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News for 7 March, 2000 to 13 March, 2000 After the excitement of the last couple of weeks, the news this week is relatively quiet. However an important report has been released by the UN. See the first headline. Sources: Reuters, AP, ArabicNews.com * Annan warns that deteriorating state of Iraqi oil industry will jeopardize relief efforts, in a new report released on Monday. * Diplomatic squabble between Iraq and Poland. This is non-trivial because Warsaw runs the US interests department in Iraq. * At least two bombing raids this week. Possible civillian injuries. * Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan unambiguously asserts that Iraq will not co-operate with new UN weapons inspectors. * International Energy Association (IEA) warns that world oil inventories in rich countries are worryingly low. * US is considering allowing Iraq to import more spare parts for its oil industry. * Al Gore says that US is trying to oust Hussein. Note that in the article, Gore fails to mention that Iraq was probably a US ally at the time that the uncle of the person he's comforting, was murdered. * 17 UNMOVIC inspectors named. * An interesting article on a war veterans rally in Iran. * Some other bits and pieces. --------------------------- MARCH 13, 22:23 EST Annan Warns on Iraqi Oil Industry By NICOLE WINFIELD Associated Press Writer UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Iraq's oil industry will continue to deteriorate, jeopardizing U.N. relief operations, unless more spare parts are allowed into the country immediately, Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned in a report Monday. Annan called for the Security Council's sanctions committee to double the amount of spare parts Iraq can buy and to streamline its review of contracts for the equipment ``to offset permanent damage to oil-bearing structures in Iraq.'' The 63-page report details how low oil prices, bureaucratic delays and blocked contracts have undermined efforts to improve life for 22 million Iraqis living under U.N. trade sanctions. The U.N. oil-for-food program, launched in 1996 to ease the effects of sanctions on ordinary Iraqis, allows Baghdad to sell its oil through U.N.-monitored sales. The proceeds go mainly to buy food and medicine but $300 million every six months is earmarked to buy spare parts for Iraq's oil sector. While $6.7 billion in goods have arrived in Iraq since the program began, another $1.5 billion in contracts have been placed on ``hold'' — most for oil spare parts and equipment to upgrade Iraq's electricity sector and water sanitation system. The United States has placed the bulk of those contracts in limbo, saying it wants to make sure the goods aren't diverted for military use. ``The effectiveness of the program has suffered considerably not only due to shortfalls in the funding level, but also due to the very large number of applications placed on hold,'' Annan said in the report. Oil exports have fallen from 1999 levels by about 300,000 barrels per day, and Iraqi Oil Ministry officials say further reductions are likely unless oil sector spare parts are delivered quickly. The report said production could decline another 5 percent to 15 percent unless the delivery of spare parts is accelerated. ``The ability of the Iraqi oil industry to sustain the current reduced production levels will be seriously compromised, unless effective action is taken immediately to reverse the situation,'' it said. U.N. oil industry experts visited Iraq in January to assess the state of the industry and explore options for increasing production and exports. A State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States would continue to take a hard look at equipment bound for Iraq until U.N. weapons inspectors return, but would look positively on a recommendation to increase Iraq's spare parts quota. Annan said the $300 million every six months should be increased to $600 million. Annan also took the government of Iraq to task for failing to present a clear plan for the purchase and distribution of humanitarian supplies, and called on Baghdad to submit contracts to the United Nations faster. ... ------------------------------------ Exchange of accusations between Baghdad and Warsaw continues after examing Polish diplomatic bags Iraq, Politics, 3/13/2000 Iraq newly accused the Polish embassy in Baghdad, which runs the US interests department in Iraq, of obtaining prohibited technical devices and materials, among which are devices that work with infrared light. Warsaw previously accused the Iraqi authorities of opening the diplomatic bag for its embassy in Baghdad, which was denied by the master of ceremonies in the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, which sent for the Polish ambassador and delivered him a strongly-worded official protest note due to the embassy's admission of these devices. The Iraqi ministry accused the Polish embassy of committing actions that contradict the Vienna accord for the year 1961. ------------------------------------ MARCH 12, 09:22 EST Iraq Leader Rules Out Cooperation By LEON BARKHO Associated Press Writer BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — Iraq will not cooperate with the U.N. bid to resume stalled weapons inspections at Iraqi sites, a senior leader said in a radio interview Sunday. Other senior Iraqi government officials have said Iraq might