The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]
News, 19-26/1/02 (2) IRAQI/MIDDLE EASTERN-ARAB WORLD RELATIONS * Kuwaiti min describes ties with Tehran as rapidly expanding * Iraq: Iran to free 697 Iraqi prisoners of war * Iraqi call for exchange of visits with Kuwait * Saudis and Americans may adjust US presence * A chill wind from Teheran [Long Jerusalem Post discussion of Iran-Palestine-Israel relations, expressing apprehension about an Iranian/Arafat rapprochement. Only extracts given here, mainly on Iranıs nuclear potential. A worry for Israel. If they succeed in persuading their protector to go after Iraq, the beneficiary may prove to be Iran. Who may turn out to be worse than Iraq.] * Iraq calls on Annan to unblock oil contracts, seeks Tunisia deal * Iraq to sign free trade agreements with three Arab states in the first quarter of 2002 * First Iraqi prisoners go home [As is always the case these stories concern prisoners being returned to Iraq from Iran, never the other way round (Iraq denies that it has prisoners). One wonders what, apart from the dead, the Iranians are getting in exchange] * Geostrategic gambit nets Turkey little [Some small satisfaction to be had in the fact that all Turkeyıs twisting and bowing and scraping in the courts of the mighty isnıt doing her any good. For years Turkey has been on the verge of EU membership, expected to follow all the fashions of EU governmentsı policy. Now, ending state control over banking, transport and communications have become the necessary conditions of entry. They will do all that and the chances are they still wonıt be let in. If they had any sense of dignity, theyıd tell us to take a running jump and form an alliance with their fellow Muslims ...] * Mousa says he will visit the US on January 30th * Arab League Chief Visits Kuwait * Iran Frees Hundreds of Iraqi Prisoners of War * Direct Iran-Syria air link via Iraq to start soon: Mazaheri * Air flights to be resumed shortly between Iraq, Iran [extract] * Arab League chief: A strike against Iraq unacceptable * Arab League Comments on Iraq Draw Criticism [from an Egyptian commentator who says Moussa is merely reflecting what the Arab people think, not what the people that count - the rulers - think] * Oil accord signed [with Tunisia] * The Arab view: The way Syria sees it [Extract on Iraqi/Syrian relations. The article, published in the Jerusalem Post, seems to come from a journal published in the United Arab Emirates but is written by someone with an Anglo Saxon name.] * US anxiety drives Saddam to seek new Arab allies [Financial Times account of recent Iraqi diplomatic initiatives, placing them in the context of the forthcoming Arab League summit.] * Iraqi foreign minister arrives in Tehran URL ONLY: http://atimes.com/front/DA26Aa03.html * Syria turns to Iraq in moment of need by George Baghdadi Asia Times (from Inter Press Service), 26th January Makes much the same points about Syria/Iraqi relations as The way Syria sees itı above. IRAQI/INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS * India to build railway network for Iraq * Iraq to seek Russian support over UN sanctions [Aziz visiting Moscow and China] * Russia Warns U.S. Against Military Strike on Iraq * Iraq defies US 'smart sanctions' REMNANTS OF DECENCY * Troublesome priest? [The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Rowan Williams, who was near the twin towers on Sept 11. He compares what he felt then to what people in Baghdad and elsewhere must have felt when the bombs were falling on them.] * 46 Busted in Iraq Protest NEW WORLD ORDER * Clinton: U.S. policies not to blame for terror by Muslim radicals [Debate on America and Islamı organised by W.Clintonıs own presidential foundation] * Pipelineistan, Part 2: The games nations play [I donıt know what this is (Part 1 of Part 2 of what appears to be a speech) but its a splendid birdıs eye view of the geopolitics of oil, centring on Central Asia, but taking in China and Kosovo. Its here because I like it, not because it has much to do with Iraq, but it does state confidently that Saddam will not be attacked, because Saddam is the ultimate reason for American military bases in the Gulf - a splendid affair because on top of it all it is a free ride, the expenses being paid by the ultra flush sheikdoms.ı And this is a man who seems to know what heıs talking about.] IRAQI/MIDDLE EASTERN-ARAB WORLD RELATIONS http://www.irna.com/newshtm/eng/29022732.htm * KUWAITI MIN DESCRIBES TIES WITH TEHRAN AS RAPIDLY EXPANDING Kuwait, Jan 19, IRNA -- Kuwait's Consultant Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheik Muhammad Sabah al-Slim al-Sabah described his countries relations with Iran as excellent and yet rapidly expanding, before leaving Kuwait for Tehran Friday. Sheik Salim al-Sabah who was heading for an official two-day visit of Tehran furthermore emphasized on both countries' high ranking officials' will to broaden and strengthen ties and cooperation in all possible fields. Referring to the recent fortieth anniversary of the formal establishment of political ties between the two countries and arranging for a joint exhibition on the occasion in Kuwait based on Iran's initiative, he said, "the move was evaluated as Iran's strong will to expand friendly ties with Kuwait, the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab world by Kuwaiti and other Arab officials." [.....] In reply to a question regarding the level of Iran and Kuwait's cooperation aimed at freeing the Iranian and Kuwaiti POWs in Iraq, Sheik Salim al-Sabah said, "the Iranian and Kuwaiti nations feel a shared pain in that regard." The Kuwaiti official added, "The Baghdad government treated both Iran and Kuwait hypocritically in that regard and keeps telling lies in denying the presence of our two countries' beloved citizens in its country." [.....] http://europe.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/meast/01/20/iraq.iran.pows.reut/index.html * IRAQ: IRAN TO FREE 697 IRAQI PRISONERS OF WAR CNN, 20th January BAGHDAD, Iraq (Reuters) -- Iran is to release nearly 700 Iraqi prisoners captured during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, an Iraq Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Sunday. "The Iranian side agreed to release 697 Iraqi prisoners over three days staring on Monday, January 21, under the supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross," the spokesman said in a fax sent to Reuters. He added that two sides would also exchange the bodies of 1,183 Iraqis and 574 Iranians who had died in prison. "A positive atmosphere of mutual confidence and understanding and serious cooperation by the two sides to solve all pending issues prevailed in the meeting of the joint Iraqi- Iranian committee," the spokesman said. The meeting ended on Friday. An estimated one million Iranians and Iraqis were killed during the war. The fate of thousands of prisoners of war and combatants listed as missing in action is one of the main issues blocking the normalization of ties between the two countries. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow.asp?art_id=1225597176 * IRAQI CALL FOR EXCHANGE OF VISITS WITH KUWAIT Times of India (AFP), 20th January BAGHDAD: The head of an Iraqi non-governmental committee has proposed an exchange of visits with Kuwait to discuss the question of people missing since the 1991 Gulf War, Baghdad Radio said Sunday. Ahmad Munther al-Mutlak, whose committee follows up the issue of missing Iraqis, handed a memorandum to this effect to Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa, who ended a two-day visit to Baghdad on Saturday, the state radio said. "Our committee is prepared to go to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait ... and to host popular delegations from these two countries" in order to settle the issue, Mutlak said. Iraq, which has been pressing for the restoration of Arab solidarity, has repeatedly said in recent months that it was willing to cooperate with Kuwait to resolve the problem of missing people. Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said in a January 9 interview that Baghdad was prepared to receive a delegation from Kuwait to examine the issue of Kuwaitis missing since the Gulf War. Kuwait for its part said last month it was ready to let the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) search its territory for Iraqis Baghdad says have been missing since the conflict. [.....] http://news.ft.com/ft/gx.cgi/ftc?pagename=View&c=Article&cid=FT3ETR57PWC&liv e=true&tagid=ZZZINS5VA0C&subheading=middle%20east%20and%20africa * SAUDIS AND AMERICANS MAY ADJUST US PRESENCE by Roula Khalaf in Jeddah Financial Times, 20th January The US and Saudi Arabia are set to study possible re-adjustments in the US military presence in the kingdom that could see some air assets redeployed to other Gulf states but would not amount to a US pull-out from the kingdom, according to western diplomats in the area. The move would ease tensions between the US and Saudi military establishments. The kingdom has put constraints on US action, banning bombers from using Saudi territory to attack Iraq several times since the 1991 Gulf war. The US, mindful of Saudi sensitivity, did not ask the kingdom to use bases there for military strikes against Afghanistan, although it is believed to have been using a command and control centre near Riyadh. "The US has been engaging the leadership to see what they think needs to be done. Adjustments could mean that air assets which cannot be used here might be best moved around and put to better use," said a western diplomat. "But nothing is likely to happen." Saudi officials at the week-end echoed US official denials of reports that they may ask the US to leave Saudi Arabia. But they said that the military presence was under constant review by both sides. "You do reassess the presence. We've been doing it since 1991, so if you only fly a reduced number of missions in the no-fly zones in Iraq, you may not need all the aircraft," said a Saudi official. "But there's no demand on the US to leave. It's not how you bring [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein into compliance with the UN, and it plays right into the hands of Osama bin Laden." A key aim of the Saudi-born Mr bin Laden, who is accused of the September 11 attacks on the US, is to oust the estimated 5,000 US troops from the kingdom. US jets use Saudi territory as a base from which to patrol no-fly zones over Iraq. In recent years, however, the Saudis have grown increasingly uncomfortable with the reliance on the US, and with US military strikes against Iraq. An end to the US military presence in the kingdom would be a popular move domestically but would send the wrong signal to Iraq. Bill Clinton, former US president, speaking in Jeddah on Sunday, said the US presence was still needed to respond rapidly to regional threats. Last year, a sophisticated new US air command and control centre near Riyadh opened as bilateral tensions rose over US support for Israel. Strains were aggravated by the September 11 attacks and the involvement of Saudis apparently recruited by Mr bin Laden. US President George W. Bush has praised Saudi co-operation in the anti-terror campaign, but US lawmakers have expressed dismay at the level of Saudi assistance. Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said last week that the US should consider finding a more "hospitable" place for its troops. In an apparent response to Mr Levin's comments, Saudi officials told the Washington Post that the kingdom may no longer want the US military to remain. Colin Powell, US secretary of state, yesterday said he had "heard no such suggestion of the kind". "We have not been handed an eviction notice or any warning of an eviction notice," he said. "Some discussion has taken place . . . but nothing of the nature suggested by the story. "In my conversations with Saudi leaders as recently as just about four or five days ago with Prince Saud [al-Faisal, Saudi foreign minister], I've had no suggestion from them that they were about to ask us to leave. I'm not aware that the Saudi family is under such great pressure from the population for us to leave." Additional reporting by Peronet Despeignes, Washington http://www.jpost.com/Editions/2002/01/20/Features/Features.41957.html * A CHILL WIND FROM TEHERAN by Miriam Shaviv Jerusalem Post, 20th January [.....] Following the Iranian revolution in 1979, Arafat was one of the first foreign leaders to fly to Teheran. Famously, he was handed the Israeli embassy, and promptly raised the PLO flag over the compound. Relations deteriorated, however, when Arafat supported Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. When Arafat attended the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, Iran turned its back on him, claiming he had sold out the Palestinian cause. The Islamic state kept its hand in the Palestinian pot, however, by developing ties with Palestinian radical groups such as Islamic Jihad and Hamas. With these groups, there is more of an ideological and religious kinship, because of their anti-Oslo stances and acceptance of Islamic fundamentalism. According to Dr. Shaul Shay, a research fellow at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Iran has supplied the groups with equipment and funding, although it is impossible to say how much since it was all smuggled into the PA. Iran has also trained some of the organizations' activists, and Shay confirms published reports that Iran located potential recruits for the organizations by flying Palestinians hurt in the intifada to Iran under the guise of humanitarian aid. Once the wounded were healed, Iran demanded repayment in the form of activism. The relationships were so successful that Iran today is "closer to the Islamic Jihad than any other foreign organization other than Hizbullah," Shay says. [.....] Experts emphasize that the dangers created by the alliance are still minor compared to the existential threat posed by the possibility of Iran gaining nuclear arms, which the architects of Oslo, including former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, had deemed worse than the threats posed by the Palestinian problem. However, it is unclear when Iran's nuclear program will come to fruition. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University estimates it should be completed by the end of the decade, but "we have been saying five years now for the last 10 years," says Steinberg. Iran has tested its Shihab 3 missile three times since 1998, with only one success. A recent article in The Washington Post describes a nuclear program beset with problems, including only sporadic cooperation from Russia, cancelled contracts with Russian companies due to American pressure, and a lack of basic materials. According to Shoval, Israel must counteract Iran in two ways. First, by continuing to carry out preventative operations to stop Iran from delivering weapons to the PA, as it did with the Karine A, and by targeting terror centers in the territories which might attract pro-Iranian activity. Second, and most importantly, by pushing the US and Europe to isolate Iran until it puts an end to its involvement in terror. "The US must lead this effort," says Shoval. "Israel's role will be more in the realm of intelligence." Asked if the diplomatic route had produced results in the past, Shoval said that during the Clinton-Gore administration, efforts to isolate Iran took second place to applying pressure on Russia to stop cooperating with Iran's nuclear program. However, he estimated that the current American administration will take a harsher line towards Iran, partly because Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to be more cooperative. Indeed, most experts estimate that Israel's chances of succeeding down the diplomatic route have dramatically increased in the last few days alone. [.....] Now that the Taliban rule has been defeated in Afghanistan, American and Iranian interests are emerging as radically different. The Americans, says the source, want to see a Western oriented government in place in Kabul, while Iran will do everything in its power to ensure an Islamic government more to its liking. The problem is likely to reassert itself if and when the US tackles Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Although Iran and the US-led coalition may cooperate to bring down the Baghdad dictator, once there is a power vacuum, "the Americans will try to implement their vision of a kinder, gentler government, which is more amenable to living as part of the world community. Iran will try to create a vassal state," the source says. Europe, too, is likely to take a harsher line towards Iran, both because its sensibilities to terror have also been sharpened since September 11, and because it is still careful not to strain its relations with the US too far. DESPITE growing concern over Iran's nuclear capability, security experts absolutely rule out military action except in a desperate emergency. "We must make sure that every other option has been fully explored," says Inbar. "There is no need to put ourselves at the head of Iran's list of enemies." Not that the option would be easy. Shay points out that while Iran can attack Israel directly within minutes, through Hizbullah in southern Lebanon, Israel is limited by the need to travel 1,200 km to attack Iran. Steinberg and Shay both maintain that Iran and Iraq have learned the lessons of the Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor bombing by Israel in June 1981, and have hidden many of their facilities underground. Inbar, however, says that an attack would become much more likely in the event that Iran completed its nuclear program. Israel must do "everything" to counter that danger, he says. He envisions an Israeli team, possibly with the cooperation of the Americans, entering Iran from a neighboring country. Because the facilities are underground, a ground team is more likely than an air attack, he says, and because of the difficulty finding Iran's nuclear facilities, Israel would have to concentrate on the main components, and perhaps target scientists and engineers who are instrumental to the