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News: a few more bombs in aid of "a peace-loving Iraq"

*       Air strikes hit oil station in Basra (BBC)
*       Baghdad Says U.S. Bombs Two Houses (Associated Press). U.S.
says: "We did not conduct those strikes," (denied attacking residential
areas but confirmed a raid on military targets)
*       US for a peace-loving Iraq (Arabic News). Ricciardone: "Our
objective is to help Iraq learn how to stand on its feet once again."
*       Withholding the News: The Washington Post and the UNSCOM Spying
Scandal (FAIR)
*       Failed preparations for conference of Iraqi opposition (Arabic
*       Arab parliamentary delegation in Baghdad to express solidarity
with the people (Arabic News)

BBC Online, Saturday, April 3, 1999 Published at 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK 
World: Middle East
Iraq: Air strikes hit oil station 


Iraq has said that US and British air raids have destroyed one of the
country's main crude oil pumping stations.  The station located in
Hamdan, near the city of Basra, pumps crude oil to the Mina al-Bakr port
on the Gulf.  But Baghdad said an emergency system was quickly set up
and the flow of oil was not stopped.  An Iraqi military spokesman said:
"US and British aircraft carried out a cowardly attack this evening,
demolishing the main station in charge of pumping crude oil to Mina
al-Bakr."  There has been no confirmation of this latest attack by
allied forces. 

Earlier, Baghdad said war planes carried out a number of sorties and
were intercepted by Iraqi aircraft. The Iraqi Air Defences Command said
the planes "caused the destruction of two residential houses and the
injury of two residents" in Afaj.  Afaj is in Qadissiya province, 135
miles south of Baghdad.

The official Iraqi News Agency, quoting an unidentified spokesman for
the Air Defences Command, said that aircraft, including F-14s, F-16s and
Tornados, carried out 18 sorties.  But Lieutenant Commander Ernest
Duplessis, spokesman at US Central Command headquarters in Tampa,
Florida, denied any attack on residential areas but confirmed a raid on
military targets.  Mr Duplessis said three F-16s struck a communication
facility and a radio relay stations in Basra province.  He denied that
planes had also attacked Afaj but added that planes had flown over the

Strikes on Iraqi military targets became an almost daily event earlier
this year.  But the attacks on Friday are the first since 16 March, when
American warplanes bombed air defence sites in northern Iraq.
Correspondents say Iraq's comments will inevitably raise questions about
the ability of the US and Britain to suppress Iraqi air activity while
they are involved in Nato's offensive against Serbia.

Baghdad Says U.S. Bombs Two Houses 
By Waiel Faleh, Associated Press Writer, Friday, April 2, 1999; 12:08
p.m. EST

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Allied warplanes bombed communications and radio
facilities in southern Iraq today in the first U.S.-led airstrikes in
more than two weeks, a U.S. military official said.  An Iraqi military
spokesman earlier claimed that two civilian houses had been destroyed by
attacks from allied planes flying out of bases in Saudi Arabia and

Lt. Cmdr. Ernest Duplessis, spokesman at U.S. Central Command
headquarters in Tampa, Fla., denied allied strikes destroyed the houses.
At the time of the Iraqi claim, no attacks had been conducted, he said.
Several hours after the Iraqi claim, Duplessis said, three F-16s struck
an Iraqi communication facility and a radio relay station, following
violations of the southern ``no fly'' zone. 

Today's airstrikes were the first since March 16, when American
warplanes bombed air defense sites in northern Iraq.  Since then, U.S.
attention has been focused on Yugoslavia, where it has been
participating in NATO-led airstrikes for the past 10 days. Earlier this
year, strikes on Iraqi military targets became a near-daily occurrence. 

An unidentified spokesman for Iraq's Air Defenses Command said allied
F-14s, F-16s and Tornados carried out 18 sorties from Kuwait and 33 from
Saudi Arabia, the official Iraqi News Agency said.  The spokesman said
allied planes targeted residential areas in Afaj, ``causing the
destruction of two residential houses and the injury of two residents.''
Afaj is in Qadissiya province, 135 miles south of Baghdad, the capital. 

``We did not conduct those strikes,'' Duplessis said. He said U.S. and
allied planes had at that time flown over southern Iraq but had not
launched any missiles.

US for a peace-loving Iraq
Arabic News, Iraq, Politics, 3/2/99

The Turkish daily Joumhureyet said on Monday that the American diplomat
at the US embassy in Ankara, Frank Ricciardone, has expressed the desire
of the United States to see a new Iraq, "stable and peace loving." The
paper quoted Ricciardone, who is in charge of coordinating the Iraqi
opposition, as saying, "We see there is a need to establish a democratic
government in Baghdad," adding that, "The rule of Saddam Hussein will
only help worsen conditions in Iraq. Our objective is to help Iraq learn
how to stand on its feet once again." The American diplomat said the
Iraqi people are hostages in their country, adding that the ones who
will make a political change in Iraq are the Iraqi people themselves.

FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) is a national US media watch
group which "offers well-documented criticism of media bias and
censorship". FAIR publishes Extra!, a bimonthly magazine of media
criticism, and this article is from their March/April 1999 issue (thanks
to US-based discussion list). Their web site is:

Withholding the News: The Washington Post and the UNSCOM Spying Scandal
By Seth Ackerman

On January 6, the Washington Post's Barton Gellman revealed in a
front-page article, sourced to "advisors" and "confidants" of U.N.
Secretary General Kofi Annan, that Annan had "obtained what he regards
as convincing evidence that United Nations arms inspectors helped
collect eavesdropping intelligence used in American efforts to undermine
the Iraqi regime." A similar story appeared in the same day's Boston
Globe. Gellman's article, along with the Globe story, was widely
credited with "breaking" the UNSCOM-spying story - a story that touched
on a highly contentious issue at the U.N. Iraq had frequently accused
UNSCOM arms inspectors of being conduits for American spying, and was
often joined in its criticism of the disarmament agency by U.N. Security
Council members like France and Russia.

Coming after December's bombing campaign against Iraq, the revelations
in Gellman's article--along with corroborating information that came to
light in the U.S. and British media over the next few days--gave further
ammunition to UNSCOM's critics at the U.N., and were considered to be a
final nail in UNSCOM's coffin. But Gellman, who had produced some of the
best and most enterprising coverage of UNSCOM during the past year, had
known about the UNSCOM-spying story for months--all the way down to its
"operational details," such as the brand names of surveillance equipment
used in eavesdropping operations--and was in a position to publish what
he knew by early October 1998. But at the behest of a senior U.S.
government official, he and the Washington Post's top management chose
not to reveal the extent of U.S. intelligence's links to (and possible
abuse of) UNSCOM, for reasons of "national security." 

The links finally came to light in January only because of aggressive
leaking from Annan's staff--leaks which Gellman knew were being pursued
by a competing reporter at the Boston Globe. Gellman's January 6 story
included a paragraph disclosing that information had been withheld from
readers:  "The Post reported on October 12 that an UNSCOM operation
code-named Shake the Tree involved synchronizing arms inspections with a
new synthesis of intelligence techniques allowing Washington to look and
listen as Iraq moved contraband. At the request of the U.S. government,
the Post agreed to withhold from that report operational details on
national security grounds."

In an interview with Extra!, Gellman said his decision was based on a
longstanding Post policy not to spoil ongoing U.S. intelligence
operations by exposing them. Although Gellman and his editors were "well
aware of the news value" of the story, he said, they believed that the
potential drawbacks of publishing it--as explained to them by the
official--outweighed the advantages. The U.S. official had insisted that
the nature of this particular operation in Iraq was such that any
reference to the eavesdropping would have given the mission away,
Gellman said. The official also told Gellman that the Iraqis might use
evidence of U.S. spying to justify arresting and executing UNSCOM
inspectors, who were expected to return to Iraq soon.

But Gellman reported in a January 8 article that "the Iraqis may have
suspected that their communications were being monitored, and used
Arabic code words to describe individuals and equipment." Moreover,
Gellman had already referred obliquely to the operation in earlier
reporting. Thus, it is unlikely that revealing "eavesdropping" would
have given anything away.  As for the UNSCOM inspectors whose lives
would supposedly be endangered by the story, they did not ultimately
return to Iraq until November 17--and could have chosen not to return at
all if they believed that their lives were at risk.

