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News for 24 January to 30 January, 2000

News for the period January 24 to January 30, 2000:
* U.S. balks at plan to speed humanitarian supplies
* Iraq cooperates, as IAEA completes check of uranium.  Mubarak hopes for
nuclear-free MidEast.
* The state of Iraq's oil industry?  Dismal.
* Iraqi OFF deals surpass (old) ceiling
* Washington obstructing efforts to upgrade Iraqi water network: Baghdad
* Pencils from Jordan  
  - Note that pencils are not on a 'prohibited items list' and are, in fact,
routinely imported to Iraq
* Iraq urged to free Gulf war prisoners: Kuwait
* From the 'stranger-than-fiction' files, Saddam rescues Italian children's
* UNMOVIC: Thunder about Blix'en (well-covered; appears at end for

Sources include the BBC, AP, Reuters, AFP, Gulf News, Washington Post, New
York Times and various contributors including Colin Rowat, Peter Griffith,
and Seb Wills.

Drew Hamre
Golden Valley, MN USA

U.S. Objects to U.N. Plan on Iraq 
The Associated Press
Thursday, Jan. 27, 2000; 9:46 p.m. EST

UNITED NATIONS -- The United States has balked at a U.N. plan to
dramatically speed up the delivery of humanitarian supplies to Iraq -
despite having pledged to try to get more goods to Iraqis in a resolution
last month, diplomats said Thursday. 

The United States voted for the Dec. 17 resolution, which not only created a
new U.N. weapons inspection agency for Iraq but also outlined ways to
improve the U.N. humanitarian program in the country. 

Iraq has been unable to sell its oil on the open market since sanctions were
imposed after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The Security Council launched the
U.N. oil-for-food program in 1996 to allow Iraq to export limited amounts of
oil to buy humanitarian goods for its people. 

Food and medicine funded through the program are already approved within two
working days. But large contracts for other items considered to be of a
humanitarian nature, including goods to improve Iraq's agriculture, electric
and public works sectors, take as long as a week to process. 

In the Dec. 17 resolution, the Security Council said it would act on
contracts for humanitarian and other essential civilian goods "within a
target of two working days." 

But Washington balked Wednesday when the head of the Iraq program, Benon
Sevan, announced at a sanctions committee meeting that his office would
start submitting contracts for approval within two days beginning Feb. 1,
diplomats said. 

U.S. officials said they needed more than two days to review the contracts
to prevent items with a potential military use from slipping through the
multibillion dollar program. 

A State Department official, speaking Thursday on condition of anonymity,
said the United States would start putting humanitarian contracts on hold if
the two-day rule is applied. 

"If you make it every case has to be dealt with in two working days, then
you'll find that we're putting 95 percent of all cases on hold," said the
official. "And they'll stay on hold until we finish." 

Diplomats said the issue concerned different interpretations of what "within
a target of two working days," actually meant, with the United States saying
that language in the resolution may be the goal for approval but not
necessarily the deadline. 

The United States leads all 15 nations on the Security Council in placing
contracts for supplies on hold, currently blocking $1.3 billion worth of


UN checks uranium at Iraqi nuclear site  
BAGHDAD, Jan. 26 - Five weapons inspectors left Iraq on Wednesday after
completing the first programme of inspection by an international team for
over a year. 
       Investigators from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had
completed their work in an Iraqi nuclear facility near Baghdad.
The team which arrived in Iraq on Friday spent five days checking whether
several tonnes of uranium that the Vienna-based IAEA sealed off more than a
year ago had remained untouched. 
       After the 1991 Gulf War over Kuwait, the IAEA destroyed the Tuweitha
plant, Iraq's former main nuclear centre, 20 km (12 miles) south of Baghdad
and several other nuclear facilities. 
       The uranium, not enriched enough to make a bomb, was left over under
       ''We finished our inspection work,'' Egyptian team head Ahmed Abu
Zahra told reporters. ''We collected the necessary data and we are going to
analyse it at IAEA headquarters in Vienna.'' 
       He said the Iraqis had co-operated well over the inspection and that
his team had ''no plans for the time being'' to return to Iraq. 
       The IAEA team has no connection with an arms verification programme
which was imposed on Iraq under the ceasefire terms that ended the 1991 Gulf
War but which was suspended in 1998. 
       The IAEA, a U.N. agency, monitors the peaceful use of nuclear energy
under the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iraq is a
       ''The visit was good and it was within the context of an agreement
signed between Iraq and the IAEA in the 1970s,'' said an official from the
Iraqi Monitoring Directorate (IMD) who asked not to be named. The IMD is the
Iraqi office which liases with U.N. inspection teams. 
       The last international arms inspectors left Baghdad on December 1998,
shortly before the United States and Britain launched air strikes in
retaliation for Baghdad's failure to cooperate. 
       Iraq has since refused to let the arms inspectors return. 
       Under the terms of the Gulf War ceasefire, Iraq has to rid itself of
nuclear, chemical and biological arms as well as long-range missiles. The
U.N. has to ensure that Baghdad is not in a position to acquire or
manufacture such arms in the future. 
       Before December 1998, the IAEA used to send regular teams to Iraq to
investigate whether Baghdad had developed nuclear weapons. 
       Iraq has consistently denied trying to develop nuclear weapons but
admitted carrying out nuclear arms-related research. 
       Hans Blix of Sweden, a former director-general of the IAEA, appeared
likely to be appointed head of a new U.N. Iraq disarmament commission,
diplomats said on Tuesday. 
       Baghdad last month rejected a U.N. Security Council resolution
calling for new arms inspections in return for an easing of the sanctions
imposed after the Kuwait invasion. 
       The lifting of a ban on Iraqi oil exports is tied to full adherence
to U.N. demands on weapons destruction. 
       Iraq agreed earlier this month to the annual IAEA inspection, which
was originally scheduled for December 1999. 


