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News for 21 to 28 February, 2000 Sources: Reuters, AP, www.arabicnews.com, US State Dept. Thanks to Colin and Rania for various tips and assistance. Question: How do the list subscribers feel about sending news, unless it's absolutely urgent, to me? I'll then put these news articles in the weekly clipping and mention those that contributed?. Lots of news this week. Headlines: ---------- * A group of American nuns and priests has written a letter to Bill Clinton requesting him to reconsider sanctions. * Annan indicates that sanctions must be made more intelligent. Iraq disagrees. * Oil prices are skyrocketing. US demands that oil-producing countries produce more. Iraq says it can't because it lacks spare parts that the UN has put on hold. (a number of articles) * US/UK bomb Iraq. Apparently there have been 14 bombing incidents this year and 7 this month. * The Pope has made a "virtual" visit to Iraq (?? - editor). * An interesting article on Iraq's brain drain and its lack of intellectual resources due to to a failing education system. Incidentally, many 3rd world countries suffer from brain drain problems. It is a much under-stressed issue in the current global order. * Apparently, the US State Department is considering easing sanctions and reducing the number of holds on "dual-use" equipment. (a number of articles) * Iraqi diplomats are working in Syria for the first time since 1980. Much improved ties between these two countries. * Charles Duelfer resigns as acting head of UNSCOM. Speculation * Some remarks by Clinton on Iraq. * Turkey expects trade with Iraq to increase this year. * The 4th annual report of the Security Council Committee, which oversees the sanctions on Iraq under Security Council resolution 661, was issued on 24 February, dealing with the period from August 1, 1998 until November 20, 1999. * An interesting article on the suffering of an Iraqi family, including comments by Aziz and Von Sponeck. * A hawkish article on Turkey's defense desires and their intent to purchase more weapons because of a perceived "foreign threat". ---------------- >From the US State Department: HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY FRED ECKHARD SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK Monday, February 28, 2000 IRAQ PROGRAMME REPORTS NO NEW OIL CONTRACTS LAST WEEK The Office of the Iraq Programme reported today that, during the reporting period from February 19 through 25, no oil sales contracts were approved. The number of oil sales contracts approved under the current phase stands at 96, for a total volume of 268.3 million barrels. Last week, during the same reporting period, eight loadings were completed of a total of 10.2 million barrels of oil, at an estimated value of $272 million. The revenue generated since the beginning of Phase Seven of the "oil-for-food" programme is estimated, at current prices, to be about $3.283 billion. The next update on Iraqi oil sales will be available on Tuesday. Asked about whether UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Hans von Sponeck would address reporters, the Spokesman said he would look into the possibility of a news conference and would help to arrange interviews with him. Von Sponeck is meeting the Secretary-General today at 3:30 p.m., he noted. However, Eckhard added, the Security Council has not made a formal request to the Secretary-General for von Sponeck to address the Council. Hans Blix, the Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission for Iraq, will attend a press briefing on Wednesday, the Spokesman said. Eckhard noted the Secretary-General's recent comments that he might put some fresh ideas forward about sanctions, but the Spokesman declined to comment on Iraq's recent statements about the sanctions regime. (Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: usinfo.state.gov) ---------------- News about frustrating a coup d'etat in Iraq and executing 38 militants El-Zaman Arab newspaper issued in London said that the Iraqi authorities frustrated a coup d'etat during January and executed 38 Iraqi militants. Iraq, Politics, 2/28/2000 --------------------- Iraqi criticism of Annan's declarations concerning the sanctions Iraq, Politics, 2/28/2000 Iraq criticized yesterday the statements made by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan who referred to continuing the Security Council's consultations to discuss intelligent sanctions against Baghdad. Iraqi sources asserted the necessity of finding a radical solution to Iraq's cause. Annan said the current sanctions increased the Iraqi people's suffering, demanding the necessity for searching for alternative sanctions, stating that the intelligent sanctions could be in the form of closing bank accounts abroad. Meanwhile, Iraq said it has decreased its petroleum production to 300,000 barrels per day. Iraqi Oil Minister Amir Rashid Muhammad said his country may have to make an additional decrease if the necessary spare parts for repairing its petroleum establishments do not arrive. --------------------- Iraq Accuses US, Britain Over Aid UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Iraq accused the United States and Britain on Monday of ``avenging themselves on an entire