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Here is the news for the week ending 31 October. ------------------------------------------------ Thanks to Ben Rempel, Drew Hamre, Colin Rowat and Chris Cole for their contributions to this week's news. Lots of news this week, much of it disturbing. This week's headlines: * Annan criticises holds placed by US on Iraqi imports. French support Annan. US replies, criticising Annan's aids. * US announces its intentions to fund and arm some Iraqi opposition groups. Shiite Muslim group expresses skepticism. * At least two US/UK bombings during the last week. Possible civillian casualties. * More news on the Pope's planned visit. * Some additional interesting articles, either undated or old, appear at the bottom of the article. Includes a report about a Swedish journalist who narrowly missed being killed by a US/UK bomb, while visiting Iraq. Sources include: Associated Press, Reuters, AFN, New York Times, Jordan Times, Stratfor, Arab News, VIS, Kurdish News Apologies for any formatting errors, but I haven't had the time to go through these articles as carefully as I would have liked. ----------------------- Sunday October 31, 1:03 am Eastern Time Iraqi opposition delays talk of military action By Bernie Woodall NEW YORK, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Dozens of loosely structured Iraqi opposition groups meeting for a second day on Saturday said they want to form a united umbrella organization but put off a discussion of possible military action against Saddam Hussein for a less public forum. A smaller and more select group will discuss military strategies ``out of the spotlight'' in a safe haven in Iraq, said Ahmad Chalabi, member of the executive presidency of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), itself an umbrella group of Saddam's foes. This will likely be held, Chalabi said, in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, which is outside Saddam's control and protected since the 1991 Gulf War by a U.S.-led coalition. No date has been set for such a meeting, Chalabi said. He added that the new leadership of a united umbrella organization to be formed and named by Monday in New York would likely decide where and when to hold any future meetings. About 300 delegates representing Iraqi opposition groups were brought together for the first time in seven years for a four-day conference at a midtown Manhattan hotel by the United States, which hopes the groups can form a coherent concerted campaign against Saddam. Several of the leading delegates downplayed the absence of 11 opposition groups including the Iran-based Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which declined to attend on the eve of the conference. Jalal Talabani, president of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), said he hopes the SCIRI and other groups not attending this weekend's session will attend future meetings held outside the United States. ``This (weekend's) meeting must be successful and then we must have another step forward for uniting all other Iraqi opposition forces,'' Talabani said. The unnamed umbrella group will eventually have expanded membership from the INC, which last met seven years ago, said Salah A. Shaikhly, spokesman for the INC. Chalabi said a military response is necessary in overthrowing Saddam, using ``a force under the the opposition which is credible and well-equipped.'' He said ``tens of thousands'' of volunteers will be available once such a force is put together. But any opposition force ``is not intended to fight a war with the Iraqi army,'' the leader of the INC said. ``Rather, it's intended to provide a solid backbone for an area to which army units can come across.'' Such enclaves could be created in northern and southern Iraq, Chalabi said. Skirmishes are already happening about three times a week between bands of insurgents in southern Iraq and the Iraqi army, said Sayyed Kadhem al-Battat, who told reporters through an INC interpreter that he was a commander of an independent military group in the southern marshland of Iraq. On Sunday, the delegates will attempt to demonstrate their unity by agreeing on the makeup of the the proposed new umbrella group. Shaikhly said one proposal popular among delegates on Saturday was to form an ``executive leadership'' of between five and nine members that will represent the various opposition groups both outside and inside Iraq. Such an executive leadership would have the power to make decisions for the umbrella group when quick action is necessary. Also, he said, a ``central committee'' of between 45 and 50 members would form a policy-making body and a ``watchdog'' of the executive committee. On Saturday, the delegates broke into discussion groups on subjects from financing their efforts to what type of government -- democratic and federalist most agree -- should be established if Saddam is overthrown, but they steered clear of discussing military options. ---------------------------------- Sunday October 31 12:31 AM ET Iraq Condemns Opposition Meeting In United States BAGHDAD, Iraq (Reuters) - A leading Iraqi newspaper Saturday condemned as ``traitors'' Iraqi opposition groups meeting in New York in the hope of uniting against President Saddam Hussein. ``All the Western propaganda machines and all their brainwashing laboratories would not able to change the fact that Iraqis view them as traitors,'' the state-run al-Iraq newspaper said. More than 300 members of different Iraqi opposition groups, brought together by the U.S. government, began a four-day conference Friday night. ``The Americans were unable to do anything (to Saddam) so what can these monkeys do?'' said Babel, a newspaper run by Saddam's son. The Iran-based Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq decided not to attend the event, organized by the Iraqi National Congress and billed as the first ``national assembly'' in seven years for opponents of Saddam. The conference was told the United States had so far mainly only offered the opposition aid in the form of offices and office equipment, but could soon give military help. -------------------------------------- Thursday October 28 8:06 PM ET U.N. Monitors Suggested for Iraq By EDITH M. LEDERER Associated Press Writer UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The United States and Britain suggested Thursday that, with no weapons inspectors in Iraq, U.N. monitors instead make sure that equipment imported for humanitarian programs wasn't being diverted to military use. U.N. weapons inspectors left Iraq in December as the United States and Britain launched airstrikes, and the Iraqi government has barred them from returning. Since then no one has been able to monitor the country's weapons programs or check that materials with military applications is being used for humanitarian purposes. But there are U.N. monitors in Iraq to check food distribution in the government-controlled central and southern regions. U.S. deputy ambassador Peter Burleigh said the United States wanted to discuss with the United Nations how there could be ``U.N. monitors on the ground in Iraq who could reassure the Security Council that the purpose of a particular export has actually been accomplished.'' The United States, and to a lesser extent Britain, have stalled on approving a number of contracts for humanitarian programs in Iraq, saying they couldn't be sure of what Iraq was doing with dual-use materials, such as chemicals for an oil field. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has expressed concern about holding up contracts that could relieve some of the hardships Iraqi people suffer as a result of sanctions. Both countries suggested that, if the equipment could be checked, Iraq could import more spare parts for its oil industry, as well as equipment for water, electricity and sanitation projects. Security Council members discussed the possibility of temporarily using U.N. humanitarian workers or employees of Saybolt International, a Dutch firm consulting with the United Nations on Iraq, a Western diplomat said. Whether Iraq would accept additional U.N. monitors remained to be seen. In the past, Baghdad has expressed reservations over the number of U.N. employees overseeing the distribution of humanitarian supplies. ---------------------------------- Notable absences hit Iraqi opposition "unity" meeting AFP - Oct 27, 1999 DUBAI, Oct 27 (AFP) The impact of the Iraqi opposition's meeting in New York on Friday will be weakened by boycotts, notably by Shiite Moslems, who are staying away in protest at what they say is unacceptable US interference. It is hoped that those attending will "reaffirm their unity, define their vision of Iraq's future and unveil a new drive to overthrow Saddam Hussein," say the organisers, the Iraqi National Congress (INC). But reaffirming unity is not likely to be an easy matter, given the large number of opposition groups who have vowed to stay away from the first large-scale opposition congress for seven years. "We will not attend the meeting because we believe there is no serious project for a change in Iraq," said Hamed Bayati, the London representative of the the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). "Furthermore, its staging in the United States prejudices the opposition and gives justifications to Saddam Hussein to accuse us of links to the West," the spokesman said. SCIRI, the largest Shiite Moslem opposition grouping, has always remained wary of any US involvement. In January it rejected a US offer of financial aid saying that all change in Iraq was an internal matter. Attending a meeting in the United States might also be difficult to explain to the group's host, Iran. The original aim was to hold the meeting in Kurdish-held northern Iraq, but the venue was switched to New York for security reasons. Other Shiites have also vowed to stay away, including the Al-Dawaa grouping and the influential religious figure, Sayed Mohammad Bahr al-Ulum. "The meeting is taking part at the behest of the United States, and they are not serious about their public statements to overthrow the Iraqi regime," Bahr al-Ulum told AFP. But the boycott has also spread to other Iraqi opposition groups with the Iraqi Communist Party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, the Iraqi Democratic Union and the Socialist Party in Iraq all urging non-attendance. Despite these absences, the INC says it expects more than 300 delegates at the October 29-November 1 congress at a New York hotel. Among those who say they will attend the meeting are the two largest, but rival, Kurdish formations in northern Iraq -- the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Smaller groups such as the Movement for a Constitutional Monarchy, which wants to restore the royal family overthrown in 1958, and the Amman-based Iraqi National Accord (INA) are also expected to attend. The delegates will "agree on a new strategy and programme of action to overthrow the regime and establish political, economic, military and humanitarian structures," the INC said. They are also expected to elect a new leadership. The United States has pledged to disburse 97 million dollars in military aid to Iraq's fragmented opposition, once the Sunni and Shiite Arab groups and Kurdish factions have closed ranks. -------------------------------------------------- Iraqis work round-the-clock for papal visit AFP - Oct 27 - 1999 UR, Iraq, Oct 27 (AFP) - Some 100 Iraqi labourers are working round the clock to prepare the site of a planned visit by Pope John Paul II, not even stopping when air raid sirens wail. Their job is to restore what is said to be the home of the biblical patriarch Abraham in Ur, some 375 kilometres (225 miles) south of Baghdad, and to build a heliport for the papal visit. "The work started a month ago and it should be finished by the end of the year," said Ali Kazem, a local antiquities official. The rush is on, even though dates for the pope's arrival in sanctions-hit Iraq -- with a pilgrimage to the ancient city of Ur as its highlight -- have yet to be confirmed. According to the Baghdad-based Chaldean Catholic patriarch, Raphael I Bidawid, the visit was initially to take place in early December. But Vatican sources said last week that it was now more likely in January or March. While the workers toil, air raid sirens often warn of US or British sorties over southern Iraq and are followed by anti-aircraft fire against the high-altitude flights. "It happens almost every day. The ziggurat (temple tower) is already cracked, and if a bomb lands nearby, there'll be nothing left of Abraham's home but ruins," warned Latif Abed Hamzeh, a 50-year-old worker. On September 21, a Swedish journalist on a visit to Ur said he was injured by debris from the blast of an air-to-ground missile. The US military said allied planes hit military radar three kilometres (two miles) from the site. The ziggurat of Ur, built in 2113-2096 B.C., is a three-tiered pyramid structure, of which only two tiers are left standing. Stairs used to lead up to the top level, set aside for worship of the moon