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[casi] News, 16-23/3/02 (1)

News, 16-23/3/02 (1)


*  Saddam 'will flee when the war starts' [Views of General Najib al-Salih]
*  Army fear over Blair war plans [Ends with what appears to be a most
feeble argument that Iraq has been doing some little bits and pieces to
prepare for its defence in the (unlikely?) case of war.]
*  Saddam Hussein: He wants war. And he thinks he's ready for it [Account of
SHıs character and career. More credible than the account by General Najib
al-Salih (ŒSaddam will flee when the war startsı). It mentions that SH
executed Œa third of the leadershipı when he became President, but the
reason wasnıt because they objected to his becoming President. the reason
was that they wanted a union with Syria in keeping with the original Baıath
pan Arab policy. Saddam wanted an independent Iraq. And so did everyone who
wanted to keep the Arab world weak and divided, which is presumably why this
purge only became general knowledge in 1990 .]
*  CIA survey of Iraq airfields heralds attack
*  CIA won't rule out Iraq, Iran [The article is a roundup of Tenetıs views
on different countries (Iran, China, North Korea). With regard to Iraq,
Tenet doesnıt produce any evidence of any connection - not even the Prague
link, though has a connection ever been made between Mohammad Atta and
al-Qaida? ­ but he does say, and I would agree, that the ideological
difference between Iraq and al-Qaida doesnıt rule out all possibility of
collaboration between them.]
*  All aboard the battle wagon heading for Iraq [Gratifyingly hostile
account of article by ex Clinton-adviser-looking-for-a-job, Kenneth
M.Pollack in the US journal, Foreign Affairs.]

URL ONLY:,3604,668443,00.html
by Ewen MacAskill, Richard Norton-Taylor and John Hooper in Berlin
The Guardian, 16th March
[Round-up of the weekıs military speculations. Note that one of the main
reasons for hesitating is that, if cornered, SH might unleash a cocktail of
chemical and biological weapons. Rather a strong argument for the wisdom of
maintaining a chemical and biological weapons capacity.]


*  Algerian delegation arrives in Baghdad
*  Kuwaiti, Egyptian Detained by Iraq Troops
*  Iraq Sends Diplomat on North African Tour
*  Iraqi Envoy Arrives in UAE Hot on Cheney's Heels
*  Syrian: The Iraqi pipeline is just for a test, to be cancelled [Includes
the interesting statement from the Syrian oil minister that: "the oil which
reaches Syria during testing the line is used by our refineries and we use
it to increase some of our oil exports."]
*  Cheney Finds Chilly Response in the Gulf to Any Attack on Iraq
*  Iraq, Bahrain sign agreement
*  Arab states united in rejecting attack on Saddam [Robert Fisk]
*  Kuwait opposes strike against Iraq
*  Qaddafi - Aziz discuss Palestine, Iraq problems
*  Saddam's enemy says 'no' to US [Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, of the
*  Don't cling to old Mideast order [Donıt worry about what the locals
think. Thy donıt know whatıs good for them.]
*  Iraq, Lebanon to Sign Free Trade Agreement Next Month [and Sudan signs a
free trade agreement straight away]
*  Kuwait slams Iraq for holding Kuwaiti as 'bargaining chip'
* All Arab States Against Military Strikes on Iraq: Lebanese President
*  Arab leaders concerned by Saddam Hussein: Cheney

by John Rossant
Asia Times, 19th March
[I canıt in all conscience give this rather long piece but its an intriguing
account of the Saudi royal family arguing that Œthe Red Princeı, Talal bin
Abdulaziz, a former associate of Nasser, out of politics for many years, may
be about to make a comeback.]


by David Wastell
Daily Telegraph, 17th March

SADDAM HUSSEIN is a weak and cowardly leader who will run away in the face
of a new invasion of Iraq, according to a former Republican Guard commander
who is tipped for a senior leadership role after the Iraqi dictator has been

Gen Najib al-Salhi, 48, who defected from Iraq in 1995 and is being actively
courted by the State Department as a potential conduit between rival
opposition groups, has told British and American officials that most of
Iraq's military is disloyal to Saddam and is simply "waiting for the right
moment" to turn against him.

In briefings with American officials in Washington and diplomats at the
Foreign Office in London last week, Gen al-Salhi has backed the view of some
American officials that it is possible to remove Saddam from power "at very
low cost".

He believes that it could be done using a combination of coalition air power
and special forces on the ground, internal opposition groups and mutinous
Iraqi army units.

In an interview with The Telegraph, he said: "Without any exaggeration, the
Iraqi army hate Saddam and they will not be loyal to him."

Nor, in Gen al-Salhi's view, will Saddam find it easy to use his feared
arsenal of chemical and biological weapons. "To use such weapons you need
capable and technical people to deploy and target them," he said.

"Remember, they will not be used by Saddam personally. Iraqi people will
have to deploy such weapons against other Iraqi people. If we can convince
them that Saddam is really going to go, they will not use them."

The general's remarkably upbeat assessment comes as officials of both
governments ponder the best moves against the Iraqi leader in the campaign
being planned for later this year.

Some Pentagon officials believe that the Iraqi opposition may play a role
akin to the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, cutting the size of the
American and British force needed to oust Saddam, but United States generals
have said that at least 200,000 ground troops would be needed.

President George W Bush has asked for options to be presented to him by the
middle of next month. A meeting of former Iraqi military officers is planned
to be held in Washington next month, and the State Department is organising
a broader opposition conference in Europe in May.

According to Gen al-Salhi, the key to success will be convincing the Iraqi
army that the opposition to Saddam is serious, by readying a substantial
ground force in the region for a possible attack.

"Once it is made clear to the Iraqi army that there is a plan to topple him,
rather than just launch some air attacks but not follow up, then I think we
will see a difference," he said, speaking through an interpreter.

"We should also talk about toppling the government of Iraq and installing a
democratic government which respects human rights."

In the most explicit account yet of how a campaign against Saddam might be
waged, he stressed the need to encourage Iraqi military leaders to switch
sides by promising that no more than 20 of Saddam's closest henchmen would
be treated as criminals by an incoming Iraqi government.

He described Saddam as a fearful man who would attempt to flee once it was
clear that he was losing his grip on power. "He will try to run away the
same as bin Laden did," he said.

"Saddam is not a brave man, I have seen him in so many situations. He may
change his face or use make-up to try to run, but I feel that the Iraqi
people will not give him the chance. They will capture and kill him before
we even get to Baghdad."

Gen al-Salhi commanded a tank battalion in the Republican Guards and rose to
become chief of staff to the mechanised division of the 5th Corps in 1995.

He defected to Jordan seven years ago to organise a secret network of
colleagues inside and outside Iraq, the Iraqi Free Officers' Movement. He
moved to America last year, with his wife and three children, and now lives
in a Virginia suburb of Washington.

He is seen as a rapidly rising star who is widely acceptable to many Iraqis
since the large Salhi tribe to which he belongs spans both Sunni and Shia
Muslims, and several ethnic groups within Iraq.

