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News for 17 April '00 to 23 April '00



Hello all:

This week's news clipping (only one message) is considerably shorter than
that of last week (three messages). I did my best to minimize the size of
the message because some of you thought that the last one was way too huge!
I have excluded all opinion articles, editorials, etc. as well as news
reports that were sent directly to the news group. I have also used ellipsis
,. . . . ., to replace well known facts or irrelevant stuff.

All news articles, except the interview with the State Department official,
are relatively short. Please e-mail me if you think that I should have done
the news clipping differently.

Thanks,

Hathal

_________________________________________


News for 17 April '00 to 23 April '00

Sources: AP, Reuters, BBC, CNN, ArabicNews

 U.S. Congressman Calls for Better Relief in Iraq (Reuters)
 Annan Says Iraq Refuses to Meet Chief UN Inspector (Reuters)
 New Iraq Probe Agency Worries Russia (AP)
 U.S. State Department rejects talks with Iraq (CNN)
 U.N. Body Accuses Iraq of Rights Violations (Reuters)
 Iraq Has Sold $24 bln Worth of Oil Under UN Plan (Reuters)
 Annan Urges Pressure to Account For Missing Kuwaitis (AP)
 Interview: US views on Iraq (ArabicNews)
 Iraq Reviving Despite U.N. Embargo (AP)
 Iraq Says Raids Toll Nears 300 (BBC)
________________________________________________________

 Iraq Reviving Despite U.N. Embargo, 16 April '00
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/aponline/20000416/aponline143518_000.ht
m

By Leon Barkho
Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq ----- The pavilions at the industrial fair brim with
Iraqi-made goods: electrical appliances, carpets, textiles, spare parts and
foodstuffs all laid out at the first such show in a decade.

While the goods are affordable only to the elite, their presence shows that
sectors of the Iraqi economy are reviving for the first time since the
United Nations imposed trade sanctions after the 1991 Gulf War.

Organizers of the fair and Iraqi businesspeople say the country's industry
is reaping the benefits of the U.N. oil-for-food program, which began in
1996 and allowed the government to export oil and use the revenue for food,
medicine and other essential commodities. This freed up hundreds of millions
of government dollars that are now being loaned at low interest to
industrialists.

Organizers said at least 226 new products were added in the last year to the
list of Iraqi-manufactured goods, including air conditioners, electrical
transformers and sprinkler irrigation equipment.

Industries that were idle during the early and mid-1990s are now operating
again.

"All the projects and factories which were on stream before sanctions are
operating now, albeit at lower capacity," said Humam al-Shamaa, a professor
of economics at Baghdad University.

Iraq's three cement factories now churn out more than 6 million tons a year,
compared to less than 2 million tons two years ago. Its Company for
Manufacturing of Drugs and Medical Appliances is back up to half the output
of medical items it produced before 1990. Its fertilizer output has surged
beyond local needs.

"Our warehouses are full and we are waiting for the chance to resume
exports," said Mohammed al-Ani, the managing director of the Iraqi
Fertilizers Co.

The problem with the mini-boom is that the Iraqi market cannot absorb the
products of an industrial sector running at full speed.

"The purchasing power of earnings in Iraq is currently much below the value
of goods," al-Shamaa said. As a result, warehouses at factories producing
textiles, carpets, dairy, vegetable oils and fertilizer are full of stock.

At the weeklong fair which ends Monday, thousands have come to pore over the
goods. More than a hundred Iraqi companies have showed products, and many
goods have been discounted by more than 50 percent. In high demand: rugs,
clothes, textiles, detergents, air conditioners and foodstuffs.

On Sunday, shoppers pulled trolleys full of goods, among them woolen carpets
they had bought for $90. The sum seems massive when compared with the
average $2.50 monthly salary of a civil servant, but it still is affordable
to those in trade and some other professions.

Iraq's industry ground to a halt soon after the United Nations imposed
sweeping trade sanctions to punish the government for its 1990 invasion of
Kuwait. But exemptions under the 1996 oil-for-food program enabled the
government to export oil.

The exports have eased the strain on government coffers, which previously
spent nearly $100 million a month on food imports. The Central Bank can now
lend hard currency at low interest to businesspeople who use the cash to
import raw materials.

Iraq does not have direct access to revenues from the U.N.-monitored oil
exports. Its hard currency is believed to come from tens of thousands of
tourists who visit Shiite religious sites, illegal oil exports and the
smuggling of other commodities across its porous borders.

Some industrialists blame the oil-for-food program for the low performance
of certain industries.

Tariq Abullah, chairman of Iraq's dairy factories, said that under the
program, Iraqis receive imported full-cream milk powder free of charge. "I
am working at only 10 percent capacity and still cannot market all
products," he said.

Similarly, vegetable oil companies are finding it hard to sell their product
even though they are operating at only one-tenth capacity. The oil program
provides rations of vegetable oils, soaps and detergents free of charge.
________________________________________________________

 U.S. State Department Rejects Talks With Iraq, 18 April '00
http://www.cnn.com/2000/WORLD/meast/04/18/iraq.us/index.html

>From State Department Correspondent Andrea Koppel
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. State Department on Tuesday rejected an offer
to open talks with Baghdad, with an official saying the United States is not
interested "in any dialogue with Iraq."

Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan was quoted earlier in the day by
the official news agency INA as saying that Baghdad was ready to start
dialogue with Washington provided it is "with mutual bilateral interests and
not a dialogue between master and slave."

A State Department official told CNN the United States has made clear that
the Iraqis need to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions, and that
that is "not an issue to be discussed."

This official said it is the U.S. assessment that as long as Iraqi President
Saddam Hussein is in power, it is unlikely "Iraq will be able to return to
the international community as a responsible member."

The official said that the Iraqis haven't been as "explicit" about a
dialogue with the United States before and that there is a variety of
explanations for the shift.

This official said one of those reasons might be to "sow dissension in the
international coalition by trying to appear conciliatory." The official said
the Iraqis are "trying to put the U.S. on the defensive."

. . . . .
________________________________________________________

 U.N. Body Accuses Iraq of Rights Violations, 18 April '00
http://www.abcnews.go.com/wire/World/reuters20000418_777.html

GENEVA, April 18 (Reuters) - The top U.N. human rights body on Tuesday
strongly condemned Iraq for alleged grave violations including killings
which it said had led to an "all-pervasive repression and widespread
terror."

The 53-member U.N. Commission on Human Rights, holding its annual session in
Geneva, adopted a resolution on Iraq tabled by the European Union and
co-sponsored by countries including the United States.

The vote was 32 countries in favour of the text, with no countries voting
against it and 21 abstaining from the vote, including big powers China and
Russia.

Portugal's ambassador Alvaro Mendonca e Moura presented the resolution on
behalf of the 15-member EU. Seven EU members have voting rights at this
year's six-week U.N. session.

The EU text slammed Iraq for widespread use of the death penalty and
suppressing freedom of thought and association "through fear of arrest,
imprisonment, executions, expulsions, house demolitions and other
sanctions."

It denounced executions "including political killings and the so-called
clean-out of prisons," as well as arbitrary arrests and widespread,
systematic torture.

A U.S. statement read out to the session said: "Mass human rights violations
are being perpetrated by the regime of Saddam Hussein.

"The cause of suffering is due to the reprehensible behaviour of the Iraqi
regime which systemtically denies badly needed food and medical supplies to
its people.

"Instead Saddam Hussein spends wealth on palaces and military hardware which
stand as monuments to his failure."

Russia said the resolution was "one-sided and biased."

"We believe it is unfair to reproach the government of Iraq for refusing to
cooperate with humanitarian agencies and being discriminatory in
distribution of humanitarian assistance," a Russian statement said.

"On the other hand, we believe Iraq still must do a lot in order to
guarantee enjoyment of univeral standards of human rights," it said.
________________________________________________________

 Iraq Has Sold $24 bln Worth of Oil Under UN Plan, 18 April '00
http://www.abcnews.go.com/wire/World/reuters20000418_1072.html

BAGHDAD, (Reuters) - Iraq has sold crude oil worth $24 billion since the
start of the U.N. oil-for-food programme in December 1996 but has received
only a quarter of that amount, Trade Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh said on
Tuesday.

The oil exchange allows Baghdad to sell crude oil under U.N. supervision to
buy food and medicines.

"What has arrived in Iraq over the last three and half years is only $6.5
billion worth of goods which represents 25 percent of Iraq's total oil
exports," Saleh told reporters after opening a Turkish trade fair in
Baghdad.

He said the United Nations had deducted $8 billion from the total and the
rest was held up because contracts for goods were blocked by the United
States and Britain.

Under the oil-for-food programme, 30 percent of Iraq's revenues from the oil
sales are taken for compensation to victims of the 1991 Gulf War and to fund
U.N. programmes in Iraq such as weapons inspections.

"Some $5.5 billion worth of contracts are still on hold because America and
Britain have not yet approved them and the rest have not yet been shipped,"
he said.

Under the rules of the U.N. oil pact, all contracts to purchase supplies
must obtain the approval of a U.N. sanctions committee before shipment can
be made.

Saleh said most of the contracts on hold were for electricity equipment and
for drinking water and sanitation supplies.

Iraq says that before the embargo was imposed, it used to spend $20 billion
a year on imports of commodities and on social development projects.
________________________________________________________

 Annan Says Iraq Refuses to Meet Chief UN Inspector, 19 April '00
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/htx/nm/20000419/wl/iraq_un_1.html

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Wednesday he
had urged Iraqi officials to meet the new chief U.N. arms inspector but they
refused because it would imply acceptance of a new disarmament plan.

Annan said he raised the issue of a meeting with Hans Blix, the head of the
U.N. disarmament agency on Iraq, when he spoke to Baghdad's foreign
minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, in Havana last week during a summit of
developing nations.

Iraq has rejected a December 1999 Security Council resolution that created
the new arms agency. The measure also held out the promise of suspending
stringent U.N. trade sanctions if Baghdad complied with weapons demands.

``We discussed the inspection issue and I urged them to meet with Mr. Blix,
which at this stage they are not prepared to do because they believe it
implies they have accepted (resolution) 1284, which they have not,'' he
said.

``They repeated the position of the government that we all know,'' Annan
told reporters in answer to questions.

``But we have not given up efforts to get them to cooperate with us,'' he
said.

. . . . .
________________________________________________________

 U.S. Congressman Calls for Better Relief in Iraq, 20 April '00
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/htx/nm/20000420/pl/iraq_usa_6.html

By Hassan Hafidh
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Visiting U.S. Congressman Tony Hall said Thursday relief
issues for ordinary Iraqis should be separated from the more controversial
political issues of disarmament.

``They should be separated. The weapons issue is very important and the
humanitarian side must continue to go on,'' said Hall, the first U.S.
legislator to assess the humanitarian situation in Iraq since the 1991 Gulf
War.

``We cannot have weapons of mass destruction exported out of this country.
But...we can do a much better job in allowing goods, services and
humanitarian food and medicines getting in this country,'' he told reporters
after ending a four-day fact-finding mission in Iraq.

Lifting the embargoes is linked to an accounting of Iraq's weapons of mass
destruction.

Baghdad has not allowed U.N. weapon inspectors in the country since December
1998 when the U.S. and Britain launched a four-day military offensive
against Iraq.

Hall fell short of calling for ending the U.N. sanctions imposed on Iraq
after its August 1990 invasion of Kuwait but he contended that relief aid
under Iraq's oil-for-food deal with the United Nations should be
accelerated.

``We can do a much better job with the (U.N.) sanctions committee,'' he
said. Under the oil pact's procedures all Iraq's purchases of goods should
be approved by the committee, made up of the 15 members of the U.N. Security
Council.

The U.N. oil program permits Iraq to sell unlimited quantities of oil over
six months to buy food, medicine and other humanitarian needs for the Iraqi
people.

Iraq has complained that humanitarian purchases under the oil pact are being
delayed by representatives of the U.S. and Britain on the sanctions
committee.

Hall, accompanied by an agricultural expert and representatives from UNICEF
and the Red Cross, visited children's hospitals and schools in Baghdad and
other governorates in central and southern Iraq where he saw children
suffering from malnutrition and other diseases.

``There is no question that there are humanitarian problems here. There is
malnutrition. All top diseases are here,'' he said.

Asked what he would tell Congress when he returned, he said: ``I am going to
tell them that there is another story over here. There is a story of some
hurting people, especially children, that are malnourished and who need food
and medicine.''

The U.N. Security Council has set up a working group to search for ways of
refining sanctions so they hit the country's leaders rather than the entire
population. Baghdad slammed the move.
________________________________________________________

 Annan Urges Pressure to Account for Missing Kuwaitis, 20 April '00
http://www.abcnews.go.com/wire/World/ap20000420_236.html

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged Arab countries
to keep up pressure on Iraq to account for the 605 Kuwaitis missing since
Baghdad invaded the small state in 1990.

The recent exchanges of Iraqi and Iranian prisoners of war "gives a beam of
hope that similar developments may happen in regard to those missing in the
aftermath of the Gulf War," Annan said Wednesday in a report to the Security
Council.

The report was Annan's first since he appointed a special coordinator on the
issue, former Russian Ambassador Yuli Vorontsov, in February to try to
energize efforts to account for the missing.

Vorontsov visited Kuwait this month and met with families of the 605 people
still missing from Iraq's seven-month occupation. Iraq has not responded to
Vorontsov's requests to visit.

Baghdad maintains that it has released all war prisoners, but lost track of
127 in an uprising after the war. It has withdrawn from an international
committee looking into the issue, accusing Kuwait of failing to account for
1,150 missing Iraqis.

Kuwait says it has received case files on only 70 Iraqis and is
investigating those, even though the government does not consider itself
legally responsible for Iraqis who disappeared while Kuwait was under
occupation.

Annan noted that Arab officials told Iraqi President Saddam Hussein "that
progress in solving the issue of Kuwaiti missing persons would improve
Iraq's stance in the world and, in particular, ameliorate the political
climate among the Arab states."

In his report, Annan urged the Arab states to "continue through all
available channels their efforts aimed at the speediest resolution of the
humanitarian issue of missing persons."

. . . . .
________________________________________________________

 New Iraq Probe Agency Worries Russia, 20 April '00
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/aponline/20000420/aponline223242_000.ht
m

By Nicole Winfield
Associated Press Writer
UNITED NATIONS ---- Russia says it is concerned that the new U.N. arms
inspection agency for Iraq is not different enough from its contentious
predecessor, and wants new measures to help head off friction between the
agency and Baghdad.

Russia last week joined in the Security Council's unanimous endorsement of
the organizational plan submitted by Hans Blix, the executive chairman of
the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission.

But in a statement issued in New York on Thursday, Russia's foreign ministry
said: "The practical aspects of the new commission's activities require
substantial revision."

Blix's plan for his office lacks provision for political advisers who would
work with inspectors "and make it possible to avert potential clashes and
disputes with Iraq," the statement said.

Russia has repeatedly complained that the former chief inspector, Richard
Butler, was too quick to complain to the council over problems with access
to suspected weapons sites - problems Russia believes could have been worked
out by legal or political advisers.

In the statement, Moscow also questioned Blix's "overstated assessment"
about the benefits of retaining inspectors from the previous arms agency,
the U.N. Special Commission, which Butler headed. And it criticized what it
called the lack of procedures for monitoring and obtaining Baghdad's
support.

"There must be no return to Butler's working methods," the statement said.

The Security Council created the new commission, known as UNMOVIC, in
December to replace the Special Commission, which was stung by allegations
that U.N. inspectors spied on Iraq on behalf of the United States.

Blix's organizational plan took pains to outline ways he would guard against
similar problems, saying all employees would be paid for by the United
Nations --- not individual countries --- and would be forbidden from
accepting any instructions from governments.

The Russian statement, however, indicated that deep divisions over Iraq
weapons monitoring remain among the Security Council members and that Moscow
will keep a close eye on how the new agency goes about its work.

Russia, along with China, France and Malaysia, abstained from the December
resolution creating UNMOVIC, saying it was unclear and ambiguous.

. . . . .
________________________________________________________

 Iraq Says Raids Toll Nears 300, 20 April '00
http://news2.thls.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/middle%5Feast/newsid%5F720000/7
20923.stm

(BBC) Iraq says nearly three-hundred people have been killed and more than
eight-hundred and fifty injured by western air attacks since December 1998.

An Iraqi military spokesman said most of the casualties were civilians.

He also accused Washington of continuing to use internationally banned
weapons containing depleted uranium, but gave no further details.

. . . . .
______________________________________________________

 Interview: US Views on Iraq, 21 April '00
http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/000421/2000042159.html

(ArabicNews) This is an interview by U.S.A. based ArabicNews.com with a
senior US State Department Official regarding some of the main issues
relating to US policy and views on Iraq. The interview was conducted last
month and focuses on general policy. The delay was because we wanted to wait
for a slow news day to publlish it, and that never happened.

ArabicNews: What is the latest on the US-Iraq policy. Where do we stand
regarding the sanctions. Has there been any change?

Senior State Department Official: There have been no changes in sanctions,
and from the US perspective, there will be no changes in sanctions. What is
going to change is what has changed more or less continuously since the
establishment of the oil-for-food program, and that is an effort to make the
oil-for-food program better so as to meet more completely the humanitarian
needs of the Iraqi people.

ArabicNews: The US has repeatedly stated that that's what it intends to do.
However a recent report by the UN Secretary General, Annan, has had some
very harsh words towards the US in terms of putting impediments towards that
program in terms of facilitating contracts, facilitating
humanitarian-related type items such as food and medicine. They mentioned
oil equipment and stuff they need for the basic infrastructure.

Senior State Department Official: Let's put things in perspective. First
let's remember why the sanctions are in place. Sanctions are in place in
order to prevent Saddam Hussein from obtaining the means to rebuild his
weapons of mass destruction or the resources necessary to purchase them.
That is the primary responsibility of the sanctions committee. What we are
trying to do now is to improve first in-- consistent with Security Council
resolutions and particularly resolution 1284-- to improve the way the
oil-for-food program operates.

At the same time we have to keep in mind what the objective is with respect
to keeping the means to make weapons of mass destruction out of Saddam's
hands.

ArabicNews: The Iraqis repeatedly complain that the US is putting
impediments before the contracts under that food-for-oil program. And the--
Annan's report also confirmed this and the several people who have resigned
who worked in Iraq under UN umbrella has also complained of similar
situation.

Senior State Department Official: I think the oil-for-food program has been
a huge success ever since the US introduced it. The fact that it did not
begin to operate until-- effectively until the beginning of 1997 is because
Iraq rejected it. So I don't see that Iraq really has the grounds for
complaint. They know--

ArabicNews: Why is the UN complaining that the program is not doing the job
that it is supposed to do in terms of providing for the Iraqis?

Senior State Department Official: I don't think that that is the complaint.
I think the one complaint is that it is not doing as well as it could, and
in that sense we agree, which is why we are trying to improve the way it
works.

ArabicNews: And how are you trying to improve it?

Senior State Department Official: We are working with the UN secretariat and
the other members of the security council sanctions committee to prepare the
list of items that would be exempt from sanctions committee review. Two of
those lists have been approved. And we are looking again at our own
procedures to see if there's a way we can more efficiently and quickly
review the contracts we are called upon to review.

ArabicNews: The stated US objective has been in the past to contain Iraq and
the government of President Hussein, another objective is to remove the
government. What is the currently stated objective of US policy towards Iraq
by having the sanctions on...

Senior State Department Official: The sanctions are -- represent US
containment-- the containment aspect of US policy. That is that the Saddam
Hussein regime must be prevented from getting its hands on the means to
reconstitute weapons of mass destruction. That's why the sanctions are
there.

ArabicNews: But is that the US objective? US policy is to prevent him from
obtaining those weapons-- That's the major objective?

Senior State Department Official: Correct.

ArabicNews: So, basically, how does that conflict with having UN inspections
there (in Iraq) and what are the impediments of having UN inspections on a
permanent basis as a solution to the Iraqi problem so that the US can
have -- be able to monitor this issue and at the same time have the
sanctions lifted if that is the major concern?

Senior State Department Official: Well, the sanctions will not be lifted
until Iraq complies with its obligations under the UN resolutions. We want
the inspectors to return to Iraq, which is why we voted in favor of
resolution 1284 which allow-- provides the means to do that. Because we
think that's the best means, first of all, of monitoring what Saddam has in
terms of weaponry and to insure that he doesn't acquire the means to get
more. I don't see why you would represent it as a conflict in policy. It
makes no sense.

ArabicNews: The Iraqi assertion is that the sanctions are being used --
along with the oil-for-food program as a pretext to show a humanitarian side
in order to prolong the sanctions indefinitely. And Iraq specifically told
us in one of the interviews that the US policy's aims is to subjugate Iraq,
basically put it under its total control through the sanctions program by
controlling the funds that flow into Iraq and that it has nothing to do with
the weapons of mass destruction, etcetera.

Senior State Department Official: That's totally ridiculous.

ArabicNews: Do you want to expand on that?

Senior State Department Official: The US objective is as I have stated it.
If Iraq wishes to see the sanctions lifted, all it needs to do is comply
with the UN Security Council resolutions. The US will respect that. However,
the US also believes that Iraq never intends to comply with the Security
Council resolutions. And because of the threat that Iraq poses, in the
absence of that compliance, we believe the only conclusion is that in order
for our first objective to be achieved, the Iraqi regime has to be changed.

ArabicNews: And do you realistically expect to be able to change the Iraqi
regime?

Senior State Department Official: It's not going to be up to us to change
the Iraqi regime.

ArabicNews: ... Do you see it as a realistic option?

Senior State Department Official: Of course.

ArabicNews: You do. And do you have a time frame on your expectations--

Senior State Department Official: No. I cannot predict.

ArabicNews: And in the absence of a change of that regime, you expect the
sanctions to continue.

Senior State Department Official: We expect the sanctions to continue
because we do not believe Iraq will meet its international responsibilities
or obligations. If it does, that's another story.

ArabicNews: Is this kind of a continuation of the previously-stated policy
of dual containment as it relates to Iraq and Iran on a long-term basis?

Senior State Department Official: It's a continuation of Iraq policy. I'm
not quite sure what your question is.

ArabicNews: Well, the US State Department officials repeatedly mentioned in
the past that one of the US stated goals-- policy goals is the dual
containment of Iraq and Iran. And I'm simply asking if this is a
continuation of that policy if there's been a change in that policy.

Senior State Department Official: There's been a change in the sense that we
recognize that the circumstances in Iraq and the circumstances in Iran are
different, and therefore containment of each has to be different because it
addresses different circumstances.

ArabicNews: Can you expand on this? How are the circumstances different and
how is the containment going to be different?

Senior State Department Official: The premise is that both because of the
level of military development, the hostility to some neighbors are threats
that need to be contained. Iraq has-- our recent experience with Iraq
indicates that it is a more active threat and moreover it is in violation of
United Nations sanctions. In other words, sanctions imposed by the
international community. And that presents one set of circumstances.

The situation in Iran is different. It is not in violation of any
international sanctions. And the recent political changes in Iran suggest
that it may be possible for its full reintegration back into the
international community. It has reached out to some of its neighbors. It's
improved its relationships across the Gulf. And I think that circumstance is
one that the United States needs to recognize.

ArabicNews: A couple of days ago, Iraq commented towards the US gesture
towards Iran in terms of the removing of some of the sanctions as the US
trying to play Iran against Iraq. What do you have to say about that?

Senior State Department Official: That's not the case. It was a strictly
bilateral US-Iran gesture.

ArabicNews: With regard to the several people who left who worked for the UN
in Iraq, some of the major kind of contention points and the points that
they've described for their cause to leave the programs have been the
enormous amount of destruction the sanctions have caused upon the civilians
in terms of death for children, lack of availability of medicines, etcetera.
And the US response has been -- that in part -- putting the blame on the
government not doing the distribution and citing the Kurds as having better
distribution systems, etcetera. My question is going to go a little bit in a
different direction. A lot of people have talked about that the US in effect
by doing so -- what it is doing -- is that it is corrupting the middle class
of Iraq. There was a vibrant middle class that was surviving in Iraq, and
that seems to be in the process of being completely destroyed with all the
ramifications, politically, socially, economically, etcetera. Do you care to
kind of tell us your views on that subject.

Senior State Department Official: I think that the actual destruction of the
Iraqi middle class began with the accession to power of Saddam Hussein. With
respect to the economic hardships imposed by sanctions, those we recognize
and have recognized from the beginning and have done our best as I have
described earlier to improve their operations. With regard to their
political role, it's entirely, entirely the responsibility of the Iraqi
regime, which has made a point of removing all rivals, including the vibrant
middle class from the political scene.

ArabicNews: Do you realistically, since the US objective is to change the
regime, do you expect that the US will help its objectives by helping in the
process of destruction of this middle class, by having a lack of
availability of all their needs and a decent political structure that even
under previous circumstances at least they had some of that where now none
of it exists.

Senior State Department Official: They never had any kind of decent
political structure since the arrival on the scene of the Baath Party and
Saddam Hussein. And so I think this is a total lie -- and as I said I do not
think that-- I think that all the efforts that we are making now and all the
efforts we have made since 1991 are to help the Iraqi people in their
economic need and meet their economic needs. That's our purpose here, with
respect to the Iraqi people themselves. And I think we've been fairly
successful.


ArabicNews: One of the points that I'd like to get more about is this middle
class and not to kind of try to be redundant, there is in essence if the US
policy is to change the regime from the inside, then it's destroying the
very people who will have the power or the will to do something about it
because it's changing the political power structure inside Iraq and making
everyone subservient to a great degree now on the cronyship of those who are
in power, as opposed to having a middle class that despite the fact that
they didn't have much political freedom, they were able to have political
pressure and they had their concerns and views having to be taken into
account before, where now that is not the case anymore.

Senior State Department Official: Why not? I don't quite understand what the
connection is.

ArabicNews: Well, from the many -- that make this point -- is basically
because if they (Iraqis) want food, if they want gasoline, if they want
anything for their survival, they have to go to officials and beg for it,
and that may turn their alliance totally towards the regime whereas before,
they had some say, and the regime had to take their views into account. And
now, they're just in such a poor shape that basically there isn't a whole
lot that they can do except go and plead for all their needs and that's what
the end result has been.

Senior State Department Official: I'd like to consider that question further
because I don't have an answer for you. I don't think that if you weigh it
on a scale of how much the political -- the lack of political power of the
Iraqi middle class is attributable to the regime's own actions and how much
of it is to economic deprivation, I'm frankly not in a position to judge
that. It's a difficult question. And so therefore I can't really answer a
question that is premised on that.

ArabicNews: How do you see this issue resolved? Do you expect the sanctions
to be on indefinitely or do you see a solution, basically what I hear from
you is-- and from US policy statements is the sanctions will stay on Iraq
indefinitely.

Senior State Department Official: That's up to Iraq-- entirely up to Iraq
how long they stay on.

ArabicNews: But when you say nothing is going to change unless the
government is changed and we know that the end result is that the government
is not going to change unless it is removed violently and that doesn't look
like it's an option, so therefore we're in effect saying either that our
policy is really to keep Iraq in that condition or we want to work with the
system to try and find a solution through inspections, etc., etc., etc. So
I'm just kind of going backward a little bit here and trying to see if there
are any openings that kind of reflect that the US is interested in having a
solution to this problem or is the US solution the way it is described
really kind of shuts the door out on any practical and realistic solutions
to that problem?

Senior State Department Official: Well I won't agree with your
characterization. I think that the solution has always been there. The
solution is as it is laid out in Security Council resolutions. The solution
is for Iraq to comply. The door has always been open in that respect.

ArabicNews: Thank you. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us.





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