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News for 31 Jan to 7 Feb, 2000

News for 31 Jan to 7 Feb, 2000
Firstly, a huge thanks to Drew Hamre for doing an excellent job with the
news for the last few weeks.
Thanks also to Colin Rowat and Peter Griffith for supplying various
articles. Unfortunately, my email has
been in dire straits for the last seven days and I might have lost articles
they sent me. Anyway, things
should be much better from today. I shall do better next week!

"..." = Text cut from original article because it is irrelevant or a repeat
of well-known information


* Mariam Appeal Press Release Regarding 12th March Flight from London to

* Two bombing raids in the last seven days by US/UK military against Iraq.

* US detains Russian Oil Tanker allegedly illegally carrying Iraqi oil.

* An interview with Hans Blix, the head of UNMOVIC.

* An article on the resumption of the development of the US Missile Defense

* Morrocan journalists on solidarity visit to Iraq.

* An interview with a French journalist regarding France's abstention on

Sources: AP, Reuters, BBC and, The Independent, Mariam
Appeal, RFE/RL (?)


Mariam Appeal Press Release Regarding 12th March Flight from London to

Following the epic Big Ben to Baghdad bus campaign journey which crossed 3
continents last year to highlight the suffering of the Iraqi people under
sanctions the London based Mariam Appeal has announced plans for a London to
Baghdad "mercy flight" on Sunday March 12th. It will be the first flight
between the two capitals since July 1990.

The aeroplane will carry a substantial quantity of medicines purchased from
British pharmacies paid for by donations from Britain's Iraqi community and
other well wishers.

The Labour MP George Galloway and Dr Burhan Al-Chalabi, a British economist
of Iraqi origin and a member of the Royal Institute for International
Affairs are heading up the mercy flight which, to date, has received
co-operation from the British Foreign Office and the Department of Trade and

The head of the Catholic Church in Iraq stated today that more than 8,000
children were killed by the embargo in the last month of the 20th century.
Patriarch Raphael said "there has been a frightening increase in the infant
mortality rate and these deaths should move the world to take action to do
something against the embargo."

Galloway, who spent two months last year on board the red London bus, which
crossed 11 countries and 15,000 kilometres said today "Obviously even a
one-off resumption of flights between London and Baghdad is a welcome sign
of thaw and the medicines we are taking are desperately needed by Iraq's
children who continue to die at the rate of one every six minutes under the
sanctions regime."

Dr Al-Chalabi added "Medicines not bombs are a better way of breaking the
cycle of hostility between Britain and Iraq."

The flight will arrive in Baghdad immediately before the Muslim religious
festival of Al-Eid and Dr Al-Chalabi said "this message from Big Ben to
Baghdad will be joyfully received by the ordinary people of Iraq on this
holy occasion."

For further information contact Stuart Halford, director of operations at
the Mariam Appeal, or Dr Al-Chalabi on 0171 581 0506, fax 0171 225 3273,
mobile 0973 818691, e-mail Also see


>From the BBC
Monday, 7 February, 2000, 12:06 GMT

Russia washes hands of oil tanker

The Russian authorities have distanced
themselves from the affair of the Russian
tanker which is accused of carrying illegal
oil from Iraq.

After initially insisting the oil came from
Iran, they now say it's a matter for the
tanker's owner.


Monday February 7 2:53 AM ET

Russian Tanker Carried Iraqi Oil

By ROBERT BURNS AP Military Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Tests confirm a Russian tanker seized by the U.S. Navy in
the Persian Gulf was carrying Iraqi oil in
violation of the U.N. economic embargo, Defense Secretary William Cohen said

The Volga-Neft-147 was taken Monday to Muscat, the capital of Oman. A
diplomat at the Russian embassy in Muscat,
Alexander Nazarov, said it will dock at Fahl port once some technical
procedures are completed. Fahl is used mainly by oil
tankers for exporting Omani oil.

The Omani government will determine the fate of the merchant vessel and its
crew, Cohen told reporters while flying back from
Germany, where he attended a conference on European security.

Cohen also disclosed that an Iraqi naval officer was on board the ship when
it was seized by U.S. Navy SEAL commandos. The
Russian government had insisted the oil was from Iran, not Iraq.

The tests were completed Sunday on samples of oil from the tanker that was
seized Wednesday on suspicions it was carrying
Iraqi oil.