U.N. nuclear inspector satisfied with Iraq mission  
BAGHDAD, Jan. 25 - The head of the first team of United Nations nuclear
inspectors to visit Iraq since 1998 said on Tuesday he was satisfied with
the mission.  
Five experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors the
peaceful use of nuclear energy under a 1968 treaty, arrived in Iraq on
Friday to carry out routine checks of nuclear and research plants. 
       ''The cooperation was good,'' team head Ahmed Abu Zahra told
reporters on Tuesday at the end of the inspections, without elaborating. He
said the team had finished their work and would leave on Wednesday. 
       The IAEA team has no connection with a suspended U.N. arms
verification programme in Iraq. The last international arms inspectors left
Iraq in December 1998, shortly before the United States and Britain launched
air strikes in retaliation for Baghdad's failure to cooperate. 
       Baghdad has since refused to allow the arms inspectors to return and
last month rejected a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for new arms
inspections in return for easing sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990
invasion of Kuwait. 
       Under the terms of a 1991 ceasefire after a U.S.-led force drove Iraq
out of Kuwait, Iraq must rid itself of nuclear, chemical and biological arms
as well as long-range missiles. The U.N. has to ensure that Baghdad is not
in a position to acquire or manufacture such arms in the future. 
       Iraq has consistently denied trying to develop nuclear weapons but
admitted carrying out related research. 
       Earlier this month, Iraq agreed to the annual IAEA inspection, saying
it was doing so under the terms of the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty, of which it is a signatory.


Mubarak says Egypt wants nuclear-free Middle East  
CAIRO, Jan. 26 - Egypt's Hosni Mubarak said on Wednesday that Egypt would
take part in multilateral peace talks in Moscow next week to lobby for a
nuclear-free Middle East. 
       Egypt has often expressed concern about Israel's suspected nuclear
arsenal and the fact that Israel is not a signatory of the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty.  
       ''Egypt will participate to express its position on a fundamental
subject and that is the nuclear issue and working towards making the Middle
East region free of weapons of mass destruction,'' Mubarak said at the
opening of an international book fair in Cairo. 
       Setbacks in Syrian-Israeli peace talks and slow progress on the
Palestinian-Israeli track have clouded the February 1 multilateral meeting,
the first of its kind in over three years. 
       Syria and Lebanon have said they will not attend the talks, supposed
to address arms control, water, refugees, economic cooperation and the
       Washington has had to persuade some Arab states to attend. 
       U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin said Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright had made clear to Egyptian foreign minister Amr Moussa
the importance the Americans attach to the talks. 
       Syrian-Israeli talks were in their turn hit by stalled progress on
the Palestinian track, Mubarak said. 
       ''Arriving at an Israeli-Syrian agreement is linked to the extent of
Israel's implementing signed agreements with the Palestinians,'' he said. 
       ''Non-implementation creates an atmosphere of non-trust.'' 
       Israel has delayed giving Palestinians a further 6.1 percent of the
West Bank, which it occupied after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and expressed
doubts about making a February 13 deadline for a framework accord on final
status talks with Palestinians. 

January 29, 2000

U.N. Team Ends Iraq's Oil Probe
Filed at 9:50 a.m. EST

By The Associated Press
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A survey of Iraq's oil industry has shown that severe
structural problems persist despite the arrival of millions of dollars worth
of spare parts, Iraqi and U.N. officials said Saturday. 

