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* Iraq's Education Suffers under Embargo (Agence France-Presse) * Panel on Human Rights in Iraq Causes Controversy (Columbia Daily Spectator) * Congress's Candidate to Overthrow Saddam Hussein: Ahmed Chalabi Has Virtually No Other Backing (Washington Post) * Iraq says UN blocking southern oil contracts (Agence France-Presse) * US, British planes launch an attack on Iraq (Arabic News) * Russia calls for lifting of Iraq embargo (Agence France-Presse) * Russia Slams West's Failure To Condemn Turkey (Reuters) * Iraq accuses Iran of preparing for aggression (Associated Press) * Iraq: U.N. Monitors Damaged Factory (Associated Press) * Kurds of N. Iraq Clear Land Mines (Associated Press) ******************** Iraq's Education Suffers under Embargo Thursday, April 22, 1999 RIYADH (AFP) -- An Iraqi minister deplored Wednesday the parlous state of the country's education system under almost nine years of UN sanctions and urged Arab nations to act urgently to lift the embargo. "The embargo has seriously affected education in Iraq, and I urge that future generations in Iraq be saved," Higher Education Minister Abdel Jabbar Tufiq said at an Arab education summit in Riyadh. "Arab nations must reject the embargo and intervene urgently to ensure it is lifted, particularly as Iraq has honored all its commitments" to the United Nations, he said, accusing Britain and the United States of wanting to perpetuate the sanctions. A million Iraqis of primary and secondary school age are not attending school for economic reasons related to the UN embargo while 200,000 others have dropped out, according to a UNICEF report in December. Education, which is compulsory at the primary school level, is free in principle. Iraq used to boast one of the best school systems in the Middle East during the oil boom days of the 1970s. Iraq has been under a UN embargo since it invaded Kuwait in 1990. ******************** Panel on Human Rights in Iraq Causes Controversy Columbia Daily Spectator (22 April 1999?) By BRIAN WEBSTER, Spectator Associate News Editor Emotions and tensions among members of the audience became so exacerbated during a panel debate on alleged human rights violations in Iraq as to elicit a warning from one of the organizers of the event, who threatened to call on security to avoid a potentially dangerous situation. The Iraqi Ambassador to the United Nations, the co-director of the International Action Center, and a trial lawyer from Chicago heatedly debated the topic of human rights violations in Iraq and how those violations should be dealt with last night in Schapiro Hall, as all three recognized that current economic sanctions are harming innocent Iraqi people. Each panelist was given approximately 20 minutes to speak, and a question-and-answer period followed the speeches. During the question-and-answer period, audience members became so emotional that Turath Chair Ramzi Kassem had to warn the audience members that if they did not settle down, security would be called. Iraqi Ambassador Dr. Saeed Hassan spoke first, advancing his view that current economic sanctions on Iraq for its human rights record are "misused rather than used" by the UN. Hassan argued that the United Nations' sanctions on Iraq were unjust to begin with, saying that when sanctions first were imposed in August of 1989 by the UN Security Council, the UN gave Iraq only four days to carry out actions that would satisfy the conditions set forth by the UN and the United States. If these conditions were met, according to Hassan, sanctions would not have been placed on Iraq. Hassan further contended that in sanctioning Iraq, the UN violated the provisions of its own charter. The Iraqi ambassador quoted the charter, saying "The question of sanctions ... is provided as a tool for peace." According to Hassan, economic sanctions were not used as a tool of peace especially after the United States took military action against Iraq for invading Kuwait. "During 40 days of bombarding and 100 hours of ground war, Iraqi troops were driven out of Kuwait," Hassan said. Co-Director for the International Action Center Brian Becker added, "Iraq is a broken country. You can't have one and a half million people dead out of 22.5 million people; when you have 25 percent of your children malnutritioned, you can't consider a country like that an economic threat." Both Hassan and Becker focused heavily on what they believed to be the negative effects of UN economic sanctions on Iraq, with Becker recounting an emotional he had made to Iraq last year during which he saw many children and elderly citizens suffering in hospitals because of malnutrition, contaminated water, and lack of medicine. "Why are [Iraqi citizens] drinking contaminated water?" Becker asked. "Because the government wants them to drink contaminated water," Becker said, referring to the fact that the United Nations forbids Iraq to import