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News for 7 March, 2000 to 13 March, 2000



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.
------------------------

-- 
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