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News, 23/2-2/3/02 (2) IRAQI OPPOSITION * MPs mark 14th anniversary of Iraqi chemical attacks on Halabja * The Kurds' "Axis of Evil", USA and " War on Terrorism" [Kurd writer proposing that the US should adopt as a war aim the establishment of an independent Kurdistan, simultaneously taking on Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran] * After Saddam [Gives a brief account of possible successors. Of Nazar Khazraji it says: The main Kurdish parties, the KDP and PUK, apparently support him, but a smaller Kurdish group has sought to have him prosecuted for war crimes. This relates to his alleged role in the use of chemical weapons against the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988. Gen Khazraji says the allegations have been invented by Iraqi intelligence services.¹ Presumably the story about Halabja could only have any credibility if he actually did serve in Northern Iraq/Southern Kurdistan. So why should the KDP and PUK - both - support him?] * Former Iraqi Officers to Meet in Washington [Up until now the idea of getting a crowd of Saddam Hussein military minded Sunni Muslim lookalikes together was the State Department¹s¹ idea, in opposition to the Defense department, which seemed to be pro-INC (which includes, theoretically at least, Kurds and Shi¹i, who may not be too keen on former Iraqi officers¹ etc). It was therefore surprising to see that this meeting is here said to be convened by the INC. Less surprising to see later articles in which the State Department claim that the INC had jumped the gun in pretending that they were going to be allowed to do anything so important as to convene such a meeting.] * Iraqi military opposition to host DC conference [Here the meeting is being convened by the INC but might not have the financial support of the State Dept (though given the INC¹s budget, why should it need additional funding from the State Dept?)] * U.S. stirs efforts to oust Saddam [Here the Iraqi opposition meeting is being convened by the State Dept, not by the INC: a senior State Department official said the Iraqi group would not act as the host.¹] * U.S. ponders anti-Saddam transmitter near Iraq [I thought the one thing the INC had done was to establish an anti-Saddam radio station. If, after all these years and all that money, they haven¹t even got that far ...] * Self-Help Strategy For Iraq [A more interesting case than usual for the overthrow of S.Hussein, from Ayad Alawi, of the Iraqi National Accord.] URL ONLY: http://www.washtimes.com/world/20020227-73785539.htm * U.S. MEETS GROUPS OPPOSING SADDAM by Barry Schweid Washington Times (from ASSOCIATED PRESS), 27th February [Small groups of American diplomats and intelligence analysts infiltrate northern Iraq periodically to confer with Kurds and other opponents of the Baghdad government in an attempt to unsettle President Saddam Hussein, U.S. officials confirmed yesterday ...In December, a State Department group headed by American diplomat Ryan Crocker went to northern Iraq to help pull together Kurdish and other anti-Saddam forces. It was the last such trip by U.S. officials, but there were several earlier and they are likely to happen again, said a U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.¹ Rather a non-story, what?] LESSER BREEDS WITHOUT THE LAW 1. BRITAIN * Blair and Bush to plot war on Iraq-paper [This is a better account than the original Observer article (see URLs only), making it more obvious that no-one, not even the senior government official¹ has actually said that Blair and Bush are plotting a war on Iraq. One imagines that if Bush is plotting such a war, Mr Blair will be informed of the fact, eventually. The article refers to the promising signs of Labour opposition: Labour MP and former minister Joyce Quin said only concrete proof that Iraq was supporting terrorism or developing "new and dangerous weapons," could justify military action.¹. But it seems to me improbable that a country threatened with imminent annihilation by a quantity of weapons of mass destruction unknown in the history of mankind and deprived by a craven international community¹ of the means of defending itself would not be making some effort to develop new and dangerous weapons.¹] * Blair tries to steel MPs for possible attacks on Iraq [It is a curious thing that a vast majority of MPs belonging to the ruling party say they are opposed to the use of British facilities for the use of the proposed US missile defence¹ system; and yet no-one doubts for a moment that British facilities WILL be used for the proposed US missile defence¹ system. Its called democracy (or rather freedom of speech¹ according to the principle of Frederick the Great: My subjects say what they like; I do what I like.¹) Interesting quote from Rumsfield: Mr Rumsfeld also said yesterday that he would be happy to return British prisoners being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as long as Britain agreed to prosecute them and make them available for further questioning by the US.¹ He presumably said this the day before he announced that the US wouldn¹t be prosecuting them because they didn¹t have any evidence.] * Support for a US assault on Iraq could rip Labour apart [An optimistic view that there is sufficient decency in the Labour Party to cause TB some serious trouble. Personally I think they will all rally round in the end, but its good to see someone with the spirit to hope for something better.] * Caution urged over Iraq [Views of Donald Anderson, Menzies Campbell (the UK's approach to world matters tended to be "more mature" than the US approach¹ !), George Galloway (pity to see him apparently taking the war against terrorism¹ rhetoric seriously.)] * Iraq asks UK to pinpoint weapons sites * Britain Sets Conditions For Possible US Action Against Iraq [Hoon seems to be suggesting he might take up Iraq¹s challenge to come and look at possible weapons of mass destruction sites. Though after seven years of co-operating with UN weapons inspectors - until the US replaced them with a bunch of spies and made it clear that the process would be endless its a bit rich to say: they have consistently refused to allow U.N. weapons inspections.¹] * Blair urged to resist US `hawks' * PM faces dissent on Iraq after supportive words for Bush's fighting talk URLs ONLY: http://observer.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,656231,00.html * BLAIR AND BUSH TO PLOT WAR ON IRAQ by Kamal Ahmed The Observer, 24th February [A large percentage of this week¹s articles were spawned by this, which contains no hard information whatsoever. A more interesting summary will be found in the Reuter¹s account Blair and Bush to plot war on Iraq paper¹] http://news.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=217712002 * PLAY IT COOL: UNITED STATES WARNED NOT TO LAUNCH ATTACK ON IRAQ by Alison Hardie The Scotsman, 26th February Gives story of Kofi Annan advising against an attack, then adds this amusing little tidbit: A Downing Street spokesman played down suggestions that the UK would support a US attack on Iraq. He said: "We have always said that there would be a second phase to the battle against terrorism, but what 11 September showed us is that the Americans are carrying this forward in a way which takes account of the views of the coalition partners.¹ http://news.ft.com/ft/gx.cgi/ftc?pagename=View&c=Article&cid=FT3629QR4YC&liv e=true&tagid=ZZZPB7GUA0C&subheading=UK * BLAIR WARNED AGAINST SUPPORTING US MOVES ON IRAQ by Andrew Parker, Political Correspondent Financial Times, 26th February [Despite the headline this is mainly about Blair¹s desire to go to war but doesn¹t offer any more hard facts than the Observer article. It does however include this paragraph, suggesting in an amusingly straightfaced manner that Britain might, on questions of this sort, have a mind of its own: Britain is leaning towards support for US military action against Iraq because of mounting evidence that Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi president, has developed weapons of mass destruction. The UK is also increasingly convinced that attempts to contain Mr Saddam have failed.¹] http://www.reuters.co.uk/news_article.jhtml?type=topnews&StoryID=643117 * BLAIR BACKS BUSH ON WEAPONS TALK Reuter's, 27th February [Asked in an interview by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation whether he agreed with Bush that there was an axis of evil, Blair said: "I certainly agree with him very strongly that weapons of mass destruction represent a real threat to world stability. I think it's important that we act against them. ... Weapons of mass destruction ...²are a real threat. George Bush is right to draw attention to that. ... Those who are engaged in spreading weapons of mass destruction are engaged in an evil trade and it is important that we make sure that we take action in respect of it ... He is right to raise these issues and has our support in doing so ... "¹ From which one might conclude, if one thought Mr Blair was aware of the meaning of the words he uses, that Britain was about to dismantle its huge weapons of mass destruction industry and export business, and put pressure on our American friends to do the same.] 2. EUROPE * German defense minister urges international pressure on Iraq Berlin * German secret service cites Iraq's renewed work on nuclear program [Funny how the German BND always seem to pop up with its tail wagging every time its master wants to engage in a bit of moral support.] * Iraq Must Let UN Arms Inspectors Return - France * Charming Saddam [Ian Black of The Guardian points out that sanctions have killed hundreds of thousands, impoverished a generation and bolstered a brutal regime.¹ His solution? Europe should certainly be trying much harder to persuade Baghdad to permit the return of the weapons inspectors and avert war.¹] * Foreign Minister Petersen opposed to war against Iraq [But still wants a broad and continual international pressure against the regime in Baghdad¹ to oblige it to change its present course¹. So that¹s all right.] * Ukraine suspected of supplying arms to Iraq [This is actually the same story as the next one¹. The Ukrainian connection is a little tenuous. In fact it could equally be headed Great Britain suspected of supplying ...¹ etc] * German Companies Violating U.N. Sanctions, Der Spiegel Reports 3. MIDDLE EAST/ARAB WORLD * Attack on Iraq means peace talks in Mideast [This interesting article suggests that the US can¹t attack Iraq while there¹s a war going on in Israel. Enter Crown Prince Abdullah. Alternately, it is only because of their desire to go to war with Iraq that the US government have any interest in putting pressure on Israel. So there¹s a window of opportunity¹. It is an interesting thought, marred by the last paragraph: The single loser would be Saddam Hussein.