report: Russia to Aid Iraq Defense Associated Press, Sunday, February 14, 1999; 2:05 p.m. EST LONDON (AP) -- Russia has signed a $160 million deal to reinforce Iraq's air defenses and upgrade squadrons of MiG fighters, The Sunday Telegraph reported, quoting unidentified diplomatic sources in Moscow. The London newspaper said the move was a serious threat to U.S. and British warplanes patrolling the ``no-fly'' zones, scenes of almost daily confrontations with Iraq since December. The agreements were signed in Moscow on Jan. 13 and 14 after a visit to the Russian capital by Ahmed Murtada Ahmed Khalil, Iraq's Transport and Communications Minister, The Sunday Telegraph said. Speaking in France at the Kosovo peace talks on Sunday, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov denied the report. He said Russia was abiding strictly by its commitments on U.N. resolutions concerning Iraq, and that the resolutions do not provide for the supply of arms to Iraq. In Moscow, Russia's NTV television news reported that MiG officials said they ``knew nothing'' about the reported deal. The pro-conservative British newspaper said the decision to give Iraqi President Saddam Hussein military help was approved by Russian Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov on Dec. 7 in violation of the United Nations arms embargo on Iraq. Russia has consistently opposed military attacks on Iraq aimed at making Saddam comply with U.N. inspectors trying to determine if Iraq had destroyed its weapons of mass destruction. It has also signed contracts to rebuild Iraq's oil industry, but the deals won't take effect until the sanctions are lifted. ******************** Iraq Says Three Killed in US Attack Associated Press, Sunday, February 14, 1999; 5:53 a.m. EST BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- U.S. planes attacked sites in the southern ``no fly'' zone Saturday, killing at least three civilians and injuring several others, Iraqi media reported. A government statement said American planes conducted 34 sorties over the provinces of Basra, Maisan, Dhiqar and Najaf in an operation lasting 1 1/2 hours. One group of planes ``attacked a civilian installation,'' killing three civilians and wounding ``a number of others,'' the statement said. It also said jets attacked a residential area in the southern city of Al-Faw, injuring several people. The reports could not be independently verified. In the United States, the U.S. Central Command, based in Florida, said American planes attacked Iraqi air defense sites near Tallil, about 170 miles southeast of Baghdad, and on the Al-Faw peninsula. The U.S. aircraft returned to their bases safely and damage assessment was ongoing, the Central Command statement said. ``Despite repeated warnings, Iraqi actions and intentions pose serious threats to our coalition forces and friends in the region. Our actions today are an appropriate response to these threats,'' the statement said. Saturday was the third straight day Iraq has claimed civilian casualties in the ``no-fly'' zones, which were set up by the United States, Britain and France after the 1991 Persian Gulf War to prevent the Iraqi air force from attacking rebels in the north and the south. Iraq does not recognize the ``no-fly'' zones and has vowed to fire at any plane that violates its air space. The U.S. Central Command has accused Iraq of more than 90 violations of the ``no-fly'' zones since mid-December. It said U.S. and British forces had retaliated by attacking more than 40 Iraqi targets. ******************** Iraq Nixes U.N. Pilgrimage Proposal By Edith M. Lederer, Associated Press Writer, Friday, February 12, 1999; 8:21 p.m. EST UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Baghdad rejected a U.N. proposal to allow thousands of Iraqis to make the annual pilgrimage to Muslim holy sites in Saudi Arabia, diplomats said Friday. The U.N. Iraq Sanctions Committee had proposed disbursing $44 million from Iraq's oil sales -- $2,000 for each of the 22,000 Iraqis hoping to take part in this year's pilgrimage -- either in travelers checks or vouchers through a third-party. But in a letter to the committee, the Iraqi government rejected the proposal and reiterated its call to have the money sent directly to the central bank, said a spokesman for the Netherlands' U.N. Mission, which chairs the committee. The sanctions committee insists that sending money directly to the Iraqi central bank violates U.N. economic sanctions imposed after Baghdad's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Last year, Iraq made the same demand. It was rejected by the committee, so only Iraqis who could pay for themselves were able to make the pilgrimage, or hajj. The committee monitors the U.N. oil-for-food program, which allows Iraq to export limited amounts of oil -- $5.2 billion worth over six months -- to buy humanitarian goods for the Iraqi people. Its proposal would use money from the program to fund the pilgrimage. Since its inception in 1996, Iraq has resisted the oil-for-food program, saying it was designed to justify and prolong sanctions that Baghdad wants lifted. Every able-bodied Muslim is required to make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina in his lifetime if he can afford it. Iraq says most Iraqis cannot afford the cost of traveling to the holy sites and living expenses for what is typically a visit of around two weeks. Although some Muslim countries have subsidized pilgrimage programs, diplomats said Iraq did not have a subsidy program for pilgrims before 1996. ******************** Iraq Mourns Gulf War Victims By Vijay Joshi, Associated Press Writer, Saturday, February 13, 1999; 1:41 p.m. EST BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- In the dark cavernous hall of the former bomb shelter, a beam of light steals through a ragged hole in the ceiling. More light comes from the candles burning before a wall hung with the photographs of children. The hole was blasted by a U.S. missile; the children are among the 403 people killed in the attack on the crowded shelter eight years ago in the worst civilian tragedy of the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq says. On Saturday, hundreds of people visited the al-Amiriya shelter on the anniversary of the attack to pay homage to those who died when their refuge turned into a death chamber. The victims included 52 children and 261 women. Unmindful of the crowd around her, a woman in black Islamic garb sobbed loudly as she wiped a picture of her daughter, Shayama Ali Hussein, a teen-ager dressed in her finest for the camera. Reserved in his grief, Shayama's father, Ali Hussein Saleh, wept without a sound, gazing at pictures of his three other children, who also were killed in the attack. Iraq started a week of mourning Saturday for its dead in the Gulf War. Artillery fired 21-gun salutes and senior officials laid wreaths on the Martyrs' Monument in the capital, Baghdad. The government has preserved the al-Amiriya bomb shelter as a war memorial to keep alive not only the memory of the victims but also the hatred for the U.S. government. Crayon drawings by children are hung in the shelter showing bombs from U.S. warplanes killing civilians. U.S. aircraft attacked the shelter in western Baghdad believing it was a command center. Reporters who visited the site after the bombing saw charred bodies of women, children and men being pulled out. The al-Amiriya bombing resulted in the highest civilian casualty in one attack during the Gulf War, which was triggered by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. The war ended Feb. 28, 1991. Saleh said he had sent his four children to al-Amiriya, a short walk from his house, for the first time on the night of Feb. 12. Just before dawn the next day, he said he was woken up by an explosion. That came from the missile that tore a hole as wide as a satellite dish antenna in the 5-foot thick ceiling. Ten minutes later, a second missile went through the hole and exploded inside. Saleh said he rushed to the shelter but could not go inside. ``They brought my son to me. The others I could not even find the remains,'' he said. Iraqi officials say the temperature inside rose to thousands of degrees, melting bodies along with cement and iron. The evidence is still there in the blackened ceiling. Iron rods in the roof hang inside along the edges of the hole like petals of a giant flower. Ripped air conditioning ducts lie on the floor. Isra Dhiya Fadhel, who had slept regularly in the shelter, didn't go there on the fateful night because her 2-year-old daughter, Zara, was ``crying without reason. She just refused to let me go out.'' Zara's crying also saved her brother, with whom Fadhel was pregnant. He was born three months later. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email firstname.lastname@example.org, NOT the whole list. Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html