compromise if the U.N. Security Council modifies its resolution calling for new inspections. But Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan ruled out that possibility in the Sunday interview. ``To say Iraq has not categorically rejected the resolution is a misleading statement,'' Ramadan told French-sponsored, Arabic-language Radio Monte Carlo. The interview was monitored in Baghdad. ... ------------------------------------- MARCH 11, 15:50 EST Iraq Reports 8 Hurt in U.S. Raid BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — U.S. and British warplanes attacked targets in southern Iraq on Saturday, injuring eight civilians, the official Iraqi News Agency reported. The agency did not specify the nature of the targets hit or their location, but it said the planes flew over sites in the provinces of Basra, Dhiqar, Muthana, Najaf and Missan. ``Our anti-air missiles and artillery fired at the (enemy) air formations and forced them to leave our airspace,'' a spokesman for the Iraqi Air Defense Force said, according to the agency. U.S. and British officials had no immediate confirmation of the strikes. Their warplanes have struck Iraqi targets frequently in response, officials say, to Iraqi air defenses opening fire on the jets. The Iraqi agency also said U.S. and British jets entered Iraqi airspace in the north, but reported no incident. British officials said they had no comment on any strikes. ... ------------------------------------ MARCH 11, 09:06 EST Energy Panel: Oil Reserve Dwindling By BRUCE STANLEY AP Business Writer LONDON (AP) — The world's richest countries have depleted their oil inventories to the lowest levels seen in four years, a widely read survey said Friday, reinforcing concerns that motorists will soon be paying even stiffer prices to fill their tanks. Pinched profit margins for oil refineries have caused a slowdown in the production of gasoline and other products, and this delay could lead to gas shortages during the peak driving season this summer, the International Energy Agency reported. World output of oil increased in February by a slight 0.3 percent to 75 million barrels per day. However, drastic reductions in oil inventories in the United States, Europe and Japan have created a shortfall in global petroleum supplies of about 2.5 million barrels per day, said David Knapp, editor of the IEA's monthly oil report. This shortfall is expected to widen in the during the second half of 2000, when consumer demand historically rises, first for gas and later for home heating oil. ``We are quite concerned,'' Knapp said from his office in Paris. For motorists, the report's implications are bleak. Americans are already paying nearly $1.50 for a gallon of gasoline, compared to prices of less than $1 last winter. Average U.S. retail gas prices of $1.80 and even $2 per gallon are looming on the horizon, warned Roger Diwan of The Petroleum Finance Company, a consultancy based in Washington. ``You need to build stocks and you need to be able to run your refineries at a higher rate in order to meet the higher demand,'' Diwan said. The IEA report reinforces a prediction by the U.S. Energy Department issued earlier this week that gas prices could spike at $1.75 to $1.80 this summer because production isn't keeping pace with demand. The IEA is part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group of the world's wealthiest countries. Its report underscores the importance of the March 27 meeting in Venice of oil ministers of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. OPEC is worried about the recent price volatility, and analysts now expect the group to ease some of the production cuts that it made in 1998 and 1999 to boost historically low prices. OPEC members have refused to specify the likely size of any increase.John Toalster of SG Securities in London predicted a ``fairly cautious'' addition of a maximum 1.5 million barrels per day. The likelihood that OPEC would boost output improved this week when Iran, one of the group's staunchest price hawks, appeared to express support for increased production. However, analysts suggested that OPEC is not likely to pump enough barrels for importers to meet current demand while also replenishing oil inventories. The IEA noted that inventories in rich countries have slipped to their lowest level since the early spring of 1996. Heavy consumption should ease somewhat in the second quarter, but demand will pick up again toward summer, it said. These factors have contributed to volatile oil prices. Crude has surged from $10.72 a barrel on Dec. 10, 1998, reaching a 9-year high of $34.37 during after-hours trading Tuesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. At late afternoon in New York, light sweet crude for April delivery was trading at $31.76 per barrel, up 7 cents. Heating oil prices doubled in some parts of the northeastern United States this winter, and U.S. gasoline prices have neared $1.50 a gallon. In London, a contract of North Sea Brent crude for April delivery was trading at $29 per barrel on the International Petroleum Exchange, down 29 cents from Thursday's close. OPEC boosted production last month by 540,000 barrels per day, with Iraq and Nigeria accounting for much of the increase, the IEA said. OPEC was 74 percent compliant with its output cuts in February, down slightly from a revised compliance rate for January of 78 percent. However, the IEA warned that