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News for March 27 to April 5, 2000

Iraq News for March 27 to April 5, 2000

Sources: AP, Reuters

Thanks to all those who supplied articles.

*       Mandela accuses the US/UK of creating chaos because of unilateral
decisions to bomb Kosovo and Iraq.

*       UN allows Iraq to double spare parts purchases.

*       Three increases in Iraqi oil price approved this week.

*       Van Sponeck leaves Iraq -- states that his work in Iraq is not over.

*       Jordan impounds Italian plane for breaking Iraqi air embargo.

*       At least two US/UK bombing raids. Iraqi news agency claims civillian

*       A number of Turkish invasions into Northern Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish
rebels. Cohen praises Turkey and suggests closer ties with US. (2 articles)

*       Article in very prestigous Medical journal, The Lancet, examines effects
of sanctions.

*       A doctor calls for international medical aid to Halabja, site of Iraqi
chemical attack in 1988.

*       Saddam's son wins Iraqi parliamentary election.


Wednesday April 5 11:31 AM ET

 R. Cross: Iran To Free 2,000 Iraqis

 By LEON BARKHO, Associated Press Writer

 BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Iran will soon release up to 2,000 Iraqi prisoners who
had been reported missing during the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran war, the head of
 Red Cross in Iraq said Wednesday.

 Beat Schweizer said he expected the release to take place Saturday at the
Iran-Iraq border. The International Committee of the Red Cross has been
 the release with the Iranian government, which earlier this year allowed a
delegation to visit Iraqi POWs the Red Cross had not seen before.

 A Tehran daily, Iran, quoted Iranian Brig. Gen. Mohammad Balar on Wednesday
as saying the prisoners were being freed as a humanitarian gesture to mark
 month's Eid Al-Adha, one of the most important holidays on the Islamic
calendar. Balar is the spokesman for Iran's POW commission.

                         In Iraq, the state-run weekly al-Ialam quoted Fahmi
al-Qeisi, head of the Foreign Ministry's legal department, as saying the
                         confirms Iraqi claims that ``there are thousands of
Iraqi prisoners held in Iranian jails.''

                         Several families in Baghdad were preparing to head
for the border even though the authorities have not yet said who will be

 ``I haven't lost hope of his return. He is in my heart. I feel his presence
every hour, every day,'' said Suad Abbas whose son Mahmoud Abdulkarim has
 missing since 1982.

 Suad still cleans Mahmoud's room every day, wipes his picture and makes
sure that his personal belongings are in place.

 Sabah Hassoun was 22 and pregnant when she lost her husband in 1981. Her
daughter is now in medical school. ``Shayma knows about her father through
 family album only,'' she said.

 ``Inside I have faith I am going to see him. I am 41 now. He may not
recognize me,'' she said.

 Iraq, relying on ICRC records, says at least 13,000 of its POWs still
languish in Iranian jails. But Schweizer said several thousand Iraqis have
chosen to live in Iran
 and many want to be resettled in third countries.

 For both political and personal reasons these prisoners do not want the
ICRC to inform their government or families, he said.

 Several thousand have also died, he said.

 Through ICRC auspices more than 100,000 POWs have been repatriated to both
sides. The remaining cases ``are the complicated cases,'' Schweizer said.

 Iran accuses Iraq of keeping 2,806 Iranian POWs in its jails.
Tuesday April 4 10:40 PM ET

 Mandela: US, Britain Creating Chaos

 LONDON (AP) - Former South African President Nelson Mandela criticized the
United States and Britain for their handling of conflicts in Iraq and
Kosovo, saying they are creating chaos by ignoring the views of other

In an interview published Wednesday by The Guardian newspaper, Mandela said
the United States and Britain were wrong not to seek explicit permission for
military action from the U.N. Security Council.

 ``The message they're sending is that any country which fears a (U.N.) veto
can take unilateral action,'' Mandela was quoted as saying. ``That means
they're introducing chaos into international affairs: that any country can
take a decision which it wants.''

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan along with Russia and China criticized
NATO for not seeking approval from the U.N. Security Council before its
78-day air campaign against Belgrade.

While there was also a wide consensus that the swift NATO action was
necessary to avert a humanitarian disaster, Mandela said such actions set a
dangerous precedent.

 ``It's a totally wrong attitude,'' he said, noting that U.S. and British
officials ``must persuade those countries like China or Russia who threaten
to veto their decisions at the U.N.. They must sit down and talk to them.
They can't just ignore them and start their own actions.''