people'' by preventing the U.N. humanitarian program from delivering infrastructure equipment to Baghdad. U.S. and British claims that the machinery might be used for military uses carry no weight because U.N. officials in New York and Baghdad make sure contracts for the goods are for humanitarian purposes only, Iraqi Ambassador Saeed Hasan said. The American and British arguments ``are no more than a crude cover for the placing of contracts on hold for political reasons,'' Hasan said in a letter to Secretary-General Kofi Annan. This amounts to the countries' ``avenging themselves on an entire people,'' he said. Hasan's letter was circulated on the same day the outgoing U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, Hans von Sponeck, met with Secretary-General Kofi Annan at U.N. headquarters to discuss the sanctions. ... During the meeting, Annan said he would review von Sponeck's ideas on how to make the program more effective, but made clear that the Security Council alone determines the U.N. policy in the program, according to a summary of the meeting from Annan's spokesman, Fred Eckhard. There is no indication, however, that the Security Council is prepared to alter the sanctions on Iraq, which under U.N. resolutions cannot be lifted until weapons inspectors report Iraq is free of its banned weapons. ... While $6.3 billion in goods has arrived in Iraq since the program's inception, $1.7 billion worth of contracts has been held up in the U.N. sanctions committee - most of it equipment to improve Iraq's power grid and oil infrastructure. The United States has placed the bulk of the disputed contracts on ``hold,'' saying it wants to review them to make sure the goods weren't ``dual-use'' items that could help Iraqi President Saddam Hussein rebuild weapons of mass destruction. Meanwhile, a group of American nuns and priests on Monday pleaded with President Clinton to reconsider U.S. policy toward Iraq, saying sanctions were hurting children. The seven nuns and two priests released a letter sent to the president after spending a week in Basra, 340 miles south of Baghdad along the Kuwait border. The nuns and priests were visiting other members of their Dominican order who have been working in Iraqi hospitals for the last few years. ------------------ Monday February 28, 3:17 pm Eastern Time Western planes strike north Iraq ... BAGHDAD, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Western aircraft launched strikes in northern Iraq again on Monday and an Iraqi military spokesman accused them of bombing civilian targets. The United States European Command said the targets -- the latest of many during post-Gulf War U.S. and British air patrols over Iraq -- were Iraqi air defences attacked after anti-aircraft guns opened fire. ``Seven hostile formations... flew over the northern provinces of Duhok, Arbil and Nineveh and the enemy attacked our service and civil installations,'' the Iraqi spokesman, quoted by the official Iraqi News Agency, said. He said the planes returned to Turkish airspace after they were intercepted by Iraqi anti-aircraft units. There were no reported casualties or damage. According to the German-based United States European Command: "Iraqi forces fired anti-aircraft artillery from a site west of Bashiqah. Coalition aircraft responded to the Iraqi attacks by dropping ordnance on elements of the Iraqi integrated air defence system. It was the seventh exchange of fire this month and the 14th this year. The site is northeast of the town of Mosul, about 400 km (250 miles) north of Baghdad. ... Western military officials insist such attacks are aimed only at military targets. ----------------------- Sunday February 27 1:38 PM ET Iraq: Ignore US Calls for More Oil By LEON BARKHO Associated Press Writer BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - The United States has no right to pressure oil-producing countries to raise output in order to bring down the price of crude on global markets, Iraq's oil minister said Sunday. ``We consider this unwarranted and unjustified, and it is an overreaction by the American administration,'' Oil Minister Amer Mohammed Rashid said in response to a U.S. bid to persuade Gulf oil producers to loosen reins on output. Rashid urged his partners in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries not to yield to American pressure. U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson ended a tour Saturday of leading Gulf oil producers, including oil giant Saudi Arabia, in a bid to persuade them to support a production increase to force down oil prices that have been surging near $30 a barrel - and that have American consumers complaining about high costs of heating oil and gasoline. Richardson said on Saturday he had obtained an encouraging response from Saudi Arabia, the world's largest exporter, to his plea to pump more oil, but left the region with no firm commitments. OPEC oil ministers are scheduled to meet March 27 in Vienna to decide whether the time has come to open the tap at least slightly on their self-imposed cuts. The reductions, along with those by non-OPEC members, have denied markets of more than 4 million barrels a day for nearly a year, sending prices to levels unseen since the eve of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Though