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[casi] News, 2-9/3/02 (3)

News, 2-9/3/02 (3)


*  Blair faces threat of resignations over Iraq
*  Ministers step back from new war on Iraq
*  Galloway apologises for calling minister a liar
*  Time up for Iraq [Times editorial]
*  Kennedy tells his members they have to 'grow up' to take on Tories [Some
quite sensible comments from Charles Kennedy, who, before going to war with
Iraq, requires not just proof that Iraq should possess WMDs but also
evidence that Œthere is a willingness to use themı.]

URLs ONLY:,6903,661037,00.html
by Mary Riddell
The Observer, 3rd March
[A wandering article which eventually winds up with this conclusion: ŒShould
an elusive salvation still exist for Iraq, it lies in targeted sanctions,
more food aid, plus global co operation on weapons treaties and regional
action on oil smuggling. Mr Blair should press for those and unhitch himself
fast from the Bush game of swagger and double jeopardy.ı Incidentally, when
Mary Riddell refers to ŒOld Testament notions of good and evilı, she
indicates that she isnıt very well acquainted with that most morally complex
of sacred texts.]
by Toby Harnden and George Jones
Daily Telegraph, 7th March
[General roundup of developments which includes this rather touching quote:
ŒA Bush administration source told The Telegraph that it had never been
doubted that Britain would join the Iraqi campaign. Acknowledging opposition
elsewhere in the world, he said: "When we say we might have to go it alone,
'we' really means 'you and us'."ı]

WORLD OPINION (from India, Pepe Escobar, Australia, Germany, Georgia, China)

*  The coming war on Iraq: Protest, don't grovel [A fine article with a
clear-eyed view of the major driving force of politics at the present time ‹
the US bid for world domination. A short but good account of the Œweapons
inspectionsı in Iraq. One complaint. Richard Garfieldıs figure of 350,000
children under 5 dying since 1990 is quoted (as a conservative estimate) but
it isnıt stated that this is twice the 1980s figure ­ so the excess figure
is in fact 175,000.]
*  Bush vs Saddam: The empire strikes back [My admiration for Pepe Escobar
fades a little after this fairly routine account of the difficulties facing
the US over Iraq. Though it starts well ­ highlighting the central dilemma:
how do you affect Œregime changeı in Iraq without handing it over to its
Shia majority, which is unacceptable to Saudi Arabia?]
*  The lone ranger [Interesting to see anxiety about US imperialism coming
from Australia of all places. And quoting Michael Ignatieff of all people.
And even George (ŒLordı) Robertson! Though thereıs still a bit of an
atmosphere of ŒWeıd like to kick some ass, too. Please.ı about it.]
*  Europe must get serious on Iraq [German commentator says what the US
wants to hear. Surprise, surprise. He presents his argument as a defence of
the authority of the United Nations. These people need to be told that the
authority of the United Nations is only worth preserving if it really is the
united nations. Alas, the greatest enemy of the united nations is the US and
after it the UN Security Council with its five permanent veto wielding
powers. Also, when youıve systematically and deliberately murdered hundreds
of thousand of people over a period of ten years in Œpeacetimeı, you cease
to have any moral authority whatsoever.]
*  Georgia Won't Allow Its Airfields to Be Used for Attack on Iraq
*  China Hopes to See Positive Result from UN-Iraq Dialogue

by Scott B MacDonald
Asia Times, 7th March
[I havenıt included this for reasons of space but its an interestingly
blatant statement from a private consultancy firm of the US intention to
establish full hegemony over Asia. This is presented as an exciting
opportunity for the Asians.]


*  UN Arms Expert No 'Cosmetic' Inspections in Iraq
*  Meeting Scheduled on Iraqi Sanctions [Some elements not in the previous
*   If mission is timetabled inspectors could return to Iraq: Paper [The
Iraqi position on inspectors hasnıt changed. Nor could it, given the obvious
truth of the following two assertions from Babil: Œ"One of the main reasons
for our opposition to the return of inspectors is because the Americans want
them to remain indefinitely, which means continuing the unfair embargo,"²
and Œ"The US administration is determined to attack us whether we authorise
the return of inspectors or not,"ı.
*  'So Far So Good' Annan Says of Iraqi Talks
*  Iraq is converting donated aid trucks into rocket launchers, claim US
chiefs [Note that the purpose of this is to justify blocking Iraq from
having access to trucks. But, given the nature of the weaponry that is being
assembled against Iraq, is there no-one out there prepared to hold this sort
of thing up to the contempt and derision it deserves?]
*  U.S. backs new round of Iraq-U.N. talks [Some interesting items here.
Russia wants a mechanism for the lifting of sanctions; Blix assures the
Iraqis that UNMOVIC is different from UNSCOM (thus confirming that there was
something wrong with UNSCOM).]

by Brian Groom, Robert Shrimsley and Cathy Newman
Financial Times, 7th March

Tony Blair faces the threat of ministerial resignations - including at least
one cabinet member - if he backs any US military action against Iraq,
government insiders said yesterday.

The warning comes as the prime minister is under growing pressure from
ministers who say the government is drifting and failing to seize the
domestic agenda.

On the eve of a special political session of the cabinet at Chequers to
discuss next month's Budget, the spending round and public services,
ministers said the government was failing to get a coherent message across.

Doubts about military action in Iraq surfaced at the cabinet's regular
weekly meeting on Wednesday, when some ministers expressed reservations
about committing British forces without clear political support and an exit

Government whips have warned Mr Blair that backbench unease over Iraq goes
well beyond the 60 Labour MPs who have signed a Commons motion opposing
military action.

Ministers say that to win the party's backing, there would have to be clear
evidence of the threat posed by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's pursuit of
weapons of mass destruction. Mr Blair would face widespread dissent if he
proceeded without it.

"People have talked of low-level resignations, but they could go right up
into the cabinet," said a government insider.

Clare Short, international development secretary - who was in Spain on
Wednesday - is thought to be among the most concerned. She resigned from the
shadow cabinet in 1991 rather than toe the official line supporting the Gulf

Robin Cook, leader of the Commons, is also believed to be among the doves.
He told the house on Wednesday that no decision had been taken and "none may
ever be taken" to attack Iraq.

Later he did not deny to reporters that there were divisions inside the
government. "Lots of people have sometimes contradictory instincts on this.
Nobody likes military action," he said.

He spoke warmly of the backbench dissidents, saying many who signed the
motion had a "strong and honourable record of condemning proliferation". But
he added that doing nothing about Mr Saddam was not an option because he was
acquiring materials for chemical and biological weapons.


March 08, 2002
by Philip Webster
Times, 8th March


Mr Cook then went on: ³There is a danger that discussion in the press is
getting way ahead of where discussion is here and in the United States.
There is no decision. There is no immediate prospect of a decision and it
does not necessarily follow that there will ever be a decision on the use of
military action.²

He added, however: ³One option that is not available is doing nothing.²

Mr Cookıs words were clearly designed to calm Labour MPs, but ministers
believe Mr Bair will have a difficult job to persuade the country of the
need for new military action against Saddam.

by John Innes
Scotsman, 8th March

A LABOUR MP who branded a Foreign Office minister a liar escaped punishment
for unparliamentary language yesterday.

