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News: Iraq sanctions may be lifted before disarmament complete...

*       Britain Proposes Iraq Weapons Plan (Associated Press)
*       Secret negotiations between Baghdad and Washington? (Paris'
Al-Watan Al-Arabi) [this article thanks to a US discussion list)
*       Former arms inspector urges U.S.-Iraq dialogue; about-face draws
critics (CNN)
*       Iraq accuses US of blocking spare-parts contracts for
electricity (Agence France-Presse)
*       UN okays Iraqi deals for oil spare parts worth 237 million
dollars (Agence France-Presse)
*       No improvement in Iraqi human rights record (Arabic News)

New British proposal for Iraq weapons monitoring acknowledges that
"Iraq's record suggests it won't meet the council's original conditions
of complete disarmament before sanctions can be lifted".

According to Al-Watan Al-Arabi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq 'Aziz was in
Ankara last month to seek Turkish help in arriving at "a [US-Iraq]
solution based on keeping Saddam Husayn and his regime in power". The
article also states that after negotiations in Turkey two years ago,
"the United States stopped demanding the change of the whole regime and
began publicizing an idea suggesting that they may accept Qusay as a
successor to his father"... From a different angle, the unpopular but
admirable Scott Ritter is calling for dialogue with Baghdad. However,
Ritter's not hopeful, and US sources state that "any development in the
direction of a dialogue between Baghdad and Washington is unlikely".

Britain Proposes Iraq Weapons Plan 
By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press Writer, Thursday, March 25, 1999;
11:10 p.m. EST

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Britain has submitted proposals to monitor Iraq's
weapons, saying it would consider a ``new approach'' but stressing that
U.N. inspections must be intrusive to prevent a revival of Baghdad's
banned arms programs. A British outline was circulated this week to
members of the Security Council, which heard other proposals from
Russia, France and the United States in January. The British proposal
echoes some Russian and French suggestions, indicating some consensus
might have emerged within the council for a new Iraq policy after months
of paralysis. 

U.N. weapons inspections -- mandated by U.N. resolutions that ended the
Gulf War -- ground to a halt when the United States and Britain bombed
Iraq in mid-December. Baghdad was accused of having failed to cooperate
with the U.N. Special Commission, which has overseen the destruction of
Iraq's biological, chemical and long-range missiles since 1991. While
Baghdad has given no indication it will ever resume cooperation, the
council has convened three panels to try to forge a new relationship
with Saddam Hussein. Those recommendations are due April 15, after which
the council is expected to begin negotiations in earnest on a new Iraq

The United States and Britain have taken the hardest line with Iraq,
while Russia, France and China have been more sympathetic to the Iraqi
cause after eight years of sanctions that crippled Baghdad's economy.
The British outline acknowledges that Iraq's record suggests it won't
meet the council's original conditions of complete disarmament before
sanctions can be lifted. Therefore, Britain was ``interested in
examining new approaches'' to Iraq that would still be based on a
technical assessment of its disarmament status. Like French and Russian
calls, it suggests an ongoing monitoring and verification regime be
established to ensure that Iraq cannot develop or reconstitute weapons
of mass destruction. The Special Commission and the International Atomic
Energy Agency should remain the designated organizations to check
Baghdad's weapons programs, the British paper said. 

That contrasted slightly with Russia's recommendation that outside
experts take on a role. Provisions for intrusive inspections and the
right to revert to investigation of past Iraqi programs would need to be
clear,'' the British say. But addressing recent allegations that the
United States used the Special Commission for espionage, Britain echoes
the French call for a more independent organization that isn't so
reliant on any single country's personnel or money. On the sanctions
issue, Britain supports French, Russian and U.S. calls for improving the
humanitarian situation for Iraqis. But the paper indicates the oil
embargo cannot be lifted because Iraq hasn't been fully disarmed. 