 The issue also came up when the United States and Britain were accused of
unilaterally going ahead with bombing Iraq in 1998 after the failure of U.N.
arms inspections.

Wednesday April 5 11:35 AM ET

Jordan Won't Let Italian Plane Land

By WAIEL FALEH, Associated Press Writer

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) - Jordanian authorities impounded a small Italian plane
and detained its pilot Wednesday for violating U.N. sanctions by flying in
and out of Baghdad. Two Europeans activists on board were allowed to leave

Information Minister Saleh Qallab said the Italian-made P68 landed at an air
force base in Azraq, 75 miles northeast of the Jordanian capital Amman. The
Azraq base is off-limits to journalists.

 ``The crew and the plane were grounded'' for violating U.N. sanctions that
ban flights in and out of Iraq, Qallab told The Associated Press.

Later, Qallab said two passengers who were on board when the small plane
reached Jordan left aboard a commercial Austrian airline bound for Vienna.

Qallab identified the two as Italian businessman Nicola Grauso and European
Parliament member Vittori Sgarbi. He said a third person, French Catholic
priest Jean-Marie Benjamin, remained in Baghdad.

 He said the pilot, Claudio Castonia, was taken in for interrogation and may
be tried in Jordan for violating aviation regulations.

 International flights to and from Iraq are banned under U.N. sanctions
imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which led to the Persian Gulf

 Qallab earlier had said Jordan would refuse the plane stopover permission
because its crew had ``cheated'' Jordanian aviation authorities on Monday by
 permission to fly to Syria but changing course in Syrian airspace and
flying to Iraq.

In Italy, Grauso's spokesman, Mario Cardona, said Jordanian air force jets
had forced the plane to land at Azraq.

Iraqi officials saw off the plane at Rasheed air base earlier Wednesday, the
official Iraqi News Agency reported. It had arrived at the base Monday.

While in the capital, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and other officials
received the visitors, who had said their journey was meant to highlight
Iraqi suffering
caused by the sanctions. They also visited Baghdad hospitals.

Sanctions can be lifted only once U.N. inspectors verify Iraq no longer has
weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles or the ability to
produce them.


Wednesday April 5 10:15 AM ET

U.S. Jets Bomb Iraqi Defense System

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - (AP) - U.S. warplanes bombed an Iraqi air-defense
system Wednesday after Iraqi forces fired artillery during their regular
patrol of the
northern no-fly zone, the U.S military said.

Iraqi forces fired anti-aircraft artillery from a site west of Bashiqah,
some 250 miles north of Baghdad, according to a statement from the
Germany-based U.S. European Command.

All aircraft, based in the southern Turkish base of Incirlik, left the area
safely, it said.

On Tuesday, U.S. and British warplanes bombed four sites in southern Iraq.
The official Iraqi News Agency reported two civilians were killed and two
were wounded.

Tuesday April 4, 8:06 pm Eastern Time

U.N. approves adjustment of Iraqi Apr prices for U.S.

NEW YORK, April 4 (Reuters) - Iraq for the first time since the oil-for-food
program began in December 1996 has adjusted its
oil prices three times for the same month, U.N. officials said on Tuesday.

Iraq on Monday afternoon received approval from the U.N. Sanctions Committee
for its request to lower April prices for oil
shipments to the United States by 60 cents per barrel. The new prices for
April shipments of Basrah Light crude to the United
States is second-month West Texas Intermediate -$4.55. Kirkuk crude
shipments were adjusted to first-month WTI -$3.70.

It was the third Monday in a row that the sanctions commitee approved Iraqi
April oil prices. On March 20, it approved the April
oil prices submitted by Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO).
Then, on March 27, after the market judged the prices too high, the
sanctions committee
approved lower prices for Iraqi crude shipments to the the Far East, Europe
and the United States.

The additional decrease approved on Monday for U.S.-bound shipments was
caused partly by higher trans-Atlantic transportations costs, a U.S. crude
trader said.

On Monday and Tuesday, SOMO told Reuters in London that it had also
requested an additional 10-cent decrease for the price of Kirkuk crude
shipments to
Europe. But such a request was not made to the U.N. sanctions committee,
U.N. diplomats said.

Tuesday April 4 7:57 AM ET

Turkish Troops Hunt Kurd Rebels in North Iraq

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - Thousands of Turkish troops backed by air
power pushed deeper into north Iraq on Tuesday to hunt out Kurdish rebels in
first offensive of the year.