¹ Saddam Hussein and unknown thousands of Iraqis blown to pieces by American weapons of mass destruction. Oh, and the Palestinians, since the Americans will obviously have no interest in supporting this unlikely peace plan once Saddam Hussein is out of the way.] * Egyptian exports to Iraq * Leader lauds programs to keep memories of Iraqi-imposed war alive [Lest we forget: "Iran's brave defense during the eight years of the Iraqi-imposed war was in fact a defense against an enemy backed by both the East and the West.²] * 'The Last Thing We Want Is a Confrontation' [Quite a good summary of the reservations of Iraq¹s neighbours the people on whose behalf, so we are told (or used to be told. That line doesn¹t seem to be used do much these days) all this is being done. It includes this excellent sentence: In addition, U.S. concern about Iraq's pursuit of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons is not shared in a region that is equally worried about Israel's possession of the same sorts of devices and views Iraq as a potential Arab deterrent.¹ Extracts.] * Afghan Warlord [Gulbuddin Hekmatyar )Possibly Left Iran for Iraq - Paper IRAQI OPPOSITION http://www.irna.com/newshtm/eng/06170759.htm * MPS MARK 14TH ANNIVERSARY OF IRAQI CHEMICAL ATTACKS ON HALABJA Tehran, Feb 25, IRNA -- Iran's members of parliament from the Kurdish populated provinces on Monday issued a statement to mark the 14th anniversary of Iraqi chemical attacks on Halabja, Iraq. The MPs called for bringing to justice before an international tribunal those responsible for the chemical attacks against the Kurdish population. On March 16, 1988, an estimated 5,000 civilians were killed and 10,000 injured when Iraqi air forces bombed Halabja with mustard and other poison gases. The victims of Halabja deserve justice and support of the international community, the statement said adding that the attack on Halabja which was a crime against humanity, is indicative of a long history of criminal conduct of the Iraqi regime. Iraqi regime's chemical weapons attack on Halabja was not an isolated incident. It was part of a systematic campaign against Iraqi Kurdish civilians, it said. 14 years after the massacre, the people of Halabja still suffer from very high rate of serious diseases such as cancer and birth defects. International observers estimated Iraqi forces killed 50,000 to 100,000 people during the 1988 campaign known as 'Anfal'. http://www.kurdistanobserver.com/ * THE KURDS' "AXIS OF EVIL", USA AND " WAR ON TERRORISM" by Hadi ELIS Kurdistan Observer, 24th February [.....] Nobody knows the "Axis of Evil" in the M.E. better than Kurds, and they are Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. This "Evil Four" are the real "Axis of Evil" in the eyes of 25 million Kurds under their occupation. There is a talk almost a decade now, since the Gulf War, about what to do with Iraq and Saddam Hussein. The "Real Question" is How will M.E. look like (and world politics) with Iraq-after Saddam, or Post-Saddam Iraq. It should be the transformation of the Kurdish De Facto State to the De Jure State. Let Kurds declare their State. The Kurdish conflict in Iraq is at the "Point of No Return" after well documented Genocide, creation of "Kurdish De Facto State" in Northern Iraq or "No Fly Zone" of north of parallel 36. IT IS TIME TO HAVE A KURDISH STATE. Iraq, as a creation of British in M.E. after the W.W.I is one of the "Most Artificial State" in the world of "Nation States", which Kurds never enjoyed life living in , with its Arabisation of Kurdish cities- especially Oil-rich ones- destruction of over 4000 villages, using Chemical-Biological Gas on Kurdish civilians ( March 16 1988, city of Halabja and surroundings), making at least 3 million of them refugees in Turkish-Kurdistan and Iranian-Kurdistan, bordering Iraqi-Kurdistan. After the Gulf War Kurds return to "Home" and started building a "New Life" in their De Facto State, with fair and democratic election according to EU election observers, living almost 10 years under their own Government, running their own affairs, having an experience of democracy and freedom. If USA does attack to Iraq, what will happen ? What is in it for Kurds?, What is in for Kurds in Post-Saddam Iraq? It must be the transformation of the Kurdish De Facto State to the De Jure Kurdish State. Lets have a Kurdish State in the ME. It does not matter who or which political party became government in Iraq, the Kurdish situation in Iraq will not change. As long as Kurds claim Kirkuk and Musul as part of Kurdistan, the Arabisation policies of this cities continuos, Kurds involvement limited in running their own affair, THERE NEVER BE PEACE in Iraq. What about Turkey, the US ally and one of the other oppressor of Kurds. Turkey does not want US declare war on Iraq as a part of "War on Terrorism". It was only two weeks ago that Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit was in USA, trying to convince G.W. Bush not to this. Because anything Kurdish in the world is very related to Turkey, so much that even a book of Prof. Chomsky got banned in Turkey, until he himself gone to court to defend his Turkish publisher( both were released of charges, but while visiting Kurdish region his remarks on Kurdish autonomy get him in more trouble). The Turkish reaction to Kurdish affairs is well known in the western world but no voice raised against. Currently there is a Kurdish campaign to have Linguistic Rights specially about Mother Tongue related rights, in Turkey. Iran is in similar situation, does not want to see Kurdish state. Although it has its own problem with Kurds, Turkey and Iraq. Syria is not different than others. It has its own problem with Kurds, Iran, Iraq and Turkey. In fact where Kurds "Live " is the most dangerous neighborhood on the planet. If USA " Really " wants to do something about these countries, something against these countries ( as they do against USA), must help Kurds to have their own State. This will be the best thing USA can do against them. This will bring their end as Dictatorships, because creation of Kurdish state will cause big turmoil in them. It will deepen their economic, social, political crisis. It will give them a chance to restart their life as a Democratic countries, after regime changing. It will take some time to calm, but when it calm down World will be a better place to live on. Than it will "Really " be a New World and "New World Order" can be created. Now it is up the George W. Bush to decide what to do next. Everyone is waiting for the things to come in the 21 century. It will be a very interesting century to live in. We will wait and see. It is time to bring an end to the SUFFERING OF KURDS in Iraq and in ME, and let Iraq go as a Nation-State which never was. http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,655708,00.html * AFTER SADDAM by Brian Whitaker The Guardian, 23rd February Emboldened by success in Afghanistan and tired of being trapped in the quagmire over sanctions and weapons inspections in Iraq, the United States has embarked on a plan to rid the world of Saddam Hussein. Ousting Saddam by force is certainly a hazardous enterprise, but the US, after years of hesitation, seems determined to commit whatever resources it takes to finish the job. There has, of course, been talk of this ever since Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990, and the real obstacle has not been military but political: a fear of what might happen once he is gone, both inside Iraq and in neighbouring countries. American preparations for an attack on Baghdad do not mean the political problems have gone away. The big question is who - apart from President Bush - would rule Iraq. The simplest kind of electoral system in Iraq would produce a government dominated by Shi'a Muslims, since they account for 65% of the population. At the very least, the Sunni Muslims (32%) and possibly the Christians (3%) would want guaranteed power-sharing in order to protect their interests. Under Saddam, Iraq has been ruled by the Sunni minority, with the Shi'a marginalised and sometimes brutally suppressed. Religious differences have been played down in the Iraqi media, though once Saddam has gone they could easily come to the fore. The other problem with the Shi'a majority is that the US does not trust them any more than Saddam does, because of their religious affinity with Iran which, like Iraq, is a founding member of the "axis of evil". It is doubtful whether the US will allow the Shi'a to predominate, despite their numbers. In ethnic terms, Iraq is 75% Arab and 20% Kurdish, with other minorities accounting for 5%. The Kurdish population stretches over the Iraqi borders into Turkey and Iran, with smaller numbers in Syria and former Soviet republics. Altogether, the Kurds probably number 25m and form the world's most important ethnic group without a state. Because of sanctions and the no-fly zone, they have a quasi-state in northern Iraq which would be jeopardised by Saddam's overthrow. The likeliest solution in a post-Saddam Iraq would be to grant them enough autonomy to dampen their separatist tendencies but not enough to enable them to break away. That is a difficult balance to strike. The US is looking to the Kurds to help remove Saddam, but they are in no hurry to become Iraq's equivalent of the Afghan Northern Alliance. The leaders of both main Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, have said recently that they will not help to topple Saddam unless they know who the next president will be. Massoud Barzani, head of the KDP, insisted: "We are not custom-made revolutionaries... We will never become an orderly in the hands of the US or any other force." The most probable military scenario starts with a massive American bombardment of Saddam's power base - and especially those who protect him, such as the Republican Guard. Once that is under way, the hope is that opposition forces or his own guards will strike the fatal blow. But the US is not going to spend billions removing Saddam just to let some disaffected Republican Guard officer or a member of Saddam's Tikriti clan proclaim himself president. The vast numbers of ground troops reportedly assigned to the Iraqi offensive are probably not intended to take part in the main battle. More likely, they will move into the vacuum as soon as Saddam has gone to prevent the "wrong" people from seizing power. While the "wrong" people are easily recognised, the "right" people are less easy to spot. Reports in several Arab newspapers say the US has already begun a selection process, working through a list of 55 exiled Iraqi officers. It is doubtful whether such a list exists, but informal soundings are certainly taking place. As in Afghanistan, candidates with useful experience and good