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News for March 26

Section Six

(1)Sen. Lott says Iraq missile plant report alarming
WASHINGTON, March 26 (Reuters)
(2)New strain of foot-and-mouth disease detected in Iraq
BAGHDAD (AP)March 26.
(3)Embargo killed almost 10,000 in February, Iraq claims. Nando Times. March
(4)FOCUS-Saddam sees first UN Iraq official since war. BAGHDAD, March 26
(5)Saddam bids farewell to departing U.N. humanitarian chief
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) March 26.
(6)U.S. Eases Stand on Spending By Iraq
By Colum Lynch
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday , March 25, 2000 ; A17
(7)Iraq Protests to U.N. Over U.S.-British Air Strikes
BAGHDAD (Reuters)March 26
(8)Iraq denies U.S. charge it wastes money on base
BAGHDAD, March 26 (Reuters)
(9)Iraq wants its civilian planes returned
BAGHDAD, March 26 (Reuters)


:03/26/2000 15:55:00 ET
Sen. Lott says Iraq missile plant report alarming

WASHINGTON, March 26 (Reuters) - The United States should be  prepared to
take military action if it confirms Iraq is  financing the construction of a
ballistic-missile plant in North  Africa, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott
said Sunday.
A report by New York Times columnist William Safire that  Iraq and North
Korea may be working together to build such a  facility near Khartoum, the
capital of Sudan, was "alarming and  chilling," Lott said on NBC's "Meet the

"If we confirm that this is going in Khartoum, we should be  prepared to
take action against that. And I'm talking about  military action," the
Mississippi Republican said.

In a column on Thursday, Safire said the missile deal has  been rumoured in
American intelligence circles for months.

According to an unidentified source, Iraq would provide $475  million in
financing for the plant, which would be built by the  cash-starved North
Koreans, Safire said.

Former U.N. Chief Weapons Inspector Richard Butler told NBC  circumstantial
evidence suggests the report could be true.

"The bottom line is, they're doing it again," Butler said,  referring to
Iraq. "They're trying to break out in the vital  area of longer-range

Iraq has not allowed U.N. weapons inspectors into the  country since
U.S.-British bombing raids in December 1998.

"It would be utter folly not to assume they are back in the  business of
making chemical and biological warheads for such  missiles," Butler said.

Lott said the United States should do everything in its  power to get U.N.
arms inspectors back into Iraq.

"I think we should be prepared to take very aggressive  action," Lott said.
"We should ask our allies, including  Russia, to join us obviously."

The U.N. Security Council in December set up a new  disarmament agency and
offered to ease sanctions on Iraq if it  cooperated and allowed U.N. weapons

That is not likely to happens unless the United States and  the other "great
powers stand together and make crystal clear  that weapons of mass
destruction must not be the subject of  politics as unusual," Butler said.

On a related issue, Lott said he was disturbed by the United  States'
growing reliance on oil from Iraq and the leverage that  gives Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein.

"We're becoming more dependent on his oil and he has the  temerity to
threaten us that he would cut it off," Lott said.

Heading into a meeting of OPEC oil ministers in Vienna on  Monday, Iraq has
said it would increase production and exports  by about 700,000 barrels per
day over the next few weeks to  reach its full output capacity of 3.1
million bpd.

Meanwhile, the United States has proposed doubling the  amount of oil
equipment Iraq can buy under U.N. sanctions to  upgrade its dilapidated


New strain of foot-and-mouth disease detected in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq learned on Saturday that a new strain of the cattle
disorder foot-and-mouth disease had been detected in the country, following
an outbreak last year that reached disastrous levels before treatment could
be started.
This time, Amir Khalil, representative of the U.N. Food and Agriculture
Organisation in Iraq, said he hoped for a faster response from the U.N.
committee that monitors Iraq's import of vaccines and other goods. The
disease could spread to neighbouring countries, he added.

Under U.N. sanctions imposed for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Iraq can
import only food, medicine and other essentials, and only under U.N.

The United States, one member of the monitoring committee, has been
responsible for most of the holds on imports, saying it is concerned some
materials that have agricultural, medical or other uses also could be used
to produce chemical or biological weapons.

The sanctions are to remain until Iraq convinces the United Nations it has
eliminated its weapons of mass destruction and the ability to produce and
deliver them.

By the time vaccines reached Iraq during the last foot-and-mouth outbreak,
thousands of sheep and cows had died.