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent a six-member team to inspect the
industry and see what can be done to boost production and exports so Iraq
can earn more money under a U.N.-approved oil program. 

The experts, who arrived Jan. 16, toured the country's major oil fields and
refineries and said the industry is ill-prepared for substantial increases
in output and exports, the officials said. 

The U.N. experts detected major deficiencies in infrastructure related to
transportation, communication, storage capacity, power supply and safety
measures, the officials said. 

Oil Minister Amir Mohammed Rashid acknowledged Saturday that the industry
was in a perilous state and that Iraq was putting production facilities at
risk to sustain exports. 

``We are really in a serious difficulty and we are in the phase which we
call risky or critical,'' Rashid told reporters following a meeting with an
Austrian trade delegation. 

The experts still need to meet with Iraqi counterparts before submitting a
final report to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. 

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they expected the
experts to urge Annan to agree to Iraq's request for spare parts worth $600
million under the current six-month phase of the oil program -- double the
currently allowed value. 

Last year the U.N. Security Council turned down a recommendation by Annan
based on the experts' findings in a similar visit in early June. 

Iraq has so far earmarked nearly $1 billion for the repair of the industry
under its U.N.-authorized oil sales of $5.2 billion every six months. But
Oil Ministry officials say little more than $200 million worth of equipment
has reached the country. 


Iraq's oil industry 'in serious difficulty' 

Baghdad - Iraq said yesterday that its oil exports under the oil-for-food
deal with the United Nations were running into difficulty because of lack of
spare parts to upgrade its oil industry. "We are really in a serious
difficulty and we are in the phase which we call risky or critical," Oil
Minister Amir Muhammed Rasheed told reporters.
Under the oil deal, which is running into its seventh phase, Baghdad is
allowed to sell $5.26 billion worth of oil every six months to buy food,
medicine and other humanitarian needs for the Iraqi people.

The United Nations has also allowed Iraq to buy $300 million worth of spare
parts every six months under the oil pact to repair its oil industry
devastated by the 1991 Gulf War and UN sanctions. The Security Council is
studying the possibility of an increase after a report from a group of six
experts currently in Iraq.

Baghdad has repeatedly complained that only a few of the spare parts and
equipment it had contracted to buy from foreign companies have reached the
country and accused the United States of blocking contracts or putting them
on hold.

"It has become very risky recently due to the holds which have been placed
by the American representative," Rasheed said after a meeting with an
Austrian trade delegation. He said hundreds of contracts were now held up
for political reasons.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said this month that Iraq's oil production
was likely to drop unless the Security Council approved contracts for spare
parts and equipment. Annan said Iraq's oil exports in the current six-month
phase, which began on December 12, were likely to fall by about 200,000
barrels a day (bpd). Iraq's exports during the pervious phase of the oil
deal reached an average of 2.5 million bpd. 

Iraqi deals currently worth more than ceiling

London (Reuters) - Iraq's oil contract volumes could in theory push Baghdad
beyond a self-imposed $5.26 billion revenue ceiling in the current tranche
of the UN oil-for-food deal, industry sources said yesterday. But final
flows still depend on Iraq clarifying its stance towards the UN's overall
sanctions-easing package.
At the last count, the United Nations said it had given the all clear to
238.2 million barrels of Iraqi oil, which given current high oil prices
would net Baghdad more than $5.6 billion under the UN's 180-day oil sales
programme. Iraq refused to recognise a December UN Security Council
resolution which did away with the humanitarian scheme's $5.26 billion
revenue cap because it could not accept other provisions of the
comprehensive sanctions-easing package.

Baghdad has not made clear what it will do once the $5.26 billion sales
figure is reached. "This (self restraint) is political, and no one knows the
final outcome," a source in Baghdad said. "The Iraqi government has neither
officially accepted nor rejected the UN resolution." That landmark
resolution would suspend stringent trade sanctions provided Iraq cooperates
with a new weapons inspections commission.

If Baghdad sticks with its self-defined ceiling, the sales target could be
reached by early April provided Iraqi barrels continue to fetch around
$23.64 per barrel - the average over the past month - and sales of about two
million barrels per day (bpd) are maintained. In that case, some contract
volume might not get loaded during the seventh phase, market sources said.

Iraqi oil marketer SOMO has made downward adjustments to its contract volume
during previous phases when Iraq has bumped up against the UN's revenue
target. SOMO might already be taking some steps to avoid overstretching
volume, traders said. After submitting a steady stream of contracts to the
UN for approval, it appears now to be slowing the pace somewhat, they said.
The current seventh phase of the oil-for-food deal expires on June 8. 