connections tend to be unsavoury characters. Almost any senior military figure who served under Saddam has blood on his hands, so unless care is taken the new cabinet could turn out to be a collection of war criminals. The lack of an obvious successor means that, as in Afghanistan, a new government would be likely to be installed in two stages, starting with a transitional period during which a long term leader may possibly emerge. Four men widely tipped to play a key role in this are Ahmed Chalabi, Nizar al-Khazraji, Najib Salihi and Adnan Pachachi. Of these, Dr Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, is the best known in the west. He is a charismatic figure, loved and hated in equal measure by different factions of the US administration, and is certainly not an American yes-man. There have been questions about his financial probity - he was convicted of embezzlement in a Jordanian banking scandal - but Dr Chalabi says all these accusations have been cooked up by his political enemies. Because of his powerful friends in Washington he cannot be discounted. America's Iraq Liberation Act - which Dr Chalabi managed to push through Congress almost single handedly - institutionalises the INC as the means for funding political change in Iraq. General Khazraji, formerly Saddam's chief of staff, fled to the west in 1996 and was eventually granted political asylum in Denmark. There are claims that he was reluctant to leave Iraq, but that the CIA induced him to do so with promises of a major political role. The main Kurdish parties, the KDP and PUK, apparently support him, but a smaller Kurdish group has sought to have him prosecuted for war crimes. This relates to his alleged role in the use of chemical weapons against the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988. Gen Khazraji says the allegations have been invented by Iraqi intelligence services. Some in the Iraqi opposition say he may have scuppered his political chances in a recent interview by appearing too eager to take over from Saddam - he described it as an honour and "a sacred duty". Brigadier Salihi is a more junior military figure, but increasingly popular. He fled Iraq because of a genuine grievance - a member of his family was raped - and, although he is a Sunni Muslim, appears to have support among the Shi'a. He has avoided giving the impression of power-hungriness, and at conferences in the US has argued that the military should not be directly engaged in politics. Much of the discussion about future Iraqi governments resembles a casting session for a film of the Afghan war. People debate who should play Karzai and so on. In this process, Adnan Pachach emerges as the Afghan king. A former Iraqi foreign minister and now secretary general of the opposition Democratic Centrist Tendency, he might become a key player, but has said he wants only a facilitating role. None of this helps to give a clearer view of what Saddam's removal will bring. It only highlights the uncertainties and unpredictabilities. Comparisons with Afghanistan are not necessarily helpful, either, since it is too early to know if the interim administration there will lead to stable, democratic government. In normal times, the world cares little about what happens inside Afghanistan, so long as it keeps its politics to itself. Iraq, on the other hand, is a major oil producer and central to Middle East politics. The outcome of the struggle for power in Iraq will have an impact on all its immediate neighbours and far beyond. That is no reason for leaving Saddam to fester, but military plans need to be backed up with clear political plans. It is not enough to hope that everything will turn out fine on the night. http://www.reuters.com/news_article.jhtml?type=worldnews&StoryID=643032 * FORMER IRAQI OFFICERS TO MEET IN WASHINGTON by Jonathan Wright Reuter's, 27th February WASHINGTON: More than 200 former Iraqi officers will meet in Washington next month under the auspices of the U.S. government to plan the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein, U.S. and Iraqi opposition officials said on Wednesday. The conference, set to take place during the third week of March at a U.S. military installation, is aimed at sending Iraq a message that the United States is serious about its threats of forcible "regime change" in Baghdad, the officials said. "This will be the largest conference of officers in opposition to Saddam's dictatorship ever held," Sharif Ali Bin AlHussein, spokesman for the U.S.-funded opposition Iraqi National Congress (INC), said in a statement. "It will have several aims -- to mobilize Iraqi officers and unite them with the democratic Iraqi opposition, to develop a plan of action to confront Saddam's regime, and to reinforce the important principle of the control of the military by a democratically elected government in Iraq's future." Although the United States says it wants to get rid of Saddam, experts do not expect any attack for many months, at least until after Washington tries diplomatic efforts to get U.N. weapon inspectors back into the country. The officers expected to attend include former Brig. Gen. Najib al-Salihi, a former chief of staff in the elite Republican Guard, a U.S. official said. The conference will be the culmination of U.S. contacts with smaller gatherings of Iraqi officers in Washington and appears to indicate some convergence between the civilian and military approaches to the task of overthrowing Saddam. [.....] Sharif Ali's statement said that the INC would convene the conference and that the event had support both the Pentagon and the State Department. "We are on board with them in planning this and we expect it to be at a Pentagon forum," a U.S. official confirmed. An INC official, who asked not to be named, said: "We're trying to do it at a military installation because that would give a better message to the Iraqi army. It would tell them that their fellows are working with them against Saddam. "The majority are high-ranking army and intelligence officers, including people who worked closely with Saddam. This is a serious business." [.....] http://europe.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/meast/02/27/iraq.conference/index.html * IRAQI MILITARY OPPOSITION TO HOST DC CONFERENCE by Andrea Koppel and Elise Labott CNN, 27th February WASHINGTON: An organization representing Iraqi opposition factions announced Wednesday that it will convene a conference of more than 200 former high-ranking Iraqi military officers in Washington next month. A handful of defectors are also expected to be in attendance, as well as some current Iraqi officers from the southern and northern no-fly zones, according to conference organizers. "We have received a very enthusiastic response from officers inside and outside Iraq," said Sharif Ali Bin Al Hussein, a spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress Leadership Council. "We have a wide range of officers representing all Iraqi communities and all strands of the Iraqi opposition." A State Department official contacted by CNN said approval of funding for that conference was likely, but the INC had "jumped the gun" with its announcement. The official said Undersecretary Marc Grossman had indicated to the INC that the United States was "leaning toward" approving and funding next month's conference, but a final decision had not yet been made. The INC has some powerful supporters within the Bush administration who favor arming opposition factions so that they might invade Iraq and try to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Skeptics within the administration believe the INC is not capable of launching a successful military campaign against the Iraqi leader, but view the INC as a valuable means of spreading anti-Hussein propaganda among the exile community. The INC claims this conference will be the largest ever of officers in opposition to the Iraqi regime. For months the Bush administration has been meeting with members of the Iraqi opposition, especially in the Sunni Muslim community, in an attempt to broaden the membership of the INC beyond Kurds and Shiite Muslims, thereby making it more viable. Sunni Muslims are the dominant ethnic group in Iraq, and some believe that in order to mount an effective coup against Hussein, it is essential to bring Sunni opposition members into the mix. The goal of next month's expected conference of mostly former Iraqi military officers would be to "give them a home," explained one U.S. official. But the INC has a different view. "It will have several aims," said Sharif Ali in a prepared statement, "to mobilize Iraqi officers and unite them with the democratic Iraqi opposition; to develop a plan of action to confront Saddam's regime; and to reinforce the important principle of the control of the military by a democratically elected government in Iraq's future." The State Department said it is likely the conference will take place at a military-related facility in the Washington area, but the location is still under discussion. Francis Brooks [sic. Interesting to note that Francis Brooke has the same problem I have PB], a spokesman for the INC, said conference organizers expect to bring in two to three defectors from Iraq. Current officers from the southern and northern no-fly zones will also be in attendance, he said. The conference agenda includes: the role of the military in Iraq's future and amnesty for members of the Iraqi army if Hussein is toppled. Brooks said the group hopes the conference will signal the start of greater cooperation between the U.S. military and the Iraqi opposition. http://www.usatoday.com/news/washdc/2002/02/28/usat-iraq.htm * U.S. STIRS EFFORTS TO OUST SADDAM by Barbara Slavin, USA TODAY USA Today, 28th February WASHINGTON The Bush administration is stepping up its efforts to destabilize the regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. U.S. officials say they are seeking to carry out President Bush's policy of "regime change." The evidence: U.S. diplomats and CIA officers in recent months have visited northern Iraq, an area protected by U.S. and British military overflights. "Our assessment is that this administration is much more serious than before," said Mohammad Sabir, the U.S. representative of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, an Iraqi Kurdish faction. The administration plans to fund a meeting of several hundred Iraqi military defectors in Europe in March or April. Officials of the Iraqi National Congress, an opposition movement, said they would convene the meeting. But a senior State Department official said the Iraqi group would not act as the host. Meanwhile, two experts on Iraq outside the government say the CIA already is implementing a new covert plan to topple Saddam, who has ruled Iraq for more than two decades. One of them, a