``They do reveal that the oil was from Iraq,'' Cohen said. ``The government
of Oman will make a determination as to what they
will do with the ship itself. That's up to the Omanis at this point.''

He said the Russians were informed of results of the tests but was unaware
of any immediate response from Moscow.

Under normal procedure, the contraband would be sold and the profits used
partly to offset the costs of the nation that agrees to take the vessel and
partly to pay for the maritime force operation, U.S. officials have said.

Asked what effect the development might have on U.S.-Russian ties, Cohen
said: ``I don't think it will have any impact on

Cohen also said the fleet of ships used to enforce the oil embargo against
Iraq has ``intensified'' its patrols since the Russian tanker was seized. He
offered no details. His spokesman, Kenneth Bacon, said that at least one
ship had been added to the multinational fleet used to patrol the Gulf.

Cohen pointed out that the Russian tanker was privately owned, and not the
property of the government. Moscow had protested
the seizure and demanded the vessel's release.

The State Department referred all questions to the Pentagon. Calls to the
Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow went

When the tanker was confronted in the Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday, it
ignored U.S. Navy signals to halt, so armed Navy
SEALs were dispatched by helicopter to board and seize the vessel, the
Pentagon said Saturday.

U.S. officials had said earlier that the Russian crew offered no resistance
to being boarded Wednesday and cooperated with U.S. Navy personnel involved.

Once the SEALs got on board, the Russian crew cooperated, and no shots were
fired, a Pentagon official said Saturday.

The U.S. ship was part of a multinational maritime interception force that
enforces the 9-year-old U.N. embargo against Iraq.

Russia, which maintained that the oil was from Iran, long has supported
steps that would lead to the eventual lifting of the U.N. economic embargo
against Iraq.

The Clinton administration has insisted on full Iraqi compliance with the
U.N. Security Council resolutions, including a requirement Iraq not possess
weapons of mass destruction.

Washington said it merely was merely enforcing the embargo against Iraq in
ordering the seizure.

Iraq is banned from most international commerce but is allowed to export up
to $5.2 billion in oil every six months in order to buy food, medicine and
other essentials for its people, and spare parts for its oil industry.

Despite the effort to enforce the U.N. sanctions, the State Department said
last week that illicit oil exports from Iraq average 100,000 barrels a day,
compared with 50,000 barrels in 1998, when oil prices were much lower.

FM discusses in Saudi Arabia
developments in ME and Iraqi crises
Saudi Arabia, Politics, 2/5/2000

French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine is due to make a two
days official visits to Saudi Arabia kingdom during which he
will meet king Fahd Bin Abd El-Aziz.

Diplomatic sources said that "Vedrine will discusses with the
Saudi leaders the developments in Middle East and French
proposals for disarming the Iraqi weapons and guaranteeing
Iraq's not getting any new weapons."

It is worthy to mention, that France provided Riyadh with 3
developed frigates of Lana Peet style that are equipped with
anti ships missiles.
Friday February 4 10:29 AM ET

 Russia to Send Naval Ship to Mediterranean

 MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's RIA news agency quoted the military as saying
Friday that a reconnaissance ship would be sent to the Mediterranean Sea
 week in connection with what it said were new NATO moves aimed at Iraq.

 RIA quoted an unnamed senior military official as saying the Kildin would
be sent in response to what it said was a buildup of NATO craft in the Gulf.
 dispatch was announced a day after a Russian tanker was seized in the Gulf
by the U.S. navy on suspicion of smuggling Iraqi oil.

>From the BBC

Friday, 4 February, 2000, 18:54 GMT
Iraq concessions unlikely
says UN

Iraq opposes the resumption of weapons

The head of the new United Nations arms
monitoring agency has said that he does
not expect the international community to
make concessions to Iraq in order to
secure co-operation with fresh weapons

Hans Blix, was appointed last month after
the UN Security Council decided to set up
the new agency, send inspectors back to
Iraq and promised to ease nine-year-old
trade sanctions if Baghdad co-operated.

But Iraq has rejected the new agency, the
UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection
Commission (UNMOVIC).

Instead it has urged the UN to change its
resolution and lift sanctions completely
while limiting weapons inspections to
non-sensitive sites.

But Mr Blix, a former Swedish foreign
minister, said it was unlikely the Security
Council would amend its resolution.

"The members worked for a very long time to re-establish
consensus ... and
the resolution is the
result. I think they
will stand behind this," he told his first
news conference since his appointment.