Monday, January 31 9:17 PM SGT 

Washington obstructing efforts to upgrade Iraqi water network: Baghdad
AMMAN, Jan 31 (AFP) - 
Iraqi Trade Minister Mehdi Saleh accused Washington of obstructing efforts
to upgrade Iraq's drinking water network by refusing, through the UN
sanctions committee, to approve water-related contracts.

"Food and medicine are useless as long as water is polluted in Iraq and
Washington is determined to keep the status quo," Saleh said, after a
meeting late Sunday evening with Jordanian businessmen in Amman.

"All contracts aimed at upgrading the water situation, which need UN
approval, are being blocked by Washington, but water is not a weapon of mass
destruction," he said.

He said that pollution was particularly serious in the centre and south of
the country, where waste water has seeped into the drinking water network.

"If these contracts got UN authorisation, Baghdad would buy the necessary
equipment in Jordan," he said.

He suggested that Jordanian businessmen, whose contracts with his ministry
have been blocked by the sanctions committee, should "start legal
proceedings" against the US government which has "triggered an economic
recession" in Jordan.

On January 22, Iraq and Jordan renewed their oil deal and trade protocol for
this year.

Under the accord, Iraq will provide Jordan with 4.8 million tonnes of oil,
half of it free as in 1999 while Jordan will not have to pay more than 300
million dollars for the rest.

Jordan imports oil from Iraq under an exemption to the sweeping UN sanctions
imposed after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait and receives between 70,000 and
80,000 barrels per day.

Under their new trade protocol, the two countries agreed to set the ceiling
for Jordanian exports to Iraq at 300 million dollars.

In addition to the Jordanian items covered by this agreement, Amman exported
to Iraq 843 million dollars in goods from December 1996 to November 1999
under the oil-for-food accord.

This places Jordan as the fourth largest exporter to Iraq of 65 countries,
after France, Russia and China, Saleh said.

He pointed out that Amman's exports to Baghdad had been worth nearly two
billion dollars per year at the end of the 1980s, before international
sanctions were slapped on Iraq.

Saleh promised to begin boosting the number of foodstuffs exported by Jordan
to Iraq. Oil, soap, leather and detergents currently top the list of export
items from Jordan to Iraq.

Saleh arrived in Aman Sunday evening for a two-day visit.


Monday, 31 January, 2000, 13:10 GMT 
UN denies Iraqi pencil ban 

The United Nations has rejected suggestions that its sanctions against Iraq
include a ban on the import of pencils. 
The denial came shortly after the arrival in Iraq of millions of pencils
donated by Jordanians as part of a campaign against the economic embargo. 

UN spokesman in Baghdad George Somerwill said pencils had been coming in
plentiful quantities, and he was unaware of any ban on them. 

The delivery of over three million pencils in a convoy of vehicles was
organised by a non-government group in Jordan, which said it had received
overwhelming popular support for the move. 

It was hailed as part of a sanctions-busting campaign. 

Traditional ties 

Jordanians have traditionally close ties with the Iraqi people and some are
impatient with Arab leaders for supporting the UN economic embargo. 

On Sunday, about 100 vehicles accompanied a delegation to the Iraqi border.
The two trucks carrying the pencils crossed to Baghdad later in the day. 

The National Mobilisation Committee for the Defence of Iraq organised the
drive to mobilise public pressure against the UN embargo. 

A spokeswoman said the group chose pencils because they are prohibited under
the sanctions imposed to punish Iraq for invading Kuwait nearly ten years

'Military applications' of pencils 

The United Nations did turn down an order for pencils shortly after Iraq
accepted a deal allowing it to use oil revenues for humanitarian goods. 

Reports at the time said there was a fear the lead could be used for
military purposes, but UN officials now say the order was rejected because
it asked for an outrageously large amount that was impractical to deliver. 

In fact, pencils are currently coming into the country as part of education
kits, but the Jordanian supply is technically illegal, because activists
didn't ask for UN permission. 


Iraq urged to free Gulf war prisoners

By Talal Al Shammari and agencies
Kuwait - Representatives from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the Western allies in
the 1990-91 Gulf War met here yesterday to coordinate positions ahead of a
meeting in Geneva on the fate of Kuwaitis who were killed or went missing in
the war. A Kuwaiti official told Gulf News that the meeting was also held
before "a wide-spread Kuwaiti campaign" aimed at pressuring Baghdad anew
into returning the people it is accused of keeping in Iraq.
Attending the meeting were Kuwaiti Defence Minister and Deputy Premier
Sheikh Salem Al Ahmed Al Sabah, Saudi Arabia's Deputy Foreign Minister
Prince Turki bin Saud and the ambassadors of the United States, Britain and
France. The official said the representatives agreed to hold another meeting
soon. They also urged Iraq to attend the February 8 meeting in Geneva which
is held under the International Committee for the Red Cross.

