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News for 6 April '00 to 16 April '00 (Part 1 of 3: 6 April to 9 April plus two older reports)

Hello all:

To avoid causing problem to your mailboxes, I am sending this week's news in
three parts. There are many (34) articles to include because they cover an
eleven day period. Also, as I check the Associated Press (AP), Reuters,
Agence France-Presse (AFP), BBC, CNN, Stratfor, ArabicNews regularly, it
would be better if you send me news reports from other sources only. Sorry I
could not delete any irrelevant information this time because I got tired
from reading.



Sources: AP, Reuters, AFP, BBC, CNN, Stratfor, ArabicNews, Iraq action
coalition, Jordan Times, Al-Ahram Weekly, World Socialist, World Council of
Churches (WCC), Yahoo!, Toronto Daily Star (TDS), New Straits Times Press
(NSTP), Bernama

. Canadian Foreign Affairs Committee Calls for De-linking Sanctions on Iraq
(Iraq action coalition)
    . Canadian MPs take action (TDS)
ˇ UN OKs Iraq Inspection Agency Plan (AP)
    ˇ Iraq Rejects Weapons Check Plan (AP)
ˇ March death toll from embargo over 9,000, says Iraq (AFP)
ˇ US-British Bombing Kills 14 (AP)
    ˇ Cohen Says Air Strikes Keeping Saddam 'Contained' (Reuters)
    . France Condemns Air Raids in Iraq (AP)
            ˇ U.S. Bristles at French Criticism of Iraq Raids (Reuters)
    ˇ China Urges Western Powers to Stop Bombing Iraq (Reuters)
ˇ Ohio Congressman Arrives in Jordan (AP)
ˇ Cohen Says U.S. Prepared to Defend Gulf Allies (Reuters)
    ˇ Cohen trip: "'Persuasion' against the wall" (Jordan Times)
    ˇ Cohen's latest weapon-peddling tour (Al-Ahram Weekly)
ˇ Iraq asks UN to intervene to get Turkish soldiers out (AFP)
ˇ Mandela Slams Western Action In Kosovo, Iraq (Reuters)
ˇ World Council of Churches Appeals to the United Nations to Lift Sanctions
on The Civilian Population of Iraq (WCC Press release) (18 February '00)
ˇ Meeting on Iraq Sanctions Describes Horrors Inflicted by US and Allies
ˇ Former UN official for lifting sanctions from Iraq (AP)
ˇ Prosecutor Refers Italian pilot's Case to First Instance Court (Jordan
ˇ Iraq Says Iranian Exiles' Bases Came Under Fire (Reuters)
ˇ Bahrain, UAE Reopen Baghdad Embassies (Stratfor) (5 April '00)
. Iran repatriates nearly 2,000 Iraqi POWs (Reuters)
    ˇ Iraqi POWs refuse to go home (Reuters)
    ˇ Iran says Iraq still holding 3,000 prisoners (Reuters)
ˇ Poisoned Cigars, Perhaps? Analysis Of US' Iraq Policy (Jane's Defence
ˇ In-depth Analysis of Iran's Capture of Iraqi Oil Smuggling and its Impact
on a Web of Relations Among    U.S./Iraq/Iran/Syria/Israel (2 Stratfor
ˇ UN Sanctions Destroying Iraqi Civilization (Bernama)
ˇ Iraq's Ward of Death (BBC)
ˇ The Day the Music Died (NSTP, via IRIS)
ˇ Suffer the young (Yahoo!)
ˇ Ten Years of Sanctions Leaves Saddam astride a weakened Iraq (AFP)
ˇ Saddam Contains Eldest Son's Bid for Power (Stratfor)

News for 6 April '00 to 16 April '00 (Part 1 of 3: 6 April to 9 April plus
two older reports)

ˇ WCC Office of Communication, 18 February '00
150 route de Ferney, P.O. Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

WCC appeals to the United Nations to lift sanctions on the civilian
population of Iraq. The following letter was sent by Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser,
general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), to United Nations
Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, on Friday 18 February:

The resignations of Mr. Hans von Sponeck, United Nations Aid Coordinator and
of Ms. Jutta Burghardt, World Food Program Chief in Iraq have again drawn
attention to the disastrous effects of the Security Council's sanctions on
the people of this nation. Explaining his decision, Mr. von Sponeck said
that the "Oil for Food" régime failed to meet even the "minimum
requirements" of the civilian population, and that "as a UN Official I
should not be expected to be silent to that which I recognize as a true
human tragedy that needs to be ended".