chlorine to purify their water because the UN believes the Iraqi government will use imported chlorine to build chemical weapons. Becker went on to emphasize the poor condition of hospitals and medical care in Iraq, as compared to the condition of health and medical care in Iraq before UN sanctions were imposed on it. "Those same hospitals have been turned into a virtual death row&emdash;not for murders or rapists, but babies," Becker said. Both Becker and Hassan characterized the application of UN sanctions on Iraq as "a form of war that is more devastating and perhaps more insidious than the 120,000 tons of weapons dropped in February of 1991 [in the Persian Gulf War]. "What's going on in Iraq is a genocide&emdash;in all measures," according to Hassan. While Chicago trial attorney Feisal Istrabadi, and much of the audience agreed that a considerable number of Iraqis are suffering because of the sanctions, Istrabadi felt that Becker and Hassan downplayed the Iraqi government's role in the suffering of Iraqi people. "The first and most egregious violation of human rights in Iraq is Saddam Hussein," Istrabadi said, characterizing Hussein's period of leadership as "31 years of unspeakable oppression." Istrabadi recounted a childhood memory, when he still lived in Iraq. He recalled watching television during the afternoon, when the television suddenly was switched to a public broadcast station showing the public execution of over 20 Iraqi people who were considered to be spies. "I shall never forget these souls, hanging lifeless in Freedom Square," Istrabadi said. Istrabadi argued that the "deplorable state of human rights [in Iraq] predates sanctions [imposed by the UN]" and that sanctions placed on Iraq in 1990 were a "direct and proximate" result of the atrocities committed by the Iraqi regime. He also stated, however, that sanctions have been misdirected and have led to the genocide of Iraqis by the United States and that economic sanctions must be lifted, although diplomatic and military sanctions must be maintained. Istrabadi argued that while the intent of applying economic sanctions on Iraq might have been moral, the consequences on the "ordinary Iraqi people" have become too great to continue sanctions. Istrabadi, though, also told Hassan and Becker that it was unwise to characterize the United States and the UN as the sole instigators of the suffering occurring in Iraq. "The regime's failure to act in good faith is the first proximate cause for [the sanctions being imposed," Istrabadi said, referring to Iraq's promise to disarm completely within weeks after economic sanctions were imposed upon Iraq." Istrabadi added, "[Iraq is] a despotic regime indifferent to the suffering of its own people." The panel was organized and run by Turath, as Turath celebrates its second annual Arab Heritage Week. The focus of this year's Arab Heritage Week is human rights, as Turath aims to "educate [others] about the political and cultural realities of the Middle East," according to Kassem. Last night's panel, Kassem said, specifically gave students an opportunity to "experience Iraqi culture in a new way." ******************** Congress's Candidate to Overthrow Saddam Hussein: Ahmed Chalabi Has Virtually No Other Backing By Dana Priest and David B. Ottaway, Washington Post Staff Writers, Wednesday, April 21, 1999; Page A03 DEARBORN, Mich.-In the dim basement of a tiny house here, despondent Iraqi men sit on the floor mulling a plan to overthrow President Saddam Hussein. They are marsh Arabs from the south, a few tribal leaders and clan elders, a former Iraqi army officer and four Shiite Muslim holy men. As tea kettles rattle nearby, all eyes are on the plot-maker, sitting cross-legged in the corner. His bodyguards--a former Kurdish guerrilla fighter from northern Iraq and three men he describes as veterans of a "terrorist" group--stand near the staircase and doorways. He is here to reveal his latest plan: the Pentagon or the CIA will train 300 former Iraqi military officers to use antitank weapons, encryption and communications gear. The men will train an additional 1,000. The rebels will infiltrate by land, sea or air. They will capture an air base that will become a magnet for disaffected Iraqi soldiers. The Americans will provide air cover. Soon, they will set up a provisional government. "It won't be the Americans who liberate Iraq," he tells them. "It will be us. We need support, direction and training from the U.S. There's no shame in admitting that." Although the conflict with Yugoslavia has eclipsed Iraq for the moment on U.S. television screens, Ahmed Chalabi is working with the vitality of a young revolutionary to inspire and organize an armed insurrection against the government in Baghdad. The portly 54-year-old Iraqi intellectual--a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago whose past includes work with the CIA as well as a conviction in Jordan for his role in a banking scandal--has established himself as the focus of congressional hopes to unseat Saddam Hussein. "Chalabi is the face of the Iraqi opposition in Washington," said a key Republican staff member. "He is a person of strength, principle and real national commitment," said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), who met recently in his office with Chalabi. But off Capitol Hill, Chalabi has a considerably different reputation. Clinton administration officials in charge of Iraq policy see his military plan as folly and believe his real contribution is as an articulate spokesman against Saddam Hussein. Even more telling, Chalabi has little support from leaders of the fractious Iraqi exile groups or, they say, from Iraqis living in Iraq. The lack of confidence came into the open early this month in London. The best-known Iraqi exile group, a coalition known as the Iraqi National Congress (INC), had an executive committee meeting there April 7 and 8 at which Chalabi was demoted from chairman to simple member. A collective leadership of seven persons, each representing one of the main opposition groups, was established in his place. "The emphasis is on teamwork rather than any individual," said Barham A. Salih, Washington representative of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of the groups in the INC. In any case, Arab governments in the Persian Gulf region have told the administration they would not allow Chalabi to run a liberation army from their soil, even in an operation mounted with U.S. help. "Universally, there isn't a government in the region that takes the outside opposition seriously," one senior administration official said. The ruling Sunnis of Saudi Arabia distrust Chalabi in part because he is Shiite, a branch of Islam whose adherents make up just over half of Iraq's 22 million inhabitants. The Kuwaitis do not believe he could inspire a successful revolt and refuse to give him a staging area. Jordan would put him in jail were he to return because of the banking fraud. And on the other side of Iraq, Turkey wants nothing to do with Chalabi or his plan. Arab diplomats are therefore skeptical of Congress's insistence on mounting a publicized, U.S.-trained invasion force--and of Chalabi's role in it. "We gulf Arabs live in the desert and we know what a mirage is," said one Arab diplomat. Chalabi is the scion of a wealthy banking family whose grandfather, father and brother held prominent posts in Iraqi governments until Saddam Hussein's Arab Baath Socialist Party seized power in 1968. He has not lived full time in Iraq since 1958 except when he resided intermittently in the U.S.-protected Kurdish north between 1993 and 1996 as a leader of the CIA's aborted operation against Iraqi forces. Chalabi was a math professor at the American University in Beirut until 1977, when he went to Amman. Diving into the seemingly bottomless sea of Arab oil money, he built an innovative banking empire. He fled Jordan in 1989 to escape prosecution when the bank collapsed. In 1992, Jordan's State Security Court convicted Chalabi in absentia and sentenced him to 22 years for embezzling millions from his Petra Bank. Chalabi disputes that he did anything wrong and says neither he nor his family received money from Petra. He says his prosecution was politically motivated by powerful Jordanian bankers and businessmen who wanted to eliminate him as a competitor, and by Saddam Hussein, who wanted him silenced. Since he left Jordan, Chalabi has resided in London. He is now a British citizen. Until recently, he was also executive director of the INC, which was founded in 1992 as an umbrella grouping of mainly Kurdish and Shiite opposition groups. In its heyday, the INC had headquarters, a radio station and a small army based in the U.S.-protected Kurdish territory in northern Iraq. The CIA poured more than $100 million into the venture, with the INC becoming a primary beneficiary, according to Iraqi and U.S. sources. Chalabi says the organization got no more than $15 million. But in March 1995 an attempt by the INC to coordinate an offensive against the Iraqi army ended in the death or imprisonment of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Iraqis. Chalabi accused the CIA of pulling support at the last minute because of the administration's own infighting over whether an opposition dominated by Kurds and Shiites could ever be effective in Sunni-ruled Iraq. Seventeen months later, the INC was routed from northern Iraq when one of the two main Kurdish groups--the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)--asked Saddam Hussein for help in taking over territory run by the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The Iraqi army took the opportunity to eliminate all INC bases in the north. It executed more than 100 INC officials and soldiers and sent thousands fleeing into Turkey. The U.S. government evacuated 7,000 to America and many ended up here in the Detroit suburbs. The INC's demise and allegations that Chalabi misused INC money have left Chalabi without much support among Iraqi dissidents, according to interviews with Iraqi dissidents and U.S. and Arab diplomats in the United States and in the region. "A lot of people are fed up with him. He does not listen to anybody," Zubair Humadi, an independent Iraqi opposition figure who participated in the INC's founding meetings. "He ran the INC into the ground." Farhad Barzani, the Kurdish KDP's Washington representative, said Chalabi left "a lot of debts," delayed payment to some INC officials when he left northern Iraq and refused to disclose details about the INC's finances to its members. "Everybody was complaining they did not know where the money was coming from," Barzani said. "Damn right," answers Chalabi. "It was covert money. Did the KDP disclose the money it got from the CIA?" Chalabi says he is widely supported and in contact with a growing number of Iraqis inside Iraq. The criticism against him and his plan, say Chalabi and his supporters, comes from predictable naysayers: Washington's armchair policymakers, CIA officials embarrassed by their own ineptitude, Arab leaders worried that Chalabi wants a democratic Iraq, an example their autocracies find threatening. Chalabi, they say, is the only prominent Iraqi actively campaigning for the role of mastermind and organizer. "Chalabi is very smart and very effective internationally," said Peter Galbraith, a former Democratic Senate Foreign Relations Committee specialist on Iraq. "He brought this [INC] movement to the United States and Europe, and they are the critical actors." "The focus in the United States is Ahmed Chalabi because he's such a successful spokesman," said Martin S. Indyk, who is in charge of Middle East policy for the State Department. "But it has to be a broader movement, beyond one person." Instead, U.S. officials say they intend to secretly help foster a military coup from within. "Our overthrow strategy does not depend on Ahmed Chalabi," says one senior official. Meanwhile, Chalabi is eager to shake loose the $97 million in military equipment and training that Congress said the administration could give the opposition when it passed the Iraq Liberation Act late last year. The State Department so far has rejected a $4.3 million request by Chalabi to run an INC office, saying his request was all for overhead, officials said. "The bad guy in all this is General Zinni," Chalabi says during his visit here. He was referring to Gen. Anthony Zinni, commander of the U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for military operations in the Middle East. At a congressional hearing last year, Zinni said Chalabi "had little if any viability" and his actions might further destabilize the region. "If they were viable," he howls, wavering his arms, "they wouldn't need you, Mr. General Zinni." Staff researcher Robert Thomason contributed to this report. Saddam's Opponents Opposition to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is weak and disjointed. Here are some of the splinter groups. Iraqi National Congress Founded in 1992 as an anti-Saddam Hussein umbrella group and at the time led by Ahmed Chalabi, it originally sought to unite Kurdish factions. Formerly the principal U.S. aid client, it was practically wiped out when Saddam Hussein crushed a rebellion in northern Iraq in 1996, while the United States stood aside. Iraqi National Accord Has received financial support from U.S., Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Britain. Opened office in Amman, Jordan, in 1996 and started a radio station. Leader is Ayad Alawi. Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq Led by Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr Hakim and based in Tehran, it is the main armed Shiite opposition. Kurdistan Democratic Party Led by Massoud Barzani; joined with the Baghdad government to defeat their Kurdish rivals in 1996. Saddam Hussein moved into the Kurdish "safe haven" established by the United Nations and wiped out the Iraqi National Congress; as many as 200 opposition figures were executed. Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Led by Jalal Talabani. Recently Talabani sent envoys to Baghdad to try to make peace with Saddam Hussein. London dissidents About 60 other groups try to rally anti-Saddam Hussein activity from London. Some of these groups represent sizable ethnic and religious groups; others consist of one person or no more than a few. Among them: * Movement for Constitutional Monarchy, led by Sharif Hussein, a member of Iraq's former royal family. * Supreme Assembly for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Has backing from Iran. © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company ******************** Iraq says UN blocking southern oil contracts 13:15 GMT, 20 April 1999 BAGHDAD, April 20 (AFP) -The UN sanctions committee is systematically blocking spare parts contracts for Iraq's southern oil industry, the sanctions-hit state's oil ministry said Tuesday. "The sanctions committee is focusing its blocking measures on contracts requested by oil companies in the southern region," a ministry spokesman said, quoted by the INA news agency. "This geographic discrimination reflects the evil intentions of the US administration and British government ... who want to divide Iraq," the spokesman said. He blamed the blocking of contracts on the US and British representatives on the sanctions committee, which oversees the crippling UN sanctions imposed on Iraq following its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. ******************** US, British planes launch an attack on Iraq Arabic News, Iraq, Politics, 4/22/99 US and British planes attacked an Iraqi service and radar building near Mosul, the largest city in north Iraq, while US and British planes soared over the two no-fly zones imposed by Washington and London on northern and southern Iraq. A spokesman for the Iraqi air defense leadership said that 10 F-14, F-16 and F-15 planes, supported by AWAX planes for early warning, made 22 air raids over Mosul city and five Kurdish cities in northern Iraq. The spokesman said these planes shelled buildings and weapons sites, but the Iraqi resistance confronted the US planes, obliging them to leave Iraqi airspace and return back to southern Turkey. Meanwhile, The Iraqi air forces celebrate today the 66th anniversary of their establishment, in which Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is expected to take part. The leader of Iraq's air forces, Khaldoon Khatab, warned US and British pilots against continuing the penetration of Iraqi airspace and called on them to halt these actions before their planes are shot down, saying that Iraq will surprise them by downing more planes. He added that the US and Britain should not believe that their upgraded planes are safe and sound in Iraq's airspace. Khatab, moreover, added that US technology would not stand before Iraqi pilots, insisting on chasing the American pilots to teach them unforgettable lessons. [sic] ******************** Russia calls for lifting of Iraq embargo 10:27 GMT, 20 April 1999 BAGHDAD, April 20 (AFP) -Russia's ambassador to Baghdad Nikolai Karuzov called for a lifting of the crippling UN economic sanctions on Iraq Tuesday, saying they "seriously undermine" Iraqi-Russian interests. "The continuing sanctions seriously undermine Iraqi and Russian interests, as well as those of several neighbouring countries," the ambassador said in an interview with Iraqi television. He also restated Russia's strong opposition to the no-fly zones over the north and south of Iraq, enforced by US and British warplanes but not directly covered by a UN resolution. "Our position is clear: we do not believe these zones have any legitimacy or (UN) resolution," the ambassador said. ******************** Russia Slams West's Failure To Condemn Turkey MOSCOW, Apr. 20, 1999 -- (Reuters) Russia on Monday said the West's failure to condemn Turkish killings of Kurdish separatist guerrillas in northern Iraq highlighted its double standards in international policy. "The situation arising in this region has more than one similarity with the situation in Kosovo," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, condemning Turkey's military action in northern Iraq. "The real absence of any kind of reaction from the West (to the killings) shows the double standards in its policy. In one instance, difficulties in regulating domestic problems provokes the use of NATO's military machine and in another...they close their eyes." Russia strongly opposes NATO military action in Yugoslavia and has frozen ties with the military alliance. But Moscow has not gone further than verbal attacks on NATO. Thousands of Turkish troops pressed into Kurd-controlled territory in northern Iraq in pursuit of Turkish Kurd guerrillas last week, after launching an operation the week before. Turkey said on Sunday it had killed 141 Kurdish separatist guerrillas and lost 10 soldiers in the military operation. "It is a gross infringement of basic norms of international rights, trampling the sovereignty and territory of a neighboring country," Russia's Foreign Ministry said. Turkey regularly mounts operations into northern Iraq against guerrillas from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), who use the remote mountainous terrain to launch attacks on mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey in their campaign for self rule. Ankara says it has all but defeated the PKK militarily following the arrest of its leader Abdullah Ocalan in February, and that the rebel group is in disarray. ******************** Iraq accuses Iran of preparing for aggression 10.37 a.m. ET (1437 GMT) April 22, 1999 By Waiel Faleh, Associated Press BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Iraq has accused Iran of using the violent actions of an Iranian opposition group to justify a possible attack against Iraq. The accusation came in a letter from Iraq's foreign minister that was delivered to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday. Iraq's official news agency issued a copy of the letter. Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf rejected Iran's assertions that Iraq is to blame for the violent acts of the Mujahedeen Khalq, an Iranian opposition group with bases in Iraq. The group claimed responsibility for the killing of Iran's deputy chief of staff, Brig. Ali Sayyad Shirazi, on April 10. Shirazi was a senior army commander during Iran's 1980-88 war with Iraq. More than a million people were killed or injured on both sides in the war. The countries accuse each other of still holding prisoners of war. Al-Sahhaf said the Khalq also has bases in countries other than Iraq, some of them also neighbors of Iran. Iran is only "trying to find excuses and a cover'' for any aggression it might carry out against Iraq and "to interfere in Iraq's internal affairs,'' the letter said. The Mujahedeen Khalq, which has a close relationship with the Iraqi government, has more than 20,000 militarily trained men and women in at least five camps near the Iranian border. The group's fighters often target Iranian government sites. Iran also hosts Iraqi opposition groups, and Baghdad accuses Tehran of using them to foment trouble in Iraq. The exiled dissidents have been blamed for assassination attempts on several Iraqi leaders including President Saddam Hussein's son, Odai. "Iran is trying to divert attention from the fact that it is supporting traitors and terrorist groups inside its territory,'' al-Sahhaf said. The letter accused Iran of killing Shiite religious leaders in Iraq in an effort to arouse the underprivileged Shiite majority against the minority Sunni rulers. ******************** Iraq: U.N. Monitors Damaged Factory By Leon Barkho, Associated Press Writer, Thursday, April 22, 1999; 6:31 p.m. EDT DAURA, Iraq (AP) -- Iraq on Thursday accused U.N. disarmament experts of damaging its main livestock vaccine plant by destroying equipment during a search related to biological weapons. The accusation by plant director Muntasir al-Ani disputes claims by chief U.N. weapons inspector Richard Butler that the factory is still capable of producing the vaccines. The government took foreign media representatives on a guided tour Thursday of the plant in Daura, 12 miles south of Baghdad. Entangled pieces of destroyed equipment and small heaps of scrap dotted the sprawling facility. Ventilation pipes and sluices were chopped off at several places. One autoclave, in the shape of a circular container for sterilizing and heating, was left intact while another in an adjacent room was cut to pieces. The U.N. inspectors had raided the plant in 1996 to dismantle equipment that Iraq acknowledged was installed in the plant to make weapons for germ warfare. But the inspectors ``did not only destroy those parts but have disabled the whole factory,'' Sinan Abdul-Hassan of Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate told The Associated Press. The directorate coordinated U.N. disarmament activities in the country. Al-Ani, the plant director, said the inspectors spared some 40 pieces of equipment but also cemented and chopped off the factory's air-handling system, without which it will be impossible to start production. He said 28 pieces of equipment were dismantled, but he did not give details. In New York, Ewen Buchanan, spokesman for the U.N. Special Commission, which Butler heads, insisted Thursday that inspectors had done the right thing. ``The reason why we destroyed it was because the Iraqis admitted themselves that they had indeed turned the place into a biological weapons factory producing the deadly agent botulinum toxin,'' he said. Butler said in a letter released last month that 40 major pieces, originally imported for the production of foot-and-mouth disease vaccine, had been left intact and could be put back to work. The U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization reported last month that at least 1 million farm animals in Iraq have been crippled by a foot-and-mouth epidemic and at least 400,000 have died because of a lack of vaccines. Under the cease-fire terms ending the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Iraq must rid itself of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons as well as its long-range missiles. The disarmament is a key condition to the lifting of U.N. trade sanctions imposed on Iraq for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The inspectors left Iraq shortly before the United States and Britain launched the Dec. 16-19 airstrikes in response to what they said was Iraqi provocation. Meanwhile, U.S. warplanes bombed Iraqi air defense sites in the northern no-fly zone Thursday after being threatened by anti-aircraft fire, the U.S. military said. Iraq said one civilian was killed. Northern and southern no-fly zones were set up after the Gulf War to prevent Iraqi military aircraft from threatening opposition groups living in the northern and southern portions of the country. ******************** Kurds of N. Iraq Clear Land Mines By Vijay Joshi, Associated Press Writer, Tuesday, April 20, 1999; 1:38 p.m. EDT SULAIMANIYA, Iraq (AP) -- Ismail Ali can't forget his final soccer game. It was on Sept. 5. During the game in his Kurdish mountain village, the 14-year-old team captain stepped on a land mine and his left leg was shredded. ``It is not easy to play with one leg, is it?'' Ali said during a recent interview at a hospital, turning his head to hide his tears. Another Kurd has equally dreadful memories of a time nearly eight years earlier, when he was a private at the other end of Iraq, near the border with Kuwait. Boya was caught up in the frenzied preparations for the Gulf War, planting land mines that Saddam Hussein hoped would blunt the impending U.S.-led onslaught that liberated Kuwait. When Boya and his 15 unit mates were done, 13,000 mines had been laid out in one night. ``I felt like a criminal, but I had no choice,'' said Boya, who asked not to be identified further for fear of retribution from the Iraqi government. He is trying to make amends: He joined a United Nations program that began last year to remove mines in northern Iraq, where the deadly devices outnumber people 3-to-1. Ali and Boya are the twin faces of Iraq's tragedy and hope. Northern Iraq has 3.3 million Kurdish residents -- and 10 million land mines, making the Switzerland-sized region the most densely mined area in the world. At the current rate of mine removal, U.N. officials estimate it will take hundreds of years to clear the explosives. ``But every little bit helps,'' said Faiz Muhamad, a de-mining assistant supervisor from Afghanistan. Some of the mines date to the start of the Kurdish insurgency against the Iraqi government in 1974. Most were laid near the Iranian border during the 1980-88 war between Iraq and Iran. More appeared during factional fighting between Kurdish groups after Saddam lost control of the area in 1991. Boya, like most Kurdish soldiers, deserted his Iraqi army unit when Kurds rose up after the Gulf War. He did odd jobs until he signed up as a mine remover. ``Eight years ago I was expected to kill. Now I am either saving a life or making land available to somebody. To me that is paying my dues,'' said Boya, sitting in his tent in Ashkawsaqa village where the Untied Nations has set up a new de-mining operation. The day before, his team identified a mine field outside the village and marked the area with poles topped by steel triangles showing the skull and crossbones. The de-miners were alerted by villagers who reported the death of a dog and a donkey in the freshly plowed fields. Now experts armed with metal detectors and other equipment will work to clean the field of mines, usually discs smaller than doughnuts buried inches under the surface. ``Mines are sleeping soldiers. They will sleep for decades and snap at you without warning,'' said Dave Penson, an Australian who heads the team in Ashkawsaqa, 215 miles north of Iraq's capital, Baghdad. Since 1991, about 2,900 people have been killed and nearly 5,400 injured by mines in the three northern provinces of Dohuk, Irbil and Sulaimaniya, the United Nations says. It says 20 percent of arable land in the region is unusable because of mines. Sulaimaniya, in a district bordering Iran, has 60 percent of the 2,386 mine fields identified so far. Hundreds more remain uncharted. With their lands unusable, thousands of farmers have abandoned villages to live in refugee camps. Families no longer park their cars along the roads for picnics in the scenic hills. The mine removal program owes its existence to the U.N. economic sanctions imposed on Iraq for invading Kuwait in 1990. The money for de-mining -- about $10 million spent so far -- comes from the U.N.-approved oil-for-food-program that has allowed Iraq to sell oil since December 1996 to finance humanitarian purchases. The de-mining office was set up in October 1997 and the operations began in April 1998. The United Nations has so far trained 600 Kurds and is using 14 sniffer dogs from South Africa. The United Nations and other aid agencies also have set up five hospitals and artificial limb centers. Ali, the young soccer player, got a synthetic leg in February and after a few months' physiotherapy may even be able to run a bit. ``I know I can never be a striker (goal scorer) again. But never mind, I will be a defender,'' he said, his round face breaking into a smile. ******************** -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email email@example.com, NOT the whole list. Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html