It was the first gathering at that level after the United Nations'December
resolution which, among other things, asked Iraq to cooperate with the ICRC
on the fate of the missing. This is one of the conditions Baghdad needs to
fulfil before the intrusive UN sanctions on the country can be lifted.
Sheikh Salem is expected to visit Britain and Belgium to rally support for
Kuwait's cause, said the official who requested anonymity.

Delegates from Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Britain and
France used to meet regularly at the Kuwaiti-Iraqi border to discuss the
fate of the prisoners of war and the missing-in-action. Also, a monthly
meeting was held in Geneva under the auspices of the ICRC. But Baghdad has
boycotted those meetings since December 1998 following the U.S. and British
air strikes on Iraq.

The official also said the committee discussed the fate of the Saudi pilot,
Mohammed Nadhira, whose plane Iraq had shot down in a minefield in 1991.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Said Al Sahhaf said earlier this month that
Iraq and Saudi Arabia were to cooperate soon on delivering the pilot's
remains to his family. 

But Riyadh distanced itself from dealing directly with Iraq and said all
matters related to the pilot should go through the ICRC. It was not clear if
this issue will be raised in the Geneva meeting. Also yesterday, Iraq's
official news agency accused Riyadh of trying to hamper efforts to return
the remains of the pilot by spreading allegations that he was still alive.

Saudi-owned daily Asharq Al Awsat had reported that Nadhira's family said he
was still alive. The Iraqi News Agency said that Baghdad informed the ICRC
in 1997 that it had found the wreckage of Nadhira's airplane in an Iraqi
minefield and that he was buried in the desert. A Swiss expert had visited
the site of the crash in 1998 and determined the airplane was Saudi, the
agency added. 

January 28, 2000

Iraqis Seem Less Hostile to New Weapons Inspector
NITED NATIONS, Jan. 27 -- Iraqi officials commented guardedly today on the
choice of Hans Blix as the new chief weapons inspector to finish disarming
President Saddam Hussein. 
The reaction to Mr. Blix, who was approved on Wednesday by the Security
Council and formally appointed today by Secretary General Kofi Annan, has
been markedly different from the fever-pitch name-calling that greeted the
nomination on Jan. 17 of Rolf Ekeus, which was blocked in the Security
Council. Both men, Swedish diplomats and disarmament experts, had worked in
Iraq in the past, but it was apparent in Iraqi remarks today that Mr. Blix
may be someone the Iraqis might accept, assuming the newly created
inspection commission, charged with overseeing the elimination of any
weapons of mass destruction still in Iraq, is allowed to operate at all. 

Up to now, the Iraqis have said that they will not cooperate. In an
interview with Radio Monte Carlo, Nizar Hamdoon, a deputy foreign minister
and former Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations, said that "the matter is
more complicated than the issue of Blix or the naming of a new commission."
The real bar to cooperation, he said, was the level of mistrust between the
Security Council and Iraq. 

Babel, a newspaper run by Mr. Hussein's older son, Uday, seemed today to be
gloating over the appointment of Mr. Blix. It "surely disappointed the hopes
of U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright," the paper said, adding that
Mr. Blix owed his nomination to Russia, France and China -- the three
countries opposed Mr. Ekeus. 

It is not surprising, Babel said, "that the United States was upset by the
dumping of their employee, Rolf Ekeus" whom it characterized as a spy for
Washington and Israel. 

Mr. Ekeus was the executive chairman from 1991 to 1997 of the United Nations
Special Commission, Unscom, which destroyed biological, chemical and missile
stocks after the 1991 Persian Gulf war. 

News from the Gulf region

Iraq calls arms chief choice a failure for U.S.

Baghdad (Reuters) - A leading Iraqi newspaper said yesterday that the
appointment of Hans Blix as new chief arms inspector for Iraq represented a
"failure" of U.S. policies. Babel, run by President Saddam Hussein's eldest
son Uday, said that the choice of the 71-year-old Swede for the job was not
only a "failure for Washington but rather proved that it could no longer
control events".
On Wednesday, after weeks of deadlock, the UN Security Council unanimously
chose Blix, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),
for the post. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he would make the
appointment formal shortly.

Blix, who ran the Vienna-based agency for 16 years up to January 1998, sent
teams of IAEA specialists to Iraq to work alongside experts from UNSCOM,
then the UN body overseeing the scrapping of Baghdad's weapons of mass
destruction. His new job is to head UNSCOM's successor body, the UN
Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), set up by a
Security Council resolution on December 17.

Following that decision, the Council spent weeks haggling over who was to
head it. Last week Annan formally nominated Rolf Ekeus, the former UNSCOM
chief who is currently Swedish ambassador to Washington. But while the
United States and Britain backed Ekeus, France, Russia and China rejected

"Blix's selection went against Washington's desire and will," Babel said
yesterday. It dismissed the UN's previous candidate. "Ekeus is known for his
spying activities and sabotage acts (in Iraq) which he offered for
Washington and Tel Aviv and he received a price for that," it said. But U.S.
Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, current president of the 15-member Council,
welcomed the choice.

"As the American representative let me make clear that we are pleased with
his nomination. We think he is an excellent choice," he said. Baghdad, which
rejected the latest Security Council resolution, has said it would not allow
Blix or any other inspector into the country, despite support for Blix from
Iraq's allies on the council, Russia, France and China.

January 27, 2000

U.N. Names Ex-Head of Atomic Energy Agency to Lead Iraq Monitoring
UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 26 -- Hans Blix, a former director of the International
Atomic Energy Agency, was chosen unanimously today by the Security Council
to be the chief inspector of a new disarmament commission for Iraq. 

Secretary General Kofi Annan said he would take the council's advice and
appoint Mr. Blix, a Swedish lawyer who has attracted criticism for what some
disarmament experts saw as a weak approach to nuclear inspections in his 16
years at the agency. 

"He's a very experienced man, and I'm sure he knows what he's getting into,"
Mr. Annan told reporters after attending a council meeting on Congo. "I hope
Iraq will cooperate." 

Last week, Mr. Annan nominated Rolf Ekeus, another Swedish disarmament
expert supported by the United States, to the chief inspector's job. But his
nomination was blocked in the council by France, Russia and, to some extent,

The council president this month, Richard C. Holbrooke, the United States
representative, coupled the announcement about Mr. Blix with a warning to
President Saddam Hussein of Iraq not to try to obstruct the panel, the
United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission. Iraq
successfully hid a nuclear-weapons program from the atomic agency for more
than a decade. 

"The Iraqis understand this resolution," Mr. Holbrooke said, noting the
council's unity after months of division and disarray. "They understand the
continuing consequences if they obstruct this process. I think they are
playing a very dangerous and, ultimately, self-damaging role if they
continue to obstruct. Let's see what Baghdad does. Let's hope that they have
some residual sense." 

Mr. Holbrooke said the council had found consensus only over Mr. Blix. And
it appears that France took the lead in resurrecting his name. Mr. Blix had
been mentioned weeks ago as a possible compromise candidate, but faded from
the competition. Mr. Holbrooke said his name just "came up out of the
woodwork" on Tuesday and rallied the council in record time. 

Mr. Blix, 71, was traveling in Antarctica today. He told United Nations
officials that he would hold a news conference in Sweden early next month,
when he returns. 

He is not considered the strongest of more than 20 candidates who were in
the running. But the United States was unwilling or unable to fight for a
stronger nominee. 

In the last two years, the intensity of American pressure in the council on
Iraq issues has declined considerably, as the Clinton administration has
turned its attention to efforts to replace Mr. Hussein. In Mr. Blix, they
could agree to a respectable, experienced candidate, if not one likely to be
confrontational with the Iraqis. 

Under the cease-fire resolution that ended the war in the Persian Gulf in
1991, Iraq has to be certified free of all prohibited weapons systems and
the means to reconstruct them before sanctions imposed in August 1990, after
the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, can be lifted. 

Since last month, however, Iraq has enjoyed a much more liberal program of
oil sales to pay for civilian goods. It is no longer limited on how much oil
it can sell, a move that the United States did not oppose. 

Some diplomats have questioned whether easing the sanctions will reduce the
incentive to comply with resumed arms inspections, which the Iraqis flatly
oppose. Today, the Iraqi representative to the United Nations, Saeed Hassan,
repeated the objection, saying, "We are not dealing with this resolution." 

Mr. Holbrooke praised Mr. Blix's appointment. "As the American
representative, let me make clear that we are pleased with his nomination,"
he said. "We think he is an excellent choice." 

>From 1981 to 1997, Mr. Blix was director general of the atomic agency, based
in Vienna. He saw the organization through some of its most difficult years.
Critics said Mr. Blix's strong support for nuclear energy had led to a
willingness to condone unsafe programs or extensive and loosely monitored
projects in countries suspected of diverting peaceful research to secret
work on weapons. 

He came under his strongest attack when it was learned after the gulf war
that Iraq had developed a secret nuclear-weapons program that the atomic
agency had not detected in its routine inspections of Iraqi sites. 

