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News 28/8 3/9/00

NEWS 28/8  3/9/00

*  Iraq policy doesn't stand up to inspection (Chicago Tribune)
*  Far-right Freedom Party strikes up with embargoed Iraq
*  Americans Experience Life in Iraq
*  Jordan sentences sanctions-busting pilot (BBC World Service)
*  Egyptian exports to Iraq to triple compared with 1999
*  Jordan: committee on lifting Iraq embargo hands letter to PM, cancels
sit-in (Radio Jordan, Amman)
*  Israel Monitoring Iraqi Missile
*  U.N. Arms Inspectors Back Down (Washington Post)
*  US, British aircraft unscathed in Iraq raids: US military
*  Iraqi Kurds in clash with Islamist gunmen near Iran border (Kurdistan
Satellite TV)
*  Religion in the News [Iranian pilgrims to Iraq]
*  U.S. Confirms Bombing of Iraqi Targets
*  Jordanian firms prefer Iraq over Israel: Official (Times of India)
*  Gulf council denounces Iraqi 'threat' to Kuwait (Times of India)
*  Gulf states to study call to end curbs on Iraq (Times of India)
*  10 yrs of curbs tell on Iraq, scraps free education (Times of India)
*  Curbs mean genocide, Iraqi speaker tells UN (Times of India,2669,SA
V 0008270284,FF.html

Steve Chapman , August 27, 2000

The United States is currently providing help to a number of nations
engulfed in humanitarian crises, including Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Bosnia, and
I can think of another that certainly fits the bill. In the aftermath of
wars that wrecked the economy, its people have suffered widespread
malnutrition, epidemics of disease, and soaring child and infant mortality.
This country would be a perfect candidate for American help--if it weren't

In the 10 years since Saddam Hussein launched his ill-fated invasion of
Kuwait, Iraqis have had to bear the burden not only of a bloodthirsty
tyrant, but also the weight of an international economic embargo. The
embargo, championed mainly by Washington, has largely failed to achieve its
objectives, but every failure is cited as proof that it must continue.

Continue it probably will, because Hussein refuses to meet our price for
lifting the sanctions. Last week, the UN assembled a new team of arms
inspectors who are supposed to go into Iraq and make sure it has no nuclear,
chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). "If the Iraqis
don't comply," threatened a U.S. official, "the sanctions will stay in
place." But the government in Baghdad promptly advised the UN to go take a
long walk off a short pier.

This response was no surprise. Hussein is about as likely to accede to our
demands as he is to star in a Broadway musical. In fact, the only reason to
propose new inspections is for the pleasure of seeing Iraq reject them,
giving us an excuse to maintain our policy.

Hussein is quite willing to weather the sanctions in order to continue his
effort to acquire armaments we don't want him to have. He's been doing that
for 10 years now. The only way he would accept international monitors is if
he were confident he could prevent them from carrying out their mission--not
because he's ready to go straight and wants his change of heart confirmed.

The UN inspectors were inside Iraq for years, and though they found a lot of
forbidden munitions and facilities, Hussein managed to keep them from
finding everything they were looking for. As RAND Corp. analyst Daniel Byman
has noted, the inspections "never led to the ultimate success: a complete
accounting of Iraq's programs and the destruction of all WMD materials." For
all our trouble, Iraq is still presumed to have chemical and biological
weapons, if not nuclear ones.

So we are back to the usual minuet: We demand cooperation on arms
inspections, he refuses, and we mete out punishment, trying to starve or
bomb Iraq into submission--neither of which ever works. In the end, things
are the same as they were before.

That may be frustrating for us, but it's really no picnic for the people of
Iraq, whose country has been turned into a permanent disaster area. As the
organization Human Rights Watch reported earlier this year, the sanctions
carry "a high human price, paid primarily by women and children. The food
rationing system provides less than 60 percent of the required daily calorie
intake, the water and sanitation systems are in a state of collapse, and
there is a critical shortage of life saving drugs."

Thanks to the lack of clean water, diseases like cholera have become
commonplace. Malnutrition is rampant. Infant and child mortality has more
than doubled in the last decade. Hundreds of thousands of people have died
due to this multitude of woes.