George Galloway apologised for his comment, which halted parliamentary
proceedings on Wednesday, and withdrew his allegation against Ben Bradshaw
in a personal statement to the House of Commons.

Meanwhile, Mr Bradshaw offered his own apology for branding the veteran
left-winger a "mouthpiece" for Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

A debate on Iraq in the Commonsı "parallel chamber", Westminster Hall, was
suspended yesterday after the bitter exchange between Mr Galloway and Mr

Mr Galloway, MP for Glasgow Kelvin, was told to retract his comment by
Deputy Speaker John McWilliam, and risked suspension from the House by
refusing to do so.

He told the Commons: "Exchanges on both sides of the argument were decidedly
robust. Nonetheless, I would like to say that I am sorry for stepping out of
parliamentary order and for my failure to withdraw my remarks when asked to
do so, and now do so withdraw them."

Mr Bradshaw agreed that "it would have been better if I had not used the
phrase that I applied to him [Mr Galloway] and Iım sorry for the offence
that was caused."

Despite the apology, which was made with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw by his
side, Downing Street made clear that Tony Blair did not feel that Mr
Bradshaw had "overstepped the mark".

Yesterdayıs exchange came during a debate in which Mr Galloway made an
impassioned plea for Britain to take no part in military action against

Mr Bradshaw retorted: "Some good points that he made on the Middle East
peace process would, I believe, carry more credibility if he hadnıt made a
career of being not just an apologist but a mouthpiece to the Iraqi regime
over many years."

Mr Galloway, a consistent critic of international sanctions against Iraq,
tried to intervene, shouting that the minister was a liar and that he had
been slandered.

Mr Galloway refused to retract his allegation, which is outlawed under the
conventions of Commons debate.

Mr McWilliam then suspended the sitting to report the matter to Speaker
Michael Martin.

Yesterdayıs apologies were expected to bring the matter to an end, but Mr
Galloway made clear he would continue his opposition to military

He told BBC Radio 4ıs Today: "The bigger question remains: Are we going to
have a proper national debate in this country about whether we are going to
war in the Middle East when there is already a war waging there?"

More than 50 MPs had signed an early-day motion expressing unease at US
President George Bushıs apparent determination to take on Saddam, he said.

"They include many names who could not remotely be described as the usual

"It is picking up steam because people donıt trust George W Bush to lead us
into a conflagration involving hundreds of thousands of foreign soldiers in
an Arab country. I think people are very worried about that indeed.",,542-229472,00.html

Times, 8th March (editorial)

Yesterdayıs meeting at the United Nations brought a senior Iraqi delegation
face to face for the first time with the head of the UN Monitoring,
Verification and Inspection Commission (Unmovic), Hans Blix. The decision
that he should be present was Kofi Annanıs; but it is significant that
Saddam Hussein, who has for three years refused all contact with UN weapons
³spies², did not then back out of ³discussions² with the Secretary-General.
Iraq itself requested these talks. It shows that Saddam realises that he
must make a show of taking seriously President Bushıs ultimatum on finally
ridding Iraq of its illegal weapons of mass destruction and covert
production facilities.

Arab governments are anxiously pressing Iraq to stop blocking inspections.
So did Russia and China when Iraqıs Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz,
recently did the rounds of their capitals. Saddamıs invitation to Tony Blair
last week to send a British team to Baghdad fell, for once, as flat as it
deserved to. In the Security Council, patience with Iraqıs endless evasions
has evaporated. That is not least because its more ambivalent members are
convinced that full Iraqi compliance with UN resolutions is now the only way
to stall an American offensive and keep up the fiction, threadbare as they
know it to be, that the potent menace of Saddamıs regime can be ³contained².

Washington took a dim view of this meeting; it suspects Saddam of trying to
buy time and in this it is almost certainly correct. A seeming readiness to
comply would pile pressure on the US to be ³patient² while Iraq multiplied
excuses for delaying the start of inspections ‹ and led the inspectors, once
they arrived, the usual dance. Mr Annanıs staff referred approvingly
yesterday to Iraqıs new ³flexibility²; flexibility is exactly what he should
be ruling out.

The Security Council terms, reiterated for the umpteenth time last December,
are clear. There must be no Iraqi veto over the composition of Unmovic; no
³sanctuaries² immune from penetration; no artificial deadlines since there
is no way of knowing how much time the inspectors will need or what they
will find ‹ or be prevented from uncovering and destroying to their full
satisfaction. There is no scope for ³discussion² when what is required is
Iraqıs immediate and unconditional compliance.

Mr Blair has shed his earlier reticence about military action against Iraq,
if that is required to deal conclusively with this long-brooding destructive
threat. He is now at one with President Bush. Saddamıs known determination
to acquire useable biochemical, chemical and nuclear weapons and the mass of
intelligence that he is rapidly nearing his goals, means that the gravest
danger is that action will come ³too late². To say so publicly, as he has
begun to do, has been both necessary and politically courageous. He has gone
against perhaps four fifths of Labour MPs, Robin Cook not least, and been
rebuked by both France and Germany for breaking the EU ³consensus² that
pressure should stop short of military action.

It is worth one last attempt to get the inspectors in. The new UN team, set
up back in 1999, is more formidably equipped than its predecessor. It has
230 trained inspectors, a vast database with sophisticated cross-
referencing and powerful search engines, satellite imagery and extensive
testimony from defectors and intelligence agents. When he headed the
International Atomic Energy Agency, Hans Blix had the wool pulled over his
eyes by Iraq. He should not be fooled twice over. But they must start within
days if possible, weeks at most.

The US and Britain should set a specific, early and non-negotiable date,
after which they will deem Iraq to have said no to the UN. When Mr Blair
meets Mr Bush again next month, it will be for a council of war in which
Iraq, quite rightly, will be firmly on the agenda. Neither fighting in
Afghanistan, nor anti-American muttering from Britainıs EU partners, nor
Palestinian conflagration, alters that. Afghanistan, as Mr Blair said last
week, was ignored for far too long. Policy on Iraq has been a shambles too.
The reckoning is unavoidable.

by Donald Macintyre and Andrew Grice
Independent, 8th March


What about Mr Blair's apparent support for the US over Iraq? Well, Mr Blair
had certainly not been a "poodle" of Washington. He had exerted a "benign"
influence on the US in the country's interests. But equally "you must not
see the Iraq situation as phase two of Afghanistan. After 11 September, all
the talk was that we would not walk away from Afghanistan and repeat the
mistake the world made in the past. If we suddenly divert ourselves in the
direction of Baghdad, there is a danger of doing exactly that."

Mr Kennedy said: "If it is proven that Saddam Hussein has amassed weapons of
mass destruction and there is a willingness to use them, then you cannot
rule out having to take action against Iraq.