He is also an optimist. "By the end of this year we will have won the
freedom of the Iraqi people," he predicted.,4273,4375954,00.html

by Kamal Ahmed and Gaby Hinsliff
The Observer, 17th March

Britain's military leaders issued a stark warning to Tony Blair last night
that any war against Iraq is doomed to fail and would lead to the loss of
lives for little political gain.

As the debate over whether to commit British troops alongside American
forces intensified, the leaders urged 'extreme caution' over any moves
towards war, saying servicemen faced being bogged down in a perilous
open-ended commitment.

Claiming that the Government had yet to give any clear political direction
over committing troops - America has asked for up to 25,000 UK personnel to
join an invasion force - the sources warned that Arab countries were likely
to rebel over any Western attack on Iraq without a Middle East peace deal.

Failing that, the sources said Saudi Arabia was unlikely to allow its bases
to be used against Saddam Hussein. Defence sources said that, without Saudi
cooperation, it would be difficult to launch a sustained attack by American
and British forces.

Underlining their fears of a military strike, senior armed forces figures
will warn the prime minister this week that without a leader-in-waiting to
take over from Saddam, there is little chance of any successful move to
overthrow the Iraqi dictator.

Opposition forces in Iraq are not as strong as they were in Afghanistan,
Blair will be told. There seems to be no potential successor to Saddam that
the West and Iraq's Arab neighbours could accept.

As it became clear that British troop commitments in Afghanistan would have
to be extended beyond the April deadline set by the prime minister, the
briefings revealed the level of concern over further military deployment
against Saddam.

Although Blair has insisted no decisions have been taken, Foreign Office
officials have said it was unlikely that America would be satisfied with
simply sending United Nations weapons inspectors back to Iraq. This suggests
that increased military strikes are the only option being seriously
considered by president George W. Bush. He said last week that 'inaction was
not an option'.

In a further sign of British military anxiety, leaked Ministry of Defence
papers reveal the Army is warning it will need a substantially more money in
this summer's Comprehensive Spending Review if it is to take on a new
military campaign.

The briefing papers, prepared for General Sir Michael Walker, Chief of
General Staff, warn that future funding for defence 'remains very taut,
given the range of operational tasks placed on the MoD and armed forces'.
Matching the available money to these tasks 'remains a very significant

If the Government expects the forces to take on extra tasks as part of the
campaign against terrorism, 'then the resources for those tasks will have to
be found'. It is believed that the MoD has asked for £500 million in next
month's Budget to pay for its increased commitments.

The papers reveal that British peacekeeping troops will stay in Afghanistan
longer than expected, raising fears of the Army becoming embroiled in yet
another long-running commitment overseas, which will drain resources.

The UK, which leads the international peacekeeping force in Kabul and has
committed more than 5,000 troops, is due to hand over control of the force
to Turkey next month. But it will now have to provide at least some troops
'until the end of its [the force's] mandate' - now June.

Yesterday, Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, backed up the warnings
by saying he expected British troops to remain in Afghanistan for the rest
of the year.

The Government has already begun trying to win 'hearts and minds' for the
second phase of the war on terror. In a briefing document given to a
committee of Labour MPs with expertise in defence and foreign affairs last
week - and passed to The Observer - the Foreign Office says Saddam is
accelerating Iraq's weapons programme.

'Its ballistic missile programme has made continued progress, and facilities
damaged by Operation Desert Fox in 1998 have been repaired; in the absence
of inspections, we believe Saddam is planning to extend the range of his
missiles beyond the 150km limit imposed by the US.

'We believe the Iraqi regime continues its biological and chemical weapons

by Patrick Cockburn
Independent, 17th March 2002

Saddam Hussein believes that war is coming. He has always had an apocalyptic
vision of himself as the Arab hero fighting the foreign enemy to the last
bullet. It is one of the few points in which he is in agreement with the
Iraqi opposition. They believe he will fight to the end. "Even if the US or
their allies ever take Baghdad he will shoot it out from the last bunker,"
said a veteran opponent of the regime, who has devoted his life to trying to
overthrow the Iraqi dictator.

Everywhere in Iraq there are signs of the regime girding itself for war.
Saddam has ordered more food to be made available in the shops and told
people to store it at home. Petrol dumps are being prepared in case US
aircraft destroy the refineries as they did during the Gulf War in 1991.
Iraqi television and radio are continually pumping out warnings that the
Iraqi people must be prepared for war.

Saddam thinks he has learnt some lessons from his defeat in Kuwait 11 years
ago and the subsequent uprisings of Iraqi Shia Muslims in the south and
Kurds in the north which almost overthrew him. This time he plans to crush
any rebellion before it gets started. Already he has divided the country
into three under the command of loyal lieutenants who will respond instantly
to any opposition attack. Emergency committees of army, security services
and members of the ruling Ba'ath Party have been set up in every village,
town and city.

The regular army, though not the elite Republican Guard divisions, is
normally kept short of ammunition to prevent it launching a coup. But over
the past month observers have noticed that it has received copious supplies
of ammunition as it goes on to a war footing. The dreaded security and
intelligence agencies, the essential sinews of the regime, have shifted out
of the headquarters they occupied at the start of the year to move to new,
more secret locations.

Saddam's regime is far stronger than the Taliban was. A civilian by
background, he has devoted his life to making sure that no ambitious
military commander is able to overthrow him. But he has never been good at
assessing how the outside world will respond to his actions, and
disastrously miscalculated the risks involved in invading Iran in 1980 and
Kuwait 10 years later. In manipulating political forces within Iraq, though,
he is a past master.

Now 64, Saddam has spent half his life either as supreme leader of Iraq or
among the country's top leaders. A tall, well-built man he now moves stiffly
and seldom speaks in public, but nobody in Iraq has any doubt that he is in
total control. Iraqi television frequently shows him at the head of a table
with his top military leaders, visibly nervous, sitting on either side with
their pencils poised over notepads as they wait, like eager students, to
take down the words of the leader.

In the 1980s official Iraqi accounts of Saddam's career emphasised that,
like the Prophet Mohamed, he was orphaned at an early age and succeeded in
the face of adversity. This was never quite true. In reality Saddam, born
near the city of Tikrit on the upper Tigris river in 1937, was fortunate in
his background. His family were Sunni Muslims from a part of Iraq that
produced many of the nationalist army officers who were soon to dominate the

Saddam came from a close-knit family ­ his half-brothers were his first
security chiefs. Married early to his cousin Sajidah, he had two sons, Uday
and Qusay, who today are his chief lieutenants. In official Iraqi paintings
they are usually portrayed as young Arab horsemen loyally riding behind
their father, the Sheikh.

Family solidarity has been repeatedly shaken by Uday's murderous rages. In
1988 he killed his father's bodyguard and confidante during a drunken row at
a party on an island in the Tigris river. For many years his power base,
bizarrely, has been the Iraqi Olympic Committee which has a large, fortified
headquarters in Baghdad with its own prison cells.