former top CIA official who maintains contacts at the agency, says President Bush approved the plan three weeks ago. Neither the White House nor the CIA would confirm Wednesday that such a plan exists. [.....] http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Artic le_Type1&c=Article&cid=1014912492513&call_page=TS_World&call_pageid=96833218 8854&call_pagepath=News/World&col=968350060724 * U.S. PONDERS ANTI-SADDAM TRANSMITTER NEAR IRAQ Toronto Star, 28th February WASHINGTON (AP) The White House is considering paying for construction of a radio transmitter in either the Kurdish area of Iraq or in Iran as a propaganda tool to weaken President Saddam Hussein's government, a senior official said Thursday. The official, asking not to be identified, said the two locations are obvious choices because of their proximity to Baghdad. He said any discussions on the possibility of an Iran-based transmitter would have to take place between Iran and the Iraqi National Congress, an Iraqi opposition umbrella group. The official noted that the United States and Iran have not had official discussions on political issues for more than 20 years. Even though President George W. Bush has included Iran in his list of "axis of evil" countries, the two countries share a hostility toward Iraq. The Iraqi National Congress maintains contact with Iran and sees that country as an ally in its quest to dislodge Saddam from power. The Kurdish area of northern Iraq has been beyond Saddam's control for years. U.S. and British overflights of the area are designed to prevent Saddam from using his air force to recapture sovereignty over the area. On Thursday, U.S. military officials reported that Iraqi forces north of Mosul in northern Iraq fired anti-aircraft artillery at allied planes in the no-fly zone, but they were not hit. "Our pilots were fired upon and we responded by taking out some of their air defence sites," air force Gen. Joseph Ralston said, speaking of the incident while testifying on Capitol Hill. It is not clear whether Iraqi Kurdish leaders, split into two factions that are often at odds, would support the installation of a transmitter on their territory. They are opposed to Saddam but are not all that displeased with the status quo because they have a measure of autonomy for the first time. A transmitter used to broadcast anti Saddam propaganda could increase the threat level from Baghdad. Support for the Iraqi National Congress is one of a number of ways the United States is bringing pressure to bear on Iraq. [.....] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A20799-2002Feb28.html * SELF-HELP STRATEGY FOR IRAQ by David Ignatius Washington Post, 1st March [.....] But what about Iraq? The war drums continue to beat in Washington, pounded in part by Americans who speak derisively of the "Arab street," as if it didn't matter what ordinary Arabs think. The hawks' line seems to be that if the United States wants to impose a change of regime in Baghdad, it should fly U.S. troops into Kuwait and Turkey, create some sort of Iraqi equivalent to the Northern Alliance and just get it done. The problem with this strategy is that it won't work. It's an attempt to impose a solution on the Iraqi people from outside, rather than help them create their own change of regime. No wonder these ideas have been drawing so much flak from Europeans and moderate Arabs: They're half-baked. But what would a sensible, Arab-backed strategy for change in Iraq look like? To try to answer that question, I spent an afternoon here this week with the most experienced and reliable of the Iraqi opposition leaders, Ayad Alawi. Alawi, 57, understands Hussein's regime because he was once part of it. An Iraqi-born Shiite, he studied medicine in London as a young man and became head of the Iraqi Baath Party in Europe. After he broke with Baghdad in 1975, Hussein's agents tried to kill him with machetes. He spent 14 months in the hospital but lived, and he survived a subsequent assassination attempt in Switzerland. In 1990 Alawi created an opposition group called the Iraqi National Accord. Though less well known in the United States than the Iraqi National Congress (and its charismatic leader, Ahmed Chalabi), Alawi's group has always been taken more seriously by the people who understand Iraq best -- in Britain, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. That appears to remain true even after a failed coup attempt in 1996 by Alawi's group and others: Probably the boldest effort yet to topple Hussein, it led to the execution of hundreds of Iraqi military officers. Alawi argues that the only way to topple Hussein's regime is to work with the Iraqi people themselves -- including the tribal leaders and disaffected members of the military and Baath Party. Two steps are necessary to prevent a bloodbath, he contends: First, the United States and its allies should make absolutely clear that Saddam Hussein must go. Second, they must reassure Iraqis that they don't want to destroy the country, humiliate its army or punish ordinary Iraqis who cooperated with the Baath because they had no choice. "We think it's very important to reassure the tribes, the military and the Baath functionaries that they won't be targets of revenge if they work now to change Iraq," Alawi explains. "They should redeem themselves by siding with the people." Alawi plans to draft an Iraqi "Bill of Rights" this May, which would spell out the democratic freedoms for a new Iraq. At the same time, he plans to work through the traditional power structure, by organizing a "Tribal Council" representing the big Sunni and Shiite tribes. And he has a "power sharing" formula to involve all of the ethnic groups in the Iraqi mosaic. Most discussions about toppling Saddam Hussein sound about as prudent as bungee jumping. But I have a feeling that if skeptical European and Arab leaders had joined me in listening to Alawi's pitch, they would have shared my sense that maybe this isn't such a crazy idea after all. LESSER BREEDS WITHOUT THE LAW 1. BRITAIN http://www.reuters.co.uk/news_article.jhtml?type=topnews&StoryID=626082 * BLAIR AND BUSH TO PLOT WAR ON IRAQ-PAPER Reuter's, 24th February LONDON: Prime Minister Tony Blair will fly to Washington in April to nail down with President George W. Bush details of military action against Iraq, the Observer newspaper has reported. Downing Street refused to discuss Blair's his movements but a spokesman signalled Britain would continue its steadfast support for the United States' "war on terror", even if it was widened to encompass Iraq. "We have always made clear that we share the United States' determination to continue the war against terrorism," he said. "We share their concerns about Baghdad's support for terrorism and its development of weapons of mass destruction." The Observer quoted a senior government official as saying the two leaders would finalise "Phase Two" of the war on terror with Iraq topping the agenda. "Tony Blair has left Washington in no doubt that when it comes to the crunch, he will be there," opposition Conservative defence spokesman Bernard Jenkin, just back from a trip to the U.S. capital, told BBC Television. European leaders have been unsettled by Bush's apparent willingness to widen his campaign but Britain, the United States' staunchest ally, has been careful to voice no criticism. Iraq, identified by Bush last month as belonging to an "axis of evil" along with Iran and North Korea, has refused to allow United Nations weapons inspectors in since 1998. Interviewed in the Sunday Telegraph, U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was vicious and repressive. Asked how a change of regime could be brought about in Baghdad, the paper quoted him as saying: "It won't, barring some external event." Centre-left government leaders, meeting in Sweden, insisted on Saturday there was no rift between Western allies. But at a dinner for the leaders on Friday, Canadian premier Jean Chretien, current chairman of the Group of Eight countries, French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso voiced concerns about the United States going it alone in foreign policy, officials said. Blair, also at the gathering, said the United States was already consulting fully and openly. "The Americans are absolutely right to emphasise the continuing importance of the war against terrorism and...the elimination of weapons of mass destruction," he said. But opinion in Britain is turning against action on Iraq, notably within Blair's own Labour Party. A BBC survey of 101 Labour MPs found 86 said there was not enough evidence to prompt an attack on Iraq. Labour MP and former minister Joyce Quin said only concrete proof that Iraq was supporting terrorism or developing "new and dangerous weapons," could justify military action. The Observer said the government was planning to publish evidence detailing Iraq's nuclear capabilities to quell criticism from its backbenches and to reassure the public. Donald Anderson, head of parliament's Foreign Affairs Select Committee, told BBC Television Bush was behaving like a "wild west" sheriff. "When the time of trial...comes, the sheriff will look around and there won't be any deputies there," he said. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,2-218189,00.html * BLAIR TRIES TO STEEL MPS FOR POSSIBLE ATTACKS ON IRAQ by David Charter, Chief Political Correspondent and Damian Whitworth in Washington The Times, 25th February TONY BLAIR is compiling a dossier on Iraq¹s terrorist links and Saddam Hussein¹s quest for weapons of mass destruction before a meeting with President Bush to plot ³phase two² of the war against terrorism. The Prime Minister, who will travel to Washington in April, is seeking to bolster support in Parliament and the country for possible military action against Baghdad. A poll yesterday showed widespread unease at the prospect of action against Iraq among Labour MPs, and the Government wants the dossier to spell out its case in the same way that evidence of the threat posed by the al-Qaeda network was publicly released before attacks were launched in Afghanistan. Asked if there was ³sufficient evidence to justify a military attack on Iraq by America and its allies?² in a poll by the BBC of 100 Labour backbenchers, 86 were against attacking Iraq. Just eight were in favour and seven made no comment. Asked if they supported the British Government giving permission for the Americans to use British facilities as part of America¹s proposed missile defence system, 18 said ³yes² and 78 said ³no². Iraq, identified by President Bush as belonging to an ³axis of evil², has refused to allow UN weapons inspectors into the country since 1998. A Downing Street spokesman said: ³We have always made clear that we share the United States¹ determination to continue the war against terrorism. We share their concerns about Baghdad¹s support for terrorism and its development of weapons of mass destruction. The best way forward is through close consultation with our allies, including the United States.