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News, 5-11/8/01 (2) See News (1) for short accounts of articles after titles. CAMPAIGNING * Activists Protest Iraq Sanctions * Fasters protest Iraq sanctions * Sanctions on Iraq * Sanctions on Iraq IRAQI/UN RELATIONS * Guardian Diary NORTHERN IRAQ/SOUTHERN KURDISTAN * U.S. should intensify pressure on Hussein * 35 illegal Iraqi Kurdish immigrants * Iraqi Kurds cross Lebanese border * Asylum-seekers chance Channel crossing to the promised land URL ONLY: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/monitoring/media_reports/newsid_14800 00/1480745.stm * Iraqi Kurds face uncertain future BBC, 11th August IRAQI/INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS * Last vessel carrying wheat leaves for Iraq URL ONLY: http://www.baghdad.com/?action=display&article=8590945&template=baghdad/inde xsearch.txt&index=recent * Iraq's Oil Money Undermines Sanctions The Associated Press, Sun 5 Aug 2001 INSIDE IRAQ * Going for an Iraqi dig? Don't forget the AK CAMPAIGNING http://www.baghdad.com/?action=display&article=8609250&template=baghdad/inde xsearch.txt&index=recent * ACTIVISTS PROTEST IRAQ SANCTIONS The Associated Press, Mon 6 Aug 2001 NEW YORK: Opponents of U.N. sanctions against Iraq marked the 11th anniversary of the measures Monday by holding vigils outside U.N. offices in New York and in Bagdhad, where demonstrators fasted in 122-degree heat. Fifteen people protested in New York, including eight who were beginning a 40-day fast, said Chicago-based Voices in the Wilderness, a group campaigning against the measures. In the Iraqi capital, 10 Americans and Britons sat outside U.N. offices on plastic chairs in a tent, observing a one-day fast. ``We are here to tell the world we are against sanctions. Sanctions kill children and elderly and this is rejected by all international laws,'' Jeff Guntzel, head of Voices in the Wilderness, said in Iraq. The group said similar events were held in 15 cities around the world, including in Canada and Britain. The demonstrations were aimed at pressuring the United Nations to reconsider the sanctions, which were imposed on Iraq on Aug. 6, 1990, four days after its forces invaded Kuwait. Among those fasting at the New York vigil was Denis Halliday, a former assistant U.N. secretary-general who resigned in 1998 as the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Iraq to protest the sanctions. He said thousands of Iraqi children had died from dysentery and other diseases because the U.N. restrictions had complicated the repair of water treatment plants and stunted food production. ``It is of great urgency for those (U.N.) member states not yet irreparably corrupted by the United States to end the killing,'' Halliday said. ``How will we explain to our children and grandchildren when the truth of U.N. genocide in Iraq comes out, as it surely will?'' The U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, but they have been criticized for hurting Iraqi civilians while failing to shake Saddam Hussein's autocratic regime. Last month, the United States and Britain proposed changes that would have given Iraqis unrestricted access to civilian goods to further ease the impact of sanctions while targeting military supplies and toughening enforcement. The plan was supported by 14 of the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council, but it was withdrawn in the face of a threatened Russian veto. On Monday, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations directed questions about the protests to the State Department in Washington, which declined comment. Halliday, who is Irish, has become a symbol for activists campaigning to lift sanctions. He was sent to Iraq in 1997 as a 34-year U.N. veteran to oversee the oil-for-food program, which the Security Council adopted in 1995 to help ordinary Iraqis cope with sanctions. The program now allows Baghdad to sell unlimited amounts of oil ‹ provided the money goes into a U.N.-controlled account for humanitarian relief, oil industry repairs and war reparations. Halliday resigned in 1998, saying the sanctions were devastating the Iraqi population. His successor, Hans Von Sponeck of Germany, quit in 2000 for the same reason. Along with former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter of the United States, they have become vocal opponents of the sanctions. On Monday, Halliday called on other U.N. staff members to rebel against the sanctions. ``There is a time to question authority and to refuse orders,'' he said. The protesters said they oppose Saddam Hussein's autocratic regime but worry that international efforts against him are more harmful to regular citizens. ``A lot of times people have the idea that it's like a vending machine ‹ you just deposit some change and regime change occurs,'' said Kathy Kelly, one of the founders of Voices in the Wilderness. ``But it doesn't work that way in a country.'' Sanctions cannot be lifted until U.N. weapons inspectors determine that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction. That certification is unlikely because Baghdad has barred inspectors from the country for more than 2 1/2 years. Iraq contends that it has met all U.N. demands and wants sanctions lifted. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/134327165_fast08m.html * FASTERS PROTEST IRAQ SANCTIONS by Eli Sanders Seattle Times, 8th August When Brian Mack went to Iraq last year he saw a civilization destroyed. "Transportation ‹ gone. Bridges still bombed out. Windshields still cracked after 10 years." The country's water and sewage systems, wracked by Allied bombing during the 1991 Gulf War, were still in shambles. Medical care was bare-bones. "It was a complete snuffing out of a society," said Mack, a teacher at Seattle Preparatory High School. "Eleven years of the most comprehensive sanctions the world has ever seen do a nasty bite." Now Mack and other area residents are in the midst of a 10-day fast to protest the crippling economic sanctions they say help keep Iraq in such disarray ‹ sanctions imposed on the country by the United Nations after Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990. Though it has been more than 10 years since a U.S.-led coalition drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, the sanctions have remained in place because Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has refused to allow U.N. inspectors to verify that he has no weapons of mass destruction. The aim of the sanctions is to contain Hussein and, the United States hopes, spur his people to press for new leadership. But Mack and others consider the sanctions a failure. They say the sanctions seem only to have helped consolidate Hussein's power while reducing his people's lives to misery. Iraq says its infant mortality has more than doubled. Medical supplies are scarce. Estimates of the total deaths from the sanctions range from 300,000 to more than 1 million. On a visit to Iraq in January, Kristine Swenson, a graduate student at Seattle University who is fasting with Mack, was horrified by what she saw. "Everything is broken," she said. "People have no buying power. Every other car is a taxi driven by a former professional who now no longer has a car." Larry Kerschner, a nurse practitioner from Olympia who visited Iraq with Mack, also is part of the fast, which began Friday and lasts until Sunday. Similar fasts are taking place around the world. On Monday in New York, eight people, including a former U.N. assistant secretary general who resigned in 1998 to protest the sanctions, began a 40-day fast. Swenson said she certainly doesn't support Hussein, who is accused by many of promoting and exploiting his people's misery in order to wriggle out of the compliance with U.N. demands. But, she added, "it's absolutely unethical to expect a population of people in a such a weakened state to overthrow their government when we haven't given them the tools to rebuild after bombing them back to the stone age." Mack said he believes Hussein can easily be contained militarily without the use of economic sanctions. "If we're for innocent civilians and against evil dictators, let's end the sanctions," he said. http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/letters/2001/0808/index.htm * SANCTIONS ON IRAQ Letter in Irish Times, 8th August Sir, - Sir Ivor Roberts, British Ambassador to Ireland, writes (August 2nd) that Hans Van Sponeck offers no alternative to UN sanctions on Iraq. Nothing could be further from the truth. He further attempts to muddy the waters by smearing Dr Van Sponeck and others who support the end of sanctions by suggesting they are apologists for the Iraqi government. Firstly, sanctions are not of the making of the Iraqi people. More than 5,000 children die each month as a result of sanctions, with only the US and Britain continuing to support them. The alternative is to lift all sanctions while maintaining an arms embargo on Iraq and all other countries in the region. Perhaps Sir Ivor could point out one country in the region whose human rights record is beyond reproach. Finally, Dr Van Sponeck is one of the finest individuals I have ever had the honour to meet. He is liberal and moral and, like myself, supports liberal Western democracies. - Yours, etc., NIALL ANDREWS, MEP, European Parliament Office, Dublin 2 http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/letters/2001/0810/index.htm#4 * SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAQ Letter in Irish Times, 10th August Sir, - Recent letters from the UK Ambassador, Sir Ivor Roberts, on the UN sanctions on Iraq has provoked several responses from readers. I would suggest that those trying to justify these sanctions might reflect on the words of Patriarch Raphael the First of Babylon, head of the main Christian church in Iraq. "Killing a man in a forest is an unpardonable crime in law. Killing a nation, it would seem, is a matter of debate and perspective". This week marks the 11th anniversary of the imposition of the sanctions on Iraq. The length of time the sanctions have been in place and their undoubted appalling impact have promoted a new debate on the morality of applying sanctions at all as an instrument of the United Nations in pursuit of its mandate to promote peace. It must be recalled that economic sanctions are just one step short of the ultimate sanction, military action. As such there is a strong argument that similar criteria to those used to justify warfare should be employed for the application of sanctions. The UN Commission on Human Rights has had a working paper prepared on this issue by Mr Marc Bossuyt, a Belgian jurist. He proposes six criteria for evaluating sanctions: 1. Are the sanctions imposed for valid reasons - i.e., when there is a threat to, or actual breach of, international peace and security? 2. Do the sanctions target the proper parties? Sanctions may not target civilians who are not involved with the threat to peace or international security? 3. Do the sanctions target the proper goods or objects? Sanctions may not interfere with the free flow of humanitarian goods under the Geneva Convention and other basic provisions of humanitarian law. 4. Are the sanctions reasonably time-limited? Legal sanctions may become illegal when they have been applied too long without meaningful results. 5. Are the sanctions effective? Sanctions must be reasonably capable of achieving a desired result in terms of threat or actual breach of international peace or security. 6. Are the sanctions free from protest arising from violations of the principles of humanity and the dictates of the public conscience? No matter where one points the finger of blame for the current humanitarian crisis in Iraq, it is clear that it is the imposition of sanctions that has created the context wherein the Iraqi nation is being slowly destroyed. The sanctions have been in place now for 11 years, and there is no end in sight. They have led to the death of 1.5 million people and the economic collapse of the country. And as their impact has become known to the wider world it has provoked an outcry of disapproval from a concerned public. Applying Bossuyt's criteria it is clear that continuing this regime of sanctions is immoral and indefensible. That is the point that Sir Ivor Roberts, and British Government policy, miss entirely. - Yours, etc., JUSTIN KILCULLEN, Director, Trócaire, Booterstown Avenue, Blackrock, Co Dublin. IRAQI/UN RELATIONS NO URL [communicated by Felicity Arbuthnot, who may not be unconnected with the item in question] * Guardian Diary Guardian, August 7th. By way of celebrating yesterday's 11th anniversary of the uniquely draconian UN (really US and British) sanctions against Iraq - the policy defended and propogated with such infectious vigour by my old friend Peter Hain - an intriguing fact comes to our attention. UN sniffer dogs used for de-mining in Iraqi Kurdistan have been getting over six times more for food under security council resolution 986, the so called 'oil for food' agreement, than the Iraqi people. A dispute with the Iraqi government has goaded the usually secretive UN sanctions committee into revealing that "the average cost of feeding one dog (between July 1999 and June 2000) was $408. Each dog was fed 0.8 kilos of imported dog food ... enhanced by local food such as chicken ..." The taste of chicken is as familiar to Iraqi children as that of bananas here during the war of course, and according to a minute analysis by Dr Eric Herring of Bristol University, the annual amount spent on feeding each Iraqi under "oil for food" is $65, or less than 31 [pence? -PB] a week. NORTHERN IRAQ/SOUTHERN KURDISTAN http://www.sunspot.net/news/opinion/oped/bal op.iraq09.story?coll=bal%2Doped%2Dheadlines * U.S. SHOULD INTENSIFY PRESSURE ON HUSSEIN by Michael Rubin Baltimore Sun, 9th August WASHINGTON -- Sanctions on Iraq are now 11 years old, and U.S. policy is going nowhere fast. The State Department has proposed to revise sanctions to try to undermine Saddam Hussein's propaganda, but the approach is little more than appeasement. At least that's how Iraqis described it during my recent nine-month visit there. They pointed out that Mr. Hussein interprets negotiation and compromise as weakness, not a tool to resolve differences. Regardless, nothing in the proposed revised sanctions forces Mr. Hussein to feed his people, and so the Iraqi ruler will simply continue to cynically starve them and blame the United States. Anti-sanctions activists will continue their pressure to lift sanctions and rehabilitate Mr. Hussein, claiming the sanctions to be responsible for the deaths of a million. They often cite the 1 million number as a solid United Nations statistic, though they often fail to mention that Mr. Hussein's Health Ministry was the report's co-author and that the Iraqi government provided most of the statistics. Even United Nations officials admit the report is extremely flawed. Rather than loosen controls on Mr. Hussein, the Bush administration should ratchet up the pressure. When left alone, Mr. Hussein started two bloody wars and, in an orgy of violence against his own population in 1988, he killed 182,000 Iraqi civilians, many with chemical weapons. While Secretary of State Colin Powell may want to tread softly, leaving Mr. Hussein to his devices would be to make the same mistake three times. Iraqis, free to speak openly in the northern safe-haven, are terrified that the United States has lost its resolve. Only since the implementation in 1996 of the oil-for-food program have the northern Iraqis received income proportional to their population. The northerners associate Mr. Hussein with interrogation cells, rape, chemical weapons attacks, destroyed villages and war. According to doctors in Halabja, site of one of Mr. Hussein's more gruesome chemical attacks, cancers and birth defects have increased by more than 300 percent. If sanctions are lifted and Mr. Hussein reasserts authoritarian control over the democratic north, locals say the result will be clear: 3 million refugees. Since Mr. Hussein is the primary threat to the Iraqi people, the Bush administration should do everything in its power to avert a humanitarian crisis and prevent Mr. Hussein from again threatening Iraqis or their neighbors. Augmenting the no-fly zones with "no-drive zones" would be a start, giving maximum protection to the region's civilians with minimum risk to American forces. Simply put, the United States should declare that Mr. Hussein's armor and artillery -- so cavalierly paraded for 13 hours in Baghdad Dec. 31 -- will not be allowed to terrorize the safe-haven or any other area of Iraq where the people rise up and demand their democratic and human rights. A no-drive zone requires air power -- effectively used to counter Slobodan Milosevic's ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia -- but not ground troops. Mr. Hussein can hide his tanks, but hidden tanks cannot be used to level schools, hospitals, mosques or homes, as his armor did. In December, Mr. Hussein briefly moved his troops into the northern safe-haven and surrounded a town called Baadre. American jets flew low over the Iraqi soldiers; 138 troops threw down their weapons and surrendered. Iraqis living both in the safe-haven and under Mr. Hussein's control consistently reported Iraq's military morale to be low. Iraqis simply do not want to die for Mr. Hussein. Some might argue that the security of a no-drive zone might become a base for an uprising, but why should the United States and Europe applaud the Serbian people for rising up against their dictator but discourage Iraqis who have suffered both longer and more brutally? The choice should be made by Iraqis only. If the Bush administration is serious about helping stabilize Iraq and protect innocent people, the time is now for a no-drive zone. Muddling through Iraq policy, or loosening controls on Mr. Hussein, will only encourage the Iraqi leader to again use his military against civilians and minorities and destabilize his neighbors. Michael Rubin, a visiting scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a Carnegie Council fellow, recently returned from nine months as a visiting professor in northern Iraq. http://www.irna.com/newshtm/eng/18114642.htm * 35 ILLEGAL IRAQI KURDISH IMMIGRANTS Sanandaj, Kurdestan Prov, Aug 9, IRNA -- Iranian security forces have arrested and sent home 35 Iraqi Kurds illegally staying in the western city of Marivan, along the border with Iraq, a local source said Thursday. "The illegal immigrants, all coming from northern Iraqi Kurdistan, were identified and arrested in a region known as the Hizbullah crossroads," the security source, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, told IRNA. "The detainees said they had tried to jump over into the Iranian border as they were sick of the political and economic situation in their country," he said, adding that they were repatriated after undergoing the legal process. Iran's Democratic Kurdistan Party was officially banned following the 1979 Islamic Revolution which toppled the Shah and installed an Islamic government. The party's leader was assassinated in Vienna in 1989. Different Kurdish factions rebelled against the Islamic Republic after the revolution. http://www.baghdad.com/?action=display&article=8652614&template=baghdad/inde xsearch.txt&index=recent * IRAQI KURDS CROSS LEBANESE BORDER The Associated Press, Thu 9 Aug 2001 JERUSALEM: A group of 42 Iraqi Kurds crossed into Israel along its tense northern border with Lebanon and requested asylum Thursday, Israeli military officials said. Israel refused the request and began preparations to deport the group, which included a 3 month-old baby, to Lebanon. Lt. Col. Raz Sagui, the Israeli commander in the area, said he fired a shot in the air as the group approached the border and began climbing the fence. But when he saw that the infiltrators, mostly women and children, were unarmed, he allowed them to cross. Troops held the asylum seekers under guard while Israeli authorities made arrangements with U.N. officials in Lebanon for the group's return. After receiving food and water, they were driven by bus to the U.N. border checkpoint in Nakoura, just inside Lebanon. The asylum seekers told soldiers they reached Lebanon from Iraq through Syria, looking for work. They said they could not return to Lebanon for fear that Hezbollah guerrillas would kill them for seeking Israeli help. Israel ended an 18-year occupation of a strip of south Lebanon last year after a bloody guerrilla war against Hezbollah. However, tension continues high because Hezbollah charges that Israel still holds a piece of Lebanese territory and vows to fight on until it is returned. Israel counters that it withdrew behind a border drawn by the United Nations. In March, 15 Kurdish refugees who infiltrated from Lebanon into Israel were returned to Lebanon a day later. http://news.ft.com/ft/gx.cgi/ftc?pagename=View&c=Article&cid=FT30DW488QC&liv e=true&tagid=ZZZPB7GUA0C&subheading=UK * ASYLUM-SEEKERS CHANCE CHANNEL CROSSING TO THE PROMISED LAND Financial Times, 10th August Soaked to the skin in the morning rain, the Kurds are straggling back along the road to the Sangatte refugee centre, near Calais on the north French coast, run by the Red Cross. They failed to break into the heavily guarded Channel tunnel terminal, or got caught and turned away. The lucky ones, hidden in trucks or trains bound for the UK, are already on the other side. "All the Kurds want to go to England," says a cheerful Kurdish man who gives his name as Ali. "The French won't give us a passport." He walked from Iraqi Kurdistan into Iran a month ago and paid $4,000 to a people-trafficking "mafia" to get himself smuggled via Turkey into the European Union. "I have some friends in England." Nader, a 41-year-old from Baghdad who speaks Arabic and English, tells a similar tale. He paid $10,000 and brought his wife and two children to Sangatte. "We sold the house, the car and my wife's gold," he says. "What we had, we sold." The Sangatte centre - set up two years ago in a hangar once used to make concrete parts for the tunnel's construction - was supposed to be a temporary shelter for 300 or 400 people who were sleeping rough in Calais. Today, it houses a shifting population of 1,000 and has become a base for nightly assaults on the Coquelles tunnel terminal by waves of illegal immigrants and asylum-seekers from the Baltic states, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. The centre is just 3km from Coquelles, and the French government has so far refused to move it further away. Refugees are taken back by bus after each failed attempt to reach England, and the more energetic have been known to break in to the terminal two or three times a night. For Eurotunnel, the Anglo-French company that operates the tunnel, and for the truck drivers and transport companies using the freight trains, the persistent efforts of the refugees to reach Britain have become an administrative and financial headache. Between January and the end of July, Eurotunnel intercepted 25,000 would-be stowaways at the terminal on the French side compared with 4,920 during the whole of last year. Some 5,000 are known to have made it through the tunnel to England so far this year. Four were killed in the attempt, either electrocuted or crushed. Spurred on by the UK threat of a £2,000 ($2,840) fine for each illegal immigrant found on its trains - truck companies are already liable to the fines - Eurotunnel says it has spent £3m this year turning Coquelles into a fortified camp bristling with razor-wire and high technology security systems. Last month, the company more than doubled the number of night-time security guards to 98. Among the machines used to check the trucks are giant X-ray devices, a carbon dioxide detector that reveals the presence of hidden humans, and an experimental millimetric sensor that "sees" inside soft-sided trucks. Eurotunnel says it is now keeping its services almost free of the disruptions caused by invading stowaways. It says that in June it intercepted 3,600 and 850 got through. In July, interceptions rose to 6,900, but the number of stowaways reaching Britain stayed the same. The refugees, meanwhile, show signs of becoming more desperate. Last month, two Lithuanians were rescued in mid-Channel as they tried to paddle to England on inflatable mattresses. IRAQI/INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS http://www.dawn.com/2001/08/08/ebr9.htm * LAST VESSEL CARRYING WHEAT LEAVES FOR IRAQ by Parvaiz Ishfaq Rana Dawn, 8th August KARACHI, Aug 7: The third and the last vessel, carrying 31,565 tons of wheat for Iraq, left early on Tuesday to complete the shipment of contracted quantity of 100,000 tons within 90 days of opening of letter of credit, TCP sources said. "With the completion of the haulage of 100,000 tons of wheat contracted early this year by the Iraqi Grain Board, Pakistan has emerged successful on the world wheat export map for the first time in its history," a senior official of the TCP said. The first phase of commitment has been achieved by the TCP, thereby paving the way for having more trade with Baghdad, which is at present meeting its food requirements under the UN oil-for-food programme, TCP chairman Syed Masood Alam Rizvi said. In the light of this encouraging development the minister of state and the chairman of Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) is heading a delegation for Baghdad on Thursday for further negotiation of wheat export as well as other commodities. Earlier, two ships carrying a total load of 68,000 tons of wheat are currently awaiting berth at the Iraqi port and it is expected that the third vessel, Sesou, is likely to reach its destiny on August 11. According to conditions laid down by Iraqi Grain Board the shipment of wheat was to be completed within 90 days of opening of LC. The contract also gave quantity margin of five per cent in plus or minus to facilitate each ship load. This target has been successfully achieved as the third and the last vessel carrying 31,565 tons 'hard winter' quality wheat has ensured of achieving the shipping schedule as laid down by Baghdad. The first vessel loaded with an average load of 35,000 tons had left Port Qasim on June 24, 2001 and reached Iraqi waters on June 28. The second ship also carrying an average load of 35,000 tons sailed out on July 20 and reached Iraq on July 24. In the entire task of wheat shipment, besides the TCP, the role of Pakistan Agriculture, Storage and Supply Corporation (Passco) has been commendable as their joint efforts not only ensured timely shipment but also meet the required wheat quality and specification of the Iraqi Grain Board. INSIDE IRAQ http://globalarchive.ft.com/globalarchive/articles.html?id=010804001457&quer y=Iraq * GOING FOR AN IRAQI DIG? DON'T FORGET THE AK-47 by ROSE GEORGE Financial Times, Aug 4, 2001 It is a dry and bumpy road to the 4,000-year-old house. We are in the desert region of UmAl Aqareb, or Mother of Scorpions, named after its poisonous inhabitants, on the way to the ancient Sumerian site of Shmet, two hours south of Baghdad. There is a sandstorm brewing in the air, and parasites from Iraq's wrecked water system brewing in my belly. We have crossed the 32nd parallel, into the no-fly zones where UK and US jets have in the past shown sometimes scant ability to distinguish between military and civilian traffic. I'm glad of the protection in the front seat, in the shape of our guide for the day, cradling a Kalashnikov. To visit an archaeological site in Iraq, it's with an AK-47 or not at all. Armed archaeology is far from melodramatic in modern Mesopotamia. Plenty has been written about the appalling disintegration of society and economy in modern Iraq, or its malnourished children. Less exposed is the evisceration by sanctions of its 9,000 years of history. The land of Babylon, Ur and Nineveh, with more than 10,000 official sites, is gold dust for archaeologists and looters alike. But since 1991, the foreign archaeologists' camps have lain empty, with academic and cultural exchanges forbidden under sanctions, and the looters have had the upper hand. "Instability is a green light for anyone interested in antiquities," says Donny George, an urbane Assyrian Christian who runs the research department at Iraq's National Museum in Baghdad. The instability began soon after the five-week bombing of Iraq by the Gulf war allies in 1991; during the uprisings in southern and northern Iraq, museums were emptied, and museum guards threatened with machine- guns. At least 4,000 artefacts went missing. In 1994-95, things got bad again, as Iraq wasn't yet selling oil under the United Nations oil for-food programme. Looters organised themselves into gangs, turning up with bulldozers to dig new holes, or scavenge old ones, protected by guards armed with machine-guns. The security forces only rarely had the money or manpower to fight back. In one incident, a battle between soldiers and 40 looters lasted 24 hours. "When I spent two years at a dig in the south, I was armed every day," says George. Archaeology is held in high esteem in Iraq. Saddam Hussein sends Donny George his reports back with careful notes in the margin. Iraq's president has rebuilt Babylon, to the fury of Unesco and other international cultural organisations, and has had his name inscribed on a plaque next to Nebuchadnezzar's. "Whenever the seat of government was strong, the first thing they did was rebuild the ancient cities," says George in mitigation. But the Iraqi government, sitting on the world's second-largest oil reserves but unable to feed its children, is hardly in a position of strength. "In about 1995 things shifted," says George. "We began planning how to live with sanctions. People started to believe they would have to live with them. They adapt." But only in 1999 did the government decide to fight back. Funds - probably from illicit oil sales - were provided for 24-hour armed guards at four sites. The National Museum was reopened after an eight-year closure, and its research departments expanded. Selling antiquities outside the country became a treasonable offence, punishable by death. Last year, 10 wealthy businessmen from Mosul - who chopped an Assyrian bull's head in pieces and took it to Jordan - were executed on TV. It's draconian, but necessary, says George. "There was an exhibition in Israel recently of 'recent objects from Iraq', but they didn't say how they got them." Mohammad, the young archaeologist in charge at Shmet, used to earn 3,500 dinars (about Dollars 1.50) a month. Doctors earn a paltry 20,000 dinars a month (pre-sanctions, they earned 3.5m dinars a month). "But we weren't losing doctors," says George. "We were losing archaeologists." So the salary was raised to 30,000 dinars a month and there are now 70 young archaeologists in training. Paying for loyalty also applied to the guards, and local sheikhs were charmed into co operating. At least in the Mother of Scorpions, the offensive has kept looters at bay, even if not everyone's motives are the same. "I've fired my gun at thieves," explains our guard Ahmed. "But I fire it in the air. If I shoot someone, I'd have to pay blood money. If I kill someone inside the site, it's cheaper than outside, because it's government property. I'd have to pay at least 2m dinars. Government laws don't apply in the villages." No matter how fierce Ahmed and his fellows are, it may be too late. Even if sanctions were lifted tomorrow - and the recently proposed "smarter" sanctions actually appeared more restrictive than existing ones - Iraq's economy would take decades to recover. Its children will take longer, and its cultural riches may never recover at all. At Shmet, where two dozen labourers are digging out a Sumerian manor house with their bare hands, the land is dotted with square holes, a shockingly pockmarked moonscape carved out with bulldozers. There is an occasional gleam in the gloom, however. Visit the office of Mudhafar Amin, head of the Iraqi interests section at the Jordanian embassy in London, and you will notice a 4,000-year-old stone head of the goddess Medusa, perched on his filing cabinet. Carved from the walls of the ancient site of Hatra, smuggled to Jordan by a mysterious Italian, ending up in London in an antique dealer's window, it was recognised by an Italian archaeologist who promptly called the police. Scotland Yard descended on the dealer. Detective Constable Miki Volpe of the Yard's Art and Antiques Squad then restored the head to the Iraqis. "We are so grateful," says Mudhafar Amin in his office. And not a little surprised. "This is the first time, to my knowledge," says Volpe, "that an Iraqi artefact has been seized in this country and returned to the Iraqi government." But it's impossible to speculate why it happened this time: British officials claimed to know nothing about it. In any case, many more heads would have to be recovered before Donny George felt new optimism. "There is a saying," he says, back in Baghdad. "A man shoots a bow. The further back you pull the bow, the further the arrow will fly. The more antiquities, the stronger the nation." By this measure, the strongman of Iraq is - at least in one respect - weaker indeed. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- 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