world oil supplies are at dangerously low levels, Iraq has slashed exports by up to 400,000 barrels a day. Rashid warned of further cuts if the United Nations continues to places holds on applications for equipment so that Iraq can upgrade its flagging oil sector. ... Since May 1998, the [security] council has authorized Iraq to buy $1.2 billion worth of spare parts. But Iraq says only $186 million in equipment has been sent. -------------------------- Sunday February 27, 9:43 am Eastern Time ANALYSIS-Sanctions leave Iraq short of brain power By Peg Mackey BAGHDAD, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Potentially oil-rich Iraq is straining from a deficit of intellectual capital thanks to nearly a decade of stringent United Nations trade sanctions, analysts said on Saturday. Iraq's professional class, many of whom were trained abroad during the 1960s, is fast approaching retirement age. And there is a shortage of bright young sparks to fill their shoes. ``We are looking for the next generation, but they're not here,'' a Western diplomat in Baghdad said. Its long history of education and skilled labour eroded by sanctions, Iraq will be left in want of a highly-trained workforce when it comes to rebuild and expand its vast oil wealth, said Washington-based Iraq analyst Christine Helms. ``They will not be able to upgrade and reconstruct the country unless they get outside help,'' a Western oil industry executive said. SKILLED WORKERS TAKE FLIGHT But Iraq is faced with more than the greying of its skilled workforce. "There has been a real exodus from Iraq since the embargo, essentially for economic reasons," an official in Baghdad said. "Hundreds of engineers have up and left in order to make money abroad and send it home to their families." Some analysts reckon up to four million Iraqis have fled to Jordan, Britain, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and the United States. An eventual easing of U.N. sanctions -- imposed on Iraq for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait -- might lure Iraqis on the outside back into their country, which has a population of 22 million, if the public and private sectors are encouraged. ``If the economy gets back on line, people will return,'' Helms said. ``There is a genuine feeling of nationalism among those who have left,'' said Raad Alkadiri of Petroleum Finance Corp. BRIDGING THE GAP But even if the diaspora returns when sanctions are eased, Iraq will still need a foreign helping hand to get back on its feet, an Iraqi analyst said. ``There is a huge gap in skilled labour,'' said an official in Baghdad. ``People are not being trained and developed in the right way because teachers themselves are pitifully paid and lacking inspiration.'' Though Iraq's universities are still open, standards have slipped -- galling for a country which once prided itself on raising literacy rates. Many university professors have left Iraq in search of better salaries. Hans von Sponeck, the top U.N. humanitarian official in Baghdad who recently announced his resignation, described Iraq's educational system as ``totally inadequate.'' Hardly surprising then that among the younger, educated generation there is a feeling of bitterness. ``Even those with higher education feel they cannot really achieve anything,'' an Iraqi engineer said. ``It's frustrating because they are living in a country which has the potential to be very rich.'' Sitting atop 112 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, Iraq is second only to Saudi Arabia in terms of potential oil wealth. Iraq's professionals have also become demoralised by sanctions. ``The embargo has virtually destroyed the middle class,'' said a Western-educated Iraqi analyst. ``We have become backward,'' he said, adding ``for us, it's a luxury to own a computer.'' ------------------------ Saturday February 26 2:05 PM ET UN Sees No Change in US-Iraq Policy By NICOLE WINFIELD Associated Press Writer UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Despite the Clinton administration's pledge to start easing restrictions on sending some industrial equipment to Iraq, diplomats doubt the goods Iraq most desperately needs will get there. U.N. officials, analysts and western diplomats say they have seen no indication that Washington has changed its hard-line position in the U.N. committee that reviews contracts for humanitarian supplies to Iraq. At the last committee meeting, in fact, the United States blocked 20 to 30 items, including fork lifts and car batteries, from being included on a list of humanitarian goods that could automatically be sent to Iraq through the U.N. humanitarian program. A State Department official said U.S. concerns that such items could be used for military purposes hadn't changed. ``The dual-use standard is what it is,'' the official said Friday on condition of anonymity. The United States, however, is reviewing its way of doing business in the U.N. sanctions committee in light of a December resolution that called for faster delivery of aid to Iraq, the official said. Iraq has been barred from selling its oil on the open market since a sweeping U.N. trade embargo was imposed after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The U.N. humanitarian program, created in 1996 to get food and medicine to needy Iraqis, allows Iraq to export oil through U.N.-controlled sales provided the proceeds be used for humanitarian supplies. The U.N. sanctions committee for Iraq, composed of the 15 members of the Security Council, reviews contracts for the supplies, but any member can place a contract on ``hold'' at any time for any reason. Of the $1.78 billion worth of contracts in limbo, the United States is responsible for more than 75 percent, with Britain making up the rest, a U.N. official said. Most of the disputed contracts are for equipment to improve Iraq's dilapidated oil industry, power grid and water sanitation infrastructure. President Clinton said Friday that the United States was reviewing ways to get more goods to Iraqis, provided they don't help Saddam Hussein rearm. A U.S. official in Washington said that included ``gray area'' exports such as chlorine. The Washington Post, reporting the U.S. position in a story Friday, cited an $80 million electricity contract that Washington recently allowed to go through as evidence of its softening position. But with hundreds of millions of dollars still held up, U.N. officials and western diplomats cautioned that such token measures would do little to have any real impact on the lives of Iraqis. ``If they have lifted some electricity contracts, the backlog is so huge that to have an effect on the humanitarian situation on the ground, there has to be much more,'' a sanctions committee member said on condition of anonymity. A U.N. official said she had no information that the United States had released any other major holds recently. Raad Alkadiri, an analyst with the Washington-based Petroleum Finance Group, said it appeared the administration was merely trying to deflect some of the criticism of its hard line without making any significant changes in its policy. ``The U.S. has decided to back down on an issue it probably was going to come out looking the worst on,'' he said. Diplomats noted the leaked story to the Post came on the heels of demands by 70 U.S. congressmen earlier this month to lift sanctions. In addition, the United States is gearing up for criticism of its policies with the arrival in New York of the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, Hans von Sponeck. Von Sponeck resigned earlier this month to protest the sanctions and the politics that had prevented the oil-for-food program from working. The German diplomat arrives at U.N. headquarters Monday and plans to meet with Secretary-General Kofi Annan. For his part, Annan, who has been outspoken about the need for the number of ``holds'' to be released, ``of course would be pleased to see some of the backlog of these contracts on hold thinned out,'' spokesman Fred Eckhard said. --------------------------------- Saturday February 26 9:33 AM ET Iraq Diplomats Back in Syria After 20 Years By lssam Hamza DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Iraqi diplomats have started work at an interests section opened in Syria for the first time since 1980 when the rival Arab states severed diplomatic ties, officials said Saturday. They told Reuters that Syrian diplomats were also expected in Iraq soon to run a similar section at the Algerian embassy in Baghdad. ``The Iraqi diplomats have already arrived here and started their work at a separate bureau at the Algerian embassy in Damascus,'' an official said. ``A decision to open the Syrian and Iraqi sections at the Algerian embassies in both Baghdad and Damascus was taken earlier and what is happening now is an implementation of that decision,'' the official added. An Algerian embassy official said the Iraqi section was in a building outside the embassy in Damascus but the Iraqis were working under the supervision of the Algerian embassy in accordance with rules which govern interests sections. Syria and Iraq, ruled by rival factions of the Baath party, severed ties in late 1980 after the outbreak of the Iraq-Iran war of 1980-1988 in which Syria sided with Iran. Syria said at that time that the war would harm Arab interests and waste their resources. It blamed Baghdad for triggering the fighting. Syrian-Iraqi ties deteriorated further in 1991 when Damascus joined a U.S.-led multinational force which drove Iraq out of Kuwait after a six-month occupation of the Arab Gulf state. But both states agreed three years ago to reopen their borders and engage in economic and commercial cooperation. Syria has backed calls for the lifting of U.N. economic sanctions imposed on Iraq because of its occupation of Kuwait. It has also opposed any further military operations against Baghdad. During the last three years, Syria struck deals to export food and medicine to Iraq worth over $150 million and signed other contracts under terms of the so-called oil-for-food deal between Iraq and the United Nations. Syria and Iraq also participated in trade exhibitions held in Baghdad and Damascus during the last three years and several ministers exchanged visits. Iraq opened a permanent trade center in Damascus last year and small Iraqi traders flock to Syrian cities to sell goods exempted from customs duties. ------------------------ Friday February 25 8:56 PM ET Iraq Inspection Agency Head Resigns UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The acting executive-chairman of the U.N. agency that was responsible for disarming Iraq since 1991 said Friday he has resigned rather than work for a successor agency that will continue inspections and monitoring of Iraqi programs. Charles Duelfer, an American, submitted his letter of resignation as acting head of the U.N. Special Commission on Iraq to Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday. He said he planned to leave his post by Wednesday - the day the new U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, headed by Hans Blix starts its work. ``I can help, more by my absence,'' said Duelfer, adding that he has no definite future plans. Duelfer took over running the Special Commission in June, after its executive chairman, Richard Butler of Australia, left to become a diplomat-in-residence at the Council on Foreign Relations, the New York-based think tank. The commission was created in 1991 to oversee the destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction - a requirement under the U.N. resolutions that ended the Gulf War. Inspections ground to a halt, however, in December after the United States and Britain launched airstrikes to punish Baghdad for failing to cooperate with arms experts. The commission, which was also tainted by allegations the United States used it to spy on Baghdad, was replaced in December by a new inspection agency, the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, known as UNMOVIC. -------------------------------- http://www.arabicnews.com/ A department for supervising the Iraqi interests opened at the Algerian embassy in Damascus Iraqi diplomats reported that a branch for supervising Iraqi interests will be opened this week in Damascus for the first time since diplomatic relations were severed between the two countries in 1980. ------------------ www.arabicnews.com Iraqi-Turkish trade cooperation Turkish Minister of State Edip Safter Gaydali said on Sunday in Baghdad that the volume of trade and commercial cooperation between his country and Iraq will shortly increase to US $2.5 billion, the same level of trade as in 1990. ---------------------- Friday February 25 5:32 PM ET Clinton: U.S. To Explore Iraq Aid By TERENCE HUNT AP White House Correspondent WASHINGTON (AP) - Under pressure to lift sanctions, President Clinton said Friday the United States will explore ways to relieve the suffering in Iraq if it can be done without helping Saddam Hussein rebuild his weapons arsenal. Clinton said that shortages of food and medicine were the result of the Iraqi president's policies, not the United Nations' embargo imposed after the Gulf War. ``It's clear to everybody who has looked at the facts ... that they're exporting about as much oil now as they were before the embargo was imposed.'' ... Presidential spokesman Joe Lockhart said, ``We believe that Saddam Hussein knows what he needs to do to get out from under U.N. sanctions against his country. And there will be no shift until he understands that and acts on it.'' An administration official said the U.S. goal is to deny Saddam items that would assist him in a weapons program without stopping exports that might help extract oil that Iraq is permitted to sell for humanitarian purposes. Proceeds must be used for food and medicine. For example, the official said, chlorine, which could be used in water purification, would now be cleared for export to Iraq. The sanctions, imposed in 1990, were subsequently eased to permit Iraq to sell $5.2 billion worth of oil every six months provided the revenue is used to assist the Iraqi people. But even with oil prices soaring, Saddam deliberately and cynically does not take advantage of the quota, the administration said. Western diplomats on the U.N. sanctions committee said they had seen no easing of the hard-line U.S. position. The diplomats noted that recently as last Friday, the United States canceled between 20 and 30 items, such as fork lifts and car batteries, from a list of goods that could be approved automatically in the sanctions committee. U.N. figures show that $1.77 billion worth of goods were frozen as of Feb. 21, nearly all of them frozen by put on hold by the United States. ---------------------- Friday February 25, 6:08 pm Eastern Time Commodities - Oil sets new 9-year high, cocoa falls NEW YORK, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Crude oil prices rose to new nine-year highs on Friday at the New York Mercantile Exchange as world producers appeared reluctant to quickly crank up production to ease global shortages. Prices for cocoa tumbled to 27-year lows in New York as bigger-than-expected crops in top producing African countries will soon reach world markets. Prices for soybeans, which are processed into livestock feed and edible soybean oil, fell in Chicago. Crude oil peaked at $30.83 per barrel on Friday, the highest price for a spot contract since January 1991, which was during the Gulf War. Fueling the rise were hints from top producers that any decision to increase production will not be made before the March 27 meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), traders said. ``Supplies are very tight and without any fundamental change between now and the end