The disputes within the ruling family culminated in 1995 when Hussein Kamel,
Saddam's son-in-law, defected with his wife to Jordan. It seemed that
familial solidarity was finally breaking up because of Uday's extreme
violence. But Hussein Kamel could not get used to exile. After a year he was
lured back to Iraq under the impression that he would be forgiven. Within
hours of his arrival he found that he was mistaken. Surrounded in a house in
Baghdad he was shot down by other members of his clan as he pleaded for the
lives of those who were with him.

Iraqi politics have always been bloody. Shia Muslims make up more than half
the population and Kurds a fifth but power has always been in the hands of
the Sunni minority. The three groups have generally detested each other.
Soon after modern Iraq was created by Britain from three provinces captured
from the Ottoman Turks in the First World War a British official noted
presciently that the new country, dominated by the Sunni establishment,
could only be "the antithesis of democratic government".

He was right. The last king of Iraq was shot dead as he tried to flee his
burning palace in 1958. A year later the young Saddam made his first
intervention in politics when he was one of a group of gunmen who tried to
assassinate the new leader, Abd al-Karim Qassim. They failed. Saddam was
shot in the leg but escaped by swimming the Tigris. Many years later, he
told King Hussein of Jordan that at the time he believed he was going to be
killed and seen every day since the assassination bid as a gift from God.

In 1968, still only 31, Saddam engineered a military coup in which members
of his clan from Tikrit played a leading role. At first he was cautious, and
became president of Iraq only in 1979 when he executed a third of the
leadership who objected to his elevation.

In some respects Saddam's personality and career recall Stalin. Like the
Soviet leader, he is pitiless. He is a good organiser. He is the subject of
an extraordinary personality cult. He is also capable of bouncing back from
defeat as he did during the Iran-Iraq war in 1982 and after the debacle in
Kuwait 10 years later. Unlike Stalin he has repeatedly overplayed his hand.
His attempt over 20 years to make Iraq a great power in the Middle East has
reduced his country to poverty, its economy strangled by UN sanctions.

In private Saddam has sometimes admitted making mistakes. After narrowly
escaping overthrow in the wake of the Gulf War he said to a confidante: "In
the past our enemies have taken advantage of our mistakes. In future we will
sit back and take advantage of the mistakes made by them." It was a strategy
which seemed to work after the Gulf War. All the conspiracies against him
were crushed. In the past three years he has even found the time to write a
romantic novel, a thinly veiled allegory in which the anti-hero represents
aggressive America.

It was the devastating attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon on
11 September which, quite unexpectedly, brought Iraq so close to a second
war with the US. It is ironic that there is no evidence that Saddam had
anything to do with the attacks. But they greatly strengthened those within
George Bush's administration who already wanted to topple the Iraqi leader.
The last battle may be coming his way, after all.

by Patrick Cockburn
Independent, 18th March

In the first concrete sign that the US is planning military action against
Iraq despite objections from its allies, CIA officers have surveyed three
key airfields in northern Iraq.

The airfields, situated in northern Iraq near the cities of Arbil, Dohuk and
Sulaimaniyah in Kurdistan ­ the only part of Iraq not held by Saddam Hussein
­ could be used to receive arms and troops in the event of a conflict
between the US and Iraq, an Iraqi source has told The Independent.

The US is pursuing its military strategy and, at the same time, trying to
persuade Iraq to accept UN weapons inspectors back into the country, which
could theoretically avert the need for a military campaign.

But America has made it clear that it is prepared to act alone, if
necessary, against Saddam Hussein, even though the US Vice-President, Dick
Cheney, has heard strong objections to its plans for a military campaign
aimed at overthrowing President Saddam during the tour of Arab states that
he is currently finishing.

The CIA visit, at the end of last month, will deeply worry Baghdad and has
infuriated Iran and Syria. Both countries are concerned that an American
attack on Iraq will endanger their own security.

President Saddam has shown in the last few weeks that he takes American
threats to attack him very seriously by telling householders in Baghdad to
stockpile food. Militia and paramilitary groups as well as the army have
been put on high alert.

In addition, the regular Iraqi army has been issued with plentiful supplies
of ammunition. Regular units, in contrast with the élite Republican Guard,
are usually only given small supplies to ensure that they do not take part
in a coup d'état against the government.

The largest of the airfields examined by the CIA is near Arbil, the biggest
Kurdish city, about 20 miles from the Iraqi front line. "It has good modern
runway about 1.6 miles [2.5 km] long, built for the Iraqi airforce in the
1980s," said a member of the Iraqi opposition, who did not want his name

The other airfields are at Bamarnii outside Dohuk in western Kurdistan,
which was used by Gulf War allies in Operation Provide Comfort, launched to
help the Kurds after they had been routed by President Saddam's army in
1991. A third airfield is in Sulaimaniyah province in eastern Kurdistan, not
far from the Iranian border.

The Kurds, who have repeatedly risen against Iraqi governments in the past,
have enjoyed de facto independence since the 1991 Gulf War. Protected by US
and British aircraft, which maintain a no-fly zone over Kurdistan, they have
tried in recent years to steer a neutral course between President Saddam and
his enemies.

One scenario being pushed in Washington is for the US to try to repeat its
success in Afghanistan by using its air power to support opposition forces.
But the Kurdish forces number about 15,000 fighters and are no match for the
400,000 soldiers in the Iraqi army.

Late last year a high-level delegation from the US State Department visited
Kurdistan. They were told by the two most important Kurdish leaders ­
Massoud Barzani, who heads the Kurdistan Democratic Party, and Jalal
al-Talabani, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan ­ that the Kurds
would not act against Saddam Hussein unless they were certain that the US
was determined to overthrow him and had a plan to do so.

The CIA visit has seriously embarrassed the two leaders. "The news of the
CIA visit has created a furore among the Kurds," said an Iraqi source
yesterday. Mr al-Talabani has made a rushed visit to Damascus to reassure
the Syrians that his party is not joining an attempt to topple President
Saddam. Mr Barzani sent two senior members of the KDP politburo, Azad Barawi
and Favel Mirani, to make the same point to Syria.

*  CIA won't rule out Iraq, Iran
By Bill Gertz
The Washington Times, 19th March

CIA Director George J. Tenet yesterday refused to rule out the involvement
of either Iraq or Iran in the September 11 terrorist attacks. Top Stories

"There is no doubt that there have been contacts and linkages to the al
Qaeda organization," Mr. Tenet told Congress when asked about Iraqi ties to
the terrorist network led by Osama bin Laden.

"As to where we are in September 11th, the jury's out," Mr. Tenet said. "And
... it would be a mistake to dismiss the possibility of state sponsorship,
whether Iranian or Iraqi, and we'll see where the evidence takes us."

Mr. Tenet said U.S. intelligence agencies are investigating whether Baghdad
in particular played a role in the September 11 attacks.

The CIA director made the remarks in testimony before the Senate Armed
Services Committee, in which he focused on national security threats to the
United States.

