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From the news

*       US Lawmakers consider Iraq policy [oil-for-food] (Associated
*       MI6 "proposed Iraqi coup" to topple Saddam (The Times)
*       Iraq cancels third pilgrim flight because plane not fit to fly
(Associated Press)
*       Increasing exports of Iraqi petroleum (Arabic News)
*       Meeting of Arab follow-up committee (for lifting sanctions)
tomorrow (Arabic News)

Lawmakers Consider Iraq Policy 
By David Briscoe, Associated Press Writer, Wednesday, March 17, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Clinton administration wants to stick with a U.N.
program that lets Iraq sell oil for food, despite congressional
objections, arguing that it does not affect oil prices significantly or
help Saddam Hussein remain in power. 

Energy Secretary Bill Richardson told senators Wednesday that Iraq's 2.5
million barrel-a-day production under the program has a negligible
impact on U.S. oil prices. 

But Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, countered that when oil-producing
nations cut production by about the same amount, worldwide crude prices
rose nearly $2 a barrel. 

``I'm not sure how you get to be an enemy of the United States anymore,
because clearly we are propping up this regime,'' said Murkowski,
chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Richardson and Thomas Pickering, undersecretary of state for political
affairs, had a tough time selling senators on the U.N. program at a
joint hearing of the Energy and Foreign Relations committees. "Iraq's
ability to increase its production is limited and is not expected to go
up measurably this year,'' Richardson said. 

Even some Democrats expressed dismay at a policy that bombs oil
facilities and then sends aid to help increase oil production. In
addition to buying food and medical supplies, the oil money pays for
some spare parts for Iraq's dilapidated oil production facilities. 

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said that unless the administration can show
that Saddam is hurt by the oil-for-food program, Congress is not likely
to accept it. ``I happen to be Democrat who thinks the whole thing is
lousy,'' Biden said. 

The U.N. program allowed Iraq to earn up to $5.2 billion from oil sales
over six months and use the proceeds for humanitarian purposes. However,
Richardson said Iraq will earn only about $3 billion for the current
period because of depressed oil prices. 

Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms, R-N.C., said that
while he does not believe oil-for-food money is going to Saddam, the
program does not work now that Iraq has kicked out weapons inspectors. 

``There is a real peril that the United Nations may well be helping
Saddam reconstitute his weapons programs,'' Helms said.

The oil-for-food program comes up for U.N. Security Council review in
May. Congress has no direct say in whether it continues. 

Richardson and Pickering, both former U.S. ambassadors to the United
Nations, defended oil-for-food as the best way of maintaining U.N.
support for sanctions against Saddam and of keeping Iraqis from

``Our policy is not to go to war with the people of Iraq,'' Pickering
said."There's no program Saddam dislikes more than the oil-for-food
program,'' he said, adding that it denies him revenue since the United
Nations controls how the proceeds are used. 

Although the program was recently expanded to let Iraq replace parts for
its ailing oil industry, Pickering insisted none of the assistance will
be used to make repairs on oil-related facilities bombed by U.S. planes.

March 18 1999, The Times

MI6 'proposed Iraqi coup' to topple Saddam

BRITISH intelligence encouraged the United States to seek a "quick,
simple coup" in Iraq through an opposition group that Britain had
created and which later mounted a failed effort to overthrow President
Saddam Hussein, a former senior United Nations inspector claims. Scott
Ritter, writing in his new book, Endgame, says that in the mid-1990s MI6
pushed the CIA to shift its support from the Iraqi National Congress
(INC), which was recruiting an army in Kurdish-held northern Iraq, to
the rival Iraqi National Accord (INA), which was based in Jordan. 

"More and more, the CIA was being wooed by the British secret
intelligence service, or MI6, which proposed a quick, simple coup,
orchestrated from within by military officers close to Saddam," he
writes. "Such was the offer being presented by the rival opposition
group, the INA. The CIA began supporting both factions, but putting the
bulk of its effort behind the INA." Mr Ritter describes the INA as a
"creation of the British MI6" and says it consists of "former military
personnel who had defected from Iraq and who were hoping to take
advantage of their old contacts at home". Although the INC had amassed
10,000 men to stage a ground war from northern Iraq, the CIA changed
policy on the eve of the planned battle in March 1995 and told the
group's London-based leader, Ahmed Chalabi, that it would not provide
military assistance. 

Mr Chalabi launched the attack anyway, but his Kurdish allies split and
an Iraqi counter-offensive routed his forces. In early 1996, the CIA was
ordered to develop a "quick-fix" solution to get rid of Saddam before
the American presidential elections the following November and "the only
option was the INA". The book records the INA's failed attempt to get
members of the Republican Guards to stage a coup - a plot that was
foiled in June 1996 when the Iraqis intercepted CIA-supplied
communications gear.