Fadhil A. Jassim, director general of the Veterinary Services in the
Agriculture Ministry, said the 1998-99 outbreak was a “disaster” for the
Iraqi economy.

Tim Obi, an FAO consultant in Iraq, said he alerted the Iraqi Agriculture
Ministry to the foot-and-mouth outbreak on Saturday and said vaccines now
available would be useless against the new strain.

Obi said realisation that there was a second strain was delayed by the lack
of testing facilities in Iraq.

Iraq's testing capabilities were destroyed along with other facilities U.N.
inspectors believed produced banned weapons, Jassim said.

Foot-and-mouth disease eats at the skin, tongues and lips, causes foot
lesions and makes the animals' milk, meat and skin useless. Infected animals
can neither eat nor walk.

Embargo killed almost 10,000 in February, Iraq claims
Copyright © 2000 Nando Media
Copyright © 2000 Agence France-Press

BAGHDAD (March 26, 2000 9:36 a.m. EST - U.N.
sanctions killed almost 10,000 Iraqis in February, raising the death toll
>from the decade-old embargo to 1.2 million people, Iraq's health ministry
claimed Sunday.

It said 6,939 children died last month from acute diarrhea, respiratory
problems and malnutrition.

Common causes of death for adults were heart problems, hypertension,
diabetes and malignant tumors. It said the overall death toll in February
due to shortages caused by the embargo was 9,989, down from more than 11,000
the previous month.

The sanctions have been in force since Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990.


03/26/2000 15:17:00 ET
FOCUS-Saddam sees first UN Iraq official since war

BAGHDAD, March 26 (Reuters) - President Saddam Hussein on  Sunday met an
Iraq-based U.N. official for the first time since  the 1991 Gulf War,
receiving the U.N. relief coordinator who is  quitting shortly in protest at
the plight of sanctions-battered  Iraqis.
Saddam met Hans von Sponeck, who announced in February that  he would leave
his post on March 31 after he criticised what he  called the failure of the
U.N.-mandated oil-for-food programme  in Iraq to offset privations caused by
post-Gulf War sanctions.

It was the first time Saddam had received a U.N. official  based in his
country since the Gulf War. The Iraqi leader met  U.N. Secretary General
Kofi Annan in Baghdad in February 1998 in  connection with a standoff over
U.N.-mandated arms inspections  that led to U.S.-led air strikes on Iraq
later that year.

Von Sponeck, a 32-year career U.N. official, caused a  diplomatic stir --
riling major sanctions proponent the United  States in particular -- when he
said the programme had not met  the minimum humanitarian requirements of 22
million Iraqis.

"I feel very sad that I am leaving Iraq on Wednesday but my  relations with
the Iraqis will continue," the official Iraqi  news agency INA quoted von
Sponeck, a German, as saying in his  meeting with Saddam.

"My resignation was not easy but I have decided to do so  because what is
happening in Iraq is a big mistake. I have  resigned not because of outside
pressure, rather my conscience  has pressed me to do so."

U.S. officials accused von Sponeck of siding with Iraq in a  propaganda
battle over who is to blame for the suffering of the  Iraqi people -- the
West, for imposing harsh economic sanctions,  or Saddam for failing to
comply with the disarmament terms  required for lifting those sanctions.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, addressing the Security  Council in a
debate on Friday, called for improvements in the  oil-for-food programme
that allows Iraq to buy essential  supplies with U.N. approval. Annan said
changes were especially  needed for Iraqi children.

Von Sponeck said a few weeks ago that the programme provided  an average of
only $252 per Iraqi annually, putting Iraq "in  the category of a least
developed country."

Iraq has been the target of punishing U.N. sanctions since  its 1990
invasion of Kuwait, which was reversed by a U.S.-led  multinational force in
the Gulf War.

The sanctions can be eased only when Iraq's weapons of mass  destruction
have been accounted for and scrapped. But U.N. arms  inspectors have not
been allowed back into the country for more  than a year.

WIRE:03/26/2000 17:12:00 ET
Saddam bids farewell to departing U.N. humanitarian chief

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ The outgoing head of the U.N. humanitarian  program in
Iraq on Sunday said his criticism of sanctions against  the country was not
an attempt to whitewash the regime of Iraqi  leader Saddam Hussein.
Hans Von Sponeck, who has frequently spoken out against  international
sanctions on Iraq, said that on Sunday he and Saddam  had "a very
philosophical discussion about the tragedy of his  people."

