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News, 13-22/12/01 (3)

News, 13-22/12/01 (3)


*  Iraqi Kurds buoyed by US visit
*  U.S. Again Placing Focus on Ousting Hussein [This appears here because I
just give a short extract in which Talabani and the PUK present themselves
as Americaıs best friend in the region at the expense of Barzani and the
KDP: ŒIraqi opposition figures say Mr. Barzani has extensive business
operations with Mr. Hussein's relatives.ı]


*  Turkish oil drilling has Iraq's backing
*  Iraqi clergy died in exile, in Iran
*  Saddam Hussein Calls for Arab Summit [in Mecca, as it happens. Perhaps
not a bad idea given the gravity of the situation facing Muslims at the
present time]
*  Egyptian medical team visits Iraq
*  In coordination with ICRC, Kuwait is ready to search for Iraqi missing
*  Iraq set to renew oil and trade protocol with Jordan


*  US navy attacks Iran oil tanker in Gulf
*  Iran, United States Dispute Oil Tanker Incident


*  U.N. Compensation Commission Awards $132.7 Million


*  Iraqi pleads guilty in hazmat license bribery [Case of an Iraqi refugee
trying to get a license to drive a heavy goods vehicle. The judge
congratulates the FBI and US Attorneyıs office for behaving fairly in this
Œvery difficult time in our nationıs history.ı]
*  Crackdown imperils Mideast exiles [The article covers two cases of
political persecution in Prague: an Uzbek dissident and an Iraqi journalist.
Only the bits dealing with the Iraqi are given here. One of the personae in
the story is the master spy or minor functionary of the Iraqi embassy,
al-Ani, he who is supposed to have met Mohammad Atta, so the story overlaps
with the Mohammad Atta story above].
*  Iraqi ex-guard fights deportation [From Australia. But the poor man did
everything wrong. He should have claimed high rank in President Husseinıs
personal guard and announced that he had exciting revelations about Saddamıs
secret weapons capacity ...]
*  Iraqi family in fear after attacks
*  Security alert over Saddam link [A fellow working for Air New Zealand who
turns out to be Saddam Husseinıs stepson]
*  Iraqis held in Somalia


by Hiwa Osman
BBC, 15th December

Iraqi Kurds have hailed the visit of a US State Department delegation to
their region as a gesture of continued US commitment to their protection.

The delegation, led by senior State Department official Ryan Crocker, met
the leaders of the two main parties - Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic
Party (KDP) and Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

The PUK said the Americans had reaffirmed the commitment of President Bush's
administration to the protection of the Kurdish region and its 13% share of
the UN oil-for food programme.

At the same time, the Kurdish parties played down speculation that
Washington was planning to use the region as a base for attacking Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein's regime.

Talk of attacking Iraq or turning Iraqi Kurdistan into a launch-pad is
premature and this was never raised in the talks with the American

The US visitors also discussed the implementation of a peace treaty between
the PUK and KDP signed in Washington in 1998.

In an interview with BBC News Online, the PUK's prime minister, Barham
Salih, described the visit as "an important reminder of American engagement
with the situation in Iraqi Kurdistan".

Hoshyar Zebari, the KDP's foreign relations chief, told the BBC for his part
that the visit had been "timely" and was very well received by the KDP and
PUK leaders.

"It will have a substantial affect on the morale of the people," he said.

The visit comes amidst growing speculation that the US is planning to extend
its war on terror to Iraq.

Baghdad and Washington are engaged in an ongoing undeclared rivalry to woo
the Kurds.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has made calls for dialogue in a softer and
more compromising tone than he did in November when he vowed to "cut out the
tongue of whoever refuses".

The Iraqi president's repeated calls for dialogue are seen by observers as
an indication of an increased conviction by Baghdad of the certainty of a
US-led attack.

A likely scenario in such attack would be for the Kurdish region to be used
as a launch-pad for attacks against the Baghdad government.

But the Kurds say they did not discuss any scenario of this kind with the US

The visit was an important reminder of American engagement in Iraqi

"Any talk of attacking Iraq or turning Iraqi Kurdistan into a launch-pad or
replicating the northern alliance scenario in Afghanistan is premature and
this was never raised in the talks," said the KDP's Mr Zebari.

The position of the Kurds in the case of an attack remains unclear, but it
seems it will be dictated by American intentions about the future of Iraq.

"It depends on whether this attack is part of an overall policy of regime
change or a determent policy to bring a new Iraq where the Kurdish people
would be fully represented," said Mr Zebari.

Another factor the Kurds are taking into account is the ever-present risk of
Iraqi reprisals.

"We are very mindful of the implications of any evolving situation on the
plight of the Kurdish people," said the PUK's Mr Salih.

He added that Iraqi Kurds had made "an important statement about the
viability of democracy" which could have "important bearings" on the future
of Iraq

By Patrick E. Tyler
Yahoo (from The New York Times), 18th December


The State Department specifically denied reports that the team, led by Ryan
Crocker, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Middle Eastern affairs,
entered Iraq under Turkish escort.

Mr. Crocker was said by Iraqi opposition officials to have received a strong
endorsement from one top Kurdish leader, Jalal Talabani, for a military
campaign against Baghdad. But the other important Kurdish chieftain, Massoud
Barzani, was said to be more circumspect. Iraqi opposition figures say Mr.
Barzani has extensive business operations with Mr. Hussein's relatives.



New York Times News Service, 15th December

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- A subsidiary of the Turkish state-owned petroleum
company announced Friday that it had signed a deal with the Iraqi government
of Saddam Hussein to drill for oil.

Based on statements from the same company, it had previously been reported
that the Turks would drill in Kurdish-held territory in northern Iraq, in
regions beyond the writ of the government in Baghdad.

But in a written statement Friday, the Turkish company said its subsidiary,
the Turkish Petroleum International Co., had signed a deal with Iraq's
Ministry of Petroleum last year for drilling at 20 wells in the Khurmala
field, near Kirkuk. The contract, the Turkish company said, was approved by
the United Nations earlier this year.


Arabic News, 18th December

Muhammad al-Sherazi one of the most important Iraqi clergy references died
on Monday morning in Qum, Iran at 79 by a stroke
Al-Sherazi has been living in Iran since the victory of the Iranian
revolution in that country. He had composed several books in Islamic

Las Vegas Sun, 18th December

BAGHDAD, Iraq- President Saddam Hussein on Tuesday called for an emergency
Arab summit to be held at Islam's holiest city - Mecca in Saudi Arabia - to
discuss Israeli attacks on Palestinians.

Saddam asked for Arab unity and warned that the United States and Israel are
using the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington as a pretext to
destroy Arabs.

"America is encouraging the Zionist entity to kill the Arabs," he said in a
call to Arab governments and people carried by the Iraqi News Agency. "The
United States and the Zionist entity have one common goal, that is to
destroy and humiliate the Arab nation."

"Our position will be better if we are to hold an emergency summit .. in
order to exclusively discuss the aggression toward the Palestinians," he was
quoted as saying.

Saddam's call coincides with plans for an Arab League meeting Thursday in
Cairo, Egypt, to discuss the escalating Israeli-Palestinian violence. At
least 10 foreign ministers plan to attend, Arab League spokesman Hisham
Youssef said.

The 22-nation Arab League has held several meetings in the past 14 months to
discuss the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Though there is broad support for
the Palestinian cause and condemnation of Israel, little coordinated action
has resulted.

"Let the meeting place be the honorable Kaaba," Saddam said, referring to
the cubic stone structure in the Grand Mosque in Mecca. He also said such a
meeting could be held in "any Arab capital whose selection secures the
presence of all us."

Saudi Arabia severed relations with Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990.
The kingdom allowed U.S. troops to use Saudi territory to fight Iraqi forces
in the 1991 Gulf War that ousted the Iraqis from Kuwait. In the years since,
U.S. planes frequently have flown from Saudi bases to patrol Iraqi skies and
bomb targets in southern Iraq.