"I think no points are off-limit here. No
resolution has ever made such a
concession in the past," he later added.

Mr Blix, 71, a retired director of the
International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA), said he knew he faced a difficult
task in trying to end the impasse over
inspections of banned weapons.

He will take up his new position as
UNMOVIC chairman in New York on 1

'No magic formula'

"I have no magic formula to apply," he
said. "I have no plans presently to go to

Mr Blix said he had two tasks - to ensure
all weapons of mass destruction were
eliminated in Iraq and to ensure no new
weapons were manufactured in or taken
into the country.

UN arms inspectors left Iraq in
mid-December 1998, shortly before the
US and Britain bombed the Arab state for
not co-operating with the inspectors from
UNSCOM, the predecessor of UNMOVIC.

Iraq has not allowed
them to return.

Mr Blix said the
present weapons
situation in Iraq was
unclear as only aerial
verification had been
possible over the
past year in the
absence of ground

He said the biggest
question marks
facing the agency were over possible
biological and chemical weapons, though
the nuclear area could also not be
declared clean.

"We will never be able to come to certify
that not even the smallest item, the
smallest capacity, remains in a large
country. UNMOVIC, the IAEA and the
Security Council must wrestle with that,"
said Mr Blix.

Inspections were possible only with Iraqi
co-operation, he said.

"The inspectors cannot shoot their way to
any site but they need to be admitted. If
they are not admitted - as they have
been refused on several occasions - then
the reaction will have to come through
the Security Council and members," he
Thursday February 3 3:31 PM ET

Western Planes Retaliate Against Iraqi Fire

By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Western planes struck at Iraq's air defense system on
Thursday for the
second time this week as U.S. officials expressed growing concern Baghdad is
rebuilding weapons
destroyed in Operation Desert Fox in 1998.

It was the eighth clash this year between Iraqi forces and British and U.S.
planes patrolling the
Western-imposed northern no-fly zone in Iraq.

The patrols are part of Washington's containment policy against Iraq that
has been criticized by some Republicans for not going far enough to achieve
the U.S. aim of ultimately ousting Saddam Hussein as Iraq's leader.

``The Iraqi forces fired anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) at coalition aircraft
from sites near Bashiqah (in northern Iraq),'' the U.S. military said in a
statement released on the Internet on Thursday.

 ``Coalition aircraft responded to the Iraqi attack by dropping ordnance on
elements of the Iraqi integrated air defense system,'' it added.

The U.S. military said all the aircraft left the area safely. It gave no
further information and did not indicate the extent of Iraqi damage or
whether there were any casualties.

In Baghdad a military spokesman said the Western planes had bombed civilian
targets. ``Ten hostile formations ... flew over the provinces of Duhok,
Arbil and Nineveh and attacked our service and civil installations,'' said
the spokesman, quoted by the official Iraqi News Agency.

Western military officials insist such attacks are aimed only at military

U.S. and British planes patrol no-fly zones over Iraq's north and south
nearly every day. The zones were declared by the West
after the 1991 Gulf War to protect groups opposed to Iraqi President Saddam

The U.S. statement said coalition aircraft would continue to respond to any
threats by Iraqi forces and would monitor and enforce the no-fly zones.

Central Intelligence Agency director George Tenet, who testified for the
second day to a Senate committee on Thursday on the
State of U.S. security, has said Iraq still poses a threat to the West.

``A major worry is that Iraqi reconstruction of WMD (Weapons of Mass
Destruction)-capable facilities damaged during
Operation Desert Fox and continued work on delivery systems shows the
priority Saddam continues to attach to preserving a
WMD infrastructure,'' Tenet told the committee on Wednesday.

While Saddam's military options had been limited, he could still hurt
coalition forces and remained one of the largest military threats in the
Middle East, Tenet said.

 ``His continuing challenge to the no-fly zone enforcement remains his only
sustainable means of engaging U.S. and U.K. forces,'' he said, adding that
Saddam's military successes in the past year had been largely tactical.

The New York Times reported this week that satellite photographs and U.S.
intelligence reports showed Iraq has within the last year rebuilt military
and industry sites damaged in 1998.
The newspaper said the recent finding raised U.S. concerns that in the
extended absence of weapons inspectors, Iraq had
continued its pursuit of biological and chemical weapons.