The comments mark a shift from past statements by intelligence officials who
had ruled out any state sponsorship of the al Qaeda attacks on the World
Trade Center and Pentagon.

On other issues, Mr. Tenet told the panel:

‹  China is backing state sponsors of terrorism with arms sales, and its
cooperation in the U.S.-led war on terrorism is a "mixed bag."

‹  Al Qaeda has been disrupted by U.S. military operations in Afghanistan,
but the group still poses a threat to the United States. "We assess that al
Qaeda and other terrorist groups will continue to plan to attack this
country and its interests abroad," Mr. Tenet said. "Their modus operandi is
to have multiple attacks in the works simultaneously, and to have al Qaeda
cells in place to conduct them."

‹  Al Qaeda terrorists are seeking to develop weapons that spread
radioactive debris as part of a blast.

‹  Iran is continuing to support terrorist groups, including transferring
arms to Palestinian extremist organizations and Hezbollah. Tehran also has
"failed to move decisively against al Qaeda members who have relocated to
Iran from Afghanistan."

‹  Anti-terrorism cooperation around the world has resulted in the arrests
of more than 1,300 al Qaeda members in more than 70 nations and the
disruption of terrorist operations.

‹  The spread of nuclear-weapon components may not be detected by U.S.
intelligence, and the transfer of long-range and cruise missile technology
"has raised the threat to the United States from weapons-of-mass-destruction
delivery systems to a critical threshold."

‹  North Korea's communist regime is leading the nation toward "state
failure," and mismanagement by the Pyongyang government is triggering the
return of famine conditions.

"Large numbers of North Koreans face long-term health damage as a result of
the prolonged malnutrition and the collapse of the public health network,"
Mr. Tenet said.

Regarding the connection between Iraq and the al Qaeda network, Mr. Tenet
said the terrorist group is like "a front company that mixes and matches its

"The distinctions between Sunni and Shia [Islamic denominations] that have
traditionally divided terrorist groups are not distinctions you should make
anymore, because there is a common interest against the United States and
its allies in this region, and they will seek capability wherever they can
get it," Mr. Tenet said.

Iraq's government has a long history of supporting terrorists and has
altered its targets to suit changing priorities, Mr. Tenet said.

"It has also had contacts with al Qaeda," he said. "Their ties may be
limited by divergent ideologies, but the two sides' mutual antipathy toward
the United States and the Saudi royal family suggests that tactical
cooperation between them is possible, even though [Iraqi leader Saddam
Hussein] is well aware that such activity would carry serious consequences."

U.S. intelligence officials have said Mohamed Atta, one of the 19 suicide
hijackers who carried out the September 11 attacks, met secretly in Prague
with an Iraqi intelligence officer.

The meeting, which was detected by Czech internal security agents, has
raised concerns that Iraq played a role in the terrorist attacks.

A U.S. official said later that while an Iraqi role in the terror attacks
cannot be ruled out, "At this point, there isn't evidence pointing to that."

Reflecting the Bush administration's current focus on Iraq, Mr. Tenet also
said Baghdad is continuing its program to develop nuclear, chemical and
biological weapons and missile delivery systems.

"We believe that Saddam never abandoned his nuclear weapons program," Mr.
Tenet said, noting that Iraq has kept "a significant number of nuclear
scientists, program documentation and probably some dual-use manufacturing
infrastructure that could support a reinvigorated nuclear program."

A major fear of the CIA is that Iraq will gain access to radioactive fuel
that could be used to create nuclear weapons, he said.

On the issue of China, Mr. Tenet said Beijing has tried to cooperate with
the United States in the war against terrorism, while also continuing to
back terrorist-sponsoring states such as Iran, Libya and North Korea with
arms and missile sales.

Asked by Committee Chairman Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, whether China is
"with us or with the terrorists," Mr. Tenet said:

"I think that we have a deep concern that the Chinese are engaging in
activities that continue to be inimical not just to our interests, but that
their activity stimulates secondary activities that only complicate the
threat that we face, our forces face and our allies face, particularly in
the Middle East and other places where they have these relationships."

China is building up its conventional and strategic nuclear forces as part
of a drive to become a great power, Mr. Tenet said. Beijing views the United
States as "the primary obstacle to the realization of that goal," he said.

Since the September 11 attacks, China has changed its approach to the United
States but not its long-term strategy.

China's standoff with Taiwan continues, and the mainland's military buildup
is "increasing the risk to the United States itself in any future Taiwan
contingency," Mr. Tenet said.

China announced earlier this month that it is increasing its defense
spending by 17.6 percent, and if the trend continues, Beijing will double
its defense spending between 2000 and 2005.

by Farish A. Noor
New Straits Times (Malaysia), 22nd March

THE essay by Kenneth M. Pollack entitled "Next Stop Baghdad?" that appeared
in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs makes for grim reading. It would be
less disconcerting if Pollack was a mere retired armchair strategist who
spins off his own war narratives in the comfort of his study.

But unfortunately Pollack happens to be the deputy director for National
Security Studies at the American Council on Foreign Relations and he has
served on the American National Security Council before. Furthermore,
Foreign Affairs is no mere journal ‹ it happens to be a very influential
mouthpiece for the US administration and in many ways it mirrors the mindset
of those who actually run the world's only remaining superpower. In his
article, Kenneth Pollack makes his case for the invasion of Iraq and the
toppling of Saddam Hussein's Government by whatever means (and whatever
costs) necessary. He presents this as a natural progression after America's
campaign against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and his recommendations
are stark and brutally blunt: "The United States should invade Iraq,
eliminate the present regime, and pave the way for a successor prepared to
abide by its international commitments and live in peace with its
neighbours." Pollack does not pretend that such a campaign has anything to
do with the socalled "global war on terror". He openly states that "Saddam
Hussein must be dealt with" and that doing so would be in the service of
American economic, political and military interests.

Pollack knows that he can get away with such sabrerattling rhetoric with
impunity as there stands no single country in the world today that can
simply say no to the US.

Even the Governments of Europe have resigned themselves to the fact that
whatever advice and words of caution they might offer at this stage would be
like water off a duck's back.

Furthermore, the countries of Asia, Latin America and Africa ‹ much less the
Arab world ‹ are hardly in a position to resist either. Indeed, the most
frightening thing about the language of people like Pollack is their
willingness to talk about the deliberate slaughter of thousands of people as
if it was the stuff of dry economics or pulp fiction.

Speculating about the costs of such a military campaign, Pollack simply
throws up some figures in the air: "All told, the (American) force should
total roughly 200,000 to 300,000 people: for the invasion, between four and
six divisions plus supporting units, and for the air campaign, 700 to 1,000
aircraft and anywhere from one to five carrier battle groups." Of course,
Pollack conveniently forgets to include the total number of Iraqi civilian
casualties that would invariably arise in the case of such a conflict ‹ a
figure of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, should America go all the
way and decide to use nuclear weapons as its security services have warned
that it would. (Pollack has, after all, dismissed the Iraqi casualty figures
of the Gulf war and post-Gulf war period as "ludicrous".) But Pollack's
bellicose tenor is matched only by his acute business sense: Later he
speculates about the costs of rebuilding Iraq after it has been pounded to
rubble by the US: "The United States will also need to repair much of the
damage done to the Iraqi economy since Saddam's accession." (Note that it is
Saddam who is blamed for Iraq's economic decline ‹ as if the numerous
economic sanctions slapped on the country from 1991 have had nothing to do
with it.) "(The US) could undoubtedly raise substantial funds for this
purpose from the GCC and perhaps some European and East Asian countries
dependent on Persian Gulf oil.