"The comprehensive sanctions as practiced against Iraq have  failed," Von
Sponeck said.

The official Iraqi News Agency said Saddam told Von Sponeck  "your stand
expresses a lot about the situation."

But Von Sponeck stressed that while he and the Iraqi government  had come to
the same conclusion about the U.N. sanctions, it was  "for different

Iraq has tried to capitalize on his resignation, with state  media
describing him as an honest and courageous man who refused to  bend to the
United States, the main advocate of maintaining  sanctions.

"I'm not a useful idiot. I'm not a person who's just following  the Iraqi
government line," Von Sponeck said.

His very public denunciation of international sanctions "does  not mean I
don't see that there are internal reasons" for the  situation in Iraq, Von
Sponeck said.

Von Sponeck said Saddam had welcomed him back to Iraq anytime.  "The
president said I don't need a visa anymore," Von Sponeck  told The
Associated Press.

Von Sponeck is due to leave Iraq on Wednesday because he is  stepping down
as chief coordinator of U.N. aid programs in Iraq.  The German announced his
resignation last month in protest at the  devastating effects of the U.N.
sanctions imposed since Iraq  invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Von Sponeck has also criticized the oil-for-food program, which  he said
does not meet the most basic needs of Iraq's 22 million  people. He was
responsible for administering the $10.5 billion  program, which allows Iraq
to sell oil and use the revenues for  humanitarian goods to ease civilian
suffering that has resulted  from the sanctions.

Increasingly, aid workers, politicians and others have  questioned whether
the cost of the sanctions _ deprivation for  millions of ordinary Iraqis _
is worth the goal of forcing the  Iraqi government to surrender its weapons
of mass destruction.

The sweeping trade, travel and cultural sanctions must remain in  place
until Iraq persuades U.N. weapons inspectors it has destroyed  its nuclear,
chemical and biological weapons and the ability to  produce and deliver
them. But there have been no U.N. inspectors in  Iraq for more than a year,
and attempts to restart checks have  stalled.

Days after Von Sponeck announced his resignation, the head of  the U.N.
World Food Program in Iraq also quit in protest against  the sanctions.

U.S. Eases Stand on Spending By Iraq

By Colum Lynch
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday , March 25, 2000 ; A17

UNITED NATIONS, March 24 –– The United States agreed today to double the
amount of money Iraq is allowed to spend repairing its oil industry and
lifted "holds" on more than $100 million in electrical equipment, vehicles,
truck batteries and other items destined for Iraq under an exemption to U.N.
The U.S. action came as the U.N. Security Council began an assessment of the
humanitarian needs of ordinary Iraqis after nearly a decade of sanctions
imposed in response to Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. By showing some
flexibility, the United States hopes to bolster support for keeping the
sanctions in place until Iraq abandons its nuclear, chemical and biological
weapons programs and accounts for hundreds of Kuwaiti prisoners of war.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan complained that the United States was
holding up $1.7 billion of Iraqi purchases under the "oil for food" program,
an exemption that allows Iraq to use proceeds from oil sales to buy
humanitarian supplies.

"The United Nations has always been on the side of the vulnerable and weak .
. . yet here we are accused of causing suffering to an entire population,"
Annan told the Security Council. "We are in danger of losing the argument or
propaganda war--if we haven't lost it already--about who is responsible for
this situation, President Saddam Hussein or the United Nations."

In Washington, meanwhile, the State Department released satellite
photographs of a military complex that it said the Iraqi government built
for an Iranian opposition group, wasting millions of dollars that could have
been spent improving the welfare of the Iraqi people. But the Iranian group,
the People's Mojahedin, called the U.S. allegation "an absolute lie" and
said it built the headquarters with its own funds.

At the United Nations, France, China and Russia also delivered stinging
attacks on the United States and Britain for subjecting Iraqi purchases to
painstaking scrutiny and conducting frequent airstrikes against Iraqi
targets. Sergei Lavrov, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, charged
that U.S. and British aircraft have "invaded Iraqi airspace almost 20,000"
times since December 1998. "As a result of airstrikes, 144 civilians have
died," he said.

