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NEWS SUPPLEMENT, 19-25/11/00 * Analysis: Iraqi sanctions solution nearer * Arabs more willing to work with Iraq * Inside the Pariah's den * Kurds face nightmare of mines * Voucher system fails to halt rise in asylum applicants [largely owing to big influx of Iraqis] http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/middle_east/newsid_1032000/1032410.st m * Analysis: Iraqi sanctions solution nearer by Barbara Plett in Baghdad BBC News Online, Monday, 20 November Talk of a direct dialogue between Iraq and the United Nations has raised expectations that a solution to the sanctions stalemate is within grasp. With growing Islamic support for Iraq, and the United States distracted by its interminable presidential election, the time seems right for a new approach to the 10-year-old dispute over weapons inspections and the UN economic embargo. The tricky bit is how to move forward when Baghdad insists that the dialogue should not be based on UN resolution 1284, the security councilıs most recent statement on Iraq. The resolution promises to ease sanctions if Iraq admits and co-operates with new international arms monitors. But it is vague on the terms that would lead to the end of the embargo - reflecting divisions on Iraqi policy in within the security council. Iraqi officials say they cannot deal with the resolution because it is not practical. But bolstered by improving relations with the Arab and Muslim world, including the breaking of a de facto air travel embargo, they have indicated they would like to find a way out of the current impasse and are prepared to work with the UN. ³We have one major and central demand, lifting the embargo,² Nizar Hamdun, under secretary at the Iraqi foreign ministry, told the Arab newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat. ³Once Iraq feels that the security council is serious about lifting the embargo, there will be a different answer.² Informed Iraqi observers suggest the solution is a formula that meets the demands of UN resolutions without referring specifically to 1284. One says he believes it might be possible to return arms monitors to Iraq for a limited period of intrusive inspections if Baghdad felt it would get something substantive in return. Iraqi officials have not gone that far in public, but they have said Baghdad is willing to discuss Iraqi obligations. After recent talks with the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Qatar, the Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed al Sahaf said Iraq had agreed to open a comprehensive dialogue with the UN without preconditions. Mr Husseinıs oil is probably more of a threat than his alleged weapons of mass destruction ³The role of this dialogue is to see if there are allegations from the security council resolutions of outstanding issues that can be proven with evidence,² he said. ³At that time we will see how we can implement this part. ³But to say that Iraq has not implemented anything, without any evidence, this is only the politics of two countries [the US and UK].² Kofi Annan has remained circumspect about what exactly was discussed. He told journalists he would be making contacts about a mechanism for dialogue, but he made clear that he was bound by security council resolutions. Diplomats quoted by the Reuters news agency said the Iraqis hoped to negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding with Mr Annan to break the deadlock, but the Security Council would have to approve any deal. US sources also quoted by the agency said the next administration might be willing to ease civilian import restrictions and abandon the southern air exclusion zone, but would not agree to give up UN control over Iraqıs oil revenues - Saddam Husseinıs main demand. At the moment Saddam Husseinıs oil is probably more of a threat than his alleged weapons of mass destruction. There are fears that Iraq may opt for confrontation if dialogue does not work, threatening to wreak havoc with oil markets by stopping or slowing production. Under the circumstances, some observers say the West should take its cue from its Arab allies, of whom only Kuwait and Saudi Arabia still insist on having nothing to do with Baghdad. Sheikh Zayad of the United Arab Emirates has often argued the time has come to try engagement with Iraq rather than punishment and isolation. http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/iraq23.html (IS THIS RIGHT?) * Arabs more willing to work with Iraq by Howard Scheider, Washington Post, November 23, 2000 As if stepping off a plane at Baghdad's airport was not unusual enough, Jordanian Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb said that what he saw there showed the extent to which American-backed international sanctions are slipping in the face of Arab and other efforts to end Iraq's isolation. Seven other planes that had carried visiting dignitaries stood parked at the suddenly bustling Saddam International Airport. Hotels