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[casi] News, 2-9/3/02 (4)

News, 2-9/3/02 (4)


*  Iraq demands action from Arab summit
*  Turkish Delegation in Iraq to Boost Trade Ties
*  US likely to press Egypt over Iraq action [Apparently Egypt is, rather
conveniently, once again in economic difficulties. All the Œhelp¹ they
received from the US since the war on Iraq doesn¹t seem to have helped very
*  Iran takes part in Iraq's Int'l Electrical Industries Exhibition
*  Baghdad wants Turkey to act openly in relations with Iraq
*  UAE urges clear Arab stand on threats against Iraq
*  Saddam blasts Arab peace plans for ME
*  Mideast Escalation Puts the Squeeze on Sharon [Desire for war on Iraq
leads to pressure for peace in Israel/Palestine. But as pointed out last
week (Attack on Iraq means peace talks in Mideast), all that is really
wanted is a ceasefire that will conveniently coincide with the Iraqi
campaign. Then when that¹s finished, Sharon can be let off the leash again
*  Iraq, Pakistan denied entry to warlord [Gulbuddin Hekmatyar]


*  Politics undermining Iraq oil industry: Report [from MEES]
*  Bula cancels Iraqi consultancy contract
*  Attack on Iraq to bring gas-pump gloom [Brief account of oil geopolitics,
including this: ŒThe Central Asian bases are explained as necessary as the
US plans for an extended global war on terrorism. But Baker (George Baker,
oil analyst) says they can also be explained in the context of oil - and the
potential for disruption in the Gulf oil-producing region if the US attacks
Iraq. "Why are we building bases in the Caspian? Because we're trying to
protect the stability of Caspian oil production," he says. "And why are we
doing that? We need to have that oil production in place if we're going to
risk losing Saddam Hussein's oil."¹ Which implies some rather long term


*  Iraqi opposition to Saddam [More experts telling us what we already know.
Extracts on likely US support for the Iraqi army and for General Naguib
Salihi, who, we are told Œis the least tainted by association with the Iraqi
regime¹ though he only left the upper echelons of the Iraqi army in 1995 and
must therefore have been involved in most of the crimes imputed to SH. And
does Fiona Symon realise, we wonder, how profoundly shocking her first
sentence is?]

*  How Brittle Is Hussein's Regime?
Hartford Courant, 4th March
[Interview with Ahmed Chalabi. Nothing new, except perhaps, the ŒSamson
option.¹ SH sends a bomb with VX poison gas which kills 100,000 Israelis.
Problem is it would also kill thousands of Palestinians so it seems
unlikely. The article gives the impression Chalabi is making it up as he
goes along.]


*  Renowned Iraq Poet Killed
*  We will fight to the finish: Tariq Aziz [One of the very rare occasions
in which any Iraqi leader is allowed to express himself at length. Needless
to say its in a French newspaper.]
*  Iraqi Kurdish Leader Against US Intervention in Iraq
*  American talks with Kurdish sides to topple Saddam
* Explosions at broadcasting center near Baghdad [Since it appears that the
INC have claimed responsibility for this act of terrorism we expect the
immediate arrest of all their leading representatives and the freezing of
their assets.]


*  Trial for a Swiss company over selling pipes to Iraq
*  Warship returning home after Iraq mission ["Our successes in the Gulf are
testament to the professionalism, enthusiasm and tremendous team spirit of
my ship's company. I expect them to receive a terrific welcome home from
their friends and family - they certainly deserve nothing less." for having
boarded 10 ships in two years and having stolen £4 million worth
of Iraqi oil.]
*  Iran Protests U.S. Interception of Tanker


*  Merchants hope to help hungry by selling dates from Iraq [in Canada]
*  Protesters fear war against Iraq [Protest in London, 1st March]
*  German peace movement to demonstrate against US attack in Iraq


*  Iraqi refugees strike back at Australia [Story of refugees accused of
threatening to drown their babies]


Times of India (from AFP), 2nd March

BAGHDAD: Arab leaders must come up with "action not words" when they hold a
summit in Beirut on March 27, an official Iraqi daily said on Saturday,
referring to a Mideast peace initiative floated by Saudi Arabia.

"As the summit nears, the Arabs need action not more words. They must free
themselves of the will of foreigners to achieve Arab solidarity,"
Al-Qadissiya said.

"The Arabs must understand each other and forget their rancour spread by
colonialists and enemies to achieve the objectives of the nation by
liberating Palestine and its holy sites and ending the injustice done to
Iraq and other Arab countries," the newspaper said.

The summit "must bring the Arab nation out of crisis, preserve its dignity
... and remain true to the blood spilled in Palestine and in Iraq.

"The Arabs at their summit can force the American and Zionist aggressors to
respect and not undermine their rights."

Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz said on Wednesday he would try to
detail the initiative -- welcomed in much of the Arab world, praised by the
United States and cautiously approved by Israel -- at the summit.

Abdullah has suggested that Arab countries normalize relations with Israel
in exchange for a full withdrawal from occupied lands.



BAGHDAD, Mar 2, 2002 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Turkish Trade Secretary Kurshad
Tuzman, heading a 150-member industrial and business delegation, arrived in
the Iraqi capital on Saturday afternoon for a visit aimed at boosting
bilateral trade ties.

Upon arrival at Baghdad's Saddam International Airport, Tuzman told the
official Iraqi News Agency (INA) that during the visit, he will hold talks
with Iraqi officials to explore new fields of cooperation and expand
bilateral trade volume.

Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammad Mehdi Salah, who welcomed the Turkish
delegation at the airport, appreciated the bilateral trade ties and
expressed will to enhance them, the INA said.

Tuzman, who visited Baghdad in March last year, said that Turkey hoped to
increase its trade volume with Iraq to the pre-1990 level of an annual 2.5
billion U.S. dollars.

Turkey's trade exchange with Iraq now stands at some 1 billion dollars
yearly under the United Nations oil-for-food program, which has been in
effect since 1996 and allows sanctions-hit Iraq to sell oil and buy food,
medicine and other necessity to offset the impact of the decade-long

Iraq has been under stringent sanctions since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Turkey has complained that the sanctions have cost it more than 30 billion
dollars in lost trade with Baghdad and called for lifting the sanctions.

by James Drummond
Financial Times, 3rd March

US President George W. Bush is likely to use the parlous state of Egypt's
economy to ratchet up pressure on Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian leader, to
support US policies in the Middle East when the two men meet in Washington
on Tuesday, according to diplomats in Cairo.

A likely resumption of US hostilities against Iraq is likely to top the
agenda although it seems that Mr Mubarak has little room for manoeuvre on
the issue.

Egyptians have little affection for Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, but
there is widespread sympathy for the suffering of Iraqi civilians during the
years of US-led sanctions following the first Gulf war in 1991.

Dick Cheney, the US vice-president, is due in Egypt next week as part of an
international tour, which is viewed as paving the way for possible renewed
action against Baghdad.

Also on the agenda in Washington is likely to be the spiralling conflict
between Israel and the Palestinians.

Egypt has voiced support for the peace plan put forward by Crown Prince
Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to break the deadlock of 17 months of violence. But
there is little disguising the fact that Cairo has been a spectator during
the latest round of diplomatic activity.

Washington, however, is likely to expect Egypt to play its traditional
moderating role at an Arab summit in Beirut at the end of March, which will
examine the initiative, diplomats said.

As far as Mr Mubarak is concerned, Egypt currently finds itself in an
unusually weak position in negotiations with Washington.

With a floundering economy, Cairo currently needs all the financial support
it can find. A proposed fast-disbursing, compensatory financing facility
from the International Monetary Fund is making only slow progress, officials

Pressure on the Egyptian pound has eased with the end of the haj pilgrimage
and subsequent holiday period but widespread reports of difficulties in the
payments system persist.

Meanwhile, Muammer Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, has become the first Arab
leader to publicly oppose Prince Abdullah's plan. Mr Gaddafi, speaking on
Saturday, also threatened to leave the Arab League, the umbrella grouping of
22 countries of the Arab world.

The latest outburst by the Libyan leader prompted Amr Moussa, the
secretary-general of the Arab League, to hurry to Libya on Sunday to placate
Mr Gadaffi.

Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, who was paying his first official
visit to Lebanon on Sunday, also implicitly played down the Saudi initiative
by stressing the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.


Ilam, Ilam Prov, March 5, IRNA -- Iran took part in Iraq's International
Electrical Industries Exhibition that opened in Baghdad Monday, according to
Iraq's state TV, monitored here in Ilam

The exhibition in which 18 foreign countries have put on display their
latest achievements in electrical industries filed is organized at Baghdad's
Permanent Fairs Ground

According to the Iraqi TV report, the participating companies at the
exhibition are among the world's leading firms in the field and have brought
along their most advance, latest achievements to Baghdad

The economic commentator of the said TV claimed that the exhibition, the
first of its kind in Iraq, was quite "unique and unprecedented" in terms of
the level of participation and the type of facilities

Electrical engineering firms from such countries as Russia, Iran, India, the
UAE, Turkey and China had a vaster presence at the exhibition according to
the said report.


Ilam, Ilam Prov, March 5, IRNA -- Iraq's Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan
in a meeting with Turkey's Minister of State in Foreign Trade Kurshad Tuzman
in Baghdad Monday, asked for transparency in Istanbul's foreign policy
towards Baghdad.

Ramadan claimed that Baghdad's request is made on the ground that Iraq
itself is acting quite openly in its relations with the Ankara government.

Iraq's state television announced the news, quoting Ramadan, as further
adding that the "trouble-maker US administration due to its evil nature
keeps trying to create obstacles in the way of improvement of the
Baghdad-Ankara relations." He set example of the period of the second
Persian Gulf war, when due to the obstacles created following the end of the
US led western invasion against Iraq, Turkey's trade with Iran did not
improve for a long period, which resulted in acute negative effects in
Turkish economy.

The Iraqi vice president added, "it is all up to the Ankara government to
seriously and effectively eliminate the elements that have resulted in
deterioration of the commercial ties with Iraq in order to secure the
interests of both neighboring nations.

"That will also be a positive move towards restoration of the historically
excellent ties between the two major regional countries," added Ramadan.

The high ranking Iraqi politician also asked for more frequent visits
between the two countries' officials, particularly between the economic
offiicals of Turkey and Iraq.

"Iraq has already taken long strides towards strengthening friendly ties
with Turkey, and expects to see positive moves on the part of the Ankara
government," he concluded.

Tuzman, too, assured Taha Yasin Ramadhan that restoration of commercial
transactions with Iraq is of great importance for Turkey.

The Turkish minister of state arrived Baghdad atop a commercial delegation
sunday night, which is a sign of the Ankara's will to restore economic ties
with Baghdad at this very odd time, when Iraq is under heavy pressure of a
pending US attack in an unknown near future. According to an informed
political commentator in Iran, who spoke on condition of anonymity, one of
Tuzman's major tasks in his trip to Baghdad under the present conditions
must be carrying a message from Turkey's close ally, the US administaration.

Gulf News, 5th March

The UAE yesterday called for a clear Arab position towards threats by the
United States and other Western powers to attack Iraq on the grounds it
possesses weapons of mass destruction.

Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister, said preparations
for a possible strike against Iraq "pose great dangers which could lead to
unimaginable repercussions on regional and global security."

"There should be a clear Arab stand in this respect," he told reporters
after receiving participants in a two-day seminar on dialogue among

"Is it in the interest of the Arab world that Iraq is destroyed?... there
should be a clear policy towards Iraq and we should think well of the
dangerous consequences to the Arab national security if there is any
military operation against the Iraqi people."

Sheikh Sultan urged Arab states to begin discussing threats of an attack
against Iraq and "adopt a common stand in this regard."

"Arab states are called upon to identify the right approach for their future
positions and adopt a new pan-Arab policy that will allow them to have a
dialogue with others," he said.

"They should also chalk out a new policy to face the developments in the
Middle East. The Arab situation in this regard needs to be clarified because
it is foggy."

Sheikh Sultan termed the Pales-tinian problem the central Arab cause and
said a new approach is needed to deal with it.

Bangladeshi Independent, 6th March

BAGHDAD, Mar 5: Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has criticised Arab peace
plans for the Middle East and urged Arabs to support the Palestinian
uprising against Israel, Iraqi newspapers reported today, reports Reuters.

The newspapers quoted Saddam as saying that Arabs should not offer plans on
behalf of the Palestinian people, in a clear reference to a Saudi peace

"Not one of us, not even Saddam Hussein, has the right to act on behalf of
Palestine and its people," Saddam said during a meeting with Palestinian
Foreign Minister Farouq Qadoumi and other Palestinian officials. "The
Palestinian people do not need projects, and we do not care for projects,
and our essential project now is to support the Palestinian people in their
armed struggle," he said.

"Anyone able to support the Palestinians with money, men and weapons should
do that," Saddam said. The Saudi plan, floated by Crown Prince Abdullah in
mid- February, offers full Arab normalisation of ties with Israel in return
for complete Israeli withdrawal from Arab land occupied in the 1967 Middle
East War.

The initiative is expected to be the highlight of the March 27-28 Arab
summit in Beirut and has drawn a warm international response. Israel has
expressed interest with reservations.

Some Arab states have welcomed it, while others, like Lebanon and Syria,
have also voiced reservations. Libya is the only Arab country that has so
far rejected the plan.

Saddam, maintaining his hard line towards Israel, said: "Any attempt to stop
the uprising from outside is a blasphemy, a crime and a conspiracy against
the Palestinian people."

"I am pleased that suicide bombings began to be carried out by Fatah,"
Saddam said of the two deadly ambushes on Sunday carried out by al-Aqsa
Martyrs Brigades of Fatah faction.

He affirmed Iraq¹s full support for the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat
and the Palestinian uprising.

Saddam said at the start of the Palestinian uprising in September 2000 that
Iraq was ready "to put an end to Zionism" if Arab rulers did not defend the
Palestinians against Israel.

He has ordered the formation of military units to fight with the
Palestinians against the Israelis, and financial support for families of
Palestinian victims of the uprising.

Government figures say nearly seven million Iraqis have volunteered to fight
alongside the Palestinians. More than 1,200 people have died in the 17-month
Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.,8599,214423,00.html

by Tony Karon
Times, 5th March


As disastrous as the current uptick of violence is proving for Sharon, it's
actually working to Arafat's advantage, for a number of reasons:

‹  It highlights both to Israelis and the international community the fact
that Sharon's tactics have failed to calm the situation;
‹  It creates a unity of purpose between his own Fatah organization and the
more radical Islamists of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, putting on the backburner
differences that have recently sparked intra-Palestinian violence;
‹  It reinforces (Palestinian-backed) calls for international peacekeepers,
as the rising toll of child casualties on both sides raises the danger of a
descent into uncontrolled savagery; and
‹  It stokes a brushfire that will ultimately force the U.S. to renew its
mediating role, not least because of the Bush administration's own need for
Arab support in any campaign against Iraq.

The Iraq factor may actually intensify diplomatic pressure on Sharon to take
steps he'd consider counterintuitive. Already, Washington has expressed
interest in a Saudi proposal to offer normalization of Arab relations with
Israel if it retreats to its 1967 borders ‹ a prospect bluntly rejected by
Sharon on Sunday as a threat to Israel's security. The Bush administration
reportedly wants the Saudis to press for adoption of the proposal at the
Arab League summit in Beirut later this month. But having been drawn into
the game, the Saudis have an agenda of their own. They indicated Monday that
they would not raise the proposal in Beirut unless Arafat was present ‹ a
direct challenge to Washington to press Sharon to end the Palestinian
leader's confinement to Ramallah. More diplomatic discomfort for the Israeli
leader emerged Monday, when Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak called for a
Sharon-Arafat summit meeting in Egypt. Sitting down with Arafat would
require a 180 degree turnabout by Sharon right now. But Secretary of State
Colin Powell expressed interest in the idea. Of course, that's not the same
as President Bush endorsing it, but the Israelis will be watching his
reaction with interest when he meets with Mubarak Tuesday.

A decade ago, the diplomatic fallout of Gulf War I saw Israel being dragged
reluctantly into negotiations with Palestinian representatives that laid the
foundation for the Oslo Accords. Sharon can be counted on to do everything
in his power to avoid history repeating itself.

by Ben Barber
The Washington Times, 6th March

Anti-American warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was refused entry by Iraq and
Pakistan before he left Iran for Afghanistan, where he is expected to resist
the interim government, a report said.       Mr. Hekmatyar, who shelled
Kabul in the 1990s during a power struggle after the Soviet army left
Afghanistan, is now in the western province of Herat, according to the
Afghan envoy in Washington, Haroun Amin. Agence France-Presse said he
arrived there from his exile headquarters in Tehran on Saturday.

Mr. Amin told The Washington Times that Mr. Hekmatyar's supporters in
Afghanistan were given weapons by the Taliban after he voiced support for
the since-deposed militia during the U.S. bombing campaign in October.

"Hekmatyar crossed the border yesterday with his friends and arrived in
Herat province. He will see if it's possible to stay," an independent Afghan
source told Agence France-Presse.

Mr. Hekmatyar, under pressure from Iran to pull up stakes after making harsh
anti American statements, tried to enter Iraq with eight associates, Agence
France-Presse reported.

He decided not to go to Iraq after that country insisted he could not bring
anyone with him, the wire service said. The Iraqi charge d'affaires in
Tehran, Abdulsattar al-Rawi, denied that report.

Pakistan also refused entry to Mr. Hekmatyar. So he chose to re-enter
Afghanistan, where Afghan officials hope to put him on trial for crimes
during the siege of Kabul in the early 1990s.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi would not confirm that
the Afghan warlord had left for Afghanistan but said, "Our position is that
Hekmatyar must leave Iran, and we don't mind where he goes."

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher yesterday refused to confirm the
reports that Mr. Hekmatyar had returned to Afghanistan.

The United States has said Iran has been meddling in Afghanistan since the
Taliban was driven from power in November.

Intelligence officials told The Times recently that Iran sent weapons,
advisers and cash to support some tribal and Shi'ite religious leaders ‹ and
to undermine the pro-American interim government in Kabul of Hamid Karzai.

Iran denied the accusations and has pointed out that it agreed to assist
downed U.S. pilots in the campaign against the Taliban ‹ which Iran detested
as much as the Americans did.

Iran also pledged a large sum to rebuild Afghanistan at an international
conference in Tokyo and detained dozens of suspected al Qaeda members
fleeing Afghanistan before deciding there were no terrorists among them.

Iran then ordered Mr. Hekmatyar to close his Tehran office, opened in 1996
after the Taliban seized power and ended his bloody feud with the Northern
Alliance for control of Kabul.

Mr. Hekmatyar, 60, headed Hizb-i-Islami, a mujahideen group, which received
a major portion of U.S.- and Saudi-supplied weapons and cash during the
1980-89 war against the Soviets in Afghanistan.


Times of India (from AFP), 2nd March

NICOSIA: Threats to overthrow the regime in Baghdad and a confusing UN
pricing structure threaten Iraq's ability to export crude oil at capacity,
the Mideast Economic Survey reports in its Monday edition.

The industry newsletter said February exports under the UN oil-for-food
programme were again expected to be low, at about 1.56 million barrels per
day, or 640,000 bpd less than the target of 2.2 million bpd.

In January exports were 1.55 million bpd and 1.4 million bpd in December.

MEES said a similar shortfall was expected in March.

"This should not come as a surprise since European and some US-end users are
shying away from Iraqi crudes because of the market uncertainties resulting
from the retroactive pricing system being applied by the UN sanctions

This was compounded by growing fears of a US military attack to topple the
Baghdad regime, the weekly underlined.

"Several senior oil industry officials have also recently been arrested on
corruption charges, delaying the normal procurement of oil equipment and
services," it added.

MEES noted that speculation about US military intervention, an early March
meeting between the UN Secretary General and Iraq's Foreign Minister on the
return of arms inspectors and the May 31 deadline for a new UN programme for
Iraq -- "all these developments have rattled the oil markets generally and
customers of Iraqi oil specifically.

"Several end-users are under such circumstances reluctant to rely on Iraqi
oil supplies, preferring instead to switch gradually to other sources of
sour crudes for their refineries in order not to be short of supply when a
new crisis erupts."

The head of the UN's humanitarian scheme for Iraq, Benon Sevan, warned the
Security Council last week that excessive blocks on imports threatened to
paralyse the programme.

The programme was established in December 1996 to soften the impact of a
total trade embargo imposed on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in August 1990.

Iraq is allowed to export crude oil under UN supervision and to use part of
the revenue to import food, medicine and other necessities.

Sevan told the council that Iraq's oil exports were "some 35 percent lower
than the assumed sustainable rate of export of 2.1 million barrels per day."

Unless exports picked up, revenue for the six-month phase of the programme
that runs up to the end of May will be about one billion dollars short of
budget, he said.

by Cathal Hanley
Irish Times, 4th March

Bula Resources has terminated its consultancy contract with Mr Riad el Taher
and Petcon Limited effective immediately.

Mr el Taher had been employed by Bula to oversee Bula¹s bid for an drilling
licence in the Block 4 oilfield in Iraq.

Mr el-Taher is chairman of the London-based Friendship Across Frontiers
organisation, which campaigns for a lifting of sanctions against Iraq.

In a statement released to the stock exchange this morning, Bula said its
managing director, Mr Thomas Kelly, will take over the co-ordination of the
company's efforts in Iraq to secure the Block 4 licence.

The terms of the exploration and development contract for Block 4 have been
agreed with Iraq¹s oil ministry, and the contract has been submitted for
signature since June 2001.

Bula is awaiting Iraqi government signature of the contract.

by Howard LaFranchi
Dawn (from Christian Science Monitor), 7th March

WASHINGTON: Waging war means sacrifice. But so far, at least concerning the
gas pump, the 'war on terrorism' hasn't asked much sacrifice of America's

Gasoline is cheap and plentiful, as America's gas-guzzling SUVs, proudly
flying the Stars and Stripes, testify. Gas remains inexpensive because the
world oil market is stable and relatively well supplied.

But happiness at the pump could change as the United States contemplates
taking the 'war on terrorism' to the Gulf region to force a regime change in
Iraq. One fact is worth keeping in mind: Iraq is back as America's
sixth-most-important crude-oil supplier - exactly where it was in 1990,
before the Gulf War. That conflict took out Iraq as a source of crude, and
it sent oil surging to 40 dollars a barrel, about double today's price.

With the world oil market's excess capacity lower than what it was at the
time of the Gulf War, any disruption of supplies could "have an important
impact on the world economy," says George Perry, an oil-economics analyst at
the Brookings Institution in Washington. "A clumsy intervention in the
(Gulf) region could end up causing quite a bit of trouble."

President Bush may characterize Iraq as part of an "axis of evil," but its
oil is sweet: Iraq is now the fastest-growing source of imported oil to the
US, supplying between a half- million and 1 million barrels a day.

As the Bush administration moves toward action against Saddam Hussein, it
leads a country that offers a mixed picture in terms of oil. The US is
considerably more dependent on imported oil now than it was at the time of
the Gulf War - from about 37 per cent to more than 52 per cent imported
today. A greater diversification of sources, on the other hand, means the US
is less dependent on one region - the Persian Gulf - than it was a decade

The US today is either importing more of its energy - or gearing up to
import more - from sub-Saharan Africa, other points in the Western
Hemisphere, and the former Soviet republics around the Caspian Sea.
"Production in the Americas is on the uptick. Production around the Caspian
is on the uptick," says George Baker, an oil analyst with Baker & Associates
in Houston.

Mexico - the fourth-biggest supplier to the US last year, according to the
Energy Department - is well ahead of where it was in 1991 in terms of daily
production. And it's planning for even more. Noting that one example, Baker
says that global suppliers coming into production "mean we have quite a bit
of potential for making up Middle East oil that might be lost."

This diversification of US suppliers may help explain why the Bush
administration wants to spend nearly 100 million dollars to train and equip
a Colombian Army battalion to protect a key oil pipeline that is constantly
being bombed by the country's Marxist rebels. Or why the US military, in the
wake of Sept 11, is building new bases or other facilities in Central Asian
countries including Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

The Central Asian bases are explained as necessary as the US plans for an
extended global war on terrorism. But Baker says they can also be explained
in the context of oil - and the potential for disruption in the Gulf
oil-producing region if the US attacks Iraq.

'"Why are we building bases in the Caspian? Because we're trying to protect
the stability of Caspian oil production," he says. "And why are we doing
that? We need to have that oil production in place if we're going to risk
losing Saddam Hussein's oil."

The US is expected to make other decisions that will affect to some degree
its access to oil. The Bush administration will likely renew a prohibition
of US energy investment in Iran and Libya. The sanctions, in place on Iran
since 1995 and on Libya since 1996, take US oil firms out of the running for
big oil- development contracts in the two countries.

Some US analysts had speculated that the ban on business might be dropped
after the US renewed contacts with both the Libyan and Iranian governments
in the wake of the Sept 11 attacks. But Bush's inclusion of Iran in his
"axis of evil" appears to have dashed those hopes.

Perry of Brookings says such sanctions, while they may sound tough, have
absolutely no impact on the global oil price because neither Iran nor Libya
lacks for other consumer countries to sell to.

Perry says it would take disruption of Persian Gulf supplies to cause
instability in the oil market. And Houston's Baker says that perhaps the
best thing the US could do to ward off instability - especially if it's
contemplating military action in the Gulf - would be to address the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Doing that could help reduce a lot of animosity toward the US in the Muslim
world and some of the adverse forces the oil- producing governments in the
region face. "Even if you're only thinking about oil," he says, "that's the
first fire to put out."


by Middle East analyst Fiona Symon
BBC, 4th March

As the only Arab regime that failed to offer immediate condolences to the
United States after the events of 11 September, it is perhaps no surprise
that the Bush administration should turn its attention to Iraq for phase two
of its war on terrorism.


Leith Kubba, an Iraqi analyst at Washington-based think-tank the National
Endowment for Democracy believes the Bush administration is distancing
itself from the "tribal" opposition groups, the Kurds and the Shia Muslims.

"They are the most relevant on the ground but their political agenda is so
problematic in the long term that they are not being taken on board," he

Dr Kubba believes the Iraqi army will be the most important partner on the
ground for the US.


Washington has recently courted several former Iraqi army officers. Of
these, General Naguib Salihi is the least tainted by association with the
Iraqi regime.

The author of several studies on the Iraqi army, including a book on the
failed uprising of 1991, he left Iraq in 1995 and came to prominence when he
revealed that he had been sent a videotape showing the rape of a female
relative by intelligence personnel.

His refusal to be intimidated, publicly denouncing the brutal tactics of the
regime, has won him admirers.

However, he does not appear to have ambitions for political leadership and
has argued that the military should not be directly engaged in politics.



Las Vegas Sun, 4th March

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - The renowned Iraqi poet Mahmoud al-Brekan, a pioneer of
free verse in Arabic literature, has died - apparently at the hands of
burglars. He was 73.

The Iraqi Writers Union said in a statement that al-Brekan died at home in
the southern city of Basra in "a regrettable incident" on Saturday. It did
not elaborate, but Al-Thawra newspaper, the mouthpiece of Iraq's ruling
Baath party, reported Sunday that he was killed by thieves who had broken
into his house.

Al-Brekan is remembered both for the quality of his verse and his reluctance
to publish it.

Among his best-known works are the collections of verse titled "The City's
Depth and the Silent Starvation," "The Slaves Market" and "Dancing in

Al-Brekan refused to publish these collections, but photocopies circulated
widely in Arabic literary circles.

At the beginning of his career, he published poems in Iraqi and Arabic
literary publications in the early 1950s. But then he stopped publishing and
never gave a reason.

The exiled Iraqi writer Hussein Shaban said Monday that al-Brekan preferred
not to publish "to avoid political, ideological and literary bickering."

"His silence was a resistance to the domination of one voice, one party and
a protest against coercion," Shaban told The Associated Press in a phone
call from London.

The leading Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat described al-Brekan on Monday
as "a legend" and demanded that all his works be published.

Al-Brekan worked as a teacher until his retirement after the 1991 Gulf war.

by Paul Michaud
Dawn, 5th March

PARIS, March 4: In an exclusive full-page interview in the French daily Le
Figaro, Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz has characterized the United
States as the "dictator of the world," and noted that "Iraq has no other
option but to defend itself. It will not choose to surrender with the sole
objective of surviving."

Surrendering under the present circumstances, notes Mr Aziz, who was
interviewed in Baghdad, "would be contrary to our traditions. Iraq is a
proud country, and the Iraqis have always been fighters for freedom."

Moreover, notes Mr Aziz, the recent desire expressed by President George W
Bush to bring about a change of government in Iraq "is illegal in terms of
international law. Nobody has the right to impose on a sovereign state a
political system that it doesn't want. Iraq will refuse to buckle under."

"When Hitler invaded his European neighbours," says Mr Aziz, "it wasn't
because he had the right to do so, but because he believed he had more
might. Still, in the end, Hitler lost anyway." And, continued Mr Aziz, just
as Charles de Gaulle refused to accept the German occupation of his county
in 1940-44, "Iraq will also refuse to submit to the American tyrant."

Mr Aziz took particular aim at British Prime Minister Tony Blair for having
accused Iraq of reconstituting its stocks of nuclear, chemical and
biological weapons. "It's a lie to say that we've taken advantage of the
absence of United Nations inspectors to reconstitute our stockpile of arms
of massive destruction. All our stocks (of such arms) were destroyed under
the control of Unscom. Today, Iraq is 100 percent clean."

But, noted Mr Aziz, "since Mr Blair says this isn't true, it must mean he
knows where and how we've reconstituted our stocks. We are therefore ready
to receive a British delegation which will make its way to those areas
designated by Tony Blair. We'll send along to accompany the delegation the
international media and diplomats who will serve as witnesses."

Mr Aziz went on to challenge news reports according to which Iraqi's
civilian population was under-nourished and living in misery. "We supply our
citizens with a daily ration of 2400 calories: rice, bread, dried beans,
sugar and tea. We are certainly the only country in the world which feeds
its population with public funds. As for the United States, they're very
well incapable of providing food to their poor, their hungry and their

"If in Iraq, people die from sickness," said Mr Aziz, "it's because
sanctions (imposed by the United States) deprive us of equipment with which
to filter our water, or because our children are contaminated by the uranium
contained in the (depleted uranium) weapons used by the United States during
the Gulf War. Nobody in our country dies from hunger." Added Mr Aziz, "If
the Iraqis were not satisfied with their regime, we wouldn't have been able
to survive two wars and eleven years of sanctions."

Asked about the inclusion of Iraq in President Bush's "axis of evil," Mr
Aziz retorted by noting that "it's a bizarre slogan and it demonstrates how
much Bush is ignorant about History. The word "axis" as used in the context
of the Second World War corresponds to a reality, Germany, Italy and Japan
were effectively allies, and their political systems similar. But there is
no resemblance with the three countries cited by Bush."

As for Osama Bin Laden, Mr Aziz noted that "I cannot speak of a man whom I
do not know. Iraq has never had any relations with Bin Laden, I can't
therefore pass judgement on him.

Queried whether Iraq had been able to replace the artillery and armoured
vehicles lost during the Gulf War, Mr Aziz responded that "we have
sufficient means with which to defend our independence." Mr Aziz then
compared the situation of his country to that of Vietnam .

"We have the same determination," noted Mr Aziz who went on to say that like
the Vietnamese, "the Iraqi will fight in the streets and in each house (if
necessary). Against the Americans, each village (in Iraq) will become for
them another Vietnam."

VOA News, 5th March

A prominent Iraqi Kurdish leader says he prefers democratic change in Iraq
involving forces within the country instead of U.S. military intervention.

During talks with Turkish government officials in Ankara Tuesday, Jalal
Talabani, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan that controls parts
of northern Iraq, says he does not support the idea of a U.S. military
ouster of Saddam Hussein without a sound democratic alternative to replace
his regime. Mr. Talabani says he does not want to replace one dictatorship
with another.

He did say, however, that outside support for Iraqi democratic forces would
be welcomed.

His views are shared with the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party
Massoud Barzani, who, along with Mr. Talabani has controlled much of
northern Iraq since it has been outside Baghdad's control following the 1991
Gulf war.

Turkey also is concerned about U.S. military action in Iraq, fearing it
could lead Iraqi Kurds to form an independent state and thus encourage
separatist action by Kurds in southeast Turkey. Mr. Talabani stressed to
Turkey that he is against dividing Iraq.

Arabic News, 5th March

The Turkish daily Hurriet said that Ankara has recently disclosed that an
official at the US CIA official in Turkey and north Iraq had made secret
talks with Kurdish officials of a high ranking level in Irbeil and
al-Suleimaneyah, relating to means of toppling Saddam Hussein.

The paper said that well-informed sources said that Turkey confirmed this
news which was issued by the US daily "Boston Globe" a matter which "had
shaken the Iraqi side."

The paper indicated that a delegation representing the American military
experts had recently visited Ankara and held talks with the Turkish
officials on the future of Iraq and its infrastructure.

Times of india (AFP), 6th March

DUBAI: A series of explosions wreaked extensive damage on transmission and
jamming equipment used by the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, an
Iraqi opposition group claimed on Tuesday.

A huge fire broke out at a compound west of Baghdad housing the equipment
following six explosions overnight Sunday, the London-based Iraqi National
Congress (INC) said in a statement faxed to AFP in Dubai.

There was no independent confirmation of the claim, which did not elaborate
on the nature of the explosions but implied they were an act of sabotage.

There were no reports of casualties among workers at the broadcasting
center, which was vital to the Baghdad regime, the INC said, adding
authorities had launched an investigation into the blasts.

The same dissident group claimed on February 12 that anti-Saddam forces had
carried out a series of acts of sabotage against Iraqi oil installations
starting last August.


Arabic News, 2nd March

The Swiss authorities are investigating with a company in Zurich suspected
to have had sold equipment to Iraq used in manufacturing of artillery pipes,

Informed sources quoted the Swiss radio which said on Friday that the
investigations emerged from a German investigation about weapons purchases
by six companies to Iraq. A matter which constitutes a violation to the
international sanctions imposed on Baghdad.

The radio added it is suspected that the said company had sent especial
equipment to Iraq in 1999 at a cost of USD 1.3 million.

On the other hand, a spokesman for the Swiss federal attorney office
confirmed these information saying that the authorities in his country are
giving legal aid at a request by the German authorities and these relate to
monitoring laws on war items and exports. 

Ananova, 5th March

One of the Royal Navy's newest warships is to return home after a five-month
mission blocking Iraqi smuggling operations.

HMS Kent has seized more than £4 million worth of oil and illegal cargo from
ships in the Gulf destined for or leaving Iraq.

Now the Type 23 frigate is to set to return to its home base at Portsmouth
on 8 March.

HMS Kent, whose crew boarded 10 vessels while stationed in the Gulf, is one
of the navy's newest warships. She joined the fleet in 2000.

Lieutenant Commander Gary Harvey said: "This has been a hugely successful
operation. In all we seized 40,000 tons of illegal cargo, mostly oil.

"This was certainly a challenging tour for the whole of the ship's company
and also a memorable one. Now with the mission completed, we are all looking
forward to coming home."

The ship's commanding officer, Commander John Clink, said his crew were
happy to be returning home after the busy tour of duty.

He said: "We return to Portsmouth with our heads held high as we mark the
closing of the first chapter in the life of HMS Kent.

"Our successes in the Gulf are testament to the professionalism, enthusiasm
and tremendous team spirit of my ship's company. I expect them to receive a
terrific welcome home from their friends and family - they certainly deserve
nothing less."

Reuters, 6th March

TEHRAN: Iran's foreign ministry on Wednesday summoned Switzerland's
ambassador, who represents U.S. interests in Iran, to protest the
interception of an Iranian oil tanker by U.S. forces in the Gulf.

U.S. forces regularly intercept ships suspected of carrying Iraqi oil in
violation of U.N. sanctions imposed on Baghdad for its 1990 invasion of

Newspapers said U.S. ships stopped a tanker leased by the National Iranian
Oil Company bound for the southwestern Iranian port of Abadan on Sunday.

"Iran considers such illegal and unconventional measures contradictory to
international regulations on free shipping in international waters," the
foreign ministry said in a statement quoted by the official IRNA news

The ship, carrying feedstock for unleaded petrol, was intercepted and
inspected by the U.S. Navy for the third time in as many months and allowed
to proceed after its Indian crew was interrogated for seven hours, the
agency said.

The foreign ministry called on the United States to stop such actions and
said: "Tehran holds the American government accountable for such actions and
keeps its right to follow up the issue through legal channels."

U.S. naval forces in the Gulf attacked an oil tanker bound for an Iranian
port in December and injured two people.

Washington broke diplomatic ties with Iran after Iranian militants seized
the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and took its staff hostage.

Tension has risen between the traditional foes since President Bush accused
Iran of being part of an "axis of evil," allegedly bent on pursuing weapons
of mass destruction, which Iran strongly denies.


by Jeff Heinrich
National Post (Canada), 2nd March

MONTREAL - A display of imported dates catches the eye at the entrance to a
health-food store on Rachel St. in the Plateau Mont Royal.

"Be a good citizen -- disobey!" the packaging label exhorts shoppers. And in
bold letters: Made in Iraq.


Isn't Canada part of a United Nations embargo barring trade with Iraq since
it invaded neighbouring Kuwait in 1990, sparking the U.S.-led Persian Gulf
War the following year?

"I could face a big penalty for doing this, but I took the risk," said René
Lavoie, buyer for the Rachelle-Bery grocery chain, where the gift baskets
and little boxes of dates have been on sale since just before Christmas.

"I did it to lend a hand to the families over there [in Iraq]."

According to estimates last year by Columbia University analyst Richard
Garfield, 350,000 Iraqi children under age five died in the 1990s -- double
the number in the 1980s, mostly due to the embargo but also the war.

In December Mr. Lavoie bought $2,000 worth of dates -- 100 baskets and 200
boxes each containing half a kilogram -- wholesale from a Montreal
non-governmental organization called Voices of Conscience.

The volunteer group got the dates from a pro-Iraqi NGO in Rome called A
Bridge for Baghdad, which smuggled them from Iraq. The Italians have also
exported the dates to England.

To get into Canada, the dates were falsely labelled as originating in the
United Arab Emirates, against which there are no sanctions, said Voices
spokesman Julie Mongeau.

In all, the organization brought in 1,600 packages of the dried fruit. The
shipment arrived at Dorval Airport on Dec. 17 and passed customs inspection.

Another shipment is expected in the next few weeks.

Three of Rachel-Bery's five stores carry the product, as does the 10,000
Villages import store on St. Denis St. The dates were also available until
recently at the Café Rico coffee house on Rachel St. E., which gave them
away free to try to avoid possible fines or jail.

"We ran out of all our stock, and we're now trying to change our logistics
to import them a second time," said Stephane Kordahi, who runs Café Rico.

Like others helping with the smuggling, Mr. Kordahi prefers to call the
clandestine operation "civil disobedience," not lawbreaking. But Ottawa sees
it differently.

Canada Customs is looking into how the dates got into the country and who is
distributing them, an official said yesterday.

"Certainly we'll have to review what happened," Brian McGruther said from
Ottawa after being told the dates are on sale here. "I would say it's very

BBC, 2nd March

Thousands of anti-war demonstrators have marched through central London in
protest at the threat of military strikes against Iraq.

Supporters of the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) were addressed by speakers
including Tony Benn and Yvonne Ridley, the Sunday Express journalist
captured and detained by the Taleban for ten days.

Police estimates put the number attending at 7,500 but organisers say the
figure was 20,000.

StWC convenor Lindsey Graham said marchers were also protesting against the
continued detentions in Cuba at Guantanomo Bay.

"We feel that the war in Afghanistan makes things worse.

"It looks like they are going to attack Iraq and we want the British
government to know 'you are not doing this in our name' if they go ahead."

Ms Graham said the prospect of military action against Iraq would lead to
further protest marches being organised around the UK.

"The USA and Britain say Saddam has weapons of mass destruction.

"But the real weapons of mass destruction are held by the West who have
already used sanctions and bombing against Iraq."

Veteran anti-war campaigner Tony Benn called for non-violent resistance
against the government in the wake of action against Iraq.

"The moment that bombing begins, we go to where we are and we stop for an

"Stop the buses, stop the trains. It's got to be something we take up in
every town and village.

"Go home today, talk to your schools, raise it in the churches, the temples,
the mosques, the synagogues and at work, because we could well be heading
for a Third World War because of stupid men who are in government and are
governing in our name."

The demonstrators gathered in Hyde Park before marching on to Trafalgar


Berlin, March 8, IRNA -- The German peace movement here Friday called on its
supporters to join mass demonstrations against likely US military actions in
Iraq, DPA said.

Demonstrations are planned during the US president's May 23 visit to Germany
and on Easter, peace movement spokesman, Peter Strutynski, was quoted as
saying in the northeast German city of Kassel.

He referrred to US "war preparations" in the Middle East which are focusing
on Iraq.

Strutynski stressed that Washington's plans posed serious threats not only
to the Mideast but also global peace.


by Andrea Hopkins
Reuters, 5th March

CANBERRA: Iraqi asylum seekers falsely accused of throwing their children
overboard have struck back at their Australian accusers, saying the
government demonised them for political gain in last year's election.

The would-be refugees, who have been detained at an Australian-run detention
camp in Papua New Guinea since being rescued from their sinking boat last
October, said Australia's conservative government painted them as criminals.

The complaint, detailed in an undated letter received by Reuters on Tuesday,
is the first communication from the asylum seekers since the government last
month admitted a military mix-up had caused them to falsely accuse the boat
people of throwing children overboard.

"This accusation put our lives and the life of our innocent women and kids
in political election struggle," the asylum seekers said in the two-page

The letter, which also included two drawings of their sinking boat, was
signed "Iraqi prisoners, Manus Island, PNG". It was distributed to the media
by the International Organisation for Migration, which runs the PNG
detention camp.

Australian Defence Minister Robert Hill offered a partial apology to the
asylum seekers last week for accusing them of throwing their children
overboard in what the government claimed was an attempt to blackmail
Australia into accepting them.

But said he was not to blame for the communication mix-up which led to the
accusations and also took a jibe at the boatpeople for allegedly holding
their children over the water.

The government seized on the allegations during last year's election
campaign to bolster its hard line against illegal immigrants, saying parents
who would throw their children overboard were "not the sort of people"
welcome in Australia.

The government continues to assert that some boatpeople held their children
over the side of the boats in a threatening way.

Prime Minister John Howard's conservative coalition went on to win a third
term at a November 10 election amid broad public support for his tough stand
on illegal immigration.

In their letter, the asylum seekers said the government tried to portray
them as "terrorists" when in fact they had simply held their children up
while their boat was sinking in a plea to an Australian warship on the scene
to rescue them.

"(The government tried) to paste the accusation to us and show us as
criminals throwing our kids from the overboard to the sea, we are terrorist
we do not deserve entering Australia... (when really we) lift our kids
appealing for aid and gain their sympathy," the letter said.

The boat sank the next day, dumping the asylum seekers into the sea, where
they were rescued by the navy.

In their letter, the asylum seekers asked the government to deal with their
situation "in humanity" by transferring them from the "hot and wet" tropical
camp to mainland Australia.

"As a result of these bad circumstances many kinds of disease spreaded in
the camp like some hysteric shock, which push some people to commit
suicide," the asylum seekers wrote. Doctors have warned the asylum seekers
were at risk of getting malaria.

A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said there have been
no suicide attempts at the camp and said the detainees have access to
doctors and air conditioning.

She dismissed claims they held their children up to win sympathy, saying it
was clear the children were being threatened.

"The fact is they sank their boat, so people ended up in the water anyway. I
mean they did endanger the lives of the people on the boat, and that
included women and children," she said.

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