Paris' AL-WATAN AL-ARABI 3/19/99

What is going on between Baghdad and Washington? Is  there a secret deal
being worked out between the two countries? A number of well-informed
experts raised these questions last week because there were new sudden
developments that could arouse a great deal of controversy concerning
the covert, not the overt, aspect of the conflict taking place between
the United States and Iraq. Overtly, US F-15 aircraft and the British
Tornado aircraft were as usual bombing Iraqi defensive targets in
northern Iraq almost daily. It is war of attrition which the United
States and Britain have been launching against Iraq ever since the
launching of Operation "Desert Fox." The clear aim of these daily
sorties is to destroy Iraq's military infrastructure. While US Defense
Secretary William Cohen was making his Gulf tour to mobilize Arab Gulf
ranks behind a plan to topple Iraqi President Saddam Husayn, Frank
Ricciardone, the US diplomat in charge with the affairs of Iraq's
liberation, was intensifying his contacts and consultations to unify the
Iraqi opposition and to draw up a list of the Iraqi opposition  factions
which are eligible for US financial and military aid.  Amid this clear
escalation of the situation, the Iraqi official newspaper Al-Jumhuriyah
surprised its readers with an article which was not  threatening the
United States or Iraq's neighbors, nor was it warning  those who were
attacking Iraq with the gravest consequences. The article called on
Washington to change its policy toward Iraq and to stop the air raids.
Moreover, the paper called on the US Administration to adopt another
policy in dealing with Iraq by gradually retreating from its  aggressive
line which proved its failure every time and exercising a more civilized
and a more rational approach showing respect for the other side.

Only those who know what goes on behind the scenes paused at this Iraqi
offer three weeks ago and handled it with complete secrecy. In fact, the
Iraqi offer is exactly the antithesis of official thinking in
Washington, which has said that the countdown for toppling Saddam Husayn
has already begun and that the United States is paving the way for an
armed popular uprising in northern and southern Iraq or a military coup
from within the regime itself. By making the offer, the official
newspaper Al-Jumhuriyah even dared to oppose the newspapers run by
'Udday Saddam Husayn and the statements made by Iraqi officials that
hostile aircraft should be shot down, that the no-fly zones should be
challenged, and that neighboring countries should be threatened. It
seems that the most important thing is that the Al-Jumhuriyah article
has been interpreted by well-informed people in terms of  reflecting
progress on what has been happening secretly since last month.  But what
was exactly happening?

Al-Watan al-'Arabi has learned from well-informed US sources that the
United  States and Iraq held secret negotiations in the last few weeks
with the aim of making a breakthrough in the deadlock. The two countries
have  reached and overcome this deadlock by a face-saving solution. The
sources  have pointed out that the talks have indirectly been initiated
through  Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit. As far as the details are
concerned, the visit which Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq 'Aziz made
to Ankara last month focused in particular on conveying a verbal message
from President Saddam Husayn asking the Turks to mediate between Iraq
and the United States in order to find a way out of the present
predicament; to gradually reduce tension and open the way for a serious
dialogue that could lead to a solution based on keeping Saddam Husayn
and his regime in  power; and opening a new, unprecedented page in
US-Iraqi relations at the various levels.

Al-Watan al-'Arabi has also learned that the Iraqi deputy prime minister
anticipated in advance that the Turkish prime minister and officials
would be taken by surprise at the Iraqi mediation request, particularly
that US military and political escalation against Baghdad has reached
its peak and that the Americans have officially announced for the first
time that they were seeking to topple Iraqi President Saddam Husayn.
They have even disclosed part of their plan to liberate Iraq. Meanwhile,
it seemed as if Saddam Husayn has blown up all bridges of communication
with Washington and made statements to the effect that there was no
longer any room for reconciliation.

The informed sources said that 'Aziz came to Ankara carrying a
comprehensive plan that would facilitate the Turkish mediation. It
seemed  that the plan was prepared by the most senior Iraqi officials
following a series of meetings which Qusay Saddam Husayn held with Nizar
Hamdun,  former Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations, who is well
informed about all the US terms and demands and is regarded as the top
Iraqi expert on how to deal with the Americans. Together with Qusay, he
supervises a committee which seeks to initiate a dialogue with
Washington. A report on the details of the meeting between the Iraqi
deputy prime minister and the Turkish prime minister said that the
latter was  surprised at the elaborate presentation made by the Iraqi
official to pave the way for requesting Turkish mediation. Ecevit was
also surprised at the rational Iraqi assessment of the situation. The
report asserts that Tariq 'Aziz has focused on the dangerous game being
played between  Baghdad and Washington, not only for the two countries,
but also for its repercussion on the neighboring countries where the
situation could explode and the current status quo could be overturned
in the entire region.

The Iraqi official pointed out that the continued implementation of the
US plan will not prompt Saddam Husayn to capitulate. On the contrary, it
will corner him and make him feel that he no longer has anything to
lose. Consequently, Iraq will act in its own way, in the way of "on me
and on my enemies." You know that Iraq still has enough weapons to put
the whole region on fire, to rekindle the Arab-Israeli conflict and to
turn the table over everybody's head.