Saudi Arabia, custodian of the holiest shrines in Islam, allows Iraqis into
the country only to participate in the annual Muslim pilgrimage, the hajj.
Recently, a 2002 World Cup soccer qualifying match between Iraq and Saudi
Arabia was played in nearby Bahrain because the kingdom would not permit the
Iraqi team into the country.

Saddam said all differences should be set aside to address the
Israeli-Palestinian problem.

"We should only remember the causes and the reasons for our unity in this
difficult crisis," he said. "We should try to forget or postpone all that
may lead to our division."

Arabic News, 21st December

It was announced in cairo that an Egyptian medical team is currently
visiting Iraq, including most qualified doctors in heart surgery, the bones
and the backbone in order to support the Iraqi people in confrontation of
the deteriorated health conditions in Iraq because of the sanctions imposed
on it.

An official source at the Egyptian ministry of health said that the team
held several critical operations for Iraqi patients.

Arabic News, 21st December

Kuwait has stressed its readiness to permit the International Committee of
the Red Cross ICRC to search for Iraqi missing which Iraq stresses they do
not exist, but under the condition that Baghdad will " provide all precise
information" about the Kuwaitis Iraq is accused to have held.

In a message addressed to the UN secretary general Kofi Annan, the Kuwaiti
foreign minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah stressed the need of solving
the issue of the Kuwaiti prisoners and missing in the " framework of the UN
and relevant resolutions," relating to this issue.

The Kuwaiti minister added that Kuwait is ready " despite the fact it is not
responsible for what is claimed by the Iraqi government." Concerning the
Iraqi missing to permit " the ICRC carrying out a comprehensive and free
search on the territories of Kuwait " for those Iraqi missing.

He continued that his country, in return, sets a condition which is " to get
a clear guarantee from the Iraqi government that Kuwait will provide all
precise information relating to the fate of the Kuwaitis and citizens of
other countries held in Iraq so as to " definitely draw the curtains on this
issue." In his message to the UN chief dated December 12 and broadcast by
the Kuwaiti news agency on December 18 Sheikh Sabah indicated mechanisms
that comply to solving this humanitarian issue" that Iraq can resort to.
These mechanisms are the three member committee ( Iraq, Kuwait, ICRC), its
sub committee and the UN special coordinator for the Kuwaiti prisoners
affairs, according to Sheikh Sabah.

Recently, Iraq has submitted a proposal to the Arab League refused by Kuwait
to form a committee to follow up this issue. Since the end of 1998 Iraq has
been boycotting meetings of the three- member committee on this issue and
calls for the non- participation of representatives for the US, France and
Britain in it. Moreover., Iraq has refused to receive the UN special
coordinator on the prisoners issue, the Russian Yuli Forontsov.

Kuwait has stressed that 600 of its citizens and from other nationalities
are held as prisoners by Iraq since its occupation of Kuwait August 1990-
February 1991.

Baghdad had admitted it had taken prisoners, but lost their traces following
the Shiite rebellion movement in southern Iraq in 1991.

Iraq, for his part, calls on Kuwait to give clarifications over 1142 who
were lost following the Gulf war.

The Kuwaiti foreign minister has accused the Iraqi government of trying to
single out this issue from the UN Security Council resolutions concerned.

Wold Oil, 21st December

BAGHDAD (AFP): There are no obstacles hampering the renewal of a trade and
oil protocol between Iraq and Jordan, Iraqi Oil Minister Amer Mohammad
Rashid said Thursday.

"We usually agree on details at this time of year, and there is no problem
with the basic principles of the agreement," Rashid told Iraq's satellite
television following the arrival of a Jordanian government delegation in
Baghdad late Wednesday for talks on renewing the protocol.

"There are no problems obstructing the renewal of the protocol," under which
Iraq "meets all of Jordan's oil needs," he said.

Energy Minister Mohammad Batayneh and Trade and Industry Minister Salah
Bashir are leading the Jordanian delegation for the talks on renewing the
protocol for 2002.

Under the oil and trade deal, Jordan gets five million tons of crude oil,
half for free and half at a preferential rate well below market prices.

Jordan's exports to Iraq rose to 450 million dollars in 2001, up from 300
million dollars the previous year.

Rashid said he hoped a project to build a pipeline to carry Iraqi oil to
Jordan will be completed "within two years." Bids by companies that will
implement the first phase of the project should be in within "a few months."

The plan envisages building a 750-kilometer (465-mile) pipeline to feed the
Jordanian refinery at Zarqa, northeast of Amman. Iraqi oil is now
transported to Zarqa by tanker trucks across the desert.

The Jordanian energy minister said he would discuss with his Iraqi
counterpart Jordan's "growing" oil needs.

Batayneh had said after a visit to Iraq in October that Jordan will increase
oil exports from its powerful eastern neighbor in 2002 by five to 10 percent
to meet oil needs.

But economic experts in Amman said Wednesday they did not expect any
substantial raise in next year's protocol agreement due to oil prices on the
international market.

Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammad Mahdi Saleh meanwhile said Thursday that
Baghdad wanted to boost the volume of trade with Amman.

The two countries have concluded contracts worth a total of 2.9 billion
dollars since Iraq's "oil-for-food" program with the United Nations went
into effect four years ago, Saleh said.


Irish Times, 19th December

US naval forces in the Gulf attacked an oil tanker bound for an Iranian port
on today injuring two people, Iran's state television reported.

Iran's foreign ministry summoned the Swiss ambassador, whose country
represents US interests in Iran, later to deliver Tehran's strong protest
and demand explanation.

A foreign ministry spokesman said the Saudi-owned tanker was carrying raw
material for unleaded gasoline to the southwestern Iranian port of Abadan
when it was intercepted by several US boats and seized.

He said the US had released the tanker after Iran lodged the protest.

A Pentagon spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel David Lapan, said a small explosive
was detonated against a door to gain access to the tanker but no shots were
fired during the encounter.

The television said earlier the Swiss envoy had told an Iranian Foreign
Ministry official the US boats had mistaken the tanker for an Iraqi vessel
smuggling oil.

US forces in the Gulf regularly intercept ships suspected of carrying Iraqi
oil in violation of UN sanctions imposed on Baghdad for its 1990 invasion of

An Iraqi vessel sank last month after being boarded by US navy troops
enforcing the sanctions in the region.

Tehran and Washington broke diplomatic ties after Iranian militants seized
the US embassy in the Iranian capital in 1979 and took its staff hostage.

Reuters, 20th December

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's state television said U.S. naval forces in the
Gulf attacked an oil tanker bound for an Iranian port Wednesday and injured
two people, but the United States disputed the report.

In Washington, the Pentagon said its forces boarded a Belize-flagged oil
tanker suspected of violating sanctions against Iraq and that one member of
the ship's crew was slightly injured in the incident.

Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Lapan said the tanker was allowed
to proceed after it was found not to be breaking sanctions.

"It was a Belize-flagged tanker, so I don't know what the Iranian part of
this is," Lapan said.

Iran's Foreign Ministry summoned the Swiss ambassador, whose country
represents U.S. interests in Iran, to deliver a "strong protest" to
Washington and demand an explanation.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told the television the tanker
was Saudi owned and was carrying raw material for unleaded fuel to the
southwestern Iranian port of Abadan when it was intercepted by several U.S.
boats and seized.

Asefi said the Americans released the tanker after Iran lodged the protest.

"We cannot condone this act of harassment and are waiting for a clear
explanation from the American government," he said, without mentioning the
reported attack or injuries.

The television said earlier the Swiss envoy had told an Iranian Foreign
Ministry official that the U.S. boats had mistaken the tanker for an Iraqi
vessel smuggling oil.