program. [.....] http://www.worldoil.com/news/newsstory.asp?ref=http://22.214.171.124/feeds/wo rldoil/new/article_e.asp?energy24=246457 * IRAQ CALLS ON ANNAN TO UNBLOCK OIL CONTRACTS, SEEKS TUNISIA DEAL World Oil (from AFP), 21st January Iraqi Oil Minister Amer Rashid called on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to intercede with the sanctions committee of the world body to unblock contracts worth some one billion dollars. "The secretary general of the UN must undertake intense efforts to unmask the acts of the British and American representatives on the sanctions committee and achieve an unblocking of the contracts," Rashid told Iraqi television. "This committee is still blocking some 800 oil contracts worth more than a billion dollars. The contracts concern equipment aimed at increasing Iraq's production capacity, and consequently, the volume of its oil exports," Rashid added. He accused Washington and London of "using any pretext to stop the Iraqi people from pursuing the 'oil for food programme' which is financed by Iraqi sales of crude oil." The oil-for-food programme was set up in December 1996 to soften the impact of UN sanctions imposed on Iraq after its August 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The country can sell crude oil under strict international monitoring to buy essential goods and medicines. Meanwhile, Iraq on Sunday raised the possibility of Tunisia conducting oil exploration of Iraqi oil fields during Tunisian Industry Minister Monsef bin Abdallah's visit to Baghdad, Iraqi radio reported. Iraqi oil minister Amer Mohamed Al-Rashid, who met with Abdallah, raised the possibility of Tunisia exploring Iraqi oil fields, the radio said, without giving further details. Last February, the two countries signed a free trade agreement and Tunisia has backed Iraq's call for an end to sanctions, slapped on Iraq since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Rashid arrived Saturday, heading a delegation of 40 businessmen. The trip included tours of industrial sites and oil fields, the radio said. Tunisia is a minor oil producer, generating a mere six million barrels of oil in 2001, against an average of some four million tonnes over recent years. http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/020121/2002012106.html * IRAQ TO SIGN FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS WITH THREE ARAB STATES IN THE FIRST QUARTER OF 2002 Arabic News, 21st January Iraq's vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan has announced that his country will sign agreements to found free trade areas with three Arab states in the first half of this year. Ramadan said that Iraq proposed with the six Arab states with which it had agreements of this sort: Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Algeria, Yemen, the UAE the signing of long-trade economic agreements in order to strengthen inter- Arab integration and serving common interests. Iraq had also signed in conclusion of the 73rd session of the Arab economic council on June 7th in Baghdad an agreement to establish a free trade Arab zone with these states. http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,3635206%255E401,00 .html * FIRST IRAQI PRISONERS GO HOME Herald Sun (Australia, from AAP), 22nd January ALMOST 200 Iraqi prisoners held in Iran for the past decade have returned home, the first of 697 Iraqi detainees Tehran has promised to release this week. The 197 men entered the country by bus in the border region of Al-Monzarya, 170 kilometres north-east of Baghdad. The former detainees, who said they had been held in Iran since 1991, were greeted by family members, many of whom could not hold back tears. "We were victims of repression in Iran, which terrorised us," charged a soldier among the former prisoners as he hugged his children. "They say Israel practices terrorism, but Iran does even worse," added Kharir Abbas, a 58 year-old native of the northern city of Mosul. Released under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the group later boarded Iraqi buses for the journey to their homes. How they were taken prisoner three years after the end of the 1980-1988 war between the two countries were not made clear. Iran "has pledged to free 697 Iraqi military personnel as part of an accord reached in Baghdad in January," Fahmi al-Qaissi, an Iraqi foreign ministry official in charge of PoWs, told reporters in Al-Monzarya. "There are no Iranian PoWs in Iraq," Qaissi said, dismissing Tehran's charges that Iraq still holds around 3,200 Iranian soldiers. An Iraqi foreign ministry spokesman said yesterday that Iran had agreed to release the 697 prisoners of war over three days starting today. Iraq and Iran will also "soon" exchange the remains of 1,220 Iraqis and 574 Iranians who died in detention in the two countries, according to the spokesman. The two neighbours have yet to normalise ties more than 13 years after the end of their devastating war, which left nearly one million dead. Baghdad and Tehran, which maintain ties at the level of charge d'affaires, remain at odds over prisoners of war and support for each other's opposition groups. Tehran has denied Baghdad's charges that it still holds 29,000 Iraqi prisoners, while Iraq says another 60,000 are missing. http://atimes.com/c-asia/DA22Ag02.html * GEOSTRATEGIC GAMBIT NETS TURKEY LITTLE by Emad Mekay Asia Times, 22nd January WASHINGTON (Inter Press Service): Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit began a new workweek back home on Monday, after a five-day visit here for which he had little to show in the way of firm financial support for his country's flagging economy from the United States or the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This was despite considerable effort to capitalize on Turkey's historically close relations with the United States and its vanguard cooperation in President George W Bush's war against terrorism. Mehmet Ali Bayar, of the Turkish embassy here, told IPS that the IMF seemed set to hold off on a hard-sought US$10 billion loan until early next month, rather than in the coming week as was originally hoped. Nevertheless, the diplomat said he was confident the fund would sign off on the loan with backing from the United States. Bayar, echoing statements by Economy Minister Kemal Dervis and by IMF officials in recent days, said the agreement had stumbled over the pace at which Turkey is implementing IMF-backed economic reforms aimed at providing greater incentive for foreign investors to enter Turkey. Specific measures include state spending curbs and bank restructuring. IMF spokesman William Murray said the fund's executive board was expected to meet to review the Turkey loan in two or three weeks. Turkish officials said that in addition to the $10 billion from the IMF, a further $6 billion from the World Bank remains at stake. Ecevit told reporters here on Thursday that, likewise, he had not secured a trade agreement with the United States as originally hoped but added that the two sides agreed to set up a commission next month to advance the agenda. Nor did the Turkish leader succeed in persuading US officials to raise new bilateral assistance, lower tariffs, write off some $5 billion in military debt, scrub quotas on Turkish textiles and steel, or help promote tourism. Faruk Tabak, professor of modern Turkish studies at Georgetown University, said Ecevit went home empty-handed because "he had unrealistically high expectations". "The prime minister thought he could capitalize on US plans to strike Iraq, but since that has not actually materialized, he couldn't make it," said Tabak. Since military action against Saddam Hussein's Iraq remains high on the wish list of a number of key US officials, however, observers would not rule out the possibility that Turkey could yet secure economic deals on the coat-tails of US geostrategy. "I don't think that Ecevit is going home empty-handed," said Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkish program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. "Both sides will come with a formula that would allow the US to meet some of the Turkish demands. The US still needs Turkey." He attributed Washington's meager response to Ecevit in part to the slowed US economy. Turkey supported the 1991 US-led war against Iraq and has complained of losing more than $50 billion in trade with its neighbors as a result of the Gulf War and subsequent economic blockade of Baghdad. Ecevit's government has been implementing IMF-endorsed reforms since June 1999 but remains in the throes of an acute economic crisis. It has tapped some $15.3 billion in credit from the IMF over the past two years. US backing is seen as a major factor in continued IMF backing for Turkey, which was the first country with a majority Muslim population to offer troops for a multinational peacekeeping force in Afghanistan. Such gestures aside, said Aliriza, "Turkey needs to get its own house in order. They have not come up with a good performance on primarily attracting foreign investment. They can do a lot better." In line with IMF conditions, the government has pushed several laws through parliament, including a bill approved this month that would put $5 billion into the ailing private banking sector. But the bill awaits approval by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer. The European Union (EU) also has made the establishment of a Western-style free-market economy a condition for Turkey's admission to the EU. Like the IMF and World Bank, the EU has been anxious that Turkey end state control over the banking, transport, and communications industries. It also has demanded improved political and human rights. http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/020122/2002012201.html * MOUSA SAYS HE WILL VISIT THE US ON JANUARY 30TH Arabic News, 22nd January The Secretary General of the Arab League Amre Mousa has stated he will visit New York on January 30th and he will be meeting with the secretary general of the UN Kofi Annan to inform him with the Iraqi ideas he had discussed with the Iraqi officials during his recent visit to Baghdad concerning the relation between Iraq and the UN. Mousa said he had made a telephone call with the chairman of the Jordanian Royal court Fayez al-Trawenah in which he briefed the latter on the results of his visit to Baghdad. http://www.baghdad.com/?action=display&article=11561144&template=baghdad/ind exsearch.txt&index=recent * ARAB LEAGUE CHIEF VISITS KUWAIT The Associated Press, 23rd January KUWAIT: The Arab League chief said Wednesday his talks in Kuwait about Iraqi ideas for reconciliation were ``positive.'' But Amr Moussa told reporters it was too early to judge his efforts or discuss them in detail. ``There are a lot of contacts nowadays but I cannot say that there is a concrete initiative ... but what I can say is that there is a certain dynamism,'' Moussa said. [.....] Moussa later flew to Jordan and briefed King Abdullah II on his talks with Iraqi and Kuwaiti leaders, a Royal Palace official told The Associated Press. Earlier Wednesday, Abdullah met with Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Gen. Richard B. Myers to discuss military cooperation and Jordanian peacekeeping,the official Petra news agency reported. The king also met U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Negroponte who is on a Mideast tour. http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20020123/wl/iraq_iran_pow_dc_1.html * IRAN FREES HUNDREDS OF IRAQI PRISONERS OF WAR Yahoo, 23rd January TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran has released since Monday 682 Iraqi prisoners captured during the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war, completing the latest phase of prisoner exchanges, the official IRNA news agency said Wednesday. It said the prisoners were handed over to Iraqi officials on the Iran-Iraq border at Khosravi, in the western Iranian province of Kermanshah. Iraq's official news agency INA said 259 prisoners of war were handed over by Iran Wednesday, in the third wave of a program of prisoner releases. Baghdad newspapers said Iran released 245 Iraqi prisoners on Tuesday and late Monday freed 188 Iraqi prisoners captured by Iranian forces during Shi'ite Muslim riots in southern Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War (news - web sites). Those prisoners arrived at al-Munthiriya, 106 miles east of Baghdad, late Tuesday night. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy between the two sides' figures. An Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman said Sunday Tehran and Baghdad would also exchange the bodies of 1,183 Iraqis and 574 Iranians who were killed during the Iraq-Iran war. [.....] http://www.irna.com/newshtm/eng/03135507.htm * DIRECT IRAN-SYRIA AIR LINK VIA IRAQ TO START SOON: MAZAHERI Tehran, Jan 23, IRNA -- Iran and Syria is to set up a direct air link through Iraqi airspace soon, the Islamic Republic's Deputy Transport Minister Behzad Mazaheri told participants of a conference in southern Kish Island. The Iranian State Aviation Organization (SAO) on Wednesday further cited the official as saying that Tehran will also formally resume flights into neigboring Iraq for the first time since the end of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. "Once a suitable ground is prepared, Iranian flights into Iraq will resume," Mazaheri told a conference of managing directors of Iranian airports, SAO said. The decision to open air links between Tehran-Damascus via Iraq was made in the wake of successful talks conducted by Iran's Transport Minister Ahmad Khorram with his Iraqi counterpart, Ahmad Murtada Ahmad Khalil who visited the Islamic Republic last week, Mazaheri, the head of the SAO, said. The two ministers last week stressed transport cooperation between Tehran and Baghdad with ties obviously improving after they were strained by the imposed war. Ahmad Khalil, who arrived in Tehran last Sunday on a five-day visit to grace the inauguration of a joint transport committee of the two countries, termed his visit a positive step toward opening a new chapter in ties between the Islamic Republic and Iraq. Iran and Syria last March launched a rail link crossing Turkey as part of their efforts to expand their transport relations. Most Iranians now use the facility to visit holy Shia sites in Syria. The 2,500 km railway was predicted, at the time of opening, to double the number of Iranians visiting Syria then placed at 250,000 a year. http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/020125/2002012503.html * AIR FLIGHTS TO BE RESUMED SHORTLY BETWEEN IRAQ, IRAN Arabic News, 25th January [.....] Currently, flights between Tehran and Damascus go through the Turkish airspace since the war between Iran and Iraq ( 1980- 1988). Most of these flights are run by the Iranian airline and in particular transports pilgrims. Mazahari indicated that direct flights between Iran and Iraq will be resumed " shortly" after agreements were reached between the two countries to this effect. [.....] http://europe.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/meast/01/22/egypt.iraq.ap/index.html * ARAB LEAGUE CHIEF: A STRIKE AGAINST IRAQ UNACCEPTABLE CNN, 23rd January CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- Arabs will try to stave off an American military strike on Iraq, the head of the Arab League said Tuesday, insisting no single Arab country would support such action. "Iraq is an Arab country and Arabs will not allow Iraq to be struck," Amr Moussa said at an evening lecture at the Cairo International Book Fair. "Iraq is not Afghanistan and the Arab public opinion will not accept that." "We are working now by all means to go beyond and avert such a strike," said Moussa, who is heading to Kuwait on Wednesday following discussions last week with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. Moussa refused to give details on his mission or what ideas he and Saddam had discussed. "This matter needs a lot of quiet diplomacy. After that I might talk," he said. Moussa, who is expected in New York next week to meet with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, left Baghdad on Saturday saying that Saddam had presented a new initiative for him to pass on to the United Nations and Arab leaders. He has not provided any details. U.S. President George W. Bush has warned Saddam of unspecified consequences if he does not resume co-operation with U.N. inspectors charged with verifying that Iraq has eliminated its weapons of mass destruction. Iraq has barred the inspectors since 1998. Iraq's relations with its Arab neighbors were broken or seriously harmed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. The U.N. sanctions imposed after the invasion cannot be lifted until the inspectors report that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction. Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said Monday at the same venue that Moussa's efforts provide "a real opportunity to resolve the Iraqi-Kuwaiti crisis." Turning to other issues, the chief of the 22-nation Arab League, which is based in Cairo, said Arabs are going through the most difficult period in decades. He warned that Israel is trying to destroy the Palestinian Authority and to impose its will on the entire region. "It is not only the government of (Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon or the Israeli military, but the entire Israeli establishment which feels that it is on top of the world and trying to impose Israeli hegemony on the Middle East, and not on Palestine alone," he said. "That will never happen. Nobody will accept that," Moussa said. Unlike other lectures at the Cairo International Book Fair, which generally draw small crowds, hundreds of people attended Moussa's lecture. The popular former Egyptian foreign minister was interrupted several times by applause and poetic words of praise. http://www.voanews.com/article.cfm?objectID=CAC260BE-2304-4AD4 B764A692C6C74A09&Title=Arab%20League%20Comments%20on%20Iraq%20Draw%20Critici sim * ARAB LEAGUE COMMENTS ON IRAQ DRAW CRITICISM by Greg LaMotte Voice of America, 23rd January Cairo: A top Arab affairs expert in Egypt has criticized comments made by Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, who said that no Arab country would allow the United States to take military action against Iraq. Secretary-General Moussa said late Tuesday at the Cairo International Book Fair that, "Iraq is an Arab country and Arabs will not allow Iraq to be struck." However, Egyptian analyst Abdullah el-Ashaal said Mr. Moussa's comments could only have been made to reflect Arab public opinion. Mr. el-Ashaal says there is no consensus among Arab governments regarding any potential U.S. military operations in Iraq. "He is not speaking for the governments but he may be speaking for the public opinion. Amr Moussa wants to be the hero of the whole scene now. He knows, very well, how to address public opinion through the media," he said. [.....] In March, the Arab League is scheduled to hold its annual summit in Beirut. The only announced agenda item is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and so far nothing about Iraq. [.....] Next week, Mr. Moussa travels to New York for meetings with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. [.....] http://www.worldoil.com/news/newsstory.asp?ref=http://126.96.36.199/feeds/wo rldoil/new/article_e.asp?energy24=246549 * OIL ACCORD SIGNED World Oil (from AFP), 23rd January Tunisia has agreed to develop an oilfield in southern Iraq with a capacity of 40,000 barrels per day (bpd). A protocol agreement was signed in Baghdad by Iraqi Oil Minister Amer Mohammed Rashid and Tunisia's Industry Minister Monsef bin Abdullah. "We have agreed on Tunisian firms going ahead with the development of Al-Kafl field located in the west of Nejaf province," Rashid told reporters after the signing. Tunisia has been linked with Iraq since February 2001 by a free trade accord and supports Iraqi calls for a lifting of the embargo in force since Baghdad's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/020124/2002012416.html * Iraqi- Libyan talks Arabic News, 24th January The secretary of resources, the environment and building planning secretary at the Libyan people's congress Hatyoush Faraj Hatyoush met on Wednesday with the deputy chairman of the Iraqi national council ( Parliament) Hamid al-Rawi and members of the accompanying delegation currently visiting Libya. The two sides discussed cooperation relations between the two sisterly states and means of strengthening them in all fields as well as means of developing relations between the Libyan general people's congress and the Iraqi national council. http://www.jpost.com/Editions/2002/01/23/Columns/Columns.42169.html * THE ARAB VIEW: THE WAY SYRIA SEES IT by Gareth Smith Jerusalem Post (from Khaleej Times, United Arab Emirates), 23rd January [.....] Another threat to the Syrian-US thaw is the talk in Washington - especially from Paul Wolfowitz, deputy defense secretary and chief "hawk" - of military action against Iraq as part of the "war on terrorism." Syria has no love for Saddam Hussein (the split in the two wings of the Ba'ath party was a very bitter one) but Damascus has certainly improved relations with Iraq in recent years, especially since Bashar Assad succeeded his father as president in 2000. Part of the reason for this is the realization that UN sanctions have not removed Saddam, or, arguably, even weakened him. "We believe it's time to remove sanctions," says Planning Minister Issam Zaim. "Those who were targeted have not been affected. Those who were not targeted have been badly affected: The Iraqi people have suffered enough." Aside from political considerations, Syria is developing an economic interest in a stable or even expanding Iraqi economy, an interest that could be badly disrupted by US attacks on Iraq. The Syrian economy has struggled in recent years - its GDP barely keeping pace with 2.5% population growth - and Iraq during the past four years has quietly become a valuable export market, despite the constraints of sanctions. "We expect trade with Iraq to increase," Zaim told me. "Turkey is trading with Iraq - why shouldn't we?" Since trade between Iraq and Syria resumed in 1997, Syrian exports have grown to $1 billion in 2001. This figure could double in 2002, according to Muhammad Mehdi Saleh, the Iraqi economy and trade minister. Oil analysts argue that Iraq, in return, has been exporting oil to Syria through the overland pipeline that fell into disuse in the early 1980s - a charge denied by Syria. One analyst estimates that Syria pumps 125,000 barrels per day, which it consumes at home, enabling it to export 340,000 barrels per day of its own production that account for more than 60% of Syrian export earnings. The economic links between Syria and Iraq worry the "hawks" in the US. Apart from easing the pressure on Baghdad, they help spread the consequences of any US strike against Iraq, and emphasize the point that Syria's support for the "war on terrorism" has clear limits. "Aside from disrupting trade and possibly producing a refugee crisis, US action against Iraq could produce widespread Arab resentment and create real opportunities for the religious opposition in both Syria and Egypt," one Western diplomat said. This is, to say the least, an unlikely recipe for continued US-Syrian cooperation. http://news.ft.com/ft/gx.cgi/ftc?pagename=View&c=Article&cid=FT3T5VGCWWC&liv e=true&tagid=ZZZINS5VA0C&subheading=middle%20east%20and%20africa * US ANXIETY DRIVES SADDAM TO SEEK NEW ARAB ALLIES by Roula Khalaf in Riyadh Financial Times, 25th January With the anti-terrorism campaign renewing suspicion of Iraq's weapons programme and raising the spectre of a US military campaign against Baghdad, Saddam Hussein is looking for new friends in the Arab world. This week Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, toured several Arab capitals, including Riyadh, carrying new "thoughts" by Mr Saddam aimed at reaching an Arab compromise over Iraq. Arab rulers, including those in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, are backing the efforts. Privately, however, Gulf officials say they suspect Mr Saddam's enlisting of the Arab League is aimed at buying time and thwarting any plans the US might devise to overthrow him. "What is motivating Saddam is fear of destruction; it's the wrong motivation if you want to win friends in the region," said an official in Riyadh. "He's trying to create momentum before the Arab summit and the perception of progress to delay what someone else might be contemplating." The Iraq-Kuwait dispute is likely to top the agenda at the summit in Beirut at the end of March. The issue dominated last year's gathering of Arab rulers in Amman. But despite frantic efforts by Jordan to persuade Iraq to agree to a resolution that would have called for a lifting of United Nations sanctions and provided Kuwait with Iraqi security guarantees, Mr Saddam rejected the compromise. The US has not reached a decision to attack Iraq in the second phase of the anti-terrorism campaign. Administration officials who had been advocating a military campaign to oust Mr Saddam are holding back amid opposition in Europe and the Arab world and concerns about the military capability of the exiled Iraqi opposition. The Iraqi leader may be willing to show more flexibility at this year's meeting in order to influence the debate in Washington. But his neighbours, who remain suspicious of his intentions, might also ask for greater concessions this time. Saudi Arabia is opposed to a US military attack on Iraq in the context of the war against terrorism. Its ban on US aircraft taking off from its territory to bomb Iraq has been the source of tension with the Pentagon. Periodic bombing of Iraq, argues Riyadh, has strengthened Mr Saddam's grip on power and angered Arab public opinion. But Arab and western diplomats say the Saudi government might be willing to back a US military campaign in the future if the US builds a consensus first at the UN Security Council and creates a more favourable environment in the Middle East. http://www.irna.com/newshtm/eng/05203037.htm * IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER ARRIVES IN TEHRAN Tehran, Jan 25, IRNA -- Iraqi Foreign Minister Najib Sabri arrived here Friday on a four-day visit. He was welcomed at Tehran Mehrabad Airport by Deputy Foreign Minister for International and Legal Affairs Javad Zarif. Upon arrival, he said," I have come from Baghdad at the invitation of my counterpart Kamal Kharrazi, so that we can solve with the Iranian authorities the last outstanding issues from the war. We hope that the result of these discussions will be to achieve peace." Zarif told reporters that the visit by the Iraqi delegation aims to resolve some humanitarian issues concerning the prisoners of war and those missing in action. During his stay in Tehran, Sabri will have meetings with President Mohammad Khatami, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and some other ranking officials of the country. IRAQI/INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS http://www.