>From a threat of an all-out explosion, 'Aziz moved on to a lesser degree
of escalation. He cautioned Turkey against involvement in the US-British
plan to topple the Iraqi regime. 'Aziz asserted that before the plan
could succeed in toppling the regime, Iraq would have to undergo a
process of partition and popular disturbances. He pointed out that
Turkey  has no interest in the establishment of an independent Kurdish
entity, that it would pay a high price for this, and that no one knows
how far he fire which would burn and Afghanize Iraq could reach.  After
making his explicit threat to Ankara, 'Aziz went on to brief the Turkish
prime minister on US-Iraqi relations and the political and  military
conflict between the two countries ever since Operation "Desert  Fox."
The presentation which 'Aziz made was impressive...

'Aziz called on the Turkish prime minister to mediate between Washington
and Baghdad so as to pull the region out of the dark tunnel and save it
by dialogue, not by war. After the Turkish prime minister listened at
length to the Iraqi deputy prime minister and understood the message, he
asked: But what can Iraq offer the United States in case it agrees to
open dialogue with Iraq?  'Aziz replied: "We depend on your political
cleverness and shrewdness and  knowledge of the issue to convince them
with the importance of the dialogue. I am sure that there is a
significant group within the US  Administration, including perhaps
President Clinton, which is thinking in terms of profit and loss and
would rather find a way out of this dangerous deadlock which we have all
reached." 'Aziz continued: "You can probably recall that we have entered
into a dialogue with the Americans two years ago. The meetings were held
here in your country, in Ankara. To indicate that we were taking the
matter seriously, our negotiating team was headed by Qusay, son of
President Saddam and the official in charge of the security services and
the Special Guard. You undoubtedly know that the Americans made numerous
political, security and military conditions and demands. Most important
of these was to establish a military base in southern Iraq. Specifically
speaking, they wanted to deploy US forces in the al-Kut, which is
overlooking the Gulf and Iran. They demanded that US military advisers
be deployed at the office of the Chief of the General Staff in Baghdad.
Furthermore, they demanded the political and economic openness of the
regime and party and political pluralism in Iraq."

Ecevit replied by saying: "I have information to this effect. I will not
keep it a secret from you that we were surprised at the dialogue and the
demands and the change in the US position that followed. In fact, the
United States stopped demanding the change of the whole regime and began
publicizing an idea suggesting that they may accept Qusay as a successor
to his father. However, in the months that followed, the situation went
back to what it was, because you have turned down the US conditions."
'Aziz replied that "There have been many new developments ever since. I
believe that the present situation is opportune for initiating the
dialogue again. If an atmosphere of confidence is restored, we could
discuss all issues. The information I have is that there are US circles
that are willing to bet on a strong and unified Iraq with good relations
with the United States, an Iraq that has its position in the new
regional arrangements and that can participate in making these
arrangements. We are now prepared for any step, even irrational steps,
if no US-Iraqi  understanding is reached to lift the sanctions. We are
no longer capable of putting up with this situation." The sources said
that Ecevit was cautious in his reply to 'Aziz and committed himself
only to conveying the Iraqi offer to Washington and to seeking to carry
out the requested mediation. In fact, the Turkish prime minister
requested three of his close advisors to convey the Iraqi  proposal to
Washington and sound out Washington's reaction as to whether it was
prepared to consider a solution to the Iraq problem other than the
military solution...

However, informed US sources have told the Al-Watan  al-'Arabi that any
development in the direction of a dialogue between Baghdad and
Washington is unlikely. These sources, however, admit that  the real US
goals and policies toward Iraq are ambiguous and that there is a large
group within the US Administration which is still not yet convinced that
the Iraqi opposition factions can be depended on, nor can Washington
depend on the plan it has drawn up for toppling Saddam Husayn. The
sources explain that the plan, nevertheless, has been adopted officially
and declared publicly. In fact, instructions were issued to carry out
the plan. Therefore, it would be very difficult for President Clinton to
make a 180 degree turn regardless of the price, which the Iraqis are
offering. The main reason is not that Washington wants to turn  down the
Iraqi offer as much as it rests in Clinton's inability to bear the
consequences of such a shift in policy and establish a new  relationship
with Saddam Husayn, who has been portrayed as "enemy number one" of the
United States, all the more so because the date of the new US
presidential elections is drawing close."

Former arms inspector urges U.S.-Iraq dialogue; about-face draws critics

March 24, 1999, Web posted at: 10:46 a.m. EST (1546 GMT)  

In this story:
  'I had his gun in my face'
  'We do business with bad people'

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Scott Ritter, a former chief U.N. weapons inspector
who once advocated military force against Iraq, now says dialogue is the
best way for Washington to avoid further conflict with that country.
Ritter, who resigned to protest what he considered failed U.S. policy on
Iraq, said he still considers Saddam Hussein a "monster." His call for
dialogue has taken some people by surprise. "(Diplomatic) engagement, I
believe, should be focused on the issue of economic reconstruction of
the Iraqi economy, what I call ... the new Marshall Plan for Iraq,"
Ritter said in New York during a promotion tour for a book he has
written on his experiences in Iraq. Speaking at a U.S. policy forum on
the Middle East, Ritter called the appearance his first public defense
of the book.  

Once critical of the Clinton administration, accusing it of interfering
with his weapons inspection efforts and putting too much faith in
Hussein's eventual removal through Iraqi internal opposition, Ritter
resigned last year. Ritter describes Saddam Hussein as a "monster," but
still advocates dialogue with the Iraqi leader.        

'I had his gun in my face'  

Meanwhile, since mid-December, U.S. and British warplanes have bombarded
Iraqi sites regularly to punish what the allies say are Iraqi violations
of the southern and northern "no-fly" zones. The continued aerial
assaults, Ritter now says, have led to a new situation. But his call for
establishing better relations led to the first of many challenges from
puzzled members of the policy forum audience.  

"I interviewed Saddam Hussein a long time ago and I don't know anyone
who agrees with your analysis," said Washington Post columnist Lally
Weymouth. "You may have interviewed Saddam," Ritter shot back, "but I
had his gun in my face, the gun held by his bodyguards. It was my brain
that was being threatened to be splattered on the road. I pursued him
harder than anybody. The world let me down."  

'We do business with bad people'  

Failure to pursue a diplomatic solution with Hussein will result in a
wider war in the next century, the former Marine insists. "It's easy to
sit here and say you can't engage with the demon. He is a demon. He's a
bad man. But we do business with bad people. That's called life," he
argued. "What's your counterproposal?" David Kay, another former U.N.
weapons inspector, praises Ritter's field work in Iraq but not his
attempts at diplomacy. "My criticism of Scott since his resignation is
... he started doing policy as opposed to inspections, which he knows
very well."  

Ritter says he expects his controversial idea of diplomatic engagement
with Iraq to "die on the vine" due to lack of support. What he really
wants is to provoke a debate. And if his book tour reception in New York
is any indication, he'll get one.  Correspondent Richard Roth
contributed to this report.        

Iraq accuses US of blocking spare-parts contracts for electricity 
20:04 GMT, 24 March 1999

BAGHDAD, March 24 (AFP) -Iraq on Wednesday accused the US representative
to the UN sanctions committee of blocking spare-parts contracts to help
rebuild the sanctions-wracked nation's elctricity and power network.
"Knowing the importance of these parts, the US representative has
persevered in his hostile attitude aimed at wiping out the Iraqi people
and depriving them of the most basic human rights," a spokesman for the
industry ministry said. The US representative to the committee has
recently blocked some 15 spare-parts contracts, said the spokesman,
cited by the official INA news agency. He said the action brings the
number of contracts put on hold by the committee to 21 in Phase IV of
the UN-supervised "oil-for-food" programme, which expired in February.

UN okays Iraqi deals for oil spare parts worth 237 million dollars 
13:41 GMT, 23 March 1999

BAGHDAD, March 23 (AFP) -The UN sanctions committee has approved
contracts for spare parts for Iraq's battered oil industry worth 237
million dollars, a UN spokesman said Tuesday. John Mills, spokesman for
the UN oil-for-food programme, said 395 contracts had been approved and
94 other deals worth 28 million dollars put on hold, out of a total of
564 contracts worth 295.5 million dollars submitted by Iraq. Various
spare parts from France and Turkey worth 895,000 dollars have arrived in
Iraq over the past week, the spokesman said in a statement from his New
York office. But Iraq has yet to receive a major consignment.

No improvement in Iraqi human rights record
Arabic News, Iraq, Politics, 3/25/99

A report released by the UN rapporteur Max Van der Stoel on the occasion
of convening the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva that the
situation of human rights in Iraqi has not improved. In his report for
1998, Van der Stoel said, "Human rights conditions in Iraq have not
recorded any improvement, a matter which constitutes a threat to peace
and security in the region." He added that the government of Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein, who he introduced as a dictator, but without
using this word directly, "oppresses civil rights in life, freedom, and
the freedoms to thinking, self-expression, meeting and rallying."

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