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News, 13-22/12/01 (3) SOUTHERN KURDISTAN/NORTHERN IRAQ * 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: Iraqi opposition figures say Mr. Barzani has extensive business operations with Mr. Hussein's relatives.ı] IRAQI/MIDDLE EAST - ARAB WORLD RELATIONS * 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 ENFORCING THE EMBARGO * US navy attacks Iran oil tanker in Gulf * Iran, United States Dispute Oil Tanker Incident IRAQI/UN RELATIONS * U.N. Compensation Commission Awards $132.7 Million REFUGEES * 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 very 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 SOUTHERN KURDISTAN/NORTHERN IRAQ http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/middle_east/newsid_1712000/1712181.st m * IRAQI KURDS BUOYED BY US VISIT 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 delegation 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 delegation. The visit was an important reminder of American engagement in Iraqi Kurdistan "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 http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nyt/20011218/ts/u_s_again_placing_focus_on_oust ing_hussein_1.html * U.S. AGAIN PLACING FOCUS ON OUSTING HUSSEIN 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. [.....] IRAQI/MIDDLE EAST - ARAB WORLD RELATIONS http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/world/1174671 * TURKISH OIL DRILLING HAS IRAQ'S BACKING 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. [...] http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/011218/2001121808.html * IRAQI CLERGY DIED IN EXILE, IN IRAN 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 jurisprudence http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-me/2001/dec/18/121806966.html * SADDAM HUSSEIN CALLS FOR ARAB SUMMIT 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." http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/011221/2001122105.html * EGYPTIAN MEDICAL TEAM VISITS IRAQ 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. http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/011221/2001122107.html * IN COORDINATION WITH ICRC, KUWAIT IS READY TO SEARCH FOR IRAQI MISSING 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. http://www.worldoil.com/news/newsstory.asp?ref=http://188.8.131.52/feeds/wo rldoil/new/article_e.asp?energy24=245561 * IRAQ SET TO RENEW OIL AND TRADE PROTOCOL WITH JORDAN 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. ENFORCING THE EMBARGO http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/breaking/2001/1219/breaking71.htm * US NAVY ATTACKS IRAN OIL TANKER IN GULF 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 Kuwait. 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. http://www.reuters.com/news_article.jhtml?type=worldnews&StoryID=467675 * IRAN, UNITED STATES DISPUTE OIL TANKER INCIDENT 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. [.....] IRAQI/UN RELATIONS http://www.baghdad.com/?action=display&article=10925895&template=baghdad/ind exsearch.txt&index=recent * U.N. COMPENSATION COMMISSION AWARDS $132.7 MILLION 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) REFUGEES http://www.post-gazette.com/regionstate/20011214hazmat1214p6.asp * IRAQI PLEADS GUILTY IN HAZMAT LICENSE BRIBERY 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." http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/350/nation/Crackdown_imperils_Mideast_exil es+.shtml * CRACKDOWN IMPERILS MIDEAST EXILES by Brian Whitmore Boston Globe, 16th December PRAGUE - [...] 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 authorities. 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 restaurant. 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 government.''' 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?''' http://www.themercury.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,3453205%255E421,0 0.html * IRAQI EX-GUARD FIGHTS DEPORTATION 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 said. 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 torture. 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 http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?storyID=383716&thesection=news&th esubsection=general * IRAQI FAMILY IN FEAR AFTER ATTACKS 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 month. "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." http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?storyID=383936&thesection=news&th esubsection=general * SECURITY ALERT OVER SADDAM LINK 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 approvals. 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 attention. 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 security. "There are processes by which we are advised of potential threats to the airline's security by both New Zealand and international authorities," he said. "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 Saddam. 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 1986. 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. http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Africa/East_Africa/0,1113,2-11 997_1123542,00.html * IRAQIS HELD IN SOMALIA 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 source. 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. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com CASI's website - www.casi.org.uk - includes an archive of all postings.