several OPEC members, including Venezuela — the group's No. 3 producer — are already at or near their production limits. The report blamed the lack of spare capacity on a dearth of investment in new equipment during 1998, when oil prices and revenues were much lower. The impact of the report, said Peter Gignoux, head of the petroleum desk at Salomon Smith Barney in London, was to fire ``warning shots all over the place.'' (IEA site: http://www.iea.org) ------------------------------------ U.S. Could Back More Oil Spare Parts for Iraq Friday, March 10, 2000 By Jonathan Wright WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States could support a proposal to let Iraq import more parts and equipment for its oil industry, official sources said on Friday. But first it wants to study U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's report to the U.N. Security Council on the state of the world body's oil-for-food program in Iraq, U.S officials said. The report, due in the first half of next week, is expected to recommend doubling the allocation for oil industry spare parts and equipment to $600 million for each six-month phase of the program, U.N. diplomats said. "When we look at this, we're going to act on the basis of demonstrated humanitarian need," said one U.S. official. But the U.S. official added that as early as December the U.N. Security Council, of which the United States is the most powerful member, said it was willing to consider an increase in the allocation of funds for imports of oil industry spare parts and equipment. "They (the United States) want to do what we can to ease the humanitarian plight of the Iraqi people and if there's a bandwagon (for a higher allocation for spare parts), they're not going to stand in the way," a Western diplomat said. More spare parts eventually would lead to higher oil exports by Iraq and more money that Iraq could spend on food, medicine and the other humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. Iraq cannot legally sell oil outside the oil-for-food program and the United Nations controls the proceeds. The Iraqi government earns revenue illegally by smuggling refined oil products into neighboring countries. U.S. WILLING TO EXPEDITE PROCESS On the separate but related question of delays in approving contracts for oil spare parts and equipment, the U.S. officials said again that they were ready to streamline and expedite the process of approving Iraqi requests. In the last four six-month periods, including the current period, Iraq has submitted 2,207 contracts for oil spare parts to the United Nations, with a total value of $1.25 billion. The United Nations has approved 1,143 contracts worth $598 million and put 572 contracts worth $331 million on hold. The well-informed Middle East Economic Survey said this week that the State Department is assigning more personnel to review the Iraqi contracts to speed up the process. A State Department official declined to comment on that report. But he added: "If there's a way to expedite the process, we have said we are willing to do what we can." "They (the Americans) won't admit it but they are looking to make the process smoother. It doesn't add up to a change in overall policy, but it will add up to a change in oil spares," said a Western diplomat who asked not to be named. In return, the United States would like the United Nations to improve its monitoring of how Iraq uses the oil spare parts and equipment, some of which, known as "dual-use items," could be useful in programs to make weapons of mass destruction. "If the U.N. can tell us (Western countries) the end-use and make assurances that they (the spare parts) are not being used for divergent uses, we would be more likely to approve more of these contracts," the Western diplomat said. The United States also will continue to look closely at Iraqi requests for oil refinery parts, which could enable the country to increase the quantity of refined products it sells abroad outside the U.N. system, a U.S. official said. The United States says Iraqi President Saddam Hussein uses the revenues from these sales to spoil the Iraqi elite and shore up support for his government. ------------------------------------ MARCH 09, 15:40 EST U.S. Jets Bomb Iraqi Defense System ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — U.S. warplanes bombed an Iraqi air-defense system Thursday after Iraq fired artillery and targeted the planes with radar during their patrol of the northern no-fly zone, the U.S. military said. Iraq said the strikes injured a civilian. Iraqi forces fired anti-aircraft artillery from a site north of Bashiqah and targeted the allied planes with radar from a site northwest of Tall Afar, according to a statement by the Germany-based U.S. European Command. Tall Afar is 250 miles north of Baghdad, and Bashiqah is 42 miles farther east. All planes left the area safely, the statement said. The planes are based in the southern Turkish base of Incirlik. Iraq's state-run television said the U.S. and British warplanes attacked ``service and civilian'' sites Thursday, injuring one civilian. It said the planes flew over the northern provinces of Dohuk, Irbil and Mosul and fled back to Turkey after being confronted by surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft fire. It gave no other details. U.S. and British planes have been enforcing no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq since shortly after the 1991 Gulf War to protect Shiite Muslims and Kurds from the forces of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. ... ------------------------------------ U.N. Secretary-General Names Iraqi Weapons Commission Advisors (Einhorn named U.S. representative) By Judy Aita Washington File United Nations Correspondent United Nations -- Secretary General Kofi Annan sent to the Security = Council March 8 a list of 17 weapons experts to serve on the new board of commissioners to advise the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspections Commission (UNMOVIC) for Iraq. In the resolution establishing UNMOVIC as the successor for the UN = Special Commission overseeing the destruction of Iraqi weapons (UNSCOM), the secretary general was instructed to consult with the council on the = group of advisors, called the College of Commissioners. UNMOVIC Chairman Hans Blix of Sweden, who assumed his post on March 1, will head the group. The commissioners are expected to meet several = times a year to review UNMOVIC's reports to the council. Robert Einhorn, assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation and a former State Department arms control advisor, is the U.S. representative = on the commission. Other commissioners are: Gunterio Heineken of Argentina, professor of rocket and gun propulsion at the Technical High School of the Army; = Roque Monteleone-Neto of Brazil, a University of Sao Paulo professor and = Brazil's technical adviser for the biological weapons convention; Paul Schulte of Britain, defense ministry director for proliferation and arms control; Ronald Cleminson of Canada, an expert on monitoring and verification of dangerous weapons; Cong Guang of China, deputy director of the foreign ministry's department of international organizations; Marjatta Rautio of Finland, chemical weapons expert at the Finnish Institute for = Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention; Therese Delpech of France, Atomic Energy Commission director for strategic affairs; Reinhard Boehm of = Germany, University of Hohenheim scientist who worked on issues connected with anthrax; Annaswamy Narayana Prasad of India, former director of the = Bhabha Atomic Research Center; Ambassador Takanori Kazuhara of Japan, former director of the foreign ministry's disarmament division; Adigun Ade = Abjodan of Nigeria, special assistant to the president of Nigeria on space, = science, and technology; Ambassador Yuri Fedotov of Russia, director of the = foreign ministry's international organizations department; Ambassador Cheikh = Sylla of Senegal, member of the group that drafted the treaty on Africa's = nuclear weapons free zone; Ambassador Kostyantyn Gryshchenko, chairman of the national committee on disarmament; and Hannelore Hoope, chief of the = United Nations disarmament division dealing with weapons of mass destruction. (The Washington File is a product of the Office of International = Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: usinfo.state.gov) ------------------------------------ Wednesday March 8, 6:27 am Eastern Time FOCUS-Iraq against immediate OPEC output increase (Adds more quotes, comments on OPEC's post) By Hassan Hafidh BAGHDAD, March 8 (Reuters) - Iraqi Oil Minister Amir Muhammed Rasheed said OPEC should not hike output after March because world demand would fall by two to three million barrels per day (bpd) in the second and third quarters of the year. Rasheed added in remarks published on Wednesday he did not expect the oil cartel to increase its output at its policy-making meeting on March 27 in Vienna. ``I believe that the meeting will postpone a decision of increasing output to a further time,'' he was quoted as saying by the government newspaper al-Jumhouriya. ``If we have to discuss an oil output increase, such a subject should be tackled during another OPEC ministerial meeting, maybe at the end of summer,'' he was quoted as saying. Asked if Iraq would agree to an increase of OPEC output during the next meeting, Rasheed told the paper: ``Iraq's position is clear that it does not agree with such proposal.'' ``We are heading toward the second and third quarters of 2000 when world demand would fall by two to three million barrels per day,'' Rasheed said. Prices have roared higher in the past year thanks to output cuts orchestrated by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-OPEC producers such as Mexico. The cuts have severely drained oil inventories and created worries of a gasoline supply shortage in the United States just ahead of the summer driving season. The United States, which uses a fifth of the world's oil, has repeatedly urged OPEC to raise output substantially when it meets in Vienna on March 27 to set output levels from April 1. But Rasheed said Iraq considered current oil prices as ``suitable and acceptable if compared with prices over the last 10 years.'' Iraq does not take part in the group's output restrictions because it is still under United Nations economic sanctions imposed in response to its invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The Iraqi Minister accused the United States of pressuring some OPEC members to raise production, referring to recent statements by U.S. President Bill Clinton and a visit by U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson to some Gulf OPEC members. Clinton has warned OPEC that its members could face sliding demand and eventually less revenue if prices remain high. U.S. crude oil futures surged by $1.95 per barrel -- or five percent -- on Tuesday to $34.13. The price was the highest since November 1990, three months after Iraq invaded Kuwait. Rasheed said Iraq would stick to its nomination of an Iraqi diplomat to the post of OPEC's secretary-general. He said the Iraqi nominee, Abdul-Amir al-Anbari, should be elected because he came from an independent state. Anbari, a veteran Iraqi diplomat, is running against candidates from arch foes Saudi Arabia and Iran. The elected candidate must be chosen unanimously by the 11-member organisation. But Rasheed said Baghdad would endorse any candidate who came from an independent state which was not influenced by U.S. hegemony, a clear reference to Saudi Arabia, Iraq's 1991 Gulf War foe. --------------------------------------------------------------------- MARCH 08, 22:13 EST Gore: US Trying To Oust Hussein By SANDRA SOBIERAJ Associated Press Writer DETROIT (AP) — Vice President Al Gore assured a young Iraqi-American man, who lamented that his Christian relatives had been starved and murdered in Iraq, that the United States is trying to have Saddam Hussein removed from power. ``It's been maybe 10 years now that I haven't seen a smile from my parents or any emotion due to lost relatives in the country,'' Jason Kado, 19, told Gore at a forum with undecided Michigan voters. Kado, who said his uncle — part of Iraq's Caldian Christian minority — was killed by the Iraqi military and that his cousins died of malnutrition, asked Gore what he would do as president to end Saddam's dictatorship and the international sanctions tied to his reign. ``Saddam Hussein is the reason for this suffering,'' Gore said in a sympathetic tone. ``We have tried to remove him. We are now engaged in some efforts that we're not talking about publicly but, no doubt, you've seen (them) reported in the newspapers.'' He went on to reiterate his support for continuing sanctions against Iraq, with their exemption for food and medical supplies. ``If I am entrusted with the presidency, I will move Heaven and earth to bring an end to the suffering; it has gone on too long.'' But, Gore added, ``We can't go in there without troops'' and impose a change in government. Kado told a reporter after the forum that Gore's answer was half-satisfying. ``I wanted to hear that Iraq would be the next democracy ... that the United States would use its power,'' he said. ``But he at least made an attempt to please me.'' In the question-and-answer session, convened three days before Michigan's Democratic caucuses, Gore also was asked about peace in Kosovo and Northern Ireland. He reported slow progress in Kosovo but offered a vague pledge to ``continue our commitment to see this process through to a conclusion that is respectful of the people and their aspirations for peace with security.'' On Northern Ireland, he said he would like to follow President Clinton's precedent with his own peace missions to Belfast and Dublin. ``I will never give up until our country succeeds in facilitating the completion of this peace process. I think it's that important,'' Gore said. ----------------------------------------- MARCH 08, 15:12 EST 17 Picked to Guide Iraq Arms Agency By EDITH M. LEDERER Associated Press Writer UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Kofi Annan has selected 17 commissioners to advise the new U.N. agency in charge of weapons inspections and disarmament in Iraq. A list of those chosen for the proposed College of Commissioners was circulated Wednesday, and it included experts on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and disarmament issues from five continents. The list included one American, Robert Einhorn, the assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation. Undersecretary-General for Disarmament Jayantha Dhanapala sent a letter to all 15 Security Council members saying the secretary-general had selected commissioners after consultations with the new commission's executive chairman, Hans Blix. He asked for their response by the close of business Thursday, but the Security Council does not have the power to reject any appointee. Diplomats said most members were proposed by their governments. The commissioners will meet regularly to review the performance of the new U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission in overseeing destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Under a Security Council resolution passed in December that created UNMOVIC, the new commissioners also are charged with providing ``professional advice and guidance'' to Blix. Blix, a former Swedish foreign minister who later headed the International Atomic Energy Agency, also would serve as one of the 17 commissioners. So would three commissioners who advised the previous U.N. weapons inspection agency, the U.N. Special Commission known as UNSCOM. Einhorn, the American, would replace Charles Duelfer, UNSCOM's former deputy chairman who also served as a commissioner. After Iraqi troops were forced out of Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf War, the Security Council charged UNSCOM and the IAEA with the responsibility of overseeing the destruction of Baghdad's biological, chemical and nuclear weapons and the missiles necessary to deliver them. Weapons inspectors from both agencies left Iraq in December 1998 ahead of U.S. and British airstrikes, which