American policymakers disavow any blame for such consequences, saying it
rests entirely on Saddam Hussein, who has diverted his country's meager
resources into building up his military arsenal rather than alleviating the
misery of his subjects. But even UN experts admit that life in Iraq would be
much less grim without the embargo.

Of course, there are unfortunate occasions when we have to inflict hardship
on innocent people to achieve something vital. In this case, though, we
haven't accomplished our goal, and we're not about to. That makes it hard to
justify long-distance torture of ordinary Iraqis, who have no more control
over their leader than we do.

Absent a U.S. invasion, we ultimately can't deprive Hussein of weapons of
mass destruction, any more than we were able to deprive Stalin or Mao. What
we can do to him is exactly what we did with those enemies: Make clear that
any use of such weapons will assure our cataclysmic retaliation. Unlike our
current policy, that one has been shown to work.

The U.S. government has always said we have no quarrel with the people of
Iraq, only with their leader. Maybe it's time we started acting like it.


VIENNA, Aug 28 (Agence France-Presse) - Three far-right Freedom Party
officials visited Baghdad last week and met Iraqi ministers in the company
of Austrian businessmen, a Freedom Party official who took part in the trip
said Monday.

Ernest Windholz, head of the Freedom Party's Lower Austria branch, and two
other local party officials spent a week in Baghdad, paid for by the five
businessmen, said Ewald Stadler, one of the officials invited.

The group met with Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz and other
government members. Iraq has been under a UN embargo since its invasion of
Kuwait in 1990.

"We discussed matters relating to Austrian trade with the ministers and we
visited hospitals, met locals, and really learned how people were suffering
from the embargo," Stadler told AFP.

He added they wanted to see the re-opening of an Austrian embassy in the
Iraqi capital, saying: "Many of the problems need to be sorted out through
dialogue and not sanctions."

"To see the true republic of Iraq, to experience the current situation and
the people of this impressive country is a glorious and unforgettable
experience, which everybody should have," said a Freedom Party statement
published Monday in the weekly magazine Profil.

Far-right parliamentary leader Peter Westenthaler is also reportedly
interested in visiting Iraq, although his secretary said there were as yet
no fixed plans.

Austria has itself been under a cloud since the Freedom Party, charged with
being anti-foreigner and anti-Europe, was included in conservative
Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel's coalition government in February.

The country's 14 EU partners froze diplomatic ties with Vienna in protest.

Baghdad has received visits from other far-right leaders over the years,
including Vladimir Zhirinovsky of Russia and Jean-Marie Le Pen of France.


BASRA, Iraq (Associated Press, Sun 27 Aug)  A horde of small children
rushed to greet five American activists Sunday as the activists went to
clean a primary school in a working-class neighborhood on the outskirts of
this southern Iraqi city.

"We love American children,'' sang the barefoot children.

After six weeks in Basra, the activists from the Chicago-based Voices in the
Wilderness, which opposes U.N. sanctions against Iraq, have become household

The Americans came to Basra in mid-July intent on experiencing firsthand the
discomforts of a country that has been under siege from sanctions for a
decade. They chose the low-income al Jumhouriya neighborhood, where nearly
200,000 residents live on meager food rations and deal with regular power
cuts and sewage problems.

The activists are Kathy Kelly of Chicago; Lisa Gizzi of St. Paul, Minn.;
Mark McGuire of Winona, Minn. and Tom Jackson and Lauren Cannon, both of
Dover, N.H.

A sixth member, Ken Hannaford-Ricardi of Worcester, Mass., was unable to
tolerate life in al Jumhouriya, a labyrinth of mostly one-story crumbling
brick houses bisected by open sewage and dotted with dumps of uncollected
garbage. He stayed for only two weeks.

Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, bore the brunt of Iraq's 1980-1988 war
with Iran and then the 1991 Gulf War. The wars devastated its
infrastructure, and the sanctions imposed for Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait
have made rehabilitation almost impossible.

U.S. missiles slammed al-Jumhouriya on Jan. 25, 1999, killing 11 people,
injuring 59 and demolishing dozens of houses. U.S. officials have said it
was likely that U.S. jets targeting Iraqi air defense installations as part
of a southern no-fly zone misfired.