Paul Leventhal, president of the Nuclear Control Institute, a research
organization in Washington, reflected the view of the critics when he said
that under Mr. Blix's leadership the agency was always known as a somewhat
timid watchdog. 

"The willingness of the I.A.E.A. to give Iraq the benefit of the doubt when
it could not come up with specific evidence to contradict Iraq's claims,
that gives me real concerns as to how strong a chief inspector he can be,"
Mr. Leventhal said. "The big question about Blix is whether he has the
backbone to stand up to the Security Council with findings that certain
members of the council may not want to hear. I believe his track record at
the I.A.E.A. suggests that he tends to bend to political will rather than
come up with independent findings. 

"This whole thing could become a farce. If the approach of the I.A.E.A. is
now going to guide the new commission, I think the world will have to be
highly skeptical about the kind of conclusions this commission reaches." 

Supporters of Mr. Blix say pinning the blame for missing the Iraqi weapons
programs on Mr. Blix is unfair. 

"To criticize Hans Blix for Saddam's secret nuclear program is
scapegoating," said John Ritch, the United States ambassador to the agency
in Vienna. "Ten years ago, the I.A.E.A. could only monitor known nuclear
facilities. And neither the U.S. or any other country was asking it to do
more. These limited inspection powers left a window open for heavily
disguised nuclear activity, and Saddam tried to walk through it. 

"Blix was burned. But what he did after the gulf war is what counts. The
I.A.E.A. dismantled Iraq's nuclear program. It detected and confronted North
Korea for its nuclear violations. And with Blix's help, the I.A.E.A.
acquired sweeping new inspection authority and investigative technologies,
which are not being put into effect worldwide." 

In 1995, the international board of governors, made up of member nations,
gave the agency new powers to demand access to suspect sites for unannounced
inspections and to sample soil, vegetation, water and air for traces of
radioactivity. In 1994, Mr. Blix was involved in drafting an accord to roll
back North Korea's illegal nuclear weapons program. Iraq and North Korea
were violating the 1968 nonproliferation treaty. 

January 27, 2000

Iraq Says Blix Appointment Won't End Impasse With UN
Filed at 8:42 a.m. ET

By Reuters
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A senior Iraqi diplomat said on Thursday the appointment
of Hans Blix as the new chief arms inspector would not end an impasse
between Baghdad and the United Nations over inspections of its prohibited

``The issue is deeper than just naming Blix as head for the (inspection)
commission,'' Iraq's Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Nizar Hamdoon told the
Paris-based Radio Monte Carlo broadcasting in Arabic on Thursday. 

``The matter is with the (Security Council) resolution itself and the lack
of confidence between Iraq and the Council because of American and British
interference in its resolutions,'' he said. 

``We have major reservations on the resolution, its conditions and its
ambiguity,'' he added. 

The U.N. Security Council issued on December 17 a new resolution which could
ease the nine-year-old U.N. trade sanctions on Iraq in return for Baghdad's
cooperation with a new arms inspections agency. Iraq has dismissed the

Hamdoon, Iraq's former U.N. envoy, said his country was not ''concerned
with'' choosing Blix to chair a new U.N. weapons inspection agency. 

On Wednesday, after weeks of deadlock, the U.N. Security Council unanimously
chose Blix, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),
for the post. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he would make the
appointment formal shortly. 


Blix, who ran the Vienna-based agency for 16 years up to January 1998, sent
teams of IAEA specialists to Iraq to work alongside experts from UNSCOM,
then the U.N. body overseeing the scrapping of Baghdad's weapons of mass

His new job is to head UNSCOM's successor body, the U.N. Monitoring,
Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), set up by a Security
Council resolution on December 17. 

Following that decision, the Council spent weeks haggling over who was to
head it. 

Last week Annan formally nominated Rolf Ekeus, the former UNSCOM chief who
is currently Swedish ambassador to Washington. 

But while the United States and Britain backed Ekeus, France, Russia and
China rejected him. 

Iraq's most influential newspaper, Babel, on Thursday said the choice of the
71-year-old Swede for the job was not only a ''failure for Washington but
rather proved that it could no longer control events.'' 

``Blix's selection went against Washington's desire and will,'' said Babel,
run by President Saddam Hussein's eldest son Uday. 

But U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, current president of the 15-member
Council, welcomed the choice. 

``As the American representative let me make clear that we are pleased with
his nomination. We think he is an excellent choice,'' he said. 

Babel dismissed the U.N.'s previous candidate. ``Ekeus is known for his
spying activities and sabotage acts (in Iraq) which he offered for
Washington and Tel Aviv and he received a price for that,'' it said. 