"Current estimates of the cost of rebuilding Iraq's economy, however, range
from US$50 billion (RM190 billion) to US$150 billion, and that does not
include repairing the damage from yet another major war. The United States
should thus be prepared to contribute several billion dollars per year for
as long as a decade to rebuild the country." Again, there is a serious
omission here: For as any economist will tell you, any country that invests
in the rebuilding of the shattered economy of another state will not do so
out of charity or goodwill, but for the simple reason that such
re-developmental aid is bound to yield massive benefits in terms of
development projects, contracts and useful economic partnerships and
political alliances.

Pollack's essay is nothing less than a blueprint for the deliberate and
systematic destruction of the economy and political system of another
country, just so that it can be rebuilt anew according to the model pre-set
by its invaders. Today the spin doctors have come up with all kinds of fancy
terms and labels for such actions: "developmental aid", "political
conditionality", "constructive engagement", etc. But in the past there was a
much simpler, and more honest, term that was employed: imperialism. The
sooner the world comes to terms with these painful realities, the sooner we
will be able to address it.


Arabic News, 16th March

A delegation included more than 200 figures representing Algerian
businessmen and more than 77 trade and industry firms led by Algerian
Minister of Industry Abdul-Majeed al Manasra arrived in Iraq Thursday for a
several-day visit to be present at activities of the Algerian products
exhibition which will be opened Saturday in Baghdad International Fair, and
to strengthen economic and trade cooperation especially after the two states
have signed the free trade zone agreement, INA reported today.


KUWAIT CITY, March 15 (Xinhua) -- A source from the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry
confirmed on Friday that a Kuwaiti and an Egyptian were held by Iraqi troops
at the border while accompanying a Venezuelan delegation, Kuwait's official
KUNA news agency reported.

It is the responsibility of the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observation
Mission (UNIKOM) to ensure the release of the two detainees, the source was
quoted by KUNA as saying.

He added that the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry is also in contact with the
UNIKOM and the International Committee of the Red Cross to ensure the
release of them.

A UNIKOM statement earlier said that the Iraqi troops detained a Kuwaiti and
an Egyptian who were accompanying a Venezuelan delegation when a UNIKOM
officer who was driving the delegation's car entered the Iraqi territories
by mistake.

The delegation's goal is to visit the post of the Venezuelan unit serving
with the UNIKOM on the Kuwaiti side of the border, the statement said.

It added that contacts between the UNIKOM chief and Iraq resulted in the
release of the Venezuelan nationals, but the Iraqi troops refused to release
the Kuwaiti and Egyptian nationals.

There is a demilitarized zone (DMZ) between Iraq and Kuwait. The DMZ is 10
kilometers long on the Iraqi side and five kilometers on the Kuwaiti side.

The DMZ was set up in 1991 after the U.S.-led coalition drove Iraqi forces
out of Kuwait and ended Baghdad's seven-month occupation of the small
oil-rich Gulf neighbor.
&CatOID=45C9C78D 88AD-11D4-A57200A0CC5EE46C

Voice of America, 16th March

Iraq's President Saddam Hussein has dispatched a senior Iraqi official on a
north African tour to try to rally opposition against possible U.S. attacks
aimed at deposing him.

Deputy Prime Minister Tarek Aziz will deliver messages from President Saddam
to the leaders of Tunisia, Algeria, Libya and Morocco. The Iraqi leader sent
another top emissary - Ezzat Ibrahim - the vice chairman of Iraq's
Revolutionary Command Council - to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt earlier
this week.

The Iraqi missions coincide with the Middle East tour by U.S. Vice President
Dick Cheney. Mr. Cheney has been consulting with Arab leaders on the global
anti-terror campaign and how to deal with Iraq.

President Bush has demanded that Iraq permit the return of United Nations
weapons inspectors to check reports that Iraq has been working to develop
weapons of mass destruction.

Reuters, 16th March

ABU DHABI: An Iraqi presidential envoy arrived in the United Arab Emirates
on Saturday, hours after Vice President Dick Cheney heard UAE officials
reject a strike on Iraq.

The official UAE news agency WAM, which reported the arrival of Izzat
Ibrahim, Vice Chairman of Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council, did not
elaborate on the purpose of the visit.

Baghdad has been campaigning to rally Arab opposition to possible U.S.
military action after President Bush labeled Iraq, along with Iran and North
Korea, as an axis of evil, raising speculation about a possible strike.

UAE President Sheikh Zaid bin Sultan al-Nahayan told Cheney he opposed a
military strike against Iraq and urged "prudence for (safeguarding) the
interests of America, the region and the world," Minister of State for
Foreign Affairs Sheikh Hamdan bin Zaid al-Nahayan told WAM.


Arabic News, 16th March

The Syrian oil minister Ibrahim Haddad said on Friday in Vienna that Syria
is still testing the oil pipeline which is extended from Iraq since 20
years, but it will work to cancel this line for using a new line to be used
in the framework of the oil-for-food agreement between Iraq and the UN.

Haddad explained to a group of journalists in Vienna, on the sideline of the
OPEC's ministerial conference that pumping oil in the said pipeline is not
regular and is less in its maximum to 100,000 barrels per day because of oil
leakage and technical problems.

Haddad, who is visiting Vienna to attend meetings of the OPEC as an observer
said that "the oil which reaches Syria during testing the line is used by
our refineries and we use it to increase some of our oil exports."

He explained "we test this line from time to time, from a week or another,
but so far it does not work properly, despite the fact we spent money to
repair it."

The Syrian minister added that Syria is currently producing 550,000 barrels
of crude oil and its refineries consume between 250- 3000,000 of this

He continued "we also approved making a feasibility study to establish a new
pipeline and when it will be ready we will operate it under the umbrella of
the UN." He added that Syria will discuss halting testing of the old
pipeline as soon as the feasibility study for the new one is completed.

He added that "continued or halting the operation of the old pipeline will
be decided through negotiations between Syria, Iraq and the US."

by James Gerstenzang
Los Angeles Times, 17th March

JIDDA, Saudi Arabia -- On a day that began with a personal display of
respect for Islam and ended at a palace, Vice President Dick Cheney delved
into the thicket of Middle Eastern history and hatreds Saturday, conferring
with Crown Prince Abdullah here about the Saudi's proposal to restrain the
latest Israeli-Palestinian violence.

