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Iraq news

*       Despite sanctions, Iraq nears completion of major dam (CNN)
*       Iraqi Foreign Minister Al-Sahaf admits there are Kuwaiti
prisoners in Iraq (Arabic News)
*       Report: Qusai Saddam Hussein to be named the second man in Iraq
(Arabic News)
*       Syria and Iraq move closer to diplomatic ties (Arabic News)
*       PKK claims responsibility for exploding the Iraqi pipeline in
Turkey (Arabic News)
*       US names Iraqi opposition factions to receive US aid (Arabic
*       UN report by Max Van der Stoel on human rights in Iraq
(Associated Press)

A new UN report on the lack of human rights urges the Iraqi government
to come clean about the missing Kuwaitis - Foreign Minister Al-Sahaf
admits that Kuwaiti prisoners are being held. The nomination of Saddam
Hussein's son Qusai as deputy chairman of the Ba'ath Party Council marks
the ominous beginning of "a series of changes in Iraq", while the
factions to receive the US $97 million opposition aid have now been
determined. Iraq is attempting to end its political and economic
isolation through renewing diplomatic relations with Syria.

Despite sanctions, Iraq nears completion of major dam
March 23, 1999, Web posted at: 6:47 p.m. EDT (1847 GMT)
>From Correspondent James Martone 

EL AUTHEIM, Iraq (CNN) -- In the parched landscape 170 kilometers (105
miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq officials unveiled the country's newest
dam. Proof, they say, that an eight-year economic embargo and
U.S.-British airstrikes won't stop progress. "This is a civilized,
peaceful response to the aggression of the evildoers," said Iraqi
Irrigation Minister Mahmoud Dhiab el Ahmed. "The Americans bomb us on a
daily basis ... it is one of their objectives to stop us from

Officials say the dam, due to open next month, is being built with
machines and equipment that date back to before the 1991 Gulf War. It
will be fed by rainwater and the nearby Autheim river to provide fertile
farmland and much-needed electricity.  The Autheim dam is Iraq's sixth
major dam but the first to be built under U.N.-imposed economic
sanctions. It is set to begin operations April 28, the birthday of Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein. 

Diplomats touring the construction site expressed admiration and
amazement that Iraq found the estimated $10 million needed to build the
Autheim dam.  "Of course I admire these accomplishments. At the same
time, I am wondering, how do they succeed to do this in such
circumstances?" said George Tsarllescu, Romania's ambassador to Iraq.
The last stop on the tour took the diplomats past the remnants of
another dam that stood on the Autheim river 4,000 years ago. A reminder,
Iraqi officials said, of the region's deeply rooted traditions. 

Al-Sahaf admits there are Kuwaiti prisoners in Iraq
Arabic News, Iraq, Politics, 3/24/99

Well-informed Egyptian sources told the Kuwaiti daily al-Qabas that the
admission by Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Saeed al-Sahaf during his
talks in Cairo that there are Kuwaiti prisoners in Iraq is considered a
step conducive to the next step, which is Iraq's unconditional
recognition of Kuwait's independence and sovereignty. The Egyptian
sources added that Cairo views "the expected Iraqi step" as an open
apology by the Iraqi government for the invasion of Kuwait and
shouldering responsibility for the consequences of this invasion, to
give a chance to the 7-member committee, formed by a decision of the
Arab foreign ministers' council, to start its work.

Report: Qusai Saddam Hussein to be named the second man in Iraq
Arabic News, Iraq, Politics, 3/24/99

The London-based Middle East daily said that according to statements to
leading cadres in the ruling Baath Party in Iraq and the regional
leadership of the Baath Party and its branches in the Iraqi provinces
the party discussed during two-day deliberations the Nomination of
Qusai, the second son of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, to be the
second man in the Iraqi leadership.

In a report published on Tuesday, the paper added that the leading
cadres in the Baath party approved the appointment of Qusai Saddam
Hussein as the deputy chairman of the state's council due to be formed
shortly in Iraq. The paper added that Iraqi leading Baathists considered
the appointment of Qusai as marking the beginning of a series of changes
to take place in Iraq.

Syria, Iraq move closer to diplomatic ties
Fox News,11.00 p.m. ET (401 GMT) March 23, 1999

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) - After 19 years of severed diplomatic relations,
Syria and Iraq have agreed to establish interest sections in their
capitals, officials said Tuesday. In an interview with Japan's Yomiuri
Shimbun newspaper, Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa said the agreement
was arranged in February. The Algerian Embassy in Damascus and Baghdad
will take care of diplomatic work for the two countries, al-Sharaa was
quoted as saying. 

Damascus and Baghdad broke relations shortly after the start of the
1980-88 Iran-Iraq war when Syria sided with Iran. Relations worsened
after Syria took part in the U.S.-led multinational alliance that ousted
Iraqi occupation forces from Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf War. But ties have
improved in recent years with the two countries exchanging visits by
businessmen and officials. The moves comes with Iraq trying to ease its
economic and political isolation.

PKK claims responsibility of exploding the Iraqi pipeline in Turkey
Arabic News, Iraq, Politics, 3/24/99

The Turkish News agency "Deem" quoted a statement issued by the military
wing of the Kurdistani Workers Party (PKK) led by Abdullah Ocalan as
saying that the party's fighters carried out the explosion operation in
the Turkish part of the Iraqi oil pipeline last Sunday. On Monday, an
oil source in Baghdad stressed that oil pumping in the pipeline was
suspended due to the explosion, which resulted in a large fire.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the UN in Baghdad announced on Tuesday that
the UN sanctions committee approved so far some 395 Iraqi requests to
purchase oil equipment at a total cost of $237 million. John Mills, the
spokesman for the oil-for-food program said in a statement issued in New
York, a copy of which reached Baghdad, that requests for oil equipment
frozen by the sanctions committee reached 94 with an estimated value of
$28 million.

US names Iraqi opposition factions to receive US aid
Arabic News, Iraq, Politics, 3/24/99

The Jordanian weekly al-Sabeel said that the US administration has
determined the names of opposition Iraqi factions which will benefit
from the $97 million in aid to be provided in the context of toppling
the Iraqi regime. The Iraqi National Congress, led by Ahmad al-Jalabi
was on top of the list. The Jordanian paper said that the benefiting
Iraqi organizations are the National Reconciliation Movement, the
Kurdistani Democratic Party, the Kurdistani National Party and the
Constitutional Royal Movement led by al-Sharif Bin Ali and the Higher
Council of the Islamic Revolution.

According to Israeli sources, the Jordanian paper added that the
Kurdistani Democratic Party pays more than one million US dollars per
year to Israel to use an Israeli satellite in order to broadcast a
television project on it. The Jordanian al-Sabeel weekly added that the
Israeli Bezeq company for telecommunications has for a long time been
helping the Kurdish television of Barzani, noting that Barzani stands
against Ocalan and is linked with good relations with the US, Turkey and

U.N. Cites Lack of Iraq Rights
By Erica Bulman, Associated Press Writer, Wednesday, March 24, 1999;
12:09 p.m. EST

GENEVA (AP) -- Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq has practically
eliminated all human rights, creating a situation that is as bad as any
regime since World War II, a U.N. expert said Wednesday.  Iraq ignores
the rights to ``life, liberty and physical integrity,'' said former
Dutch Foreign Minister Max van der Stoel in a 21-page report to the
annual session of the U.N. Human Rights Commission. He agreed with the
conclusions of the U.N. Security Council that Saddam's regime was ``a
threat to peace and security in the region.'' 

Numerous allegations had been received of human rights abuses by
Saddam's government, said Van der Stoel, who called for an end to
summary executions, disappearances and forced relocations.  According to
reports, hundreds of prison executions took place in the last months of
1998 as part of an Iraqi prison cleansing campaign, bringing the total
number of prisoners said to have been executed in one year to 2,500.
Some of those reportedly shot, hanged or electrocuted had been sentenced
to death for plotting against Iraq's government or its officials, said
Van der Stoel. A disproportionate number of Iraq's minority Shiites and
Kurds were among those killed. 

Van der Stoel also called on the Iraqi government to allow the Red Cross
full and unrestricted access to all Iraqi prisons and other detention
centers. He also criticized Iraq's failure to resolve the cases of the
over 600 persons of Kuwaiti and third-country nationality who
disappeared during or after Iraqi's 1990 occupation of Kuwait. With Iraq
refusing to allow human rights monitors in the country, van der Stoel,
who has been investigating Iraq for eight years, concluded that the
truth must ``lie with the allegations rather than with the government of

One Iraqi official strongly criticized the U.N. report. ``Two million
people have died because of the blockades and economic sanctions and
constant aggressions from the United States and Britain. But Mr. van der
Stoel ignores all that and the suffering of the people of Iraq,'' said
Saad Hussain, an advisor to Iraq's permanent mission in Geneva.  ``His
report is politically motivated,'' he said, adding that van der Stoel
was using the report to get other countries to gang up on Iraq. He said
Iraq had yet to make its official response to the report.

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