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News: Iraq politics

  • UN Weapons Chief Butler Reassigned (Associated Press)
  • UN Team Will Destroy Iraq Chemicals (Associated Press)
  • Blast Kills Four in Iraq (Associated Press)
  • US jets hit Iraqi communications site (Arabic News)
  • Iraq says one killed in Western air attacks (Reuters)
    Further US backing to Iraqi opposition (Arabic News)
  • Iraq, Middle East peace discussed by Chirac and Qatari crown prince (Arabic News)
    Report: Messages from Iraqis held in Kuwait (Arabic News)


UN Weapons Chief Butler Reassigned

By Edith M. Ledere, Associated Press Writer, Monday, June 7, 1999; 10:54 p.m. EDT

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Richard Butler, chief U.N. weapons inspector for Iraq, will join the Council on Foreign Relations next month as a diplomat in residence, the New York-based think tank announced Monday. Butler, whose U.N. contract expires June 30, told The Associated Press that he will write a book about his tumultuous two-year tenure as executive chairman of the U.N. Special Commission, the unit charged with overseeing Iraqi disarmament. The nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations tries to improve America's understanding of other nations. ``I have things that I need to say -- and this is the ideal place from which to say them,'' said Butler.

He leaves the United Nations at a particularly sensitive time and the world body has not announced who will succeed him. U.N. weapons inspectors haven't been in Iraq since mid-December, when the United States and Britain launched airstrikes after accusing Baghdad of not cooperating with the inspectors. The Security Council, deeply divided over its Iraq policy, has been debating since then how to resume weapons oversight in Iraq while improving the lives of Iraq's 22 million people, who have been suffering under nearly nine years of sanctions.

On Monday, France circulated an Iraq resolution that combines elements of two competing drafts in an apparent effort to bridge the Security Council divide in establishing a new Iraq policy. But the French suggestions appear to go even beyond the suspension of sanctions proposed by Russia as a way to persuade Iraq to allow U.N. oversight of its weapons programs to resume, indicating that compromise isn't near. France suggests the U.N. oil embargo be suspended once a system of monitoring Iraq's weapons programs is in place, and for the Security Council to authorize foreign investment in Iraq's oil sector. The United States and Britain have already rejected calls for a suspension of sanctions. The three dueling resolutions -- the new French draft, the Russian resolution, which France and China co-sponsored, and one drafted by Britain and the Netherlands -- all call for a new system of monitoring to be established in Iraq to ensure it isn't rebuilding its banned weapons. They differ, however, on the question of sanctions.

Butler quickly became known for his outspoken and hard-line position towards Iraq, repeatedly accusing Baghdad of obstructing inspectors in trying to hide its remaining weapons stocks.

Tough U.N. sanctions against Iraq, imposed after Baghdad's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, cannot be lifted until the inspectors report Iraq is weapons-free. Iraq says it has destroyed all its banned weapons and has demanded sanctions be lifted immediately.


UN Team Will Destroy Iraq Chemicals

Tuesday, June 8, 1999; 7:52 p.m. EDT

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Security Council today that he would send an independent team to Iraq to destroy samples of chemical and biological agents left behind when U.N. weapons inspectors left in December, diplomats said. Annan didn't elaborate on when the team would leave or who its members would be, but said he had been in contact with Richard Butler, the executive chairman of the U.N. Special Commission, diplomats said on condition of anonymity.

Butler recommended last week that a team of experts be dispatched to Iraq to destroy the samples, used to calibrate testing equipment, and remove the less than 2.2 pounds of Iraqi mustard gas stored at the U.N. laboratory in Baghdad. Butler said the tiny samples were safely stored and posed no threat. But he recommended that they be destroyed and the lab closed because inspectors have been gone for longer than expected and summer weather could lead to fluctuations in the electricity supply to the facilities.

Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov asked Annan about the status of the mission during a council meeting Tuesday, diplomats said. Lavrov added that he had learned that Iraqis were now saying explosives were also in the laboratory, which is located at UNSCOM headquarters in the Canal Hotel in Baghdad.

To calibrate equipment, the laboratory never had more than 0.01 ounces of chemical warfare agents, Butler said. The mustard gas in the lab was taken from Iraqi 155 mm shells recovered by UNSCOM in 1997-98. Butler recommended the mustard gas be removed and either destroyed or stored at Iraq's former chemical weapons production facility at Muthanna


Blast Kills Four in Iraq

Wednesday, June 9, 1999; 4:50 a.m. EDT

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A pickup truck loaded with explosives blew up today near a bus carrying members of an Iranian exile opposition group, killing four people and wounding 23, a spokesman said.

The morning explosion occurred near a hospital in a northern suburb of Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, Farid Suleimani of the Iraq-based Mujahedeen Khalq group told The Associated Press. He said the group holds the ``clerical regime of Iran's Intelligence Ministry'' responsible for the attack, which he said killed senior members of his group. Some of the injured were in serious condition, he added. On Saturday, two bomb blasts apparently intended to damage the Mujahedeen headquarters in Baghdad instead slightly injured a teen-ager and damaged other buildings and cars.

The Mujahedeen Khalq, which has a close relationship with the Iraqi government, has more than 30,000 militarily trained men and women in 17 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 the groups 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.


US jets hit Iraqi communications site
Arabic News, Iraq, Military, 6/8/99

US aircraft flying as part of Operation Northern Watch over the northern Iraqi no-fly zone attacked targets east of Mosul. A statement from Incirlik air base in Turkey said US jets were targeted by Iraqi radar and fired on by Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery. In response, the jets attacked communications facilities that "were used to pass location information on ONW aircraft to Iraqi AAA units," the statement said. It added that the jets left the area safely.


WIRE:June 8, 1:23 p.m. ET
FOCUS-Iraq says one killed in Western air attacks

BAGHDAD, June 8 (Reuters) - Iraq said on Tuesday that one person was killed when Western planes attacked sites in the north of the country. ``The hostile formations attacked our service installations in Bartilla and the bombing led to martyrdom of citizen Hadi Khudir Dawood,'' the official Iraqi News Agency quoted a military spokesman as saying. ``Our brave ground resistance units intercepted the hostile formations and forced them to depart our airspace into their bases in Turkey,'' the spokesman said.

A statement from the jets' base in southern Turkey said U.S. warplanes bombed Iraqi communications facilities on Tuesday after being fired on by anti-aircraft artillery in the no-fly zone over northern Iraq.

U.S. Air Force F-15 Strike Eagles and F-16 Fighting Falcons, ``responding in self-defence,'' dropped GBU-12 laser-guided bombs on the sites east of the Iraqi city of Mosul. Bartilla is 20 km (12 miles) east of Mosul. The statement said the facilities were used to pass information on U.S. and British planes to Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery. ``All coalition aircraft departed the area safely,'' it said.

U.S. and British planes patrol no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq set up after the 1991 Gulf War. The zones, which Baghdad does not recognise, were imposed to protect minority groups from attack by Iraqi forces.


Report: Further US backing to Iraqi opposition
Arabic News, Iraq, Politics, 6/8/99

The Turkish daily Mellit said on Monday that the US diplomat Frank Ricciardone could achieve his mission in setting up a basis to unify Iraqi opposition factions. The paper reported that Washington is now exerting efforts to create contact channels with the Iraqi people, adding that the US support concentrates on developments after the "possible toppling " of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The paper said that Washington pledged to prevent large-scale self-rule for the Kurds in northern Iraq, but it stands against the partition of Iraq and the establishment of a Kurdish entity. The Turkish paper indicated that Washington has realized the great importance of Turkish backing, therefore Ricciardone will next week brief Turkish officials in Ankara on the latest developments pertaining to Iraq.


Iraq, Middle East peace discussed by Chirac and Qatari crown prince
Arabic News, Qatar, Politics, 6/8/99

Qatari Crown Prince Sheikh Jasem Bin Hamad al-Thani held talks on Monday in Paris with French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. Circles of the French presidency said a meeting at a luncheon banquet held in honor of the Qatari prince at the French presidential palace included French - Qatari relations, and the Middle East peace process. The meeting was an occasion for Chirac to explain to his guest the French ideas concerning Iraq. The French presidential sources stated reasons that usually push France to consider the current situation in Iraq as unacceptable are the sufferings of the Iraqi people, the absence of monitoring over armaments and the US-UK bombardments which are conducive to further deterioration. The French side expressed satisfaction with the results of the Israeli elections and the hope of resuming peace negotiations very soon.

During the banquet, the Qatari crown prince announced that the French Technip company has won a contract for establishing a petrochemical unit in Qatar at a cost of US $750 million. The French President informed his guest, who arrived in Paris on Sunday, of France's desire to strengthen the participation of its industrial sector in developing the sectors of gas and oil in Qatar through Elf and Total.


Report: Messages from Iraqis held in Kuwait
Arabic News, Iraq, Politics, 6/8/99

The Iraqi weekly Nabd al-Shabab said on Monday that the Iraqi Red Crescent Society during May received some "364 messages from Iraqis held in Kuwaiti jails." The Iraqi weekly added that these messages were received "at a time when Kuwaiti refuses to admit the existence of Iraqi prisoners or detainees in its territories." The weekly quoted the society's chairman, Saddeq Alloush, as saying that an agreement was reached with the International Committee of the Red Cross "to follow up matters relating to the missing and detainees especially to the Iraqi detainees held in Kuwait." In February the chairman of the human rights committee at the Iraqi Parliament, Khaled al-Saidi, announced that, "Iraq has submitted to the International Red Cross files of 1,150 Iraqis who were missed during the war and that the committee has answers only for three files."


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