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News, 25/2­3/3/01 (2)

News, 25/2­3/3/01 (2)

*  Emirati leader urges Arabs to end sanctions on Iraq
*  Sharon: A plan to strike Iraq
*  Egyptian Iraqi Free Trade Zone agreement effective
*  Two Syrian ministers arrive in Baghdad
*  Qatar Airways plans to start flights to Iraq
*  Not-so-smart sanctions for Iraq [short extract giving, in summary,
Israeli fears that humanitarian concern for Iraqis could result in
humanitarian disaster for Israelis]
*  Syria approves free trade deal with Iraq

*  Gulf war ended too soon, says Thatcher
*  Kuwait's Gulf War anniversary bash 'provokes' Iraq
*  Kuwait extends hand to Iraq decade after invasion
*  Kuwait Supports Amended Sanctions on Iraq: Official

*  German president slams air strikes against Iraq
*  How the anti-Iraq raids played in France
*  Iraq lifts trade boycott of Poland
*  Iraq threatens reprisals against Italy
*  Germany arrests Iraqi 'spies'


*  China to Open Probe Into Iraq Sales
*  Chinese Firm Is Focus of U.S. Iraqi Suspicions

*  Iraqis step up secret Russian weapons trade
*  Iraqi oil drilling approval opens door for foreign firms

*  The case for Mr Galloway [a very nice little tribute from Tam Dalyell,
followed by an interesting observation on the Lockerbie trial]
*  Hain: An enthusiastic liar [not a good guy this, but the article is by
John Pilger. A reply to the article by Kevin Toolis, Hain's world,,3605,435833,00.html]
*  Blind spots of British politics get bigger [short extract on condemnation
of Iraq raids by SNP leader, John Swinney]

*  10 years on, Iraqis shrug off embargo [The bright side. Mood of optimism
in Baghdad.]
*  Saddam's children: the damned of Iraq [The not so bright side]
*  Iraq - metamorphosis from aggressor to victim [a rather interesting
article from the Israeli paper, Hašaretz, which, though supporting an
Israeli view, shows itself capable of understanding the Arab point of view]
*  Smugglers are giving oil blockade the slip
*  Sanctions on Iraq Cause 200 Billion Dollars in Losses Worldwide


Times of India, 26th February

ABU DHABI: Emirati President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan called on
Sunday for the Arabs to put an end to the decade-old sanctions against Iraq,
at the opening of an Arab inter-parliamentary meeting.

"It is absolutely necessary for the Arabs to reconcile," the leader of the
United Arab Emirates (UAE) said in a speech read by Sheikh Hamad bin
Mohammad al-Sharji, ruler of Fujeirah.

"We must find a solution to the Iraqi crisis and, before all else, put an
end to the international sanctions," in force since Iraq's August 1990
invasion of Kuwait, he said.

Sheikh Zayed also urged Arab states to help lift sanctions against Libya and
"to support the Palestinian intifada (uprising against Israel) through all

The host country has put the focus of the two-day meeting in Abu Dhabi --
attended by MPs from all members of the Arab League apart from Somalia and
the Comoros islands -- on building Arab solidarity.

Sheikh Zayed also called for Arab countries "to unite their efforts to lead
Iran to opt for a constructive dialogue" with the UAE on a dispute over
three strategic islands in the southern Gulf.

"Iran must be made to realise that its ties with Arab states will be in
danger so long as Tehran has not opted for constructive dialogue or accepted
a recourse, with the UAE, to arbitration before the International Court of
Justice," he said. (AFP)

Arabic News, 26th February

The British "Sunday Times" daily reported in its Sunday's issue, reporting
Israeli military sources that the Israeli prime minister elect Ariel Sharon
gave his instructions to the Israeli army chief of staff Shaoul Mofaz to
prepare for directing an early strike to the missile- launching area in the
west of Iraq.

The Israeli radio quoted these sources as saying to the British paper that
Sharon is planning to deploy neutron ( tactical) bombs to target this Iraqi
area and destroy it, as intelligence information reported that Iraq is about
to attack Israel by mass-annihilation weapons.

Arabic News, 27th February

Enforcement of an Egyptian Iraqi free trade zone agreement came into effect
Monday in Iraq, where all customs outlets were notified of the laws and
endorsement of the agreement by Iraqi leadership and parliament.

"By virtue of the agreement, which was published in the Iraqi official
Gazette, commodities between the two countries will be exempted from customs
duties and related taxes," said Iraqi Minister of trade Mohamed Mahdi Saleh.

In statement to Egyptian journalists accompanying an Egyptian businessmen
delegation currently visiting Baghdad under Mohammad Shita, Head of the
international group for investments, Saleh said that the agreement will be
applicable to commodities of Egyptian and Iraqi origin.

Saleh said he agreed with Egyptian Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade
Youssef Boutros Ghali to keep the Iraqi Trade Ministry posted on the formula
of the Egyptian certificate of origin to generalize it on quarters concerned
in Iraq.

The Iraqi Trade Minister added that the upcoming period would witness the
signing of a protocol to organize settlement of payments of bilateral trade
yields in order to provide a framework of transactions between the Egyptian
and Iraqi private sectors.

The two states are working on increasing the volume of trade to $ 2 billions
this year, he said, noting some procedures were taken to speed up entrance
of Egyptian commodities into Om Al-Qasr Port via upping unloading capacity.

Saleh elaborated that the volume of Iraq's trade hits $ 10 billion, to climb
to $ 30 billion when sanctions are lifted.

'Iraqi exports hit $ 41 billion since the beginning to implement the oil for
food deal, but only $ 10 billion-24 percent-arrived in Iraq, because the
United Nations cut nearly $ 14 billion-34 percent-in addition to other $ 17
billion in frozen contracts,' said Saleh.

Times of India, 28th February

BAGHDAD: Syria's transport and communications ministers, Makram Obeid and
Radwane Martini, arrived in Baghdad by plane Monday, the official INA agency

In a statement to Iraqi television, Obeid said his country wanted to sign
transport accords with Iraq. "We want to sign several agreements in this
field and reactivate existing agreements," he said.

Syria, which was part of the international coalition led by the United
States that drove Iraqi troops out of Kuwait in February 1991, began a
rapprochement in 1997 with Baghdad, which is ruled by a rival branch of the
Baath party. (AFP)

Times of India, 1st March

DOHA: Qatar Airways plans to start a regular service to Iraq once insurance
problems are ironed out, joining a host of flights to Baghdad despite the UN
air embargo, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.

"We are ready to operate flights to Iraq anytime. But we require permission
to do so," the airline's chief executive Akbar al-Baker said, quoted in Gulf

He said a planned chartered flight to Baghdad last week had been called off
due to insurance problems, which would also have to be sorted out before the
regular service is launched.

"As a civil carrier, we are under some obligations. We could not have flown
to Iraq on the designated day without paying the additional premium sought
by insurance underwriters," said Baker.

He said Qatar Airways needed an extra coverage of 62,000 dollars for each
flight to Iraq. "Ours is not the only airline which has faced cancellation
problems. Four other carriers too faced a similar situation," said the
airline chief.

Baker gave no dates for a launch, but airline sources told Gulf Times that
the chartered flight to Baghdad could take off after next week's Muslim

Several dozen Arab and European planes have flown to Baghdad since last
August when the Iraqi capital's airport was reopened, in a challenge against
the sanctions regime slapped on Iraq for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. (AFP)

by Gerald M. Steinberg
Jerusalem Post, 2nd March


However genuine, humanitarian gestures based on sympathy for the Iraqi
people, are likely to lead to more inhuman attacks against Israelis,
Kuwaitis and many others around the world. A strategy that claims to reduce
the suffering of one group of people at the expense of many others is not at
all humanitarian.
(The writer is director, Program on Conflict Management and Negotiation,
Political Studies, at Bar-Ilan University.)

Damascus, Reuters, 2nd March

Syria's parliament has approved the establishment of a free trade zone with
Iraq and called for greater economic cooperation with Baghdad after two
decades of animosity, officials said yesterday. They said the deal, signed
initially in Damascus on January 31 by Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin
Ramadan and Syrian Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa Mero, was unanimously
approved by the 250-member People's Assembly on Wednesday evening.

Analysts described the accord as the latest phase in the rapprochement
between the neighbours, which has included resumption of diplomatic ties and
the reopening of land and air transportation links. Ties between Iraq and
Syria, ruled by rival factions of the Arab Baath Socialist Party, were cut
off for the first time after the outbreak of the 1980-1988 Iraq Iran war, in
which Damascus sided with Tehran.

Syria joined a U.S.-led multinational alliance which drove Iraqi occupation
troops out of Kuwait in 1991. But it agreed to resume economic and
commercial cooperation with Baghdad in 1997, under the oil-for-food
programme signed between Iraq and the United Nations that allows Iraq to
sell some oil for humanitarian purposes while sanctions are in place. 
Approval of the free-trade agreement followed a visit to Damascus on Monday
by U.S Secretary of State Colin Powell, in which he called for preservation
of the UN economic sanctions imposed on Iraq following its invasion of
Kuwait in 1990.