F-16 fighter jets based at the southeast regional capital Diyarbakir flew
reconnaissance for up to 7,000 troops who have massed with artillery and
armoured vehicles in north Iraq since the weekend.

The offensive into the Kurdish-held enclave is designed to prevent rebels
loyal to condemned leader Abdullah Ocalan from regrouping with the onset of
spring, security officials said.

Operations were concentrated on the northern Iraqi regions of Khwakurk and

There were no reports of casualties from the remote region which has been
run by two Iraqi Kurd parties since it slipped from Baghdad's rule at the
end of the 1991 Gulf War.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Ankara's unofficial ally in the
region, denied that its fighters were aiding the Turks in the offensive.

The troops were guided by so-called village guards, local residents
recruited and armed by the army and paid wages to prevent villages harboring
Kurdish rebels or supplying them.

Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast has been racked by 15 years of fighting
between Turkish troops and Ocalan's rebels seeking Kurdish self-rule.

But apart from minor skirmishes, the fighting has all but stopped since
Ocalan was captured and sentenced to death last year. He subsequently
ordered his Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) to withdraw from Turkey and end
the armed struggle.

Turkey has dismissed Ocalan's peace overtures as a cynical bid to save his
neck and vows never to talk to ``terrorists.''

Military observers say about two thirds of the PKK's forces complied with
the order, leaving some 1,000 rebels inside Turkey. Most rebels are thought
to have joined forces with other PKK units already in Iraq, bringing
guerrilla numbers there to roughly 3,000.

More than 30,000 rebels, soldiers and civilians have been killed since
Ocalan's PKK began its struggle. Ocalan now says all he wants is cultural
rights for Kurds in Turkey.
Saturday April 1 3:46 PM ET

 Turks Fight Kurd Rebels in Iraq -Sources

 By Ferit Demir

TUNCELI, Turkey (Reuters) - About 5,000-7,000 Turkish troops backed by
helicopter gunships crossed into northern Iraq early on Saturday in the
first offensive against Kurdish guerrillas of the spring, military sources

The sources, based in the southeastern town of Tunceli, said the troops
pushed six miles into northern Iraq and clashed with Kurdistan Workers Party
(PKK) rebels in several places. He gave no details.

The attack, a clear signal of military determination not to allow any
regrouping of guerrillas on Turkish territory, had been widely expected.

``It is observed that many PKK groups have been moving toward the Turkish
border. Hence,
security forces launched the operation this morning,'' the military source
The operation ran in parallel with an action by some 10,000 Turkish troops
sweeping mountains
near the Turkish towns of Tunceli and Bingol.

Guerrilla Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan, held in an
island prison near Istanbul, called on his forces after his trial and death
sentence last year to observe a unilateral cease-fire and withdraw from
Turkish territory.

The call, however, coincided with the onset of winter when PKK guerrillas
would in any case pull back to hideouts.

The bleak mountains of southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq, a territory
run independently of Baghdad since the 1991 Gulf War, provide good cover for
Kurdish rebels. But the Turkish military has scored devastating victories in
recent years, culminating last year in the capture, in Kenya, of Ocalan.

Cease-Fire Call Caused Perplexity

Ocalan's call for a cease-fire has caused some perplexity among allies and
enemies alike. Some former PKK comrades have accused him of betraying their
cause and trying to save his own neck in seeking peace negotiations.

The government has refused to deal with Ocalan, saying he is trying to
achieve by political maneuvers what he has patently failed to achieve on the
battlefield -- an independent Kurdish state in eastern Turkey.

The spring provides a test of whether the PKK intends to or can mount a
renewed offensive in the 15-year-old campaign that has cost over 30,000

The military, which has launched many similar operations in northern Iraq,
has said it will continue to hunt down any PKK guerrillas who refuse to

Ocalan, who had spent little time in northern Iraq, preferring to run his
operations from a hideout in Syria, is awaiting a ruling from the European
Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on his death sentence. That could save
him from the noose for another 18 months and staves off an emotional debate
on whether hanging the PKK chief would serve Turkish interests.

The European Union, which accepted Turkey as a candidate last December,
opposes capital punishment on principle and has cautioned Ankara against
going through with an execution.


Iraq Welcomes U.N. Oil Spare Parts Move

By Hassan Hafidh

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq has given a guarded welcome to a United Nations
decision doubling the
amount of money Baghdad may spend on equipment and spare parts for its
dilapidated oil industry.

Iraq's Oil Minister Amir Muhammed Rasheed said that for the decision to
work, it must be
accompanied by a steady release by the U.N.'s sanctions committee of spare
parts that Baghdad
wants to buy.

Rasheed also confirmed that Iraq as from this week increased its oil
production by 150,000 barrels per day (bpd) and would steadily increase it
up to a total of 3.1 million barrels per day by the end of May.

 ``If these holds are removed plus the doubling of the allocations, we could
say, as a temporary measure, this is a good support for the Iraqi oil
industry,'' Rasheed told Cable News Network (CNN) television late on Friday

 ``We started this week increasing about 150,000 barrels a day, next week
another 150,000 barrels a day, and few more weeks that brings us to the
beginning of May, for sure we'll be at 3 (million bpd) and we hope to be at
3.1 (million bpd),'' he said.

At the start of the year, Iraq took the precautionary step of reducing
production by about
300,000 bpd, saying that holds on some spare parts contracts by the U.N.
were depriving the oil
industry of urgently needed equipment.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved on Friday increasing the
amount of money Iraq
may spend on oil industry equipment and spare parts from $600 million to
$1.2 billion over a
12-month period ending in June.

The council's action will enable Iraq to step up its output of oil under a
U.N. ``oil-for-food'' program that allows it to sell crude to buy basic
needs for civilians.
Washington recently lifted objections to $111 million worth of contracts for
Iraq but is still holding up $1.67 billion in supplies for Baghdad, the U.N.

Among those released were 26 contracts worth $15 million for oil industry
spare parts and equipment.

Friday March 31 5:23 PM ET

 U.S. Praises Key NATO Ally Turkey

 By Charles Aldinger

 WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defense Secretary William Cohen on Friday praised
Turkey as a key NATO ally and bridge between East and West, urging even
 closer ties between Washington and Ankara.

 He also said in a speech that Turkey had agreed to take part with several
other alliance countries in U.S. development of a planned new Joint Strike
Fighter (JSF),
 a $200 billion program to build 3,000 new attack jets for 21st century

``Turkey is located at a crossroads, an important one from the front line of
history,'' Cohen said in a speech to the American-Turkish Council even as
the Ankara
government faced a looming political crisis at home.

Cohen did not mention the crisis, but praised Turkey for supporting
Washington against Iraq, moving to stabilize ties with Greece, taking part
in the 1999 NATO air war on Serbia and bridging differences between Muslim
and Western worlds.

``What we need to do is build and strengthen the partnerships with those
countries like Turkey, who are regionally strategic to the security of the
entire Middle East area,'' the secretary told a meeting of the council,
which supports close ties between Washington
and Ankara.

His speech came as Turkey on Friday weighed the consequences of Prime
Minister Bulent Ecevit's defeat in parliament this week.

Ecevit's left-right coalition failed on Wednesday to gain the necessary
support for a constitutional amendment to allow President Suleyman Demirel
to serve a
second term.

Leading businessmen in Turkey expressed concern over possible instability in
the Muslim country's secular, pro-Western government.

U.S. officials said Cohen's speech had been planned for some time and was
not pointed at the crisis, but that the secretary had long felt NATO-member
was a major partner with the West in a number of areas.

Cohen announced in his luncheon speech that Turkey had joined Britain, the
Netherlands, Norway and several other allies in agreeing to take part in
development of the Joint Strike Fighter.

He did not detail what part Turkey would play in the program, in which
Lockheed-Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. are competing. The contract has not
awarded, but different versions of the plane would be built for the U.S. Air
Force, Navy and Marine Corps and for the British Royal Navy.

``Turkey has agreed to participate in the development of the Joint Strike
Fighter. This is going to be one of the most superior aircraft that we have
ever built,''
Cohen said.

The participation of Turkey, where U.S.-designed F-16 jets have been built,
would be a boost for the program. The JSF has raised questions from key
of the U.S. Congress because the United States is also moving to build other
expensive fighter jets such as the F-22 ``stealth'' jet.

A State Department official said U.S. Defense Undersecretary Jacques Gansler
was sending a letter to the Turkish Defense Ministry formally inviting
in the engineering, maintenance and design phase of the JSF program.

Britain, which like the U.S. Marines would use ``jump-jet vertical takeoff
and landing versions of the JSF for the Royal Navy, has about a 10 percent
stake in the
costly program. That is the largest investment outside of the United States.

 ``I want to say that by Turkey participating in this program, it will put
Turkey in the forefront of building a secure and stable Middle East,'' Cohen

He did not explain how Turkey's participation in the program would affect
the Middle East, but praised the predominately Muslim country for reaching
out a hand
of friendship to Israel.
Wednesday March 29 11:12 PM ET

Iraq's Top U.N. Official Leaves

By LEON BARKHO, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - A former U.N. official left Iraq Wednesday vowing to
continue his fight against U.N. trade sanctions which he accused of
depriving the Iraqi population of its basic supplies.

Several U.N.-employed Iraqis wept when Hans Von Sponeck shook their hands
for the last time. Signs of grief were evident on the faces of his
international staff.

But Von Sponeck, who resigned last month over the impact of sanctions on
ordinary Iraqis, said his mission was not over. He said he would work to
``governments that enough is enough.''

 Annan has named Tun Myat of Myanmar, a World Food Program official, as the
new humanitarian coordinator to replace Von Sponeck.

Von Sponeck said he could not continue watching a population that is
``deprived of everything ... the right proper life, the right to work, the
right to shelter, good
services and most of all the right to education.''

A recent UNICEF report said at least 20 percent of Iraqi children have
dropped out of school and are now engaged in petty trade in major urban


Wednesday March 29 5:07 PM ET

Iraq medical system struggles under war sanctions

By Alan Mozes

NEW YORK, Mar 29 (Reuters Health) -- The embargo on Iraq imposed by the US
and European nations since the Gulf War has had a devastating impact on the
quality of healthcare in that country, according to an editorial published
in the March 25th issue of The Lancet.

 The authors of the article, Drs. Leila Richards and Stephen Wall, point out
that the embargo has an ``intellectual'' component barring the exchange and
import into Iraq of printed educational and scientific materials. They note
that Iraqi doctors, hospitals,
 medical scientists and researchers lack up-to-date textbooks and medical

 Having traveled as part of a public health delegation throughout Iraq in
May 1999 to examine the effects of the intellectual embargo, the authors
note that a ban on access for Iraqi doctors to medical conferences both
inside and outside Iraq, exists side-by-side with an almost total breakdown
of the technical infrastructure -- a collapse which has resulted in a
 widespread shortage of medical supplies and equipment, as well as
inadequate access to both Internet and basic phone service.

After visiting 6 of Iraq's 10 medical colleges -- and having met with over
30 physicians and
teachers, Richards and Wall note the long-term issue surrounding the flight
of Iraqi medical
professionals from the country due to an inability to cope with the poor
working conditions and
their exclusion from the world medical community.

The authors suggest that this exodus will compound the problem by leaving a
vacuum of educated
 professionals who might otherwise be able to rebuild the medical system in
the future.

 In an interview with Reuters Health, Richards described the situation as
very disturbing. ``The impact of this embargo should be very clear to the US
government,'' she noted. ``The US government is saying that our quarrel is
with Saddam Hussein and his regime and not the Iraqi people, so it seems
that to promote professional ties and encourage opportunities for doctors to
 together makes sense.''

 Richards contends that ``this is the professional class we're trying to
save and work with to promote a democracy and build a stable democracy, and
instead we are watching and very much aware that tens of thousands of
physicians and other professionals
 have left Iraq.''

 She added that when such overall sanctions had been imposed on Iran after
the US embassy take-over in the late-1970s, there had been recognition of
the need to allow a continuing flow of medical information and exchange.
``But (for Iraq) there are no
 exemptions made and no consideration (regarding) the impact this is having
on doctors (there) and the level of healthcare they are
 going to be able give with the sanctions imposed on them,'' Richards said.

 Acknowledging that the situation is ``complex,'' Richards nonetheless said
it was an urgent situation that must be addressed if medical care in Iraq is
to be improved. ``We would like to encourage American non-governmental
(organizations) to work in Iraq
 -- since there are already European non-governmental organizations there,''
she said. ``We would like there to be an opportunity for Iraqi social
scientists to be able to get together with American and European social
science work groups to organize research
 concerning the effect of the sanctions and figure out the best way to
rebuild their institutions.''

 Richards noted that the world can either help remedy the problems now or
face an even more difficult situation down the road. Cautioning that the
'brain drain' is real and growing, she noted that ``eventually, government
people and aid agencies are going to
 be going in and say 'all right let's fix everything', and the people that
know the most about what has to be fixed and how to do it are the Iraqi
professionals themselves.'' SOURCE: The Lancet 2000;355:1093-1094.

Wednesday March 29 5:42 PM ET

 Doctor: Aid Needed for Iraqi Victims

 By CLAR NI CHONGHAILE, Associated Press Writer

 PARIS (AP) - A British doctor called for international medical aid
Wednesday for thousands of Iraqi Kurds suffering from a cancers and
congenital diseases 12 years after Iraq dropped chemical weapons on the city
of Halabja.

 Christine Gosden, head of medical genetics at Liverpool University, said
medical aid was desperately needed in the remote northern Iraqi city where
clouds of mustard and sarin gas killed 4,500 to 8,000 people in 1988.

 ``There is no palliative care and they suffer agonizing deaths. Potential
parents are dying before they can have children,'' said Godsen, who has been
campaigning for international help since visiting Halabja in 1998.

She cited a range of diseases afflicting the town's population, including
cancers, spina bifida and Downs Syndrome.

``This is only 12 years after the attack and the number of cancers and
congenital defects are increasing. It does not seem to have reached a
plateau,'' she told a news conference.

She said she had no firm figures on how many people have died since the
attack. ``We would like to get the exact figures. We would like to do a
systematic survey,'' she added.

The doctor accused the Iraqis of using the Kurds as guinea pigs in the
bombings, which were part of a campaign of repression against Kurds who had
supported Iran during the Iran-Iraq war.

Gosden also said there were many cases of mental illness and an increase in
suicide attempts, even among the group judged least prone to suicide - young
women with children.

Around 250,000 people were exposed to chemical and biological weapons during
Iraqi bombardment of the region in 1988, and many more were indirectly
exposed through drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food,
Gosden said.
MARCH 28, 14:19 EST

 Saddam's Son Wins Assembly Race

 Associated Press Writer

 BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP)  Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's elder son won an
 victory Tuesday in parliamentary elections in which every winner  and
every loser 
 supported the president.

 Odai Hussein, a possible heir to his father, won ``the highest number of
votes among all
 candidates,'' Justice Minister Shabib Lazem al-Maliki told reporters. The
vote in his Baghdad
 constituency sets Odai up for a run at the powerful post of speaker.

 Voters in Iraqi parliamentary elections each pick a slate of candidates on
their ballot. The
 justice minister did not give figures on Odai's vote total, but the
state-run weekly
 newspaper, al-Ittihad, said Odai was named on 99.99 percent of ballots cast

 Odai's victory was a foregone conclusion, as was that of the ruling Baath
party. Al-Maliki
 said all 165 candidates who contested for Baath won seats in the 250-member
 the National Assembly.

Fifty-five other winners are nominal independents ``who have expressed
allegiance to the
Baath Party,'' al-Maliki said. The remaining 30 members will be appointed by
Saddam to
represent the three autonomous Kurdish provinces, where elections were not
held since
they are out of Baghdad's control.

With the landslide victory, Odai could make the National Assembly  at
present only a
rubber stamp to the all-powerful Revolutionary Command Council  a base of
power for a
new generation. Odai owns several newspapers, including Iraq's most
influential daily, Babil,
and the popular television channel al-Shebab. Both have displayed an unusual
willingness to
criticize senior government officials.

Odai's entry into parliament will also give him a chance at the speaker's
post in the new
assembly, which convenes April 7. The position of parliamentary speaker is
viewed in Iraq
as nearly equal to that of prime minister, a post held by Saddam. The
speaker usually
attends Revolutionary Command Council meetings.

Asked who could be elected speaker, al-Maliki, the justice minister, said:
``The popularity
of a candidate should be a good indicator.''

For all that is known about him  and Odai has an unusually high public
profile for an Iraqi politician  much remains in shadow.

 In a 1994 book, an Iraqi dissident living in exile in Europe said he once
served as a double in Odai's security squad and painted a brutal portrait of
the president's son. Latif Yahia's book is banned in Iraq, and no one here
 dare even discuss Yahia's tales  Odai imprisoning men in order to rape
their wives, torturing subordinates, even killing an aide to his father.

 The 35-year-old Odai, who survived a 1996 assassination attempt, has built
a platform around reaching out to young Iraqis. He has shown himself open to
new ideas, saying Monday he would work for the multiparty system his father
had pledged to put in place nearly a decade ago.

 Eighteen-year-old Latif Safaa, old enough to vote for the first time
Monday, said he was inspired by Odai's calls for young Iraqis to dedicate
themselves to the country.

 ``If I were in parliament, I would build new sports clubs and fix the old
ones, for the youth,'' said Safaa, a soccer fan. ``I would give priority to
the young people, because young people are the future.''

 Rallies and election manifestos were banned and candidates had very limited
access to the media. But Odai has his own media holdings, and a series of
populist editorials that appeared in his papers in recent days could be read
as campaign literature.

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