Moreover, the story was far more newsworthy in October, when Gellman and
his editors decided to hold it, than in January when it finally ran. In
January, few people believed the inspectors would ever return to Iraq.
By contrast, in October, the U.N. was embroiled in a prolonged stand off
between Iraq and the weapons inspectors in which Iraq's accusation of
spying by UNSCOM was one of several issues being discussed. 

In fact, during that standoff, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz
sent a letter to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, demanding an
investigation specifically into whether UNSCOM was being used by U.S.
and other intelligence agencies "to carry out exposed espionage on
Iraq." Had the Post run its story in October, it would have been a
timely--and potentially explosive--contribution to the debate.

So it appears that the serious concern here was that the Washington
Post's journalism might affect the real world--that the revelation of a
questionable U.S. espionage operation would upset people, including some
U.S. allies, and embarrass U.S. policymakers, thus exposing U.S. policy
in Iraq to harsh questioning. Faced with this possibility, the newspaper
chose to protect the operation from public scrutiny--until it mattered
much less. Even so, some at the Post were obviously displeased that the
story came to light at all.

In an outraged editorial the day after Gellman broke the story
("Back-Stabbing at the U.N.," 1/7/99), the paper berated Annan's
advisors for giving its own reporter the information, calling the act a
"gutless ploy" whose "principal beneficiary" would be Saddam Hussein. If
Annan "had reason to suspect the cooperation [between UNSCOM and the
U.S.] had crossed some line of propriety," the editorial said, "they
could have raised their concerns in private."

"We live in a dirty and dangerous world," the Post's then-publisher
Katharine Graham said in 1988, addressing a group of CIA officials at
the Agency's Langley headquarters (Regardie's, 1/90). "There are some
things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe
democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to
keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it
knows." That spirit seems to be alive and well at Graham's paper.

Preparations for the meeting of Iraqi conference in Washington fail
Arabic News, Iraq, Politics, 4/2/99

US officials refused to comment on news reported by circles in the Iraqi
opposition on difficulties facing the chairman of the executive council
of the opposition Iraqi National Conference, Ahmad al-Jalabi, and his
thinking to submit his resignation during a meeting for the council
under preparation in London. The said conference will be held in London
next week and is expected to be attended by US diplomat Frank
Ricciardone, who is in charge of coordinating with the Iraqi opposition.

Officials at the US State Department told the London based al-Hayat
daily, of the failure of efforts in preparation for the meeting of the
national society of the Iraqi National Conference that al-Jalabi called
for convening in Washington by the end of April. One of those US
officials at the US State Department said that the "Iraqi national
conference holds its meeting at its own initiative and we have no
comments on what is taking place inside it." He added that a meeting
will be held in London next week, and will be attended by Ricciardone.

A source in the Iraqi opposition said that the meeting of the national
society has been postponed due to pressures by certain members of the
executive council who informed the US coordinator that the meeting is
illegal because it "does not represent members of the society, and that
executive council was not consulted about such a meeting."

It has been rumored that al-Jalabi expressed his readiness to resign
from the presidency of the executive council at a time when several
factions of the Iraqi opposition no longer view the "conference" as the
umbrella organization under which the Iraqi opposition organizations are

Among the council's members who are residing London are Eyad Allawi, the
Secretary general of the national reconciliation movement; Latif Rashid,
the representative of the Kurdistani National Federation; Aziz Alayyanm,
the representative of the Iraqi Democratic Party; Sami Azzara al-Majoun,
the representative of the Iraqi National Reform Movement; Amer Abdullah,
a former leading figure in the Iraqi communist party; and Hamid
al-Bayati, the representative of the Islamic Revolution Higher Council"
in Iraq.

Arab parliamentary delegation in Baghdad to express solidarity
Arabic News, Regional, Politics, 4/2/99

An Arab parliamentary delegation is expected in Baghdad this Friday to
express solidarity with the Iraqi people who have been facing an
international embargo for over nine years. The delegation is led by
Moroccan MP Brahim Rachidi, who is sixth vice-speaker of the house of
representatives (lower chamber of the parliament). During the five-day
mission that was decided by the Arab Parliamentary Union in Amman last
December, the Arab lawmakers will be meeting with members of the Iraqi
National Council (parliament) and with Cabinet members.

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