But as to the centerpiece of his Persian Gulf tour--the future of efforts
the United States wants to lead to restrain Iraq--he has been thwarted at
each stop, and the only public signals from the Saudis were of outright

Traveling from Oman to the United Arab Emirates to Jidda on Saturday, the
vice president arrived at the difficult diplomatic junction where the
tragedies of the Middle East encounter the new pressures brought to the
region by the U.S.-led war on terrorism. Cheney had dinner with the crown
prince, one of the most powerful figures in the region, and then met with
him at mid-evening.

The crown prince has proposed that if Israel returned to its pre-1967
borders, Saudi Arabia would open normal diplomatic relations with it.

Regarding a campaign against Iraq, Abdullah has sent a message of adamant
opposition, one reflected by other nations on Cheney's tour, most notably
Egypt and Jordan.

Using American television to convey this opposition publicly even before the
vice president had made his case, Abdullah said the United States cannot
overthrow Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, and in interviews with CNN and ABC,
he said Iraq must remain unified.

The concern is reflected throughout the region and goes to the heart of a
question the Bush administration has had to confront as it contemplates a
military campaign against Iraq: What would happen after Hussein?

The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al Faisal, said in an interview with
ABC's Barbara Walters that the United States could not use Saudi bases for
an attack against Iraq, as it had during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

At one of Cheney's earlier stops--Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab
Emirates, the vice president paused to discuss the Saudi plan with the
country's president, Sheik Zayed ibn Sultan al Nuhayyan. A Cheney aide said
that the two men, who met in a palace, agreed that the plan had "provided a
path" worth exploring.

Cheney began the day in Muscat, Oman, at the Sultan Kaboos Grand Mosque.

The mosque was a reminder--if the vice president needed one--of some of the
many crossroads of the Middle East: The massive rug that covers much of its
60,000-square-foot worship area was made in Iran; the ornately carved marble
arches are of Iraqi design.


Wherever Cheney has gone, he has encountered such anxieties as those
prevailing in Saudi Arabia regarding Iraq and an aggressive U.S. presence
that could rile the populace.

In Oman, for example, officials try to keep under wraps their military
cooperation with the United States, and White House officials showed great
sensitivity in confirming that the vice president visited the island of
Masirah, a small U.S. military facility.


Arabic News, 18th March

Iraqi Chamber of Commerce and Bahraini Chamber of Industry and Commerce
signed an agreement promoting trade ties and enhancing economic relations.
It also focused on exchanging visits, information, laws regulating economic
activity, implementing joint projects, organizing symposiums, and commercial
fairs to expand cooperation, INA reported today.

by Robert Fisk in Beirut
Independent,18th March

Rarely can an American vice-president have met such a rebuff from America's
Arab allies. Not a single Arab king, prince or president has been prepared
to endorse a US attack on Iraq.

Even in Kuwait ­ where Dick Cheney arrives today before going on to Israel ­
an opinion poll suggests that more than 40 per cent of its citizens are
hostile to Washington's policies.

In every Arab capital, Mr Cheney has been politely but firmly told to turn
his attention to the Palestinian-Israeli war, and forget the "axis of evil''
until the US brings its Israeli allies into line. All Mr Cheney's efforts to
pretend that the conflict in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel is separate from
Iraq ­ or "two tracks" as the American cliché would have it ­ have failed.

Crown Prince Abdullah, Saudi Arabia's First Deputy Prime Minister, met Mr
Cheney at the end of a long red carpet at Jeddah airport, but the Saudi
press were not so polite. One newspaper carried a front-page article
condemning US policy in the region ­ almost unheard of in the kingdom ­
while editorials in other Gulf papers uniformly condemned any assault on
Iraq. Prince Abdullah has gone out of his way to explain to US television
audiences why he opposes military action against the Iraqi President, Saddam
Hussein, while Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Foreign Minister, has told the
Americans that they cannot use the Prince Sultan air base for any war
against Baghdad.

Repeatedly, Arab leaders have turned Mr Cheney's arguments about America's
"war on terrorism'' around. For them, the terror is being inflicted upon
Palestinians by Israelis. If President Saddam is overthrown, Iraq could
break apart, the US Vice-President was told several times, with incalculable
effects on Iraq's Muslim neighbours.

Even the small United Arab Emirates had no time for the Cheney argument. The
Vice President's spokeswoman, Jennifer Millerwise, said that Mr Cheney "made
the point that al Qa'ida can't be allowed to reconstitute'' in the Middle
East. The government of the UAE President, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan
al-Nahayan, retorted briskly that he was opposed to military action in Iraq.

The Arabs might be forgiven their confusion over Mr Cheney's objectives. If
America wishes to pursue its "war on terror'', what has Iraq got to do with
it? Where is the evidence that Saddam was involved in 11 September? None
exists, so Mr Cheney has invented a new dogma for Arabs: "The United States
will not permit the forces of terror to gain the tools of genocide'' he
said. President Saddam has "weapons of mass destruction'' and they could
fall into the hands of Osama bin Laden.

Since Mr bin Laden hates President Saddam and has gone on record to say as
much, just how the Iraqi weapons, if they exist, would reach America's
nemesis is unclear. And the Arabs have been asking who is threatening
genocide in the Middle East? Who is being attacked?

The one Middle East nation that supports a strike at Iraq is Israel, where
Mr Cheney is expected to arrive later today. The Vice-President will
therefore hear what he wants to hear from the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel
Sharon, whose reoccupation of Palestinian territory has done so much to
destroy his mission.,5478,3978557%255E401,00

Herald Sun (Australia), 18th March

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait said it would not support strikes on Iraq and urged the
Baghdad regime to fully comply with UN resolutions after talks with US
Vice-President Dick Cheney.
"We will not support this (a strike) against Iraq, not because Iraq is a
friend of Kuwait but because the present circumstances are not suitable,"
said first deputy premier and foreign minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad

"The Iraqi regime will not be harmed but the Iraqi people will," he said.

"This is why I hope the Iraqi regime could appreciate what would happen to
its people if it refused to let the UN inspectors in," Sheikh Sabah said.


Arabic News, 18th March

Libyan President Moaamar Qaddafi received Sunday Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister
Tareq Aziz.

Aziz conveyed a message from President Saddam Hussein concerning
coordinating stances between the two states on the issues that will be
discussed during the Arab summit due to start in Beirut on March 27.

The meeting stressed the necessity of backing the defiant Palestinian
Intifada and providing protection for the Palestinian people.

The meeting discussed US threats against Iraq. Qaddafi expressed Libya's
solidarity with Iraq. He affirmed his country's firm stance calling for
ending the decade-old sanctions on Iraq.

Aziz arrived in Tripoli Saturday evening in a tour includes Tunisia, Algeria
and Morocco, The official Iraqi news agency reported today.

by Jonathan Steele
Dawn (from The Guardian), 19th March 2002, 04 Muharram 1423

TEHRAN: The political leader of the most effective guerrilla force in Iraq
warned the United States on Sunday not to take unilateral military action
against Saddam Hussein without United Nations approval.