of March, prices will remain high,'' one NYMEX trader said. On Friday, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi made the statement that OPEC would not decide on production changes before March 27 as he awaited the arrival of U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. Richardson flew to the Middle East on Friday to persuade major producers to increase output. Mexican Energy Minister Luis Tellez was also quoted by Mexican newspapers Friday that he saw no short-term relief for lofty oil prices because any increase will not come until after the March 31 expiry of supply cutbacks. Ten OPEC members, excluding Iraq, have drained world supply by more than four million barrels per day under a supply curbing agreement designed to shore up oil prices that had slipped to $10.35 in December 1998. Non-OPEC producers Mexico and Norway joined with OPEC in curtailing supplies. Inventory data from the U.S. Department of Energy released Thursday showed that U.S. crude stocks decreased 300,000 barrels last week to 285.5 million barrels, the lowest in more than two decades. NYMEX March crude oil closed at $30.35, up 38 cents, but it peaked at $30.83 during Friday's trading. March gasoline peaked at 88.50 cents a gallon but slipped to close at 86.26 cents a gallon, up 1.21 cents. March heating oil closed at 82.88 cents per gallon, up 4.86 cents. ... ----------------------- >From the State Department: HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY FRED ECKHARD SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK Thursday, February 24, 2000 COUNCIL SANCTIONS COMMITTEE ISSUES REPORT ON IRAQ The fourth annual report of the Security Council Committee, which oversees the sanctions on Iraq under Security Council resolution 661, was issued today, dealing with the period from August 1, 1998 until November 20, 1999. The report said that during the reporting period the export of petroleum and petroleum products from Iraq proceeded smoothly with excellent cooperation among the oil overseers, the UN independent inspection agents, the State Oil Marketing Organization of Iraq and national oil purchasers. The revenue generated from oil sales during this period amounted to $13.58 billion. The Committee continued to implement the simplified procedures to process applications for foodstuffs and other humanitarian supplies. Members of the Committee also continued to express concerns about the effect of the holds placed on humanitarian contracts, including oil spare parts and equipment, on the humanitarian situation in Iraq. The Committee will continue to review those hold cases. For the latest figures on various aspects of the oil for food programme, please consult the Weekly Update, compiled by the Office of the Iraq Programme. (Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: usinfo.state.gov) ----------------------- Wednesday February 23 10:10 AM ET Outgoing U.N. Official Leaves Iraq By WAIEL FALEH Associated Press Writer BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - The departing head of U.N. humanitarian operations in Iraq left the country Wednesday, headed for New York to discuss concerns over U.N. sanctions that led him to resign. Hans von Sponeck quit as the chief U.N. coordinator in Iraq earlier this month, saying sanctions were not working and the Iraqi people were suffering. Von Sponeck left early Wednesday for the 10-hour drive from Baghdad to Amman, the capital of neighboring Jordan. Amman is the nearest point from which von Sponeck could board a plane. Air travel to and from Iraq is banned under U.N. trade sanctions. Before boarding a plane in Amman, en route to New York via Vienna, Austria, he told reporters at the airport he would report on the situation in Iraq to the U.N. Security Council. ``We have to think how to lift sanctions which are punishing the wrong target,'' he said, adding that many of his colleagues who are witnessing the situation in Baghdad share his perception. U.N. sanctions have crippled the Iraqi economy, leaving ordinary Iraqis struggling to feed and clothe themselves. Von Sponeck wanted the Security Council to separate Iraq's humanitarian needs from its disarmament. On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in Australia that he will meet Von Sponeck in New York later this week. ``We will review the situation to see what steps can be taken to improve the situation,'' Annan told journalists in the Australian capital Tuesday. Annan said so-called ``smart sanctions'' may be the solution ``rather than making the population suffer.'' The sanctions target leaders and can do such things as freeze bank accounts. The Security Council also is planning to review the sanctions, which were imposed on Iraq for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. They can only be lifted when Iraq proves to the council it has rid itself of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as well as its long-range missiles. ----------------------- Wednesday February 23 8:28 AM ET Pope Makes 'Virtual' Iraq Trip VATICAN CITY (AP) - Denied a chance to visit the birthplace of Biblical patriarch Abraham in present-day Iraq, Pope John Paul II prayed in a ceremony at the Vatican Wednesday and watched a film of the desert site. The pope called the special