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News, 13-22/12/01 (2)



News, 13-22/12/01 (2)

REMNANTS OF DECENCY

*  "A Message From a Learned Scholar to US President" [Denunciation of
President Bush from an Egyptian cleric. It may have lost a bit in the
translation but its a powerful piece of writing: I say, rest assured, there
is no Muslim on earth who loves you, even if he donates blood to you or let
you set up intelligence stations or let you design curricula for his people.
Everyone on earth who claims to love you - and none of the Muslims can make
such a claim - only loves you in the sense that the frightened prey loves
the predatory beast.
*  Say no to Saddam this Christmas - turn down a date [Buying or selling
dates from Iraq is a criminal offence liable to up to five years
imprisonment. Or perhaps now indefinite internment without trial if one
happens not to be a British citizen. I hope were all taking advantage of
the opportunity offered ...]
*  ...An attack adds to Iraqis' misery [Article by US academic. Recounts
entertaining story that shows the amiable, easygoing nature of the Iraqis
and suggests, but very mildly and politely, that torturing them even further
isnt a good thing to do]

LIGHTWEIGHT NATIONS OF THE WORLD

*  Regimes seek way to support attack on Iraq [Egypt and Turkey haggle over
their price. Turkey is still whining about all the money it lost because of
the Gulf War and the embargo. But if they were sincerely in favour of the
war and embargo they should be ready to pay the price; if they were opposed
to them, they should have expressed their opposition publicly. They are, to
say the least of it, not deserving of any sympathy]
*  SAS may fight in Iraq [The SAS in question comes from Australia which is
trying to get in on the act]

URLs ONLY:
http://www.irna.com/newshtm/eng/26151817.htm
*  Putin opposed to US extending war to Iraq
IRNA, 17th December
Given what Putin represents in the world, his remarks would only be of
interest if they were, in some way, intellectually stimulating. Which they
arent

http://www.irna.com/newshtm/eng/26193954.htm
*  Schroeder warns Bush against attacking Iraq
IRNA, 17th December
Ditto for Schroeder

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/18/international/middleeast/18ARAB.html?pagew
anted=print
*  The other shoe
by Neil MacFarquhar
New York Times, 18th December
On the attitudes  of various Arab governments. Pretty predictable.

http://www.iht.com/articles/42432.html
*  A Lonely Crusade Against Saddam
by Thomas L. Friedman
The New York Times, 20th December
On the reasons Middle Eastern countries and Russia might have for not
wanting to support a US attack on Iraq.

INSIDE IRAQ

*  Internet in Iraq: Limited, appreciated
*  New 'Saddam' novel hits the stands


REMNANTS OF DECENCY

http://allafrica.com/stories/200112190341.html

*  "A MESSAGE FROM A LEARNED SCHOLAR TO US PRESIDENT"
by Safar ibn 'Abd al-Rahmaan al-Hawali
Weekly Trust (Kaduna), 19th December

[.....]

Is it not sufficient for you to destroy an entire people because of an
unsubstantiated accusation against one man - or one organization - who had
no option but to live in that land? Is this aggression, which is undermining
every kind of values and morals and shaking the conscience of the whole
world, no more than a drop in the ocean of your vengeance? Has the Messiah
(peace be upon him) delegated you to do this? No, he is far above such a
thing. Even Machiavelli himself did not instruct you to go to such an
extent. Your predecessor in this regard is Samson and his modern-day son,
Sharon.

Do you not fear God? you who have in recent days taken as your slogan "God
bless America?" How can God bless and protect America when your messenger,
the Messiah (peace be upon him) has taught you to do the opposite:

"If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And
if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as
well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles." (Matthew
5:39-41 NIV)

Do you not realise that when you made the desire for never-ending vengeance
the attribute of civilised people, you are ascribing to the Messiah (peace
be upon him) the attributes of uncivilised barbarians? But he is far above
such a thing.

You, Mr President, have effectively expressed disbelief in God and in the
Messiah, and you have followed the path of the popes of the Middle Ages, who
issued indulgences and excommunicated people at will. You have given
yourselves, the Zionist state and every wrongdoer and aggressor a
certificate of eternal forgiveness and you have effectively excommunicated
everyone who has refrained from taking part in your unlimited aggression, by
describing them as terrorists or supporters of terror.

You look through the telescope at what you call terrorist groups in Somalia,
which has been devastated by poverty, or in the Palestinian camps in
Lebanon, where those peaceful nests are threatened by the Zionist terror
everyday. but you forget that the most terrifying terrorists are with you,
holding your hand, indeed they are you and only you.

If you do not believe that then tell me, by your Lord, if your most sincere
friend were to come to you ten years from now and congratulate you on the
victory that you hope to achieve against mysterious assumed enemies, what
would he be congratulating you for? Suppose he were to say,

Mr President, you have killed a million Afghans, a million Iraqis, a million
so and so " to the end of your evil secret list. Would this be a victory for
civilization, noble values, freedom and democracy? No doubt among the
victims, there would be widows and barefoot, naked, starving children. Does
this satisfy your desire for vengeance?

And as far as the living are concerned, you will use the fact that they are
alive as evidence to show that you limited yourselves to destroying their
houses of mud and their wooden huts because they were a strategic target in
your clean war with your smart weapons which do not kill human beings!

At this point, the world, which you made sad and depressed, will laugh. Yes,
you will tell this civilised joke in which you will mention the dazzling
smartness that characterised your missiles, when you aimed at Iraq and Iran
screamed in pain, and when you aimed at Afghanistan - in your first act of
aggression - and wounded Pakistan, and when one of your smart missiles woke
up the yellow giant by hitting the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.

To be fair, I will admit that one of your missiles was really smart, namely
the good Patriot which saw one of the dumb scud missiles headed in a certain
direction, so it struck it to correct its course, and it became the dinner
guest of American intelligence officers in al Khobar.

As far as the cleanliness of your war is concerned, the entire world bears
witness to its cleanliness, with just one small point to be made, which is
that when you cleaned Hiroshima and Nagasaki, you left a little bit of
garbage behind - without any intention on your part. Hopefully you will not
make the same mistake in Afghanistan and the surrounding countries. Maybe
you will be generous and paint the place with a bit of cheap American paint.

But to be fair, we also say that there is little doubt concerning the
cleanliness of your war in Iraq. for those who say that it was not clean are
children, and the law does not accept the testimony of children even if
there are two million of them, whereas those who say that it was clean are
adults the size of a dictator and the generals around him.

Mr President, do you think that your list in which you announced the names
of terrorist organizations and the states that sponsor terrorism will serve
your interests, or does it confirm that the world is against you?

What advisor told you to publish this list at the time when people have
started to realise that your house is made of glass and is still broken? Why
are you inciting them to throw stones at you, from Japan in the east to Peru
in the west?

Wasn't one country and one region enough for you at this moment of security
crisis in your own country? Or do you want to incite everyone, so that then
if any incident occurs, you can blame the Muslims alone so that you can
continue your crusade against them forever?

Mr President, do not think that I want only to count your few faults and
forget the many faults that we have in your eyes. No. I shall remind you of
one serious fault that we Muslims have, which is that we do not forget the
disasters that have befallen us no matter how much time has passed. Imagine,
Mr President, we are still weeping for the loss of Andalusia and we still
remember what Ferdinand and Isabella did to our religion, our civilization
and our honour there. We still dream of taking it back. We will never forget
the destruction of Baghdad, or the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of your
crusader forefathers. In other words, in your eyes, we are unable to attain
the level of civilization enjoyed by the Germans and Japanese who are
supporting you in this aggression, forgetting your past treatment of them.

What is more, the African Muslims who became Muslims after the fall of
Andalusia weep with the Arabs, as do the Indonesians who only heard of
Andalusia recently. This may be a problem for us, but who is going to pay
the price later on?

Mr President, your problem with the Afghans - and with the Muslims in
general - is that you are stronger than you should be and they are weaker
than they should be. The more you go to extremes in using force, that
indicates some weakness in your power. This is a great divine secret that
reminds us of what happened to mighty Pharaoh at the hands of the weak and
oppressed children of Israel. Listen to what it says in the Book of God (the
Qur'aan): "Taa-Seen-Meem

[These letters are one of the miracles of the Qur'aan, and none but Allaah
(Alone) knows their meanings.]

These are the Verses of the manifest Book (that makes clear truth from
falsehood, good from evil).

We recite to you some of the news of Moosa (Moses) and Fir'awn (Pharaoh) in
truth, for a people who believe (in this Qur'aan, and in the Oneness of
Allaah).

Verily, Fir'awn (Pharaoh) exalted himself in the land and made its people
sects, weakening (oppressing) a group (i.e. Children of Israel) among them:
killing their sons, and letting their females live. Verily, he was of the
Mufsidoon (i.e. those who commit great sins and crimes, oppressors,
tyrants).

And We wished to do a favour to those who were weak (and oppressed) in the
land, and to make them rulers and to make them the inheritors,

And to establish them in the land, and We let Fir'awn (Pharaoh) and Haamaan
and their hosts receive from them that which they feared"

[al-Qasas 28:1-6 - interpretation of the meaning]

Do not say, "What has Pharaoh got to do with me?" You have demanded
something from the Muslims that Pharaoh did not demand of Moses (peace be
upon him) and the Children of Israel, which is that they should not hate you
in their hearts no matter what you do and what acts of tyranny you commit.
But this is one of the qualities of divinity, for it is God alone Who is
able to take vengeance on those who do not love Him. We do not know of any
dictatorial empire in history that wanted to control what is hidden in the
heart and conscience of man, let alone a democratic state in the
twenty-first century.

You may say, "All we are trying to do is to eliminate everything that may
incite hatred in sermons, curricula, newspaper articles and media
discourses." We say that if this is your democracy, you can make whatever
demands you want. but rest assured that you will never succeed, for that
which teaches us to hate wrongdoing and to love the truth is our religion
and our Qur'aan, and that is stronger than all your means and firmer than
your mountains. If you insist on behaving arrogantly based on power and the
insanity of might, then you have no means other than total annihilation of
all the Muslims, using nuclear or biological weapons, or whatever else you
wish from your infernal arsenal.

You may ask, why all of them, when there are some among them who love us? I
say, rest assured, there is no Muslim on earth who loves you, even if he
donates blood to you or let you set up intelligence stations or let you
design curricula for his people. Everyone on earth who claims to love you -
and none of the Muslims can make such a claim - only loves you in the sense
that the frightened prey loves the predatory beast.

You may say that you are going to give assurances to the Muslim peoples by
changing their governments into tolerant and democratic systems.

We say, keep your evil away from us and that is enough. Based on these false
promises, you have destroyed the Iraqi people and others. We do not want any
freedom or democracy from you and we will not accept it, for the enemy of
freedom cannot bestow freedom.

Mr President, I advise you to fear God and refrain from committing
aggression. Deal with this matter justly and with deliberation, and you will
find us with you, with no reservation. If you change now, at the beginning
of the road, that will be easier for you and better for the world at large,
otherwise an easy beginning is usually followed by a difficult end. So I
hope that you will think, Mr President, for if you destroy every country you
have included in your terror list, will this be the end, or will it be the
beginning, unless you want to go down in history as the instigator of bloody
Armageddon? In which case there will be no history at all.

Hence I offer you this advice and I say: Fear God, and think long and hard.
Peace be upon those who follow true guidance.

Shaykh Safar ibn 'Abd al-Rahmaan al-Hawali wrote in from Egypt.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,622017,00.html

*  SAY NO TO SADDAM THIS CHRISTMAS - TURN DOWN A DATE
by Ewen MacAskill
The Guardian, 20th December

Making their appearance in shops throughout Britain from today: thousands of
packets of dates from al-Masoori, a village in Iraq, just in time for the
Christmas market.

Dates have become part of the festive tradition in Britain, something to be
passed round, though not necessarily consumed.

But the dates from Masoori are special. Buying or eating them will be an act
of civil disobedience. Half a tonne of them were brought into Britain this
week in breach of international sanctions.

They were imported by a group opposed to the United Nations sanctions in
force against Iraq since its leader tried to annex Kuwait 10 years ago.

Richard Byrne, a spokesman for the group, Voices in the Wilderness, said
yesterday: "This is the biggest overt breach of sanctions yet."

Theoretically, selling or consuming the illegal dates could carry a jail
sentence. But the government, still smarting from its unsuccessful attempts
last year to stop the resumption of commercial flights to Iraq from a range
of countries, is unlikely to risk ridicule by prosecuting. Told that a
consignment of dates had arrived and was being distributed, customs said it
would investigate.

Under the sanctions regime in place since the Gulf war of 1990-91, only oil
can be imported from Iraq, and that is under the strict supervision of the
UN.

The oil revenue is supposed to be used to buy food and other goods for Iraq,
whose people have suffered under a combination of the sanctions and their
government's machinations involving key commodities.

The Masoori dates, grown in the date belt near Basra in the south of Iraq
and packed in Baghdad, were shipped first to Naples. The port of origin was
given as the United Arab Emirates.

Once within the European Union they were easily brought to Britain.

Voices in the Wilderness said its members had spent yesterday distributing
the dates to stores in more than 30 cities and towns. They are retailing at
4 a packet.

The group put on stickers labelling the packets as "sanctions-breaking Iraqi
dates" and attached a leaflet stressing that it was against the law to be
involved in the sale of any goods from Iraq.

Mr Byrne said: "Everyone who buys this will be engaged in an act of civil
disobediance."

A spokesman for the law enforcement section at customs said of the dates
yesterday: "If they have entered the European Union illegally, it would be
up to the country they entered to take action."

Customs, he said, would contact Italy and ask what the authorities intended
to do.

A Foreign Office spokesman struck a note of sarcasm: "We hope that these
imports are not depriving the Iraqi people of food supplies."


http://www.newsobserver.com/friday/news/editorials/Story/846800p-832206c.htm
l

*  ...AN ATTACK ADDS TO IRAQIS' MISERY
by John M. Riddle, Ph.D.
News Observer, 21st December

RALEIGH - U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms has joined those in the Bush administration
who urge our country to attend to Iraq. Some officials see this moment of
victory in Afghanistan as an opportunity to finish with Saddam Hussein,
likening him to Osama bin Laden. But if without strong and persuasive
evidence that the government of Iraq was involved in the outrageous acts of
Sept. 11 or in the anthrax murders, we would be both injudicious and acting
contrary to our own interests were we to attack him.

When I reflect on Iraq, I recall my own minor, personal involvement in
diplomacy in 1974. I remember an incident with some anonymous, faceless
Iraqi who hid in a bush and to whom I talked without ever seeing him.

The man in the bush was on an island in the Tigris River near the center of
Baghdad. I was among a small group of professors from N.C. State and other
universities that had been invited by Iraqi government to send a complex
message to the U.S. government. When the invitation came from Iraq to visit,
our State Department encouraged us to accept because, not having an
ambassador there, they wanted to know what the Iraqis wanted us to hear.
Each morning for five days we took notes while high Iraqi officials told us
why America should cease aiding the Kurds by funneling aid through Iran
(then our ally). When reflecting on my trip to Baghdad, I think more about
the man in that bush than I do on my venture with international diplomacy.

One evening our host wanted us to see how "typical" Iraqis spend their
leisure by taking us to an island where fish were roasted on spits around
open fires. Around the island were Iraqi families, but we were not free to
wander among them. Armed guards cordoned off our fire from those of the
"typical" Iraqis. The night was dark, and I stood alone perhaps 50 feet from
the fire -- about 30 feet from the nearest guard with a machine gun. I heard
a "p-ss-sst" sound. I was mystified. Then a whispering voice said,
"P-ss-sst, are you American?"

"Yes," I answered fearfully expecting that the guard would see and hear me.
"You do me a favor?" said the voice. "What is it?" I asked almost shaking
with fear that some international secret was about to be transmitted and I
would be in more trouble than university tenure could protect.

The voice in the bush spoke, "You know American TV program 'Fugitive'?"

Yes, I answered.

"Who killed man's wife?"

"The one-armed man," I replied.

Long pause. "No, please, tell me truth," said the voice in the bush.

"I am telling the truth," I said in a whisper, all the time looking to see
whether the soldier with the machine gun did not see me speaking to a bush.

Obviously, when the Ba'thist revolution had occurred that brought in the
government now ruled by Saddam Hussein, the program was airing on Baghdad
television. The anonymous speaker hiding in the bush wanted to find out the
ending.

Our Iraqi policy is based on a false premise: if we put enough pressure on
the Iraqi people, they will rise up and overthrow the government. The
premise is Western. The notion of tryannicide -- the right of resistance --
is a venerable Western political concept. Islam has different concepts of
the relationship between governors and governed. When a governor is bad, the
condition is the will of God who has a purpose to enact and the people
should accept God's will; so says Islamic tradition.

U.N. Resolution 661 imposed sanctions on Iraqi. We maintained steady
pressure on the Iraqis. The Iraqi people never voted Saddam into office;
they suffer under him. He says their suffering is because of America's
policy.

Truly Saddam is a brutal and evil ruler. But he is regarded as defending
Iraqi people against a foreign enemy. Ironically our policy sustains him in
power. In the absence of proof that he supported the al-Qaeda attack against
us, were we to attack him, we would be regarded throughout the Islamic world
as attacking innocent Muslim people. We would couple a great victory in
Afghanistan with a disaster.

There are two reasons not to attack him: one, it is wrong because the Iraqi
people will suffer even more by our actions; two, it is against our own
self-interest. The Iraqi people are like that anonymous man in the bush who
wanted to know the outcome of a television series. They just want to live.
The solution to Saddam Hussein is the same as that for Fidel Castro: wait
and one day he will be dead.

John M. Riddle is professor of history at N.C. State University.


LIGHTWEIGHT NATIONS OF THE WORLD

http://www.washtimes.com/world/20011219-795903.htm

*  REGIMES SEEK WAY TO SUPPORT ATTACK ON IRAQ
by Nicholas Kralev
The Washington Times, 19th December

Some centrist Muslim and Arab governments are considering what concessions
to demand of the United States in exchange for supporting  or at least not
opposing  an attack on Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, diplomats from the
region said yesterday.

Emboldened by the U.S.-led military victory in Afghanistan and the
self-implicating Osama bin Laden tape released last week, those governments
are exploring ways to take advantage of a positive  though not completely
favorable  shift in public opinion, diplomats said.

They said the Muslim and Arab states most likely would ask the Bush
administration to consult with them on both military operations and an exit
strategy for an attack on Iraq, as well as seeking generous economic
assistance.

"Our concern is not a war against Iraq, but an exit strategy after the war,"
one Turkish official said in an interview. "We are against any division of
Iraq and change of borders in the Middle East.

"We are fully aware that we'll have no veto power" on Washington's decision
to go after Saddam, "but we would like to be kept in the loop in terms of
strategy," the official said. "We wouldn't shed a tear when he is gone, but
we need to see a strategy."

An Egyptian official said his government is confident the United States
would consult Cairo "at every step" and "we have to study it very well." A
decision whether to support Washington publicly would be based on what
"pretext" it has to topple Saddam and how that would affect the "strategic
balance in the region."

While bin Laden's involvement in the September 11 attacks gave President
Hosni Mubarak's government a solid justification for its support for the
U.S.-led campaign against the Taliban, the Egyptian public would be harder
to convince in case of an attack on Iraq, the official said.

"Egyptians wouldn't be happy without strong evidence of indictment," he
said.

Public opinion in other countries, such as Turkey and Jordan, could also be
influenced by Washington's willingness to commit economic assistance,
diplomats said. Egypt is already the second-largest recipient of U.S.
foreign aid after Israel.

The Turkish people, for example, can't easily forget the way the United
States treated them after the 1991 Gulf war, the Turkish official said.
Turkey lost more than $35 billion as a result of being part of the anti-Iraq
coalition  both during and after the war  yet it received less than $3
billion in compensation, he said.

"This is still vivid in the public mind and would become a problem when
potential operations are being contemplated," he said, referring to possible
action against Saddam.

The United States and Britain currently use Turkey's Incirlik military base
to enforce the northern no-fly zone in Iraq.

Although the Bush administration claims it hasn't yet decided on the next
stage of its war against terrorism, the State Department says a U.S. policy
calls for a change of the regime in Baghdad.

Yesterday, Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer warned of a
possible Iraqi chemical or biological attack on Israel if the United States
extends its war on terror to Iraq.

"If he has his back to the wall, Saddam Hussein will renew his attacks on
Israel, and there is no guarantee that it will not be biological or chemical
weapons, or even both at the same time," he said.

But two former prime ministers, Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu, said a
U.S. attack against Saddam was almost inevitable.

"There is no way to avoid confrontation with Iraq," Mr. Barak said. "There
is no possibility of a stable new world order if, at the end of this war,
Saddam Hussein is still in office, as if nothing had happened."

Mr. Netanyahu said he had no doubt Washington would "end up taking the
decision to attack Iraq, because the mixture of terrorist mentality and
military capacity in unconventional weapons put the future of civilization
in danger."


http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,3460638%255E662,00
.html

*  SAS MAY FIGHT IN IRAQ
by Ian McPhedran
Herald Sun, 19th December

SAS troops have been earmarked for operations to destroy terrorist cells in
Somalia and Yemen.

Military sources expect the anti-terrorism campaign in Afghanistan to end
soon, freeing up forces to move on other al-Qaeda strongholds, which might
also include Iraq.

Australia's contingent of troops from the Special Air Service Regiment are
equipped for a deployment of up to six months.

Defence Minister Robert Hill yesterday left the door open to an Australian
push against terrorism beyond Afghanistan.

"We're specifically engaged in addressing that in Afghanistan at the moment
but, if al-Qaeda cells, for example, exist beyond Afghanistan, then one way
or another they need to be addressed," he said.

"Otherwise we wouldn't have successfully responded to the problem.

"I think most people would accept that not only is there a need to combat
the scourge of terrorism, but we've got to combat it wherever we find it."

Talk of extending the coalition came as Australia's top brass advised the
Government against any long-term involvement in a British-led
"stabilisation" force in Afghanistan.

The chief of the Defence Force, Admiral Chris Barrie, and army chief
Lieutenant General Peter Cosgrove briefed Cabinet's National Security
Committee in Sydney yesterday.

They told Prime Minister John Howard and his security team, which includes
Senator Hill, Attorney-General Daryl Williams, Foreign Affairs Minister
Alexander Downer, Treasurer Peter Costello and Deputy PM John Anderson, the
military was "heavily extended".

"There are some uncertainties about operational issues," a government source
said.

In other developments:

TWO Australian warships, HMAS Kanimbla and HMAS Adelaide, have been
transferred from the war against terrorism and will join an international
interception force in the Persian Gulf.

DIPLOMATS in Iran, Russia and Pakistan are searching for a 25-year-old
Australian reportedly missing in Afghanistan.

THE CIA continued to interrogate Adelaide al-Qaeda fighter David Hicks on
board the USS Peleliu.

There has been no formal approach from the British about a planned
stabilisation force for Afghanistan, but informal discussions are occurring.

Those talks include possible options for an Australian contribution. "A
decision will be made in the near future," a source said.

Senior military officers are fearful of a "black hole" situation developing
whereby soldiers are deployed for a long time far from home and the national
interest.

Mr Downer travels to London today for talks on the force's options.

The Australian Defence Force has 1550 personnel committed to the war on
terrorism, 1500 in East Timor, and three large warships and its entire
patrol boat fleet, plus two maritime patrol aircraft, on the lookout for
boat people.

Small numbers are also working in Bougainville, Solomon Islands, Bosnia,
Middle East and Africa.



INSIDE IRAQ

http://europe.cnn.com/2001/TECH/internet/12/15/iraq.internet.ap/index.html

*  INTERNET IN IRAQ: LIMITED, APPRECIATED
CNN, 16th December

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Sitting in an air-conditioned Internet cafe with an
American pop song blaring in the background, Ziad Abdel Hady escapes from
Iraq's isolation.

Abdel Hady surfs his way to knowledge about everything from what life is
like in neighboring Arab countries to the latest breakthroughs in
engineering and medicine.

The 45-year-old engineer, who has never traveled abroad, says he'd sell his
car to buy a computer if he could access the Internet from home.

But private links to the Internet have yet to be introduced in Iraq.

Abdel Hady goes to one of the five or so government-run Internet cafes in
Baghdad, where browsers can only access government-screened sites, many
pages are not available and the connection is slow.

A first-time surfer, Abdel Hady was looking especially for work-related
information about pumps.

Iraqis live in a controlled world. Satellite dishes and modems are banned
and special permission is needed to install a fax.

Local media are either state-run or sponsored by the ruling party and
present the official version of the news. The Internet provides a window to
other worlds, albeit a small one and for few people.

Users in Iraq browse the Internet under the watchful eyes of government
employees and are unlikely to tap into opposition sites or other banned Web
pages, no matter how benign their content.

Verginie Locussol, a Middle East expert with Paris-based Reporters Without
Borders, said controlling the Internet is typical of all "dictatorships"
that "try to keep people in complete isolation from the world."

Iraqi officials blame the war-ravaged state of the country's communications
sector on the West.

Abdel-Razzak al-Hashimi, a senior member of the ruling Baath party, said
it's the sanctions and the countries that support them, not the Iraqi
government, that keep Iraqis behind.

Alan Mauldin of TeleGeography, a Washington-based Internet and
telecommunications consultancy, said Iraq, with 22 million people, is either
the last or one of the last countries in the Middle East to join the
Internet community.

Iraq's ".iq" Internet domain suffix counts just 225 subscribers, he said.

By the estimates of TeleGeography, Iraq has a tiny amount of international
Internet bandwidth, less than 10 megabits per second.

Iraq may have less bandwidth than Syria, whose estimated 4.3 mbps is
otherwise considered lowest in the Arab world. Neighboring Jordan hosts
about 75 mbps.

Whatever the limitations, the Internet is prized by those Iraqis with
access.

Engineering student Talib Dagher Kathim sees the Internet as the only gate
to a better future. A Baghdad University senior, Kathim searches the web for
Canadian universities that may give him a scholarship to pursue postgraduate
studies.

"Sanctions have isolated the country .. but the Internet opened a new door
for knowledge and my ambition has no limits," said Kathim, who wants to
study abroad because of "the scientific development there."

"I wish I could go study there and come back to benefit the country and to
bridge the gap between us and other countries," Kathim said


http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow.asp?art_id=240423444

*  NEW 'SADDAM' NOVEL HITS THE STANDS
Times of India, 16th December

BAGHDAD (AFP): A new Arabic novel thought to have been penned by Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein has won acclaim from critics after hitting the
bookstands.

Intellectuals in Baghdad said they were convinced the Iraqi strongman had
written "The Impregnable Fortress," even though the book does not bear the
name of its author. The 712 page novel, published by al-Hurriya (freedom)
publishing house, tells the story of a son of farmers and holder of a law
degree who takes part in both the 1980-1988 war with Iran and the 1991 Gulf
War "to defend his country."

The author also relates that "the aberrant situation" in Kurdish-held
northern Iraq prevented Sabah al-Hajj Hassan from marrying his Kurdish
sweetheart, Shatrin. This is the second novel attributed to Saddam after
"Zabibah wal-Malik" (Zabibah and the King), published in November 2000.

Iraqi state television, which has afforded huge publicity to the new novel,
said it was a story of the "fight against evil" and comprised "episodes of a
journey in the world of virtue."

According to newspapers, revenues from book sales will go to "the poor,
orphans and the needy, as well as works of charity," as was the case for
Saddam's first novel


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