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News, 12-18/8/01 (2)

News, 12-18/8/01 (2)


*  Sanctions against Iraq [more of the ongoing Irish Times correspondence.
Rather a good letter, this, I thought]
*  Airstrikes on Iraq [brief letter to The Times]


*  Saddam regaining political strength [Pakistani article suggesting that
most Iraqis - presumably most Sunni Iraqis - are well disposed towards
*  Iraqi oil production in July plunged on power cuts
*  Iraq exports $265m worth of oil under UN 'oil-for-food' scheme
*  Thai soccer team flies to Baghdad for world cup qualifying match [Does
this explain the Bangkok postıs interest in Iraqi affairs?]
*  Iraq, UAE win in Asian World Cup qualifying [and its hostility?]
*  'Sky' translates an East-West struggle [review of novel about life in
*  Iraqi mosque to preserve Saddam's legacy [Minarets shaped like Scud
missiles and a Koran written using 28 litres of Saddam Husseinıs blood.
Taste is decidedly not S.Husseinıs strong point]
*  Iraq hosts a new session for the people's Islamic conference
*  Letter on litter

*  Saddam's romantic novel to hit Iraqi stage
Times of India, 13th August


*  Government [of the Philippines] eyes upstream investment in Iraq
*  Pakistan, Iraq satisfied with progress of Joint Ministerial Commission


Irish Times (Letters), 16th August

Sir, - Sir Ivor Richards states (August 2nd) that Hans Von Sponeck has
"missed the point". I fear it is Sir Ivor that has failed to grasp a
fundamental point with regard to the 11 years of UN Security Council
sanctions against Iraq - which is that no one who has studied the history of
Iraq would expect the Iraqi regime to respect the fundamental human rights
of its own people.

What people do expect is that an organisation such as the United Nations,
which was established to protect the most vulnerable in our world, would
retain enough integrity not to become the instrument of Britain and the
United States in their bid for world economic dominance.

Death, starvation, disease and abject poverty are being inflicted on
innocent Iraqi children who were not even born when the invasion of Kuwait
took place. The children whom I have seen dying in agony, with no form of
pain relief, from curable and preventable diseases such as typhoid, polio
and dysentery in Iraqi hospitals, are dying because the UN Security Council,
dominated by Britain and America, has not allowed chlorine, vital for water
sanitation, into Iraq. So the water system, once the most sophisticated in
the Arab world, is now the major cause of death to children under the age of

Sir Ivor states that "we want to achieve our objectives with the minimum
effect on ordinary Iraqi people getting on with their lives". Firstly, at a
conservative estimate, 1.5 million "ordinary Iraqis" who were getting on
with their lives despite the Iraqi government and the sanctions regime are
dead as a direct result of the sanctions. How could this represent "minimum
effect"? Secondly, what are these objectives? Iraq and its people have
already been bombed and starved back to a "prehistoric age", while its
substantial oil resources remain in the control of the UN Security Council.

Sir Ivor says that "sanctions protect Iraq's neighbours and they protect
us". I would remind him of the close ties which Britain and the US enjoyed
with Iraq during the 1970s and 1980s. It was a time of financial and
military support for a regime which was helped to its rise by the very
countries which are now justifying sanctions for our own protection and that
of Iraq's neighbours.

The grotesque irony is that both America and Britain have made billions of
dollars from the sale of weapons of mass destruction to Iraq's neighbours;
Saudi Arabia, a rich country, is now in debt due to its avid buying of
weapons from Britain and the US, among others. I put it to Sir Ivor that the
major threat to "regional security" is not Saddam Hussein but the current
arms race which the British arms trade has had a major hand in creating.

If this is the "liberal Western" morality that Sir Ivor speaks so eloquently
about, then God help us. - Yours, etc., SUZIE FLOOD, Campaign to End Iraq
Sanctions, Foxhill Park, Dublin 13.,,59-2001285355,00.html

Letter to The Times, 18th August

Sir, Todayıs report by Michael Evans of the RAF still being used in
airstrikes over Iraq should be of concern.

What is being achieved with sporadic attacks on Iraqi air defences? They
have been completely ineffective over the last two years or so, according to
the quoted statistics. And how many civilians were killed over the same
period? Collateral damage is the euphemism.

Michael Evans says the current airstrikes are ³further evidence of the
determination to reduce the threat faced by coalition pilots². The alleged
³threat² would be zero if no provocative over-flights were made.

What is our PM up to ‹ still being a camp-follower to America?

Yours faithfully,


by Kim Ghattas
Dawn (Pakistan), 12th August


Throughout the years, Saddam has relied heavily on the intelligence services
to run the country. In the process he has created generations of people with
a mentality of "mukhabarat," as the intelligence is known in Arabic.

In the streets of Baghdad, though, pictures of Saddam always show him
smiling, feeding the poor or holding children. They are very different from
the cold, imposing posters of late Syrian President Assad that were
plastered over buildings and gave Syrian cities an oppressive feel.

Most Iraqis believe that Saddam is their only hope for survival. Western aid
agencies say the distribution of food for the whole Iraqi population of 23
million is very well organized. An underlying fear of what would happen to
food rations if the regime were suddenly toppled is also thought to be a
reason for the lack of a grassroots opposition inside Iraq.

"The ordinary Iraqi is not thinking in political terms, he's just running
after food and medicine and hoping to keep his family alive," says Wamid
Nathmi, political science professor at Baghdad University.

"The situation has not changed a lot. Those who supported the president and
thought the war against Iraq was a US plot still think the same and those
who thought it was the fault of the regime, still think that way," he says.
But according to one diplomat from the region based in Baghdad, the Iraqi
population still feels in debt towards the Baathist regime for past times.

"The embargo has not been enough of a reason yet for Iraqis to completely
reject the regime. They are conscious that by nationalizing oil (in 1972),
the regime provided people with a lot of opportunities, education, health
care," he says, pointing out that ordinary Iraqis are also wary of foreign
powers eying Iraq's oil.

Except for the chaotic popular uprising of 1991 against the regime, Saddam's
power has not been seriously challenged since the imposition of sanctions.
The fact that the US and the allied coalition did not do much to support the
1991 rebellion fuels the theory that Saddam was kept in power because of the
fear of an unknown alternative.

There is also less and less willingness in Arab countries to host Iraqi
opposition groups. In Jordan, the Iraq National Accord was discreetly asked
to pack its bags with the realization that if sanctions ended with Saddam
still in power, friendliness to the current regime might pay off.

Regardless of how a change in leadership would occur in Iraq, most diplomats
believe it will bring little change in the actual system and the type of
leadership. "The United States' obsession with wanting to get rid of Saddam
Hussein is unrealistic. It is very difficult to find a scenario to replace
him," says a diplomat.

Although there are occasional reports of health problems the Iraqi president
is facing, most diplomats in Baghdad who meet Saddam agree to say he looks
very healthy. "After 11 years of sanctions the regime has not been
weakened," says professor Nathmi. "We cannot wait another ten years for this
to happen while we are in those circumstances."

Energy 24, 13th August

BAGHDAD (AFP): Iraqi oil production during July plunged to as low as 1.43
million bpd amid frequent power outages that knocked out a major pumping
station, a specialist newsletter reported Monday.

"There was a sharp decline in Kirkuk crude exports in the second half of
July, attributed mainly to the failure of a pumping station because of lack
of power in the Kirkuk district," the Middle East Economic Survey (MEES)

"The situation is expected to deteriorate further, as much of the equipment
that has been ordered has been put on hold by the US representative in the
(UN) sanctions committee," the Cyprus-based MEES said.

A severe regional drought for the last three years has curtailed the power
Iraq has been able to generate from hydro units for use in the oil sector,
and the problem has been compounded by the non-availability of spare parts.

MEES added the situation had been further complicated by the "imprisonment
of several former senior power officials on corruption charges, which has
discouraged new senior officials from taking the initiative."

Iraq halted oil-for-food exports on June 4 for five weeks in protest at a
one-month rollover of the programme ordered by the Security Council instead
of the usual six-month extension.


Tehran, Aug 15, IRNA (Iranian News agency): The Baghdad Government has
earned an additional $265 million under the U.N. oil-for-food program, the
office running the effort announced Tuesday.

Iraq garnered the revenue over the past week by exporting 13.9 million
barrels of crude for an average price of approximately $22.77 per barrel,
the UN Office of the Iraq Program said.

Over the course of the week, UN oil overseers approved six new oil purchase
contracts covering 17 million barrels of petroleum, bringing to 78 the total
number of contracts approved since the current phase of the program began on
4 July, a press release issued by the U.N. Information Center in Tehran said

Meanwhile, the Security Council panel monitoring the sanctions against
Baghdad has released from hold 15 contracts worth $77.5 million, according
to the Office of the Iraq Program. However, the panel placed 51 new
contracts worth $208.7 million on hold, raising the total value of contracts
on hold to $3.5 billion.

Altogether, 1,450 contracts are currently on hold, including nearly 1,000
worth over $3 billion relating to the provision of humanitarian supplies.
The newly placed "holds" include a large number of trucks and various types
of vehicles, the Office said.

Contracts are generally put on hold because they lack technical
specifications or because the goods in question have the potential to be
used for purposes other than those stated.


Kuala Lumpur, Aug 15, IRNA [Iranian news agency]: The Thai national soccer
team left on Tuesday night for Baghdad for the Asian World Cup qualifying
match scheduled on Friday, with assurances that its safety will be ensured,
the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) reported on Wednesday.

AFC quoted team manager Virat Chanpanich as saying its football association
had written to world body Fifa expressing concerns about the team's safety
in Iraq, following reports of an attack by US and of Iraqi air defence
installations last Friday.

But it did not request for a change in venue, as reported by wire agencies.

Said Virat: "We wrote to ask Fifa for its opinion about how safe it is to

"And Fifa replied that it has received assurances from the Iraqi football
association that our safety is ensured. We didn't ask for a change in
venue," Virat said.

His team will face Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Bahrain in Group A of the
qualifying tournament. The United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Qatar, Oman and
China make up Group B.

The winner of each group in the Asian competition will qualify automatically
for the World Cup Finals in Japan and South Korea next year.

Yahoo, 17th August

Iraq and the United Arab Emirates picked up easy victories Friday in Asian
qualifying for the 2002 World Cup.

Iraq beat Thailand 4-0 in Group A behind two goals from Husham Mohammed and
one each from Emad Mohammed and Laith Hussein.

The United Arab Emirates beat Uzbekistan 4-1 in Group B.

Also, Saudi Arabia drew 1-1 with Bahrain.

Review of A Sky So Close by Betool Khedairi, Pantheon, 256 pp., $23
by Yasmine Bahrani
USA TODAY, 16th August

Iraqi children sing a song to coax a snail out of its shell, writes Betool
Khedairi. The 36-year old Iraqi writer has done something similar with her
first novel, A Sky So Close, first published in Arabic in 1999.

Khedairi's sweet descriptions sing to Iraqis as if to coax them out of the
shells they've formed to protect themselves from their recent history.
Shells that have come to suffocate them. Iraqi writers and artists, for
example, practice a form of self-censorship when they choose to avoid
controversial subjects, such as sex or racism.

For Westerners, her newly translated tale sings a different but just as
moving song. It's a coming-of-age novel about an unnamed young woman, who,
like Khedairi, was born in Baghdad to an Iraqi father and a British mother.
That alone evokes problems to which many Iraqis are heir. The middle-class
girl's life is a daily struggle between her father's Eastern ways and the
Western style of her mother. (In much the way that the nation's culture
bears the marks of a split identity.)

Khedairi illustrates the tensions between the two worlds on a personal
level. The girl's mother can't adjust to life in the East and is
contemptuous of everything. The lotus jujube, a tree dear to Baghdadis,
drops too many leaves, she complains, creating rubbish in the garden: The
tree must come down. She discourages her daughter from playing with
neighborhood children, saying they'll give her lice.

Yet she writes beautifully about the girl's mixed feelings toward her
mother: ''I'm watching my mother. As she opens her lips to answer back, she
reveals teeth, little bulges, the size of almonds in a row. When she talks,
her tonsils move like those of a soprano; they resonate and seem to me like
two vibrating tamarind seeds.''

Such tensions exacerbate otherwise normal family conflicts. ''As long as you
live in this house,'' her father tells her mother one day, ''you'll respect
its traditions . . . If this is what you want, then I'll divorce you . . .
The child is mine, she'll stay with me, I promise you that. The law is on my

Meanwhile, the girl has inherited her father's dark complexion, and in a
color-conscious Baghdad, that works against her socially and
psychologically. To write about such a family is also to describe a
complicated, stratified Iraq, one that many observers -- East and West  -
don't acknowledge.

Khedairi's examples of East-West differences may strike some as tedious, but
she is attempting to expose societal practices rarely questioned. Her work
caused a stir in the Arab world because of its message and its detailing of
the main character's love relationships and premarital sex, subjects many
conservative Middle Easterners do not care to acknowledge.

What saves the protagonist's girlhood is, tellingly, her study of Western
ballet. ''Even my skin color no longer displeased me. . . . I leapt upward
performing a low jeté. Then another one, higher, and then a third one, even
higher! My body felt as light as my shadow.''

The second half of Khedairi's book is about survival. Her main character
watches her country deteriorate as she grows up. Iraq is devastated by a
never-ending war with Iran, then sinks to unimaginable depths of deprivation
in the wake of the Persian Gulf War.

The woman fares no better than her country. She is left alone in London to
deal with a failed relationship and an abortion. Her life, too, is
devastated. The novel ends on a sad note, and, unfortunately, Iraqis are
likely to identify with it. Even so, the work is an invitation to Iraqi
readers to face the horror of a country in tatters and a middle class in

Its value for Western readers lies not only in a brave tale. It offers a
human Iraq, stripped of the politics that have made the country opaque to
the world. This is not the Iraq of the front page; it is the Iraq of the

Perhaps the most moving aspect of A Sky So Close is that the heart's Iraq is
a sadder, more suffering place than the Iraq reflected in newspapers.

by Philip Smucker
National Post, Toronto, 17th August

BAGHDAD (Reuter's): At Saddam Hussein's new Mother of All Battles Mosque,
the towers resemble missiles and the holy book is written in blood -- Saddam
Hussein's blood, his spokesmen boast.

A 605-page Qur'an has been penned, they say, using 28 litres of the ruler's
own blood. The holy book, whose swirling, deep-red text was handwritten by
Sheikh Abbas Al-Baghdadi, is housed in a marble rotunda and displayed page
by page behind polished glass in the Umm El-Mahare (Mother of all Battles)
Mosque outside Baghdad.

The holy site bears the imprimatur of a man keen to preserve his legacy in
blood and stone. But, how did Saddam Hussein contribute so much blood?

"Over three years, the President gave us a total of 28 litres of his own
blood which has been mixed with special chemicals to produce this
handwritten Qur'an of 605 pages," said Dahar Al-Ani, information director
for the mosque, named after Saddam Hussein's description of the Gulf War.

Short of a DNA test, the assertion remains about as believable as the Iraqi
strongman's claim he won the war. Still, his signature is there to back it
up: "Giving my own blood for this Qur'an, is the least I can do," he writes
in the preface.

The mosque is guarded by immense minarets, built to look like ballistic
missiles. The four largest Scud-like towers shoot up into the skies
alongside their own launch platforms. Closer to the central dome, four more
minarets bear an uncanny resemblance to the barrels of machine guns.

The exterior minarets are 37 metres high; the four on the inside, 28 metres
high. Taken together, the numbers 37-4-28 give the date of birth of the
Iraqi leader.

A guided tour of the mosque reveals pristine marble walls and gold-plated
chandeliers, which contrast sharply with the squalor of inner-city Baghdad.

Along the mosque's western wall is a massive water and stone relief map of
the Arab world. Iraq is highlighted by a granite rock carved with faces of
martyrs who gave their lives in the "Mother of all Battles." Children,
mostly boys, jump up and down on Jerusalem, shouting it will someday belong
to Saddam Hussein.

If there were any doubt as to the Iraqi leader's point in building the
mosque, which opened just weeks ago, the huge gold-plated dome reading "La!"
(Arabic for "No!") may be a clarification.

"No one has ever said 'no' to the United States as loud as Saddam," said Mr.
Al-Ani, a slight man living on a paltry salary and not adverse to taking a
small tip after a guided tour of the mosque.

"The building of this great mosque during Washington's embargo against us is
proof of that."

Not everyone in Iraq is impressed. Some religious leaders say in private
they are disgusted with the idea of a mosque whose minarets convey a
not-so-subtle sense of Islamic militancy.

Western diplomats based in Baghdad say the building is just another of the
dictator's outlandish pet projects even as the masses edge closer to

"Saddam has never been religious in the true sense of the word," said one
diplomat. "He presents a classic case of a leader desperately trying to use
'religion' as an opiate for the masses. He is just using his own crazy ideas
of religion to try to build up his own personality cult."

In Baghdad, yet another sprawling presidential palace is almost complete,
with four huge busts of Saddam Hussein staring out over the city's squalor.
An even larger mosque is also being built.

The diplomats say such grandiose undertakings are the latest phase of the
Iraqi government's Faith Campaign, intended to assure spiritual loyalty to
the dictatorship, but which, they insist, opposes religious freedom at all

After the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein, who is a Sunni Muslim, suppressed a
revolt led by the dominant Shiite groups in the South. Then in 1994, to
bolster his image as a good Muslim, he banned alcohol and encouraged the
building of more mosques.

Western diplomats say he has tried to co-opt Islam with a "born again"
devotion that permits him to present himself as a role model to the pious.

Large murals and bronze statues of the leader praying are as common across
Iraq as pictures of him shooting guns and patting small children on the

One of the priorities of the Faith Campaign is to fend off unrest in Shiite
religious centres.

Government officials admitted this month that armed factions supported by
Iran have been responsible for rocket attacks on the capital this summer.

Arabic News, 18th August

Iraq will host a new session for the people's Islamic conference on August
20 through 23rd during which a call will be advocated for Jihad in order to
liberate al-Aqsa mosque from the Israeli occupation and releasing a " Fatwa
" regarding positions of certain Arab regimes which are accused of
collaborating with " the US and Israel."

The secretary general of the people's Islamic conference Organizaion Sheikh
Abdul Razzaq al-Sa'dawi said in press statements on Friday that the 10th
people's Islamic conference will hold its conference in Baghdad in the
presence of more 350 figures representing Arab and Muslim intellectuals from
the Arab and Muslim states, and countries of Europe, the US and Africa.

He added that the conference will discuss conditions of Muslims who are
facing the repression of the aggressive forces.

He continued that in the forefront of issues to be dealt with in the
conference are the question of Palestine, the tortured Palestinians under
the hands of the Israeli forces, the violations practiced against al-Aqsa
mosque and the embargo on Iraq.

Worthy mentioning that the people's Islamic conference was founded in
Baghdad in 1983 and includes non- governmental Islamic societies.,3605,537762,00.html

Letter to The Guardian, 18th August

Alexander Chancellor (August 11) has my sympathy. With the Festival, we in
Edinburgh are buried under litter. When I was in Iraq, I remarked on the
amazing absence of litter in Baghdad. I learned Saddam Hussein had decreed
that litter louts must suffer the humiliation of being paraded on
television. Being spared worse punishment, I was told, was a most effective
Marion Woolfson, Edinburgh


Energy 24, 15th August (Source - Dow Jones)

MANILA: The Philippine government and a visiting delegation from Iraq will
discuss Philippine participation in oil exploration and production in Iraq
during two days of talks starting Wednesday, a Philippine National Oil Co
official has revealed.

Rudolph Dimen, external relations officer for PNOC-Exploration Corp, said
the Philippines has "strong interest" in Iraq's upstream sector. The
Philippines has been in talks with Iraq since 1997 about Philippine
investment in developing oil Block 9, in southwestern Iraq, he said.

The Philippines has sent three technical missions since 1997 to Iraq to
study the area. But he said no energy-related agreements will be signed at
this week's meeting. "This meeting is to sustain existing cooperation,
interest, and discussions between the two countries."

PNOC currently has no investments in Iraq. During this week's talks, PNOC
will present results of its review of oil Block 9. "Our due diligence review
indicates potential for large petroleum deposits." Dimen said. "It's an
attractive project for us, because Iraq holds reserves, second only to Saudi

Dimen said no schedule has been set for Philippine investment in Iraq's oil
exploration sector. He said the Philippines is aware of and abides by United
Nations restrictions on Iraq's oil industry, including the upstream sector.
"We can't avoid those restrictions." he said. "We're confident that we can
continue to maintain our interest, but we don't have a timetable or deadline
for investment."

Hoover's (from Financial Times) 16th August

KARACHI : The minister of state and chairman, Export Promotion Bureau, Tariq
Ikram, held a meeting with the visiting Iraqi Housing and Construction
Minister Dr. Ma'an Sarsam here.

They reviewed the progress achieved in the implementation of the decisions
of the meeting of the 8th Session of Pak-Iraq Joint Ministerial Commission
and expressed satisfaction on the pace and progress.

Tariq Ikram briefed the Iraqi minister about the potentials of construction
industry and conveyed the readiness of Pakistan firms to participate in the
construction projects in Iraq.

The Iraqi minister appreciated the high standards of Pakistan firms and
expressed his government's desire to further broaden the bilateral relations
especially in the construction sector.

They also agreed to increase the exchange of technical delegations to
benefit from the technical expertise of each other in different fields.

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