ceremony a ``spiritual pilgrimage'' to honor the memory of ``our father in faith.'' The ceremony came a day before the pope departs for Egypt, with a stop at the foot of Mount Sinai, the first of his millennium trips to Biblical sites in the Middle East. John Paul had hoped to begin the tour in Ur, an ancient city believed to be the birthplace of Abraham. But the Iraqi trip fell through in December when Baghdad balked, telling the Vatican it was unable to organize the stop. Instead, John Paul presided over a ceremony including Biblical readings that the pope followed intently from a red throne on a stage, against a backdrop of ruins. ``This will be the first leg of that pilgrimage to sites linked to the history of salvation that I will continue tomorrow leaving for Egypt and Mount Sinai,'' John Paul said. ... ----------------------- Wednesday February 23 2:33 AM ET UN May Refine Iraq Sanctions to Help People-Annan WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Sanctions against Iraq could be refined to limit the suffering of the civilian population, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Wednesday. ``I will admit that sanctions are a blunt instrument and sometimes can hurt the civilian population who are not the intended targets,'' Annan told reporters in New Zealand, where he is on an official visit. He said that the Security Council was concerned about the hardships of ordinary Iraqis. ``That is why it established the oil-for-food program to be able to help the civilian population.'' Two U.N. officials resigned this month because of their concerns about the impact of sanctions -- Hans Von Sponeck who was responsible for the oil-for-food program and Jutta Burghardt who headed the World Food Program in Iraq. Annan said there were ongoing discussions about how the Council, and the U.N. as a whole, could use ``smart sanctions.'' ``Smart sanctions can take the form of closing the foreign bank accounts of the leaders concerned, refusing to give them visas to travel and other restrictions that directly affect them. ``Until the Council changes it's policy, we'll have to apply it as it is,'' Annan said. ``I would not say there is strong support (for such a change) at this time.'' ... ---------------------- Tuesday February 22 6:39 PM ET Iraqi Earnings Rise With Oil Price By LEON BARKHO Associated Press Writer BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - A handful of protein biscuits seems like too little, too late for Zakiya Abdulrahman's family. Nonetheless, the biscuits are a windfall for the pregnant woman with five children whose family's income is less than $1 per day - and they are possible only because of a rise in world oil prices. The costly oil means Iraq is earning more money under the U.N. oil-for-food program designed to let it skirt trade sanctions for the good of its people. Recently, that has meant a small improvement for Abdulrahman and nearly 5,000 other malnourished mothers and children in the low-income Baghdad neighborhood of Mashahda: six high protein biscuits a month per person. That is in addition to free rations of rice, flour, legumes, sugar and tea distributed under an earlier phase of the oil-for-food project. But Abdulrahman and her five children are still in dire need. Abdulrahman's husband earns his tiny income selling groceries from a cart. Her 11-month-old boy weighed 13 pounds - the norm for that age is almost 20 pounds - when a community care volunteer put him on an electronic scale. In the past three months, regular power cuts in Abdulrahman's neighborhood have lasted as long as 16 hours a day. Broken pipes inundate some streets with sewage. Children scour garbage heaps in search of used tin cans and bottles they can sell to recyclers. Such misery exists despite Iraq's oil reserves, and despite the fact that the price of the crude basket of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has risen from below $10 a barrel in 1998 to around $25 today. While the increase has boosted Iraq's revenues, it isn't doing much to help the country's poor because much of the money is either taken away or blocked by the United Nations, Iraqi officials say. ... All told, Iraq has sold about $22 billion worth of oil under the program, officials estimate. So far, though, the government has earmarked only $30 million of the proceeds to combat widespread malnutrition among children and pregnant and nursing mothers. Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz charges that his country is the last to benefit from the oil sales. He has said about $7.7 billion of total earnings have been funneled to a U.N. fund to compensate the victims of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. The money also covers U.N. expenses incurred in administering the program and dismantling Iraq's war machine. Tariq also says the U.N. sanctions committee is blocking Iraq from buying commodities for its people and its oil industry. He charges that commodities contracts worth more than $8 billion are either blocked or have not reached Iraq yet. In addition, about 15 percent of the revenues are earmarked for Iraq's Kurdish north, an area outside Baghdad's control. All of those subtractions together, Iraq says, leave few funds to do what the oil-for-food program was intended to do - help Iraqis. But U.S. and British diplomats say the Baghdad government hoards medicines instead of distributing them to hospitals and is refusing to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles. They maintain that in the absence of weapons monitors, Iraq will acquire equipment and spare parts to reinstate its weapons programs. Meanwhile, smuggled oil is pouring out of Iraq and onto the markets, the U.S. Navy says. Although smugglers sell for less than the legitimate market rate, their prices go up with world market prices. Smuggled oil revenues go straight to the Iraqi regime's coffers and can be used in any way Iraqi President Saddam Hussein sees fit, observers say. The wrangling between Iraq and the United Nations has taken its toll. Two senior U.N. relief officials in Baghdad resigned this week, frustrated at the disputes. The two, U.N. humanitarian coordinator Hans von Sponeck and U.N. World Food Program chief Jutta Burghardt, said they feared the spats between the sides will continue - and the suffering of innocent civilians will worsen. They also said they don't believe Iraq is trying to misuse the oil-for-food funds. ``We don't have the impression that there is a willful act'' on the part of the government to divert equipment to military use or hoard supplies, von Sponeck said. For Abdulrahman, like millions of other Iraqis, it is a political game for which she and her children are paying a heavy price. ----------------------- Tuesday February 22, 8:42 am Eastern Time INTERVIEW-Turkey needs arms to stop foreign threat By Jon Hemming ANKARA, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Turkey's defence minister said the country needs to buy new weapons to face possible external threats in an unstable region as well as to fight internal opposition. Sabahattin Cakmakoglu told Reuters in an interview that two huge tenders, for tanks and strike helicopters, would not be affected by an end to fighting with Abdullah Ocalan's Kurdish separatist rebels. ``I want to stress that it is wrong to think that we are only thinking of fighting internal terrorism,'' said Cakmakoglu. He said a defence executive committee would meet on March 6 to discuss the tender to buy 145 attack helicopters in a $4.5 billion deal. The committee of Cakmakoglu, the prime minister and chief of general staff will set a date for a final decision on the tender. The bidding firms are Italy's Agusta , Bell Helicopter Textron (NYSE:TXT - news) and Boeing (NYSE:BA - news) of the United States, the French-German Eurocopter and Kamov-A from Russia. HELICOPTERS POTENT AGAINST MOUNTAIN REBELS Analysts say the assault helicopters are the most potent weapon against Ocalan's Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels in the mountainous terrain of the mainly Kurdish southeast. But the U.S. congress has vetoed previous Turkish bids to add to its stock of about a dozen Super Cobra strike helicopters made by Bell, saying they would be used for internal oppression. ``If we examine the stance that our neighbours have taken for such a long time from a geostrategic point of view, Turkey doesn't just need the helicopters for fighting terrorism but to repel possible attacks from abroad,'' Cakmakoglu said. A combination of Ocalan's call on his guerrillas to stop fighting, and increased military success in the 15-year-old conflict, have led to an unprecedented fall in violence. ``Seeing that PKK terrorism has now been reduced to zero, we want to be prepared for the long term in view of Turkey's geographical position,'' the minister said. Turkey, on NATO's southeastern rim, is flanked by potentially unstable neighbours in the Caucasus, Iraq, Iran and Syria to the southeast, its traditional foe Greece to the west and the divided island of Cyprus off its southern shores. RUMBLE OVER TANKS Controversy has also dogged Turkey's plans to buy up to 1,000 battle tanks. Germany's junior coalition partners, the Greens, sparked a row in Berlin last year by opposing the export of a single Leopard II tank because of Turkey's poor human rights record. Germany's Krauss-Maffei Wegmann which makes the Leopard, along with General Dynamics (NYSE:GD - news), France's Giat, Italy's Iveco Fiat and a Ukrainian firm are bidding to clinch the deal, worth some $7.1 billion. The first stage of the order, for some 250 tanks, will be decided in July, Cakmakoglu said. He dismissed arguments over human rights as irrelevant because the tanks could not be used in the mountains against the PKK in any case. Turkey is not engaged in an arms build-up but simply updating its tank stock, he said. ``We now have around 3,500 tanks,'' he said. ``Many of these tanks need to be modernised from a technological point of view, especially from the point of view of electronic warfare. Some of these cannot be modernised and they are being replaced.'' He said the number of tanks Turkey eventually orders may change in line with the potential threats within the region. ``If every year the conditions change, the numbers could change also.'' ----------------------------- -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email firstname.lastname@example.org Full archive and list instructions are available from the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi