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U.S. Decries U.N. on Iraq Chemicals
By Edith M. Lederer, Associated Press Writer, Monday, August 9, 1999; 7:50 p.m. EDT
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The United States has complained that its representative was not invited to watch the politically sensitive destruction of VX and other chemical agents in an Iraqi laboratory. The disclosure Monday of the letter from U.S. envoy Peter Burleigh to Secretary-General Kofi Annan reflected Washington's unhappiness over the U.N. handling of the destruction of tiny quantities of chemical warfare agents and a larger quantity of mustard gas.
China, France and Russia -- Iraq's closest allies on the U.N. Security Council -- turned the destruction of the chemical agents into a political issue, intimating that U.N. weapons inspectors may have planted VX traces on Iraqi warhead fragments. U.N. weapons inspectors used the chemical agents in efforts to determine if Iraq was adhering to U.N. sanctions barring it from producing or possessing weapons of mass destruction. The chemical agents were left behind when the inspectors left Iraq in December on the eve of U.S. and British airstrikes. Iraq has barred the inspectors from returning and a team of independent chemical experts was sent to Baghdad last month to remove or destroy the material.
Burleigh asked Annan to explain his special envoy in Iraq, Prakash Shah, invited French, Russian and Chinese diplomats in Baghdad to accompany the experts -- and why the Polish Embassy, which represents U.S. interests in Iraq, was not invited. ``That this sort of miscue occurred in an issue of such high political importance and sensitivity is regrettable,'' Burleigh said. Britain has also asked for an explanation of why it was not invited.
The issue of VX became a flash point for the Security Council last year when the United States found traces of the deadly nerve agent on fragments of Iraqi missile warheads. A Swiss laboratory found no traces and a French laboratory's tests were inconclusive. Iraq has admitted producing 3.9 tons of VX agent, but denied loading it into missile warheads.
The revelation of Burleigh's letter, dated July 28, coincided with news that Shah has left Baghdad and will only be working part-time. U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said there was no link between the two developments. Shah asked two months ago to make his job part-time because the future of U.N. weapons inspections is in limbo as council members debate a new Iraq policy, he said. His part-time status became effective Aug. 7 and he will be based in his home country, India, Eckhard said.
Iraq criticizes oil-for-food deal
Monday, 09-Aug-1999 10:11AM, Story from United Press International (via ClariNet)BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Iraq has again criticized the U.N. oil- for-food deal, complaining of delay in implementing contracts to purchase much-need supplies. A Trade Ministry statement said today that the failure to cover contracts presented by Iraq to the U.N. Boycott Committee has resulted in delaying the delivery of essential items. The statement noted that the committee has failed to endorse 457 contracts concluded at $756 million. It cited ``several irregularities, wrong practices and procrastination over the distribution of contracts'' since the oil-for- food deal was signed by Iraq in 1996. It said that instead of two days, measures to endorse the contracts take more than two months.
The statement also accused U.N. officials supervising the deal of delaying the distribution of food stuffs, including milk for children, and medical supplies as well as spare parts for Iraq's oil, electricity and water installations.
Iran: Iraqi Accusations 'Unfounded
Monday, August 9, 1999; 11:19 a.m. EDT
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Accusations by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that Iran harbors hostile intentions toward his country are ``unfounded,'' an Iranian official was quoted as saying Monday. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Saddam's comments were made ``to compensate and cover up for his own defeat and humiliation,'' the Neshat newspaper reported. On Sunday, Saddam accused Iran of joining the United States and Israel in laying siege to Iraq, and continuing to harbor hostile ambitions against his country.
Asefi said Saddam's comments mean ``he is still unwilling to abandon his unwise practices in his relations with other nations,'' according to the newspaper, monitored in Dubai. Iranian papers criticized Saddam on Monday, and one called him a ``curse'' on the Muslim world. ``In a century which has come to symbolize appalling human tragedies, the name of Saddam tops a rather long list of proverbial biblical curses which have fallen on the Islamic world,'' the Iran Daily said in a commentary. The paper said that Saddam has ``wielded the sword with all the finesse of a blind drunkard against his neighbors.''
In the Sunday speech marking the anniversary of the end of the Iraq-Iran war of 1980-88, Saddam also accused Iran of betraying its Islamic principles. ``Iran, like Iraq's other neighbors, is mounting a siege that incites the American and Zionists aggressors to kill the Iraqi people,'' Saddam said, apparently referring to Iran's support for U.N. sanctions imposed on Iraq for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Iraq Unsure About New Role for Saddam's Son
BAGHDAD (Internews) -- There is confusion in Iraq about
reports that President Saddam Hussein has named his younger son, Qusay, to
deputise for him in the event of an emergency. The reports, which originated in
London, said that 31-year-old Qusay had been given authority to control security
in Baghdad and supervise the army, the Republican Guard and the intelligence
services. The reports were reprinted in Baghdad by Iraq's most influential
newspaper, Babel, which is owned by the president's elder son, Uday. The paper
seemed to ridicule the reports, referring to them as originating from
Iraqi Opposition Claims 13 Deaths
Saturday, August 7, 1999; 1:08 p.m. EDT
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) -- An Iraqi opposition group said Saturday that its guerrillas killed thirteen Iraqi officials and wounded 10 more in two separate attacks in July. The Tehran-based Islamic Da'awa Party said its gunmen ``fired a hail of bullets'' at a car carrying members of the ruling Baath party through the city of al-Nasiriya on July 14. All six men inside the car died, according to the statement, which was released in Damascus. Al-Nasiriya lies 185 miles southeast of Baghdad. The second attack reportedly took place July 18, when dissidents threw grenades at the Baath party headquarters in Baghdad's al-Tarimiyah district, killing seven officials and wounding 10 others. The Da'awa statement could not be independently verified. The Iraqi government does not respond to opposition claims.
US: No Evidence of Iraq Rebuilding
By Robert Burns, Military Writer, Saturday, August 7, 1999; 11:27 a.m. EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- In the absence of U.N. inspectors, Iraq has reconstructed some U.S.-bombed buildings associated with its weapons of mass destruction program but there is no evidence weapons production has resumed, the Clinton administration says. While the Pentagon says the intelligence picture of Iraq is fuzzy, many foreign policy analysts believe Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has used the inspections respite since December to push a covert weapons program. ``Given the determination that he showed'' in defying the U.N. inspectors since the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, ``I would assume that is what he's doing,'' said Lauri Mylroie, an Iraq specialist and vice president of Information for Democracy, a nonprofit Washington-based research institute.
Washington contends that as long as U.S. economic sanctions remain in place and U.S. and British aircraft enforce ``no fly'' zones over northern and southern Iraq, Saddam has little room or opportunity to resurrect his military in a major way. Still, analysts believe Iraq is pursuing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons as well as the missiles to deliver them.
``There's a real problem here,'' said Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Late last month, he wrote a report on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. ``Iraq retains the technology it acquired before the war and evidence clearly indicates an ongoing research and development effort'' on missiles, Cordesman wrote, adding that photographs by U.S. spy satellites show Iraq has rebuilt its al-Kindi facility for conducting research on ballistic missiles.
Defense Secretary William Cohen's spokesman, Kenneth Bacon, confirmed that Iraq has rebuilt some buildings associated with its weapons program. The buildings were destroyed by U.S. bombs in December -- attacks triggered by Iraq's refusal to cooperate with U.N. inspectors. ``The guy is a warrior,'' Bacon said, referring to Saddam. ``He's always going to rebuild his war-making capability.''
``We don't have evidence that he has started work again on his weapons of mass destruction programs,'' Bacon said. ``But it's very hard to monitor without inspectors'' there on the ground.
The administration is expected to make a renewed push for a return of U.N. inspectors this fall in the Security Council. Besides satellite surveillance, the United States also uses electronic eavesdropping and other means to monitor Iraqi military developments. Still, the absence of U.N. inspectors is a major limitation. The inspectors made on-the-spot checks of military-related buildings and maintained camera surveillance of key facilities, although their access was not complete and sometimes cut off altogether.
The United States and Britain bombed Iraqi military and communications buildings for four days in December after the inspectors released a report saying Baghdad was blocking their work. Iraq has refused to permit the arms inspectors to return. Cordesman said Iraq also is expanding its missile production facility at Ibn al-Haytham, which has two new buildings large enough to manufacture longer-range missiles than the Scuds Iraq fired in the Gulf War.
The U.S. government's statements about Iraq this year have focused on the lack of evidence of illicit Iraqi weapons development. But both Washington and London are convinced Saddam is pushing a covert effort on chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, plus long-range missiles, Cordesman said.
Even so, Cordesman said, Iraq's progress has been slow. Missile development is particularly important because any chemical or biological agents that Iraq already has -- in violation of the U.N. commitments it made at the end of the Gulf War to destroy them all -- are of little military value without a means of delivering them across Iraq's own borders.
The administration thinks Saddam is deterred from using any chemical or biological weapons he may have by a belief that the United States would respond with overwhelming military power. Saddam did have chemical weapons ready during the Gulf War but none were used, the Pentagon says. ``If he believed it in 1991 he has many more reasons to believe it today,'' Bacon said, noting that U.S. warplanes have pounded Iraq with impunity recently, chipping away at Saddam's air defenses.
For now the Iraqis appear to be intent on drawing attention to U.S. and British attacks in the ``no fly'' zones, which were established after the Gulf War to protect minority Shiites in the south and rebel Kurds in the north. Iraq contends the flight bans are an illegal infringement on its sovereignty. On Aug. 4, Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said the Iraqi military will intensify its challenges to U.S. overflights until they stop.
Activists Begin Fast in Iraq
By Waiel Faleh, Associated Press Writer, Friday, August 6, 1999; 6:38 p.m. EDT
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Three members of the U.S.-based Voices in the Wilderness began a three-day fast Friday, setting up tents in front of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad to protest sanctions against Iraq. A statement issued by the activists' group said the fasting is to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the U.N.-imposed sanctions. ``I can find no moral justification for starving these children to death, and I must make a stand against this criminal policy,'' said David Rolstone, 45, a boat builder from Narbeth, Wales. ``I am fasting in solidarity with the people of Iraq.'' Rolstone was sitting in a tent set up in front of Baghdad's Al-Canal Hotel, which houses six U.N. offices. The group plans to remain there during the fast, which will end Monday night.
Sweeping sanctions were imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, and they are not to be lifted until weapons inspectors proclaim Iraq free of all mass destruction weapons. The United Nations estimates that more than 1 million people, mostly children, have died as a result of the sanctions. ``I find it appalling that since 1997, the minimum acceptable standards for nutrition through the oil-for-food program have only been met six times,'' said Stacia Crescenzi, 30, of Rio Grande City, Texas. She is participating in the fast.
The Chicago-based group has long opposed U.S. policy on Iraq. For years, the group has been donating money, medical supplies and toys to Iraqi children in violation of U.S. federal laws that require permission to do so. U.S. citizens are also not allowed to travel to Iraq without permission. American and British protesters could face prison time or fines for their actions in Iraq when they return home. Chris Doycot of Hartford, Conn., is the third member of the fasting team. He donated blood Wednesday in an Iraqi hospital.
Dissidents: 30 Killed in Iraq Clash
Friday, August 6, 1999; 5:16 p.m. EDT
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- Protests over food and medicine shortages in two southern cities triggered three days of clashes that left 16 Iraqi soldiers and 14 civilians dead, a dissident Iraqi group said Friday. The London-based Iraqi National Congress said the clashes began July 25 when residents of Rumaitha, 150 miles southwest of the capital, Baghdad, and nearby Khudur took to the streets. The statement said President Saddam Hussein ordered a tank unit from the elite Republican Guard to quell the riots after 16 soldiers were killed. Fourteen people died in subsequent clashes and 112 others were arrested, the group's statement said. The incidents could not be independently confirmed. Tank crews also shelled 40 houses and threatened to severely punish those who resisted their orders, said the statement, which was faxed to The Associated Press in Cairo. The report said the Republican Guard kidnapped Kadhem Abdul-Sayeed, a leader of one of the tribes involved in the clashes. Rumaitha is in the heart of Iraq's mainly Muslim Shiite south, where government opposition is strong.
Iraq Committed to Paying Debts
By Leon Barkho, Associated Press Writer, Thursday, August 5, 1999; 8:21 p.m. EDT
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Iraq has no objection to compensating those harmed by its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, but it disagrees with the way the United Nations has handled the issue, the finance minister said Thursday. Hikmat Mizban Ibrahim also assured creditors that Iraq will start paying its debts once the United Nations removes curbs on its financial dealings with the outside world. ``We have not denied our debts. We have not said we are not going to pay once conditions are back to normal,'' Ibrahim told The Associated Press in an interview. He declined to give a figure on Iraq's debts, which have been estimated at more than $70 billion. He would only say Iraq's liabilities ``are trivial,'' given the country's huge oil wealth and ``the dynamic state'' of its economy.
Iraq is already paying 30 cents of each dollar it gets from selling oil under a U.N.-approved program to a U.N. fund to compensate individuals, companies and governments for losses stemming from its August 1990 invasion. The oil deal, which allows Iraq to export $5.2 billion worth of oil every six months, is an exception to U.N. sanctions. The compensation fund, administered by the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council, has received requests totaling $240 billion and has awarded more than $3 billion so far.