UN Wire, 16th December

The Governing Council of the U.N. Compensation Commission, established in
1991 to handle requests for compensation from Iraq following the country's
1990 invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent conflict in the region, yesterday
awarded $132.7 million in compensation.

The council approved four reports and recommendations of its panels of
commissioners on claims from individuals and corporations.  To date, the
commission has awarded more than $35.9 billion
The council also discussed two reports by its executive secretary:  one on
the commission's progress, including claims processing and award payments,
and another on payment distribution, distribution transparency and return of
undistributed funds.  Kuwait, Iraq, Sudan, Turkey and a Palestinian
representative addressed the commission during this week's session.

The council decided to hold its next regular session March 12 to 14.  Five
new representatives of Security Council members -- from Bulgaria, Cameroon,
Guinea, Mexico and Syria -- will join the Governing Council for two-year
terms beginning Jan. 1.  They replace departing council members from
Bangladesh, Jamaica, Mali, Tunisia and Ukraine (U.N. release, Dec. 13)


by Torsten Ove
Post-Gazette, 14th December

An Iraqi refugee charged in a scheme to bribe a state employee to issue
licenses for hauling hazardous materials yesterday became the first of the
20 Middle Eastern men indicted in the case to plead guilty.

Alawi Al-Baraa, 33, who is serving a state prison term for stabbing a man in
a bar fight, admitted to U.S. District Judge Robert Cindrich that he
illegally obtained a hazmat license in 1999 from Robert Ferrari, a former
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation examiner at the State Office
Building, Downtown.

Al-Baraa faces a federal prison term of between two and eight months when he
is sentenced March 15.

The indictment naming him and the others created a stir after the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks because of the possibility that the scheme was linked to
terrorism. Federal authorities have said they have found no such
connections, and Cindrich took the unusual step yesterday of asking the lead
prosecutor to make that point clear for the public in Al-Baraa's case.

"We have attempted through the FBI's efforts to establish any possible
connections between Mr. Al-Baraa's activities and the events of Sept. 11,"
said Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Teitelbaum. "We have been unable to
establish any link."

Teitelbaum said there is no reason to believe Al-Baraa is anything but a
truck driver who paid bribe money to get a new hazmat certification without
taking the required test.

A trucker in Iraq who fled that country after the Gulf War, Al-Baraa lived
in a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia and moved to the United States in 1995,
settling in Erie and working in a factory. He later moved to Detroit, where
he got a commercial driver's license with a permit to haul hazardous
materials and worked as a trucker.

In March 1999, Teitelbaum said, Al-Baraa lost his license because of driving
violations. At the end of that year, he wanted to move back to Erie and take
a new job driving trucks, but he no longer had a legitimate license. Even if
he had, a hazmat permit cannot be transferred from state to state, so he
would have had to take a test to get the permit for Pennsylvania.

Instead he decided to get one illegally through an Iraqi friend who knew
Elmeliani "Ben" Benmoumen of Squirrel Hill, who is charged separately as the
middleman between Ferrari and those who wanted the licenses.

Al-Baraa came to Pittsburgh with the friend, whom he paid $300 to give to
Benmoumen, who in turn paid Ferrari.

All the other men charged in the case had been released on bond except
Al-Baraa. Teitelbaum said he would have been released, too, had he not
already been in prison. Al Baraa is serving a 2- to 4-year sentence at the
State Correctional Institution Rockview for aggravated assault in Erie. He
was sentenced Nov. 14, 2000.

In accepting Al-Baraa's plea, Cindrich commended the FBI and the U.S.
attorney's office for handling the hazmat case fairly during what he called
a "very difficult time in our nation's history."

by Brian Whitmore
Boston Globe, 16th December



After fleeing persecution in Iraq, Majed Majid thought he was finally a free
man. But denied political asylum in the Czech Republic, he is a man without
a country facing an uncertain future

A native of Baghdad and a member of Iraq's tiny Christian minority, Majid
fled war and persecution with his parents, sister, and two brothers eight
years ago, and settled in Prague.

They since have faced death threats and harassment from Saddam Hussein's
secret agents and suspicion and hostility from Czech police and immigration

The family nevertheless did well and appeared to be an immigrant success
story. Majid, 22, learned Czech and English, became an honor student, and
got a job writing for a local magazine. His parents opened a small Arabic

But as they built a new life in their adopted country, the family's old
homeland kept coming back to torment them.

A group of Iraqi diplomats constantly visited their restaurant to try to
persuade them to return to Baghdad. They also demanded free food and drinks,
and even coerced Majid's mother into catering for the Iraqi Embassy -
threatening her with death if she refused.

The group's leader, Majid said, was Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani - the
diplomat who was later identified by Czech authorities as the Iraqi agent
who met hijack suspect Mohamed Atta in Prague. Majid said he was often
tailed by menacing Iraqis he believed to be working for Hussein's
intelligence agency, the Mukhabarat.

In June, Majid told his story on a nationally televised current affairs
program about the Mukhabarat's activities in Prague. Since then, the family
restaurant was vandalized and one of the intruders left a knife sitting
conspicuously on the bar.

Despite all this, Czech immigration authorities have refused Majid and his
family political asylum, although they have granted them long-term visas.

Lacking citizenship - their Iraqi passports expired this summer - the family
is stateless and helpless in an environment that is increasingly suspicious
of Arabs.

''All we want is what everybody else has,'' Majid said. ''A government that
represents us and protects our rights.''

Since the attacks on the United States, this looks increasingly unlikely.
Czech immigration officials recently told Majid that to get political asylum
he needed ''documentation'' from Iraq that he was not welcome there.

''What am I supposed to do?'' Majid said. ''Go to the Iraqi Embassy and say,
`Please give me a document that says I am a dissident and oppose the Iraqi

Czech immigration officials did not respond to numerous requests about the
case. A week after the September terrorists attacks, Majid said police came
to his Prague apartment to question the family and search their home.

''When I asked them why they were doing this they said: `You have to ask?
Isn't it obvious?''',5936,3453205%255E421,0

by Jim Dickins
The Mercury (Australia), 18th December

IMMIGRATION officials are trying to deport a former member of Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein's personal guard who sought asylum in Australia
more than a year ago.

The man is appealing a tribunal decision to deny him refugee status. His
identity is being kept secret to prevent victimisation should he fail and be
returned to Iraq.

Federal Liberal MP Ross Cameron said this case highlighted the need for
careful screening of all boat arrivals to weed out criminals and terrorists.

"We have one person in detention at the moment who arrived by boat who was
found to have . . . destroyed his papers, but after thorough search and
investigations he was found to be on the personal guard of Saddam Hussein in
Iraq," he said.

But a spokesman for Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock confirmed the man
arrived by air on an international flight, not by boat.

Opposition families spokesman Wayne Swan said security at airports was more
important in the fight against terrorism than expensive maritime patrols.

"Terrorists don't arrive on boats, they generally arrive by other means and
in this country if they were to arrive, it would be by aircraft," Mr Swan

The Iraqi man claims to have grave fears for his safety if forced to return
home but immigration officials believe his membership of Hussein's elite
personal guard disqualifies him from claiming refugee status.

A spokesman for Mr Ruddock said the man would not face any serious threat in
Iraq if his identity and bid to win asylum in Australia remained secret.

"Our refugee obligations do not extend to someone involved in serious
criminal activity," he said. "It's a serious character issue."

The man will remain in detention at an undisclosed location until his case
has been resolved.

Hussein's personal guard functions as a kind of secret police and has been
linked to serious human rights abuses including summary execution and

The man claims to have been low-ranking but immigration officials have not
been able to verify that and say his seniority is irrelevant.

Mr Ruddock's spokesman also revealed "a number" of other Iraqi and Afghani
asylum seekers were being investigated for possible military links.

Many were young men of conscription age who may have been involved in
military activity.

Such links were not grounds for disqualification, especially since many are
forcibly drafted, but needed full investigation

New Zealand Herald, 21st December

An Iraqi family are living in fear after having their Christchurch home
peppered with stones twice in a week.

The latest attack occurred about 1.30 am yesterday when stones were pelted
against the wooden siding of the Kakai family's Northcote home.

One window was shattered in the attack, which has left the Kurdish family of
nine considering leaving the country they thought would be their haven.

Fourteen-year-old Khalid Kakai said the family had arrived in New Zealand
about seven months ago but shifted into the Northcote house only late last

"We love living in New Zealand but our house has been attacked twice now and
we are scared."

His uncle, Mohammed Kakai, said the family had fled Iraq for New Zealand
because they wanted to escape the troubles of their homeland and live a
quiet, peaceful life.

That dream had been shattered by the recent attacks: "If it happens again
then we will leave.

"We thought we would be able to live in quiet here ... but obviously someone
who does not like refugees, or other religions, or other cultures, does not
want us here."

Papanui police are investigating the attacks and are appealing for anyone
with information to come forward.

"Everyone in New Zealand deserves to be able to live in peace," a police
spokeswoman said.

Christchurch Mayor Garry Moore said he was saddened to hear of the attacks
and the culprits were "probably a little bit short in the brain department".

Mr Moore said he wanted to reassure the family they were welcome in
Christchurch. "It's really important that we have all those different
cultures and we welcome them with open arms."

New Zealand Herald, 22nd December

A security sweep after the September 11 attacks in America has uncovered an
engineer working at Air New Zealand who authorities believe is the stepson
of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

The man has been subjected to an intense, multi-agency examination of his
background and the vetting and checks made upon his appointment.

Mohammad Saffi has worked as an engineer in a secure area for Air NZ and
lived in Auckland with his family for several years.

He would not discuss with the Weekend Herald his family background, and the
airline late yesterday indicated that it was satisfied there was nothing
further to investigate.

But the discovery that he was working for the national carrier triggered a
high-level security alert within police and other Government agencies.

The case, which came to the attention of officials after the terrorist
attacks on America three months ago, raised questions about vetting
procedures at the airline and by agencies responsible for residency

A woman the police believe is Mr Saffi's mother, Samira Shahbandar, is
reported to have been married to the Iraqi President after a relationship
that began in the 1980s.

Approached at his North Shore home this week, Mr Saffi dismissed the reports
as rumour.

He told the Weekend Herald he was considering going overseas but said this
had nothing to do with the attention from the authorities.

"They have the right to ask any time they want," he said. "I don't have a
problem at all. I do work in a secure area, I do fly with the aeroplanes as
well. I don't think I have had a hard time compared to any other country."

Weekend Herald inquiries have established that Mr Saffi, aged 35, has been
in the country since at least 1997. He has worked for Air New Zealand as an
engineer in the aircraft maintenance area.

His family background became known to the security agencies during checks
ordered after September 11, causing alarm about how a person with such an
alleged background had settled in New Zealand without coming to anyone's

A highly confidential investigation involving senior police unfolded over
several weeks. Mr Saffi was quizzed repeatedly and the sensitivity of his
case meant it was kept within a tight circle of officers.

The police national crime manager, Superintendent Bill Bishop, refused to
comment on the specifics of the case but released a statement saying: "NZ
Police have a responsibility for taking the lead on domestic security
issues. Any inquiry by police is intended to ensure the safety and security
of the community both here and overseas."

Air NZ's vice-president in charge of public affairs, David Beatson, said he
was unable to comment on the specific case, to protect Mr Saffi's privacy.
But the airline had systems to deal with potential threats to safety and

"There are processes by which we are advised of potential threats to the
airline's security by both New Zealand and international authorities," he

"Were we to be advised, or to discover ourselves, that an employee presented
a threat to the security of the airline, we would make an assessment of the
threat and take appropriate action. No such action is in train."

His comment is understood to indicate that authorities and the airline no
longer consider Mr Saffi's case to be of concern.

A spokesman for the Immigration Service, Ian Smith, said people making
residency applications were required to declare "all parents, brothers,
sisters, including full, step, half and adopted brothers and sisters".

He would not comment on whether Mr Saffi had declared any relationship with

Mr Saffi's parents are believed to be Samira Shahbandar, a former flight
attendant, and Nor Aldin Saffi, who was a high-ranking official within the
Government-owned Iraqi Airways.

Various sources, including the Washington Post, say that Mrs Shahbandar
became Saddam's mistress in the late 1980s. A biography of Saddam and other
reports, including in London's Daily Telegraph, say the pair were married.

A judgment issued by the British Law Lords regarding a court case between
the Iraqi and Kuwait airlines this year named Nor Aldin Saffi as a
director-general of Iraqi Airways, though it is understood he no longer
holds this position.

When the Weekend Herald put it to Mohammad Saffi that he had been questioned
about his relationship with Saddam, he said: "In New Zealand it is quite far
away from where we come from and any rumours just ... I don't think I have
had a hard time compared to any other country."

Asked if his mother was Mrs Shahbandar, he said: "Actually, I don't have
time to talk now."

He declined to be interviewed later, saying: "I think I gave you the
picture. I think they went and asked all the people who work in aviation all
over the world." He said he did not want publicity.

Mr Saffi said he was exploring work opportunities elsewhere.

"I'm always looking for other options," he said. "If I get a good offer, I
will go away ... work tax-free for a couple of years, pay my mortgage and
come back and relax."

A member of the Iraqi community in New Zealand said people knew about his
background, though they were not clear about the exact details.

"I understand his mother was married for a couple of years and then
separated," said the community member. "You can never find this as official
news in Iraq."

The man said that while some people were wary of Mr Saffi, nobody considered
him dangerous or a risk. "He is a very quiet man, a very nice man," he said.

An Air NZ source described him as friendly. "He seems like a nice guy," said
the source.

"He worked for a while at terminal services in the international terminal,
then he got a job down at the hangar as aircraft maintenance. He has flown
overseas as a service engineer [for Air NZ aircraft]."

An official from Washington-based opposition group the Iraqi National
Congress said Mrs Shahbandar was Saddam's mistress before they married in

He understood they were still married.

Her first husband, Nor Aldin Saffi, held a senior position within Iraqi
Airways until the mid-1990s, said the INC official.

He was not sure how Mrs Shahbandar's family viewed Saddam.

"I'm sure they don't like what happened to their mother. Basically, Saddam
made her divorce her husband and marry him, which is something I don't think
any kid would appreciate," he said.

"[Nor Aldin Saffi] was rewarded by being given a post within the airways."

Reports from America said the relationship between Mrs Shahbandar and Saddam
had caused problems with Saddam's extended family.

Uday Hussein, Saddam's eldest son to his first wife, was reportedly enraged
when he found out about the affair.

The Middle East Review of International Affairs said Uday murdered a
bodyguard of Saddam because he had acted as a messenger between the
President and his mistress.

The Washington Post reported that when Saddam's father-in-law objected to
the marriage with Mrs Shahbandar he was stripped of his property.

Other dissenting family and friends were wounded or died mysteriously.,1113,2-11

News 24 (South Africa), 21st December

Nairobi (Sapa-AFP): Eight foreigners, suspected of having links to
terrorism, have been arrested in Somalia.

An official of the Somali transitional government (TNG) said in Nairobi on
Friday the eight were arrested in several swoops and were being questioned
by intelligence services. Others were still being sought on Friday, said the

Police in Mogadishu confirmed a number of Iraqis had been arrested in the
capital, but did not comment on any possible links with terrorism.

United States officials have repeatedly expressed fears about the presence
in Somalia of groups or individuals linked with international terrorism,
especially Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

The TNG has just as frequently expressed its determination to join in the
international campaign against terrorism.

A reporter in Mogadishu said at least three of the detained Iraqis had been
there for many months, according to a detailed account by one of their
number. They arrived there after being deported from the United Arab
Emirates as undesirable aliens.

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