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News items

*       Iraq's Education Suffers under Embargo (Agence France-Presse)
*       Panel on Human Rights in Iraq Causes Controversy (Columbia Daily
*       Congress's Candidate to Overthrow Saddam Hussein: Ahmed Chalabi
Has Virtually No Other Backing (Washington Post)
*       Iraq says UN blocking southern oil contracts (Agence
*       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

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

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

© 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

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.


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

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

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. 


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