American and British war planes patrolling the "no-fly" zones over northern
and southern Iraq routinely exchange fire with Iraqi antiaircraft batteries.
But U.S. and British diplomats challenged the death toll, saying it was
based on dubious Iraqi claims. "This is not a bombing campaign," said James
B. Cunningham, the deputy U.S. representative to the United Nations. "We are
responding to threats to our aircraft. When the threats stop, there is no

03/26/2000 12:03:00 ET
Iraq Protests to U.N. Over U.S.-British Air Strikes

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq Sunday protested to the United  Nations about a
British and American air strike on March 11 in  which it says eight
civilians were injured.
The official Iraqi News Agency quoted a letter sent by  Foreign Minister
Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf to U.N.  Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the
chairman of the U.N.  Security Council.

It said six of those injured in the attack, near Lake Sawa,  190 miles south
of Baghdad, were civil servants and the other  two were farmers.

The letter said Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Turkey, which let  British and
American planes fly from their territory, must share  responsibility for
"these aggressive and provocative acts."

U.S. and British planes patrol no-fly zones over southern  and northern Iraq
set up after the 1991 Gulf War. The zones,  which the Baghdad government
does not recognize, were imposed to  protect a Kurdish enclave in the north
and Shi'ite Muslims in  the south from possible attacks by Iraqi forces.

The Western planes have bombed targets in the zones  frequently since Iraq
stepped up its defiance of the  Western-imposed restrictions in December

Iraq reported the March 11 incident at the time.

Locals said missiles had destroyed a farm and some 40 date  palms on the
edge of the impoverished village of al-Fahad, 12  miles from Samawa, the
capital of Muthanna province.

There was no comment at the time from Britain or the United  States,
although U.S. officials say their planes only fire when  tracked by Iraqi
radar, and seek to avoid civilian targets.


03/26/2000 07:04:00 ET
Iraq denies U.S. charge it wastes money on base

BAGHDAD, March 26 (Reuters) - Iraq added its voice on Sunday to denials of a
U.S. accusation that it is wasting money on a military complex near Baghdad
for exiled Iranian opposition fighters.
The Baghdad press said the charge made on Friday by the U.S. State
Department, which said the money could have been used to improve the welfare
of the Iraqi people, was a lie.
"Such a big lie is part of the American dirty and mean role which aims at
inciting outbreaks of discord," newspapers quoted the Iraqi News Agency INA
as saying.
The Iranian opposition group Mujahideen Khalq, which is based in Iraq,
denied the U.S. accusation on Friday.
The group said that it alone had paid for the base near Baghdad and the
State Department charges were propaganda to justify retaining harsh U.N.
sanctions against Iraq.
The State Department, which released a photograph of the base on Friday,
linked its allegations to a U.N. Security Council debate on the same day on
humanitarian aspects of the sanctions.
Washington is under increasing international pressure to allow the easing of
the sanctions which according to U.N. officials are causing great distress
to the people of Iraq.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Security Council during Friday's
debate that Iraq was apparently winning the propaganda war on sanctions.
He called for improvements in a U.N. oil-for-food programme allowing Iraq to
buy essential supplies with U.N. approval, saying they were especially
needed for children.
He said the suffering of ordinary Iraqis caused by the sanctions posed "a
serious moral dilemma" for the United Nations.
Baghdad newspapers also denied U.S. charges that the Mujahideen Khalq is a
terrorist group.
"We tell the U.S. State Department that it knows better than any one else
that Iraq is not among those supporting terrorism or dealing with it," INA
said. "America is country number one in the world in supporting organised
The Mujahideen use Iraq as a springboard for attacks into Iran and have
several bases equipped with tanks, artillery and helicopter gunships close
to the Iranian border.

03/26/2000 07:53:00 ET
Iraq wants its civilian planes returned

BAGHDAD, March 26 (Reuters) - An influential Iraqi newspaper on Sunday asked
for the return of civilian aircraft held in neighbouring countries since the
U.N. clamped sanctions on Baghdad for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
"Isn't it logical to return these planes to their owners to be used to
transport Iraqi pilgrims," the newspaper Babil, run by President Saddam
Hussein's eldest son Uday, said.
"Under what right or law are these countries are maintaining them and
preventing their return to Iraq?" the newspaper asked.
The United Nations has so far refused to allow the 37 planes to be flown
back to Iraq on the grounds that they are an economic resource whose return
would violation the sanctions.
Iraq sent the airliners to neighbouring countries to protect them against
possible attack shortly before the Gulf War began.
The aircraft are believed to be in Jordan, Tunisia and Iran.
Iraqi Airways has been grounded since the United Nations imposed the
sanctions. The only exceptions to the grounding have been a few flights
carrying Iraqi Moslem pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.

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