"That is a quite different category from the war on international terrorism.
You have to keep that distinction very very clear. Otherwise, there would be
a big danger that [the international coalition] would fracture."


WORLD OPINION (from India, Pepe Escobar, Australia, Germany, China)

by Praful Bidwai
Daily Star (Bangladesh), 2nd March

India and Pakistan will tow the US line. There has been no public comment
from India on the "Hate of the Union", or on inhuman treatment of Afghan
POWs. New Delhi has completed its U-turn on autonomous policy-making. It is
endorsing Mr Bush's use of military force as the preferred instrument in
international relations. This cowboy-style militarism is unbecoming of a
civilised state. Instead of protesting, the Indian government is grovelling.

The United States is about to invade Iraq as part of its "global war on
terrorism". According to reports, it plans to topple President Saddam
Hussein through a ground-invasion with 200,000 troops. Its Central Command's
"forward" components have moved to the Gulf.

Characteristically, America's military plans are more advanced than
political ones. It is still confused about which ethnic group should replace
Mr Hussein: Kurds or Shias (a majority in Sunni-ruled Iraq).

The Kurdish option could create trouble in NATO ally Turkey. Supporting
Shias risks strengthening Iran, part of America's "Axis of Evil".

However, two things are clear. Iraq will make the Afghan war--with its
4,000-plus innocent civilian deaths, aggravated starvation of 5.5 million,
and inhuman detention of prisoners- look like a picnic.

In Afghanistan, US warplanes ran out of high-value targets within three
days. In semi developed Iraq, the fighting will be more intense, with high
civilian deaths.

Secondly, the US' unjust war will inflict incalculable harm upon global
peace and security.

The Saddam regime is autocratic and brutal. But it is not in serious breach
of any international law or treaty. It has not, unlike in 1990, invaded a
neighbouring state. It does not, unlike the Taliban, support a widespread
terrorist network.

Baghdad three years ago threw out United Nations inspectors. But the
inspections were, arguably, excessive and unlimited in space and time.
Inspectors could invade government offices, factories, even private
bedrooms--on mere suspicion, without warning.

Some inspections turned up evidence and material pertaining to Iraq's (very
primitive) nuclear programme and (its more advanced) chemical weapons
acquisition. But this happened between 1991 and 1994.

The materials were destroyed. There was little justification for continuing
with the inspections after this.

America's vengeful attitude towards Iraq on inspections is all the more
bizarre because it itself opposes a biological-weapons verification protocol
as the inspections would violate "industrial secrets".

Sanctions inflicted terrible suffering on non-combatant Iraqis. According to
conservative estimates, 350,000 children under 5 died. (This excludes
children over 5, or adults who died for want of food or medicine). For
former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, this terrible misery was
"worth the price".

Iraq's suffering was typical of US military interventions everywhere--some
120 in the past half-century. The coming war is being waged in a new global
post-Cold War situation, in which the US is not just the world's sole
superpower. It is a Hyperpower, wielding far more force than any nation in

America's dominance is unalloyed and unchallenged. It is enforced less
through consensus than brute force. America has rarely practised any
diplomacy other than the gunboat variety.

America's gargantuan military budget equals the defence spending of the next
15 highest countries--combined.

The US alone has mastered a combination of military technologies:
precision-guided missiles and bombs deliverable from "safe" distances;
Special Operations groups with night-vision equipment; sophisticated, secure
communications; and the logistical ability--large transport aircraft and
200-plus military bases--to deploy troops in far-flung battlefields.

No one matches America's awe-inspiring arsenal of mass-destruction weapons.

US economic might too is unequalled, thanks to superiority in information
technology and biotechnology, and to the recent relative decline of Europe
and Japan.

America's might is built on great inequalities of wealth and income, and
poor social security. It has ecologically disastrous effects, including
global warming, deforestation, and oceanic pollution.

The combination of military and economic clout allows the US to take an
arrogant, imperious, unbalanced, unilateralist stand, and treat the world as
its global empire.

US ideologue and former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski sums
up today's dominant vision: The world must consist of only two categories of
states, America's "vassals" and "tributaries".

The US must be free to pursue its interests without hindrance. It should
brook no restraint, respect no authority. It can abuse, manipulate, bypass
or simply ignore the United Nations, as it likes.

US policy is driven not by this or that interest, but by the overarching
goal of world domination. America's response to September 11 was to declare
war, not on a particular state, but on "global terrorism".

Mr Bush's "State of the Union" address means the US will continue to act
like a brigand. He theorised an "Axis of Evil", comprising North Korea, Iraq
and Iran. The least that term implies is mutual coordination. But North
Korea has little contact with the other two. And these are bitter rivals!

Mr Bush declared he would go into Phase-II of the "anti-terrorism" war. But
he also said, "I will not stand by as peril draws closer and closer, the US
will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the
world's most destructive weapons".

Here, he wasn't talking about a war on "terrorism", but a series of larger
wars to stop the spread of mass-destruction weapons--a dangerous new
counter-proliferation doctrine.

Mr Bush's martial oration has drawn widespread criticism. The New York Times
said: "the application of power and intimidation has returned to the
forefront of American foreign policy." The Guardian called it the "Hate of
the Union" address.

Many governments have condemned it as unbalanced for reducing "all the
world's problems to terrorism". The European Union's Chris Patten said it
was "profoundly misguided". France's Lionel Jospin was equally scathing.

However, when push comes to shove, European governments may not actively
oppose the US' military plans. They are likely to be ambiguous.

India and Pakistan won't even be ambiguous. They will tow the US line. There
has been no public comment from India on the "Hate of the Union", or on
inhuman treatment of Afghan POWs.

New Delhi has completed its U-turn on autonomous policy-making. It is
endorsing Mr Bush's use of military force as the preferred instrument in
international relations.

This cowboy-style militarism is unbecoming of a civilised state. Instead of
protesting, the Indian government is grovelling.

Praful Bidwai is an eminent Indian columnist.

by Pepe Escobar
Asia Times, 6th March

PARIS - It may be a geopolitical "window of opportunity". In Washington's
calculations, Saddam Hussein has to go. As soon as possible. The devil, as
usual, is in the details.

Geopolitician Francois Lafargue, professor at the Paris Group School of
Management, sheds some light on how Washington's view of Iraq and its leader
changed from Bush father to Bush son. "Since 1980, Washington has had only
one objective - to destroy the emerging powers of the region, Iran and Iraq.
Beyond the theological squabbles between Sunnis and Shi'ites, the main
political issue in the region is the role of Saudi Arabia. Shi'ites as a
whole deny the legitimacy of the House of Saud - which considers itself to
be the guardian of the sacred places of Islam. That's why Saudi Arabia in
the 1990s was one of the main advocates in favor of Saddam Hussein remaining
in power."

The main groups of the Iraqi population are 20 percent Sunnis, 55 percent
Shi'ites and 25 percent Kurds. During a Kurd rebellion 11 years ago, the aim
was to establish an independent state north of Iraq. An independent
Kurdistan would be oil-rich, and thus capable of financing other Kurdish
independent movements, especially in Turkey.

This was the immediate post-Gulf War period in the early 1990s. Although
George Bush senior had stigmatized Saddam Hussein as "the new Hitler", the
last thing that Washington had in mind at the time was a fragmentation of
Iraq and the rise of an independent Kurdistan.

Washington privileged the territorial integrity of Turkey against Kurdish
aspirations. No wonder. Turkey is the leading army in the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization after the US. It is an essential strategic ally. Turkey
offers the US strategic bases such as Incirlik, listening posts that cover
the whole Caucausus, and it also controls access to the Black Sea.

Lafargue points out that "a democratic Iraq would most probably imply a
Shi'ite Arab in power [because they constitute the majority of the
population]. This would be an untenable situation to the monarchies of Saudi
Arabia and Kuwait, because a Shi'ite power in Baghdad could find many common
grounds with Iran, where two-thirds of the population is Shi'ite".

This was the post-Gulf War scenario. In the post-Afghan War scenario,
Washington's Iraq approach is something completely different. It is a
two-pronged strategy, as Asia Times Online has learned. The first part is
already in place: it could be designated as the "diplomatic solution". It
involves renewing United Nations sanctions against Iraq, and demanding total
access all over Iraq to UN nuclear-weapons inspectors. European diplomats
widely agree that this "solution" will inevitably fail. The road in this
case would be open to the much-preferred "military solution".

The UN Security Council meets in May to renew the already harsh sanctions
against Iraq. But Washington does not want to wait until May. Already in
mid-December 2001, the headquarters of the US 3rd Army was moved to Kuwait.
And the target-planning activity in ultra-high-tech Prince Sultan airbase
near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has been nothing short of frenetic.

The White House and the Pentagon have been actively considering a "variety
of options" - according to Secretary of State Colin Powell - to get rid of
Saddam Hussein. Powell recently told the Senate that the US has no plans to
start a war - at least for the moment - against two of the other "evils",
Iran and North Korea. But the breathing space allowed President Seyed
Mohammad Khatami and Great Leader Kim Jong-il does not apply to Saddam

Most of Washington is still in love with the "Afghan solution": a quick and
easy "victory" with practically no loss of American lives. The fact that
this "victory" means that Osama bin Laden, all of the al-Qaeda leadership
and all of the Taliban leadership are still alive, well and on the loose
obviously is not taken into account.

Applied to Iraq, the "Afghan model" - Northern Alliance "freedom fighters"
supported by US Special Forces and overwhelming aerial supremacy - has led
the Pentagon to build the ideal scenario of an Iraqi nationalist - and
Kurdish - uprising against Saddam, supported by the US agents who have been
roaming northern Iraq gauging possible Kurdish support for this
American-incited revolt.

A key player in the uprising will be the Iraqi National Congress (INC) - the
opposition in exile. But the INC remains extremely disorganized, and is
essentially controlled by a bunch of gangsters. The INC has been receiving a
lot of attention in Washington lately, but still no promise of military

According to one particular Pentagon scenario, Kurds, Iraqi Shi'ites and at
least 100,000 US troops would be involved in an also two-pronged invasion of
Iraq. Half of the US troops would invade from the mini-Kurdistan area set up
in northern Iraq, and the other half would invade from Kuwait - everybody of
course supported by hellish aerial firepower.

The idea, though, is not exactly feasible. The US 3rd Army commander,
Lieutenant-General Paul Mikolashek, has already said he would need between
150,000 and 200,000 combat troops, plus another 200,000 for support and
logistic operations. Military analysts agree the whole operation would need
close to 500,000 troops - roughly the equivalent used during the Gulf War.
The "street" in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan - not to mention Syria,
Lebanon and everywhere else in the Middle East - would certainly go mad.

It took the greatest armada ever almost two weeks to establish "aerial
supremacy" over a bunch of bearded mullahs with walkie-talkies. Saddam
Hussein's is no ragtag medieval army. According to the latest data, it may
have 350,000 combat troops, 2,700 tanks, 90 fighter jets and 100
helicopters. Most of the troops, though, are no more prepared than fleeing

The cream of the crop are 50,000 soldiers in seven Republican Guard
divisions, and 26,000 Special Guards - tribals recruited by Saddam Hussein
in his native Tikrit. These people hold 1,200 Russian T-52 tanks, and
actually get paid: four times the salary of a regular soldier. They also can
lay their hands on 300 mobile anti-aircraft missile launchers - recently
paid for with oil money: sanctions or no sanctions, smuggling remains an
extremely prosperous industry between Iraq and neighbors Turkey, Syria and

Saddam Hussein is not just sitting and waiting to be on the receiving end of
American wrath. Lafargue says that in 2002, Iraq will export 560 million
barrels of oil - two-thirds of its production in 1990. "Some of the revenue
is deposited into accounts managed by the UN, but the war machine is back in
place thanks to smuggling. And the international embargo was ineffective."

Iraq, little by little, is coming back from isolation. Iraqi Foreign
Minister Naji Sabri will meet UN Secretary General Kofi Annan next week in
New York. Contemplating the perspective of American strikes, Iraq is now
apparently interested in renewing dialogue with the UN.

Meanwhile, US Vice President Dick Cheney will personally advance the
groundwork for the military solution. This month he will visit three key
Iraqi neighbors - Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Jordan - plus Britain, Egypt,
Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman. Cheney's targets:
to muster political support and occasional access to airbases, essential for
the whole operation.

The "Afghan General", Tommy Franks, head of the US Central Command and most
certainly the man in charge in the case of an attack against Iraq, said that
the Pentagon has not opted for a military plan - yet. Sources in Brussels
assure Asia Times Online that the Pentagon would need at least a few months
to wrap up the New Afghan War and start the New Iraqi War. There are
insistent rumors in diplomatic circles that a strike against Iraq could
happen as early as May. In this case, it will follow the Taliban spring
guerrilla incursions against the Hamid Karzai regime in Kabul. The US is
already bombing eastern Afghanistan in an effort to prevent a buildup of
opposition forces there.

George W Bush and the Pentagon may be itching to reduce one-third of the
axis of evil to rubbish. But first they must consider three crucial issues.
1) A mad-as-hell Saddam Hussein may decide to unleash his fabled "weapons of
mass destruction" against Americans - and Israelis - if he is attacked at
home. 2) No one can tell for sure how many American ground forces are
needed: the figure of almost 500,000 is considered exorbitant, and it would
take months to assemble. 3) Turkey, the key US ally, is terribly worried
about the possibility of an independent Kurdistan rising from the ashes of
the Saddam Hussein regime and destabilizing the whole region.

To top it all: everybody and his neighbor cannot begin to imagine the
fallout from a huge US military operation right "at home". But this is
peanuts when you're sitting on top of an unlimited military budget, and
you're on a mission of Good against Evil.

by Paul McGeough
Sydney Morning Herald, 9th March

This is a new and scary world. A scoop in Time magazine this week revealed
the post September 11 security nightmare of a US intelligence alert that
terrorists were smuggling a 10 kiloton Russian-made nuclear device into
Manhattan. It didn't happen - but a bomb that size could kill 100,000.

And in The New Yorker, a State Department official told Seymour Hersch: "The
last thing we want is to hit Baghdad and have al-Qaeda hit Chicago. We'd
look real bad. When we go to Iraq, we'll do it right." Note the "when", not

Today's United States is so pumped up on its own military and economic power
- not to mention its seething anger at what happened on September 11 - that
it is becoming fearless and unnervingly certain as it leads the world to a
place that looks like the darker days of the Cold War.

The Attorney-General, John Ashcroft, articulates the problem: "A calculated,
malignant, devastating evil has arisen in our world. Civilisation cannot
afford to ignore the wrongs that have been done." And Vice-President Dick
Cheney articulates the solution: "The United States, and only the United
States, can see this effort through to victory."

And on the road to victory anything can be justified.

There is a clamour to give back the CIA's authority to assassinate, and
shock troops are being dispatched around the globe as places that were
humanitarian cot cases (ie, not of great concern to Washington) become
countries of strategic interest (ie, good places from which to start or end

A shadow US government has been set up in undisclosed bunkers away from the
capital, in the event of a more damaging second terrorist attack on

Civil rights are being crimped; the President tried to argue that prisoners
in the Afghan war should not be covered by the Geneva Convention; and White
House spinmeister Ari Fleischer cautioned the nation that in times like
these "people have to watch what they say, watch what they do".

On campus, it is becoming dangerous to say what you think - an intimidating
"blame and shame" list of more than 100 academics and students who
questioned aspects of the war against terrorism is being circulated.

An army of news reporters wanting to cover the Afghanistan war in all its
unvarnished detail keeps knocking at the Pentagon's door. But only the
infotainment crews from Hollywood, led by Jerry "Top Gun" Bruckheimer, are
allowed in.

And the Pentagon was only mildly embarrassed by the revelation that the duty
list for its new Office of Strategic Influence would include spreading false
stories in the foreign press - so now, it outsources the dirty work. But if
a multibillion-dollar PR contract to convince the Arab world that Iraq's
Saddam Hussein was sexually impotent failed in the wake of the Gulf crisis,
what would it take to convince the so-called Arab street that Osama bin
Laden is a pedophile or a terrorist?

The country's absurd system of farm subsidies - about $A20 billion a year
which The Washington Post describes as "the mother of all pork" - has been
put beyond question in public debate with a presidential decree that the
farmers' cheques are about national security. Ditto this week's dramatic
steel tariff decision by the President who says he's a champion of free

The key objectives of the war against terrorism have not been met - as best
we can tell bin Laden is still alive and, though they have scattered, so too
are much of his al-Qaeda leadership and the trained operatives they are
assumed to have in place around the globe.

But this is not stopping the White House from moving right along to the next
target - Saddam. It wants him overthrown and the President reportedly has
fixed April 15 as the date on which he wants to see on his desk a plan for
how to do it.

And, rather bizarrely, at a time when many in Europe believe that
Washington's temporary withdrawal from the political and diplomatic process
in the Middle East has fuelled the latest round of violence between Israel
and the Palestinians, exiled Iraqi opposition figures reportedly are doing
the rounds of Washington, claiming that France and Russia will support a US
attack on Iraq when they are offered access to the rich oil fields of
southern Iraq - but only as "junior partners" to the Americans. Of course.

The stakes never were this high when they played poker in Texas. Most of the
rest of the world doesn't want another war with Iraq. So Bush can go it
alone or, more likely, drag the rest of the world into a new conflict -
possibly as a response to a cornered Saddam shooting a weapon of mass
destruction into Israel.

The increasing likelihood of an attack on Iraq provoked barely concealed
diplomatic outrage around the world, but a European diplomat tried to hose
down the issue in an interview with The Guardian. Taking a line that might
have begun with "Dear boy", he continued: "Iraq policy is in process at the
moment. What matters is that we agree on the end product and there is every
sign that we will." This, an Administration source declared, was "horse

He explained: "Relations now are worse than anyone can ever remember. It has
become very fashionable in the middle reaches of [the US] Government to beat
up on the Europeans as being useless whiners. That's especially true in the
Pentagon, but it's true in most of the State Department, too."

All of which gives great credence to a claim reported in the The New York
Times that the President is fuming about what he calls "weak-kneed European

This is worrying stuff, but it is the history in the making of
civilisation's most powerful empire, and the Bush camp is supremely
confident. Europe was traumatised when Ronald Reagan leaned over the masonry
barrier dividing Berlin and ordered Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this
wall". But the wall indeed came down. Last year, much of the world trembled
in fear that a US-led attack on Afghanistan might spark a Muslim uprising
from the Magreb to the Philippines - it didn't.

So Washington becomes even more arrogant. Bush has told the nations of the
world that they are with him or against him and, frankly, he doesn't care.
And it is this attitude that causes so much offence and disbelief in the
capitals of Europe and elsewhere - because it precludes debate, it allows
for no compromise.

According to Newsweek: "[This] is nothing less than a reassertion of
American power in the world - by a greater willingness to use force, with or
without the support of allies, even at the cost of American casualties. Some
of Bush's top advisers believe that after Vietnam, the pendulum swung too
far in the direction of multilateralism and anti-interventionism."

But the Europeans want to argue a case that political and economic help to
the moderates in Iran will work over time, that economic and diplomatic
involvement will do more than beating a war drum at North Korea, and that,
for all Saddam's wrongdoing, the CIA has not been able to link him to the
attacks on New York and Washington.

On September 11, the day commentator Michael Ignatieff likens to the tremor
of dread felt in the ancient world when Rome first was sacked, the world and
the US were united by sympathy, fear and an early sense of purpose. Now, and
especially since Bush's "axis of evil" speech, there are rancour and hurt as
it sinks in with the rest of the world that the US is multilateral only when
it suits its unilateral agenda.

The French Foreign Minister, Hubert Vedrine, accused the US of having no
particular interest in partnerships and Chris Patten, the EU's foreign
affairs commissioner, claimed that the US was in "unilateralist overdrive".

But even Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State whom Europe believed to be
the brake on White House excess, warned that Europe had to respect the
"principles leadership" of the US - even if it disagreed with it.

It now is becoming clear that what the US set out to do in Afghanistan - and
accomplished - was to go to war alone.

Since September 11 it has increased defence spending by $A2 billion a week
and its total defence budget now is bigger than the next 20 nations in the
world, so it didn't need and didn't want to get bogged down by mealy-mouthed
debates at the UN or the humanitarian trip-wires that could be set up around
a NATO coffee urn.

This is the age of American unilateralism. Offers of help poured in to
Washington in September, but they were accepted only according to a
carefully executed script that gave a sense of world coalitions at work, but
which would not get in the way of the US view of how it should conduct the
war. So the UN was sidelined and NATO was acknowledged, but not welcomed in.

NATO pretty well is irrelevant in Washington. On September 11 it dropped
everything and said, "An attack on one is an attack on all. What can we do?"
But when its liaison officers arrived at CentCom (Central Command), the
Florida bunker from which the military end of the war on terrorism is
prosecuted, they were denied access.

Ignatieff writes in The New York Review of Books: "[The US now] is
unilateral when it wants to be, multilateral when it must be, and it uses
its power to enforce a new international division of labour in which America
does the bombing and the fighting, the French, British and Germans serve as
police in the border zones and the Dutch, Swiss and Scandinavians provide
humanitarian aid.

"A new international order is emerging, but it is being crafted to suit
American imperial objectives. The empire signs on to those pieces of the
transnational legal order that suit its purpose (the World Trade
Organisation, for example), while ignoring or even sabotaging those parts
(the proposed International Criminal Court, the Kyoto Protocol, the ABM
treaty) that do not."

In background briefings, US diplomats reckon that Ignatieff has got it
right. But a French diplomat exploded to the Financial Times: "This kind of
complementarity cannot continue in the long term. The Europeans would be
very, very uncomfortable with this role. It would mean giving the US carte
blanche for its military operations. Frankly, the US neither respects nor
appreciates what the Europeans are doing."

NATO chief Lord Robertson was a little more earthy, arguing that
trans-Atlantic solidarity could not last if "the Americans do the cutting
edge while the Europeans are stuck at the bleeding edge, if the Americans
fight from the sky and the Europeans fight in the mud".

by Christoph Bertram
International Herald Tribune, 9th March

BERLIN: The chief objective in dealing with Saddam Hussein's Iraq must be to
get the UN inspectors back and working. Whatever the ultimate plans of the
Bush administration, the fact remains that U.S. threats of eventual military
intervention are helpful towards this goal while European agonizing over it
is not. Three facts need to be kept in European minds.

The first is that the prohibition of mass destruction weapons in Iraq and
respective verification through UN inspectors has as its basis a binding UN
Security Council resolution.

Second, only when the members of the Security Council, as well as the United
States and Europe, are united behind the demand for effective inspections do
they stand a chance to get their way.

Third, if Iraq should continue to disregard its commitment to allow the
inspectors in and let them to do their job, only those who want to weaken
the United Nations can turn a blind eye.

Perhaps the "smart sanctions" which the Security Council is expected to
impose in May will lead to Iraq readmitting the inspectors. But if they do
not, other means including military action would be justified. The mere
threat of such action by the United States has already had the positive
effect of making Saddam Hussein think of the consequences if he continues to
flaunt UN resolutions on weapons of mass destruction.

As Europeans should remember from the decades when deterrence of the Soviet
Union provided for their security, threats only work if they are credible.
There is no doubt that the Bush administration is determined to have in
place a serious military option to overthrow the Saddam regime. Those
wanting the inspectors back must be grateful for it. It is true that many in
Washington want to crush Saddam regardless of whether he honors his UN
commitments or not. But the president has not yet endorsed this view, and,
even if he had, Iraqi readiness to bow to the UN's demands would make him
reconsider. It is one thing to punish Iraqi violations of UN resolutions; it
is a totally different one to strike a cooperative Iraq.

True, the chances of Iraq becoming cooperative under Saddam are slim. If
past behavior is any guide, the cautious feelers which the regime is
currently putting out towards the United Nations are likely to be mere
tactical maneuvers to gain time and divide the West. In the end, there may
be no alternative to using force where international law, diplomatic
pressure, economic sanctions and military threats have been to no avail. If
it comes to that, will the Europeans really want to stay aside? They can
scarcely object to Washington's renewed pressure for a return of the
inspectors. At least now European governments are joining in.

Unless they want to undermine the UN's authority and the credibility of U.S.
pressure, they must not rule out the military option. Indeed, they have no
other choice than to support it. Some would claim that clever U.S. tactics
have painted Europe into this corner of having to endorse in words what it
does not want in deeds. In fact, it is the regime in Iraq which has painted
the United Nations, and Europeans who care about its authority, into that
corner. There is no escape from accepting the responsibility. European
governments must therefore not only reiterate their condemnation of Iraqi
stonewalling and the demand for the return of inspectors able to inspect.

They must also lobby in the United Nations for using force should Saddam
fail to bend to other pressures. This will not come easy to European leaders
who share with their voters a deep skepticism toward using force for
political ends. Yet standing up for the United Nations and against Saddam
now is not only the correct policy, it is also a wise one. It will add to
the pressure on Iraq and thus increase the chances for avoiding military
intervention. It also puts any subsequent use of force into an established
framework of international law. Furthermore, by demonstrating European
commitment it will strengthen an Atlantic relationship now strained by
suspicion and resentment.

Finally, it will allow European governments to shape the issue instead of
being hypnotized by what the United States might or might not do. Many
countries, most prominently France this summer and Germany this fall, will
hold national elections under the shadow of what could be a showdown with
Iraq. Whatever their current reservations, it is difficult to imagine major
European governments opposing outright a U.S. action justified by Baghdad's
refusal to honor UN demands. Unless they offer their own publics the
framework of their policy soon, they may find that public opinion has
deserted them when they need its support most.

The writer, director of the German Institute for International and Security
Affairs, contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune.

by Paul Tighe

Tbilisi, Georgia, March 7 (Bloomberg) -- Georgia said it won't allow its
airfields to be used in any international anti- terrorism operation against
Iraq, Interfax cited Georgian Foreign Minister Irakly Menagarishvili as

The suggestion Georgia will approve such a move ``is from the realm of
science fiction and has no realistic grounds,'' the minister told Interfax.

Georgia is accepting assistance from the U.S. as it creates an
anti-terrorism unit to deal with members of the al-Qaeda network and other
extremists who have taken refuge in its northern Pankisi Gorge. The U.S.
will send as many as 200 soldiers to help train the unit, the Associated
Press last week cited defense officials as saying in Washington.

Iraq's neighbor, Iran, shouldn't have concerns about the presence of U.S.
troops, Menagarishvili told Interfax. Improved stability and security in
Georgia will benefit the entire region lying to the south of the former
Soviet republic, he said. Iran and Iraq are about 900 kilometers (560 miles)
from the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.

The Georgian government said this week a four-battalion anti- terrorism
force, trained by U.S. experts, will be enough to deal with criminals in the
gorge. Menagarishvili made his comment after media speculation Georgia is
willing to allow U.S. aircraft the use of its Marneuli and Vaziani
airfields, Interfax said.

Russia's parliament yesterday passed a resolution regretting that Georgia
turned to the U.S. for military support, China's Xinhua news agency

Russia offered to carry out a joint operation with Georgia in the Pankisi
Gorge, which borders the Russian republic of Chechnya. The Russian
authorities say rebels trying to set up an Islamic state in Chechnya operate
in the Pankisi region.

The parliamentary resolution, approved by 363 votes to three, said aid to
Georgia, such as lower fuel prices, must be linked to Georgian commitments
to maintain the balance of military forces in the region, Agence
France-Presse said.

Peopleıs Daily, 7th March

Wang Yingfan, the Chinese permanent representative to the United Nations, on
Wednesday voiced his welcome and support to the upcoming dialogue between U.
N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri.

China hopes dialogue to pave way for the settlement

Wang Yingfan, the Chinese permanent representative to the United Nations, on
Wednesday voiced his welcome and support to the upcoming dialogue between U.
N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri.

Wang expressed his hope that the dialogue will pave the way for the proper
and comprehensive settlement of the Iraq issue.

In his meeting with Annan here on Wednesday morning, Wang said that the
Chinese Government consistently holds that the question of Iraq should be
solved on the basis of the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions in a
fair and just manner at an early date.

Iraq should implement the relevant Security Council resolutions and resume
the cooperation with the United Nations on the weapons inspection as soon as
possible, he said.

Meanwhile, the international community should respect the sovereignty and
territorial integrity of Iraq and take into account the reasonable concerns
from the Iraqi side, he said.

China opposes terrorism in all its forms, and is against wanton expansion of
anti-terrorism war without solid evidence, he said.

Wang said that he appreciates Annan's opposition to willfully military
strikes on Iraq, and stressed that China hopes to see the peaceful solution
of the Iraq issue by political and diplomatic means.

Annan is scheduled to start his dialogue with the Iraqi foreign minister on
Thursday, and the talks are expected to last about three hours and a half, a
U.N. spokesman said Tuesday.


by Evelyn Leopold
Reuters, 3rd March

UNITED NATIONS : Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix will sit at the
United Nations negotiating table with Iraqi officials on Thursday and, if
asked, will say any arms searches have to be tough, viable and not

With the United States escalating threats against Iraq, the talks U.N.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan is holding with Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji
Sabri on March 7 have taken on added significance.

Annan's office has said he would press Sabri to allow weapons inspectors
back for the first time in three years. To underline his point he has asked
Blix to sit next to him at the talks, expected to last about three hours.

Approaching his second anniversary on the job without setting foot in Iraq,
Blix believes his operations would be as intensive as the last team of
inspectors, who left on the eve of a U.S.-British bombing raid in December
1998 and have not been allowed back since.

"Cosmetic inspections are worse than none because they may lull states into
a false confidence and they may wake up in a horrible situation," he said in
an interview late on Friday.

"Therefore all inspections have to be credible," he said. "It is in Iraq's
interest that inspections are effective. Otherwise there is no use in having

President Bush has made Iraq the key element of his "axis of evil" State of
the Union speech in January, demanding that Baghdad accept U.N. inspectors
or face the consequences. Without inspections, U.N. sanctions imposed after
Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990 cannot be suspended.

Blix, 73, a lawyer and former Swedish foreign minister, was persuaded to
take the post in early 2000, after he had just retired as head of the
Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, responsible for the nuclear
arms inspections.

He now heads the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission,
known as UNMOVIC, which is the successor to the U.N. Special Commission, and
is in charge of accounting for Iraq's missile, chemical and biological

He has been compiling a list of key remaining tasks for Iraq to fulfill
before sanctions are suspended, gathered in a 300-page notebook with some
100 unresolved issues. But Blix says the key ones will be somewhere between
five and 20.

When the inspectors last were in Iraq, they believed they had found most of
Baghdad's long range missiles and almost all of its nuclear arms equipment.
But few know what has happened since December 1998 when the inspectors left.

"In 1998, the physical (nuclear) infrastructure was gone although there were
issues that needed clarification," Blix said. "They also could not produce
fissile material, unless they bought it on the black market."

Chemical and biological programs are more serious.

"There are many open issues, like anthrax for example," Blix said. "They
declared that they produced a volume of 8,500 liters but we do not have any
evidence of that. Then they have declared they destroyed all of it in 1991
and there is no evidence of that also."

Iraq in recent months has given two reasons for not allowing inspectors back
and contends it has complied with Security Council demands.

One is that U.N. resolutions call for a Middle East free of weapons of mass
destruction and Iraq emphasizes that this means Israel's nuclear program.
The second is that the inspectors were infiltrated by American spies.

Blix contends the teams ready to go to Baghdad are vetted and if agents are
detected, they would be excluded. But he dismissed any demand from Iraq to
exclude U.S. citizens.

"Americans can go along," he said. "Iraq cannot exclude anybody from our
inspection. They are U.N. groups."

Asked what impact the U.S. threats had made, Blix said, "I think Iraq has
been quite concerned and I think that is natural. But clearly they have not
yet come to the conclusion that they would invite the inspectors back."

Iraq's U.N. ambassador, Mohammed Aldouri, in a recent interview dampened
expectations the meeting would yield a definitive answer, saying inspections
would not be the only issue and he hoped for a follow-up session in April.

"There will be an exchange of views, but this is only one short session,"
Aldouri told Reuters. "We will look to the secretary-general to say what
issues are still outstanding for the United Nations and we will tell them
what is outstanding for Iraq."

Las Vegas Sun, 2nd March


Iraq challenged Britain on Friday to prove that Iraq is developing weapons
of mass destruction, saying the Iraqi government was ready "right now" to
receive any British team, according to an unidentified government spokesman
quoted in the official al-Thawra newspaper.

Iraq's U.N. Ambassador Mohammad Al-Douri called it "a very positive

But Blix said that gesture was misdirected.

"I think it would be a good idea to direct their invitation to us because we
are ready," Blix said. "We have had two years in which we have prepared
ourselves to go to Iraq and carry out effective and correct inspections."

But Al-Douri said Iraq was not inviting the new U.N. weapons inspection
agency or Blix to return because of Baghdad's experience with the old
inspection agency, which it accused of being compromised by spies.

What if the Iraqis keep insisting that only the British can come?

"They will remain, then, in noncompliance with the resolutions of the
Security Council," said Blix, who has led the weapons inspectors since March


In December 1999, the council adopted a resolution offering to consider
suspending sanctions against Iraq for renewable 120-day periods if
inspectors report that Baghdad has cooperated "in all respects" and shown
progress toward answering outstanding questions about Iraqi disarmament.


"I would like to warn against the attitude that from the moment that Iraq
sends a green light for inspections that we are, as it were, stepping on an
escalator ... and then after a while you are on the next floor - and that's
suspension of sanctions," Blix said.

UNMOVIC must report 120 days of cooperation and progress on key outstanding
issues "and the main factor in that is going to be Iraqi cooperation," he


Times of India (from AFP), 4th March

BAGHDAD: Iraq could allow UN weapons inspectors back into the sanctions-hit
country if their mission was subject to a precise timetable, an Iraqi
newspaper said on Monday.