"We don't agree with an American attack on Iraq. It will cause great damage
and suffering to ordinary people," Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, the
spiritual and political leader of Iraq's Shia community in exile, told the
Guardian at his heavily guarded headquarters in central Tehran.

The ayatollah fled Iraq in 1980 and, with Iranian government support, set up
the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri).

Western governments estimate that Sciri has a force of between 7,000 and
15,000 men. The ayatollah provides political leadership but is not involved
in military operations or the group's bases and training camps close to the
Iraqi border.

Sciri's units make sporadic raids on police stations and army positions
inside Iraq. Along with the Kurds in northern Iraq, they are the main armed
opposition to Saddam Hussein. During the Gulf war they mounted an uprising
and fought fiercely against the Iraqi, but felt betrayed when US-led forces
pulled out in 1991. This left them at the mercy of Saddam, who exacted
massive reprisals, sending a new generation of Shias to death and into

The ayatollah's reluctance to endorse US strikes on Baghdad appears to be a
retreat from his position last autumn. It is partly in deference to the many
Arab governments who have warned the US vice-president, Dick Cheney, on his
Middle Eastern tour, not to inflame Arab opinion by taking unilateral

Ayatalloh Baqir said that Saddam was weaker than the Taliban. "The Taliban
had an ideology and the support of many Afghans who defended them. Saddam
does not have any popular support."

His remarks were a veiled response to US secretary of state Colin Powell's
comment that "Iraqi opposition forces are weaker than the Northern Alliance"
and "Saddam Hussein is stronger than the Taliban".

by David Warren
National Post (from Ottawa Citizen), 19th March

Appearances aren't everything, but they are something, and it appears that
Dick Cheney's tour of Middle Eastern capitals has been a dismal failure. He
failed to get the "moderate" Arab regimes to listen up about Saddam Hussein;
instead they wanted to discuss Palestine, and talked his ear off about that.
Rather than contradict what the Vice-President was telling them -- in his
practised, culturally sensitive way, for Mr. Cheney is an old Arab hand --
they simply and persistently changed the subject.

To these regimes -- we might call Saudi Arabia and Egypt for convenience the
"axis of moderation" -- Afghanistan was a side issue. It was inconvenient
for them to lose the "summer camp" to which they had been dispatching
Islamist terrorists who might otherwise be trouble at home. But otherwise,
the new, pro-Western government in Kabul is of less significance to them
than the new U.S. allies in former-Soviet Central Asia, since the Afghans
don't seem to be sitting on oil. Even to the Saudis, non-Arab Afghanistan,
in the mountains beyond the deserts of Baluchistan and Makran, is nowhere.

Whereas Iraq is the second-biggest oil well on Arab Street. And a
pro-Western regime in Baghdad would change, catastrophically for the old
regimes, the whole balance of power in the region.

Saddam is not merely the devil they know -- one now far more likely to drop
a poison tipped Scud on Israel than on any of them. The prospect of a new
regime for such a powerful neighbour, and in particular one which espouses
Western-style democracy (which is quite certainly what the United States
would install), truly horrifies them. It would be extremely destabilizing,
providing their people with the model for a way forward that is neither
Sheik-autocratic nor Islamo-fanatic.

So it is no surprise that none of them wants to think about it. On the other
hand, to be fair to their judgment, when they do think about it, they
realize that something could be worse than a successful U.S.-imposed
regime-change in Iraq; and that would be an unsuccessful incursion -- a war
that spread beyond Iraq's borders, setting fires within their own. Thus,
when the Americans do go in, they are unlikely to interfere.

Mr. Cheney was there to say, "get ready," and though they pretended not to
hear, they heard. There is an element of desperation in their trying to
change the subject dramatically to Palestine, after decades of leaving the
Palestinians to their fate. And the Palestinians themselves -- who for
decades have been treated little better than Filipina maids when
guest-labouring in the oil-bearing sheikdoms -- know better than to think
their Arab brothers are really standing behind them. Yasser Arafat wouldn't
be making his regular supplications to the United States, if he thought he
had reliable friends. (As a Palestinian writer in Bethlehem once said to me,
"With friends like these, who needs Israelis?")

Nevertheless, surrounded by a whole Arab world demanding the United States
do something about the crisis in Palestine, and Europeans pretending to be
helpful, President Bush and Mr. Cheney found themselves obliged to send the
latter to Tel Aviv. Having no new peace script -- I am told several new ones
were actually considered, but the actors rejected them all as unspeakable --
Mr. Cheney finds himself trying to bunt the old one, the Mitchell-Tenet one,
the one that never makes it to first base.

But even the same old words acquire new meanings in new contexts. The Arab
states are trying effectively to obtain a trade. In its crudest terms: "You
can 'do' Iraq if, first, you 'do' Israel, by forcing them to accept
something resembling the Saudi Arabian 'peace initiative.' " The weakness in
their position is, of course, that the United States doesn't need Arab
permission to "do" Iraq. Turkish bases and aircraft carriers would be
adequate; plus Israeli help in a pinch.

On the other hand, there is a hint of idealism in this unspoken Arab
"offer." For the truth is, democracy in Iraq, plus genuine peace with
Israel, would surely spell doom for the House of Saud. The Israeli bête
noire is their other prop. They can't really believe it could happen. More
likely, it presents itself, thanks to the recent explosion of violence, as
the only available delaying tactic; and what appears to be pursued with
unprecedented self-confidence, is in fact a grasp for straws.

>From the American side, the poverty of ideas is beginning to tell. The
overall U.S. strategy is a good one -- Iraq next -- but my sense is that the
implications of the strategy have still not been thoroughly digested. The
fact that toppling Saddam, however necessary, will be radically
destabilizing of the Middle Eastern order, has, to my mind, still not been
taken in, at least, not in all of its ramifications. The Bush administration
has been ordering elaborate contingency plans, should anything go wrong;
they may not be prepared, if everything goes right.

In Mr. Cheney's practised hands, regional stability is almost the ultimate
goal of U.S. policy. It has become nuanced in a new way. The United States
is now pressing its "friends," both overtly and subtly, to become more
democratic, to acknowledge human rights, the rule of law, motherhood and
apple pie. They are writing conditions into aid agreements, both civil and
military, to their military allies. The secretary, Colin Powell, has this
year made a much bigger issue of the State Department's human rights
reports, and has been willing to say aloud -- about the Uzbeki regime of
Islam Karimov, for instance -- things no U.S. administration has ever said
before about an ally. Even President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt has received an
earful, though not publicly. (Saudi Arabia's crown prince, Abdullah,
protects himself against such hectoring by going berserk the moment it

But is regional stability in the interest of the U.S. or, more generally,
the West? It is only when the question is asked thus directly that the
overall strategic situation begins to emerge. For someone of Mr. Cheney's
vintage -- an oil man who in business and government has spent much of his
adult life coping with Arab eccentricities -- the answer is self-evidently,
"yes." For President Bush, who has the inestimable advantage of coming new
and fresh to many of these previously insoluble problems, the answer is,
perhaps, "maybe." To my mind, the answer is, certainly, "no."