² Menzies Campbell, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said: ³Military action can only be contemplated if it is shown to be absolutely necessary. British foreign policy, however sympathetic we are to the United States, cannot be conducted on the principle of my ally right or wrong¹.² The US indicated yesterday that a military offensive was still some time off. Responding to reports about the Pentagon¹s lack of readiness for major action in a new theatre of war, the US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said: ³You can be sure that the US is not going to engage in something we are not ready to engage in. We are rapidly replenishing the things we need. We have no intention of doing things we are not capable of doing.² Mr Rumsfeld also said yesterday that he would be happy to return British prisoners being held in Guanatanamo Bay, Cuba as long as Britain agreed to prosecute them and make them available for further questioning by the US. The Washington Post reported yesterday that the US lacked enough ³smart² bombs to attack Iraq. Pentagon planners estimate that it would be six months before it had sufficient Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) to launch a successful assault on Saddam. The CIA is understood to have sent a small number of special forces into the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq to examine options for co-ordinating armed resistance to Saddam, but there is no significant US presence inside the country. A White House official said that any action would be ³months away² after intensive work to build international support. A military campaign was likely only after fresh UN demands for weapons inspectors to be allowed into Iraq had been issued and rejected. General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, insisted that the Pentagon was ready to act as soon as Mr Bush gave the word. ³We¹re eady to do whatever the commander in chief asks us to do and we will be ready. We may not have all the preferred munitions, in terms of JDAMs that you¹d want, but we have other rmunitions we can substitute,³ he said. British lawyers will condemn the Foreign Office today for failing to insist that the US authorites allow access to legal advice for prisoners at Camp X-Ray. The move follows a meeting with the Foreign Office Minister Baroness Amos last week, which the lawyers described as ³unsatisfactory². The human rights committees of the Law Society and the Bar Council have condemned the detention of five Britons at the camp without access to legal advice and independent medical experts. http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,658650,00.html * SUPPORT FOR A US ASSAULT ON IRAQ COULD RIP LABOUR APART by Jackie Ashley The Guardian , 27th February Throughout these torrid political times the thing that continues to surprise is that nothing, but nothing, sticks to Tony Blair. Mittalgate? Filkingate? Even Byersgate seems to leave our prime minister unsullied, his popularity undented. The bad stuff is always somewhere else. Until now. For there is something building which could, I believe, be the undoing of Mr Blair. It is not connected with devilish machinations in the Department of Transport, nor with unseemly deals to win funds for the Labour party. I am talking about the move to war against Iraq. While we have all been ooh-ing and aah-ing about Martin Sixsmith's employment contract and Jo Moore's resignation letter, a growing number of Labour MPs are becoming increasingly alarmed about Mr Blair's enthusiasm for President Bush's war games. Shortly after the president's "axis of evil" speech, citing North Korea, Iran and Iraq, the prime minister expressed his unease about the phrase to a group of backbench Labour MPs. He no doubt wishes the president had put it differently. But there's still no sign that he's going to pick up the phone and say: "Hold it, buddy." Mr Blair remains George Bush's most steadfast ally. Yet the determination of the US administration to expand the war on terrorism to "get Saddam" is an embarrassing dismissal of Mr Blair's whole post-September 11 strategy. It is dangerous for the Middle East. And it is big enough to split Labour apart, causing a trauma for the prime minister, which is simply of a different scale from anything we have seen yet. One effect of September 11 has been to educate many MPs and others in the realities of Middle East politics. There was a good deal of queasiness on the Labour benches about the war in Afghanistan. There will be a lot more if Mr Blair tries to convince them that removing Saddam is a safer option than leaving the old villain in place. I have been talking to middle-of-the-road, loyalist MPs; to ministers; and to leading Liberal Democrats. All are speculating that for Mr Blair to back President Bush in this, he may end up having to rely on the payroll vote and the Tories against a large proportion of his own backbenches. How large a proportion? Well, a BBC poll for On the Record of a hundred Labour backbenchers found just eight in favour of attacking Iraq, and 86 firmly against. On those figures, with the Lib Dems and the nationalist parties on the "anti" side of the argument, it would be a majority-threatening divide. Of course, there doesn't have to be a Commons vote. Mr Blair could, under executive prerogative, allow the use of British bases and even commit British forces to action against Iraq without any parliamentary approval. But even in these presidential times, that would be pushing his luck. It would provoke a crisis in the Labour party. Before we get to that, I am sure, Mr Blair will use every ounce of his formidable persuasive skills to avoid the great split. The softening-up process is already under way - a rising tide of warnings about the huge, deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction being assembled by Saddam coupled with "revelations" about his deep involvement in global terrorism. All this will sound odd to anyone with even a vague short-term memory. After desperate attempts by the best-funded intelligence agencies in the world to connect Baghdad to al Qaida, the evidence has, boringly, failed to turn up. For years now we have been told that the expensive RAF overflying of Iraq and the controversial sanctions regime there were necessary to stop Saddam's arms programme - a policy of containment and deterrence; now we learn that this apparently has not worked, which adds up to an impressive policy failure. And then, don't I remember that the great justification for Mr Blair's diplomatic whirlwind after September 11 was that he could exert influence on Washington and rein in the possibility of a wider conflict? All the Arab leaders he saw back then said they would support an attack on al-Qaida and the Taliban - but not one on nearer- at-hand Arab leaders. Will the prime minister discuss the "collateral damage" inevitable in the Middle East when he visits Washington in April? Does he think that George Bush cares? A lot of Mr Blair's self- image has been tied up in the idea that he, uniquely, can influence Republican Washington as others (the French, the Germans, the Japanese - even the Russians) cannot. He was going to be Bush's calmer cousin, loyal and friendly but above all listened to, the restraining hand. But Mr Bush already has a restraining hand in Colin Powell, and anyway seems rather more interested in his unrestrained other hand: Donald Rumsfeld. The most ominous quote of the week so far came in Mr Rumsfeld's interview with the Daily Telegraph when, invited to discuss Saddam, the normally torrential defence secretary said: "The focus on Iraq is something I find not helpful from my standpoint and I'm not in a position to discuss a lot of it. So I'll pass." That's an "eeek!" quote. That suggests things are moving quite fast. No doubt Mr Bush would like Britain alongside him, but, as influential defence specialists such as Richard Perle are now saying publicly, the US is more than happy to go it alone, even at the expense of its alliances. What happens then? The US assault will "work" militarily in the end because of the massive superiority of arms and technology. But this next military success may well be at the cost of the kind of social, economic and political destabilisation of the Arab world that Osama bin Laden - if he's still alive in some draughty central Asian cave - dreams of. The Kurds would use their freedom to press again for a wider Kurdistan, potentially destabilising Turkey, which is already having cold feet about the Afghan operation. In the south of Iraq, the Iranians would be likely to become embroiled in the Shi'ite areas. Saddam still has some scud missiles, which he might lob at Israel, raising the possibility of nuclear retaliation if, as some speculate, they were armed with chemical or biological weapons. The next generations of guerrillas and suicide bombers will grow older, and angrier. As one Labour MP put it to me: "No one gets security out of this." America's gamble is that nothing matters as much as removing pro-terror regimes and replacing them with friendlier ones. They have an imperial confidence born of imperial power. In Britain, it feels very different. All this puts Mr Blair most firmly on the spot - and starting to feel sticky at last. http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk_politics/newsid_1847000/1847364.stm * CAUTION URGED OVER IRAQ by Ben Davies BBC, 28th February A senior Labour MP has insisted that Britain's support for the US in its 'war against terrorism' is "not unconditional". Donald Anderson told BBC News Online that Prime Minister Tony Blair's recent comments about the possibility of military action against Iraq were "extremely cagey". We can't conduct our foreign policy on the rather flawed principle of 'my ally right or wrong' Menzies Campbell The Foreign Affairs committee chairman added that the UK's approach to world matters tended to be "more mature" than the US approach, which was often "fairly absolutist". [.....] Labour George Galloway, an outspoken critic of Western policy towards Iraq, said that he was not sure if Mr Blair's remarks amounted to a change in direction. "The question is whether there is a qualified change about what is being said about Iraq." He added that a war against Iraq would be disastrous on a "whole number of levels". "It would be the end of that rare period when a large consort of nations dedicated themselves to the war against terrorism." Mr Galloway cast doubt on whether Mr Blair could be sure of support from his own backbenches were the UK to become involved in military action against Iraq. Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell said that the priority for British foreign policy should be to "secure the interests of the people of the United Kingdom". "We can't conduct our foreign policy on the rather flawed principle of 'my ally right or wrong'." He added that there was a serious danger of upsetting the already precarious situation in the Middle East, undermining President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and King Abdullah in Jordan. Mr Campbell also expressed the fear that if there were to be US military action against Iraq then Saddam Hussein would do his best to draw Israel into the conflict. "Remember Israel is a nuclear power and - depending on the circumstances - Israel might well feel compelled to respond with nuclear weapons. "If ever there was a time not draw Israel into a wider conflict in the Middle East it is surely at the moment when the Sharon government is under great pressure from both the left and the right and when the whole question of the balance of the Middle East is a cause of such controversy." http://www.reuters.co.uk/news_article.jhtml?type=topnews&StoryID=648712 * IRAQ ASKS UK TO PINPOINT WEAPONS SITES by Hassan Hafidh Reuter's, 28th February BAGHDAD: Iraq says it is ready to let in a team of British arms inspectors if the government could say where any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction are being produced. Iraq issued this challenge on Thursday amid speculation that it could be the next U.S. target in Washington's declared war on terrorism, which the government says will focus on the threat of weapons of mass destruction in a new phase after the war in Afghanistan. Britain increased pressure on Iraq on Thursday, with a spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair saying Saddam Hussein's government continued to produce such weapons. Blair himself on Wednesday backed U.S. President George W. Bush's leadership in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks and said it was important to tackle states which spread nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. "If Blair tells us, and the world, where and when these weapons are being produced (in Iraq), we are ready to immediately receive a British mission sent by Blair, accompanied by a group of British media men," a Baghdad government spokesman was quoted by the Iraqi News Agency INA as saying. Bush has branded Iraq, together with Iran and North Korea, as part of an "axis of evil" and Blair has agreed with the U.S. president on the need to face up to the problem. "I certainly agree with him very strongly that weapons of mass destruction represent a real threat to world stability. I think it's important that we act against them," Blair said. Blair's spokesman stressed on Thursday that no decision had been taken by the United States or Britain on how or when to act against Iraq, but said dealing with the weapons threat was the "logical" next step in the war on terrorism. "The central issue is that weapons of mass destruction continue to be produced (in Iraq) and that we believe there is a serious threat. That threat has to be dealt with," he said. But the Iraqi spokesman declared: "Blair often airs ill-intentioned and hostile statements against Iraq in line with the American stand, without bothering to be precise and correct. "However, we say that whoever has real information on such a claim, he should know how and where Iraq is attempting to produce such weapons." He said if a British mission comes to Iraq "a group of Iraqi, Arab and foreign journalists and foreign ambassadors in Iraq will accompany them in order to document the reality." [.....] http://www.voanews.com/article.cfm?objectID=08BE5B12-071A-4BE7 8534DD06369DF099&Title=Britain%20Sets%20Conditions%20For%20Possible%20US%20A ction%20Against%20Iraq * BRITAIN SETS CONDITIONS FOR POSSIBLE US ACTION AGAINST IRAQ by Michael Drudge Voice of America, 1st March [.....] Mr. Hoon said he would look carefully at an offer from Baghdad to let a British team into Iraq to look for evidence of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. "Our concern about Iraq has always been their potential for developing weapons of mass destruction. The fact is that they have consistently refused to allow U.N. weapons inspections. And that must mean that we are deeply suspicious about what's going on," he said. [.....] http://www.irna.com/newshtm/eng/10132757.htm * BLAIR URGED TO RESIST US `HAWKS' [.....] Earlier a former Labour defence minister urged Prime Minister Tony Blair to resist "hawks" in the US administration and their "vendetta" against Iraq. Former minister Peter Kilfoyle told BBC News Online: "There is no mandate for the UK Government to genuflect to the hawks in the American administration in Iraq. "My belief is there would be a great deal of consternation amongst the Parliamentary Labour Party and indeed the wider party, as well as the British people, about some kind of reflex action which would support an American vendetta against Iraq. [.....] But Hoon said: "If there is no evidence of wrong doing, then I can't understand why Iraq should not allow inspectors to look a various sites. " On Thursday, the Iraqi government said it was ready to let in British arms inspectors if the UK can say where the weapons of mass destruction are being kept. "If Blair tells us, and the world, where and when these weapons are being produced (in Iraq), we are ready to immediately receive a British mission sent by Blair, accompanied by a group of British media men," a Baghdad government spokesman was quoted by the Iraqi News Agency INA as saying. Hoon said the UK would examine such an offer, which would be welcome if it allowed full inspections. [.....] http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,659929,00.html * PM FACES DISSENT ON IRAQ AFTER SUPPORTIVE WORDS FOR BUSH'S FIGHTING TALK by Michael White, political editor The Guardian, 1st March Tony Blair yesterday stepped up diplomatic pressure on Iraq over its covert weapons amid concern among Labour MPs that Britain will back a US led attack on Saddam Hussein that may backfire on the global anti-terrorist coalition. Though Downing Street stressed that "no decision has been taken" on possible action against Iraq the coincidence of his latest telephone conversation with President George W Bush and a combative TV interview alarmed some MPs. With the Saudi peace initiative, backed by Jordan and Egypt, giving both sides of the issue hope that there may be a breakthrough in the stalemate between Israel and Palestine, MPs do not want an ill-considered attack to crack the September 11 coalition wide open. Predictions that a decision to support a US decision to take military action to overthrow Saddam will split the Labour benches at Westminster are disputed by government whips and party loyalists. "It will be confined to the usual suspects," said one MP yesterday, a reference to the 20 or 30 backbenchers who have challenged Mr Blair's approach to peace-making which has seen Britain involved in military action from Afghanistan to Sierra Leone via the Balkans since 1997. Labour's former shadow foreign secretary, Gerald Kaufman, claimed that the majority of MPs would back a pragmatic judgment "provided any action taken does not break up the September 11 coalition and we do not get drawn into a Vietnam situation from which we cannot withdraw." But critics dispute that analysis. "There is a feeling of unease that is wider than usual," said Kevin Brennan, MP for Cardiff West. Tam Dalyell, father of the Commons, and an MP for 40 years, said: "There are unlikely people who are worried." Both sides agree that ministers will have to make a persuasive case justifying military action, either on the grounds of unproven links with the al- Qaida network or new proof that Iraq is producing weapons of mass destruction. Mr Blair has been expressing such fears since before September 11. Critics point to 85 Labour MPs who expressed doubts in a recent straw poll. Others believe that Iraq's non-compliance with existing UN resolutions provides justification and that most MPs would rally round. Mr Dalyell and his allies, MPs like Alice Mahon, George Galloway and Alan Simpson, will get a chance to test the water next Wednesday because Speaker Martin yesterday granted the MP an adjournment debate in Westminster Hall - where the foreign office will have to explain its thinking on military action. Ahead of this weekend's Commonwealth conference in Brisbane, Mr Blair was asked by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation whether he agreed with Mr Bush's talk of "axis of evil" countries Iraq, Iran and North Korea - though the president modified his language in Asia last week. "I certainly agree with him very strongly that weapons of mass destruction represent a real threat to world stability. I think it's important that we act against them," Mr Blair replied. Mr Blair discussed how to respond to the of weapons of mass destruction in a telephone call with Mr Bush yesterday. EUROPE http://www.irna.com/newshtm/eng/04191736.htm * GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER URGES INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE ON IRAQ BERLIN IRNA -- German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping, reiterating that there were no US plans for an attack against Iraq, here Saturday called for international pressure on Iraq to allow the return of UN weapons inspectors. "The United Nations, Russia, China and other countries should coordinate their efforts to increase pressure on Iraq to allow the entry of arms inspectors," Scharping told DPA in an interview. The minister also dismissed speculations that joint German-American anti-ABC warfare exercises in Kuwait were a prelude towards a US invasion of Iraq. "It's merely a full disaster training to protect the population in case of an attack or terrorist threats with biological and chemical weapons," Scharping added. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder reiterated Friday that there were no US plans for an imminent US military attack on Iraq. The chancellor refused to speculate on his country's reaction in the event of a possible US assault on Iraq. "I am not taking part in abstract debates," he said. Schroeder voiced also support for Washington's move to tighten pressure on the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to allow the return of UN arms inspectors. "It's appropriate and right to put pressure on Iraq and the government of Saddam Hussein," he said. http://www.irna.com/newshtm/eng/06181347.htm * GERMAN SECRET SERVICE CITES IRAQ'S RENEWED WORK ON NUCLEAR PROGRAM Berlin, Feb 25, IRNA -- Germany's federal intelligence service BND, citing Baghdad's renewed attempts to revive its nuclear program, said Iraq could reach its pre-1991 Persian Gulf War nuclear capacities 'within three to five years', the daily Berliner Zeitung reported here Monday. According to a confidential report, released by the German secret service last January, Iraq has been involved in repair works at the Al-Kaim site and has also purchased 'nuclear relevant chemicals'. German intelligence agents have also discovered evidence that Iraq was 'continuing its bio toxin program' and 'building up a mobile biological weapons capacity'. http://www.reuters.com/news_article.jhtml?type=worldnews&StoryID=631529 * IRAQ MUST LET UN ARMS INSPECTORS RETURN - FRANCE Reuter's, 25th February PARIS: Iraq must let U.N. arms inspectors return and work freely in the country but there is no point in speculating about military action against Baghdad in the meantime, French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said on Monday. Vedrine, who accused Washington earlier this month of a "simplistic" approach to foreign affairs said there was little reason to believe that Iraq would refuse to let United Nations weapons inspectors return. "(Iraqi President) Saddam (Hussein) is at odds with the entire international community and the (U.N.) Security Council is unanimous on this, it's not just the United States," Vedrine said. "He must accept the return of inspectors without constraints of any kind and let them work freely," he told LCI television in an interview. United Nations headquarters announced on Monday that Secretary-General Kofi Annan would meet Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri in New York on March 7 for talks that could broach the return of inspectors who left in 1998 after U.S.-British bombing of Iraq. Vedrine said it was too soon to consider what might happen if inspectors were unable to go back and remove any threat of Iraqi capacity in weapons of mass destruction. "It's premature to ask if Europe should back the Americans should they launch a military operation because inspectors do not return or because Saddam Hussein does not accept a return," he said. [.....] http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,656425,00.html * CHARMING SADDAM by Ian Black The Guardian, 25th February Javier Solana was packing his bags again yesterday and heading for Tel Aviv, Cairo and Gaza for the umpteenth time to see if the European Union can do anything to stop a slide into all-out war. The touchy-feely Spanish "high representative for common foreign and security policy" has few illusions about being able to force Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon to kiss and make up. He won't stop trying. But perhaps he should consider a new round of shuttle diplomacy - between Brussels and Baghdad. European alarm is growing over George Bush's intentions towards Iraq, but Solana's view is that the tough "regime-changing" rhetoric from Washington has not, yet, become US policy. Worryingly, however, his lines of communication are with the secretary of state, Colin Powell, who has been weakened by the post-September 11 ascendancy of the hawks. The EU is deeply divided. Unlike on the Middle East, it has no common stand on Iraq. When foreign ministers met last week to discuss Zimbabwe, Palestine and Bosnia, Saddam Hussein was not on the agenda. "There's no policy," says one insider. "And there's no point." Britain alone patrols with the US in the skies over the Kurdish north and Shi'ite south after France pulled out years ago. Oil companies like Elf are poised to realise lucrative post sanctions contracts. Officials in the Quai d'Orsay are muttering again about "Downing Street-sur-Potomac". Signals from London add up to a familiar picture of No 10 presidentially bludgeoning a reluctant Foreign Office. Tony Blair insisted when he met the dwindling band of fellow European centre-left leaders in Stockholm at the weekend that the coalition on terrorism stood firm - though the French prime minister, Lionel Jospin, would not go beyond the terse observation that Iraq was discussed. Americans have not in any event been impressed by EU attempts to reduce the volume of recent ill-tempered transatlantic exchanges. "Not so much an axis of evil," one US pundit quipped of the Europeans, "rather an arc of insufferability." Expectations are now growing of a serious crisis in May when the UN security council has to review the sanctions, which were imposed to eliminate Iraq's chemical, nuclear and biolog ical weapons but have killed hundreds of thousands, impoverished a generation and bolstered a brutal regime. Europe should certainly be trying much harder to persuade Baghdad to permit the return of the weapons inspectors and avert war. Just the moment, surely, for Solana to turn his considerable charms on Saddam. [.....] http://www.norwaypost.no/content.asp?folder_id=1&cluster_id=18912 * FOREIGN MINISTER PETERSEN OPPOSED TO WAR AGAINST IRAQ Norway Post, 26th February Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen is opposed to unilateral US military actions against Iraq. This is a policy I would warn against, Petersen said in his foreign policy statement in Parliament on Tuesday. Such actions would undermine the unity within the broad international coalition, and weaken the opportunity to overcome terrorism in the long term, Petersen said. At the same time, however, Petersen said that there was no doubt that Saddam Hussain is a despot, who has both used weapons of mass destruction against his own people and attacked neighbouring nations. Still, it is only a broad and continual international pressure against the regime in Baghdad, which will change its present course, the Norwegian Foreign Minister said. http://english.pravda.ru/main/2002/02/26/26656.html * UKRAINE SUSPECTED OF SUPPLYING ARMS TO IRAQ Pravda, 26th February According to the latest issue of der Spiegel, the Office of Public Prosecutor of the city of Manheim gave permission to carry out a search of two firms suspected of illegal arm exports to Iraq and of violating a trade embargo by the UN against Iraq. The illegal supplies were transported through a small commercial firm in Manheim, which worked after the so-called ³Food for oil" program. The trail leads to Ukraine, Great Britain, and Switzerland. In general, the action was brought against six persons, among whom there is a lawyer from the city of Heidelberg and an Iraqi businessman with US citizenship. Both men as well as an engineer in prison since last autumn are supposed to be organizers of arm exports to Iraq. One of the six accused is supposed to have Ukrainian roots. http://www.baghdad.com/?action=display&article=12222004&template=baghdad/ind exsearch.txt&index=recent * GERMAN COMPANIES VIOLATING U.N. SANCTIONS, DER SPIEGEL REPORTS UN Wire, 1st March German officials are investigating six German companies suspected of selling military equipment to Iraq in violation of U.N. sanctions, the German magazine Der Spiegel reported this week. Much of the investigation has focused on a German businessman identified as Bernd S. who authorities suspect facilitated two deliveries from a Swiss company of drilling equipment that could produce artillery tubes for the Iraqi 210-millimeter al-Fao gun, which can launch chemical and biological weapons, according to Der Spiegel. The drilling technology is also essential to Iraqi attempts to rebuild the country¹s military, the magazine reported. Bernd S., who had been in pre-trial detention since October, is believed to have worked with Sahib al-H., a U.S. citizen of Iraqi origin. An attorney in Heidelberg who is believed to have advised the two men on the illegal exports is also being investigated, as well as the managing director of a small trading company in Mannheim, which is said to be the coordinating center for the deals. German companies have helped construct Iraqi chemical weapon plants and modernized the country¹s missiles, Der Spiegel reported. A German court convicted engineer Karl-Heinz Schaab in 1999 of helping Iraq construct plants to build nuclear weapons. German companies are not alone in violating the U.N. sanctions, according to Der Spiegel. The German investigation has led to the United Kingdom and Switzerland, and requests for legal help have already been made, the magazine reports. According to an internal German government report, China, India, Russia and Eastern European countries are also supplying Iraq in violation of sanctions (Kurz/Mascolo, Der Spiegel, Feb. 25, Foreign Broadcast Information Service translation). MIDDLE EAST/ARAB WORLD http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Artic le_Type1&c=Article&cid=1014418891406&call_page=TS_Opinion&call_pageid=968256 290124&call_pagepath=News/Opinion&col=968350116695 * ATTACK ON IRAQ MEANS PEACE TALKS IN MIDEAST by Richard Gwyn Toronto Star, 24th February IT'S NOW October, and after a careful military buildup and endless diplomatic manoeuvres at the United Nations and a lot of arm-twisting of allies (including Canada), the U.S. launches its long-awaited attack on Iraq. On the same day, a Palestinian suicide bomber kills a couple of Israelis lunching at an open air restaurant in Tel Aviv. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon retaliates in his usual manner by sending his tanks and missile-firing helicopters into the West Bank and Gaza to smash down buildings and to kill a number of Palestinians, including women and children. It can't happen. The two events can't happen at the same time, that's to say. It's just not possible for the U.S. to be enraging the entire Muslim world by invading an Arab country to many Muslims, roughly the same as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan while next door its close ally Israel is scything down virtually defenceless Palestinians. Militarily, it's of course entirely possible for the two events to happen simultaneously. But politically, the two are unacceptable at the same time. They would turn the war against terrorism, which President George Bush has insisted since its beginning has been his sole purpose, into a war between civilizations and between religions, leaving a legacy of bitterness that would last for decades, if not for centuries. Therefore, they won't happen or, more exactly, won't be allowed to happen at the same time. Assuming that the U.S. will indeed use force to achieve its stated objective of a "regime change" in Iraq Saddam Hussein's removal then just one way exists to avoid this appearance of a kind of open season upon Muslims. This would be for something to happen first to tug the Israelis and Palestinians away from killing each other and toward talking seriously about peace. An initiative of this kind is surely an essential precondition for a U.S. attack on Iraq. In a perverse irony, the reverse is equally true. A U.S. attack on Iraq is a precondition for a restart of Middle East peace talks. The impending hostilities against Iraq will give Bush an incentive to abandon virtually a necessity to abandon his current indifference to the state of affairs between Israelis and Palestinians. All of this is pure speculation on my own part. But an instinct tells me it represents a correct reading of the entrails. (My instincts do not stretch to my having any great expectations that these talks will actually achieve any resolution, only that they will start and the killing stop, at least temporarily.) A couple of scraps of supporting evidence do exist. The first is what seems to be taking place in the Middle East. Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat, who looked to be finished a couple of months ago, appears to be getting stronger and certainly is more popular with his own people because, ringed by tanks, he's now fully sharing their suffering. Sharon who has conspicuously failed to deliver to the Israelis the security he promised now seems weaker, half admitting this in his recent TV statement. "These are difficult times," he said, adding that they were difficult for him. Sharon thus needs some outside help, although he would never admit it. The source of help, though, may not be the U.S., except off stage. In recent months, the U.S. has been so one-sided on Israel's side that it has little credibility as a helpful fixer. The rescue role may be played by Saudi Arabia. Crown Prince Abdullah is now talking up the possibility of a "grand bargain" of Israel giving up all of the West Bank and Gaza in exchange for recognition and peace treaties by all 28 member-states of the Arab League. It's all still very iffy. The devil is in the details the Palestinians would have to give up their claim of a "right of return" (to Israel); the Israelis would have to give up many settlements and hand over additional land (in the Negev) to compensate for those they keep. And on and endlessly on, as for the last half-century. Once the war against Iraq is won, the shooting may restart in Israel. The U.S. by then would no longer care. The short-term benefits are substantial for almost everyone, though. The U.S. gets to avoid the appearance of a two-front war against Muslims. Saudi Arabia gets to repair its relations with the U.S. Sharon and Arafat, each now shouting down bottomless wells, get an excuse to restart their talks. The single loser would be Iraq's Saddam Hussein. His demise would become even more certain (Saudi Arabia might even applaud the invasion). Well, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy. http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/020226/2002022601.html * EGYPTIAN EXPORTS TO IRAQ Arabic News, 26th February The Iraqi trade minister Muhammad Mahdi Saleh expected on Monday that total Egyptian exports to Iraq by the end of the current year will reach USD 3 billion. Saleh, who paid a visit last week to Cairo stressed he had discussed with the Egyptian prime minister Atif Ebeid all measures help to the flow of the Egyptian exports to Iraq through the free trade agreement signed by the two states in January 2001. In December 2001, Saleh said that two states are determinant to increase the volume of trade which reached in 2001 USD 1.8 billion and according to it Egypt occupied the third rank among the countries Iraq is dealing with, noting that the total volume of cooperation between the two states in the framework of the oil-for-food agreement reached USD 3.5 billion. http://www.irna.com/newshtm/eng/07193910.htm * LEADER LAUDS PROGRAMS TO KEEP MEMORIES OF IRAQI-IMPOSED WAR ALIVE Tehran, Feb 26, IRNA -- Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei on Tuesday appreciated the programs to keep the memories of the Iraqi-imposed war alive. In a meeting with organizers of guided tours to the battlefields of the Iraqi invasion on Iran, the Supreme Leader said that the sacred defense era (1980-1988) is the period of which the Iranian nation are proud and called for safeguarding the invaluable moral heritage left behind by the valiant martyrs. The Leader lauded the program which began a few years ago to organize tours to the war fronts where the Iraqi forces had occupied and the Iranian soldiers managed to force the enemy forces out of the Iranian territory thanks to help from the Almighty God and their own devotion. Analyzing the arrogant behavior of the big powers, the Supreme Leader said that the big powers always target national identity and moral strength of other nations in a bid to reach their own objectives. "Once the arrogant powers embarked on propaganda campaign against Iran focusing on Iran's determination to honor the Islamic principles, but, currently the United States is endeavoring to justify its threats against the other nations as defending the principles," the Supreme Leader said. "Iran's brave defense during the eight years of the Iraqi-imposed war was in fact a defense against an enemy backed by both the East and the West. The sacred defense has become an identical part of the Iranian nation's character," the Supreme Leader pointed out. The Supreme Leader said that the faith and strong might of the Iranian nation to defend the Islamic Republic during eight years of sacred defense brought honor to the country adding that reliance upon Islam and the Holy Quran and the popular support are the key factors which make great miracles. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A13917-2002Feb27.html * 'THE LAST THING WE WANT IS A CONFRONTATION' by Howard Schneider Washington Post, 28th February KARAMEH, Jordan -- It is easy from this Jordanian border post to witness Iraq's isolation. The neighboring countries were once friendly trading partners. But now trucks passing from Iraq into Jordan are inspected down to the last pack of smuggled cigarettes. Agents on the Jordanian side of the border pound with metal bars in search of hollow hiding places. They disassemble portions of the frame and check spare tires with a pressure gauge to ensure there is only air inside. But signs abound of Iraq's influence as well. In another inspection lane, tanks full of crude oil headed for a Jordanian refinery move through with only a cursory look and a quick trip across the scales. Since the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991, Iraq has provided Jordan with all the oil it needs, almost free. That dependence provides one explanation why, despite widespread distrust of Iraq among fellow Arab nations, the Gulf War coalition that reversed Iraq's invasion of Kuwait a decade ago appears unlikely to reassemble as part of President Bush's confrontation with the "axis of evil." "If they hit Iraq, it's like they are hitting us," said a Jordanian truck driver, Nasser Tarifi, who survives on the three to five tankers of oil he drives from Iraq into Jordan each month through this crossing 200 miles northeast of Amman. [.....] A U.S. attack on Iraq "should not be contemplated at all," Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah said recently, according to the official Saudi Press Agency. His remarks cast doubt on whether the United States would be able to use its Saudi-based warplanes and modern regional command center for any strike on Baghdad. Like Jordan, Saudi Arabia has economic interests at stake -- about $300 million per year in trade with Iraq. Syria, Egypt and Turkey are also selling more goods than ever to Iraq. In addition, economic ties have deepened in recent years between Iraq and European countries such as France and Russia that want to take the lead in rebuilding the country's oil industry once international sanctions are lifted. [.....] In addition, U.S. concern about Iraq's pursuit of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons is not shared in a region that is equally worried about Israel's possession of the same sorts of devices and views Iraq as a potential Arab deterrent. [.....] Nor is there trust of the alternatives suggested in the United States. The opposition Iraqi National Congress and its leader, Ahmed Chalabi, are not seen as credible national authorities. Attitudes here toward Chalabi focus less on his role as a political leader and more on his conviction in absentia and 20-year-plus sentence on embezzlement charges. He was caught funneling tens of millions of dollars in the 1980s from Jordan into Swiss accounts -- so much currency that his activities were blamed for a devaluation of the Jordanian dinar. Although Jordan would be a convenient spot for the Iraqi National Congress to be based ahead of any move on Iraq, Jordanians say that Chalabi, whose group is based in London, will be imprisoned if he returns. [.....] http://www.reuters.com/news_article.jhtml?type=worldnews&StoryID=648588 * AFGHAN WARLORD POSSIBLY LEFT IRAN FOR IRAQ - PAPER Reuters, 28th February TEHRAN: Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who has left exile in Iran, may have sought refuge in neighboring Iraq, an Iranian newspaper said on Thursday. Iran last week told the hardline former Afghan warlord to leave the country, according to press reports, after he embarrassed Tehran authorities by opposing Afghanistan's interim government which Iran supports. Hekmatyar said he had fighters inside Afghanistan ready to expel foreign troops there. "We heard that Iraq gave a positive answer to Hekmatyar's request for a visa but...declined to give visas to eight of his close friends who have accompanied him in Iran for the past three years," Bonyan daily said. Hekmatyar's struggle with other factions in Afghanistan caused the partial destruction of the capital Kabul and the rise of the hardline Islamic Taliban in the mid-1990s. "Hekmatyar is lost, but because he had some contacts with MKO members based in Iraq and Baghdad officials he is probably in Iraq," the daily said, quoting an unidentified Afghan source. The Iraq-based People's Mujahedeen (MKO) organization is the main armed opposition to the Iranian government. Iraq and Iran fought a war from 1980 to 1988. In a statement from Baghdad faxed to Reuters in London late on Thursday, the People's Mujahedeen said the newspaper report of contacts between its members and Hekmatyar was "an outright lie." "The mullahs ruling Iran have fabricated this lie simply as a ploy to put pressure on the Mujahedeen," it said, adding that the organization and its members had never had any contact or ties with Hekmatyar. Hekmatyar's spokesman in Pakistan Ghairat Baheer told Reuters on Wednesday that Hekmatyar was no longer in Iran and that "his plan was to return to his own country." An Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman told Reuters on Monday Hekmatyar would be arrested and tried for war crimes if he returned home. Hekmatyar fled to Iran in 1996 when the Taliban, whose rule was ended by the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan three months ago, took control of Kabul. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk