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From the news

Most of these are extracts. The Reuters and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
article courtesy of a US-based discussion list.

*       Iraq Flies Pilgrims to Mecca (Associated Press)
*       U.S. congressmen urge Clinton to curb Iraq oil sales (Reuters)
*       Tuesday's bombs (Associated Press)
*       Monday's bombs (BBC Online)
*       Arab foreign ministers draft statements on Iraq (Arabic News)
*       El-Baz, advisor to Hosni Mubarak says air-strikes are
destabilising the region (Arabic News)
*       23 Iraqi army officers executed for conspiracy (Arabic News)
*       Gulf Cooperation Council statement: Iraq problem cannot be
solved by force (Arabic News)
*       Looking back at Iraq with eyes full of tears (Milwaukee Journal

Iraq Flies Pilgrims to Mecca 
By Waiel Faleh, Associated Press Writer, Tuesday, March 16, 1999; 9:42
a.m. EST

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- An Iraqi Airways aircraft flew to Saudi Arabia
today carrying 110 Muslim pilgrims, the official Iraqi News Agency
reported, making the trip in apparent violation of U.N. sanctions that
bar flights to and from Iraq.  The Russian-made Il-76 took off from the
al-Rashid military base, 10 miles south of Baghdad, with the religious
affairs minister on board along with the hajj pilgrims, mostly women and
elderly people, INA said. It landed a few hours later in Jiddah, Saudi
Arabia. Iraq apparently did not seek U.N. permission for the flight.
``We have not contacted anybody for approvals,'' Rabi Mohammed Saleh,
the director-general of Iraqi Airways, was quoted as saying by INA.  He
said the same plane would make two more flights to ferry more pilgrims. 

This would be Iraq's second violation of the air sanctions, which are
part of the economic embargo imposed in 1990 following its invasion of
Kuwait. The sanctions also prevent the sale of oil, except under a U.N.
oil-for-food program.  In April 1997, an Iraqi Airways jet carried 104
pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, angering the United States, the most vocal
advocate of the sanctions. The U.N. Security Council failed to condemn
that flight and instead issued a mild statement saying Baghdad should
have waited for permission.

Saleh said he hoped Saudi authorities will ``cooperate with us by
facilitating services needed for the plane'' as it makes its flights
back and forth to Iraq with pilgrims.  In Jiddah, an airport official
said the government had no intention of turning back the plane.  Saleh
said the plane is the only airworthy commercial aircraft in Iraq. The
national carrier's remaining planes are parked in other countries. 

Iraq argues the sanctions violate its people's religious rights. Islam
requires all able-bodied Muslims to make a pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mecca
at least once in a lifetime, if they can afford it.  In Iraq, the
pilgrims prayed in the airport building before boarding three buses that
took them to the aircraft.  ``We get into this plane and our message is
that the world should listen to us and understand our problem,'' said a
passenger, Sheik Hassan Othman, 62. 

The Security Council has said the sanctions will not be lifted until
Iraq complies with U.N. resolutions demanding the elimination of its
weapons of mass destruction.  Iraq's reported defiance mimics similar
action by Libya, which is also under a U.N. air embargo. Libyan leader
Moammar Gadhafi has regularly sent passenger jets from Libya to Saudi
Arabia.  The embargo on Libya is aimed at forcing the country to
surrender two Libyans wanted in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet that
killed 270 people.

Thursday March 11, 9:42 pm Eastern Time
Reuters: U.S. congressmen urge Clinton to curb Iraq oil sales

WASHINGTON, March 11 (Reuters) - Lawmakers from oil- producing U.S.
states urged President Bill Clinton on Thursday to suspend or reduce the
amount of oil that Iraq is allowed to export under a special
humanitarian deal with the United Nations. ``We acknowledge the good
intentions of the program, but growing evidence indicates that it is not
serving its intended purpose and may actually be undermining U.S. policy
toward Iraq,'' the 40 members of the U.S. House of Representatives said
in a letter to the president. 

The U.S. does not have the power to reverse or amend the deal, whereby
Iraq is allowed to sell up to $5.26 billion worth of oil every six
months to buy food, medicine and a tightly controlled list of other
humanitarian supplies.  That would require a decision of the United
Nations Security Council, where France, Russia and China, with veto
power, have been pushing for an end to Iraqi sanctions altogether. The
lawmakers, many from U.S. ``oil patch'' states of Texas, Oklahoma and
Kansas, argued the dollar limit on Iraqi oil sales ``is actually no
limit at all.'' At current low oil prices, Iraq is able to sell all that
it is capable of producing, ``which is often greater than their
production prior to the beginning of the Gulf War in 1991,'' the
congressmen said. 

In its latest report, the U.N. said Iraq exported 2.7 million barrels
per day (bpd) last week, about a million bpd above its export level just
before the Gulf War. There is also ``significant evidence'' that Iraq
may be illegally exporting up to 100,000 barrels of oil per day outside
of the U.N. sales program, the lawmakers said. Such evidence led the
U.S. to bomb parts of a southern refining complex in Iraq last December.
Reports also suggest that the Iraqi people are not benefiting from the
program because Saddam Hussein's regime is not distributing the
humanitarian aid to them, they said. Meanwhile, excess Iraqi oil
production appears to be a factor behind ``the excess supply and very
low prices which currently exist,'' the lawmakers wrote.

U.S. Warplanes Hit More Iraqi Sites 
Tuesday, March 16, 1999; 9:27 a.m. EST

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- U.S. Air Force warplanes responded to Iraqi radar
threats today by bombing several anti-aircraft artillery sites in the
northern no-fly zone, a U.S. military official said.  Lt. Col. Jane
Rinell, a spokeswoman for the Operation Northern Watch based at Turkey's
Incirlik air base, said the planes hit military facilities around the
Iraqi city of Mosul, 250 miles north of Baghdad.  She said all U.S.
F-15Es left the area safely on the third consecutive day of
confrontations.  The Iraqi armed forces, in a statement carried by the
official Iraqi News Agency, said civilian installations and some weapons
sites were hit. 

BBC Online, Monday, March 15, 1999 Published at 15:39 GMT 
US jets strike Iraqi targets 


United States planes have again struck Iraqi targets in the northern and
southern air exclusion zones. The US military said the latest attack in
the north took place at 1215 local time (0915GMT) on Monday during
routine patrols. It said the planes struck Iraqi air defence sites in
self-defence after Iraqi threats. US warplanes also struck Iraqi radar
sites in southern Iraq in response to violations of the no-fly zone by
Iraqi aircraft, AFP news agency reported. 

At about 0945 local time (0645GMT) on Monday, US air force F-16s and
navy F/A-18s and F-14s attacked "an Iraq radar relay site 200 miles
(320km) northeast of Baghdad and a radar site 290 miles (464km)
southeast of Baghdad", the US Central Command said in a statement.  Iraq
has said one person was injured when US and British warplanes attacked
sites in the southern zone, Reuters news agency reported. The Iraqi News
Agency quoted an air defence source as saying that the planes "bombed
some of our civil facilities and weapon sites leading to injuring a
citizen". The latest incidents follow strikes on Sunday and on Friday in
the northern no-fly zone.              

Turkey, which fears reprisals from Baghdad for allowing allied planes to
use its bases, has recently expressed concern over the repeated
confrontations between Iraqi and US forces in the northern zone.  US
planes from the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey patrol Iraqi skies
north of the 36th parallel.  The US Government says two months of air
strikes have damaged Iraqi air defences more than the four days of
full-scale attacks on the country in December's Operation Desert Fox.

Draft of the concluding statement for the Arab foreign ministers meeting
Arabic News, Regional, Politics, 3/15/99

(extract) has exclusively obtained the draft of the concluding
statement for the Arab foreign ministers, whose works are to begin
Wednesday. The two-day session of the AL council will take place at Arab
League headquarters at the Arab foreign ministers' level under the
chairmanship of Somalia. The foreign ministers are discussing 35 items,
topped by the development of the situation in Iraq and the no-fly zone
imposed on Iraq.

The draft statement obtained by shows the Arab states
taking a clear stance that asks the United States and Britain not to use
force against Iraq in the two no-fly zones in northern and southern
Iraq, laying the full international responsibility on the two countries'
governments, considering the shelling as an internationally illegal
aggressive action, confirming that the UN Security Council's resolutions
do not have any provision that allows imposing the two so-called "no-fly
zones" and that they are aggressive acts that imply the use of military
power against Iraq's sovereignty, national safety and political

The draft also includes Iraq's demand to the Arab states to exert joint
efforts to agree on a practical humanitarian formula for resolving the
problem of the Iraqi, Kuwaiti and Saudi citizens who went missing during
and after the Gulf War. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait oppose including this
item on the agenda, and the draft will include an attached note from the
Arab League's secretary general that specifies these states' positions
and reasons for objecting to this item.

The draft includes the draft treaty for making the Middle East a zone
free of weapons of mass destruction, with a focus on nuclear weapons.
The Arab League's secretary general calls for convening a meeting with
the AL permanent delegates regarding this issue and for directing the
league's missions at United Nations headquarters in New York, Geneva and
in the countries of the permanent members of the UN Security Council to
explain the Arab position toward this issue and to direct messages to
the Arab foreign ministers from the eight countries (Ireland, Brazil,
South Africa, Sweden, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia and Egypt) who
issued a statement on June ninth 1998 that calls for a world free of
nuclear weapons, in order to move to support the Arab efforts in the
meeting of the preparatory committee for the parts' conference in the
year 2000, which is specified for reviewing the non-proliferation treaty
this coming April in New York.

El-Baz: We fear the US air strikes on Iraq would become routine
Arabic News, Egypt, Politics, 3/15/99


Osama El-Baz, the Egyptian president's political advisor, said that
Egypt believes that its foreign policy efforts stem from a strong desire
to establish and enhance internal stability, which is related to
stability in the region. Speaking at a symposium held at the Egyptian
Cultural Club, El-Baz said that some situations in the region threaten
to destabilize the whole region. Concerning the US-British daily air
strikes against Iraq, El-Baz expressed concern that the international
public opinion would become accustomed to these strikes, policy and the
current situation and fail to react. El-Baz expressed his regret toward
the United States pursuing its policy of confrontation in the Iraq
crisis and of guaranteeing Israeli military superiority over the region,
describing this as a shortcoming in the US policy resulting in promoting
the Israeli nuclear program.

Opposition: 23 Iraqi army officers executed for conspiring against the
Arabic News, Iraq, Politics, 3/15/99

The Higher Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq has announced that
some 23 high-ranking Iraqi army officers were executed at the beginning
of this month under charges of conspiring against the government. AFP
quoted the council, which takes London as a headquarters, as saying that
among the executed officers was an advisor to Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein, Lt Gen. Kamel Sajed, who led the Iraqi troops in Kuwait before
the Gulf War and became a governor before he joined the Iraqi
Presidential Palace in 1998. AFP added that also among the executed was
Lt. Gen. Ghadban al-Ghariri, whose funeral created disturbances in
Karbalaa during which a police officer was killed.

On Sunday, the British daily Sunday Times said that Lt. Gen. Sajed got
the support of another army officer, Let. Gen. Yalshin Omar, who was
positioned in Karkouk, northern Iraq and that the two army officers were
able to convince at least five other senior army officers to support
them. The paper noted that the conspiracy was discovered at the
beginning of this January.

GCC: Iraqi problem cannot be solved by force 
Arabic News, Gulf, Politics, 3/15/99


Concerning the situation in Iraq, the UAE foreign minister, whose
country is currently presiding over the GCC session, praised the new
initiative made by Iraq in contacting the international committee formed
recently by the UN Security Council to investigate Iraqi disarmament.
Al-Nu'eimi said, "We hope this initiative will be a start for a new
dialogue between Iraq and the UN that will be conducive to lifting the
sanctions imposed on the "brotherly people of Iraq," who have suffered a
lot. Al-Nu'eimi stressed that the GCC member states support the lifting
of the sufferings of the Iraqi people as a result of the embargo on
humanitarian considerations. He added: "We see that the Iraqi crisis
cannot be solved by means of using force, rather through diplomatic and
political logic so as to ensure the security and stability of the region
and the safety of the Iraqi territories." He continued, "The recent
military developments do not serve this very objective, and also
escalate tension in the region."

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Looking back at Iraq with eyes full of tears

By Tom Heinen of the Journal Sentinel staff 
March 12, 1999

Iraq, home of ancient Babylon's ruins and modern warfare's ravages, is
several heartbeats from Milwaukee via telephone. 

And many heartaches. 

For Milwaukee resident Sabah Fouad, 47, it is the homeland where two
young nieces died last year because there was no medicine to treat their

"Constantly I talk to them," said Fouad, who returned for a visit in
1995 and who telephones his four sisters in Baghdad often. "They tell me
they are hungry, they don't have medication. It's very bad. They sold
the doors in the houses -- closet doors, bedroom doors, furniture -- so
they can have food." 

For Kuwaiti-born Ahlam Abulughod, 33, of Milwaukee, it is a land of
despair to which her Palestinian parents and other family members moved
when the government of Kuwait put pressure on longtime foreign residents
to leave after the Gulf War. 

And for Baghdad native Hamid Alwan, 61, owner of an east side jewelry
and import store, Baghdad is a surrealistic city where inflation is
measured in thousands of percents and mothers hold emaciated children
while begging on street corners. 

 "When Clinton talks that we are trying to destroy Saddam's weapons of
mass destruction so that we can save our children, aren't the Iraqi
children a member of the world community?" asked Alwan. 

"What the U.S. has done, really, is to dehumanize all of Iraq in the
image of one man, Saddam Hussein. (They say), 'We're going to do this to
Saddam. We're going to do that to Saddam.' But Saddam is not the only
man who lives in Iraq," added Alwan, who was critical of air attacks
during the Gulf War on water purification plants and other parts of the
Iraqi infrastructure. 

"When you bomb Baghdad, a city of 4 1/2 million, you are definitely
killing civilians. . . . The Iraqi government  isn't suffering. The
people of Iraq are suffering, are (carrying) the weight of all this
embargo against Iraq." 

Some local immigrants who keep in frequent telephone contact with
relatives shared their stories Thursday night during an ecumenical
prayer vigil at the Islamic Center, 4707 S. 13th St. They and others
also were interviewed earlier in the day. 

Participants from the Buddhist, Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities
are fasting each day this week and assembling in the evening to pray for
an end to the economic sanctions against Iraq. The effort was organized
by a coalition of groups: Peace Action-Milwaukee, Pledge of Resistance,
Casa Maria Hospitality House and the Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition.

Saying the sanctions are not driving Hussein from power, they cite
United Nations statistics that more than 6,000 Iraqi children are dying
each month because of a lack of food, sanitation and medicine. 

Abulughod and Alwan have been able to send enough money to their
relatives so far to protect them from the worst of the physical
suffering. But the mental stress on both sides of the geopolitical
divide is another thing. 

"When the last bombing happened, I couldn't get hold of them for over
two months," said Abulughod. "I didn't know if they were dead. There was
bombing right close to them, so they had to leave their houses." 

"I felt that they feel that nothing matters anymore," she added. "It was
like feeling hopeless, to the point that you don't care if you are dead
or not. . . . It's not the way I want them to live. The circumstances
have forced (them) to live in Iraq, and it wasn't our fault that the
Gulf War happened in the first place. 

"It's like the Palestinian people have a curse on them. They never live
a peaceful life. And sometimes you give up and say, 'What can I do?'
Other times you say, 'What the heck. I have a right to live like a human
being.' They wait for my phone calls to cheer them up. Nothing else in
Iraq cheers them up. They are just living day by day." 

Rabbi David Brusin of Congregation Shir Hadash offered a prayer earlier
in the week, when the vigils were held at St. Benedict the Moor Church,
924 W. State St. Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Richard J. Sklba, who visited
Baghdad in 1964, spoke Monday. 

"There may be a legitimate religious fear of the moral contamination of
our Western capitalism, but the Iraqi government must face up to its
duty to cease internal repression, abandon its effort to develop weapons
of mass destruction, to respect the legitimate role of the U.N., and to
feed and care for its innocent citizens," Sklba said. 

"The failure of the Iraqi government to do so does not justify the
enormous harm, the enormous human costs and tragic moral consequences
for so many innocent people . . . 800,000 innocent children have died."

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