The reality is that the United States is both hated and feared throughout
the region. The problem is to reduce the hatred, while increasing the fear.
Making concessions to the "axis of moderation" has the effect of increasing
the hatred, while reducing the fear. What we need is a United States
plausibly able to say: "Do what we ask or to hell with you." That requires a
willingness to contemplate the collapse of a "moderate" regime in Arabia or
Egypt, and therefore an ability to confront the whole Arab world as the
agent of democracy, human rights, modernity. In other words, more pain now,
less pain later.

Instead, the Bush administration is holding on for dear life to anything
that remains of the old, more comfortable, Middle Eastern order. This is
what is implied in the invitation to Prince Abdullah to be the first
unelected world leader let into the ultimate inner sanctum, Mr. Bush's ranch
in Crawford, Tex. It is an unambiguous way to say to him, "We may have our
differences, but you are still in the club."

I would guess the intention is to use the old club for one last try at peace
between Israel and the Arabs. Optimism is a virtue, but confidence would be
carrying the appearances too far.


BAGHDAD, Mar 20, 2002 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Iraq and Lebanon will sign a
free trade agreement next month in Beirut, Lebanon, to further boost trade
ties between the two countries, a visiting Lebanese official said here on

"Lebanon and Iraq have witnessed quick and concrete development in all
fields," Jack al Saraf, chairman of the Lebanese Industrialists Union, told
the state-run Iraq TV while attending a Lebanese Products Exhibition held in
the Baghdad International Fair.

Lebanon's trade volume with Iraq stands at some 840 million U.S. dollars
under the United Nations oil-for-food program, which has been in effect
since 1996 and allows sanctions-hit Iraq to sell oil and use part of the
revenues to buy food, medicine and other essentials for its 22 million

Iraq, which has been under stringent U.N. sanctions since its 1990 invasion
of Kuwait, has so far sealed free trade agreements with Egypt, Syria,
Tunisia, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Algeria. The deals are desired
for eventually cancelling import or export tariffs among Arab countries and
setting up a common Arab market.

Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, currently visiting Sudan, on
Tuesday signed a free trade agreement with his Sudanese counterpart Ali
Osman Taha.

Times of India (AFP), 21st March

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait on Thursday blasted Iraq's refusal to free a Kuwaiti
held when a diplomatic mission strayed across the demilitarized zone (DMZ)
between them, describing it as tantamount to hostage-taking.

Iraq announced late Wednesday it had freed Egyptian Abdul Aziz Ahmad but
would hold Kuwaiti Jassim al-Randi until Kuwait hands over Iraqi citizens
detained for entering the emirate.

"We have no Iraqis held in Kuwait for entering by mistake ... This is a
frivolous accusation, an outrageous lie we're used to (from Iraq)," Kuwaiti
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammad Sabah al-Sabah told AFP.

"This is not detention, it's hostage (taking), they want to exchange our
prisoners for ghosts," Sheikh Mohammad said. "To continue detaining him and
using him as a bargaining chip, to play with people's lives in this manner
just reflects the nature of this (Iraqi) regime," he added.

"Kuwaiti Jassem al-Randi will not be freed unless Kuwait frees and returns
all Iraqi citizens detained for entering by error" into the emirate, Iraq's
foreign ministry said.

An Iraqi spokesman could not provide a number for Iraqis detained in Kuwait
for illegal entries, but demanded the International Committee of the Red
Cross (ICRC) go to Kuwait to see them.

Sheikh Mohammad said Iraqis who accidentally cross into Kuwait are mostly
shepherds, whom Kuwait then returns to Iraq with the help of the United
Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission (UNIKOM).

"We don't have Iraqis detained" for mistakenly crossing into the emirate,
the Kuwaiti official said. "Our centers are open for the Red Cross which is
welcome to check every Iraqi held in our jails," he added, also welcoming
Ahmad's release.

The two men were stopped Friday morning by Iraqi border police while
traveling through the DMZ with a visiting Venezuelan delegation. Ahmad was
driving their vehicle while Randi is a Kuwait municipal employee.

The Venezuelans were also briefly detained in the incident, for which UNIKOM
has taken responsibility. An ICRC official said in Baghdad Wednesday he
hoped for a speedy settlement of the case of the Kuwaiti detainee.

UNIKOM monitors the DMZ set up along the border after the 1991 Gulf War in
which a US led coalition evicted Iraqi troops from Kuwait. The mission
reports to the UN Security Council any violation by either side.

The DMZ extends 10 km into Iraq and five km into Kuwait.


Beirut, March 21 (Xinhuanet) -- Lebanese President Emile Lahoud said on
Thursday that all Arab countries stand against possible U. S.-led military
strikes on Iraq, including those states which have been at odds with

During an exclusive written interview with Xinhua ahead of the March 27-28
Arab summit in Beirut, Lahoud said the world community has adopted many
resolutions on Iraq and United Nations weapons inspectors has entered the
country several times to check alleged weapons of mass destruction.

"Iraq is developing ties with its Arab neighbors in an active and
constructive way, then why does the United States want to destroy Iraq by
military means?" said Lahoud.

To this extent, the Lebanese president called for a permanent lifting of the
decade-long sanctions imposed on Iraq instead of threatening to use force
against the country, adding thousands upon thousands of Iraqi children died
due to starvation and illness during years of international sanctions.


Times of India (AFP), 21st March

WASHINGTON: US Vice-President Dick Cheney on Thursday said that Arab leaders
whom he met on a recent tour to the region were concerned by Iraqi leader
Saddam Hussein's efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

"I think (the Arab leaders) are uniformly concerned about the situation in
Iraq," Cheney said on Thursday, "in particular about Saddam Hussein's
failure to live up to the UN Security Council resolutions... that he pledged
to at the end of the (1991 Gulf) war, (saying) he would get rid of all of
his weapons of mass destruction."

The leaders "are concerned as we are when they see the work that he has done
to develop chemical and biological weapons, (and) his pursuit of nuclear
weapons," Cheney said.

"I went out there to consult with them, seek their advice and counsel to
report back to the president on how we might best proceed to deal with that
mutual problem," Cheney said. "That's exactly what I've done."

Speaking after a working breakfast with Cheney, President George W Bush
emphasised that the US is "resolved to fight the war on terror. This isn't a
short-term strategy for us," Bush said, noting that Cheney "delivered that

"It's very important for these leaders to understand the nature of this
administration," Bush said. "So there's no dcœÄ PgVênd that
when_:speak, we mean what we say, that we're not posturing."

Cheney's eight-day, nine-stop tour of Arab states, as well as Israel and
Turkey, ended on Tuesday.

The trip focused on Bush's push to topple Saddam Hussein's regime, as well
as on the spiralling violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that has
left more than 250 dead since the end of February.

Despite his role as defense secretary during Iraq's 1990-91 occupation of
Kuwait, Cheney failed to wrest a public commitment from the leaders of
Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab
Emirates or Yemen.

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