Mr Ritter says he suspects that a UN inspections mission at the time,
known as Unscom 150, might have been used as cover by the CIA to help to
execute the planned coup. Unknowingly, he led his team against the same
Special Republican Guard facilities involved in the plot.  The team
included nine "CIA paramilitary covert operators", including an
operative he calls "Moe Dobbs", a US Army Special Forces veteran who had
played a critical role in supporting the rebel Contras in Nicaragua and
had spent the Gulf War in Syria directing Arab agents inside Iraq.

"There is virtually no chance that opposition groups could overthrow
Saddam," Mr Ritter writes. "Attempts by the CIA and the British MI6 to
orchestrate a coup from within all met with disaster."

Iraq Cancels Pilgrim Flight 
By Leon Barkho, Associated Press Writer, Thursday, March 18, 1999; 3:52
a.m. EST

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Iraq canceled a flight to carry a third group of
pilgrims to Saudi Arabia for the holy trip to Mecca, with an air force
pilot saying today that the plane was not fit to fly. 

The Russian-made Il-76 cargo plane made two journeys to Saudi Arabia  --
one Tuesday and the other Wednesday -- transporting 221 pilgrims. On
Tuesday, the plane returned to Baghdad immediately after landing in
Jiddah in Saudi Arabia, a main drop-off point for Muslims participating
in the annual pilgrimage, or hajj. On Wednesday, its return was delayed
more than 12 hours for what the official Iraqi News Agency said were
``unknown reasons.'' It was not clear who had held up the plane or
whether it remained in Jiddah during the delay. The Pentagon on
Wednesday said it knew nothing about the plane's failure to return as
expected.  The flights apparently were in violation of U.N. trade
sanctions imposed on Iraq for invading Kuwait in 1990. 

An air force pilot from the Rasheed Air Base, where the plane had been
departing Iraq, told The Associated Press that the plane arrived early
today. It needed maintenance, he said, adding that he doubted there
would be more flights for this year's pilgrimage. The pilot spoke on
condition of anonymity and did not provide further details. 

The head of Iraqi Airways, Rabee' Mohammed, told reporters Wednesday
that the cargo plane was the only operational civilian aircraft under
Iraq's disposal. 

Apart from those ferried by air, Iraq is sending 18,000 pilgrims by
land.  They are camped at the border post of Arrar, waiting to be
allowed to proceed to the Saudi cities of Mecca and Medina, Islamic holy
cities  where millions of Muslims gather each year for the hajj. A deal
between Iraq and the United Nations to provide each pilgrim with $2,000
from the country's oil-for-food money fell through on Tuesday because of
a disagreement over distribution. 

Iraq, a predominantly Muslim nation, says the 8 1/2-year sanctions
infringe on its people's religious rights. Islam requires every
able-bodied person who can afford it to travel at least once to Mecca to
perform the hajj. The hajj season this year culminates at the end of

Increasing exports of Iraqi petroleum
Arabic News, Iraq, Politics, 3/17/99

The United Nations in Baghdad released a statement announcing that Iraqi
petroleum exports have recorded an increase amounts to 1.9 million
barrels daily today after it was 1.7 million barrels in mid-1998. The
statement , distributed in Baghdad by John Mills, spokesman of the
oil-for-food program, added that Iraqi  petroleum exports were sold the
price of $9.7 per barrel.

The program allows Iraq to export limited quantities of its petroleum at
a value of $5.2 billion every six months to buy basic supplies, but Iraq
was not able to achieve this amount due to the reduction of petroleum
prices.  The agreement with the United Nations dictates specifying $300
million every six months to buy parts for petroleum establishments aimed
at increasing their production.

Moreover Mills said that the group of Iraqi requirements from the spare
parts ratified by the sanctions committee amounted to  $282.6 million
and the committee suspended requests worth $28 million.

Meeting of Arab follow-up committee to meet tomorrow
Arabic News, Regional, Politics, 3/17/99

The Arab follow-up committee for lifting the sanctions off Iraq is
convening tomorrow morning, in which Arab League Secretary General Esmat
Abdul Meguid is participating. The committee includes the foreign
ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Tunisia, Morocco,
Syria and Yemen. Arab diplomatic sources told that the
efforts exerted by Abdul Meguid and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk
al-Sharaa succeeded in easing the tension that prevailed at the
consultative meeting of the Arab foreign ministers held on  January 24,
from which the Iraqi delegation withdrew. The sources added that
al-Sharaa and Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdul Qader Bajamal as well as
Abdul Meguid support issuing a decision that urges the U.S.A and Britain
to stop using force against Iraq.

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