The U.S. activists have become a familiar sight in al-Jumhouriya. Like the
Iraqi families they are staying with, they sleep on the roof at night to
escape excessive heat during power cuts that last up to 14 hours, bathe by
dumping bowls of water over their heads and use fans to cool their faces and
drive off insects.

In the morning, they meet for their Arabic class. Kelly, Cannon and Gizzi
have picked up enough colloquial Arabic to communicate with the locals.

Because two of them have already contracted diarrhea, the Americans now
drink bottled water  their only luxury.

Many families come to the Americans for help, but there is little Kelly and
her group can do. Umm Mohammed wants medicine to alleviate her arthritis.
University students visit them for books, newspapers or magazines. Such
items are banned by the sanctions.

"I have only seen a few old books in this neighborhood,'' Cannon said.

After they end their mission in early September, the activists plan to stage
a demonstration outside the White House and auction hundreds of fans on the
Internet to highlight the plight of the Iraqis. They also plan to give fans
free of charge to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the U.S. presidential
candidates and State Department employees who staff the Iraq desk.

For Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the activists will take a mat
sewn by teen-age girls made of small plastic bags. They are the same bags in
which rationed powdered milk is distributed.

"The propaganda in the United States tells the American people that there is
only one person (President Saddam Hussein) who lives here,'' Kelly said.
"The Americans do not know that here in Iraq are 22 million people deprived
of education, employment, clean water, power supply and other essential

Voices has led more than 30 delegations of U.S. citizens to Iraq to see the
effects of the sanctions. Their tours include visits to pediatric wards of
dying children and inoperative water treatment plants.

Bad water has created an epidemic of dysentery and infectious diseases,
resulting in thousands of child deaths. UNICEF says the number of infant and
child deaths in Iraq has doubled in the decade since the sanctions began.


Reports from Jordan say an Italian pilot who flew a light aircraft to Iraq
in defiance of international sanctions has been sentenced to three years' in

The pilot, Nicolas Trifani, who was tried in his absence, was also fined
fourteen-thousand dollars.

He was found guilty of breaching Jordan's air space last April after the
plane was intercepted on its way back from Baghdad.

Those on board -- two other Italians and a French priest -- said they were
protesting against the sanctions which were imposed after Iraq's invasion of
Kuwait ten years ago.


CAIRO, Aug 30 (Agence France-Presse ) - Egypt's exports to Iraq will reach
1.2 billion dollars this year, compared with 400 million dollars in 1999,
Egyptian Economy and Foreign Trade Minister Yussef Butros-Ghali said

"Egyptian exports will reach two billion dollars next year," Butros-Ghali
added at a meeting with his Iraqi counterpart Mohammed Mahdi Saleh, the
official Egyptian news agency MENA said.

Egypt's main exports to Iraq include cereals, sugar, medicines, medical
equipment and cars.

Saleh was in Egypt for a three-day meeting of the two countries' joint
commission to discuss ways of expanding "economic and trade links between
the two brother nations," the Iraqi news agency INA reported before Saleh
left for Egypt.

Iraq broke off relations with Egypt after Cairo joined the US-led force
opposing Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

But Egypt has become one of Iraq's major economic partners since 1996, when
the United Nations started letting Iraq sell limited amounts of oil for
food, medicine and other necessities.

Cairo has regularly called for an end to economic sanctions on Iraq, which
were imposed in 1990.

SIT-IN (BBC Monitoring Service from Radio Jordan, Amman, in Arabic, 30 Aug)

Prime Minister Ali Abu-al-Raghib said that Jordan's political language is
clear towards ending the suffering of the fraternal Iraqi people and lifting
the blockade imposed on them. He said: We in Jordan - leadership,
government, and people - feel the suffering of the Iraqi people. There is a
sure desire to develop our relations with Iraq in all fields, in line with
what was contained in the letter of designation and the government's policy
statement. He asserted that the popular and official views towards lifting
the Iraq blockade are identical.

The prime minister made these remarks at a meeting with the members of the
National Popular Committee for the Defence of Iraq at the Prime Ministry
this evening. The prime minister said: The government will do its best to
help and support our Iraqi brothers, within the context of our Arab and
international commitments. The head of the committee handed the prime
minister a letter signed by 50,000 citizens, asking the government to work
towards lifting the blockade on the Iraqi people, through coordination and
cooperation with Arab, Islamic and international governments, which do not
see a justification for this blockade.

Following the meeting, Abd-al-Salam Furayhat, head of the committee, said
that at this stage, the committee has decided to cancel the sit-in, which
was scheduled for next Tuesday [5th September], and just to deliver the
letter to the prime minister. He added that the committee plans to organize
an Arab and international campaign to collect academic books and deliver
them to Iraqi libraries.

The meeting was attended by Dr Awad Khulayfat, deputy prime minister and
interior minister, and Dr Talib al-Rifa'i, minister of information.


JERUSALEM (AP)  Prime Minister Ehud Barak said Friday he saw no reason for
concern that Iraq might attack Israel with missiles during the coming months
but said the government was monitoring the situation.

Barak was responding to a report that the U.S. military put a Patriot
antimissile battery on alert for a possible deployment to Israel because of
concerns that Iraq might decide to strike during the U.S. presidential

The Washington Post said the unit on alert is the 69th Air Defense Artillery
Brigade, based near Frankfurt, Germany.

Barak said he did not believe Israel needed extra Patriot batteries.

"We are following everything that is going on. We are ready for any
development,'' he said. "I am not sure that we need to be concerned now, and
I am not sure that the Patriot missile battery needs to be bothered.''

In Germany, Lt. Cmdr. Dave Lee, a spokesman at the U.S. European Command,
said that certain units "are in a heightened state of alert in response to
potential future operations.'' He did not elaborate.

Israel has two Patriot batteries, originally posted here during the 1991
Persian Gulf War, when Iraq fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel. The Patriots,
originally designed as antiaircraft missiles, had limited success in downing
the incoming missiles.

Israeli Transport Minister Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, who was the army chief of
staff until 1998, said Friday he did not know about warnings of an Iraqi
attack. "If there are even scraps of information like that in the hands of
the Americans, serious American information, we will find out about it,''
Shahak said.

However, the danger of an Iraqi attack cannot be discounted, said Efraim
Inbar, an analyst with the Begin-Sadat Strategic Studies Institute at Bar
Ilan University outside Tel Aviv. Inbar said Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein is
unpredictable and has an account to settle with the United States.

Iraq might be motivated by the presidential campaign, Inbar said. "They (the
Iraqi leaders) have long memories,'' Inbar said, and might want to harm the
chances of Republican candidate George W. Bush by "reminding the people that
his father was a failure.''

President George Bush directed the U.S.-led coalition's military strike
against Saddam in 1991 but stopped short of deposing the Iraqi ruler.

Though Saddam has been trying to persuade the world that U.N. sanctions
imposed on Iraq after the Gulf War should be lifted, he has sought
confrontations with the United States from time to time.

Since the end of the war, there have been several alerts about possible
Iraqi attacks on Israel, sending citizens rushing to distribution centers to
update their army-issue gas masks and chemical warfare antidotes. No unusual
activity was reported at the centers Friday.

In partnership with the United States, Israel is developing a more advanced
antimissile system, called the Arrow. The Arrow is designed to intercept
incoming ballistic missiles in the stratosphere, far from their targets. The
first battery was turned over to the Israeli air force in March.

Another test launch of the Arrow system is expected in the coming days, the
Israeli military said.

By Colum Lynch (Washington Post, August 31)

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 30  To avoid a confrontation with Baghdad at an
inopportune time, the United States and other permanent members of the
Security Council have persuaded the chairman of a new U.N. arms agency to
cancel his planned announcement that weapons inspectors are ready to return
to Iraq.

The move follows repeated statements by the Iraqi government that it will
never submit to inspections by the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and
Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC).

Diplomats said U.S., Russian, Chinese and French members of a panel that
oversees UNMOVIC advised its chairman, Hans Blix of Sweden, to drop a
conclusion from a draft report that 44 inspectors have completed training
and are "now in a position to start activities in Iraq," including
"baseline" inspections of facilities that might be involved in building
prohibited weapons.

The final version of the report, released to the council today, says the
arms experts "could plan and commence" preliminary tasks to prepare for
future inspections.

Given the uncertainty, more than half of the newly trained weapons
specialists have been sent back to their home countries. Their names will go
on a roster and they may be called up for service in the future.

"The U.S. and Russia agreed that it was not appropriate to give the
impression that Mr. Blix and the commission was ready to go back into Iraq,"
said a Security Council diplomat. "They cautioned that this might create a
climate of confrontation at an inappropriate time."

The Security Council's five permanent members--the United States, Russia,
China, France and Britain--want to avoid a clash over Iraq policy when their
heads of state meet at the United Nations next week during the so-called
Millennium Summit of World Leaders, according to diplomats.

A U.S. official also contended that it would be premature to re-launch
weapons inspections in Iraq. "They have more work to do," the official said.
"While UNMOVIC has finished its first stage of preparation, it's a plain
fact that they are not yet ready to launch a full-scale program in Iraq."

Despite the reversal, Blix reported that he would continue preparing for a
resumption of on-site inspections. He said a new team of inspectors would be
trained in France from Nov. 7 to Dec. 8, and U.N. officials said he was
talking with various countries about technical assistance, such as
communications equipment and surveillance aircraft.

Under the terms of the 1991 cease-fire that ended the Persian Gulf War, Iraq
is prohibited from possessing medium- and long-range missiles or nuclear,
chemical and biological weapons.

A former inspection agency, known as the U.N. Special Commission, or UNSCOM,
pulled its inspectors out of Iraq on the eve of a U.S.-British air campaign
in December 1998.

UNMOVIC may face a renewed challenge from Iraq's allies when the council
debates the future of inspections during the week of Sept. 11. Russia has
told Blix that the participation of some former members of UNSCOM on the new
team--particularly two Russian arms experts, Nikita Smidovich and Igor
Mitrokhin--would make it difficult for Moscow to press Baghdad to cooperate.

"We warned [Blix] that he should take into account that Iraq might not be
satisfied with this decision" allowing former UNSCOM members to serve in
UNMOVIC, said Gennadi Gatilov, Russia's deputy representative to the United
Nations. He noted that the two inspectors were associated with some of the
U.N.'s most aggressive inspections. "We will see how this situation develops
in the future, but I personally envisage difficulties," he said.

In an unusual twist, the United States and Britain have defended the Russian
inspectors while their own government has pressed Blix to get rid of them or
push them into the background. U.S. officials praised the Russians as
experienced and professional inspectors with unparalleled knowledge of the
Iraqi weapons program.


WASHINGTON, Aug 31(Agence France-Presse) - US and British aircraft returned
unscathed from air strikes over southern Iraq Wednesday, a US military
spokesman said Thursday, denying an Iraqi report that one of the aircraft
was hit by ground fire.

"There is no veracity to that report or many of the reports you see coming
out of the Iraqi news agency," said Lieutenant Colonel Mark Samisch, a
spokesman for the Tampa, Florida-based US Central Command. "All of our
planes returned safely without any damage."

Iraqi press reports, quoting a military spokesman in Baghdad, said that
three Iraqis, including a child, were killed in an air strike on a village
in the southern province of Al Muthanna in which several houses were

But Samisch said the command had assessed the strike and found no evidence
of collateral damage.

"All the rounds have been accounted for. They all hit their intended
targets. They were all legitimate military targets," he said.

One of the three air strikes launched Wednesday came as close as 25 miles
(40 kilometers) to Baghdad, hitting an integrated air defense command post
southeast of the capital near the town of Shayk Mazhar, Samisch said.

"It was just below the line," he said, referring to the northern boundary of
a US and British enforced no-fly zone that extends over southern Iraq from
the Kuwait border to the outskirts of Baghdad.

"The other was located near Al Kut about 95 miles (153 kilometers) southeast
of Baghdad, and there was another site near Baghdad," he said.

At those sites anti-aircraft weapons were targeted by coalition aircraft,
which launched the strikes in retaliation for Iraqi ground fire Tuesday and
Wednesday at aircraft patrolling the no fly zone, he said.

Aircraft taking part in the raids included US Navy F/A-18 Hornets and F-14
Tomcats, US Air Force F-16 Falcons and British Royal Air Force GR-1
Tornados, the command said.

No-fly zones were imposed over northern and southern Iraq after the 1991
Gulf War to protect Shiite and Kurdish minorities from Iraqi air attacks.

But Iraq has put up sporadic resistance to the overflights by US and British
warplanes since December, 1998, when the United States and Britain launched
an intensive three day bombing campaign called Operation Desert Fox.

Monitoring Service, Sep 1, from Kurdistan Satellite TV, Salah al-Din, in
Sorani Kurdish 31 Aug)

Iraqi Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) satellite TV said on Thursday that
KDP fighters had killed 21 members of an Islamist group based in the Haji
Umran area of northeastern Iraq, near the border with Iran.

It said two of its fighters had died and seven others had been wounded in
the clash with members of the Islamic Unification group on Wednesday.

The shoot-out began when a KDP unit was ambushed by the Islamists. A second
unit then arrived on the scene and inflicted the casualties on the
Unification members.

The group had set up a military base in the area, from where it had been
launching attacks on villages and had become "a source of threat and
intimidation to citizens", the TV said.

by Waiel Faleh

KARBALA, Iraq (Associated Press) -- In the last two years, Iranian pilgrims
have flocked here by the thousands, visiting holy Shiite Muslim shrines and
boosting Iraq's tourism economy by spending on hotels, food and sacred

But following a recent dispute over pilgrimage fees, Iranians have stayed
away, and Iraqi business people near the shrines in southern and central
Iraq are already hurting from their absence.

''Buses full of pilgrims used to stop daily at my restaurant and others in
the city, making us happy with the business,'' but no longer, said Abdel
Hussein Hakeem, a restaurant owner in Najaf, 90 miles south of Baghdad.

''I am afraid the dust will gather again,'' said hotel owner Salah Mahmoud.
He said his hotel sat mostly empty until the influx of pilgrims helped him
restart his business in Karbala, also 90 miles from the capital.

Thousands of Iranian pilgrims regularly visited the holy Shiite cities of
Najaf and Karbala before war broke out between the two countries in 1980.

The border was not officially reopened until July 1998, when an agreement
was made to allow 12,000 Iranian pilgrims to visit monthly. Iran closed the
border again that December, citing fears for the pilgrims' safety during
U.S. and British airstrikes against Iraq.

The border was reopened last November, and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims
have made the emotional journey to the revered sites.

On July 28, the pilgrimages stopped.

Iran has accused Iraq of barring the pilgrims from visiting the shrines.
Iraq denies this. Its Foreign Ministry claimed that Iran has stopped the
pilgrims because ''it could not pay its commitments to the Iraqi side.''

Iranian pilgrims pay $350 in fees for accommodation and other services
during their weeklong stay in Iraq.

A senior Iranian official said in early August that the Iraqis had requested
the pilgrims pay additional entry fees. The official, who spoke on condition
of anonymity, said a previous agreement on the payment of fees was valid
until September.

Iraq's religious tourism has flourished in the two years since Saddam
Hussein decided to allow Iranian pilgrims to visit, a move aimed at bringing
hard currency to sanctioned Iraq and improving relations with its eastern
neighbor. Pilgrimage tourism is one of the few forms of international trade
that Iraq is allowed to engage in under the U.N.'s sweeping sanctions.

Government officials were reluctant to give a figure for how much hard
currency Iraq may be losing. Estimates based on the number of Iranian
pilgrims allowed to enter suggest a monthly income of at least $4 million,
with another $1 million from pilgrims from Syria, Jordan and Turkey.

Mosques in the cities of Najaf and Karbala are the most sacred sites to
Iran's majority Shiite Muslims after those in Saudi Arabia.

Najaf is the site of the tomb of Imam Ali, the son-in-law and cousin of
Islam's Prophet Muhammad. Shiites aspire to bury their dead in its cemetery,
which stretches for miles and is the largest in the Muslim world.

The Imam Hussein Shrine in Karbala commemorates the martyrdom of the
prophet's grandson and Shiite Islam's most revered saint. Hussein and 70
family members and followers died in a battle on the plain of Karbala in the
year 680, a key reason for Islam's split into the orthodox Sunni and
minority Shiite sects.

Vendors at the sites make their livings selling worry beads, white burial
sheets inscribed with verses from the Quran, and dried mud pieces from holy
soil used as head rests during prayers.

Murtadha Mahdi has been selling the items for 30 years in Karbala. ''I used
to order on a weekly basis to keep up with buyers,'' he said. ''I did not
order a single item last week because I sold very few worry beads in the
last two weeks.''


WASHINGTON (Reuters, September 2) - U.S. military officials said on Saturday
that Western planes had struck targets in southern Iraq early on Saturday
morning and returned safely to base.

"The strikes came in response to anti-aircraft artillery fire directed
yesterday against coalition aircraft enforcing United Nations Security
Council resolutions,'' the U.S. Central Command said in a news release
issued from Macdill Air Force Base in Florida.

U.S. officials said the intent was to "degrade Iraq's ability to jeopardize
coalition pilots and aircraft'' that patrol no-fly zones in Iraq. The last
coalition strike against Iraqi targets was on August 30.   ....

Britain said none of its aircraft were involved in the strikes on Saturday.

In Baghdad, the official Iraqi News Agency INA quoted a military spokesman
as saying ``enemy formations'' flew over Basra, Dhi qar, Muthanna and Najaf
provinces at 4 p.m. [Should this be a.m.?  PB], attacking civilian and
service installations.

The Iraqi spokesman said Iraqi air defense units fired on the jets and
forced them to return to their bases in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.


AMMAN: A number of Jordanian companies want to switch from dealing with
Israel to trading with Iraq, the chamber of industry in Amman said Saturday.

"These Jordanian companies have asked the chamber of industry to pass on
this request to the Iraqi authorities, who refuse to deal with any company
that has links with Israel," chamber chairman Osman Bdeir told AFP.

Iraq is a "more important strategic market" for them, and the bosses said
they were ready to make a commitment with Baghdad to break any links they
have with Israel, he said.

Jordanian business sources say about 50 companies have done business with
Israel since the the two countries concluded a peace agreement in 1994.
Bdeir refused to give the name of the companies wanting to make the switch,
or to say how many there were, but said they were companies specialising in
"consumer goods".

He also said he himself would go to Baghdad in the next week to discuss ways
of strengthening economic links with Iraqi officials. Iraqi Trade Minister
Mohamed Mahdi Saleh is expected in Amman on Saturday afternoon for a two-day
visit during which he will hold talks with his Jordanian counterpart, Wassef
Azar, an official Jordanian source said.

The two countries have an oil deal and trade agreement for 2000, under which
Jordan's exports will be worth no more than 300 million dollars, in exchange
for 4.8 million tonnes of Iraqi oil. Jordan receives half the oil free, and
the remainder at preferential tariffs. Jordan's main exports to Iraq are
vegetable oil, soap, leather and detergent. (AFP)


JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia: The Gulf Cooperation Council on Friday denounced
"threats" made against Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and called on Iraq to apply
international resolutions to put an end to its people's suffering.

At the opening of a meeting of GCC foreign ministers, Saudi Foreign Minister
Saud al-Faisal, whose country currently leads the six-nation group, also
called on Iran to cooperate with a tripartite committee set up by the GCC to
seek a resolution of a territorial dispute between Tehran and the United
Arab Emirates.

The GCC groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United
Arab Emirates. Its foreign ministers have gathered in Jeddah for two days of
talks expected to put the Middle East peace process at the top of the
agenda. Last month, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein blasted the leaders of
Kuwait and Saudi Arabia as "traitors" for allowing the United States and
Britain to launch air strikes on Iraq from bases in the Gulf.

"These leaders and kings, whose only concern is to appear to be on the
throne as if they really governed, should be ashamed that the aggressors'
planes take off their territory to strike the fortress of the Arabs, kill
its women, men and children, and destroy what they possess," he said.

The Babel newspaper, headed by Saddam's eldest son, Uday, warned that same
week that "if the treacherous leaders in Kuwait need another lesson, we are
more than ready to hand one out to them." As a result, Kuwait mobilized part
of its army, as a "precautionary measure."

In his remarks Friday, Faisal said the conduct of the Iraqi government
demonstrated a "bad interpretation of regional and international initiatives
aimed at aiding the Iraqi people." He said the Iraqi "threats" are designed
to distract international attention from the "true causes of the Iraqi

"A strict application of international resolutions is, in our view, the best
guarantee for putting an end to the suffering of the people of Iraq,
preserve (the country's) territorial unity, sovereignty and independence, to
which we attach great importance," Faisal said.

Turning to the UAE's territorial dispute with Iran, Faisal said: "We still
hope for cooperation by the Islamic Republic of Iran with the efforts of the
tripartite committee to put in place a mechanism permitting the holding of
negotiations between the Emirates and Iran." The UAE claims three islands in
the Gulf that Iran occupied in 1971. Last year, the GCC formed a committee
consisting of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman to "facilitate" a dialogue
between the two parties.

So far, the committee has not announced any breakthrough in the case and has
not yet visited Iran. (AFP)


JEDDAH: The six Gulf Cooperation Council countries announced Saturday that
they would study the "ideas" of member state Qatar to lift sanctions on

"The ministerial council has received the written ideas of Qatar about
ending the humanitarian suffering of the Iraqi people. The council has
decided to study them," said a communique after a two-day meeting of foreign
ministers in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah. Qatar's Foreign Minister
Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr Al-Thani called in March for a regional
initiative to end the sanctions imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990.


BAGHDAD: Iraq, battered by 10 years of economic sanctions, is scrapping its
free education system. Four million students will have to begin paying from
this month, a weekly newspaper reported Saturday.

The education ministry has set a scale of fees ranging from 2,000 dinars
($1) in primary schools to 25,000 dinars ($12.50) at university for the
coming academic year, reported Saut Al-Talaba (Students' Voice).

"It's a contribution from students to the efforts made by the government to
maintain the level of education under the sanctions regime," which has been
in force since Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, an Iraqi official told AFP under
cover of anonymity.

It will be the first time in 30 years that Iraqis have been asked to pay for
their education, although parents were asked to provide school books and
equipment for their children last year. The end of free education has not
been announced officially ahead of the new school year, which begins in

Under sanctions, education standards have slipped in a country which boasted
one of the best systems in the Arab world, built on the back of the oil boom
of the 1970s. Attendance by both students and teachers has dropped
dramatically as people struggle to eke out a living doing several jobs.
Teachers earn an average of 3,500 dinars a month, worth about $1.7 at
today's exchange rate. Before the Gulf War, one Iraqi dinar was equivalent
to $3.3 dollars. (AFP)


UNITED NATIONS: The speaker of Iraq's parliament, Saadoun Hammadi, said on
Friday his country was being subjected to genocide as a result of sanctions.

"While genocide is explicitly prohibited by the Charter of the United
Nations and by international law, it is an existing reality in Iraq where
every seven minutes an Iraqi child dies for lack of food and medical care,"
he said in a speech to a conference of presiding officers of national

"What is going on in Iraq today is nothing less than a genocide so horrible
that United Nations officials have been unable to endure it," Hammadi said,
alluding to several UN humanitarian officials who resigned in protest at the
sanctions regime while working in Iraq.

Iraq has been the target of tough UN sanctions since its 1990 invasion of
Kuwait, although it is permitted to sell unlimited amounts of oil to buy
food, medicine and other civilian necessities under UN supervision.

The sanctions may be eased if Iraq cooperates with UN weapons inspectors
acting under Security Council resolutions calling for the scrapping of its
weapons of mass destruction. But Iraq has barred the return of any
inspectors since the last team left the country in December 1998.

Hammadi, who said Iraq had "fulfilled all its obligations," added that the
United States and Britain had "imposed on our country illegally no-flight
zones and they bomb our cities daily, inflicting death on civilians" and the
destruction of property.

The "no-fly zones" were instituted by the United States and Britain after
the end of the 1991 Gulf war to protect dissident Kurds in the north of Iraq
and Shi'ites in the south from attack by Iraqi troops. The zones were not
specifically authorized by the Security Council but the United States and
Britain say they are covered by a 1991 resolution condemning the repression
of civilians in many parts of Iraq.

Referring to patrols by U.S. and British warplanes over the no-fly zones,
Hammadi said: "Two totally undemocratic regimes, which are relics of the
Middle Ages, namely Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, are providing military bases,
financing and encouragement for those acts of aggression.

"The Charter is thus being violated daily while the Security Council has not
met even once to consider this aggression," he said. (Reuters)

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