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[casi] From today's papers: 06-03-02

A. Britain and US prepare public for Iraq strikes, Guardian, 6th March
B.  Blair would follow Bush to Baghdad, but then what?, Times, 6th March
[opinion piece by Alice Miles]
C. U.S. believes Russia is shifting on Iraq, Baltimore Sun, 5th March
D. Iraqis Will Face Blunt Terms in Weapons Talks at the U.N., New York
Times, 6th March

Baltimore Sun:
New York Times:

I could only find a couple of things about Iraq in today's UK broadsheets (A
and B above). In A. an anonymous FCO official acknowledges that they are
'preparing people' for 'other options' ie. a military assault whilst B. is a
'dovish' opinion piece from the Times. It's possible that today's debate in
the Commons may get coverage in tomorrow's papers so people may wish to hold
their fire.

C. suggests that Russia may not oppose an attack and D. contains more
information on Blix and the negotations on the weapons inspection front

Best wishes,

voices uk

A. Britain and US prepare public for Iraq strikes

Richard Norton-Taylor and Julian Borger in Washington
Wednesday March 6, 2002
The Guardian

Britain and the US are engaged in a joint strategy designed to apply
pressure on Saddam Hussein to allow UN weapons inspectors into Iraq while
preparing public opinion for military action against the country.
This was made clear by Foreign Office and western intelligence sources as
the US prepared to present the UN today with material purporting to show
Iraq has converted trucks imported through the UN's humanitarian programme
into mobile rocket launchers and military vehicles.

A diplomat at the UN who has seen the evidence described it as "pretty

Charles Duelfer, former deputy head of the Unscom weapons inspection team,
said Iraq had displayed new mobile launchers for an upgraded medium-range
missile, the alSamoud, at an army day parade in April.

"They have the capability to modify a vehicle like this, but not build it
from scratch," he said. Mr Duelfer, now an analyst at the Centre for
Strategic and International Studies in Washington, speculated that the US
might have photographs of the al-Samoud launchers from the parade.

Foreign Office sources insist that no decision has been made on military
action against Iraq. However, a source said: "If there is no progress on the
UN front, we will look at other options. We are preparing people for that".

The sources said the focus was still on the UN where America and Britain are
pushing for "smart sanctions" - essentially allowing Iraq to import more
civilian goods while tightening controls over military related equipment -
due to be implemented on May 30.

Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, yesterday stepped up the campaign saying
that the Iraqi regime was rebuilding its nuclear, chemical, and biological,
weapons programme.

In an article in the Times based on information provided by the intelligence
agencies, he said Iraq was developing ballistic missiles capable of
delivering chemical and biological weapons to targets beyond the 150km limit
imposed by the UN.

"This would allow Iraq to hit countries as far away as the United Arab
Emirates and Israel", he said. Mr Straw also said there was evidence that
Iraq was making increased efforts to procure "nuclear-related material and

The foreign secretary pointedly added that many of the weapons facilities
damaged by the US and Britain in the Operation Desert Fox bombing in 1998
had been repaired.

The British government is planning to release a dossier, based on
intelligence information, on Iraq's attempts to produce weapons of mass
destruction and develop long-range missiles.

The Iraqis are sending a high-level delegation to today's UN sanctions
committee, led by the foreign minister, Naji Sabri al-Hadeithi, and
including General Hussam Amin, who as head of the Iraqi na tional monitoring
directorate represented Baghdad in its daily tussles with Unscom.

Hans Blix, who would lead any new UN inspections regime, will also attend
the meeting, diplomats said. Mr Blix is the head of Unscom's successor,
Unmovic (the UN monitoring, verification and inspection commission). But
diplomats at the UN said he would have little discretion to bargain with the
Iraqis over what form of inspections would be acceptable.

"That decision is a matter for the security council," said a western

Iraq has repeatedly said it will not cooperate with UN inspectors. If Saddam
continues to refuse to accept them, Whitehall sources say, it would make
life easier for Washington. The suggestion is that this would give the Bush
administration more excuse to take military action.

Mr Straw's intervention follows remarks by Tony Blair to Australian
television last week during the Commonwealth prime ministers' summit. They
represent a significant shift away from the cautious approach towards Iraq
by British ministers earlier this year.

Backing President Bush's reference to the "axis of evil" of Iraq, Iran and
North Korea, the prime minister said: "We have got to act on it because if
we don't act we may find out too late the potential for destruction."

Mr Blair plans to meet president Bush in Washington next month to discuss
what action they should take against Saddam's regime.

B.  Blair would follow Bush to Baghdad, but then what?
by Alice Miles

The Prime Minister can dismiss the wishes of MPs, but not their concerns

The Times
March 06, 2002

The Government has a new “narrative”, which it is pumping out to anyone who
will listen (guilty). Or, more accurately, it has an old narrative which is
being rereleased with some urgency. It goes like this: There are four
strands to government policy. The first is delivering a strong and stable
economy. The second is the social justice agenda — Welfare to Work and child
poverty etc (or “Gordon’s stuff”, as it is more commonly known). Third is
the public services. Fourth is “Britain’s place in the world” — Africa and
all that.

Now, the narrative continues, numbers one, two and four are broadly “fine”.
Number three can be separated into four parts: education, transport, health
and crime. Of these, Labour has a problem with the second and third — and
this is what the Government needs to focus on.

No mention, note, of the euro. Blairite enthusiasts for the single currency
who would have sworn a year ago that a referendum would be held this term
now put the chances at 50:50. And it all depends, they say, on Gordon. So
that’s that idea shelved. Why would the Chancellor take a risk on the
Government’s, and therefore his, credibility by rushing inopportunely into
the single currency (supposing a referendum could be won) when he can hold
back and take us in himself as Prime Minister in a third Labour term? All
speculation, but I pass it on.

The euro isn’t the only interesting omission from No 10’s newly reissued
narrative. War with Iraq doesn’t get a look-in either. I don’t get the
impression that attacking President Saddam Hussein has been pencilled into
the Government’s agenda. This hasn’t, of course, stopped the usual suspects
getting up in arms about the issue. Tam Dalyell has called a debate in
Westminster Hall today to give opponents a chance to air their objections.

A defence debate three weeks ago gave a flavour of Labour MPs’ protests.
Harry Cohen said that a large-scale attack on Iraq “would be an awful
mistake and make the region less stable. It would also create grievance to
an extent that could foster future terrorism”. Alice Mahon warned MPs of the
potential for “many deaths” as a result of “such blatant warmongering” by
the US. “No evidence has ever been produced that Iraq wants to attack this
country . . . the escalation of military action will simply bring about
another arms race, which will be devastating for the rest of the world.”
Another MP, Malcolm Savidge, warned ministers against becoming “patsies for
the present US Administration . . . the United Kingdom must not permit
mission creep from patrolling no-fly zones to involving ourselves in war in
Iraq simply to ingratiate the Republican Right rather than to defend British

The trouble for the Government is that opposition to an attack on Iraq goes
far beyond the left-wing “normal suspects”. It is hard to find anyone in the
Parliamentary Labour Party who supports it. There are bound to be doubts in
the Cabinet, too.

The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Donald Anderson,
summed up moderate opponents’ views in a debate in December, saying that “we
must be very cautious” about attacking Iraq: it is a functioning state
possessing weapons of mass destruction and without an opposition which could
be trusted as a successful replacement for Saddam’s administration. He also
warned the House of the “major political implications for the region”, as
set out by the Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesman, Menzies Campbell,
namely instability in the Arab world, the collapse of the international
coalition against terrorism, and the danger that Saddam would target an
Israeli state governed by a man who would not be expected to show restraint
in return.

Wow. One hopes Mr Blair knows what he is doing. He can — and will — dismiss
the wishes of his MPs, but he would be a fool to dismiss their concerns.
Washington itself has no answer to the question of who or what it would like
to see replace Saddam. Nor, contrary to what has been suggested, does it
seem likely that the US is prepared to commit hundreds of thousands of
ground troops to an effort to take Baghdad, in a campaign where they would
be likely to get killed in vast numbers.

At the moment the US doesn’t even have an exit strategy for Afghanistan.
They haven’t caught bin Laden, they haven’t caught Mullah Omar, their
soldiers are being killed and they don’t know how to get out.

An air war didn’t rid Iraq of Saddam last time, and presumably won’t again,
just as it failed to rid Afghanistan of Osama bin Laden. And a Prime
Minister who so painstakingly built up the international coalition last
autumn will be more aware than most of the part that assurances that the war
aims would not be extended to Iraq played in that process.

To all of which, the pugilists are entitled to ask: well, what would you do?
Baghdad is developing weapons of mass destruction. It has chemical and
biological weapons and is trying to develop a nuclear bomb. There have been
no UN weapons inspections since 1998.

Hawks and doves can broadly agree that ideally, an improved sanctions regime
would be introduced and in return Saddam would allow weapons inspections to
restart. Beyond that, the consensus crumbles. It is difficult to imagine Mr
Blair disagreeing, however, with the notion that the US should re-engage
with the Middle East and use its weight to steer Ariel Sharon back to the
negotiating table. For the most worrying element of the American aggression
is that there seems to be no wider strategy beyond picking off, country by
country, those whom Bush views as a threat.

No strategy. No clarity. No friends. All of which makes it even more
worrying that the Prime Minister has apparently decided that if the US does
decide to go ahead, he will, in the end, go along with it.

C. U.S. believes Russia is shifting on Iraq
White House official says Moscow appears ready to accept possible attack
By Mark Matthews
Baltimore Sun

March 5, 2002

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration is becoming more confident that Russian
President Vladimir V. Putin will not oppose possible military action against
Iraq, a senior official said yesterday.

If Russia were to agree, it would mark a major shift from the policy that
the Kremlin has pursued since the late 1990s, when Moscow became Baghdad's
principal defender in the United Nations Security Council and pushed for an
early end to sanctions against Iraq.

The administration is beginning to prepare the diplomatic ground for
military action to remove President Saddam Hussein if he continues to bar
U.N. weapons inspectors from Iraq or blocks their access to sensitive sites.

Unlike the Clinton administration, which used airstrikes merely to try to
force Iraq to cooperate with the inspections, the Bush team has made clear
that its goal in any new military action would be to end Hussein's regime.

The senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, has been involved
in recent talks with the Kremlin. He said conversations with Russian
officials indicate that the kind of Russian cooperation already evident in
the U.S.-led war on terrorism might now extend to Iraq.

"I think they acknowledge our analysis that if the Iraqis refuse to let the
inspectors in, or obstruct the inspectors once they are in, they're in
violation of 687," the official said, referring to the U.N. resolution
laying out the terms of the cease-fire that ended the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
Russia also agrees that if the cease-fire has been violated, "the
authorization to use force comes back into effect," the official said.

A Russian Embassy spokesman, Yevgeniy Khorishko, declined to comment on the
U.S. official's statements other than to say, "We are cooperating with the
United States in the U.N. on the Iraq issue."

Even if Russia supported military strikes to force Iraqi compliance on
inspections, getting the Kremlin to agree to the forced removal of Hussein
would be "a lot harder" the American official said, because of historically
close ties between Russia and Iraq.

"But on the other hand, the cooperation the Russians have shown since Sept.
11 in a whole range of things - operations in the Central Asian republics,
operations in Georgia - are things that nobody would have predicted
pre-Sept. 11. So I don't even rule that out necessarily."

Since President Bush's State of the Union speech, in which he labeled Iraq
part of an "axis of evil" along with Iran and North Korea, U.S. officials
have made it increasingly clear that the president is intent on what they
call "regime change" in Iraq. But they have said no decision has been made
on when or how to do it. The official who spoke in an interview yesterday
said military action, if it occurs, would not come before the May summit
between Bush and Putin.

Even if Russia acquiesces, U.S. military action against Iraq faces
opposition in Europe and among a number of Arab leaders, who would face
strong domestic opposition to an American attack against an Arab state.

And because Hussein himself would be threatened by the United States in a
way that he wasn't during the 1991 war, the United States needs to prepare
for the possibility that he would take desperate measures to save his
regime - perhaps by unleashing an arsenal of chemical or biological weapons
against U.S. forces, Israel or Gulf Arab states.

"The Hitler-in-the-bunker mentality - 'If I'm going down, I'm going to take
everything else with me' - is not something you can discount," the senior
administration official said yesterday. "And therefore the threat to other
nearby countries in particular is something you have to worry about before
you make any of these decisions."

Vice President Dick Cheney's trip to the region this month "will be part of
the process of finding out what people think so we can get a better handle
on that."

In an apparent move to prevent or forestall a U.S. military campaign, Iraq
shows signs of relenting on its refusal for the past three years to allow
U.N. inspectors back into the country. Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri is
due to meet Thursday in New York with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Most U.S. officials don't believe Saddam Hussein will allow inspections that
might uncover weapons of mass destruction or weapons-development that he has
been determined to keep hidden.

But U.S. allies see a value to trying to get the inspectors back into Iraq.
And Secretary of State Colin L. Powell indicated over the weekend that he
did, too.

"I have no illusions about the ability of inspectors to find everything, but
I think they can play a useful role," Powell said in a CNN interview.

The senior official added, "It's important to go through the exercise one
more time so that there's no doubt in anybody's mind that the Iraqis are
never going to really comply with 687, which requires free and unfettered
access to the inspectors."

The official's optimistic assessment of a changed Russian attitude toward
Iraq is supported by some Washington analysts who watch the Kremlin closely.
Dimitri K. Simes, president of the Nixon Center, said, "What choice does
[Putin] have? He's not going to go to war against the United States. He's
not going to postpone the summit, and if [the military action occurs] after
the summit, he's not going to reject U.S. help in joining" the World Trade

But Simes said it is important for the Bush administration "to appreciate
Russian concerns," particularly the likely negative reaction by the Russian
public, as well as Russian economic interests in Iraq, which owes a
multibillion-dollar debt to Moscow and has also signed long-term
oil-development contracts with Russian firms.

The United States should assure Russia that it would press a post-Hussein
regime in Iraq to fulfill its obligations to Russia and that it would "not
promote American companies at the expense of Russian companies," Simes said.

The U.S. official, referring to Russia's economic concerns, said, "I can't
believe that we wouldn't be willing to accommodate them. We're not trying to
exclude them from trade with Iraq or anything else, or to prevent them from
getting their debts paid off. It may well be easier for them to achieve
those objectives with regime change in Baghdad than it would be otherwise."

Lilia Shevtsova, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace, said Russia wants to be America's "ally and partner" on
Iraq, but is "unhappy about the unilateralist overdrive."

"If the inspectors are not returned, then Russia definitely will support the
American approach - even military action," she said.

Copyright © 2002, The Baltimore Sun

D. Iraqis Will Face Blunt Terms in Weapons Talks at the U.N.

New York Times
March 6, 2002

UNITED NATIONS, March 5 — After three years of refusing to deal with United
Nations arms inspectors, a high-level Iraqi delegation is about to come face
to face for the first time with the leader of the inspection commission,
Hans Blix.

That the Iraqis have agreed to this meeting, set for Thursday, after asking
to see only Secretary General Kofi Annan, is indicative of the concern they
have that the threat of an American attack is real, if not imminent,
diplomats and United Nations officials said in interviews this week.

While no one expects a quick resumption of arms inspections in Iraq,
diplomats said the Iraqis appear more conciliatory. They also said the five
permanent Security Council members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the
United States — are more unified than in recent years at least on the demand
that until inspectors return on the Council's terms, no relief from
sanctions can be permitted.

Dr. Blix, a Swedish disarmament expert and international lawyer, said in an
interview on Monday that the Council's terms meant unrestricted access and
no Iraqi veto over the nationality of inspectors. "I am not giving any
discounts on Security Council resolutions," he said. "There are no
sanctuaries. The resolutions make it quite clear that there should be access
that is unconditional, immediate and unrestricted."

The Iraqis sought this week's meeting after a year of cold-shouldering the
United Nations and another two years of playing Council members off one
another. When Mr. Annan agreed to the talks, he decided to include Dr. Blix,
executive chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and
Inspection Commission, created in December 1999 to replace an earlier body,
the United Nations Special Commission. A senior United Nations legal counsel
will also be present.

The Iraqi delegation to what is expected to be only the first round of talks
will be led by a new foreign minister, Naji Sabri, who is considered more
amenable than his blustering predecessor, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf.

Weapons experts will be included in the Iraqi group, the first to venture
out on this issue since a reshuffle in the Iraqi foreign affairs hierarchy
that may have reduced the influence of Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz,
diplomats said. Mr. Aziz recently visited Moscow and Beijing but received
little in the way of support from the Russians or Chinese for continued
defiance of the Security Council.

At the International Peace Academy, a research organization in New York that
works closely with the United Nations, David Malone, the organization's
president, said American threats to hit Iraq may have influenced thinking in
countries like Russia and France, which have large commercial interests
there. If the government of Iraq were to be dislodged or toppled by United
States action, what would happen to those interests — to the debt of up to
$8 billion Iraq owes the Russians?

"Saddam Hussein may have played his cards wrong," Mr. Malone, a Canadian
diplomat, said in an interview. "Overall, patience with Iraq has pretty much
run out."

Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's ambassador to the United Nations, said
today that Iraq's team looked promising.

"The fact that they are coming with a senior and quite serious delegation is
a good sign that they want to have discussions with the secretary general
about — as they would see it — the options open to them," he said. "As the
Security Council, and I'm sure the secretary general, see it, the options
open to them are compliance."

Britain and other Security Council members have met with Mr. Annan to
encourage him not to allow the Iraqis to shift talks away from their
immediate obligations. Iraq, seeking control over revenue from oil sales,
wants a timetable for the lifting of penalties. Money now goes into escrow
accounts, with some earmarked to assist the Kurds in northern Iraq, to pay
reparations for the 1990 occupation of Kuwait and to support arms

Dr. Blix has used some of that money to turn the commission he has headed
since early 2000 into a much more technically professional body than its
predecessor. A vast data base with sophisticated search engines for
cross-referencing archival material on Iraq has been created, he said.

Satellite imagery of Iraqi buildings, roads, power lines or other objects of
interest to inspectors has been purchased from commercial suppliers. A
blowup of the streets of Baghdad hangs on his office wall.

About 230 inspectors from dozens of countries have been trained or are now
in training to work in Iraq, Dr. Blix said.

The Monterey Institute of International Studies in California has produced a
media file of 3,000 to 4,000 articles or other material published on Iraqi
weapons, including testimony from defectors and intelligence leaks.
Technology has been upgraded. "They have acquainted themselves with a lot of
new techniques," Dr. Blix said of his inspectors. "Sensors, tagging,
cameras, etc. — all this moves very fast."

The question hanging over the United Nations now is whether the United
States really wants arms inspectors to return, based on public comments made
by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld questioning their value. Some
diplomats say the United States would not want inspectors on the ground if a
military attack were being planned; the last inspectors to work in Iraq had
to be pulled out ahead of American bombing in 1998.

Other diplomats say they think that Washington fears that inspectors could
be used to give the appearance of Iraqi compliance while continuing to
stonewall inspectors and hide weapons programs. Publicly, however, Bush
administration officials call for the return of inspectors in line with
Security Council demands.

As the Council approaches several critical months of work on the Iraq issue,
European diplomats see the most unity on an agreement on a new list of what
Iraq can buy freely with its oil money and of which items will be open to
scrutiny because they look like civilian goods but could have military uses.
That agreement is expected to be completed by mid- May.

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