Powell said after talks with President Bashar al-Assad that Syria had agreed
to put under UN inspection an oil pipeline carrying Iraqi oil to the
Mediterranean and Iraqi oil supplies to Syria, estimated at 100,000 barrels
per day. A Syrian official told Reuters on Thursday that while respecting
U.N. resolutions, Syria is calling for an end to the economic sanctions
imposed on Baghdad.

"There is no justification for the continuation of these sanctions after all
these years, because they are harming the Iraqi people," the official said.
The pipeline, which used to carry oil from the Iraqi Kirkuk oil fields to
the Syrian Mediterranean port of Banyas, was reopened late last year after
18 years under an agreement signed in 1998. Syrian Economy and Foreign Trade
Minister Mohammed Imadi told parliament during the debate on the Iraqi trade
deal that it reflected "the brotherly links which tie the Arab people in
Iraq and Syria," officials said.

"It reflects the desire of both sides to promote economic and commercial
cooperation," Imadi said. "The establishment of a free-trade zone will
provide a better climate for the expansion of trade between the two
brotherly countries." Some members of parliament spoke supporting the deal,
saying it would promote regional Arab economic integration, officials said.

The accord paves the way for creation of an Arab free-trade zone by 2007, in
which all Arab products traded within it would be free of customs duties or
other restrictions. Trade cooperation between Syria and Iraq has increased
dramatically during the last few years, reaching nearly $500 million in
2000. It is expected to go up to $1 billion by the end of this year,
economic sources said.


by Philip Jacobson in Kuwait
Daily Telgraph, 26th February

LADY THATCHER marked the 10th anniversary of the liberation of Kuwait
yesterday by saying allied forces should have pressed on into Iraq to crush
Saddam Hussein for good.

She told the Telegraph: "I only wish that I had stayed on to finish the job
properly. Perhaps then we wouldn't be where we are today with this cruel and
terrible man still securely in power." As she spoke, the Union flag was
being lowered at dusk in the gardens of the British embassy to the skirl of
an Army officer's bagpipes.

For a moment, it was as if Lady Thatcher, surrounded by an admiring throng
of guests, was back at the helm. The recent bombing raids near Baghdad by
British and American aircraft were "totally justified". She said: "It was
legal, it was within the law and nobody could say anything against it."

John Major, standing a few yards away, may well have overheard his
predecessor's pronouncement. He certainly lost no time rebutting the views
of Lady Thatcher, with whom, minutes earlier, he had planted a ceremonial
victory tree. Choosing his words carefully, he said:."I know of no senior
military or political leader of the time in question who was in favour of
our forces pushing on into Iraq."

He said: "I could give you half a dozen good reasons why we did not do so,
starting with the fact that the UN mandate under which allied forces were
operating made no allowance for that whatsoever." According to Mr Major, the
Arab nations that took part in Operation Desert Storm would never have gone
along with an invasion of Iraq.

He said: "It would have split the whole coalition wide open at a time when
unity was crucial." Although Brian Wilson, the Foreign Office minister, is
representing the British Government at commemoration ceremonies, Lady
Thatcher was without doubt the star of the show.

Many Kuwaitis are unaware that she was no longer in power when the war began
and view her, rather than George Bush Senior, as the pivotal figure behind
the defeat of Saddam.

Among the uniformed guests at the embassy were members of the RAF detachment
in Kuwait, including pilots who flew the Tornados in the recent raid on

Times of India, 26th February

BAGHDAD: A senior Iraqi official on Sunday accused Kuwait of provocation for
celebrating the 10th anniversary of the emirate's liberation in the Gulf War
and warned of the risks of an "explosion" in the region.

An official newspaper, meanwhile, called for the Arabs to combat the US
"occupation" of Kuwait.

"Kuwait's rulers are celebrating US occupation ... aggravating their losses,
entrenching themselves in isolation and deepening the hatred against them,"
charged Hamid Said, Iraq's deputy information minister.

The official, quoted in Al-Qadissiya newspaper, slammed as a "provocation"
the festivities in Kuwait on Sunday attended by Gulf War victors such as
former US president, George Bush.

"This is all the more provocative because it coincides with events
confirming the criminal role of the United States ... such as its total
support for the Zionist repression of the Palestinian intifada (uprising),"
said Said.

"It also coincides with the US aggression against Iraq which marked an
escalation against Iraq because of its support for the intifada," the Iraqi
official said.

"Such an escalation threatens an explosion" in the region.

Al-Jumhuriya, another official daily, referring to the United States, said
"the struggle ... against this savage and arrogant ogre that is occupying
Kuwait is a national duty, in which we call on all Arabs to play their

It warned Kuwait's leaders, who on Saturday announced the renewal of a
defence pact with the United States, that "the American-Zionist hegemony"
over the emirate would "destroy and steal its riches."

Tension has been running high since US and British air strikes around
Baghdad on February 16 that Iraq said killed three civilians and wounded 30

The raids which targeted radar and command centres were widely condemned by
the international community.

The festivities in Kuwait, meanwhile, are the first time that the emirate
celebrates the Gulf War anniversary, opting out of formal events in previous
years out of respect for the dead and missing from seven months of Iraqi

A US-led coalition evicted Iraqi occupation troops from Kuwait in the
January-February 1991 conflict. (AFP)

Times of India, 26th February

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait extended a hand to Iraq on Sunday, the emirate's 40th
independence day and a decade after liberation from Saddam Hussein's army.

"Kuwait is extending its hands to all and opening its heart to all," Foreign
Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah wrote in Al-Rai Al-Aam newspaper.

But he urged Baghdad to comply with UN Security Council resolutions and earn
the lifting of crippling sanctions imposed for the 1990 invasion.

"We want to see this (anniversary) celebration complete by Iraq's compliance
with international legal resolutions, especially resolution 1284," Sheikh
Sabah said.

This would facilitate "the lifting of sanctions on our brothers the Iraqi
people who, like other peoples in the region, have suffered as a result of
the irresponsible behaviour of the Iraqi regime" he added.

Resolution 1284, which has been rejected by Iraq, offers a renewable
suspension of sanctions after the return of UN disarmament inspectors to

Emir Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah, meanwhile, praised the sacrifices of
his people in defending Kuwait's sovereignty.

"The Kuwaiti people have made great sacrifices in preserving the country's
independence ... despite the vicious (Iraqi) invasion," the emir said in a

A large number of former world leaders arrived in Kuwait overnight to take
part in the two day celebrations, led by ex-US president George Bush and
former British prime ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

Kuwait is marking national day, February 25, and the liberation anniversary,
February 26, as one.

However, former UN secretary general Boutros Boutros-Ghali said the great
hopes formed after the Gulf War had turned into a disappointment.

"The international intervention to liberate Kuwait constituted great hopes,
which later became a disappointment because we failed to reach a new basis
for new relations in the new era," Boutros-Ghali wrote in Al-Rai Al-Aam
newspaper. (AFP)

Peoplešs Daily, 28th February

A senior Kuwaiti official said Tuesday that Kuwait supports amended
sanctions on Iraq, which will retain an arms embargo but contribute to the
reduction of the suffering of the Iraqi people.

Kuwait supports attitudes aimed at amending the sanctions on Iraq but at the
same time maintain the military embargo for the sake of Kuwait's security,
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammad Sabah al-Salem
al-Sabah told Kuwait News Agency before departure for Saudi Arabia for a
brief visit.

Sheikh Mohammad said Kuwait stands beside the Iraqi people and has always
been the first to call for ending their suffering, which has resulted from
the decade-old international sanctions imposed over Iraq after it invaded
Kuwait in 1990.

After Saudi Arabia, where he will meet with King Fahd Ibn Abdul- Aziz and
Crown Prince, Deputy Prince Minister and Chief of the National Guards
Abdullah Ibn Abdul-Aziz, the Kuwaiti official will proceed to Qatar.

The visit, the first since Sheikh Mohammad took office in mid- February,
comes within the framework of continuous discussions and coordination
between Kuwait and its Gulf neighbors on issues of mutual concern.


Times of India, 27th February

BERLIN: German President Johannes Rau openly criticised the US-British
strikes against Iraq Monday, asserting that military solutions were no
substitute for political action.

"Political solutions are required, as military solutions always constitute a
declaration of a lack of the political imagination that we need," Rau said
on the German public broadcaster Deutschlandradio.

It was the second time that the German president has criticised the air
strikes against Iraq in recent days, his first comments coming during a
visit to Indonesia last week.

Rau's criticism is also in direct contrast to German Foreign Minister
Joschka Fischer's expression of "understanding" for the air strikes during a
visit Fischer made to Washington last week.

Although the German president has little political power under the German
constitution and executive power is with the chancellor, his role is
regarded as that of a moral public authority. (AFP)

by ANDRE FONTAINE (Editor in chief of Le Monde)
Japan Times, 28th February

PARIS -- It was hardly a surprise that less than a month after U.S.
President George W. Bush's inauguration, the U.S. Air Force should have
launched a raid against Iraqi missile batteries and radars close to Baghdad.
The flights of the U.S. and British jets supposed to protect the "no-fly"
zones where the Iraqi Kurds and Shiites live had been increasingly disturbed
by Iraqi missiles. Despite some 8,000 strikes directed against Iraq in
recent years and sanctions adopted by the United Nations, Iraqi President
Saddam Hussein had managed to do several things: to rebuild with most of the
Arab monarchies the links that had been damaged in 1990 by Iraq's invasion
of Kuwait; to smuggle some 400,000 barrels of oil per day to his neighbors;
and to proceed in the absence of foreign control with his missile building
and atomic-research programs, leading Israel to fear the worst from a
country that has made no secret of its desire to destroy it.

Add the fact that the new U.S. president intends to hew as closely as
possible to the line followed by his father, the victor in the Persian Gulf
War, Vice President Dick Cheney, who was then defense secretary, and
Secretary of State Colin Powell, who chaired the joint chiefs of staff.
There is no doubt that in their eyes, Hussein rivals terrorist Osama bin
Laden as America's No. 1 public enemy and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il as
a ruler of the kind of "rogue state" against which they intend to build
their hotly debated missile shield. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton's
priority in the region was to bring about peace between Israel and
Palestine. Bush is less interested in that conflict, a welcome attitude for
new Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, who would like to be left free to
do what he wants, without any foreign interference. In the same way, the new
U.S. team would like to be left free do what it wants with Hussein.

It is also no surprise that the British are participating in the anti-Iraqi
action. Prime Minister Tony Blair never lost an opportunity to portray
himself as Clinton's closest ally. The Royal Air Force has been associated
with the U.S. raids since the Gulf War ended, and Britain treasures its
reputation as America's closest ally. "If we had to choose some day between
Europe and the open sea, be sure, General, that we would choose the open
sea," Winston Churchill told Charles de Gaulle in June 1944. There has been
only one exception to that rule: in November 1956, when French and British
troops landed on the Sinai Peninsula to help the Israelis against the
Egyptians. Then U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower vetoed that action, and
London instantly acquiesced.

Until 1998, France had not only supported the U.S. and British raids against
Iraq; it took part in them. That was the legacy of President Francois
Mitterrand, who believed that fighting in the Gulf War alongside the U.S.
was the only way for France to keep its global rank, especially in the
Middle East. But both President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel
Jospin later concluded that it was better to maintain their freedom of
judgment and action, in order to give France a chance to exert independent
influence in the region. Results, until now, have been limited, but this
attitude underlines the great differences now existing on that issue between
Paris and London -- an important consideration at a time when the two
countries are trying to develop a common European foreign and security
policy and to build a defense corps of 60,000 soldiers.

The raids against Iraq have provided a new occasion for measuring the
distance that still separates them. The French government lost no time in
expressing its "incomprehension and unease" over the raids, which, it said,
"create tensions that damage efforts to reach an agreed solution to the
Iraqi problem on the lines proposed by the U.N. Security Council." This
reaction certainly reflects the determination of the French not to kill all
hopes of reopening the road to Iraqi oil, but also its conviction that there
will be no chance of securing a general mobilization against Baghdad, as
happened in 1990. Not only have Russia and China taken a strong stand
against the American move this time -- whereas Russian President Mikhail
Gorbachev's support was of decisive help to President George Bush 10 years
ago -- but Egypt has also criticized it sharply. Even Turkey, America's main
ally in the region, criticized both the U.S. and Britain for not giving it
advance notice of their plans. In fact, no member of NATO, outside the
Anglo-Saxons, has backed the raids.

Will they be resumed? Dressed as a cowboy, like his Mexican counterpart
Vicente Fox, to whom he was paying his first state visit at the time of the
raids, Bush described them as merely "routine." They certainly don't
represent the best way of supporting either NATO or the EU, but the
unilateralists, of whom there are plenty around Bush, don't seem to worry
very much about that.

Times of India, 1st March

BAGHDAD: Iraq on Wednesday lifted a boycott of Polish goods imposed last
week, saying Warsaw had "rectified" its stand on the deadly US and British
air strikes earlier this month.

"Iraq has annulled the boycott measures against imports from Poland after
the Warsaw government rectified its attitude" towards the February raids,
Commerce Minister Mohammad Mehdi Saleh announced, quoted by the official
news agency INA.

Iraq severed trade links with Poland and Canada on February 20 for
supporting the strikes around Baghdad, which it said killed three civilians
and wounded 30.

Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek's top foreign policy advisor resigned last
week after he expressed "understanding" for the attacks. Warsaw insisted it
had not taken an official stand.

On Friday, Poland's ambassador to Baghdad said his country supported a
lifting of the embargo imposed on Iraq for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Times of India, 2nd March

BAGHDAD: Iraq's ruling party newspaper threatened economic reprisals against
Italy on Thursday over Rome's stance after US-British air raids around
Baghdad on February 16. "The Italian government must rectify its position,
of which we have taken note," warned Ath-Thawra, the mouthpiece of the Baath

Italy criticised the raids on Iraq's radar and air control centres but also
attacked President Saddam Hussein. The bombings had turned "one of the most
dangerous leaders into an even more popular leader among an Arab public
already exasperated by the Palestinian question," Prime Minister Giuliano
Amato said on February 21. And Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini added the next
day that Italy considered Saddam as a threat to security throughout the
Middle East.

Ath-Thawra said Dini's comments were "aggressive, lacking in tact and do not
respect the rules of behaviour between states." "If as the foreign minister
of Italy, he thinks that his declarations are balanced, he is badly
deceiving himself and we reject and condemn these declarations," the daily
said. "The stupid statements (by Dini) will affect relations between the two
countries, they must not be let pass without ... changing our relations,"
Ath-Thawra added.

Iraq cut commercial ties with Canada on February 20 after Ottawa backed the
air raids. Ath-Thawra also branded "stupid" a decision by Italy's foreign
ministry to refuse authorisation for a humanitarian flight from Rome to
Baghdad which doctors and deputies had planned. (AFP)

By Michael Smith, Defence Correspondent
Daily Telegraph, 2nd March

TWO Iraqis have been arrested in Heidelberg, close to the headquarters of
the US army in Europe, on suspicion of spying.

The arrests follow Iraqi threats of retaliation over American and British
air raids on Iraqi air defence targets two weeks ago. The Federal
Prosecutor's Office in Karlsruhe said yesterday that one of the Iraqis was
arrested on Sunday, and the other on Tuesday. A judge had ordered them held
on "urgent suspicion" of espionage, a spokesman said. "They are suspected of
carrying out assignments for an Iraqi secret service in various German
cities since the beginning of 2001."

Officials would not say where the men were arrested but German television
said they were held in Heidelberg, the headquarters of the US army in Europe
but of its Fifth Corps. The arrests come amid growing concern in Germany at
the threat from Iraq. The German secret service, the BND, has been active,
obtaining detailed intelligence on Iraqi missile sites.

The Iraqi intelligence network in Europe was severely damaged two years ago
when Jaber Salim, the head of its operations in eastern Europe, defected to
the West.


by John Pomfret
International Herald Tribune, 28th February

BEIJING: China said Tuesday that it was ready to investigate U.S. complaints
that a Chinese company and Chinese technicians might have assisted Iraq in
rebuilding its air defenses.

The statement, made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was a clear shift in
China's position of last week, when it angrily rejected American suspicions
that a Chinese company had broken UN sanctions on Iraq by selling and
helping to install fiber optic cables.

American officials said the cables were used to help Iraq improve its air
defenses and thus threaten U.S. and British warplanes patrolling the two
so-called no-flight zones over Iraqi air space.

The improving Iraqi air defense system was one of the stated reasons why
U.S. and British warplanes have bombed Iraqi air defenses twice this month.
American officials say Iraq has taken a newly aggressive stance toward
allied aircraft patrolling the zones.

In Beijing, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Zhang Qiyue, said China
respected UN resolutions on Iraq and had rules that forced Chinese companies
to comply.

But in response to a question at a news conference, she added: "Regarding
the situation raised by the U.S. side, China can conduct an investigation."

The Chinese response underscores two issues. The first is a desire in
Beijing to ensure that the Iraqi situation does not contribute to a
worsening of relations with Washington or is used by the U.S. government as
a justification for other actions, such as substantial arms sales to Taiwan.
The second issue is a tacit acknowledgment by Beijing that it does not
completely control all Chinese companies.

"There are many private and semi-private firms out there that do this kind
of work in China," said an Asian diplomat with knowledge of China's ties to
the Middle East. "These companies look upon sanctions-breaking just as they
look upon copyright violations - if they can get away with it they will. You
cannot necessarily blame the government. It is a lot more complicated than

China's telecommunications industry has exploded in the last few years.
There are literally hundreds of companies, many of them private, which
engage in the production and export of telecommunications equipment.

President George W. Bush indicated last Friday that China was softening its
original angry response to the U.S. allegations, saying Beijing had promised
that if the charges were true it would "remedy" the situation. "We filed a
complaint, and they responded this morning," Mr. Bush said. "If I can
paraphrase, it was: 'If this is the case, we'll remedy the situation.'"

The U.S. has been pressing China on the issue at least since early January.
That month, the assistant secretary of state for international
organizations, David Welch, traveled to Beijing and raised specific concerns
about a Chinese company that is believed to have sold the cables to Iraq.

The sale would constitute a violation of UN sanctions because they have a
military use.

Chinese security analysts have said they are worried that the Bush
administration would use China's alleged links to the Iraqi imbroglio as an
excuse to approve a major arms package to Taiwan. Chinese officials have in
the past threatened to link their weapons proliferation policies with U.S.
arms sales to Taiwan.

"This would be a case of the Americans turning this issue on its head," said
one Chinese security analyst. "We don't want that to happen. So we need to
move quickly to remedy the situation."

Chinese security experts are particularly concerned that Washington will
approve the sale of the Aegis early warning radar system. That system would
improve Taiwan's ability to spot Chinese missile and warplane attacks. It
also would send a significant political signal to the Taiwanese
administration of President Chen Shui-bian that the U.S. government is ready
to stand by Taiwan's side.

by John Pomfret and Philip P. Pan
Washington Post, 28th Feb

BEIJING, Feb. 28 -- U.S. suspicions that China helped Iraq strengthen its
air defenses have focused on a southern Chinese telecommunications firm with
strong government backing, Western and Asian sources said.

The firm, identified by an Asian and a Western diplomat as Huawei
Technologies Co., is based in the southern Chinese boomtown of Shenzhen and
last year recorded $2.66 billion in sales, according to the company Web

Western officials said the United States has asked China to investigate
suspicions that Huawei violated U.N. sanctions by selling Iraq fiber-optic
cable to improve links between antiaircraft missiles and the radar systems
that guide them. Pentagon officials said the improvements in Iraqi
antiaircraft capabilities prompted British and U.S. warplanes to bomb Iraqi
targets Feb. 16.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced Tuesday it might be willing to
investigate the U.S. suspicions, marking a change in tone. Beijing
previously had accused Washington of using the issue as a pretext to cover
up an unnecessary bombing campaign.

In the past, all the Chinese firms Washington has accused of being involved
in weapons or weapons-technology proliferation were state-run. Huawei,
however, says it is private, although it has never released a list of its
major stockholders. In addition, telecommunications analysts and diplomats
stressed that if it were shown that Huawei was involved in selling banned
equipment to Iraq, it would not necessarily follow that the company was
carrying out Chinese government policy.

"This is a complicated area," said one telecommunications executive familiar
with Huawei's business. "They have their fingers in many pies. They might be
working for the People's Liberation Army but my bet would be they are doing
it purely for the money. They have become very aggressive internationally,
so it's somewhat natural that they seem to have gotten their fingers

A spokesman at Huawei today refused an interview request.

The firm, which has more than 10,000 employees, has always been secretive
about its ownership. It has resisted government efforts to list it on one of
China's two stock exchanges, partially because of fears of revealing its
major stockholders, financial analysts said.

Started by graduates of Qinghua University, famed for its engineering
school, Huawei emerged on the telecommunications scene in China in the early
1990s, selling inexpensive switching equipment in rural areas of China. The
firm followed what one Chinese analyst called a "Mao Zedong" business
strategy, referring to tactics of the Chinese leader who masterminded the
Communist takeover of China by first seizing the countryside and then
surrounding the cities.

Huawei was helped by a slew of government policies designed to force local
Chinese phone purchasing agents to buy domestically manufactured products.
Huawei also benefited from a scheme that allowed local telephone service
providers to borrow cash to buy Huawei's products.

Over the past few years, Huawei has begun to fashion itself to look like an
international telecommunications company. It sells what one Western
telecommunications executive called "a whole smorgasbord of products," from
low-end switching stations to wireless technology.

Over the years, Huawei has established partnerships or cut deals with many
of the big names in telecommunications and high technology. The People's
Liberation Army has also provided Huawei with contracts for its
communications equipment, which has led some Western observers to conclude
that the firm is a front for the PLA. The reality, according on one
Shenzhen-based analyst, appears to be more complex.

"The military buys from them because it can get a good price and because
they know the stuff is Chinese-made," he said. "In case of tensions with the
West, they still can have a sure source."


by Jessica Berry
Daily Telegraph, 25th February

SADDAM HUSSEIN has ordered a big expansion of Iraq's Russian and Belarus
embassies and appointed one of his senior military men to head a new
intelligence unit in Moscow, the Telegraph can reveal.

The appointment has been kept secret as the role involves efforts to
negotiate arms deals with Russia. Brig Saadi Mohammed Subhi will head a new
20-strong military intelligence bureau attached to the embassy in Moscow.
Western intelligence officials have expressed concern over the posting,
pointing out that Brig Subhi's background is air defence. He is also a
member of the powerful Ba'ath party and a former intelligence officer.

One Western official said: "This is a significant departure from the norm.
Usually, they appoint lower-ranking military intelligence officials. The
fact that he comes from air defence is proof that negotiations with Moscow
are at an advanced stage."

Last year, the Telegraph reported that Moscow had signed deals worth more
than Ŗ100 million with Iraq to reinforce its air defences in breach of the
United Nations arms embargo.

Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, led international
criticism of this month's US and British air raid on Baghdad military

The man appointed to head an expanded Iraqi intelligence mission in Belarus
is Col Aedil Kamil Hadidi, a military engineer. President Alexander
Lukashenko of Belarus is a close ally of Moscow, and Col Hadidi's posting is
a further sign of Saddam's strengthening ties with Russia

Iraqi opposition groups said radar and missile equipment was being smuggled
into Iraq from Russia via Iran. Jordan had been abandoned as a conduit as
Western border surveillance had increased. Moscow is also said to be
stepping up training of Iraqis in the use of equipment and in intelligence.
A Western intelligence officer said: "There is very strong evidence that
former KGB officers are training Iraqi military intelligence officials."

Russia's assistance is badly needed following the toppling of Saddam's
former ally, the former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic, whose
regime is credited along with Russia, China and Belarus of helping to
improve Iraq's air defence systems.

Shortly before the raids, the US Defence Intelligence Agency said a new
underground fibre optic link supplied by the Chinese had led to improved
Iraqi capabilities. Serbs who worked on Iraqi installations under the
Milosevic regime gave vital intelligence on underground defence
installations before the British and US raids on Baghdad. While the recent
air raid on Baghdad may have destroyed a key radar centre, it has not
affected the Iraqi leader's buying power.

Baghdad makes about Ŗ7 million a day from oil smuggling, some of which is
believed to fund front companies in China, India, Malaysia, Pakistan and
Thailand. These are used to buy equipment from Europe which cannot be
traced. A member of an Iraqi opposition group said: "He is currently buying
more wagons from Austria and France for the train used to smuggle oil out to
Syria. China is used as the conduit country."

As revealed in the Telegraph in January, the sanctions-busting train is
crucial to the oil smuggling operation. The oil is used to fuel Syria's
Aleppo power station which, in turn, pumps the bulk of Iraqi oil through
pipelines out of the country. February 27, 7:18 pm
Eastern Time

by Bernie Woodall

NEW YORK, Feb 27 (Reuters) - By allowing a foreign oil company to work in
Iraq for the first time since 1990, the United Nations has opened the door
for other foreign oil firms to apply for similar ventures, U.N. diplomats
and oil analysts said on Tuesday.

In a surprise move, the U.N. Iraqi sanctions committee in mid-December
approved Russian oil company Zarubezhneft for an $8 million project to drill
45 oil wells in northern Iraq.

``Clearly, this is a shift in terms of what companies are allowed to do and
in terms of what opportunities are there in Iraq,'' said Raad Alkadiri of
the Petroleum Finance Co. in Washington.

Zarubezhneft, working with Tatneft (NYSE:TNT - news), a larger Russian oil
company, will send Russian workers, three rotary drilling rigs and other
equipment, all of which are to return to Russia after the project is
fulfilled within a year, diplomats say.

Diplomats on the Iraq sanctions committee are split as to whether other
companies could get similar contracts to Zarubezhneft, which will work on
the Bai Hassan and Saddam oilfields.

Nations sympathetic to Iraq's demand for easing sanctions, such as France,
China and Russia, say that similar contracts could follow while countries
that take a harder line against Iraq, such as the United States and Britain,
say there has been no policy shift.

"The jury is still out whether this is a precedent," Alkadiri said.

Any new contracts would be only likely to cover developing existing
oilfields and not for expanding Iraq's oil industry into new areas, the
diplomats and analysts said.

``Foreign oil companies have not been allowed to operate in Iraq under
sanctions thus far,'' said Alkadiri, referring to the international
sanctions on Iraq placed in 1990 following its invasion of Kuwait.

Jareer Elass of the consultants Oil Navigator did not believe the United
States and Britain mistakenly allowed the Zarubezhneft contract to pass.

``I don't think it was Washington asleep at the wheel,'' Elass said. ``It's
not like they weren't paying attention.''

Alkadiri said that there had been informal talks at the United Nations for
about two years to allow foreign work in Iraq on a limited basis, and that
the Zarubezhneft contract fitted that bill.

Iraq is allowed to spend $1.2 billion of its annual oil revenue on oil spare
parts, but most of the funds to this point have been used to buy equipment,
not allow foreign companies inside Iraq to do the work.

The definition of ``oil spare parts'' has expanded to allow foreign oil
firms to work in Iraq, Alkadiri said.

Diplomats from Western nations downplayed the importance of the contract
approval, saying that increasing Iraq's oil production will increase funds
to supply humanitarian goods to Iraq's people in the oil-for-food program.

Other contracts for foreign oil work in Iraq are on hold, including one for
Tatneft to drill 33 wells in the Bai Hassan, Saddam and Kirkuk oilfields in
northern Iraq and one for China Petroleum to drill 45 wells.

About 72 percent of the oil sold by Iraq in the program is used to fund
humanitarian efforts in Iraq, including the purchase of oil spare parts and


by Tam Dalyell
Sunday Times, 25th February

LAST week's most memorable picture was surely that of George Galloway lodged
between two burly members of the constabulary during the protest at Faslane.
Galloway also went to see for himself the damage inflicted by the most
recent bombing outside Baghdad. Because of that, he has been called
everything under the sun by some people - most of whom, I suspect, don't
like him anyway.

Let me recall an episode in defence of Galloway. In 1994 he and I, along
with Tim Llewellyn, the veteran BBC Middle East correspondent, arrived in
Baghdad. On the first evening, we were welcomed by a committee of the Iraqi
parliament, 18 of us in the room. After an hour, Galloway suddenly said: "Do
you know, I think I am the only person here who does not have a degree from
a British university?"

He was right. The fact is that many Iraqis - clever, energetic, northern
Arabs - used to regard Britain as their second home. Not any more.

Galloway knows more, and certainly cares more, about the Arab world than
anybody else in the House of Commons. He and I are not naive. I believe we
are right in supposing that if sanctions are lifted, over-flying stopped and
an attempt was made to talk to the Iraqis on a basis of dignity, that many
matters would be resolved.

My personal judgment, in 1994 and again in 1998, when I went to Iraq with
the former taoiseach Albert Reynolds, was that bombs and patrols will solve

This is the view that Galloway and I do not share with the front benches in
the British parliament, but do share with the governments of Bahrain, Egypt,
Iran, Jordan, Syria and the United Arab Emirates, who have no reason to love
Saddam, let alone the leaders of France, Russia and China.

On January 25, I asked the prime minister in the Commons if he would discuss
with the secretary-general of the United Nations the policy of no-fly zones
and continuing sanctions against Iraq.

Tony Blair replied: "We regularly discuss all aspects of our Iraq policy
with the United Nations secretariat, including the secretary-general."

One aspect that was not discussed was the bombing. It must discontinue.


Dates are not exactly the strong point of the Lockerbie judges. It is
perhaps a minor issue that in the first official presentation of their
judgment, their lordships managed to get the date of the destruction of Pan
Am 103 wrong.

They wrote "December 22", when it was the ghastly night of the December 21
that the Scottish countryside was strewn with wreckage.

More importantly, they have been no less sloppy about the date of the
purchases made at Mary's House in Malta, by Megrahi, the man they convicted.
He was in Malta on December 7, 1988. He was not on the island on November
23, 1988, the only other date on which the clothes and umbrella could have
been bought.

The purchaser left the shop having bought the clothes to engage a taxi. At
the time it was raining, which was why he bought the umbrella. The
meteorological evidence was that it was raining at the relevant time on
November 23 but that there was no rain on December 7, or at most a few
drops. The judges nevertheless held it proved that the date of purchase was
December 7. The purchaser left on foot, with his umbrella, to engage a taxi
at the rank at Sliema harbour, some 200 yards down a one-way street from
Mary's House.

It was proved in evidence that on December 7 Megrahi was staying at the
Holiday Inn in Sliema, which is 175 yards in the opposite direction to the
harbour from Mary's House.

The purchaser then returned in the taxi to pick up his purchases. If that
purchaser was Megrahi, he walked further, in the rain, to obtain a taxi than
he would have had to walk with the packages directly to his hotel.

There is no satisfactory evidence that the Maltese clothes were bought on
December 7. That date is crucial, as it is admitted that Megrahi was in
Malta that day. There is no evidence he was there on an earlier date in
November which better fits the evidence, particularly as to weather
conditions - an umbrella was bought from Mr Gauci because light rain had
begun to fall.

On the last page of the opinion of the court, it is conceded that by
selecting parts of the evidence which seem to fit together and ignoring
parts which might not fit, it is possible to read into "a mass of
conflicting evidence", a pattern or conclusion which is not really

I happen to believe that this is precisely what the court at Zeist has done.

Tam Dalyell is the Labour MP for Linlithgow

Daily Mail and Guardian, South Africa, 28th February

These days Hain is seen very differently in Britain from the portrait
painted by Toolis, who failed to reflect the widespread contempt felt for
his ambition-driven period as Foreign Office minister responsible for Iraq.

Toolis quotes me as having accused Hain of "being responsible for 500,000
civilian deaths" in Iraq. This is false. Hain has been one of a number of
apologists, in London and Washington, for the disastrous policy on Iraq.

Toolis also gives the impression that I compared Hain personally with Saddam
Hussein. This, too, is false. What I have compared is the number of Iraqis
killed by the dictator and by Anglo-American driven sanctions, pointing out
that human rights lawyers say that Western politicians who condone and
incite great suffering, as Hain has done with unusual aggression, bear
secondary responsibility for a crime against humanity, "raising questions
under the Genocide Convention", according to an authoritative report to Kofi

The scale of the crime is placed in perspective by professors John and Karl
Mueller of the University of Rochester in the United States. "Even if the
[United Nations] estimates of the human damage to Iraq are roughly correct,"
they write, sanctions have caused "the deaths of more people in Iraq than
have been slain by all so-called weapons of mass destruction throughout

Toolis echoes the line Hain has liked to push - that he has been victimised
as a "traitor" by "what remains of the British left". In this way criticism
of him can be deflected or dismissed as an internecine squabble and his
shared culpability for the crime of sanctions minimised.

Denis Halliday, the distinguished former assistant secretary general of the
UN, has no connection with the British left. Neither has Hans Von Sponeck,
who succeeded Halliday as chief UN official in Iraq. Both resigned after 34
years with the UN rather than implement what Halliday described as
"genocidal sanctions" that "are destroying a society". Both regard Hain with
disgust: in Von Sponeck's words, he is a disseminator of "contaminated

Indeed, what has so upset those who have witnessed the suffering and death
in Iraq, as I have, is the deceit in Hain's articles and public statements
on the subject. These have been scripted by Foreign Office officials using
the familiar, weasel lexicon that was described at the 1994 arms-to-Iraq
inquiry as the product of a "culture of lying".

It has been Hain's enthusiasm for propagating the lies that has been
shocking. You get a sense of this from a recent letter he wrote to the New
Statesman, in which he claimed that "about $16-billion of humanitarian
relief was available to the Iraqi people last year". This was entirely
false. Quoting UN documents, Von Sponeck replied that the figure was
actually for four years and that, after reparations are paid to Kuwait and
the oil companies, Iraq is left with just $100 a year with which to keep one
human being alive. That is why, as Unicef has reported, half-a-million
children have died as a direct result of the bombing of infrastructure and
the effect of sanctions.

That Hain has privately expressed doubts about sanctions, which he rejected
for Zimbabwe, saying they would "hurt the ordinary people, not the elite",
is a measure of his ambition to be a Cabinet minister. That he has invoked
his anti-apartheid record to back up his promotion of sanctions is bleakly
ironic. Each time he has abused principled, informed critics like Halliday
and Von Sponeck as "dupes of Saddam Hussein", there is an echo of the
apartheid regime calling a young Hain "a dupe of communism".

Time and again, Hain claimed the so-called no-fly zones in Iraq and the
Anglo-American bombing that has lasted 10 years, were legal. I put this to
Dr Boutros Boutros Ghali, secretary general of the UN when the zones were
invented by the US. He said there was nothing in any Security Council
resolution that approved or even mentioned them.

"Are they illegal under international law?" I asked. "Yes," he replied.

Hain repeatedly denied that civilian targets were being hit by British and
US aircraft. Yet he was fully aware of a report by the UN security sector
that found that, during a five-month period surveyed, almost half the
casualties of the bombing were civilians. They included shepherds, their
families and their sheep, fishing villages, food warehouses. UN staff in
Iraq are now so terrified of the bombing, they refuse to deliver
humanitarian supplies during the afternoon.

Hain also defended the use of depleted uranium (DU) in the Gulf war,
claiming there was "no evidence" of its insidious after-effects. At the same
time he vigorously supported the denial to Iraq, under sanctions, of
equipment needed to clean up the contaminated battlefields, as well as drugs
to treat cancer victims whose numbers, according to the British Medical
Journal, have increased sevenfold in southern Iraq.

I put Hain's statements to Professor Doug Rokke, the US Army health
physicist who led the "clean-up" of DU in Kuwait, and now has 5 000 times
the permissible level of radiation in his body and is ill. He replied:
"There is no reasonable doubt about this. As a result of the heavy metal and
radiological poisoning of DU, people in southern Iraq are dying from cancer.

"At various meetings and conferences, the Iraqis have asked for the normal
medical treatment protocols. The US Department of Defense and the British
Ministry of Defence have refused them. I attended a conference in Washington
where the Iraqis came looking for help. They approached myself. They
approached the British. They were rebuffed."

I was once a friend of Hain. I made a film defending him when he was
wrongfully accused of a bank robbery, a disgraceful episode not unrelated to
his anti-apartheid activism in Britain.

I don't know why principled people turn; alas, Hain has plenty of famous
company. Ambition is a common thread. He has since been demoted to junior
energy minister, no doubt because his apologetics for the great crime in
Iraq were a tad too enthusiastic and embarrassing.

This is not to suggest he won't end up with a Cabinet job. Blair, the bomber
of Baghdad, is said to like his stuff.

by Kirsty Milne

REASONS to live in Scotland? Not the weather, certainly; but possibly the
fact that dissent is still alive and well and emanating from the mouths of
politicians. The SNP leader, John Swinney, ruptured cross-party consensus at
the weekend by condemning the bombing of Iraq by British and United States

Mr Swinney spoke for those who cannot support the bombing around Baghdad,
just as his predecessor, Alex Salmond, gave voice to those who could not
support the bombing of Belgrade. Such outspokenness is rare in the Scottish
parliament and rare in the House of Commons, where MPs this week heard the
Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, maintain that military action to enforce the
no-fly zones did not have "any consequences" for the Middle East peace



by Howard Schneider
Dawn, 26th February

BASRA (Iraq): Capt Ajadi Abbass began his discussion of the Umm Qassr port
by scanning a blackboard list of the facility's 21 berths. Pointing to those
still blocked by vessels sunk in the harbour during the Persian Gulf War a
decade ago , he said: "Number 13, there is a wreck. Number 14, wreck, 15
wreck, 18 wreck, 21 wreck." Then he added firmly, "Whatever comes in, it is
not enough for the Iraqi people."

But when questioned about the cargo arrival charts decorating his office
wall, he offered the rest of the story: Shipments through the critical port
that gives Iraq access to the northern end of the Persian Gulf have returned
to pre-war levels, as much as 3,500 tons per day. With nine ships at anchor
waiting for a space to unload, Abbass's crews are working at capacity.

In Iraq, the US-led effort to organize a black-and-white world of concerted
cooperation against a shunned government has collapsed into a landscape of
grey. Although reliable statistics are hard to come by, a visitor sees a
country in which international cooperation on the boycott increasingly mixes
with open sanctions-busting, and goods arrive daily despite the UN embargo
imposed after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

As a result, according to conversations here, in Baghdad and in other Arab
capitals, the target of one of the world's toughest embargoes feels it is
becoming richer, stronger and politically more accepted instead of weaker,
more isolated and closer to compromise.

"In 1999 and 2000, openness on Iraq has increased and its political,
economic and trade relations have improved with many countries," Deputy
Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told reporters on Thursday in Baghdad.

"The government of the US is always talking, blah, blah, blah, democracy,
human rights, Iraq, Saddam, Iraq, Saddam," Abbass said, referring to
President Saddam Hussein. "The people of Iraq will always be with Saddam. We
don't want anyone to interfere."

Segments of Iraqi society, particularly those associated with the
government, the military or the ruling Baath party, enjoy luxury cars,
state-of-the-art, 33-inch flat-screen televisions and tony art receptions.
The once ambitious middle class, meanwhile, also measures progress, but in
terms of more affordable and plentiful food.

"It's a two-level society," said Ruggero Pierantoni, an Italian museum
curator who came to Baghdad to arrange a cultural exchange. He observed an
early evening crowd at the Baghdad Art Gallery and remarked, "If you see
this, you have no idea of the sanctions."

In an effort to ease the suffering of ordinary people, the UN set up an
oil-for-food programme that allows Iraq to sell up to two million barrels of
oil a day. But the programme restricts use of the revenue to humanitarian
supplies and docks a portion to pay reparations to Kuwait. With oil prices
having risen sharply in recent months, to about $25 a barrel, that programme
brings in more revenue than ever.

Top officials, Saddam family members and other well-connected Iraqis also
have benefited from a growing grey-market trade outside UN controls. Up to
150,000 barrels of oil a day have been moving through a pipeline to Syria,
industry analysts report, and almost as much by truck to Turkey. Moreover,
Iraq has begun charging petroleum companies a 25- to 30-cent surcharge on
crude lifted under the oil-for-food programme, with money from that
operation also free of UN supervision.

As Colin L. Powell begins his first tour of the Middle East as secretary of
state, he will face increasing international pressure to consider whether
the US's stated aim of removing Saddam from power and its insistence on
maintaining the sanctions 10 years after the war are still realistic.

But no long-term resolution of Iraq's role in the Middle East is in sight.
That is troubling for many Arab states, whose leaders say the isolation of
such a large, oil-producing nation makes the Arab world weaker and that the
poverty of many of Iraq's more than 20 million people is an insult.

The US' aim of "regime change," as set by the Clinton administration, is
often ridiculed, not only on the streets of Iraq, but by regional diplomats
and officials, including some Americans, who see Hussein as entrenched as
ever. Key participants in the Gulf War coalition that ousted Iraq from
Kuwait, such as Egypt, say they no longer view Iraq as a threat. The major
US bombing raid on Feb 16 was criticized even by Saudi Arabia, which has
allowed US planes and troops on its soil since the Gulf War.

At Saddam Hall one recent night, a festive crowd gathered to watch a
regional basketball tournament staged in honour of the Arab fight for Al
Quds. "Guilty, guilty," the audience jeered when a member of the Iraqi Air
Defence team missed a free throw. Between quarters, the chief cheerleader
made a show of picking out a foreigner, offering a Pepsi and kisses on both
cheeks. "The people of Iraq and the people of the US are friends," he
hollered to the crowd's approval. "But your government, the rockets. So many
babies dead. Why?"  Dawn/LATS-WP News Service (c) The Washington Post.

Sydney Morning Herald, 27th February

Eight-year-old Ali Zuaid is a child of the world's harshest economic
blockade - it was in force at his birth and he will die before it is lifted.
Surrounded by his distraught family, this skinny little boy lies motionless
in a spartan ward at the Saddam Hospital for Children.

A gentle pulse in his neck is the only sign of life. Hands crossed on his
stomach, he stares at a child's painting which is pinned above his bed.

Dr Sami Ghossan says Ali probably will die within two weeks. The boy has
cancer and the hospital is unable to treat him - the United Nations economic
sanctions prevent it from getting the necessary drugs, he said.

Wearily, the doctor moves through the wards, pointing to a dozen other
children who are dying - their treatment too is being thwarted by the
sanctions' ban on drugs and equipment that might also be used to develop
chemical weapons.

Today is the 10th anniversary of the end of the war that forced Saddam
Hussein's army to retreat from neighbouring Kuwait, which it had invaded six
months earlier. Since then the world, kept to the task by the United States,
has sought to punish Saddam for his reckless dream of military expansion.

The dictator president has been frustrated. But today he is more firmly in
power - his stocks are rising in the Middle East and he and his inner circle
continue a pampered existence in their fine Baghdad palaces.

It is the children - from Kirkuk in the north to Basra in the south - who
are dying. Malnutrition kills as many as 7,000 a month among those under
five years old, according to the humanitarian wing of the UN. And infant
mortality is up by 150 per cent since 1990.

It is the children's mothers who have their hands out on street corners in a
city in which begging was unheard of; it is their fathers whose average
annual income has been slashed from $US3,500 to $US500; and it is their
brothers and sisters who are being pulled from school by the thousands for
tasks as menial as selling single cigarettes in the streets in a desperate
bid to maintain plunging household incomes.

Disease and illness have risen sharply in the 10 years. Tuberculosis is up
twofold, diabetes up sixfold; heart disease is up threefold; mental illness
has more than doubled.

In Baghdad, they live in a city in which most of the raw sewage is dumped
into the Tigris River - because the treatment plants have broken down. They
live in homes in which the power goes off for 18 hours at a time - because
only 40 per cent of generating capacity has been restored since the Gulf
crisis. Most of the factories from which they might have derived an income
are closed - because of the sanctions-induced double-whammy of no power and
no raw materials.

Iraq has tumbled from number 85 to 126 on the UN's human development index,
a nation by-nation measure of well-being, to find itself sandwiched between
Burma and Lesotho.

A proud people, the Iraqis have been brought to their knees, and it is only
now, a decade on, that serious attention is being given to the long-term
implications of a punishment policy intended for one - but which hit 24
million who have no say in the big picture.

Baghdad has been isolated from the world for 10 years.

For most, the only way in is a 10-hour drive across a desert glazed in
shale. It is a route that jaded Jordanian courier drivers insist on taking
at up to 220 km/h.

The journey begins in Amman, the Jordanian capital, and the first real break
in the monotony is at the Trebil border post; a truculent Iranian border
official demands that travellers take an on-the-spot AIDS test.

It is here too, as clouds of swirling dust blow in from the vast Saudi
desert to the south, that visitors get the first signs that all is not well
- signs of excess and of privation.

Since the Gulf crisis, Iraq has built a 500-kilometre highway from the
border to Baghdad. It has six lanes, but there are no private cars - just
hundreds of trucks. Every 20 kilometres there is an elegant, floodlit
overpass - but these flyovers don't go anywhere, only a handful carry a

At the border service station, another child who should be at school is the
first Iraqi currency trader to greet the visitor.

At the time of the invasion of Kuwait the Iraqi dinar (ID) was worth $US3.
Now it is worthless. $US1 fetches 1,780 dinars and, with the biggest note
being ID250, $US100 is worth a bundle of paper the size of a housebrick.

Approaching Baghdad at night, there is no glow in the sky as there is with
most other capital cities. The lights are out.

Much has changed. The Herald was here for the 1991 bombing - when the entire
city was bathed in a frightening glow as allied bombers took out the Dora
Oil Refinery; as so-called smart bombs sliced through communications towers
and power station smokestacks; as bridges collapsed and office towers

Life stopped for the Iraqi people. They shuttered themselves in their homes,
with entire cities and towns reverberating as bombs and missiles sought out
key components of Saddam's weapons and industrial complex.

Many city windows remain criss-crossed with masking tape, but virtually all
the war damage has been cleaned up.

So much so that at first glance Baghdad appears to be back on its feet -
horns blare and ramshackle traffic is gridlocked; the muezzin regularly call
people to prayer; the Masgoof fish restaurants on the banks of the Tigris
are full most nights; and markets and stores are well stocked with goods
from around the region and the world.

But it is a veneer.

Information remains in the tight grip of Saddam's Information Ministry - it
runs the newspapers and TV and radio and it appoints an individual minder
for each visiting journalist. No, there is no access to the areas bombed two
weeks ago by the US and Britain; no, there will be no interviews with the
Chinese workers who Washington says are installing fibre-optic cables that
will improve Baghdad's ability to target patrolling US aircraft - because
the Security Ministry has denied that any Chinese are here.

The regime loathes giving out information, but piece together the anecdotes
and guestimates and the picture of the Iraq in which little Ali will die is
a bleak tale of what a UN report describes as a continued decline into
abject poverty.

Only a handful of Iraqis has money to spend. Some chosen few in the Public
Service can afford to go about in socks while they send their shoes out to
be polished, but an economist, Humam Al Shamaa, estimates that 90 per cent
of homes have an income of less than $US200 a year.

These days a Boeing 747 pilot is on guard duty at one of the UN compounds in
Baghdad - and a doctor and an engineer share the guard house with him.

Unemployment is said to be as high as 60 per cent and as the professional
and skilled classes who have not fled the country scrounge for menial jobs,
the poor and the unskilled are pushed to the fringes.

The government hands out food rations at heavily subsidised prices, but a UN
source estimated that the poverty trap forces as many as 70 per cent of
households to sell or barter some of their monthly ration. Academics who
once toured the world now rely on the government for clothes handouts and a
wage of about $US8 a month.

At the University of Baghdad, Professor Mizin Bashir told how his household
enjoyed two fridges and a freezer before sanctions but two of the three had
broken down and there were no spare parts to fix them or money to replace

One of his colleagues said that he simply had to walk away from his
broken-down car because he could not afford parts to fix it.

It comes down to UN staff to monitor the strictly controlled exceptions to
the sanctions. Increasingly, they are sympathetic to the people - not the
leadership - of Iraq.

One of them said: "A lot of us feel very uncomfortable with what we see here
..." Another accused the US of being the "villains" and of being more
concerned with outcomes to do with the security of Israel than with the
well-being of the Iraqi population.

One of their colleagues, despairing that the UN committee that vets all
Iraqi contracts was sitting on deals worth billions of dollars, complained:
"You'll never finish the job of rebuilding Iraq if so many contracts are on
hold. And it's not as if the country doesn't have the oil money to pay for

Swearing by the resilience of the Iraqis, the Herald's information ministry
minder, Salar Mustafa Jaf, worried more about the future than the present.

He said: "It's a bad thing for the West that a whole new generation of
Iraqis has grown up under sanctions and Western distortion about us.

"I'm not talking about the hostilities or the enmity in their hearts, I'm
talking about when the British and the Americans want development contracts
from us. They will not be acceptable when today's young people become
tomorrow's decision-makers."

Little Ali Zuaid will not be among them.

Cases such as his disappear all too easily in the diplomatic arm-wrestling
over who is responsible for denying him the treatment he needs - Saddam
because he will not bend on revealing his weapons program? Or the US-led
bloc at the UN which has been reluctant to ease the sanctions for
humanitarian reasons out of fear that Saddam will then be able to get away
with weapons development?

This week another high-ranking Iraqi delegation is in New York, searching
for a break to the impasse on arms inspections which is at the heart of US
reluctance to ease the sanctions despite continuing efforts by France,
Russia and China to do so.

As they went off, a former Iraqi Ambassador to Paris and Bonn, Dr A.K. Al
Hashimi, said: "We feel that the US is cornered - no longer can it persuade
other countries of its position."

Another measure of the depth of feeling with which Washington must contend
is the anger of Mr Denis Halliday in a speech he gave at Harvard University
in 1998.

Resigning in disgust from his position as head of the UN's relief program in
Iraq, he said: "Sanctions continue to kill children and to sustain high
levels of malnutrition. Sanctions are undermining cultural and educational
recovery. Sanctions will not change governance to democracy. Sanctions
encourage isolation, alienation and, possibly, fanaticism ..."

by Zvi Bar'el
Hašaretz, 28th February

The Lebanese flight about to take off for Iraq at the end of last week had
one little problem. A representative of the American insurance company that
covers these special flights informed the Lebanese airline that the
insurance for this flight had been canceled.Qatar's chamber of commerce
encountered a similar problem when then sought to travel to Baghdad. A
representative of the Qatari airline chartered by the group said that the
price for leasing the aircraft had risen that morning from $30,000 to
$100,000. When the head of the chamber of commerce said that the trade
organization was willing to pay the new price, the airline announced that it
had decided, nevertheless, to cancel the flight.

The Qatari government, which denied that diplomatic pressure was behind the
flight's cancellation, is one of the countries that continues to maintain
good trade relations with Baghdad.The solidarity flights with Iraq are
damaging to U.S. prestige, but are not enough to break the sanctions policy.
These flights did prod the Russian parliament to approve a nearly unanimous
(953-2) decision calling on the sanctions against Iraq to be removed. This
decision has no legal force, but it does place Russian President Vladimir
Putin in a strong bargaining position in advance of his discussion with
President George W. Bush on the sanctions question.

Secretary of State Colin Powell was able to learn about Russia's position on
Saturday in Egypt when he met with his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, at
President Hosni Mubarak's bureau. Ivanov, who is lobbying for the removal of
sanctions against Iraq, could only have been pleased, as Powell squirmed
uncomfortably when Mubarak expressed surprise that the U.S. had not bothered
to inform Egypt of its intention of attacking Iraq.

Another arena where the new American policy has failed to garner support is
China, whose technicians were the ones to link the Iraq radar facilities via
fiber optics, thus improving their ability to transmit data between the
command posts and anti-aircraft missile positions. These fiber optics, as
well as computer components and software aimed at improving the transfer of
data between radar stations, were what spurred the American attack on
Baghdad. This followed the reports by American pilots that suddenly the
radar stations were quickly locking in on them, something that had rarely
happened up until now with Iraq's aging equipment, now 30 to 40 years old.
The U.S. suspects that some of these components arrived in Baghdad on the
"humanitarian" flights.

The new American administration committed two serious mistakes in its sudden
attack on Iraq: the U.S. failed to inform its friends in the Middle East and
didn't anticipate the harsh Arab reactions to the attack. Powell's efforts
to downplay the attack in order to minimize the diplomatic fallout did not
help much. ("The attack was just a bit more aggressive than usual and
attracted a bit more attention," he said.)

Powell felt the intensity of the Arab reaction even before his plane landed
at the first Arab country on his tour. "America thinks that it's still at
the beginning of the Gay Nineties," wrote one Egyptian commentator in
response to the bombings in Iraq. Indeed, in other times - actually, up
until about two years ago - the U.S. could have assumed that an
unconventional attack against Iraq would pass in relative quiet. But a new
consensus has developed in the Middle East during the last two years, which
completely changed the status of Iraq.

The Arab media played a significant role in forging this new consensus: an
increasing number of reports (initially in the print media, but followed by
television pictures) about the miserable conditions in which Iraqi citizens
live; articles and commentaries noting that the sanctions especially harmed
children and the poor; the reports of international aid organizations, which
were widely published in the Arab press - all this brought the Iraqi reality
into every home in the Middle East.

In Jordan, which absorbed thousands of Iraqis, a "Little Iraq" sprung up
near the Hashemiya Square in the center of Amman. In this "Little Iraq,"
small children can be seen selling cigarettes to passersby, and homeless
Iraqis camp out on the grassy expanses of the park. In Egypt, people talked
about the unfortunate Iraqis who suffered under the American bombings. Even
in Gulf states threatened by Iraq, charity funds were established to help
Iraqi children.

The Arab governments, which originally made a distinction between the Iraqi
people and the despotic regime of Saddam Hussein, could not afford to ignore
this public campaign for Iraq. In their public statements, Arab leaders
would say that Saddam Hussein must implement the United Nations resolutions
regarding international supervision, but that the Iraqi people must not
continue to be punished. But soon a different formulation was heard,
contending that it was unacceptable to have Arab states maintain peaceful
relations with Israel while at the same time boycotting and punishing a
sister state like Iraq.

The public and diplomatic pressure of Arab states on then president Bill
Clinton finally led to a compromise, providing for a significant increase in
the sales quota for Iraqi oil in order to buy additional food and medicines.
Clinton thought that if he could remove the human dimension from the
military-political problem, he could not only assist the citizens of Iraq,
but also prove that it is a dark regime that cynically exploits its citizens
to get the pressure off of itself.

This line of thinking possibly could have succeeded more were it not for a
wall of bureaucracy, partly intentional and partly inherent, which stood in
the way of these good intentions. Requests to procure equipment, food, and
medicines waited for months until they were approved or rejected by the UN's
sanctions committee. The concern about the possible dual usage of certain
items led to many essential items, including medicines, pesticides, and
chemicals, not being approved for sale to Iraq. It took years for the
sanctions committee to receive American approval for the purchase of new oil
drilling equipment, which was needed to reach the quota permitted by the UN.
Thus, the U.S. and UN were seen as intentionally upsetting even the plan to
sell oil for humanitarian needs, while the government in Iraq continued to
hold a monopoly on the purchase and distribution of equipment, and opposed
any intervention by the UN in regard to distribution and its supervision.

The humanitarian program, which only brought limited benefits to the
population, was of great assistance to foreign corporations. It brought in
hundreds of Arab trade and manufacturing firms, which sought to gain a
market share of the billions of dollars of Iraqi oil the program allowed.
Jordan, which maintained relations with Iraq under a special UN approval
that also permitted it to buy Iraqi oil at discounted prices, became the
chief Arab mouthpiece for removing the sanctions. "Iraq is our economic
lifeline," said one Jordanian publicist. "Without Iraq, the kingdom might be
in bankruptcy today," he added.

Turkey, which began to smuggle Iraqi oil in giant tanks fitted on trucks,
became a certified supplier and made handsome profits on its link to Iraq.
Subsequently, Egyptian industries started to close substantial deals in
Iraq, with sales reaching $1 billion a year. Syria renewed its commercial
ties with Iraq, opened an official representation office, and started to
sell Iraq food in return for oil. Several weeks ago, oil began to flow again
in the pipeline between Iraq and Syria. While Syria says it is just testing
the pipeline, American sources claim that Iraq is exporting millions of
dollars of oil via this pipeline.

This trade has become a diplomatic lever, used effectively by Iraq. No
longer does the talk only focus on the suffering Iraqi people in need of
aid. Instead, it is an Arab state under attack by Western imperialism, led
by the U.S. - the same American government that provides monetary and
diplomatic assistance to the Zionist state, which is systematically
destroying the Palestinian people.

So, as the peace process has floundered, regarded by Arab states as nothing
more than an American-Israeli plot, while Iraq has undergone a metamorphosis
from aggressor to victim and serves as a warning signal that other Arab
states could find themselves in a similar situation.

This is the scenario in which the new Bush administration finds itself. The
beginnings of the new sanctions policy, under which the restrictions on the
sale of civilian goods would be substantially eased in return for stringent
supervision over military production at least shows that the American
administration understands its current status in the Middle East.

The Arab countries in the region are talking about a "change in the balance
of power" and are expecting from the Americans a more positive stance toward
the Arab world and a tougher attitude toward Israel. This talk of a "change
in the balance of power" reflects a recognition of the strength of the Arab
countries as an independent diplomatic force, which from now on will try to
forge its own position and dictate it, with suitable caution, to the
American administration

Sydney Morning Herald, 28th February

Herald Writer at Large Paul McGeough writes from Baghdad on crumbling UN

Tension rises through the day as foreign businessmen pace the huge marble
lobbies. But come the night, there's an added frisson as mad brass and manic
drums escort the brides and grooms of Baghdad to the Melia Mansour Hotel.

The musicians are so noisy their progress is halted at a car park, and the
self-conscious young couples arrive in the lobby in a tight family scrum.

If only the businessmen now pouring into Baghdad had such support and
comfort before their moment of reality.

That moment came on Monday for the greying German who has been working the
Middle East for 30 years and thought he knew it all. Christian Korch
confronted a serious setback: "Yesterday I was told I was on the black

Mr Korch sells technology for making plastic bottles, and he has been
involved in setting up 15 production plants in Iraq. But when Desert Storm
erupted a decade ago he was owed $US2 million. His sin was to go to court to
recover the money.

He laid out his options: "I could drop the claim if it is less than the new
business I'm seeking. I could do a black-market operation through Turkey. I
could sell the deal to another European company. I could get an Egyptian
partner and do a different kind of deal from Saudi Arabia."

Over a single Turkish coffee, Mr Korch shone a light down many of the alleys
used here to beat the United Nations sanctions against Iraq: there is
smuggling and there is ducking and weaving as determined dealers find back
doors and the right partners to get a slice of Baghdad's billions.

China, Russia and France - a majority of the five-member Security Council of
the UN - and most of the Arab world favour an end to the sanctions or, at
least, a deal to make them more tolerable for the Iraqi people.

But any suggestion of an easier life for Saddam Hussein is being resisted by
the United States, which insists Iraq is continuing to acquire and build
weapons systems - conventional, chemical and biological - funded by a
smuggling racket estimated to be worth up to $US2 billion a year.

The blockade is fraying.

Arab, European, African and Asian countries have been landing jets at Saddam
International Airport in defiance of a UN ban on commercial flights. And in
the wake of a series of trade negotiations with Baghdad, Syria, Jordan and
Turkey are now assumed to be the transit routes for a range of military and
luxury goods that are being landed in Iraq for the pleasure of the few who
can afford them.

There appeared to be no UN inspection of dozens of trucks, banked up at the
Trebil border post on the Iraq-Jordan border when we crossed last week. And
UN inspection teams at Zahko, on the Iraq-Turkey border, have admitted that
for every truck they inspect there are as many as 200 over which they have
no control.

These are the routes through which the US State Department argued last week
that Saddam looked after his inner circle with a weekly importation of "more
than 10,000 bottles of whisky, 350,000 cans of beer and 700 bottles of wine
a week".

The US accuses Saddam of syphoning off about $US500,000 a year from revenue
raised under the oil-for-food deal through which he is supposed to feed his
malnourished people.

But Washington is more concerned with what it claims are sanctions-busting
oil deals with Jordan and Syria - with some of the oil being onsold on the
world market for scarce hard currency.

The US also claims that illicit oil goes out through the Persian Gulf, in
small tankers that hug the Iranian coast to avoid detection by US and allied
patrols. Eighty-two were caught last year.

Iraq and Syria deny any wrong-doing. But oil industry specialists are
reported to have detected the smuggling operation: when exports of Syrian
crude spiked late last year they concluded that Syria was running on illegal
deliveries from Iraq and selling its own product to the world.

Since the start of the oil-for-food program, about $US40 billion has been
raised by the sale of Iraqi oil. Close to one third of the funds is set
aside to compensate Kuwait for the Iraqi invasion, and a small percentage is
held to fund the UN's Iraq program.

And of the $US28.2 billion worth of contracts submitted by Baghdad for UN
approval since late 1996, $US18.7 billion have been approved for food and
medicine and for repairs to Iraq's oil infrastructure.

However, there is much controversy about $US3 billion worth of contracts
which have been put on hold by the UN, mostly because of the sanctions
clause which outlaws purchases that might have dual use - that is, civilian
and military applications.

This kitty is small when compared to the money that would flow if all
sanctions were lifted. A Baghdad economist estimated that in a
sanctions-free world Iraq would stand in the international marketplace with
orders worth $US60 billion a year.

That is why a trade mission from Venice drove through the night to be in
Baghdad for meetings yesterday. One of the delegation said: "Iraq is a very
attractive proposition. There is a lot of work, and there is a lot of

"We might be able to come through the back door, through Jordan, Syria or
Turkey, while the sanctions last - they have protocols with Iraq. But we
have to act now ... not just to be here first, but to establish ourselves so
that we can do deals later".

And last night they faced the drive back across the darkened desert to
Amman, in Jordan. Like the Italians, the desert drive holds no charm for the
dejected Mr Korch. "I don't enjoy it at all - it is a hell. I have done it
too many times," he said.

Perhaps it is the disappointment that makes Mr Korch speak so freely about
trade with Iraq.

"Of course there is smuggling. The Turkish border is open for all goods ...
and if you land cargo at the Syrian port of Latakia it can be in Iraq within
two weeks.

"And when the Kurds talked to me about a $US2.5 million bottle plant, they
proposed that the funds be smuggled through Turkey. It was too dangerous. We
didn't do it."

People's Daily, 3rd March

Countries worldwide have suffered losses of more than 200 billion U.S.
dollars due to the decade-old United Nations sanctions on Iraq, Iraqi Trade
Minister Mohammad Mehdi Salah said in a statement on Thursday.

Russia, the largest trade partner of Iraq suffered the heaviest losses with
nearly 40 billion dollars, while France lost 35 billion dollars; Turkey, 30
billion dollars; China and Britain each lost 25 billion dollars, Salah said.

Salah stressed that the United States, who opposed to lifting the sanctions,
also sustained huge losses because of the continuation of the sanctions.


Iraq claims that it has lost some 150 billion dollars due to the sanctions.

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