"One of the main reasons for our opposition to the return of inspectors is
because the Americans want them to remain indefinitely, which means
continuing the unfair embargo," said Babel, run by President Saddam
Hussein's elder son, Uday.


"If the US administration and its acolyte Britain were sincere, they would
have laid out a timetable for the inspectors' mission, followed by a lifting
of the embargo" imposed on Iraq for invading Kuwait in 1990, Babel said.

"The US administration is determined to attack us whether we authorise the
return of inspectors or not," it charged, adding that Iraq had no choice but
to "confront the evil by preparing to defend itself."

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz, in an interview with the French
newspaper Le Figaro published Monday, reiterated his opposition to the
return of UN weapons inspectors, asserting that Iraq was "today 100 percent

"It is out of the question that we would choose a surrender as the only way
to survive," Aziz said. "Iraq has no other option but to defend itself."

by Evelyn Leopold
Reuters, 7th March 07, 2002 02:15 PM ET

UNITED NATIONS: Under the shadow of U.S. threats against Baghdad, U.N.
Secretary General Kofi Annan conducted one-day talks with a high-level Iraqi
delegation on Thursday, saying he would press for the return of U.N. arms

"So far so good," Annan told reporters without elaborating during a break
from talks with Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, the first such
discussions with a ministerial delegation in a year.

U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard described the morning session favorably but gave
no details.

"It was a positive and constructive start, with the secretary-general
particularly pleased the talks were focused as he hoped they would be," he
said during a lunch break. Sabri did not answer reporters' questions.

A similar meeting with Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Sahaf in February
last year ended in disaster, with Annan receiving a lecture and a sheaf of
documents. He decided against a follow-up meeting.

Thursday's talks were held amid heightened tensions since President Bush
made Iraq the key element of his "axis of evil" State of the Union speech in
January. He demanded Baghdad accept U.N. inspectors or face the

"I wouldn't want to see a widening conflict in the region," Annan told
reporters before the meeting.

"I think we have our hands full with the tragedy that is going on there
already," he said in a reference to Israeli-Palestinian violence.

"So I would want to see a situation where we are able to solve our
differences diplomatically," he said.

U.N. arms experts want to determine whether Iraq has continued acquiring
weapons of mass destruction -- a key element in any easing of U.N.
sanctions, imposed when Baghdad's troops invaded Kuwait in 1990.

"We will be pressing for the return of the inspectors, Annan said. "The
question of inspectors and the return of inspectors has been one of the key
bones of contention between the United Nations and Iraq."

At the start of the discussions in Annan's 38th floor office, the
secretary-general and the foreign minister met privately for about 20
minutes before being joined by their delegations, Eckhard said.

Hans Blix, the chief U.N. weapons inspector, who sat next to Annan in the
talks spoke, as did a U.N. legal counsel, Ralph Zacklin. Sabri alone spoke
for his delegation, which included Gen. Hussan Amin, the Iraqi government's
chief liaison official with the U.N. inspectors, Saeed Hasan, a foreign
ministry official, and Mohammed Aldouri, Baghdad's U.N. ambassador.


by Rupert Cornwell
Independent, 7th March

The US intensified its psychological war against Iraq by showing slides to a
United Nations meeting that claim to show trucks delivered to the country
for humanitarian aid have been converted into rocket launchers and military

Washington took the highly unusual step of sharing data on Iraq at a session
of the sanctions committee of the 15-nation Security Council -- ostensibly
to persuade the committee to ban the import to Baghdad of trucks under the
UN's oil-for-food programme, and allay criticism it is unneccessarily
holding up vital humanitarian imports.

Washington is also seeking to convince sceptical members of the council that
Iraq is a genuine menace to its region, with documentary evidence of its
continuing military build-up in the absence, since late 1998, of UN weapons


CNN, 8th March

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -- Despite initial trepidation, the United States
joined other U.N. Security Council members on Friday in supporting a second
round of talks between the United Nations and Iraq on weapons inspections.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, hoping to avert any military
confrontation between Washington and Baghdad, met a delegation led by Iraqi
Foreign Minister Naji Sabri on Thursday and agreed to another session in

Emphasizing he had council support, Annan said it was significant that the
inspectors, who left Iraq in December 1988, were discussed at the talks, an
indication the Iraqis were taking the issue seriously.

"But I don't want us to run ahead of ourselves and declare success. We are
at a very, very early beginning but it was a good start," he told reporters
after briefing the council.

U.S. representative James Cunningham said the United States backed another
round of talks in April.  

"We support the attempt by the secretary-general to get an answer from the
Iraqis" about whether they are willing to allow inspections, Cunningham
said. He noted Annan had not received a positive response from Sabri on
Thursday, but added: "I don't think anyone expected that."

Some U.S. officials had scorned the discussions and warned Annan he had no
power to negotiate, diplomats said.


Separating U.N. and U.S. policies, Cunningham said: "We have made very clear
we think the region would be better with a different regime in Baghdad.
That's the American view. The United Nations aspect of this problem is how
to get the inspectors back to deal with weapons of mass destruction."

U.S. officials said they are considering options for "regime change" in Iraq
-- a euphemism for overthrowing Hussein.   

Russian Ambassador Sergei Lavrov, however, said a December 1999 resolution
had to be changed and clarified on steps inspectors and Iraq had to take to
get the sanctions suspended or it would be "impossible to see inspectors in

The arms inspectors, trying to determine if Iraq has nuclear, ballistic
missile, chemical or biological weapons programs, left the country on the
eve of a U.S.-British bombing campaign in mid-December 1998. The attacks
were aimed at forcing Baghdad to cooperate with the arms experts.

The inspectors have not been allowed to return. Inspections are key to
easing U.N. sanctions, imposed on Iraq after its troops invaded Kuwait in
August 1990.

Iraq, during the meeting, handed Annan its own list of about 20 questions,
asking how it could be sure that new U.N. inspection teams would not be used
by the United States to spy or to draw up target lists for bombing. U.S.
officials admitted in 1998 they had planted agents among the inspectors.

Iraq also objected to the U.S. and British-imposed "no-fly" zone over
northern and southern Iraq, Annan said.

Chief U.N. arms inspector, Hans Blix, the head of the U.N. Monitoring,
Verification and Inspection Commission, or UNMOVIC, who was at the
negotiating table, sought to assure Iraqis inspectors would be impartial,
the diplomats said.

On Friday, Blix told reporters he explained the difference between the
predecessor to UNMOVIC, the U.N. Special Commission "in terms of financing
and recruiting."

"I also said that the inspection has to be effective in order to be
meaningful," said Blix. "The world has to have assurances that there are no
weapons of mass destruction left in Iraq."

British Ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock said earlier the continuation of
the talks was a hopeful sign but that Iraq could be stalling for time
because of the American threat. However, he said it was too soon to draw

On Friday, he said his government, which shares the tough U.S. policy
against Iraq, supported Annan's intention to continue the talks. "We believe
the diplomatic route is an extremely important one and we want to see the
prospect of Iraqi compliance fully tested."

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