Last week the United States accused Baghdad of ``shooting itself in the
foot'' by blocking the return of arms inspectors and
pledged that sanctions imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 would stay
until Iraq complied with the United Nations.
Thursday February 3 1:04 PM ET

U.S. Fighter Jets Strike Iraqi Site

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - U.S. warplanes bombed an Iraqi air defense system in
response to artillery fire Thursday as they patrolled a no-fly zone over
northern Iraq, the U.S. military said.

The U.S. planes hit a site near Bashiqah, about 250 miles north of Baghdad,
the Germany-based U.S. European Command said in a statement. All of the
planes, based at Incirlik air base in southern Turkey, left the area safely,
the statement said.

 The incident was the eighth confrontation between U.S. jets and Iraqi
forces in northern Iraq this year.

 U.S. and British planes have frequently targeted Iraqi military sites since
Iraq began challenging the patrols in December 1998. Baghdad does not
recognize the no-fly zones, which were set up shortly after the 1991 Gulf
War to protect Shiite Muslims in the south and Kurds in the north from the
forces of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Missile Defense to 'Avert Nuclear Blackmail'

Saturday, February 05, 2000

By Charles Aldinger

MUNICH (Reuters) - Defense Secretary William Cohen warned on
Saturday that the United States and Europe could face nuclear
blackmail from "rogue nations" and urged its allies to support a
U.S. national missile defense.

Cohen defended the controversial anti-missile program, suggesting
at an international security meeting that the West would have
thought twice about sending troops into Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf
War if Iraq had nuclear missiles aimed at Washington, London and

He urged U.S. allies not to oppose possible deployment of a U.S.
system, saying that if Washington had weapons to shoot down a
limited number of missiles it would not be vulnerable to nuclear
blackmail from states such as Iran and Iraq.

European allies are deeply concerned about Russian threats to
back away from nuclear arms control treaties if the United States
deploys a missile defense.

"We never want to be in the position of being blackmailed by
anyone posing a threat to our national security interests," Cohen
told European and U.S. officials at the annual Munich Conference
on Security Policy.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that effective limited defenses
are technologically achievable," he added despite the recent
failure of an anti-missile test over the Pacific Ocean.

"For America and Europe, the threat of missiles from rogue nations
is substantial and growing," Cohen said. "They want long-range
missiles to coerce and threaten us."

President Clinton is expected to make a decision in July on
whether to begin deploying a $12 billion system of interceptor
missiles based in Alaska or to wait for further testing.


Russian Colonel General Leonid Ivashov voiced strong objections to
Washington's request to amend the 1992 anti-ballistic missile
treaty so that such a defense might be deployed within the

"Ratification of START-2 is threatened. Russia will take notice," he
told the conference, referring to the Russian Duma's failure so far
to ratify the second nuclear arms reduction treaty between the
two countries.

Many European officials are deeply concerned about the effect on
former arms control treaties if the United States breaks out of the
ABM treaty.

"It is in the interest of Germany, Europe and the alliance to avert
a handicapping of the arms control process," German Foreign
Minister Joschka Fisher told the meeting.

"We should draw our conclusions collectively. Otherwise, it won't
just be the technological gap across the Atlantic that grows
wider," he cautioned.

The U.S. military failed in January to shoot down a dummy
warhead in a second $100 million test over the Pacific. But last
October's first test was successful and a third is set before
Clinton's planned decision on building a system.

Cohen said last week that the second interceptor missed its target
by less than 100 feet (30 meters) and the third test would be a
key in his advice to Clinton whether to go ahead.

He said on Saturday that Washington did not want to pull out of
the ABM pact. The limited defense was only a shadow of former
President Ronald Reagan's dream of a massive space-based "Star
Wars" missile shield against the former Soviet Union.

"We have made clear that we do not want to abandon the ABM
treaty," Cohen said, noting that the pact allows for amendments.

"The threats that we will soon face were not envisioned when the
treaty was signed 28 years ago," he added. "There is no reason to
force a choice between arms control and strategic stability, on
the one hand, and defending our population from rogue-state
missile threats on the other."

Moroccan journalists on solidarity visit to Iraq
Morocco, Politics, 2/5/2000

A group of Moroccan journalists is paying a solidarity visit to
Iraq where they will hand to colleagues at the Iraqi news
agency "INA" a batch of computers and printers.

The trip is sponsored by the union of Moroccan journalists
(SNPM) in a first initiative to support the Iraqi media.