were full of officials and businessmen hoping to build ties and snare contracts, including Jordanians led by Ragheb, the highest-ranking Arab leader to visit Iraq since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The country was mobilizing dozens of truckloads of food and medical supplies to help Palestinians engaged in new violence with Israel. And, in another at least symbolic example of improving conditions in a country that has often complained about shortages of basic medical and other goods, the Jordanian said he was able to quickly replace the blood pressure medicine he forgot to bring with him. After weathering years of scarcity, Iraq is riding a resurgence in the price of oil and in its own political fortunes in the Arab world and beyond, with its government intact and with new opportunities to battle for a lifting of the international sanctions imposed at the start of the Persian Gulf War a decade ago. Arab leaders, most of whom joined the military alliance that evicted Iraq from Kuwait, are showing an increasing willingness to rehabilitate the country even with President Saddam Hussein still in control. Their people are demanding it, particularly when the Iraqi president's anti-Israel rhetoric has struck a chord during weeks of Palestinian-Israeli violence. The image of American and British planes patrolling northern and southern Iraq, ostensibly to protect rebel Kurdish and Shiite populations, is contrasted with U.S. opposition to international intervention on behalf of the Palestinians, a popular example of what is seen as the American double standard. In addition, there is diminishing faith among Arab officials that U.S. policy makes sense toward a country they regard as militarily weakened, and which for their own economic, political and cultural reasons they would like to reinvigorate. Iraq "has suffered enough, and the Arab countries feel . . . that Iraq should be re-engaged," the Jordanian prime minister said in a recent interview. "Are the sanctions eroding? Yes. . . . We feel they are becoming ridiculous." Jordan has a particular interest at stake. It needs trade with Iraq to support an economy that has yet to realize the benefits of business with Israel or the West that were promised when the late King Hussein made peace with the Jewish state. It also relies on Iraq for cut-rate oil, a fact the Iraqis have used to pressure their economically weaker neighbor. But it is not just Jordan making the case. Iran and Syria, military and political nemeses of the Iraqi government, have stepped up talks with Baghdad, and Syrian officials said this week that Iraqi oil resumed flowing in a pipeline to Syria last week, reaching 150,000 barrels a day. Still wary of Iraq's military designs, Saudi Arabia has nevertheless reopened a land border with the country to facilitate truck traffic, another step toward normal relations. Egypt, a key U.S. ally in the region, recently hoisted its flag again in Baghdad, a signal that the country's downgraded consular section there will be restored to full diplomatic status. Iraq "will soon be integrated into the Arab fold," said Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak. "It's only a matter of time now." http://www.independent.co.uk/news/World/Middle_East/2000-11/pariah241100.shtml * Inside the Pariah's den A special report on life in Baghdad 10 years after the Gulf War by Kim Sengupta, Independent, 24 November 2000 Baghdad is booming. The wide boulevards are freshly tarmacked and, every few weeks, scaffolding is removed to reveal shining new buildings. In the early evening, the lobbies of the five-star hotels the Al Rashid, the Al Mansour and the Palestine rustle with the hurried step of dozens of staff members and government officials in fake Versace. Businessmen entering the Al Rashid walk over a mosaic floor that features George Bush's face. Within the lobby, Saddam Hussein watches made out of gold-plated martyrs' Kalashnikovs sell for $120 (£80) apiece. The men, and a small number of women, are here for the Baghdad trade fair, attended by 1,500 companies from 45 countries. They are all trying to compete for contracts worth billions of dollars to be negotiated by Saddam Hussein's regime, oiled by the 2.3 million barrels that Iraq pumps out every day. Outside the hotels, purring Mercedes and BMWs with the back windows curtained are waiting to sweep the international entrepreneurs along Baghdad's newly resurfaced boulevards, to the freshly restored restaurants on Al Massabah Street. But a chosen few will be taken elsewhere, to the private clubs where the real power in Iraq is brokered. They'll be going to the oak-panelled club rooms of the Hunter, the Alchandria, the Al Forocia a riding establishment with an exclusive bar and restaurant, and the Al Zowariq, where the élite keep yachts and power boats on the Tigris. These are the clubs where Saddam's coterie go to unwind. Most of these proudly bear the name of their chairman, Uday Hussein, Saddam's son, on their letterheads. Uday is now in a wheelchair, crippled after being ambushed in the centre of Baghdad while driving his Porsche cabriolet. In these clubs, as bodyguards stand on discreet guard, the foreign visitors will be treated to local delicacies such as smoked fish from the Tigris, wines from the Lebanon and France, and 12-year-old Scotch. You can get almost anything in Baghdad and, compared to Western prices, most luxuries are remarkably cheap. A bottle of Scotch costs $6, an Yves St Laurent handbag will set you back $100, while the latest widescreen television sets go for about $400. The US may be the official enemy but the greenback is very welcome. You would scarcely know this is a city under sanctions. But Iraq is a society of parallel lives. Just a few miles from these well-stocked clubs and restaurants stands the children's hospital, where 13-year-old Marwan Ibrahim lies on a dirty bed, blood haemorrhaging from his nose and mouth. He has cancer. He will not get the bone marrow transplant he desperately needs if he is to survive. On the next bed, four-year-old Mariam Ayub is in the early stages of cancer. She is an exceptionally pretty girl, with a shy smile. Her mother, Adra, wants us to take a picture of her daughter so that she can remember her this way before her looks change with the ravages of the disease and death claims her too. Marwan and Mariam are just two of the half-million Iraqi children who have contracted cancer since Saddam launched his disastrous invasion of Kuwait 10 years ago. In the war that followed in January 1991, the West used weapons coated with depleted uranium, which, it is claimed, contributed to the massive rise in cancer. After the war, sanctions imposed by the UN have blocked essential supplies of medicine and equipment that could have saved Marwan, Mariam and so many others. The British and US governments would have you believe that the people who cannot afford to eat or get ill in Iraq will, eventually, be driven by sanctions to overthrow Saddam. The average monthly salary of a doctor, which used to be about $1,000 (£670), is now between $3 and $5. It is much the same for other professions. Most professionals do two or even three jobs just to survive. Ali Daoud, a 51-year-old optometrist who qualified in Hamburg, is a taxi-driver in the evenings, plying his trade in a battered 10-year-old Nissan with cannibalised parts. He is hoping to get a job as a cleaner in one of the hotels, where a week's tips would bring him more than he currently earns in a month. Would he, and others like him, form an eventual opposition to Saddam? "No, no, I am not political," says Ali hurriedly. His friend Nasr, a fellow taxi-driver who once worked as a chemist, breaks in: "Listen, people are too tired with the effort of just living. We have had 10 years of sanctions. We are too tired, we have no energy left to protest about anything. The soldiers lack nothing, we are no match for them." Posters of Saddam are plastered all over the city. Fifty yards from where we are standing, another poster hangs outside the Palace of Justice: in this one, he stands holding scales in one hand and a sword in the other, swathed in judicial robes which look more like a dressing-gown. Nasr nods towards it, and makes a highly seditious throat-cutting motion. Since the middle classes had their wages devalued, most have sold everything to keep going. First went luxuries such as television sets and video recorders, then furniture and then their good clothes. Rahim al Sharifi, a teacher, is selling the last of the book collection he built up over 23 years. The dozen books include Time For a Tiger by Anthony Burgess, Great Expectations and The Pickwick Papers. "I love Dickens. I had most of his books, once," he says in a soft voice. "They were my private books, but I used to read them to my pupils at school. But no more. What a shame." The only computers officially allowed by the sanctions committee in New York are at least 10 years old. Anything newer, it is declared, will help "Saddam's war machine". Of course, like everything else, modern computers are available in Baghdad. But they are smuggled in and affordable only to the rich. "In the poor schools we have got a shortage of everything, even pencils. They do not want us to have pencils because they say the military can use the lead. Can you believe it?" Mr Al Sharifi shakes his head. "How can you give children new ideas without books, pens, or pencils? How can you change anything, even about different forms of government, without education?" Lernik and Arpik Bedrosian, two sisters, run Mackenzie's, the oldest English-language bookshop in Baghdad. They are Armenian Christians Christians now number 750,000 of Baghdad's population of two million. Lernik, a presenter on the local satellite TV channel, says: "We are now culturally isolated. No new books have been allowed in by the sanctions. By stopping the books they are also stopping Western culture and outside ideas coming in. What does the West hope to gain by this?" But if the poverty of ideas is spreading insidiouslythrough the isolated community, in the hospitals the effects of the embargo have been most immediately and visibly catastrophic. A range of drugs, from vaccinations to pain killers and even cleansing agents such as chlorine, are banned because they can be used for "dual purpose". George Robertson, when he was Defence Secretary, repeatedly declared that Saddam has $275m worth of medicine stockpiled in his warehouses that he refuses to distribute. I could not find anyone in Unicef, the World Health Organisation, or the relevant charities who would endorse these figures. Hans von Spaneck, the former UN humanitarian co-ordinator in Iraq, said the amount held in stock was about 12 per cent. Anupama Rao Singh, Unicef's senior representative in Iraq, said inspections show the figure to be between 10 and 15 per cent the standard minimum that should be held for emergencies. Even Scott Ritter, the UN arms inspector the Iraqis kicked out claiming he was a spy, told me in London that there was no evidence of medicine being stockpiled by the regime. "The sanctions", he said, "are pointless and self-defeating. They are not hurting Saddam, they are hurting the people of Iraq." Madeleine Albright has other views. When she was asked on television whether she thought the deaths of half a million children was a price worth paying, she said: "This is a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it, yes." Britain has taken the lead in enforcing sanctions against Iraq. No British companies are known to have taken part in the Baghdad trade fair, and foreign minister Peter Hain talks about how dreadful all this fraternisation with Iraq is. But there are US companies keen to get their snouts in the Baghdad trough, camouflaging their involvement by dealing through European subsidiaries. One of the most prolific traders among these US firms is Halliburton, whose chief executive was Dick Cheney until he left to become George W Bush's running mate. Mr Cheney, of course, was secretary of state for defence during the Gulf War. "What we are seeing is the disintegration of a society," said Rao Singh, a UN official. "Iraq had invested heavily in social and health care and in 1989, before the war, 90 per cent of the people had access to clean water and 95 per cent had access to good health care. Iraq was in transition to reaching First World standards. The rate of child mortality was one of the best in the world. There has been a fourfold increase, and it is now one of the worst. In 1990, an Iraqi child with dysentery had one chance in 600 of dying, now it is one in 50. These are statistics, but we are dealing with real lives." At the Children's Hospital, Dr Mohammed Firas lists the drugs he needs but cannot have. "I have not seen any improvements in supplies, none at all," he says. "It is upsetting when you see little boys and girls die in front of you and there is nothing you can do. We have a lot of relapses because of the shortages. We don't even have enough plastic sachets for blood. We see families go away thinking their children have been cured. But they come back. We all feel a bit hopeless." Marwan is one of those who had relapsed. He first contracted cancer six years ago. His mother points to his rapidly draining sachet of blood. "He needs sometimes 10 of them a day. But we can get only four. We know it is a matter of time. What can we do? We can only trust in God." And she strokes his arm and cries. http://www.timesofindia.com/241100/24mide13.htm * Kurds face nightmare of mines Times of India, 24th November ARBIL, Iraq (AFP): The Kurds of northern Iraq, nine years after Iraqi troops pulled out of the region, still face the nightmare of the uncharted mine fields they left behind. "The mines are a nightmare. They make no distinction between children and adults and mark them for life," said Haval Hoshyar who works with an Italian non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Arbil, the region's self-styled capital. The NGO which supports "civilian victims of war" runs a hospital in Arbil, a city held by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), one of two rival factions in Iraqi Kurdistan. "Mines are a real curse. We don't know how many were planted in Kurdistan," which is home to 3.5 million people, he said, adding that at least 70 percent of mine victims were children or youths. Iraqi troops laid thousands of mines during the 1980-1988 war against Iran in the border areas and more during the Kurdish uprising that followed Iraq's defeat in the 1991 Gulf War over Kuwait, before withdrawing from the region. The task facing the UN-backed demining programme are mammoth because the mine-clearing teams have no maps. "We've cleared an area of several thousand square kilometres and neutralised thousands of mines," explained an expert with Mine Advising Group, a British NGO that is backed by a Norwegian humanitarian organisation. The expert, who asked to be named only