god, Sen. Today, it stands at 17 metres (56 feet), down from an original height of 26 metres (86 feet). Hamzeh said "Abraham's house" covers 200 square metres (2,150 square feet) and has several rooms as well as a kitchen, bathroom, corridors and an area used for prayers, where the pope is also expected to pray. "We are rebuilding the house which was originally three metres (10 feet) tall, to add a roof and to repair the steps leading up to it, using almost the same materials," he said. Mohsen Mais, 67, who has worked as a tour guide in Ur ever since 1961, aired the hopes of many Iraqis when he said a papal visit could "help ease the embargo, because the pope has a lot of influence in the world." Sanctions have been in place since Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Vatican envoy Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who visited Iraq in June 1998 for a religious conference, travelled to Ur and "took away a handful o= f its sacred earth," Mais said. The Ur site near the Euphrates river with its network of temples, palaces and royal tombs covers nine square kilometres (3.5 square miles). The Sumerian city in ancient Mesopotamia reached the peak of its glory around 4,000 B.C. ---------------------------------------------------- Wednesday October 27, 7:50 pm Eastern Time U.S. says Annan had bad advice on Iraq sanctions WASHINGTON, Oct 27 (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday accused aides to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan of giving him bad advice on the reason for delays in approving exports to Iraq under the U.N. sanctions system. In an interview with the Washington Post, Annan has blamed the United States for delaying humanitarian supplies worth $500 million, requested by Iraq under the oil-for-food program. A sanctions committee at the United Nations has to approve each contract under the program. Members can delay shipments by seeking further information about the goods requested. Annan said Washington was disrupting the system. ``I think one should be transparent and not withhold some of these items unreasonably because it undermines our professed desire to help alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people,'' he added. But State Department spokesman James Rubin said on Wednesday there were legitimate reasons for the ``holds.'' He said, "We think that Secretary-General Annan has been badly advised as to the situation in the sanctions committee. ``The chairman of the sanctions committee has put forward a very careful report about the holds that have been placed for legitimate reasons on entities or contracts that we believe have questionable potential to be misused.'' The spokesman said 95 percent of the contracts go through the sanctions committee and that Iraq is at fault for failing to order as much food and medicine as it needs. ``The problem here is that Iraq has not used the program as it existed and has had to be pressured into buying the food and medicine that it could buy,'' he said. ``Those who are advising the secretary-general would do better to focus their attention on the cause of the problem, which is Iraq's unwillingness to buy the food and medicine that would make a difference to their people, rather than engaging in misplaced blame on the United States,'' he added. --------------------------------- Wednesday October 27 6:08 PM ET U.S. Cites Iraqi Rights Abuses By GEORGE GEDDA Associated Press Writer WASHINGTON (AP) - The State Department cited nine ``major'' instances of severe rights abuses by Iraqi authorities Wednesday and said individual responsibility is shared by President Saddam Hussein and his two sons, among others. The department is trying to gain support for bringing charges against Iraq before an international war crimes tribunal. ``Saddam's internal war against his political opponents is of a character that begs for description as crimes against humanity,'' said David Scheffer, the State Department's ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues. Speaking to a gathering at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Scheffer acknowledged that some key countries seem more interested in broadening relationships with Baghdad than holding Saddam and his allies accountable for ``nine major criminal episodes'' that have occurred under his rule. Although Scheffer did not identify any countries by name, France, Russia and China, all U.N. Security Council members, have been at odds for years with U.S. efforts to tame the Iraqi regime. Britain is the only council member to stand with the United States on the Iraq issue. ``Before any government entertains further thoughts about deeper relations with the Iraqi regime, the factual record of this criminal enterprise needs to be fully appreciated,'' Scheffer said. Of the activities worthy of an international tribunal's attention, Scheffer cited the alleged crimes against the Iraqi Kurd population in the north and the Iraqi Shiites in the south since 1991. He said the atrocities against the Shiites are being carried out ``with a ferocity that is as widespread, albeit over a longer period of time, as that waged by (Yugoslav President Slobodan) Milosevic's goons against the Kosovar Albanians.'' Among the nine alleged abuses, Scheffer cited Iraq's use of poison gas against Iraqi Kurds in 1988 and against Iran during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War. He said a ``small number of associates'' share with Saddam responsibility for Iraq's criminal activities for the better part of two decades. He cited Ali Hassan-al-Majid, who became known as ``Chemical Ali'' for his use of poison gas against Iraqis and Iranians toward the end of the 1980s, Scheffer said. Scheffer also mentioned as accomplices Saddam's sons, Qusay, head of the Special Security Organization; and Uday, commander of a paramilitary organization. The Reagan administration paid little heed to Iraq's use of poison gas against Iraqi Kurds living in Halabja in 1988, an attack that killed an estimated 5,000 people. At the time, the administration was backing Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War because Iraq was considered the lesser of two evils. Washington had full diplomatic relations with Baghdad and also maintained a food aid program. Meanwhile, State Department spokesman James Rubin took issue with statements by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who said the United States is blocking delivery to Iraq of goods that could help ease the suffering of ordinary Iraqis. In a letter to the U.N. Security Council circulated Monday, he said the number of holds on contracts has continued to increase in the past two months - to 572 contracts worth about $700 million. Rubin said 95 percent of all contracts have been approved. As for the remainder, Rubin said U.S. officials had questions about whether the items sought by the Iraqis were in the category of humanitarian relief - as is required by the Security Council. Rather than criticize Annan directly, Rubin said he was ``badly advised'' by his staff. ---------------------------- Wednesday October 27 8:58 AM ET U.S. Jets Pound Iraqi Missile Site ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - U.S. warplanes bombed an Iraqi surface-to-air missile site on Wednesday, responding to Iraqi artillery fire in northern Iraq, the U.S. military said. The incident comes two days after Iraq claimed that two civilians were killed and seven wounded during a bombing by U.S. and British planes on an Iraqi missile storage facility in the vicinity of the city of Mosul. The attack on coalition aircraft Wednesday was opened from a location northeast of Mosul, 250 miles north of Baghdad, said a statement from the Germany-based U.S. European Command. The statement said all coalition aircraft, based in southern Turkish air base, Incirlik, left the area safely. U.S. and British planes have been patrolling no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq since the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The zones were set up to protect Kurds and Shiites from the forces of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Iraq regards the zones as a violation of international law and has frequently challenged the allied planes there since December. ----------------------- October 27, 1999 --- The New York Times October 28, 1999 U.S. to Aid Iraqi Opposition to Develop a Military Cadre By STEVEN LEE MYERS WASHINGTON -- The Administration has authorized the first direct military training for opponents of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq, senior officials said Wednesday. Starting next week, four Iraqi rebel leaders, including two former officers in Iraq's armed forces, will attend a 10-day training course at the Air Force's special-operations headquarters in Florida, where American officials will school them on how to organize a military in an emerging state. Other courses are being prepared. The Administration has also approved its first contribution of surplus Pentagon equipment intended to help foster the overthrow of President Hussein, offering the main Iraqi opposition groups $2 million worth of office supplies. While the initial assistance is modest -- and, the officials emphasized, "nonlethal" -- it reflects the sharp shift in policy toward overt support of what amounts to an insurgency against Hussein's Government. In that sense, it recalls American support in the 1980's for the contra rebels in Nicaragua and for the mujahedeen guerrillas who resisted the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The training and equipment, which includes computers, fax machines and file cabinets, represent the first portion of $97 million in aid authorized by Congress last year to bolster the fractious groups intent on deposing President Hussein. "The notion here is to help people associated with the opposition to think about a plan for the country after Saddam Hussein," a military official who has worked closely with the Iraqi opposition said Wednesday. Ever since four days of American and British air strikes against Iraq last December, the Administration has openly stepped up contacts with Iraqi opposition leaders. So far, those efforts appear to have had little impact on dissent inside Iraq, and officials at the Pentagon, in particular, remain deeply skeptical of the viability of Hussein's opponents. The Administration, however, has been under increasing pressure from Republicans and even some Democrats in Congress to do more to support the opposition with equipment and possibly arms. Representative Benjamin A. Gilman of New York, the Republican chairman of the House International Relations Committee, today accused the Administration of having "a lethargic approach" and called for more significant assistance. "I can't imagine that Saddam Hussein would be worried about being overthrown by Iraqi exiles trained in civil affairs brandishing fax machines," Gilman said. Iraqi opposition leaders, however, strongly welcomed the support. Dr. Salah A. Shaikhly, a spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress, a coalition of exiles, said the equipment and training would be "vital to our work in Iraq." " 'Nonlethal' doesn't mean not useful inside Iraq," he said in an interview today in Washington. Administration and military officials said they hoped this first installment would strengthen the credibility of the opposition. The Administration made its decision on the eve of a large gathering of opposition groups in New York City this weekend. They are looking to the gathering as a chance to forge a unified front against President Hussein, something that has been sorely lacking because of infighting among his many opponents. "The United States Government wants to hear from a unified Iraqi popular leadership just how it can proceed to support the people of Iraq in promoting the change of regime, as it is the right of you, the Iraqi people, to do," the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Thomas R. Pickering, wrote to the leaders of seven opposition groups on Monday. The aid comes during a troubling period in the Administration's handling of Iraq. There have been no inspections of Iraq's reported nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs since the Government expelled United Nations inspectors 15 months ago, leading to the punitive attacks in December. And while the Administration says Hussein remains isolated, diplomatic efforts to set up a new inspection system, as called for under the terms of the cease-fire that ended the gulf war in 1991, have foundered. Senior Pentagon officials also fear that Iraq has quietly rebuilt much of what American and British warplanes destroyed in December, including missile factories. And while American and British jets patrolling no-flight zones over Iraq regularly attack Iraqi air-defense sites, including a strike today against missile sites in northern Iraq, those attacks have not put an end to President Hussein's defiance nor eroded his grip on power. In the absence of significant diplomatic progress, the main focus of Administration policy on Iraq has become fomenting opposition inside and outside the country. The first military training will take place at Hurlburt Field, near Pensacola, where the four Iraqis will attend a regular Air Force course for officers from Arab and Central Asian countries. Officials emphasized that the course does not include combat training. The Administration and Iraqi opposition groups declined to identify the four Iraqis. "They are going to go back into Iraq," Dr. Shaikhly said. "We don't want Saddam Hussein to know who they are." The four include a former captain and a former major in the Iraqi armed forces who defected after the gulf war and took part in the failed uprisings that followed. The other two also took part in those uprisings and are now civilian members of opposition groups. While the Pentagon provides training to scores of officers from around the world, it is highly unusual to offer courses to people who are not backed by sovereign governments. The officials said they expected to offer space to more Iraqis in other Pentagon courses. They also said they are considering additional equipment, including communications gear. While the Central Intelligence Agency has provided covert support to Iraqi dissidents in the past, this is the first overt military assistance. Administration officials said they had not ruled out providing weapons, but they said they want to move slowly to be sure that Hussein's opponents build a viable foundation before attempting a military challenge. "We have not ruled out future lethal assistance," the State Department's spokesman, James P. Rubin, said today. "But at this time we believe that providing such assistance would do more harm to the Iraqi opposition than to the regime." The wariness reflects the history of infighting among the opposition groups, which include Kurdish factions in northern Iraq, Shiite rebels in southern Iraq and exile groups like the Iraqi National Congress, which is based in London. While the groups share the objective of overthrowing Hussein, they have been torn by their own rivalries. What unity did exist collapsed completely in 1996, when Iraqi forces pushed into northern Iraq on behalf of one Kurdish faction, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, fighting another, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. That operation also allowed President Hussein's forces to crush a cell of dissidents supported by the C.I.A. Administration officials said they welcomed the groups' progress in renewing the common cause. "They started near zero," a senior Administration official said. "A year ago there were only the remnants of the Iraqi National Congress, and those remnants could not and would not meet with each other. They've come a long way from that point." ----------------------- Letter to Iraqi oposition from United States Department of State - Oct 26, 1999 Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Washington, D.C. 20520 Dr. Ayad A1lawy Iraqi National Accord Seyyed Dr. Mohammed Bahr al-Uloom Ahl al-Bayt Center Mr. Massoud Barzani President, Kurdistan Democratic Congress Dr. Ahmed al-Chalabi Iraqi National Congress Seyyed Baqr al-Hakim Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq Sherif Ali Ibn al-Hussein Constitutional Monarchist Movement Mr. Jalal al-Talabani President, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Gentlemen: I am writing to you as recognized leaders of significant bodies of free Iraqis and of Iraqi opinion within the democratic opposition to the current Baghdad regime. I know that each of you has worked for the national recovery of Iraq from its current nightmare. Several of you are wholeheartedly committed to reunifying the Iraqi people behind an effective movement to recover your country from within. Several of you have pledged to demonstrate this commitment by stepping forward to lea d the Iraqi opposition as both a national and an international movement, beginning with the joint conference of all Iraqi opposition parties in a new Iraqi National Assembly in New York in a few days. The United States Government wants to hear from a unified Iraqi popular leadership just how it can proceed to support the people of Iraq in promoting the change of regime, as it is the right of you, the Iraqi people, to do. The United States also wants to hear from you how, thereafter, it might support Iraq in a great program of national recovery. The United States stands ready to cooperate with friendly governments as equal partners in common interests. However, the Ira qi people still have no effective or legitimate government to represent and to serve them, and to cooperate with neighbors and friends around the world. That is precisely why we Americans who wish to support Iraqi aspirations are so eager to support the rebirth of a strong, unified liberation movement and organization. We, and most of all the Iraqi people, need such a partner with which to cooperate--both to help liberate Iraq from its current nightmare, and to help rebuild it when Iraqis reclaim their freedom and national dignity. Until such a partner comes into being and action, there is little the United States or United Nations can do to help free Iraqis from Saddam Hussein's tyranny. We see no alternative to the renewed and reunified Iraqi National Congress. It must succeed, and we are confident that it will succeed, beginning with the upcoming conference in New York, in supporting the forces of change within Iraq. It is neither the right nor the responsibility, nor is it within the power of the United States, to select or promote Iraqi leaders, now in the Opposition or for a future liberated Iraq. No doubt other brave Iraqis will step forward to join in the task of liberation and recovery, and many more will continue to pay with their lives. I kn ow you face complicated calculations as you consider whether to join forces openly and unconditionally. I hope each of you will choose t o stand unconditionally. I hope each of you will choose to stand together on the world stage in New York in a few days, in the full glare of the world media and the ongoing United Nations General Assembly, to inspire your countrymen with a powerful vision of nationa l unity. I hope likewise to congratulate you as you stand together in Baghdad soon afterwards. Sincerely, Thomas R. Pickering [Signed] ----------------------- UN aid official calls for depoliticised debate on Iraq AFP - Oct 26, 1999 UNITED NATIONS, Oct 26 (AFP) - The UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, Hans von Sponeck, urged members of the Security Council on Tuesday to stop making political arguments out of the distribution of food, medicine and other aid. The Council's sanctions committee had blocked an increasing number of requests for imports under Iraq's oil-for-food programme, he said, and this was "a deterrent for the implementation the humanitarian programme." Von Sponeck told a news conference that Iraq had spent "every available dollar" from the programme on a special nutritional project for pregnant women, new mothers and young children. While only 469 million dollars worth of medicine had been distributed -- equivalent to 68 percent of the 689 million dollars worth delivered since the start of the oil-for-food programme in December 1996 -- he said there were valid reasons for keeping the rest in stock. Von Sponeck had earlier briefed the Security Council on the consequences of its decision to allow Iraq to exceed the UN-imposed ceiling of 5.25 billion dollars on its crude exports for the six months to November 20. The decision, on October 4, was a response to sharp rises in oil prices. It did not alter the ceiling, but allowed Iraq to make good a shortfall in revenue in the two previous 180-day periods when oil prices were low. "The extra revenue allows us to encourage the Iraq government to do more in areas of concern to us in the UN and well as the international community," Von Sponeck said. The government had agreed in "long meetings" with UN officials to increase the caloric value of daily food rations to the average Iraqi from 2,150 calories to 2,200, he said. It had also allowed the UN access to its own food stocks, he said. "We now know that there is a food stock available to 75 percent of the population. The government told us -- and we have no way of verifying this -- that this translates into an additional 150 calories. So the food basket looks better." The government had also spent all 27 million dollars allocated under phases four and five and the current sixth phase of the programme for vitamin-reinforced biscuits and therapeutic milk for pregnant women, mothers and young children, he said. "There are no more funds available under these three phases," he added. The programme was put in place in December 1996 to alleviate the impact of sanctions imposed on Iraq in August 1990 after it invaded Kuwait. It allows Iraq to export limited amounts of crude oil under UN supervision and to use two-thirds of the revenues to import essential supplies. Each export and import contract must be approved by the council's sanctions committee. --------------------------- http://www.access2arabia.com/jordantimes/Wed/news/news7.htm Jordan Times: France wants to change controls on Iraqi imports PARIS (R) - France on Tuesday backed U.N. chief Kofi Annan's criticism of the Iraqi Sanctions Committee and said control of Iraqi imports under the "oil-for-food" programme should be technical rather than political. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne Gazeau-Secret said France wanted Iraqi imports to be tracked by customs experts who would list motives for them being stopped. The United Nations secretary-general has complained to the Security Council that its Iraqi Sanctions Committee has been increasingly blocking contracts for goods Baghdad wants to buy under the U.N. "oil-for-food" programme. Gazeau-Secret told journalists Annan was right to remind the sanctions committee of its responsibilities. She said some countries were questioning the humanitarian programme that allows Iraq to sell set quantities of oil - $8.3 billion worth in the six-month period ending Nov. 21 - to pay for humanitarian supplies. Iraq needs these supplies to help offset the effects of sanctions in force since it invaded Kuwait in August 1990. Baghdad frequently complains about delays in approving contracts for items it wants to import under the "oil-for-food" programme, blaming in particular the United States and Britain. The head of the U.N. Iraq programme, Benon Sevan, has said a growing number of contracts have been held up despite the committee's efforts to lift holds on drought-related equipment and items related to water, sanitation and oil spare parts. Since Aug. 19, the number of holds placed on applications for the import of various items had increased from 475, with a total value of about $500 million, to 572 with a total value of about $700 million. -------------------------------- Monday October 25 9:54 PM ET Annan Criticizes U.S. on Iraq Aid By EDITH M. LEDERER Associated Press Writer UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Secretary-General Kofi Annan took aim at the United States for continuing to hold up contracts that he said could relieve the suffering of ordinary Iraqis trying to cope with economic sanctions. In a letter to the U.N. Security Council circulated Monday, he said the number of holds on contracts has continued to increase in the past two months - to 572 contracts worth about $700 million. While Annan didn't specifically mention the United States, the letter was clearly directed at the United States, which at the end of August had placed holds on more than 450 of the 500 contracts that hadn't been approved. Britain had placed holds on the rest. Annan asked the U.N. Sanctions Committee, which reviews what food, medicine and other aid can be purchased by Iraq through U.N.-supervised oil sales, to undertake an early review of all applications now on hold ``with a view to expediting a decision, as appropriate, in each case.'' U.S. deputy ambassador Peter Burleigh defended the U.S. holds, expressing concern that Saddam Hussein's government could direct the equipment towards weapons production. ``We put contracts on hold for a variety of different reasons including potential dual use, contracts that are sponsored by questionable firms, and contracts which are not justified under the humanitarian oil-for-food program,'' he said. Iraq has been barred from selling its oil on the open market since the Security Council imposed sanctions following its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Concerned that ordinary Iraqis were suffering the brunt of the sanctions, the council in 1996 began allowing Iraq to sell limited amounts of oil provided the proceeds went to buy food, medicine and other humanitarian goods. The program lets Iraq export $5.26 billion in oil every six months primarily to buy food and medicine, but has been expanded to include other sectors including water, utilities and spare parts for the oil industry. While still deadlocked on an overall new policy for Iraq, the Security Council decided earlier this month to increase Baghdad's export cap by more than $3 billion for the current six-month phase. The United Nations reported Monday that last week Iraqi oil exports surged to a post-Gulf War record of 2.94 million barrels per day. Exports had been averaging about 2.08 million barrels per day since May. Later this week, the Security Council is expected to debate Annan's recommendation to double the $300 million worth of oil sector spare parts that Iraq is allowed to import under the oil-for-food program during the current six-month period. ------------------------------------- KDP condemned Saddam's Arabisastion Program - Kurdish Media - Oct 25, 1999 ARBIL, Southern Kurdistan (Kurdish Meida). In the final Statement of its 12th Congress (Oct 19, 1999), the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) condemned Saddam's Arabization program for the Kurdish oil-rich areas, in particular for the city of Kirkuk. "The 12th Congress condemned the Arabization and deportation operations in Kirkuk, Khanagin, Makhmour, Shekhan, Sinjar and other areas to significantly change the Kurdish national characteristics," the statement read. The KDP was established in 1946 and held its 12th Congress in Arbil, the Capital of Southern Kurdistan, from October 6-14, 1999. ------------------------------ Iraq said to execute 123 prisoners Kurdish Media - Oct 25, 1999 SHAQLAWA, Southern Kurdistan (Kurdish Media) - The Iraqi Communist Party reported on Monday that Iraqi authorities had executed 19 political dissidents and 104 alleged criminals in an Iraqi prison earlier this month. The party's human rights centre, based in the Kurdish self-rule town of Shaqlawa in Southern Iraq, said in a statement that all the executions had taken place on October 12 in Abu Ghraib prison. It named all 19 political dissidents, saying that they were mainly from Baghdad and the mainly Shi'ite Moslem southern governorates of Basra and Kerbala. The other alleged victims were people convicted of crimes such as murder and robbery. The statement urged international human rights groups to act to stop executions of political prisoners. Despite the United Nation resolution 688 (1991) which is supposed to prevent human right abuses against the Kurds and Iraqi people, Saddam's regime has continued executions of political prisoners. Kurds and Iraqi oppositions have argued for long that the West and the US have abandoned them and they are only interested in disarming of Saddam's regime and not in the protection of human rights in Kurdisatn and in Iraq. The Iraqi Communist Party is one of the older political parties in Iraq which was established in 1934 and Kurds have been very active in it. ----------------------------- Iraq opposition head doubts US wants Saddam ousted Reuters - 03:38 a.m. Oct 25, 1999 Eastern DUBAI, Oct 25 (Reuters) - An Iraqi Islamic opposition leader, based in northern Iraq, said he had doubts about whether the United States was serious about wanting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein replaced. Sheikh Ali Abdulaziz, head of the Islamic movement in Kurdistan, also said in an interview with the London-based al-Hayat newspaper published on Monday that United Nations sanctions on Baghdad were only hurting the Iraqi people. ``I do not believe that the Americans are serious and I did not believe so in the past. I have conveyed my opinion to them several times,'' Abdulaziz said when asked if he believed the U.S. call to replace Saddam had weight. He said he had told U.S. officials in Washington recently that the Iraqi people were growing tired of the U.S. failure to translate words against Saddam into action. ``We told them that people are saying that you are playing with the feelings of the Iraqi people. Don't you have the power to implement what you say, and if you don't, why do you claim otherwise?'' he said. However, he said he saw one positive sign in Washington's refusal to receive a letter from Saddam which the Iraqi leader wanted to pass on through Jordan's King Abdullah. ``This means they refused to negotiate with Saddam and this is one step,'' he said. Last year, the U.S. Congress passed a law giving the Clinton administration power to provide supplies worth $98 million to Iraqi opposition groups as part of efforts to topple Saddam. Abdulaziz said the Iraqi people were paying the price of sanctions imposed on Iraq over its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, saying: ``The damage is being inflicted on the Iraqi people and not Saddam.'' ``They did nothing against Saddam, what they have done was against the Iraqi people, the Iraqi army and Iraqi resources. We therefore judge the American position by these indicators.'' Abdulaziz said the United States and the United Nations must withdraw recognition of the Iraqi regime, close its embassies around the world and allow the Iraqi army to join opposition groups if they were serious about a change in Iraq. ``This way, it would be possible to get rid of the regime of Saddam Hussein,'' he said. ----------------------------------- Monday October 25 3:36 PM ET Iraq: 2 Die in No-Fly Zone Attack By LEON BARKHO Associated Press Writer BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Iraq said Monday that two civilians were killed and seven others wounded during U.S. and British attacks on sites in northern Iraq aimed at enforcing a no-fly zone in the area. The U.S. military, in a statement from the German-based European Command, said jets patrolling the no-fly zone over northern Iraq bombed an Iraqi missile storage facility in response to Iraqi anti-aircraft fire south of Mosul. An Iraqi military spokesman said U.S. and British jets bombed civilian facilities but did not specify their location, in a statement carried by the official Iraqi News Agency. Residents in Mosul, 250 miles north of Baghdad, said in telephone interviews that the allied shelling was so severe that schools in several parts of the city were evacuated. They said the raid continued for several hours before the sirens sounded all clear, but refused to comment on whether the sites hit were civilian or military. The Iraqi military statement also said allied planes entered the country's airspace in the south but reported no casualties. The statement said all coalition aircraft left the area safely. All of the jets - which operate out of Incirlik air base in southern Turkey - returned safely from the attack, according to the European Command statement. U.S. and British planes have been patrolling no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq since the end of the 1991 Gulf War. The zones were set up to protect Kurdish and Shiite minorities from the forces of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Iraq calls the zones a violation of international law and has frequently challenged the allied planes there since December. ------------------------------------------- Drought in Iraq Arab News - Oct 22, 1999 The representative of the international Food and Agriculture Organization in Iraq, Amir Khalil, has said that the country, which suffers from its worst drought in this century, will face a catastrophe unless the situation is improved next year. In press statements he made in Baghdad, Khalil added, "If there will be a new wave of drought next year, there will be a real catastrophe and then emergency action should be taken." Khalil added that the absence of resources and necessary equipment in Iraq obstructs alleviation of the drought crisis, saying that sums allotted to help in this regard in the context of the UN food-for-oil program are hardly enough just to halt the deterioration of the situation but give no fundamental treatment. Khalil added that Iraq had allotted a sum of US $500 - 600 million annually to be spend on irrigation projects and other projects in the areas of agriculture before the imposition of the current sanctions, noting that this sum has been greatly decreased. -------------------------------------------- Britain Backing Down on Iraq? 2215 GMT, 991022 full article available at www.stratfor.com Britain's new defense secretary, Geoff Hoon, said Oct. 21 that overthrowing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is not on the British governments agenda. Hoon added that it would not become a British policy even if such a change was determined to be in the interest of the Iraqi people. This indicates that Britains policy toward Iraq, although never clearly defined, may be moving away from its past alignment with U.S. policy. If the policy goals of the U.S. and Britain are diverging, there could be ramifications for the U.S. policy in Iraq as well as on the Iraqi sanctions debate. ------------------------------ Iraq asks AL help against uranium used by US, UK forces. Arab News - Oct 21, 1999 The Iraqi Health Ministry's secretary, Shawqi Murqos, has called on the Arab League and the Arab ministers of the environment as well as concerned regional and international organizations to preserve the environment and human hygiene through maintaining joint cooperation with Iraq to deal with the adverse health and environmental consequences resulting from depleted uranium use by the countries of the western alliance against Iraq during the Gulf War. In a press conference he held in Cairo on Tuesday in the framework of his participation in the meetings of the Arab ministers of the environment, Murqos asserted that several "unfamiliar diseases" have been spread in the Iraqi areas where battles took place and uranium bombs were used according to the Iraqi official. He added that among the most common of those diseases are cancer and birth defects. The Iraqi official said the US will not be able to hide the destructive environmental consequences in Iraq that resulted from using bombs containing uranium. He called for banning the use of these weapons in international conflicts. ------------------------------ UN News Holy See Urges UN to Change its Sanctions Mechanism VATICAN CITY, OCT 20, 1999 (VIS) - Archbishop Renato Martino, Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations, yesterday addressed the Second Committee of the General Assembly on Sustainable Development and International Economic Cooperation. He emphasized one question in sustainable development, namely, the negative effects of sanctions. He urged the U.N. to consider changing, fine-tuning and making more just its existing mechanism for imposing economic sanctions in order to avoid some of the harsh consequences that sanctions impose on innocent populations. "The fact that the leadership of a country has imposed a threat to international peace and security and put obstacles to restoring peace, does not require that the entire population of that particular country should be brought to suffer." Citing Pope John Paul, he said: "The weak and innocent cannot pay for mistakes for which they are not responsible." ----------------------------------- Congresspeople Speak Out Congressional Delegation Report by J. Daryl Byler, Mennonite Central Committee, Washington, DC Office WASHINGTON A U.S. congressional staff delegation visited Iraq August 27 to September 4 to assess the impact of U.N. sanctions on that country. It was the first official congressional trip to Iraq since 1991. Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) contributed $5,000 toward trip expenses and MCC worker Carmen Pauls accompanied the delegation on many of its meetings inside Iraq. ... After returning from Iraq, delegation member Jack Zylman, an aide to Rep. Earl Hillard (D-AL), told the MCC Washington Office that he witnessed, "dying children and low weight babies." According to Zylman, "sanctions have shut down Iraq's economy" while having "no effect on arms." Zylman praised MCC's effort to highlight this issue by sending food boxes to all members of Congress in August. He urged more people to contact their representatives about this humanitarian disaster. Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) issued a press statement after her aide, Peter Hickey, returned from Iraq. "Mr. Hickey has painted a vivid picture for me . . . desperately malnourished babies, dying of treatable diseases. . . (and) families living on meager government rations.".... Letter from Congresswoman Debbie Stabenow to Bill Thompson, Michigan Yesterday (11/22/99) Bill Thompson received the following letter from Congresswoman Debbie Stabenow, who is running for Spencer Abraham's senate seat in Michigan. It says in part: "...in punishing Saddam Hussein we must have a policy which will not hurt the innocent people of Iraq. I have spoken with Representative Conyers and he has advised me that he is considering writing a letter or possibly introducing legislation to end the sanctions on the innocent people of Iraq. I will continue to work with him regarrding any actions he may take to end the economic sanctions on Iraq. It is clear that these sanctions have not achieved their desired purpose, and alternative means to address Saddam Hussein's behavior must be developed." --------------------- __________________________________________________ Do You Yahoo!? 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