The World Council of Churches has issued statements along similar lines and
shared them with you. It is therefore heartening to see that persons of the
quality of these two senior UN staff have acted according to their
conscience at potential personal sacrifice. They bring credit to the United
Nations and to the role of the international civil servant.

These international civil servants have now rightly suggested that such
sanctions are tantamount to violation by the United Nations itself of the
fundamental rights inscribed in international law through the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and the Covenants established to implement its
provisions. We believe they are right.

We sincerely hope that the international community and especially the
Security Council will pay heed to the gruesome situation they have again
described. For over a decade the people of Iraq have suffered under a
sanctions regime that is unrelentingly punitive of the people of Iraq who
are hardly to blame for the actions of their government. The comprehensive
application of an economic embargo in a manner that ignores the fundamental
humanitarian needs and rights of 22 million people to basic health care,
food and shelter is unacceptable. This is not new information. It has been
amply documented by competent UN Agencies, the International Committee of
the Red Cross and other international non-governmental organizations that
the majority of the Iraqi people are denied the bare level of sustenance
necessary to live a life of human dignity. The WCC has consistently received
reports over the past decade on the deteriorating conditions of the
population, especially of children, from its member churches and the Middle
East Council of Churches Ecumenical Relief Service in Iraq. We also sent an
expert delegation to Iraq in early 1998 to review the position.

The World Council of Churches holds that sanctions can be a legitimate and
valuable tool available to the international community to enforce compliance
with international law when applied prudently by a responsible international
authority. Precisely in order to address situations like that prevailing in
the case of Iraq, the WCC Central Committee adopted in 1995 a set of
criteria for the just and effective application of sanctions. These were
shared with you and the relevant Security Council committee at that time. In
the preambular section of the resolution containing these criteria. The
Central Committee cautioned that:
Even when appropriately applied under the authority of the UN Charter,
sanctions have not always been consistent, impartial or effective. ... The
absence of a clear, consistent, and effective system of enforcement by the
UN further complicates the picture. This, and the ambiguity of international
law has allowed individual governments to use the term sanctions to provide
a cloak of moral and legal justification for some of their own foreign
policy initiatives. Especially since 1990, powerful states have sought UN
endorsement of their intention to apply what they have termed sanctions.
This practice requires careful scrutiny by the churches and by the
international community.

The WCC "Criteria for Determining the Applicability and Effectiveness of
Sanctions" include, inter alia:
Clear and limited purpose. Sanctions should have a clearly defined purpose
and explicit criteria should be given for determining the conditions under
which that purpose will be seen to be achieved, and the sanctions lifted.

Sanctions may not have a punitive purpose beyond compliance, nor may they be
used for self-aggrandizement, or applied to further the economic,
ideological political, military or other narrow national self-interest of a
state or a group of states.

Having received the report of the WCC delegation which visited Iraq, the WCC
Central Committee in 1998, appealed through you to the UN Security Council
to undertake a thorough review of the sanctions regime on Iraq, taking into
account its impact on the civilian population, and with a view to defining
clear and agreed goals with a specific time frame and benchmarks for the
full lifting of sanctions.

We believe that economic sanctions can provide a non-violent alternative to
war when applied under strict conditions and carefully monitored. Though in
its Res. 1284 (1999) the Security Council returned to the question of
delivery of humanitarian goods, it has still not appropriately or clearly
defined sanctions against Iraq, nor has increasing monitoring diminished the
suffering of the Iraqi people. The World Council of Churches therefore
believes that the time is overdue for the Security Council to lift with
immediate effect all sanctions that have direct and indiscriminate effect on
the civilian population of Iraq.
I would be grateful if you would bring this concern to the attention of the
Security Council.


ˇ Bahrain, UAE Reopen Baghdad Embassies, 5 April '00

Bahrain announced April 1 plans to reopen its Baghdad embassy soon, citing
"humanitarian grounds" as an explanation. Unnamed Arab diplomats told Agence
France-Presse April 4 that "an initiative to reopen the United Arab Emirates
(UAE) embassy in Baghdad will be taken in the next few weeks." No specific
reason was given. The re-openings mark a significant shift in Bahrain and
UAE policy, which is driven by the larger strategic relationships in the
Persian Gulf.

The embassies were shut down on the onset of the 1990-91 Gulf War; the
United Nations hit Iraq with heavy sanctions and pressured other Arab
nations into curbing their ties to Baghdad. Now, nearly 10 years later, it
appears that Bahrain and the UAE, two key U.S. allies, are now reopening
their embassies without regard to their relations with Saudi Arabia, Iran
and even the United States.

The moves come at a critical time when viewed in the context of the
incongruous relations between Iran and certain members of the Gulf
Cooperation Council (GCC), which comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar,
Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Also, the move appears to contradict U.S. policy
toward Iraq. Actually, the intricacies of GCC-Iranian relations, coupled
with a shift in U.S. strategic policy toward Iraq, may explain why Bahrain
and the UAE have decided to reopen their Baghdad embassies.

The GCC, which rarely acts as a cohesive group, is split on a collective
Iran policy. Iran has tried to establish a strategic partnership with the
GCC that could guarantee security in the Persian Gulf, eliminating the need
for foreign military in the region. Saudi Arabia, which would like to see a
decreased U.S. military presence in the Gulf, has warmed to the proposal and
improved its relations with Iran. Kuwait, which has close military ties to
the United States, has no problem with a continued U.S. military presence
and thus tries to remain neutral. Oman and Qatar have approached the issue
of Iran rapprochement with reluctance but do not oppose it. Bahrain and the
UAE are against Iranian rapprochement because of a dispute over islands in
the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran occupies three strategic islands in the Strait, although both Tehran
and Abu Dhabi lay claim to them. The UAE wants the GCC countries to insist
that Iran resolve the islands issue before the GCC improves ties with
Tehran. Bahrain publicly backs the UAE position, yet Saudi Arabia has failed
to support it. This has led UAE to distance itself from GCC policy, and
UAE-Saudi relations have been cool as well.

The UAE, by itself too small to pressure Iran, may be using the threat of
cooperation with Iraq to pressure Tehran into making concessions on the
islands issue. The UAE recently made a similar move with Syria. Along these
same lines, there have been reports that Iraq is using UAE companies to
purchase Russian weapons platforms.

Initially, it seems that the United States would oppose the UAE and Bahrain
opening embassies in Baghdad. But, the recent shift in U.S. policy toward
Iraq may have weighed on their decision. Washington recently doubled the
amount of money Iraq can spend on spare parts for its oil infrastructure in
an effort to ensure that high oil prices begin to fall. At the same time
Washington wants oil price relief, it also wants to keep the crippling U.N.
sanctions in place.

The United States will now have the opportunity to utilize allied observers
inside Baghdad to supply Washington with information that is currently
inaccessible. Because the United States is eager to have allies in Baghdad,
it is quietly assenting to the UAE and Bahrain's desire to play power
politics against Iran. According to the U.S. State Department, Washington
does not encourage nor discourage its allies in the region from maintaining
diplomatic ties with Iraq as long as they continue to maintain the U.N.
policy on Iraq. Rather than oppose the move by the UAE and Bahrain, the
United States has actually given it a tacit nod.

At the same time, the United States fuels the discord among the GCC states
and Iran in order to maintain its military presence in the Gulf. U.S.
Secretary of Defense William Cohen, during his visit to Abu Dhabi's
presidential palace last year, mentioned "the threat Iran poses in terms of
its foreign policy." Also, Washington is nearing the finishing stages of
approving a plan to sell 80 F-16s to the UAE.

The United States is pursuing simultaneous and sometimes conflicting
strategies. It is trying to maintain traditional allies, open ties with Iran
and contain Iraq, while also using Baghdad for domestic economic reasons.
Knowing this, it is unlikely that the United States will object to the UAE
and Bahrain re-opening embassies in Iraq. As the larger powers in the
Persian Gulf - Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United States - maneuver,
the smaller nations, such as Bahrain and the UAE, will continue to base
their politics on these larger relationships, as evidenced by the reopening
of Baghdad embassies.

ˇ Iran Captures Iraqi Oil and U.S. Attention (Stratfor analysis report), 6
April '00


The recent Iranian seizure of an Iraqi oil tanker and the Iranian
government's subsequent comments indicate a significant shift in its policy
toward the United States. Tehran appears to be cooperating with Washington
to strangle Baghdad. Iran would do this for two reasons - to keep the price
of oil stable in the short term and to help solidify what is now a fluid
U.S. policy in the region. Iran's first goal is slightly at odds with
short-term U.S. policy - lowering oil prices - but Washington will be
willing to accept that price in order to lock down a long-term goal, a
positive relationship with Iran and contain Iraq.


The marine patrol of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) seized an Iraqi
oil tanker on April 1, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi told Agence France
Presse that the ship was seized because "it is our policy to forbid and
prevent all smuggling." Asefi added, "it is also a sign of Iran's respect
for the resolutions of the United Nations."

The vessel, registered under a Honduran flag, was smuggling 2,500 tons of
Iraqi crude oil when it was intercepted and impounded. Honduras is a common
flag of convenience for older and smaller vessels, because the country has
one of the most liberal open Ship Registries in the world.

According to the Energy Information Administration, Iraq smuggles about
100,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil via several routes. One common
smuggling route out of the Persian Gulf follows the Iranian coast until
entering international waters near the Strait of Hormuz. By utilizing
Iranian waters, ships illegally carrying Iraqi crude can avoid detection by
the U.S. and British Maritime Interception Force (MIF), which enforces U.N.
sanctions against Iraq.

Iran is certainly not known for policing smugglers of Iraqi oil, and the
tanker seizure could simply have been an isolated incident involving money.
According to the BBC, the Iranian navy reportedly charges a toll of $50 per
ton of smuggled Iraqi oil, a sum that secures right of passage and buys
smugglers false papers hiding the origin of their cargo. This is the least
plausible explanation, though, since the Iranian Foreign Ministry used the
incident to publicly state its policy of being anti-smuggling and pro-United

A more probable explanation is that Iran is pursuing its own multi- faceted
agenda of keeping oil prices high and pressuring Iraq, while giving a nod to
the United States. Iran saw that U.S. overtures toward Tehran had diminished
because the two were at odds over short-term oil price concerns. This
threatened Iran in two ways. First, it risked the United States opening more
to Iraq - evidenced by the UAE and Bahrain re-opening embassies in Baghdad -
to the detriment of Iran. Second, a U.S. easing of sanctions on Iraq
threatened to lower oil prices too much for Iran's long-term interests.

Iran's crackdown on Iraqi smuggling cleverly forwarded the country's dual
agenda. It enforced U.S. imposed sanctions, thus undermining U.S. short-term
oil policy in favor of U.S. long-term Iraq policy. And it aided the attempt
to keep oil prices up.

At the recent OPEC meeting, Iran refused to agree with its fellow members on
how far to raise the production quotas. Iran's oil infrastructure is running
at near full capacity. Thus, the country gains little from an increase in
production, which will ultimately drive the price of oil downward. By
cracking down on Iraqi smuggling, Iran can potentially take a reasonable
amount of oil off the world market - or at least delay it - by forcing Iraq
to look for new smuggling routes.

At the same time, Iran is giving a political nod toward the United States
following Washington's recent relaxation of Iranian import restrictions and
its lenience on Iraqi sanctions. In mid-February, the chairman of the U.S.
Joint Chiefs of Staff "approached" Iran about the growing amount of illegal
Iraqi oil being smuggled through the Gulf. Iran appears to be cooperating,
and Washington's response is clear. U.S. State Department spokesman James
Rubin said on April 5 that if the reports are true, "we are pleased to see
that Iran is taking measures against this illegal traffic."

Iran's move also comes amid increased tension between Iran and Iraq. Last
month, Iraq accused Iran of staging a mortar attack in Baghdad that killed
four people. Iraq also claimed to have shot down two Iranian unmanned
reconnaissance aircraft. Baghdad also harbors the armed Iranian opposition
group, the People's Mujahadeen Khalq (MKO), which claimed responsibility for
a recent mortar attack in Tehran. But, Iran can threaten Iraq's oil
smuggling routes without an increased Iraqi military threat since Iraq's
military has been largely kept at bay by U.N. sanctions and enforcement of
no-fly zones.

The seizure also gains significance in light of the history of Iran-Iraq
tanker wars during the 1980-88 war. Iran would not have made the move if it
were not confident that the United States would keep the Iraqis from
retaliating against its ships. Tehran either gambled that the United States
would be forced by its own sanctions to condone the move, or it had
back-channel assurances of U.S. cooperation. The first possibility suggests
an opening for better relations, and the latter would indicate that there
has already been a major breakthrough in U.S.-Iranian relations.

Either way, Iran just made a major move to shake the United States out of
its political daze. The real test will be whether or not Iran continues its
tacit cooperation with the United States. If so, it will be a big step
forward for U.S.-Iranian relations. Strategically, Iran has everything to

ˇ Iraq: US-British Bombing Kills 14, 6 April '00

By LEON BARKHO, Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - U.S. and British warplanes struck targets in southern
Iraq on Thursday, and the Iraqi military said they hit residential areas,
killing 14 civilians and injuring 19.

The U.S. military confirmed that planes carried out strikes, but said they
were against military targets in response to attacks by Iraqi anti-aircraft
artillery. A spokesman said there was no immediate indication of Iraqi

The official Iraqi news agency's report, which cited an unidentified Iraqi
Air Defense spokesman, did not specify the nature of targets hit or their
exact location, but said the jets flew over six provinces in the southern
no-fly zone.

``The American and British criminals added another crime to their barbaric
acts ... when their ravens bombed residential areas and civil
installations,'' the agency said.

At U.S. Center Command in Tampa, Fla., spokesman Lt. Col. Rick Thomas said
the strikes were aimed at Iraqi military targets.
``They fired at us today. We struck in response to that,'' Thomas said,
adding that U.S. pilots attempt as a rule to minimize the risk of civilian

The number of deaths reported in the strikes was the highest since Aug. 17,
when Iraq said 19 civilians were killed and 11 were injured during attacks
in northern and southern Iraq. On Tuesday, authorities reported that strikes
had killed two people and injured two in the south.

Iraq does not recognize the no-fly zones set up after the 1991 Gulf War to
provide aerial protection from government forces for Shiite Muslims in the
south and Kurds in the north. It began challenging the patrols in December
1998, and allied forces often have responded by firing on Iraqi
anti-aircraft and radar installations.

At a news conference Thursday, Iraqi Air Defense Chief Lt. Gen. Shaheen
Yassin vowed there will be no letup to Iraq's
defiance of the U.S. and British jets policing the zones.

``We shall use our defenses, our weapons and whatever means we have until
they give up,'' he said.

Thursday's casualty figure raises the death toll reported by Iraq to 97
since December 1998. More than 300 Iraqi civilians have been injured in
strikes since then, Shaheen said.

ˇ Cohen Says Air Strikes Keeping Saddam 'Contained', 7 April '00

MANAMA (Reuters) - Defense Secretary William Cohen on Friday told troops
aboard an aircraft carrier they were helping to keep Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein ``contained'' with air strikes.

Planes from the USS Stennis stationed in the Gulf took part in strikes on
targets in southern Iraq on Thursday. U.S. and British planes regularly
patrol no-fly zones that Western powers established in northern and southern
Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War to protect dissidents.

Cohen, who is visiting the Gulf region partly to maintain support for U.S.
policy on Iraq, told about 1,500 U.S. military members on the aircraft
carrier they were ``helping to keep Saddam Hussein contained.''

He added: ``I just learned that once again while they're (Iraqis) out there
firing triple A's (anti-aircraft artillery) at our pilots, that we are
responding accordingly.''

Iraq said 14 people were killed and 19 injured in the Western strikes on

``Yesterday there was heavy anti-aircraft artillery fire against our air
crew and aircraft in the no-fly zone,'' Vice Admiral Charles Moore,
commander of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet headquartered here, said.

``The targets were all military targets and they were not near any
residential areas or any other areas where civilians could possibly be
located,'' Moore said.

``The damage assessment is comprehensive and indicates we did significant
damage to the targets, but I don't have any indications about casualties,''
he said. ``If there were casualties it would be unlikely they would be
civilian casualties.''

ˇ France Condemns Air Raids in Iraq, 7 April '00

PARIS (AP) - France on Friday strongly condemned recent U.S.-British air
raids in Iraq, calling them ``pointless and deadly.''
U.S. and British warplanes struck targets in southern Iraq on Thursday, and
the Iraqi military said they hit residential areas, killing 14 civilians and
injuring 19.

``The bombings, pointless and deadly, which have caused, according to our
information, around 20 civilian victims over the past few days in southern
Iraq, are disquieting,'' Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne Gazeau-Secret
said at a news conference.

``We reaffirm our incomprehension, our profound unease in relation to the
pursuit and intensification of the air strikes against Iraq, in which the
people are the principal victims,'' Gazeau-Secret said.

Asked if she condemned the bombings, Gazeau-Secret said: ``We greatly
deplore them.''

France - along with Britain and the United States - helped establish no-fly
zones in the north and south of Iraq in 1991, at the end of the Persian Gulf
War. However, since 1998, France has not actively taken part in patrolling
the zones.

Iraq does not recognize the zones, which the allies say are meant to provide
aerial protection from government forces for Shiite Muslims in the south and
Kurds in the north. It began challenging the patrols in December 1998, and
NATO forces often have responded by firing on Iraqi anti-aircraft and radar

The U.S. military confirmed that planes carried out strikes, but said they
were against military targets in response to attacks by Iraqi anti-aircraft
artillery. A spokesman said there was no immediate indication of Iraqi

In Washington, State Department Spokesman James Rubin said Thursday that
France ought to direct its remarks to Iraq.
``If there's no point to these raids by us, the French government would be
well-advised to inform the Iraqi government ... to stop threatening American
pilots, then there won't be any need for the raids,'' he told reporters.

Rubin said the no-fly zone was designed to prevent Iraq from using its air
space ``to maul its own citizens.''

``And as a result of the no-fly zone, they haven't been able to do that. In
order to keep that no-fly zone in place, we have to have protection for our
pilots,'' he said.

The number of deaths reported in the strikes was the highest since Aug. 17,
when Iraq said 19 civilians were killed and 11 were injured during attacks
in northern and southern Iraq.

France's sharp criticism comes after the United States came under fire at
the United Nations Security Council for its policy toward Baghdad, with
accusations it is undermining U.N. relief efforts by blocking over $1
billion in goods bound for Iraq.

Iraq's friends on the council - Russia, France and China - held out the
toughest criticism during an open meeting of the council on Mar. 24.

Russia on Friday also protested the most recent U.S.-British airstrikes on

ˇ China Urges Western Powers to Stop Iraq Bombing, 7 April '00

BEIJING (Reuters) - China urged the United States and Britain to halt
military action against Iraq and cancel the ''no-fly'' zones, the official
Xinhua news agency said on Friday.

``China is really concerned over the recent developments in Iraq and feels
deeply uneasy for the civilian casualties caused by the bombing,'' Xinhua
quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi as saying.

Sun said China had consistently advocated that Iraq's sovereignty,
territorial integrity and independence should be fully respected.

The Iraqi news agency said 14 people were killed and 19 injured by Western
air strikes in southern Iraq on Thursday.

The U.S. military's Central Command confirmed that U.S. attack jets and
British Royal Air Force Tornadoes struck anti-aircraft artillery targets in
southern Iraq on Thursday in response to ``repeated anti-aircraft fire''
against warplanes patrolling the no-fly zone in the region earlier in the

U.S. and British planes patrolling northern and southern Iraq frequently
clash with Iraqi air defenses.

No-fly zones were declared in the two regions after the 1991 Gulf War by the
Western powers, who said they were needed to protect dissidents from Iraqi
air power.

ˇ U.S. Bristles at French Criticism of Iraq Raids, 7 April '00

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States bristled on Friday at French
criticism of the latest U.S. and British air raids on Iraqi air defenses, in
which Iraq says 14 people were killed and 19 injured on Thursday.

The French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Anne Gazeau-Secret, said on Friday
that the Western air raids were pointless, deadly and alarming.

State Department spokesman James Rubin said in response that Iraq was
responsible because it was threatening U.S. and British pilots enforcing
no-fly zones in Iraq.

``The French government, to the extent they regard these raids as pointless,
ought to direct ... these comments to Iraq to stop Iraq from threatening
American and British forces that are doing a job to protect the people of
Iraq,'' he said.

``We certainly agree that they are pointless in the sense that there would
be no point to them if Iraq wasn't threatening American pilots,'' he added.

The United States said U.S. and British planes responded on Thursday to
heavy anti-aircraft artillery fire in the southern no-fly zone, declared by
Washington after the Gulf War to deter Iraqi ground attacks on Shi'ite
Muslim civilians.

Rubin said, ``It (the no-fly zone) is to prevent Iraq from using its
airspace to maul its own citizens and as a result of the no-fly zone they
haven't been able to do that.''

ˇ Cohen Says U.S. Prepared to Defend Gulf Allies, 8 April '00

By Tabassum Zakaria
KUWAIT (Reuters) - Defense Secretary William Cohen observed a live-fire
exercise by U.S. Marines in the Kuwaiti desert about 30 miles from the Iraqi
border on Saturday.

Cohen watched marines lob grenades and fire machine guns and
shoulder-launched assault weapons known as ``bunker busters'' and said the
exercise showed the United States was prepared to defend its allies in the

Cohen is on a visit of the Gulf partly aimed at maintaining support for U.S.
policy on Iraq.

``This is the kind of training that is required to make sure that we always
have a strong deterrent,'' Cohen said.

``It's not directed specifically against (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein.

``We remain prepared to defend should he ever try once again to attack
Kuwait or Saudi Arabia or to launch any attack against his neighbors, but
this is preparation for all contingencies,'' he said.

At another stop to talk to Marines training in the desert, Cohen said he
hoped television coverage of the live-fire training exercise would be shown
in Iraq and Iran.

``Hopefully they will show it in Iran and Iraq as well, and other countries
who might take a look and see just how good you really are,'' he said.

French criticism of Western air strikes on Iraq's southern no-fly zone
Thursday did not imply any weakening of the resolve of
Western allies to force Iraq to comply with U.N. resolutions requiring
Baghdad to allow weapons inspectors to return, Cohen said.

``All of the countries are united in supporting the resolutions which insist
upon full Iraqi compliance,'' Cohen said.

``The fact that a French minister made these comments does not in anyway
indicate that there's any lessening of commitment to see to it that Saddam
fully complies with his obligations to let the inspectors back in and to
make sure that he has dismantled, discontinued his weapons of mass
destruction program,'' he said.

U.S. and British planes regularly patrol no-fly zones that Western powers
established in northern and southern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War to protect
dissidents. The war followed Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

Iraq said 14 people were killed and 19 injured in Thursday's air strikes.
Earlier on Saturday in Bahrain, Cohen said films of Thursday's air strikes
showed ``these were not civilians who were firing anti-aircraft (artillery)
at our airplanes.''

He added: ``They should understand that if they are going to fire upon U.S.
or British aircraft that are enforcing the no-fly zones, they can expect to
be hit.

``We are very careful in looking at military targets and we do everything in
our power to avoid civilian casualties.''

Cohen planned to talk to Kuwaiti officials about the Cooperative Defense
Initiative that is aimed at having a regional system to protect allies and
U.S. troops from a chemical or biological attack.

It involves detection of missile launches, protective clothing, and
equipment that can identify the type of chemical or biological agent

``The intelligence would indicate the spread of chemical and biological
weapons has not abated in any way and we have to be prepared for the worst
type of an attack. And that's why we are engaged in the preparation that we
are,'' he said.

Cohen in Qatar earlier this week discussed using an air base there for U.S.
planes at times of crisis, but he said there were no plans to expand the
U.S. military's presence in the region. ``We have not talked about any
expansion in the region,'' he said.

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