as Mike, gave no estimate for the number of mines left hidden but said his group had 650 men out in the field working to give the Kurds "a better life". At the 120-bed hospital, three or four people each month have one or both legs amputated after stepping on mines. After treatment, patients are transferred to Sulaymaniyeh, near the Iranian border 200 kilometres (120 miles) to the southeast of Arbil, a city controlled by the KDP's rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. The Italian NGO, one of 15 operating in northern Iraq, runs a rehabilitation centre in Sulaymaniyeh. The NGOs play a key role in initiating dialogue between the two factions in divided Kurdistan, where a five-year power struggle up until 1998 claimed more than 3,000 lives, said an employee of British NGO Save the Children. "We work together and that strengthens peace and dialogue," said Najat Omer, a former English teacher who has switched to humanitarian work. The United Nations, meanwhile, oversees the humanitarian programmes and distributes food, medicine and other essential goods under the oil-for-food programme launched at the end of 1996. The programme allows sanctions-hit Iraq to export crude in return for imports of essential supplies. Thirteen percent of the revenues goes to Iraqi Kurdistan. "But it's not enough. We want the programme to cover other areas such as infrastructure," a KDP official said in Salahudin, the party's base 30 kilometres (20 miles) north of Arbil. The official, who declined to be named, said UN experts in the field agreed but their supervisors in New York still needed convincing. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/UK/This_Britain/2000-11/voucher251100.shtml * Voucher system fails to halt rise in asylum applicants by Ian Burrell, Home Affairs Correspondent Independent, 25 November 2000 The arrival of more than 1,000 Iraqi refugees last month has embarrassed the Government by driving up asylum application figures to their highest level since last year. The increase in total applications of more than 8 per cent on September will come as a great disappointment to immigration officials after a range of measures were introduced to deter asylum-seekers from heading for the United Kingdom. October's total of 6,970 applications was 535 more thanthe previous month and the highest monthly figure since December 1999. A decade after the Gulf War, the number of asylum-seekers arriving in Britain from Iraq is at its highest, with 1,175 applications lodged last month. A Home Office spokesman said it was "difficult to speculate" as to why so many were now fleeing Saddam Hussein's regime. But officials noted that an average of 1,000 applications a month had been received from Iraqis duringthe August to October period, many more than from any other country. Large numbers of asylum- seekers continue to come to Britain from Sri Lanka, with an average of 470 applicants a month since August, rising to 550 in October. The overall increase in applications comes in spite of the introduction earlier this year of a dispersal system that moved asylum-seekers out of the South-east to other areas of Britain and restricted them to benefit payments in voucher form. Ministers hoped the new system would discourage economic migrants. The Government also opened its new immigration detention centre at Oakington, Cambridgeshire, in March, with the hope that its fast-track system for dealing with asylum applications would prove a deterrent to those without justified claims. The following month, the Government introduced a system of fining lorry drivers carrying illegal immigrants. Despite the rise in applications disclosed in the new figures, the Home Office said yesterday that the deterrent measures would be effective. A spokesman said that asylum applications from central and eastern Europe in the April to September period fell by about one-third from the number of claims in the same period last year. He said: "Measures introduced in the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 are now beginning to be implemented and it will take time for the deterrent effect to work through into the system." The Government has invested £600m in the immigration system in an attempt to prevent the asylum issue becoming a political embarrassment. Extra case workers have been recruited to speed decision making. Although quick decisions have cut the case backlog from 100,000 to 72,000, the number of appeals last month reached a record 8,085, a 60 per cent increase on the previous month. Refugee support groups fear officials are adopting a cursory approach to claims as a way of driving down the backlog. Only 8 per cent of last month's applicants were given refugee status and a further 3 per cent were given exceptional leave to remain in Britain. Last week Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, admitted that it was proving "very difficult" to remove failed applicants. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://www.casi.org.uk