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=6718 * INDIA TO BUILD RAILWAY NETWORK FOR IRAQ The Indian Express, 22nd January Dubai, January 22: India and Iraq are close to signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to build a state-of-the-art sky bus network in Baghdad and a 250-km railway line from Baghdad to Mushaba, Minister of State for Railways Digvijay Singh said. The two Turnkey projects, worth about $2.7 billion, are to be executed by the Konkan Railway Corporation Ltd (KRCL) and Rites, the construction wing of the Indian Railways, the second-largest in the world, Singh said. The two projects will help Iraq put back on track the transport infrastructure in its capital, which had been in shambles following the Gulf war in 1991 and the subsequent imposition of international sanctions. The KRCL, which built and commissioned in 1998 the 760-km Konkan Railway along the western coast of India, is renowned for its expertise in building railway lines through inhospitable terrain. Rites Ltd, set up as a consultancy arm of the Indian Railways in 1974, has implemented a variety of projects over the last 26 years in 56 countries including Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran and Iraq. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow.asp?art_id=947663414 * IRAQ TO SEEK RUSSIAN SUPPORT OVER UN SANCTIONS Times of India (from AFP), 23rd January MOSCOW: Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz was due to arrive in Moscow on Wednesday hoping to press Baghdad's case to Russian officials currently discussing with the United States a review of UN sanctions against his country. Aziz is scheduled to hold talks here on Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov as well as the other senior political figures including the speaker of the State Duma (lower house), Gennady Seleznyov, the Russian foreign ministry said. Aziz would "urge Russia to play a more active role in the face of US and British attempts to impose new conditions on Iraq," a diplomatic source in Baghdad said on Tuesday. The Iraqi deputy premier would also discuss a Russian plan bracketing the return of UN arms inspectors to Iraq and a suspension of the sanctions imposed on Baghdad since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the sources said. Russia and the United States are holding talks on a new Iraqi sanctions regime that would establish a list of goods with a military potential that would require authorisation from the Security Council before being sold to Iraq. After initially refusing to support a UN sanctions review against Iraq, Russia in November said it would back the initiative while stressing the importance of persuading Baghdad to allow the United Nations to resume arms inspections. UN inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq in December 1998, on the eve of a bombing campaign by US and British warplanes, and were not allowed to return. Aziz, who was due to arrive in Moscow around 1315 GMT on Wednesday, will fly on to China, another key permanent member of the UN Security Council, after the Russian talks. http://www.reuters.com/news_article.jhtml?type=worldnews&StoryID=542755 * RUSSIA WARNS U.S. AGAINST MILITARY STRIKE ON IRAQ by Oleg Shchedrov Reuters, 24th January MOSCOW: Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Thursday that Moscow was opposed to any U.S. military operation against Iraq, offering crucial support to Baghdad in its confrontation with Washington. In a further gesture of support after talks with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz, Ivanov said Moscow wanted sanctions against Iraq to be lifted. Aziz arrived in Moscow Wednesday amid threats by Washington to use force against Iraq if it refused to allow in U.N. arms inspectors, who left Iraq in 1998 complaining they were being prevented from performing their duties. "We will not submit to U.S. threats," Aziz told a news conference during a break in the talks. "If we face aggression, we will defend our country." After the Sept. 11 suicide attacks in the United States, Russia joined the U.S.-led anti terrorism coalition and backed Washington's military operation in Afghanistan. Moscow has repeatedly warned the West of the threat posed by Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers, accused by Washington of harboring Saudi-born militant Osama bin-Laden, held responsible for the attacks. Russia has maintained close ties with Iraq and is trying to recover Soviet-era debts of about $9 billion. It is deeply suspicious of U.S. plans to extend military action to other countries suspected of backing international terrorism. Washington lists Baghdad among its prime suspects. "The struggle against terrorism should be based on a firm legal basis and the U.N. should play a coordinating role in the joint international effort," Ivanov said. "That is why Russia sees as unacceptable a mechanical spread of the anti-terrorist operation to any other country, including Iraq." "If such a thing occurred, this would not only weaken the anti-terrorist coalition but also help extremist forces which want to ruin this coalition and aim at using contradictions among its members to achieve their goals." The dispatch of inspectors, intended to determine whether Baghdad held chemical and biological weapons, was part of the U.N. action against Iraq undertaken after the 1991 Gulf War to eject Iraq from Kuwait. The action, authorized by U.N. Security Council resolution 681, also included economic sanctions against Iraq. Asked if Baghdad was ready to bow to U.S. pressure and allow the inspectors back, Aziz said: "If you want a solution, you have to want a package -- we support that." "We will carry out our obligations, but let others carry out their obligations in accordance with the U.N. Security Council's resolutions," he added. Ivanov reiterated Russia's support for lifting sanctions against Iraq, which he described as "counterproductive." He welcomed dialogue between Baghdad and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, started last year. "Any solution should state clearly the prospects and conditions for lifting sanctions as envisaged in the U.N. Security Council's resolution," he said. http://www.bday.co.za/bday/content/direct/1,3523,1009076-6078-0,00.html * IRAQ DEFIES US 'SMART SANCTIONS' Business Day (from AFP), 25th January Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz began talks with Russian officials on Thursday to try and persuade Moscow to block American moves to introduce a new "smart" UN sanctions regime for Iraq. Aziz met parliamentary leaders in the State Duma lower chamber, including the head of the pro-Kremlin Unity faction, Vladimir Pekhtin, and Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov. The Iraqi deputy premier, who arrived in Moscow Wednesday, was to hold talks with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov late Thursday. "We have common views on the international situation. I hope Russia will help us. Russia is a traditional friend of Iraq," Aziz told reporters. Russia and the United States are holding talks on a new Iraqi sanctions regime that would establish a list of goods with a military potential that would require authorisation from the Security Council before being sold to Iraq. After initially refusing to support a UN sanctions review against Iraq, Russia in November said it would back the initiative while stressing the importance of persuading Baghdad to allow the United Nations to resume arms inspections. [.....] Pekhtin, of the pro-Kremlin Unity group, told Aziz that Russia had suffered huge economic losses from the sanctions, amounting to $17-billion over the past decade. "We will do everything to defend our economic interests and we will not allow a tightening of the UN sanctions against Iraq," he said according to a statement released by his Unity party. Pekhtin also denounced US threats of military action against Iraq, saying: "Russia and the Arab world are categorically against military pressure on Iraq." REMNANTS OF DECENCY http://observer.co.uk/comment/story/0,6903,636262,00.html * TROUBLESOME PRIEST? by Stephen Pritchard The Observer, 20th January A favourite charge laid against the Church today is that it is out of touch with real issues and fails to understand the way the modern world works - in short, that it is irrelevant. But the Most Reverend Dr Rowan Williams, currently front-runner - and the bookies' 6-4 favourite - in the Trollopian process of finding a new Archbishop of Canterbury, has a unique claim to being a cleric of our time: he was 200 yards away in Wall Street when two hijacked passenger jets flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre. His reaction to that catastrophe offers an insight into the mind of the compassionate preacher, teacher, biographer and theologian who is currently Archbishop of Wales. Two days later he wrote: 'For a couple of hours I, along with a lot of other people in southern Manhattan, had to face the real possibility of sudden and violent death as buildings collapsed and the streets filled with choking dust, fumes and falling debris.' As it happened in front of his eyes he thought to himself: 'Now I know just a little of what it is like for so many human beings, Israelis and Palestinians now, and Iraqis a few years ago... we would have a language in common, even though our experience was less and our danger short-lived... we have been "spoken to" in the language of terror and hate; if we reply in the same terms, we say, "All right, that's how we are going to go on, that's what we treat as normal". We have a choice which language we speak, how the conversation goes on. 'It seemed that morning that the closer you were to facing and accepting death, the harder it was to wish the fear on anyone else... The prospect of death elbows aside thoughts of power and revenge. The unspeakable tragedy of thousands of innocent dead - the tragedy unfolding around us that morning - cannot be made "better" by more deaths. It may be humanly as unforgivable as it gets; but that is not the same as saying that revenge (as opposed to just punishment) is what is needed.' Tony Blair, who has invested so much of his political credibility in prosecuting the 'War against Terrorism', will stir uneasily in his chair if Rowan Williams's name is put before him on a shortlist of two when he comes to choose the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury since Augustine arrived on these shores in 597. [.....] Rowan Williams ended his thoughts on the events of 11 September with these words: 'When we speak to God in the language of hatred and rejection, nails and spears, nail-bombs and air strikes, terror attacks and the bleeding bodies of children, in Ireland, Baghdad, Jerusalem or New York, God refuses to answer in that language. He can only speak his own Word which, in the incarnation, is a Word shared with us. But how hard for us really to believe we are free to speak God's language. Perhaps only the terrible moments of vulnerability remind us of it. How do we make it normal and natural. But does the Church exist, ultimately, for any end but this?' [.....] http://www.nydailynews.com/2002-01-23/News_and_Views/City_Beat/a-139069.asp * 46 BUSTED IN IRAQ PROTEST by John Marzulli New York Daily News, 23rd January Police arrested 46 demonstrators who were protesting U.S. economic sanctions against Iraq yesterday in midtown. The demonstrators, from groups including Voices in the Wilderness, New York Catholic Worker and the Atlantic Life Community, held an unscheduled rally outside the United States Mission to the United Nations on First Ave. around 9:30 a.m. About an hour later, the demonstrators were ordered to disperse and were arrested when they refused, said NYPD spokesman Detective Kevin Czartoryski. Most of those arrested were from outside the city, some from as far as Wisconsin and Maryland. They were charged with obstructing government administration and trespassing. NEW WORLD ORDER http://cgi.usatoday.com/usatonline/20020125/3803817s.htm * CLINTON: U.S. POLICIES NOT TO BLAME FOR TERROR BY MUSLIM RADICALS by Bill Nichols USA Today, 25th January NEW YORK -- Former president Bill Clinton passionately rejected charges Thursday that his policies -- and those of his successor -- helped foster the Islamic extremism behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Clinton's spirited defense came at a daylong conference on ''America and Islam'' sponsored by his presidential foundation at the New York University School of Law. Several of the Islamic scholars, activists and academics who took part conceded that a lack of free speech and other freedoms in many Muslim countries has contributed to the rise of Islamic extremism around the world. Many also said U.S. support for Israel and Washington's unwillingness to push for democratic reforms within the Arab world have helped foster terrorism. Clinton said his and President Bush's policies are not at fault. If Muslims want more evenhanded treatment from the United States, ''there's only one thing you have to do: get everybody over there to affirm Israel's right to exist.'' Clinton admitted, however, that he deserves criticism for not pushing hard enough to persuade repressive Muslim regimes to move toward democracy. ''I didn't do as good a job of that as I should have,'' he said. ''But I couldn't figure out how to do it.'' ''Tell us how to do it,'' the former president urged the participants. The conference is the first of a series of seminars to be sponsored by the Clinton foundation, which is one of several vehicles the 42nd president plans to use to speak out on public policy. Looking tired but tan from a recent visit to the Middle East, Clinton continued his post Sept. 11 stance of expressing unqualified support for Bush's conduct of the war against terrorism. Clinton also rejected criticism of U.S. sanctions against Iraq by some Muslim leaders. He said Iraq's Saddam Hussein represents a global threat and no Muslim governments offered alternatives for containing Saddam's weapons program. ''There's no question he's rebuilding his weapons of mass destruction,'' Clinton said. Despite the difference of views, Clinton praised participants for expressing the anger felt in parts of the Muslim world. Clinton joked that on a recent trip to Israel, a man shouted out at him, ''Arab-lover!'' Clinton said he turned to the person next to him and said, ''Yes, I am.'' http://atimes.com/c-asia/DA26Ag01.html * PIPELINEISTAN, PART 2: THE GAMES NATIONS PLAY by Pepe Escobar Asia Times, 26th January Part 1: The rules of the game Two months ago, the White House was deliriously happy with the official opening of the first new pipeline of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium - a joint venture including Russia, Kazakhstan, Oman, ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobil and a bunch of other minor players. This $2.65 billion pipeline links the enormous Tengiz oilfield in northwestern Kazakhstan to the Russian port of Novorossiysk on the Black Sea: from there, the sky - ie the world market - is the limit. Bush II, according to the White House, is developing "a network of multiple Caspian pipelines that also include the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, Baku-Supsa, and Baku Novorossiyisk oil pipelines, and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline". So one of the key nodes in the American petrostrategy is composed by Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. The pipeline consortium for Baku-Ceyhan, led by British Petroleum, is represented by the law firm Baker & Botts. The principal attorney is none other than Texan superstar James Baker - secretary of state under Bush I and chief spokesman for the Bush II 2000 campaign when all gloves were off to shut down the Florida vote recount. Texas-based, scandal-prone Enron, together with Amoco, Chevron, Mobil, UNOCAL and British Petroleum, were all spending billions of dollars to pump the reserves of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Baker, Scowcroft, Sununu and Cheney have all closed major deals directly and indirectly on behalf of the oil companies. But now the Enron scandal has just exploded right in the face of the oil industry - and Bush II's administration. It will be very enlightening to see what the American tradition of investigative journalism will make of all this. Enron once had a market value of $70 billion. It filed for bankruptcy in December 2001 after admitting it ovestated its profits by almost $600 million. Paul Krugman wrote that "Enron helped Dick Cheney devise an energy plan that certainly looks as if it was written by and for the companies that advised his task force". The Enron big-time crooks - close pals of Cheney and Bush II - dwarf any Asian "crony capitalists" Americans were carping about before and after the Asian financial crisis. There's no shortage of crooks in the oil industry. Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan have intimate relations with Israeli military intelligence. A so-called "former" Israeli intelligence agent, Yousef Maiman, president of the Mehrav Group of Israel, is nothing less than "Special Ambassador", official negotiatior and even policymaker responsible for developing the enormous energy resources of Turkmenistan. Maiman is a citizen of the gas republic by presidential decree - signed by the Turkmenbashi himself, the fabulously megalomaniac Saparmurad Niazov, former member of the Soviet Politburo. Maiman, according to the Wall Street Journal, is actively involved in advancing the "geopolitical goals of both the US and Israel" in Central Asia. He certainly does not beat around the bush: "Controlling the transport route is controlling the product." Nobody knows where Mehrav's money comes from. Mehrav's planned pipelines bypass both Iran and Russia. But after the conquest of Afghanistan, oil sources in Singapore say Mehrav may consider dealing with Iran. It's all to do with the importance of the Turkish market. Russia and Turkmenistan are fiercely competing to conquer the Turkish gas market. Considering the strategic relationship between Turkey and Israel, the Israeli game remains preventing Turkish strategic dependence on Iran. Turkey is a NATO member and a key US ally. The US and Britain routinely strike against Iraq from Turkish bases - from which they patrol the unillateraly-declared Iraqi "no-fly zones". These "no-fly zones" are obviously not sanctioned by the UN. Mehrav is also involved in a murderous project to reduce the flow of water to Iraq by diverting water from the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers to southeastern Turkey. And Magal Security Systems, an Israeli company, is also involved with Turkey: it will provide security for the 2,000 km-long oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. Crook-infested Enron - the biggest donor to the Bush campaign of 2000 - was ubiquitious: it conducted the feasibility study for the $2.5 billion trans-Caspian pipeline being built under a joint venture signed almost three years ago between Turkmenistan and Bechtel and General Electric. The go-between in the deal was none other than the Mehrav Group. Chairman Maiman spent a fortune hiring the Washington lobbying firm Cassidy and Associates to seduce official Washington with the trans-Caspian pipeline project. The intrincate relationship between Israel, Turkey and the US means that as much as the trans-Caspian pipeline, the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline is also absolutely crucial. It could be extended to bring oil directly to thirsty Israel. During the Clinton years, oil giants were under tremendous pressure to build East-West pipelines. But all of them preferred to build North South pipelines - much cheaper, but with the inconvenience of crossing Iran, an absolute anathema for Washington. Russia already has a contract with Turkmenistan to purchase 30 billion cubic meters of gas a year. This represents a big blow to the US field of dreams, the trans-Caspian gas pipeline. This also means that Russia will never let go of its sphere of influence without a tremendous fight. The Central Asian republics are on its borders, Russia has dominated them for centuries and they are home to millions of Russians. Russian is still the language they all use to do business with each other. Thanks to master political chess player Vladimir Putin, Russia is now on the cosiest terms possible with Washington - and US-Iran antipathy is apparently receding. Russia may eventually become a partner in at least some of Washington's petrostrategy games in Central Asia - like the Caspian Pipeline Consortium. The regional map also reveals that Iran, besides holding important gas reserves, offers the best direct access from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf, where oil and gas can be quickly exported to Asian markets. Iran assumes, not entirely without reason, that it is the rightful guardian of Central Asia because of centuries of ethnic, historical, linguistic and religious ties. And Iran is very conscious that American military links and now physical presence in Central Asia are part of a strategy to encircle it. But even amid so many geopolitical and ideological pitfalls, the fact remains that as long as the US is militarily involved in Afghanistan, there will be some sort of US-Iranian diplomatic engagement. Under the control of the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), pipelines from Central Asia will also reach China's Xinjiang. Oil sources in Singapore stress that this will certainly spell a slump for the sea routes across the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. Washington is more than aware through its think tanks of the consequences: an extremely likely strategic realignment between China, Japan and Korea. The Chinese have their sights on only one terrifying prospect: the encirclement of China by the US. UNOCAL is dreaming about profits. Washington is thinking about the robust Chinese economy. Whatever "war against terror" distractions, China remains the key strategic competitor to the US in the 21st century. With Afghanistan in the bag, UNOCAL dreams of monster profits in the Asian market - much higher than in Europe - while Washington closely monitors the Chinese economy: growth of 8 percent in 2000, 7 percent in 2001, and needing all the oil and gas it can get. Chinese strategists are working around the clock to develop local forms of energy production. What happens next will be closely linked to the deliberations of the Shanghai Five, now Shanghai Six, or more burocratically, the Shangahi Cooperation Organization (SCO): China and Russia, plus four Central Asian republics (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Takijistan and Uzbekistan). Manouvering with extreme care, China is using the SCO to align Russia economically and politically towards China and northeast Asia. At the same time, Russia is using the SCO to maintain its traditional hegemony in Central Asia. The name of the game for solidifying the alliance is Russian export of its enormous reserves of oil and gas. Since the NATO war against Yugoslavia and the de facto occupation of Kosovo - where America built its largest military base since the Vietnam War - China and Russia have their minds set on Chechnya and Muslim Xinjiang. For the moment, at least, America has absolutely no way of interfering in these domestic problems, since China and especially Russia are endorsing the war against terrorism. The Taliban were never a target in the "war against terrorism". They were just a scapegoat - rather, a horde of medieval warrior scapegoats who simply did not fulfill their contract: to insert Aghanistan into Pipelineistan. All the regional players now know America is in Central Asia to stay, as Washington itself has been stridently repeating these last few weeks, and it will be influencing or disturbing the economy and geopolitics of the region. The wider world is absolutely oblivious to these real stakes in the New Great Game. The US at the time of the Gulf War did not show any interest in replacing "Satan" Hussein. That would seriously compromise the American design to establish bases on the Arabian peninsula on the convenient pretext of helping poor Arab sheikhs against the Iraqi Evil Monster. More than a decade later, Satan Hussein is still there, Bush I is now Bush II, and assorted Pentagon hawks are still fuming, trying to fabricate any excuse to blow Saddam back to Mesopotamian ashes. But Saddam will not be attacked, because Saddam is the ultimate reason for American military bases in the Gulf - a splendid affair because on top of it all it is a free ride, the expenses being paid by the ultra-flush sheikdoms. Now, after the (also unfinished) New Afghan War, American forces are already establishing themselves in Central and South Asia to once again "protect the interests of the free world". It is never enough to remember that after the end of the communist regime in Afghanistan, the American strategy was to deliberately let Islamic extremism go wild - a perfect way to scare the unstable regimes in the Central Asian neo-republics. Islamic fundamentalism has always been a key card in the American strategic design since the Cold War days when the CIA subcontracted to the Pakistani ISI the arm-them-to-their-teeth policy regarding the mujahideen. It is always easy to forget that the good-guys-turned-bad-guys were once were hailed by Ronnie Reagan himself at the Oval Office as "the moral equivalent of the founding fathers". America has been trying hard to "get" Afghanistan - the heart of Asia in Antiquity, the Pipelineistan crossroads of Asia nowadays - for more than 20 years. In the process, the mujahideen transformed Afghanistan, with CIA blessing, into the world's leading producer of heroin, opening the crucial and ultra-profitable drug pipeline Afghanistan-Turkey Balkans-Western Europe. More than a martini, oil-arms-drugs is the classic CIA cocktail. This "Drugistan" road has just been spetacularly reopened after the fall of the Taliban. Pipelineistan is not an end in itself. Oil and gas by themselves are not the US's ultimate aim. It's all about control. In Monopoly, Belgian writer Michel Collon wrote: "If you want to rule the world, you need to control oil. All the oil. Anywhere." If the US controls the sources of energy of its rivals - Europe, Japan, China and other nations aspiring to be more independent - they win. This explains why pipelines from the Caucasus to the West have to be America-friendly - ie Turkish or Macedonian - and not "unreliable", meaning Russian controled. Washington, always, has to control everything: that's what Brzezinski and Henry Kissinger always said. The same goes for the military bases in Saudi Arabia, and now in Pakistan and Afghanistan. There's no business like war business. Thanks to war against Iraq, the US has its military bases in the Persian Gulf. Thanks to war against Yugoslavia, the US has its military bases in Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia. Thanks to war against the Taliban, the US is now in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Not to mention the base in Incirlik, Turkey. The US is also in the Caucasus - in Georgia and Azerbaijan. Iran, China and Russia are practically encircled. There's no business like show business. Raise the curtains. Enter Pipelineistan. (Applause). -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- 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.