were carried out to punish Iraq for failing to cooperate with the inspectors. Iraq barred UNSCOM from returning, and after much debate, the Security Council adopted a new Iraq policy and created the new commission. The 17 commissioners come from more developing countries than on previous boards, reflecting concerns by China and others that the new agency include greater geographical diversity. Each of the five permanent members of the Security Council have one member in the proposed panel. Those chosen also include experts from Brazil, India, Nigeria, Senegal and Ukraine. When Blix started his job last week, he said he plans to conduct aggressive inspections and urged Iraq to give his new arms experts free access to suspected weapons sites. He said he would be advised by the new commissioners, but that in the end he would make independent decisions about the status of Iraq's disarmament. Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan has said Baghdad would not accept new U.N. weapons inspectors, but other Iraqi officials have left open the possibility for compromise if the Security Council makes some unspecified changes in its new Iraq policy. ------------------------ MARCH 08, 11:57 EST Saddam's Son To Run for Seat By LEON BARKHO Associated Press Writer BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — President Saddam Hussein's eldest son is running for a seat in parliament in this month's elections, state-run newspapers reported Wednesday. Odai Hussein's name was among the list of 135 candidates allowed to run for about 60 seats representing Baghdad in the March 27 poll for the 250-member National Assembly. The election lists were published in all newspapers with no information on the candidates' background or platforms. Campaigning is minimal as rallies, television debates and media advertising are banned in this nation of 22 million. But candidates can directly canvass voters and distribute leaflets. Odai owns Iraq's most influential daily newspaper and several weeklies and his Shebab or Youth Television has a widest audience. He commands the paramilitary force, Saddam's Feddayeen, which is entrusted with defending the government against opponents. He is also head of the National Olympic Committee, the Journalists Union and the Youth Federation. In December 1996, Odai barely escaped an assassination attempt in which he was seriously wounded. He underwent several operations and his condition has improved. He was recently shown on television swimming and walking without assistance. ------------------------ MARCH 07, 19:05 EST Iran-Iraq War Veterans Rally By AFSHIN VALINEJAD Associated Press Writer TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Hundreds of veterans of the Iran-Iraq war rallied Tuesday during a visit by Germany's foreign minister, demanding compensation for injuries they said Berlin helped cause during the conflict. Despite the protest, Joschka Fischer said he sensed that Iran ``wanted to leave the confrontations of the past behind and make a new start,'' following the overwhelming victory by reformers in recent parliamentary elections here. ``German-Iranian relations have a new chance,'' Fischer told reporters after he had returned to Berlin. ``There may be setbacks, but we should not let that deter us.'' The electoral setback for hard-line, anti-Western leaders has ``created an opportunity for us that we must fully exploit,'' Fischer said. ``This opportunity was created by the people of Iran. We look at this development very positively and intend to exploit it suitably.'' In the past, Iranian officials have repeated the accusation that Germany provided Iraq with chemical weapons during the war. More than 1 million people on both sides are estimated to have died in the conflict Fischer did not mention the protesters, but German officials have previously said that the country never authorized the export of goods that can be used directly for production of chemical weapons. Germany has prosecuted German businessmen for conducting such sales to Iraq on behalf of private companies. Dozens in the crowd of about 300 that gathered at the German Embassy in Tehran appeared to have been victims of chemical attacks that Iraq allegedly conducted during the war. Some walked with canes, some wore masks hooked up to small oxygen tanks they carried with them, and others had gruesome burn marks on their face or arms. After about an hour and a half, the demonstrators left peacefully. Earlier Tuesday Fischer, whose visit is aimed at recovering lost ground and strengthening ties, met with Mohammad Khatami. ``We've had our difficulties, but I hope that this is now in the past,'' Fischer said in Germany. ``We hope for better relations, also between the European Union and Iran.'' Iranian-German relations were strained over the two-year ordeal of German businessman Helmut Hofer who was twice sentenced to death in Iran for an illicit relationship with a 26-year-old Iranian medical student, but was finally acquitted and released from prison in January. His release was widely seen as a prelude for a visit to Germany by Khatami. Fischer said that one of the aims of his visit was to prepare the grounds for a visit by Khatami, but he did not say whether a date had been decided. ------------------------ -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email firstname.lastname@example.org Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi