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News supp, 3­10/00


*  Panel will call for $3.2 billion in biological defense
*  State Dept. Accuses Iraq, Afghans [on religious toleration]
*  Pentagon says attack on Kurds would prompt U.S. military response (CNN)
*  Unrest Expected Amid Rumors of Saddam¹s Ill Health (
*  Opec has world running on empty (The Star, Malaysia)

by Pamela Hess

WASHINGTON, Sept. 5 (United Press International) - A panel of senior
advisors to the Defense Department is urging the Pentagon to create a
massive new $3.2 billionprogram to protect the country from terrorists
armed, not with bombs, butwith engineered diseases that could kill thousands
or even millions ofpeople before the man-made outbreaks are detected.

The Defense Science Board will recommend in a report to be made publiclater
this month that the Defense Department create a new organization tooversee
the development of a data base of biological weapons, a computerchip to
automatically diagnose the diseases in patients, and a computernetwork that
will rapidly warn health care centers about man made outbreaks.

United Press International obtained a draft copy of the report,
entitled"Task Force on Defense Against Biological Weapons."

The science board says the United States is wholly unprepared for an
attackof any magnitude, asserting a wave of 100 to 1,000 cases of one of
thesediseases in a single city would collapse the health care system.

The board warns there are massive shortfalls in medical supplies to address
a "significant bio incident" and no plans to address the shortage.

The science board paints a grim picture of the brutal effectiveness
ofbiological warfare: An attack on a city with 100 kilograms of bioagent
wouldkill one to three million people, twice the number of fatalities that
wouldresult from a one megaton nuclear weapon.

Moreover, because of the commercial nature of the ingredients needed
tomanufacture viruses and pathogens, biological weapons are harder
forgovernments and monitoring regimes to track and control than nuclear

The collapse of the Soviet Union and its robust germ warfare program
makesthe possibility of such weapons getting into the hands of terrorists
orcriminals even more likely. At one former biological warfare center
inAlmaty, Kazakhstan, there are 900 strains of the plague, 300 of anthrax,
200of tularemia and 200 of cholera.

The first step recommended by the board is for the Defense Department
tocreate a "Bio Print" database that would create "signatures" of the to
50bioagents that cause human disease.

It says an "urgent priority" would be acquiring and profiling former
Sovietstrains and agents, which would not only yield medicines and
vaccinesagainst them but also help track leakage of the diseases into
"states ofconcern" like Iraq and terrorist groups.

At the same time, it would profile the signatures of organisms used in
theprivate sector for legitimate purposes.

This project would cost about $675 million over five years to map about1,350
genomes, according to the report.

Only 100 microbial genomes have been sequenced to date, according to
thereport which warns of a "massive capacity gap in public and private

The next step would be to create the diagnostic "Zebra Chip" - a
referencethat compares discerning a zebra from a pack of horses to
discerning abioagent from a multitude of natural human infections.

The miniaturized zebra computer chip would provide immediate diagnoses
ofdiseases documented in the Bio-Print database, flagging manmade or
unusualdiseases to health care workers even before there are symptoms. It
would benon-intrusive and disposable, working with a sample collected from a
patientduring a routine clinical screening.

The chips would be introduced in the DOD health care system which serves4.4
million people, and eventually transferred to the civilian health

The same computer chips could also be used to screen immigrants andvisitors
to the country to detect whether they have been handling or exposedto
biological weapons, according to the panel's report.

The science board estimates these chips could be produced for between $1and
$2, with 12 million produced the first year for DOD patients.

If the "front line" zebra chip detected bioagents, the Defense
Departmentwould then deploy more sophisticated forensic zebra chips designed
to probefor the specific agent in question. The Defense Science Board
estimatesthose chips would cost around $52 million.

Once a biological agent has been confirmed, the information would
bebroadcast on the Biological Warning and Communication System (BWACS),
whichwould warn all DOD health care organizations, military bases, the
Reservesand the Center for Disease Control and other civilian health

With a staff of 150 and an initial investment of $300 million, the
BWACSwould gobble the lion's share of funding, requiring $1.5 billion over

At the same time, the science board is recommending the Pentagon
investheavily in research and development for bioagents drugs and vaccines,
andwork with the Food and Drug Administration to accelerate the review
process.It also recommends the Pentagon fund a $50 million to $100
millionmanufacturing facility for vaccines or after-exposure drugs in order
tospeed production.

Overseeing all this development would be a new organization called theJoint
BioDefense Organization. The JBDO would direct the military responseto a
bioagent outbreak and would coordinate efforts with the civilian sectorand
media, and would report directly to the president and the defensesecretary
through the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The study was chaired by George Poste, chief executive officer of
HealthTechnology Networks, a consulting group that specializes in the impact
ofgenetics, computing and other advanced technologies on healthcare
researchand development. He was previously the president of research and
developmentat SmithKline Beecham and was involved in the Human Genome


WASHINGTON (Associated Press, Tue 5 Sep) ‹ A State Department report
released Tuesday says a significant percentage of the world population does
not have the right to religious freedom, and it names Iraq and Afghanistan
among the worst offenders.

``Much of the world's population lives in countries in which the right to
religious freedom is restricted or prohibited,'' the report says.

The situation exists even though 144 countries belong to an international
covenant that acknowledges the right of all citizens to religious freedom,
according to the study.

In 1998, Congress required the State Department to issue an annual report on
the state of religious freedom worldwide. The 2000 report covers the period
from July 1, 1999 to June 30, 2000 and includes reports on 194 countries and

Some highlights:

Iraq ‹ For decades, the government has conducted a "brutal campaign of
murder, summary execution, and protracted arbitrary detention against
religious leaders and adherents of the majority Shiite population.''
Security forces murdered senior Shiite clerics, desecrated mosques and holy
sites, arrested tens of thousands of Shiites and forcibly prevents Shiites
from practicing their religion.

Afghanistan ‹ The government has engaged in persecution and killing,
particularly against the Shiite minority. "The Taliban enforced its strict
interpretation of Islamic Shari'a law, and, according to reports, public
executions, floggings, and amputations took place weekly against those who
violated the law.''

China ‹ Government respect for religious freedom in China deteriorated as
the persecution of several religious minorities increased. While membership
in many faiths grew rapidly and government supervision of religious activity
was minimal in some regions, "government officials in other regions imposed
tight regulations, closed houses of worship, and activity persecuted members
of some unregistered religious groups.''

Myanmar ‹ The government continued to repress systematically members of both
minority faiths and the majority Buddhist population. "Buddhist monks who
promoted human and political rights were arrested, and some Buddhist
monasteries were destroyed. Government security forces frequently employed
coercion to induce Christian members of the Chin ethnic minority to convert
to Buddhism.''

The report also found varying degrees of repression in communist countries
such as Cuba, North Korea and Vietnam. Among countries friendly to the
United States, the report said religious discrimination exists in Saudi
Arabia, Egypt and Israel.

The study concluded there were ``significant improvements'' in Azerbaijan
and Laos. In Azerbaijan, the report traced the changed situation to a
presidential pledge last November to improve the status of religious

In Laos, the government released in mid-June a large number of Christians
who had been imprisoned because of their faith, the report said.

It added that there were noteworthy improvements in 31 other countries.

6th September)
by Chris Plante, CNN National Security Producer

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States has developed highly classified plans
for at least three days of intense attacks against Iraqi military targets if
President Saddam Hussein's military strikes at the minority Kurdish
population in northern Iraq this fall, Defense Department sources said.
The sources told CNN that a U.S. Army Patriot missile battery -- recently
placed on a "heightened state of readiness" for possible deployment to
Israel -- was alerted out of concern that Iraq might fire Scud missiles at
Israel in response to any potential U.S. military action.
Officials cautioned that any action by the United States would have to be
prompted by Iraqi military assaults against the minority Kurds, who are
generally considered by Baghdad to be hostile to the government of Saddam

Plan likely to include cruise-missile attacks

U.S. analysts are divided on whether the Iraqi military will pursue military
objectives in the Kurdish region this fall, said sources who asked not to be
identified. But they said the planning was "prudent" in light of Iraq's
violent history with the Kurds.
The proposed U.S. strike plan would almost certainly include cruise-missile
attacks and air strikes against a range of Iraqi targets, including military
sites and Iraqi infrastructure associated with Saddam's military machine,
officials familiar with the plan said.
One official said the United States has closely monitored recent Iraqi troop
movements in the northern part of the country, but has seen no unusual
"It could just be normal troop rotation," an official said.
Members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were briefed on the planning Tuesday
evening in the Pentagon's classified briefing room known as "the tank."

U.S. carrier battle group in Persian Gulf

The aircraft carrier U.S.S. George Washington and its battle group are in
the Persian Gulf. The carrier group includes a number of ships capable of
firing Tomahawk Land Attack cruise missiles.
The George Washington carries an airwing of about 75 combat aircraft.
The United States maintains a carrier battle group in the Gulf at all times
to provide air power for enforcement of the southern "no-fly" zone and to
keep a high-profile U.S. presence in the region.
Iraq is vulnerable in the south to U.S. and British warplanes based in Saudi
Arabia and Kuwait and in the north to fighter and attack planes based in
Incirlik, Turkey.
U.S. officials apparently do not want to be caught flat-footed, as they were
in 1996 when Iraq moved against Kurds in the north under the guise of
carrying out routine exercises.
In response to the suprise Iraqi move, the United States struck 14 targets
on September 3, 1996 in southern Iraq with 27 Tomahawk Land-Attack cruise
missiles, but only after an Iraqi military assault against the Kurdish town
of Irbil.
The Baghdad government at that time installed pro-Saddam Kurds into
positions of power in Irbil.
That round of U.S. strikes was widely seen as an impotent response to the
Iraqi strongarm tactics in Irbil.

Strikes would last several days

Sources said the contingency plans call for several days of strikes, but
would not be as intense as the attacks that took place December 16-19, 1998,
during Operation Desert Fox, when the United States attacked 100 targets in
Iraq in response to a dispute between Iraq and United Nations arms
inspectors that led to the departure of the U.N. team.
Pentagon officials said at the time that the strikes set back by about two
years Iraq's efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction and greater
ballistic missile capability.
There has been speculation that the United States might respond militarily
to an anticipated Iraqi refusal to allow United Nations arms inspectors back
into Iraq, but Pentagon officials said such a proposal was opposed by
important U.S. allies, including Saudi Arabia ,which provides bases to U.S.
and British warplanes patrolling Iraq's southern "no-fly" zone. 



Saddam Hussein may have cancer. The Iraqi president's health is difficult to
determine, but the effects on Iraqi domestic policy are straightforward.
Rumors about Hussein's health are historically followed by internal unrest,
and increased powers for his heir apparent ­ Qusai Hussein.


The Middle East is abuzz with rumors that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
suffers from lymphatic cancer. He is reportedly under the care of French,
German and Swiss doctors in a villa-turned-hospital outside of Baghdad.
Hussein's son Qusai is heading a family committee that would run the country
if his father is unable.

The state of Hussein's health is difficult to verify ­ but the consequences
of the rumor are much more simple. Hussein's physical state immediately
affects activities of any potential opposition. If history is any guide, we
can expect a purge and a power transfer to follow in the next few months.

The Iraqi opposition broke the cancer story in July, and the London-based
Arab daily Al Sharq al-Awsat revived it, along with additional information
from an anonymous Iraqi doctor in a Sept. 3 report. This isn't the first
time Hussein has been linked with the disease ­ his health has been in
question for the last five years.

The cancer rumors first emerged in January 1996, and Hussein himself denied
their veracity. Again, the cancer was described as lymphatic. The story
flared for a week or two, but Hussein continued to live, and the story died

But events suggest that others consider Hussein weak. A month after the
cancer announcement a top Iraqi defector returned to Baghdad. Hussein Kamal
Hassan - the architect of the Iraqi arms program - returned from self-exile
in Jordan, only to be executed within a week of his arrival. His death
marked the start of a small purge of his family members by Hussein's forces.

Hussein then increased preparations for his succession. In March 1996, he
placed his son Qusai at the head of a special security body charged with
protecting the president.

Two years later, in October 1998, Israeli television reported new rumors
that Hussein was ill. Again, the Iraqi president proclaimed his health, but
moved quickly to stabilize the situation. His gave more power to his heir
apparent Qusai, who then oversaw a massive crackdown against the Shia
opposition in southern Iraq. Iraqi opposition reported hundreds of arrests
in November and December 1998, and some 150 executions.

In both cases, the political unrest that followed rumors of Hussein's poor
health was suppressed ­ and Qusai gained more power. It is possible that
Hussein is using these rumors as a means to trick his opponents into
revealing themselves. More likely, his opponents took advantage of a real
concern about Hussein's health, but were beaten back.

The recent rumors have some merit. Hussein lost his father and a sibling to
cancer, according to the Toronto Star. And the president gave only a short
speech on the July 17 anniversary of the Ba'ath party revolution, rather
than the multi-hour orations of the past. Hussein's speech was rambling,
almost mystical, as he compared the revolution to "the smile of a baby, the
prayer of a hermit and rain falling on parched land," according to The

We expect to see another bout of political unrest, either from within
Hussein's inner circle or from the opposition within Iraq. This too, will be
suppressed, as will more power transfer to Qusai, the next leader of Iraq.

Iraq on
Saddam Contains Eldest Son's Bid for Power
-14 April 2000
Power Struggle Brewing Between Sons of Saddam
-29 March 2000
Iraqi Succession Conflict: A Situation Report
-11 October 1999
Qusai Hussein Solidifies His New Position
-11 August 1999
Who is the real Prince of Baghdad?
-6 August 1999


Forty years ago, in an oil glut, American petroleum giant Standard Oil
announced a cut in the posted price of its Middle East crude exports.

For the producing countries, whose resources Standard and other oil majors
controlled, it was the last straw.

Representatives from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Venezuela and Kuwait--the
source of 80% of the world's petroleum exports--met in Baghdad on Sept 10,
1960, to form the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec).

Internal rivalries, surplus supplies, US import quotas and the oil majors'
tight grip on production left Opec on the sidelines for much of its first

"At the start Opec was not even recognised by the oil companies,'' recalls
former Saudi oil minister Sheikh Zaki Yamani, still the cartel's most famous
face. "But things changed and soon they knew who we were.''

Now, during the latest oil shortage to punctuate Opec's feast-or-famine
history, the cartel is reminding the world of an original objective--to make
the West pay more for its crude.

At around US$30 a barrel, oil prices in real terms are still some way short
of the US$70 peak that Opec engineered at the end of its 1970s heyday, in
the aftermath of the 1979 Iranian revolution.

While most thought Opec had long said goodbye to the days of confrontation,
some in the cartel are enjoying the opportunity for an encore.

A mixture of old-fashioned political posturing by Venezuela and the fear of
provoking another price slump mean Opec ministers who meet on Sunday are
unlikely to do much to prevent a winter of discontent for oil consumers.

Venezuela, led by President Hugo Chavez, a former paratrooper, wants high
prices and a high profile when it hosts a summit for Opec heads of state at
the end of this month.

With a fuel price revolt in France and official complaints from the United
States, the European Union and Japan ringing in his ears, Chavez appears to
have got his way.

Though economists are fretting again that rocketing fuel costs could spark
another 1970s style recession, the world finds itself far better prepared to
manage another Opec crisis than in the 1970s.

Vowing not to be caught out again, the West has invested heavily in its own

The multinationals, sent packing by Opec nationalisations, have invented new
technologies to slash the cost of finding crude and pumped oil from regions
like the North Sea. And power generators in nations without oil have turned
nuclear and then increasingly to cleaner fuels like natural gas.

Consumers also have become more efficient. High taxes in the industrialised
world, with the exception of the United States, have replaced high prices as
the incentive for efficiency gains.

Oil prices, set first by the multinationals and then by Opec, have long
since fallen under the spell of the market.

While Opec controls the spigots, flickering futures screens and financial
derivatives now dictate market direction.

Opec says taxes and excessive market speculation are to blame for today's
high prices.

In Europe, up to 80% of the cost of a litre is tax. British motorists pay
US$190 a barrel at the pump for petrol that fetches US$40 a barrel at the
refinery gate.

Opec secretary-general Rilwanu Lukman, asked whether the cartel would avoid
bringing motorists to tears, said: "They should weep quietly at petrol
stations but not because of Opec. They should cry out because their
government taxes oil too heavily.''

Petroleum product inventories at record lows mean Opec probably has lost
control over the market for the course of the coming northern hemisphere

High prices will endure into 2001. But just as the glut and 25-year price
lows of 1998 eventually led to the current spike, so high values inevitably
will lead to another slump soon.

Yamani says Opec's current tactics are bound to backfire.

"Increasing the price of oil in the 1970s was a serious mistake. Opec used
to have 70% of the world's production and it fell to 30%. The same mistakes
are being made,'' he says.

Most in the industry concur that, while prices will stay higher at least for
the next six months, it is likely to be another case for Opec of short-term
gain, long-term pain.

Shell chief executive Mark Moody-Stuart agrees with Yamani. New production
technologies that mean most crude reserves are accessible at US$12 a barrel
or less will bring prices slumping sooner rather than later.

"When Opec started cutting output in 1998, they were hoping for US$18. Then
the target moved to US$21, then to US$25 and then US$28. Now we're at US$30
they're saying, this isn't so bad after all. But it won't last.''--Reuters

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