U.N. arms inspectors have been barred from returning to Iraq since leaving
in mid-December 1998, shortly before a U.S.-British bombing campaign in
retaliation for Baghdad's failure to cooperate with the U.N. weapons teams. 

Swede Hans Blix to Lead Arms Monitors of Iraq
By Colum Lynch
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, January 27, 2000; Page A28 

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 26-The U.N. Security Council agreed today on Hans Blix,
a Swedish arms control expert, as the chairman of a new disarmament agency
for Iraq, but diplomats cautioned that it remains uncertain whether Baghdad
will allow the inspectors to return.

So far, Iraq has said it will not agree to a resumption of U.N. inspections,
and key Security Council members remain divided over a range of core issues,
from the recruitment of personnel for the new agency to procedures for
handling and assessing foreign intelligence about Iraqi weapons programs.

U.N. officials said that Blix, director general of the International Atomic
Energy Agency from 1981 to 1997, is not expected to begin work for a month.
His initial task will be to establish an advisory board, called the College
of Commissioners, and to organize the new agency, known as the U.N.
Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, or UNMOVIC.

The United States wants the new chairman to hire arms experts from the ranks
of the U.N. Special Commission, or UNSCOM, the former arms agency whose
members were withdrawn from Iraq a year ago, on the eve of U.S. and British

U.S. officials contend that UNSCOM's experts have a greater understanding of
Iraq's secret missile and biological and chemical weapons programs than
anyone outside the Iraqi military.

But UNSCOM also was discredited in the eyes of many diplomats by revelations
that some of its members secretly gathered intelligence on Iraq for the
United States. To establish a clean break, Russia, France and China want to
create the new agency from scratch, including all new personnel.

"I don't expect any of the top UNSCOM experts will ever be able to go back
to Iraq," said one diplomat who shares this position. "We need a new
chairman, a new commissioner and new arms experts."

The United States and Britain intend to continue to provide the new agency
with classified intelligence on Iraq's weapons activities, according to
diplomats. But France hopes to persuade the new chairman to place limits on
the new commission's ability to act on that intelligence.

A diplomat familiar with the French position said Paris would like Blix to
establish an assessment team within the new agency to determine the
credibility of foreign intelligence reports, so that UNMOVIC is not
manipulated by any foreign power.

In the face of these disagreements, the selection of Blix was an unusual
show of unity by the Security Council.

"Let those who saw divisions in the international community note that I am
speaking now on behalf of a united council," said U.S. Ambassador Richard C.
Holbrooke. "China was there. Russia was there. France was there."

Holbrooke noted Blix's support in Washington. "Everybody believes that he is
extremely well qualified," he said.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan today phoned Blix in Antarctica, where he
is vacationing, and announced that the Swedish diplomat is willing to take
the job.

"I hope that Iraq will cooperate," Annan said. "We are going to do
everything we can to get them engaged in the game." 

Enter Saddam to rescue Italian children's theatre 
The Guardian/The Observer

HM Customs and Excise
Iraq: special report 

Rory Carroll in Rome 
Monday January 24, 2000 

Across swathes of the Middle East, Saddam Hussein is a monster who gasses,
bombs and torches villages. But for one Sicilian village, he will today
become the saviour of its children's theatre. 
The parents of Santa Maria di Licodia could not afford the cement and marble
so they dipped into the world of geopolitics and got a gift. With one or two
strings attached. 

In a lemon grove, Kais Al Yacoubi, Iraq's ambassador to Italy, will this
morning lay the foundation stone for an open-air amphitheatre. In three
months it will be ready and pupils from the neighbouring Don Bosco school
will perform their first play for an audience of 500 parents and teachers. 

Engraved in tiny letters on the bottom step will be a dedication to the
Iraqi president. 

That is one string. The other is to change the curriculum so that, in
addition to imperial Rome, the children will learn of another ancient
civilisation, the Sumerians, who carved a mighty empire in Mesopotamia, not
a million miles from modern day Iraq. 

Locals talk dreamily of their lemon grove becoming the pariah state's gate
to Europe, nine years after Iraq invaded Kuwait and incurred a crippling UN

Spurning the butcher of Kurds made little sense to the village of 7,000
people languishing on the tip of an island which is undergoing its own
economic crisis. The fractious council, split between the Communist
Refoundation party and the far-right National Alliance, united instantly
when opportunity knocked. 

No criticism has come from the Italian government. As Italy is the first
European Union member to open up to pariah states such as North Korea,
Algeria and Libya, no one expects it. 

The amphitheatre initiative came three months ago from Salvatore Nicotrae, a
former Nato pilot who sells oil from Iraq so that it can buy medical
supplies. The Iraqis were supportive and the result is what is believed to
be the west's first Theatre of Saddam. 
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