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From the news

*       Iraq facing worst drought for 50 years: this will not affect
oil-for-food (Associated Press)
*       US jets still hitting Iraqi targets [extract] (Associated Press)
*       Four killed in US strikes on Saturday [extract] (BBC Online)
*       Iraq continues confrontation of US planes (Arabic News)
*       UK bishops want sanctions replaced (Arabic News)
*       Iraq proposals circulated at UN: Washington rejects Russian
(supported by France) proposal as a "non-starter" - Deputy US Ambassador
says "We would like to have inspectors back on the ground in Iraq ...
but we're not prepared to pay in terms of `inducements' for Iraq in
order to accomplish that." Russian Ambassador says British proposal "is
going to be rejected because it doesn't have any hope for Iraq, any
roadmap for Iraq to follow." (Associated Press)
*       Iraq starts diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia (BBC Online)
*       Group Says Iraq Has Executed 106; Iraqi dissidents report
increasing signs of insurgency (Associated Press)

Iraq Facing Horrible Drought 
By Leon Barkho, Associated Press Writer, Monday, April 19, 1999; 1:06
p.m. EDT

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- U.N. relief organizations are working to alleviate
the impact on sanctions-hit Iraq of what could be the worst drought in
50 years, a senior U.N. official said today. Water levels in the Tigris
and Euphrates rivers have dropped so much this year that people can
cross them on foot, according to farmers and residents in northern Iraq.
The drought, caused by little and late rains, will not affect the
U.N.-approved oil-for-food deal that provides 22 million Iraqis with
almost two-thirds of their basic needs including flour, sugar and rice. 

The deal allows Baghdad to sell oil, in an exception to the U.N.
sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The oil revenue
can, however, only be used to buy humanitarian supplies and food from
abroad. Meanwhile, local produce has been used to provide additional
rations to some 5 million poor Iraqis. 

The United Nations and the Iraqi government haven't issued any
forecasts, but both say privately that this year's yields, particularly
of wheat, barely and rice, will be at least 75 percent less than last
year, a bumper year for crops. The United Nations says it is aware of
the crisis and has already notified relief organizations to seek their
help. ``We've been aware for sometime that the very low rainfall of this
year is certainly going to affect the annual harvest in Iraq,'' U.N.
humanitarian spokesman in Iraq, George Somerwill, told The Associated

Senior Iraqi officials also are holding separate meetings to evaluate
the consequences of the drought on the livelihood of farmers and
millions of Iraqis relying on their produce. The al-Ittihad economic
weekly said rainfall in Mosul, Iraq's breadbasket, has been the lowest
in more than 50 years. The Mosul plateau, extending from the northern
city of Mosul to the Syrian border, usually provides the country with up
to 70 percent of its grain yields. This year, al-Ittihad said, rainfall
has been one-fifth of last year, even insufficient to water land devoted
to grazing cattle and sheep. The water shortage has forced the
government to ban planting of rice, the country's staple food.
Irrigation Minister Mahmoud Dhiab Ahmed has said the government might
resort to strict water rationing. 

Last year, Iraq produced 300,000 tons of rice. The government granaries
collected 1.2 million tons of wheat and 859,000 tons of barley. 

U.S. Jets Hit Iraqi Targets 
Monday, April 19, 1999; 6:05 p.m. EDT


ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- U.S. fighter planes attacked Iraqi defense sites
in northern Iraq today after being targeted by Iraqi radar, U.S.
officials said. U.S. Air Force F-15Es dropped laser-guided bombs on
radar sites in the vicinity of Mosul, according to a statement from the
Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey where American jets are based.
Mosul is 250 miles north of Baghdad, the Iraqi capital. A statement by
the Iraqi armed forces said the bombing was directed against ``service
installations and heroic weapons sites.'' The statement, carried by the
official Iraqi News Agency, made no mention of damage or casualties. On
Saturday, the Iraqi armed forces said four civilians died and another
was injured when U.S. jets struck Iraqi military sites in the area. The
last attack before that was about a month ago.

Four killed in US strikes 
BBC Online, Saturday, April 17, 1999 Published at 20:08 GMT 21:08 UK 


Iraq says four civilians have been killed and another wounded in an
attack by American aircraft in the north of the country. The Iraqi
authorities say the targets attacked were civilian, as well as
anti-aircraft positions. "At 12:35 (08:35 GMT) hostile formations
violated our air space, coming from Turkish skies and bombed our service
installations and weapons sites," the official INA newsagency quoted a
military spokesman as saying. "The bombing led to the martyrdom of four
citizens and injuring another," he added.

The Americans said they attacked anti-aircraft positions around the
northern city of Mosul "in self-defence" after their aircraft had been
fired on. An American spokesman said the planes returned safely to base
and damage to the Iraqi positions was still being assessed. Iraq also
says that British and American aircraft flew more than 20 sorties over
south of the country, but that its air-defence installations had forced
the planes to return to base. On Thursday planes from US and UK forces
struck two targets in the southern no-fly zones. 

Iraq continues confrontation of US planes
Arabic News, Iraq, Politics, 4/19/99

An Iraqi spokesman stated today that his country will continue its
confrontation of any planes penetrating its airspace. Iraq announced
yesterday that its ground defenses opened fire on tens of US and British
planes that were patrolling over the no-fly zone in southern Iraq. In
the meantime, Baghdad stated that four persons died two days ago and
another was injured by raids launched by US planes in northern Iraq.

On the other hand, the national council for the Iranian resistance
expected that Tehran would launch attacks on Iraqi sites in revenge for
the assassination of Brig. Gen. Ali Sayyad Shirazi last week. The
council said that Iran is getting ready for launching air raids on the
sites of the Iranian national liberation army in the Iraqi territories.

UK Bishops want Iraq sanctions replaced
Arabic News, Iraq, Politics, 4/17/99

British and Welsh Catholic bishops have issued a statement criticizing
United Nations economic sanctions as causing harm to the Iraqi people
without harming the Iraqi government, the BBC reported. The report added
that the bishops called for establishing sanctions that would avoid
affecting poor Iraqi citizens or establishing a better humanitarian

Iraq Proposals Circulated at U.N 
By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press Writer, Friday, April 16, 1999;
9:46 p.m. EDT

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Britain and Russia defended their differing
proposals Friday for resuming U.N. oversight of Iraq's weapons programs
and improving life for ordinary Iraqis. The proposals circulated
Thursday both aim to establish a rigorous monitoring system to prevent
Baghdad from rebuilding weapons of mass destruction. But they diverge
sharply over how to achieve that goal, with Russia offering an end to
the U.N. oil embargo and Britain keeping the embargo in place but
suggesting ways to get more food and medicine for Iraqis suffering under

Britain argued its draft resolution, which is co-sponsored by the
Netherlands, was the best chance of winning consensus from the divided
Security Council specifically because it doesn't deal with the
contentious issue of lifting sanctions. Russia countered that its
proposal, which is supported by China and France, was the only shot at
getting Iraq to agree to any new monitoring regime. ``What I know for
sure is that the British-Dutch draft is going to be rejected because it
doesn't have any hope for Iraq, any roadmap for Iraq to follow,''
Russian ambassador Sergey Lavrov said. 

Washington rejected the Russian proposal outright, calling the idea of
lifting sanctions before Baghdad answers remaining questions on its
weapons programs a non-starter. But U.S. officials also held Britain's
plan at arms length amid concerns that it might weaken the U.N. ability
to root out Iraq's banned weapons. ``We would like to have inspectors
back on the ground in Iraq ... but we're not prepared to pay in terms of
`inducements' for Iraq in order to accomplish that,'' said deputy U.S.
ambassador, Peter Burleigh. Burleigh said the administration has
questions about elements of the British draft which call for the
creation of a new weapons inspection commission to succeed the U.N.
Special Commission. Burleigh said Washington wants documented proof that
Iraq's humanitarian needs are not being met before agreeing to Britain's
proposal to expand the U.N. ``oil-for-food'' program, which lets Iraq
sell limited amounts of oil. 

Britain dismissed suggestions Friday that Washington's reservations
signaled a crack in the allies resolve on Iraq. ``What we have proposed
is what is possible to achieve in the short term,'' said Britain's U.N.
Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock. ``This gets the council going.'' 

Iraqi officials visit Saudi Arabia 
BBC Online, Monday, April 19, 1999 Published at 11:12 GMT 12:12 UK 

Senior Iraqi officials are reported to have held talks in Saudi Arabia
for the first time since the Gulf War. Iraqi media said the minister of
higher education and scientific research, Abduljabbar Tawfiq Mohammed,
met his Saudi counterpart, Khaled bin Mohammed al-Ankari. The reports
said they discussed a meeting of Arab ministers of higher education
currently taking place in Riyadh. Iraq broke off diplomatic relations
with Saudi Arabia after the Saudis allowed an American-led multinational
force to use their territory as a base for attacking Iraqi forces during
the Gulf War. 

Group Says Iraq Has Executed 106 
Monday, April 19, 1999; 11:17 a.m. EDT

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- Iraq has executed 106 political prisoners arrested
during and after a failed uprising in southern Iraq following the 1991
Gulf War, a human rights group linked to Iraqi dissidents said Monday.
The executions took place in the Abu Ghraib prison west of Baghdad in
January, the London-based Center for Human Rights of the Iraqi Communist
Party said in a statement. It said 21 prisoners were executed Jan. 5, 39
were executed 10 days later, and 46 were executed in Jan. 24. The
statement, faxed to The Associated Press in Cairo, said executions have
increased in the past two months because prisons were overcrowded with
new detainees accused of carrying out anti-government activities. 

Former Dutch Foreign Minister Max van der Stoel, appointed U.N. human
rights observer for Iraq, also discussed increasing number of executions
in the country in his March report to the annual session of the U.N.
Human Rights Commission. He said hundreds of prison executions took
place in the last months of 1998, bringing the total number of prisoners
said to have been executed since fall 1997 to 2,500. Iraqi dissidents
have reported increasing signs of insurgency since the Feb. 19
assassination of the supreme leader of Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority,
Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sader, and his two sons.

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