The Moroccan journalists who will meet Iraqi colleagues will
conduct investigations and write stories to be published in
Morocco to denounce the "unfair embargo" enforced against
Iraq and draw international attention to the plight of Iraqis.

Several Moroccan institutions have co-financed the equipment
purchase and the trip fares.

A very informative insight into the softer stance of Paris towards
sanctions was explained by French political analyst Eric Rouleau
in an interview with RFE/RL, broadcast on 2-2-2000. This is an edited
version, but worth reading in full despite the relative length remaining.

Rouleau is a longtime observer of French policy toward Iraq and the Middle
East. His career spans some 30 years at France's daily "Le Monde," followed
by three ambassadorial appointments. Today he is an independent writer and
frequent commentator for "Le Monde Diplomatique." His opinion, of course,
cannot be taken to constitute the official French position.

RFI/RL asked Rouleau why France abstained in December's vote at the UN:

"France, I think, did not abstain from voting because it is against the
principle of a conditional suspension, but because there were other parts in
that resolution which France objected to. To put it in a nutshell, France
believes that the time has come to lift the sanctions even though we might
keep them for some time to come. Why? Because Iraq, in the French
government's view, has implemented Security Council Resolution 687 [which
imposed sanctions to enforce Iraqi disarmament] even though it is necessary
to maintain a variety of permanent controls over Iraq. Ten years have gone
by since the sanctions were imposed, and it has been confirmed since that
Iraq has no nuclear capacity -- and it has been confirmed more than once by
the international nuclear agency. As for the other weapons of mass
destruction, like biological or chemical weapons, even if Iraq is still
producing it, probably in small quantities, experts in [France]believe there
is no way of making sure that production is going on --because, as everybody
knows, you can produce biological and chemical weapons in very small spaces
... [and] in any case they are being produced all over the Middle East,
these weapons and nobody is checking on them ...And the last thing I want to
say about this is that Iraq ... has no long-range carriers for weapons of
mass destruction, even if they might be producing some biological or
chemical weapons."

France frequently has said that it favors offering Iraq incentives to
cooperate with any new arms monitoring system, something Baghdad so far has
refused to do. RFE/RL asked Rouleau to explain what incentives France

"Well, I will tell you what they mean by incentives. You have to refer to
American statements on the subject. The Americans have made several official
statements saying that sometimes sanctions would not be lifted until [Iraqi
President] Saddam Hussein is overthrown or, in other periods over the past
few months, they have been saying that it is not enough for Iraq to
implement [UN] resolution 687, which deals only with the oil embargo and the
weapons of mass destruction, but all other resolutions [too]. As you know,
there are something like 75 other resolutions, [and this] in the view of
France is not fair because [resolution] 687 is very clear about this, that
once the international community would have the feeling that Iraq has no
more weapons of mass destruction, the oil embargo should be immediately
lifted. But this is not the position of the American and British governments
on this subject. So when France uses the word incentives it only means one
thing, that we have to give the feeling to the Iraqis that we are serious
about implementing 687 and that ... we will not maintain the sanctions until
Saddam Hussein is overthrown but only [until] Iraq has proven it is not
producing anymore any weapons of mass destruction."

Rouleau explains the incentives further:

"Incentives can take many forms. One that has already been suggested is that
the Security Council should admit publicly and formally that some progress
has been made, for example, on the nuclear issue or the question of
long-range carriers (missiles) which have been destroyed. But the American
and British governments refuse to admit any progress in the arms
inspections, which is a way also of telling Iraq that, whatever they do,
nothing will come out of it. So, it is very clear that if the Iraqi
government ... has the conviction that whatever they do will lead to
nowhere, there will be no incentive for them to do anything to be helpful."
The Independent 30/1/2000
Britain's Secret War on Saddam Costs Taxpayer £1m a week

Back-bench Labour MPs are leading criticism of the UK's 'hidden war' against
Iraq, which is costing tax-payers £4.5m monthly. This pays for, for example,
the 200 RAF sorties a month (December 1999) and the 134 bombs dropped during
1999. According to Alan Simpson MP:
“This is the hidden war against Iraq which is now almost akin to punishment
and it is difficult to see what moral, ethical or military sense any of it
Simpson added that people were not being told about the situation, despite
the huge publicity surrounding the air-strikes against Saddam's Iraq in 1998
and the campaign in Kosovo.
“No one knows, no one cares and we are currently spending a colossal amount
of money peppering Iraq on a daily basis.”

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