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

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


*  Iran should come before Iraq [An interesting piece that argues that SH is
really our friend and a bulwark against the real enemy which is Islamic
  Should we go to war against Saddam [This is a very long article that
attempts to assess the evidence for Iraq¹s possession of WMDs ­ defectors,
satellite pictures which show that the Iraqi military possesses trucks, and
the implications of the UNSCOM Report of 1998. I have cut the early
pro-defector part because there¹s little in it that¹s new. What is new (to
me) and very important is a strong criticism of Khidr Hamza by his Œformer
mentor¹, David Allbright. The article ends by saying that ŒUS Special Forces
are already operating in northern Iraq¹, though this is constantly being
denied by the Kurds.]
*  British troops for Iraq war denied training [Satisfying account of
British military incompetence ­ thoroughly appropriate for a nation so
situated that it has no need to engage in military activity (why should our
needs be any different from those of Ireland?). Offers a spark of hope that
we might be saved in the end by Gordon Brown.]
*  If the Allies attack Iraq there will be a huge desire by terrorists to
punish them and a nuclear explosion in the U.S. might well come true [Last
week we had the Sun giving us the case for mass-murder in free verse. This
week the Mirror gives us the case against in free verse. By Tariq Ali. Who
does quite a good job.]
*  Invading Iraq sure wasn't about oil [This is quite a treat. The
Œrealpolitik¹ argument for tolerating, or even supporting, SH as a bulwark
against backwardness. Its so well argued that one wonders if George Jonas
doesn¹t secretly mean it. What Jonas may have missed, however, is that the
US wants more than just access to oil. It has an imperialist mission to
extend actual control, but without itself taking direct administrative
responsibility. So it wants a world of puppet governments. So it definitely
doesn¹t want the sort of strong and independent Iraq that Jonas¹ realpolitik
solution would produce. Jonas implies that the US has altruistic motives,
but he¹d be hard pushed to say what they were.]
*  There is no justification for waging war against Iraq [At last. An
intelligent assessment from a British Tory (and this fellow, being an
academic, might just be a real Tory. They¹re a rare breed.]

URL ONLY:,3604,669248,00.html
by Larry Elliott
The Guardian, 18th March
[A rather long winded way of saying that war with Iraq might put up the
price of oil.]


*  UN helps Iran plan for flood of refugees [Note again the generosity of
Iran with respect to receiving refugees. Contrast with Australia, one of the
countries engaged in the International Coalition to Drive People into
becoming Refugees. The article finishes by saying that the Shi¹ite Œmarsh
Arabs¹ were totally defeated in the early 1990s and their territory is now
deserted. So what good was/is the southern no-fly zone? And what word is
adequate to describe the journalists who continue to mouth the platitude
that it was set up to protect them?]
*  Italy Admits Shipload of Iraqi Kurds [Although these emigrants, who
appear to be from Iraqi controlled parts of Kurdistan, say they are fleeing
Saddam Hussein it should be remembered that, through the policy of
Œcontainment¹ we have delivered them up to SH bound hand and foot, not to
mention that they too are victims of sanctions.]


*  Iraq Minister Praises Russian Economic, Political Support
*  [[Igor] Yusufov [representing the Russian government] called Iraq
Russia's "top strategic partner in the region"]
*  The Iraq Quandary [A glimpse into the depths of abject humiliation to
which the once great Russian nation has been reduced ...]
*  Belarus president calls for lifting sanctions imposed on Iraq
*  Germany Expresses Reservations Over U.S. Military Strike Against Iraq
[But they go on to say they want the inspectors in and how can you get the
inspectors in without a credible threat of war? Or a clear route to the end
of sanctions. But the German ŒSocialists¹ and ŒGreens¹ haven¹t the spunk to
call for that.]


*  Iraq weakens its resistance to UN arms inspections [Contains the
interesting suggestion that Iraq would happily accept inspectors from Arab
countries, and perhaps give them unlimited access. How could the Brits argue
against that? Arabs can¹t be trusted?]
*  UN to Examine US Actions Toward Iraq
*  US: UN Should Ignore Iraq Questions
*  UK and U.S. object to Iraq U.N. questions

UN Wire, 21st March
[This may be very significant but the article doesn¹t give a clear idea of
what it is about.]

*  From friend to foe [Chronology of Iraqi history from 1920.]


by Con Coughlin
Sunday Telegraph, 17th March

SO now there is no doubt: the Libyan government was responsible for the
Lockerbie bombing - the worst act of terrorism ever committed in Britain. It
is a verdict that will bring some degree of comfort to the relatives of the
270 people who were killed when Pan Am Flight 103 was destroyed by a
suitcase bomb 13 years ago.

It should also cause those responsible for prosecuting the war on terrorism
in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the US to pause for thought and
assess their true priorities.

With the war in Afghanistan winding down, the next target, certainly if the
White House has its way, will be Saddam Hussein. The reasons for this are
primarily that he has failed to abide by the terms of the 1991 ceasefire
agreement which ended the Gulf war, and that he has devoted his energies to
building stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. Few dispute that Saddam
is a threat to the region and that, as he showed during the Gulf war, if he
has powerful weapons, he will use them - to defend himself.

Yet there is a crucial distinction between those responsible for the
Lockerbie and September 11 atrocities and the Iraqi dictator: Saddam has
never used his arsenal to attack the West.

During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, it should be remembered, we were on
Saddam's side. It was British intelligence, after all, which arranged for
Saddam to build the "supergun" that would provide him with the technology to
shell Teheran, while the CIA helpfully chipped in by providing satellite
intelligence on Iran's military deployments. Saddam might have been an ogre,
but at least he was our ogre.

The principal reason, of course, that the West backed Saddam in the 1980s
was the simple realpolitik assessment that Iraq constituted a buffer against
the far more dangerous forces of militant Islam, as articulated by the
constant stream of rabid anti-Western rhetoric emanating from the Ayatollahs
in Teheran. (In the Ayatollahs' lexicon, Britain, remember, played "Little
Satan" to the American "Great Satan".) So far as the current war on
terrorism is concerned, the dynamics of the 1980s, when we backed rather
than attacked Saddam are still very much alive.

While American and British intelligence have been unable, despite
considerable effort, to link Saddam to the September 11 attacks, the
relationship between Iran's Islamic militants and al-Qaeda is
well-established. The Revolutionary Guards, who take their orders from
radical figures such as Ayatollah Khamanei, not the government, and still
regard themselves as the custodians of the Islamic revolution, have been
involved in arming and training al-Qaeda fighters.

Revolutionary Guard detachments are currently based in Afghanistan, keeping
a wary eye on the activities of US special forces. The Iranians, with Syrian
assistance, have also been busy stoking the fires of Middle Eastern
terrorism by training Hamas activists in the deadly art of the suicide bomb
and arming and financing the Hizbollah militia in southern Lebanon.

And now that Libya's official involvement in the Lockerbie bombing has been
resolved, there are good grounds for re-examining the role that Iran, and
even Syria, played in the atrocity.

Robert Baer, a former CIA agent who handled the Lockerbie investigation,
claims in his recently published book See No Evil that one of the key
suspects was an Iranian agent, and that Iranian intelligence paid £8 million
into the bank account of a Syrian-based terror group days after the bombing
in December 1988. For some inexplicable reason the Lockerbie trial was
disinclined to consider these allegations.

If the West is serious about dismantling the Islamic international terrorist
network and preventing a recurrence of the Lockerbie and September 11
atrocities, then greater emphasis should be placed on investigating claims
such as this rather than confecting a casus belli for invading Iraq.,6903,668867,00.html

by Peter Beaumont, Kamal Ahmed and Edward Helmore in New York
The Observer. 17th March


The INC's detractors, however, tell a different story. They describe how it
was set up by the CIA in 1992 in the aftermath of the Gulf War to replace
the 'Wafiq' opposition movement, which the Americans thought was too
dependent on former officials of Saddam's Ba'ath Party and which, they felt,
lacked popular appeal.

It received millions of CIA dollars to foster a rebellion in 1993 that
failed disastrously, the detractors say. For years afterwards, Chalabi was
cold-shouldered by the senior security officials in the Clinton
administration, who were dubious about his real levels of support in Iraq
and about his group's financial probity.

Most seriously of all, the critics contend that the INC goes on producing a
series of defectors schooled to tell the Americans exactly what they want to
hear about the threat from Iraq, with the aim of persuading America to
launch a massive military attack.

In the increasingly bitter debate about the level of the threat, it is the
evidence of these INC sponsored defectors that has become the source of the
greatest controversy. Even those who support an American hard line on Iraq,
such as the British former UN weapons inspector Terry Taylor, urge caution
about what they say.

Taylor and other former inspectors, who also handled Iraqi defectors and
checked their evidence in Iraq, claims that many of them have a tendency to
exaggerate their personal knowledge and importance to guarantee pensions,
protection and employment in their new host countries, particularly the US.

Among the most prominent and controversial public sources of information on
Iraq's ambitions for weapons of mass destruction has been Dr Khidir Hamza,
the self-described former head of Iraq's nuclear weapons programme, who
defected in 1994. According to his supporters - Woolsey and his friends
among them - Hamza was 'Saddam's bombmaker', the mastermind of his country's
nuclear programme, who fled from Iraq to reveal to the world the scope of
Saddam's nuclear ambitions and was widely feted by senior figures of all
political persuasions in US foreign policy circles.

What is accepted without question is that until 1990, when he retired from
the Iraqi nuclear programme, the US-educated theoretical nuclear physicist
was a senior managerial administrator in Saddam's secret bombmaking
programme, which included six months in 1987 spent in charge of the

What troubles his former supporters - now his fiercest critics - is not the
valuable information he was able to give. Rather, it is about claims he has
subsequently made about programmes and technical issues of which, they
believe, he has no direct knowledge. These, they say, are claims driven by a
desire to persuade the US that military intervention is the best course.

Among his most questionable allegations, they say, are those which have been
taken up most forcefully by the US hawks. It is Hamza who insists how close
Iraq was to assembling a viable nuclear bomb. It is Hamza who has claimed
Iraq was near to building a viable 'radiation weapon'.

It is Hamza who was prominent on US television speculating that Iraq had
assisted Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda in their attacks on 11 September and
the later anthrax attacks on the US.

One of Hamza's sternest critics is Scott Ritter, the former UN weapons
inspector and US Marine intelligence officer, who recently switched from
being an anti-Saddam hawk to joining the anti-invasion voices after he
visited Iraq to make a film. Ritter describes Hamza simply as a 'fraud' who
has consistently lied about his importance in Iraq's nuclear programme and
his own knowledge of it.

Then there is David Albright, Hamza's former mentor in the US and himself a
former nuclear inspector involved in assessing the scope of Iraq's nuclear

'If Hamza has become a monster,' he told The Observer last week, 'I partly
blame myself. He had good information on what he knew about, but where we
fell out was that I was concerned he was telling me stuff he had read
elsewhere, including stuff he could have read in Time magazine. He was not
one of the technical experts on the programme, but I found he was a bright
man who picked up things very quickly.'

One of the problems, says Albright, was that Hamza was given access in the
US to Iraq's own declaration of what its nuclear programme comprised. This
was provided in the mid Nineties after another high-level defector disclosed
the scope of the Iraqi programme. Hamza, says Albright, was recycling this
as his own first-hand knowledge.

'His book is full of technical inaccuracies and there is no doubt he
exaggerated his importance. For instance he has a section about the
biological weapons programme which he had no knowledge of or access to,'
says Albright.

Albright believes that Hamza's unreliability can be dated to 1998 when the
Clinton administration published its Iraq Liberation Bill, voting funds to
depose Saddam. 'From that point on he felt US military action was the only
course. He told me he wanted to get a gun himself and go back and fight with
his sons. These days he travels with people with a very heavy agenda.'

Ritter - whom critics accuse of having become an Iraqi apologist after
recent visits to Iraq - believes that Hamza is not alone among defectors
sponsored by the INC in singing for his supper.

'In over seven years as a weapons inspector I chased down countless
so-called intelligence sources and defector stories saying what Iraq was
doing. Most were completely baseless. It is in the nature of the
intelligence business that there is an awful lot of crap,' Ritter said.

'The biggest problem you get with defectors is that they often have
legitimate tit-bits that are squeezed out in their debriefings. They feel
under pressure to say more. So they read up what others have claimed and
develop it, saying a cousin or a friend visited such and such a plant and
saw such and such a thing, and you end up with a circle of falsehood.'

But what of other recent claims presented by hawks in the US about Saddam's

A second strand of evidence presented by the US to support the contention
that Iraq is reconstituting its offensive capability was contained in a
presentation to the permanent members of the UN Security Council two weeks

They were shown US satellite images allegedly showing evidence that Iraq was
violating the UN's oil-for-food programme by diverting lorries designated
for humanitarian use for military purposes.

Some of the lorries appear to have been adapted to carry missiles and other
military equipment, and they were used in Saddam's annual military parade in
Baghdad. 'We have strong reason to believe that a number were being diverted
for Iraq's missile programme,' says one administration official.
Furthermore, US intelligence believes the hydraulic systems of some of the
imported dumper trucks were removed for use on military applications, in
particular for missile guidance systems.

The leading sceptic is again Scott Ritter. While Ritter accepts that lorries
have been converted for military use, he claims that US officials have used
deliberately misleading langauge to suggest that the vehicles were converted
to carry long-range missiles

'What we are talking about,' he said last week, 'is the conversion of
lorries to take rocket artillery systems, [which are] short-range and

He scoffs too at the idea that the hydraulic fluid from the lorries could be
used in missile guidance sustems, as some US officials have suggested.

But there is one last source of evidence that is already in the public
domain. By its very nature it provides the most compelling case to support
suspicions of Iraq's continuing ambitions to build weapons of mass
destruction. It is also the most difficult for the Bush administration to
use to justify a war. That piece of evidence is the Final Report of the UN
inspectors, a 280-page document released in 1999 produced under the aegis of
the UN Security Council.

It provides a chilling history of Iraqi evasions when confronted by the
inspectors; of how they tried to hide or deny entire programmes - not least
Iraq's nuclear programme; of missing components and precursors for chemical
and biological weapons that simply disappeared without trace.

This document is the source of much of the material presented by Foreign
Secretary Jack Straw to Labour back-benchers last week as part of efforts to
persuade them of Saddam's continuing threat. And if many of the MPs remained
unconvinced it was because the 'new evidence' has been as much about
extrapolation and fresh interpretation of old data as it has been about hard
new leads.

'The Iraqi regime has admitted hiding chemical, biological weapons and
missile parts in the desert (buried in the sand), caves and railway tunnels.
We believe it still has chemical and biological weapons, and means to
deliver them in a range of locations,' Straw's report said.

Charles Duelfer, briefly an acting head of Unscom and a supporter of Bush's
case for a change of the Iraqi regime, acknowledges that the UN report is
the source of much of the 'new' intelligence on Iraq's weapons programmes.

'Once we were out of Iraq, we had time to analyse the information and there
were new stories to be told,' says Duelfer, member of Unscom from 1993 to
2000. 'It's not new information. It's new analysis. What you are seeing now
is consistent with what the President has been saying since 11 September. We
have good reason to believe that Saddam Hussein's weapon programs, chemical,
biological and nuclear, is ongoing.'

The Straw report replicates this line. 'We believe,' it argues,'that the
Iraqi regime has recently accelerated its weapons programmes. 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 current missiles beyond the 150km limit imposed by the UN.'

One Government source said Britain expected Saddam to be able to 'deliver'
some form of nuclear or chemical attack within four years - a time David
Albright says he deduced from his own original work.

Duelfer's analysis of the Final Unscom Report is shared by Randy
Schuenemann, a Washington consultant and senior Pentagon adviser who as the
senior foreign policy staffer to Senator Trent Lott drafted the 1998 Iraq
Liberation Act, so providing new funding to the INC after its drought years
out of favour. He remains close to the group widely seen as Washington's
main nest of hawks around Deputy Defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and his
views summarise the kind of arguments which have induced Bush to reject the
more doveish arguments advanced by the CIA and State Department.

He told The Observer that Iraq's proven ability to deceive inspectors and
conceal its weapons, coupled with Saddam's 'willingness to use them', made
it an egregious strategic risk. 'Every piece of evidence suggests that
weapons of mass destruction are a crucial part of Saddam's structure,' he
says, 'The West's knowledge that Iraq had such weapons is', Schuenemann
argues, 'of a key element of his strategy for staying in power.'

This kind of risk assessment is at the heart of the present row. Hawks
backing 'regime change' insist Saddam's weapons of mass destruction will
threaten regional and international security, and they say he could give
them to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. They cite an alleged plot to
assassinate George Bush Senior on a visit to Kuwait in 1993 and Saddam's
Scud missile attacks on Israel in the Gulf War.

The doves say the core of all Saddam's efforts is his own survival, not an
attack that would inevitably result in self-immolation. 'The evidence
produced so far,' says David Albright, 'is worrying. It is an argument for
getting the inspectors back in as fast as possible, but not for going to

That may be so, but the argument may already be over. Bush and Blair have
made it clear they are already convinced. In May, Saddam will be given a
deadline for readmitting the inspectors that his enemies hope he cannot

US Special Forces are already operating in northern Iraq. And in Washington
and London, the hawks promise war in the autumn.

by Robert Fox
Daily Telegraph, 17th March

THE Army's biggest annual training exercise for the armoured units expected
to join ground operations in a possible allied attack on Iraq is to be
cancelled as part of a programme of budget cuts.

Ministry of Defence officials have warned commanders that money is not
available for scheduled manoeuvres in Canada this summer. The proposed
cancellation follows cuts in the defence budget ordered by the Treasury.

The exercises include live ammunition firing and co-ordinated battle
training involving tanks, infantry, artillery and aircraft on the British
Army Training Unit, Suffield (Batus) ranges near Calgary, a remote area that
provides more space than all the Army's ranges in Europe combined.

Army officers regard the Batus exercise as essential training for the "high
readiness" brigades, the units most likely to serve in any desert operations
in the Gulf.

Cancellation of the Batus exercise is expected to save £19 million. Although
a final decision has yet to be taken, the brigade commanders have been told
by the MoD not to begin preparations for going to Canada.

A senior Army officer said: "They have been told that they can have the
money for war or for training but not both. They can't afford two sets of
spares. Besides, there aren't enough spares to go round at the moment."

Within the Army, Batus is seen as much a part of military life as Salisbury
Plain. Because of their remote location, the Batus ranges are virtually the
Army's only training area where all types of weapons can be fired. Senior
officers have been assessing where to make cuts across the already
overstretched MoD.

Although the department was given £155 million from contingency funds by the
Treasury towards fighting the war in Afghanistan, this did not cover the
estimated £261 million bill that the military action by British forces cost.
Furthermore, Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, has demanded additional cuts in
defence and other departmental budgets to find extra cash for the health

With Dick Cheney, the United States vice-president, warning European allies
and Gulf countries that operations against Iraq are likely this autumn,
British armoured units are preparing once more for war in the desert.

Most will have the same equipment as that used in Operation Desert Storm 11
years ago. During that conflict, British soldiers drove personnel carriers
and scout cars that were often at least twice their own age.

Government cuts were blamed for turning elements of last year's Saif Sareea
II desert exercise in Oman into farce. The event was to have been the first
significant demonstration of the new Challenger 2 main battle tank but most
of the vehicles broke down because the MoD refused extra funds for sand
filters needed to protect engines in the desert.

It would have cost an extra £1.2 million to fit the sand filters; the bill
to repair and replace the damaged engines has come to at least £3.5 million.

British peacekeepers in the Afghan capital, Kabul, have been astonished to
discover how much better equipped European allies - the Germans, Dutch,
French and even Italians - are for peacekeeping duties than they are. "We
are far behind our allies," said a British Army commander in Kabul.
"Something will have to give soon.";
siteid=50 143

by Tariq Ali
Daily Mirror, 18th March 18 2002

A NEW war is being plotted against Iraq and, while most of Europe is
nervous, the boy scout in No.10 is ready and willing once more.

The Generals, Admirals and Air Marshals know there is not much left to

In August 1999 the New York Times reported: "American warplanes have
methodically - with virtually no public discussion - been attacking Iraq."

In the last eight months of 2001, US and British pilots have fired 1,100
missiles against 359 targets in Iraq.

In October 1999 American officials were telling the Wall Street Journal they
would soon be running out of targets.

"We're down to the last outhouse," they admitted.

By the end of the year, the Anglo-US airforces had flown more than 6,000
sorties, and dropped 1,800 bombs on Iraq.

By early 2001, the bombing of Iraq had lasted longer than the US invasion of

And still they talk of going on because he has "weapons of mass

Even if he does, they're useless if he can't deliver them.

Economic sanctions have driven the population into misery. Before 1990 the
country had a per capita GNP of over $3,000. Today it is under $500, making
Iraq one of the poorest nations.

What justification is offered for this?

THAT Saddam's regime is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. Thus the
civilized world - read Israel - can never rest until Saddam is killed.

The argument is hollow.

The deadly threat from Iraqi weapons was never a problem as long as the
regime in Baghdad was regarded as a friend in Washington and London.

As Iraq crushed Communists at home and fought Iranian mullahs abroad, few
apprehensions about its weapons were expressed.

Once the Iraqi regime had turned against Western interests in the Gulf, of
course, the possibility of it acquiring nuclear weapons suddenly became an
apocalyptic danger.

But this is no longer a valid view. Today the nuclear monopoly of the big
powers has collapsed with India and Pakistan getting the weapons.

And Iraq's own nuclear programme has been thoroughly eradicated.

Even the super-hawk Scott Ritter, the UNSCOM inspector now says there is no
chance of its reconstitution. He says the blockade should stop and a new war
would be a disaster.

That the Ba'ath regime is a tyranny no one could doubt. That it is unique in
its cruelties is an abject fiction.

Turkey, where the Kurdish language is not permitted in schools, has
displaced 2 million Kurds from their homelands.

This is much worse than Iraq, where - whatever Saddam's other crimes - there
has never been any attempt at this kind of annihilation. Yet, as a valued
member of NATO and candidate for the EU, Turkey suffers not the slightest
measure against it.

And the Saudi kingdom makes not even a pretence of keeping human rights. Yet
no state in the Arab world is more toasted in Washington.

In killing and torture, Saddam was never a match for President Suharto,
whose massacres in Indonesia far exceeded Iraq's.

But no Third World regime was more prized by the West.

Not a single part of the argument for war stands up.

So what? I've heard it said. Blair's favourite foreign policy man,
ex-diplomat Robert Cooper, has said: "We need to get used to double

The maxim underlying this view is that we will punish the crimes of our
enemies and reward the crimes of our friends.

This moral blank cheque will increase terrorism.

If Iraq is attacked, the instability in the region will be accompanied by a
desire to punish the US and its allies.

The worst-case scenario of a nuclear explosion in the US might well come

That's why a political solution is needed. A war could end badly for all

Tariq Ali's book, The Clash Of Fundamentalisms, is published by Verso in
March 19, 2002

George Jonas
National Post (Canada), 19th March

Say what you will of Saddam Hussein, he's not stupid. Wicked, yes, but not
stupid. Even so, he failed to understand something about the West. Failing
to understand it nearly cost him his fiefdom, not to mention his life, 11
years ago. It may yet cost him both.

What Saddam didn't understand then, and probably doesn't understand still,
is that the West isn't entirely guided by self-interest.

Iraq's dictator was convinced America wasn't going to interfere with his
invasion of Kuwait in the summer of 1990. That's why he reacted with a smile
(noted in the transcript) when U.S. ambassador April Glaspie said to him
that "the Kuwait issue is not associated with America."

The misunderstanding wasn't all Ms. Glaspie's fault. It didn't require the
ambassador's infelicitous remark: "We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab
conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait" for Saddam to reach his
conclusion. Iraq launched its invasion a mere four days after Saddam's
conversation with the Ms. Glaspie on July 25, 1990. No invasion could have
been launched in four days if the Bully of Baghdad hadn't fully anticipated
(mistakenly as it turned out) a green light from America.

Why, Machiavelli himself would have viewed a green light as a sensible
signal. Had U.S. President George Bush Sr. been guided by realpolitik, as
Saddam believed him to be, he would have said to Iraq's tyrant: "My friend,
why should we quarrel? We have no essential conflict. You live in the Middle
East; we don't. You have no territorial ambitions in our part of the world;
we have no territorial ambitions in yours. You want to sell oil and we want
to buy it. Well, we can buy oil from you as easily as from the Emir of

If the West cared only about oil -- as the West's enemies always maintained
it did -- embracing Saddam would have been the logical thing to do. Saddam
wasn't trying to hijack the oil supply of the Middle East to feed it to the
camels. Oil would be of no use to him unless he could sell it, and he could
sell his oil profitably only to the developed industrial democracies. Giving
Saddam a free hand in the Gulf region would have been the essence, the
veritable Armagnac of realpolitik.

By allying itself with the strongest power in the region, America could have
brought about a stability in oil prices and production. Saddam would have
appreciated America's unscrupulousness, which was the code he himself lived
by. By dumping his Kuwaiti and Saudi allies, Bush Sr. would have won
Saddam's respect. Saddam's respect, if coupled with a threat to nuke him if
he didn't live up to his bargain, could have ensured a supply of fossil fuel
for America and its allies for at least a generation.

There was no reason for Bush Sr. not to prefer Saddam to the theocrats of
Tehran or to the hypocritical potentates of Riyadh. Unlike the ayatollahs of
Iran or the equally medieval sheiks, emirs and sultans of the oil kingdoms,
Saddam was just a straightforward despot, a kind of Mideastern Don Corleone.
He wasn't a fanatic, an Islamist, a suicide bomber. He never thought of
America as the Great Satan. Far from being a fundamentalist, Saddam was
barely Muslim. He had no quarrel with Christendom. By the standards of the
region he wasn't even virulently hostile to Israel. He became a champion of
the Palestinian cause only as an afterthought.

Before 1990, far from funding terrorists like the treacherous Wahabi sheiks,
Saddam had spent years fighting the America-hating ayatollahs of Iran. He
had received military assistance from the West. Why would old man Bush
suddenly turn on him? All Saddam wanted was to grab the riches of the
region, not in order to keep them from America, but to sell them to America
in due course.

In fact, Iraq's dictator might have been contemplating his wardrobe for his
first ceremonial visit to the White House when America's demand to withdraw
from Kuwait or else had reached him. He was probably astounded. Why would
America ally itself with the weaker powers in the region against the
stronger power? Why would it ally itself with the House of Saud that
sponsored terrorists against Israel, America's only friend in the Middle

If Kuwait or Saudi Arabia had been Western-style democracies, Bush Sr.'s
sympathy might have been explained by a sense of ideological kinship -- but
the sheikdoms of the Gulf were no more democratic than Saddam's regime. The
emirates were worse in that, they were historical throwbacks. At least
Iraq's Ba'athist "socialist" system was a modern rather than a monarchical
despotism. So why was President Bush so hostile? Just because Saddam used
poison gas against his Kurdish subjects in the north? Or because he
oppressed and massacred his Shi'ite countrymen in the south? What were the
Kurds and the Shi'ites to America?

Now, 12 years later a lot of bad blood has been spilt. It's probably
impossible to turn the clock back, but Saddam might still be hoping. Hoping
that perhaps the son will see the light. Perhaps George W. will understand
the logic that eluded his father.

Perhaps this week, after Vice-President Dick Cheney has tried and failed to
revive an Arab coalition against Iraq, it will finally dawn on Bush Jr. that
realpolitik demands a different coalition. It should be America together
with Iraq against the Islamic sheikdoms and republics of the Gulf.

Behind the shield of this pragmatic alliance, the tide of puritanical Muslim
militancy could be stemmed. Supported by American air power, Saddam's elite
Republican Guard could cleanse the region of Islamist forces, whether of the
Saudi Wahabi or the Iranian Shi'ite variety. All terrorism, from Hamas to
al-Qaeda, could be eradicated, and the chaotic whims of OPEC's ludicrous
princelings could be replaced by the tranquility of a well-regulated
monopoly ensuring the flow of oil to America under Iraq's wise leader, the
one whose life size picture would grace every public square in the region,
Saddam Hussein.

Why, if assured hegemony in the Middle East, Saddam may even acquiesce in
the existence of Israel, if it matters so much to Washington. Should the
Palestinians balk at such a solution, Saddam would have ways of dealing with
them. There's plenty of poison gas left over from the Kurdish reserves.

Oh, if the Americans were only practical! If they were only guided by pure
self-interest! If they only wanted oil badly enough!

by John Casey
Daily Telegraph, 21st March

Enoch Powell liked to say that the Americans have always taken a "Manichean"
attitude to world affairs, dividing the world into "good" (Us) and "evil"
(Them) camps. In its application to Iraq and the forthcoming war against
that country it is an attitude that generates plenty of heat, but not that
much light. I hope it is still allowable to ask the sorts of question that
come naturally to an English Tory sceptic.

It was quite right that the Tories forced an emergency debate on further
commitments in Afghanistan yesterday, but both sides of the House should
also be asking: what should our aims be in a war against Iraq? Answer: "To
get rid of Saddam Hussein." Question: "In favour of what successor regime?"
Answer comes there none. There was, similarly, no answer when the same
question was asked of Afghanistan - which explains how so much of that
country was incontinently handed over to the barbarian warlords of the
Northern Alliance, whose excesses had created the popularity of the Taliban
in the first place.

America talks vaguely of "opposition forces" in Iraq. But the truth is that
any government in Baghdad will have to be a minority, authoritarian regime
whose chief aim must be to prevent an artificial, fissiparous country from
flying apart.

Ever since the founding of the Hashemite kingdom of Iraq by the British in
1921, the country has been run by a Sunni Arab minority of about 20 per cent
of the population. The Kurds of the north (also Sunni but permanently
disaffected) were excluded from a share in power, as were the Shias who
populate the south all the way down to the Iranian border, and are well over
half the total population.

If Saddam is overthrown, the likeliest possibility is that the country will
break up, with the Kurds declaring independence and going on to foment
trouble with their fellow Kurds in Turkey, and the Shias becoming a client
state of the only officially Shia country in the world - Iran.

The only way to prevent this will be for the Americans to impose another
aggressive military leader. With every change of regime - from the end of
monarchy in 1958, to the Ba'ath socialists in 1963, to Saddam's regime,
which is a small rump of the Ba'athists - the need to tighten the screws has
got stronger as the basis of popular support has got tinier. The British had
set up the state to provide stability and prevent religious and ethnic
conflicts from destabilising the region.

Now, if you are not against the Axis of Evil, you must be for it. No matter
that a Triple Axis consisting of two such bitter enemies as Iran and Iraq
(and a third partner, North Korea, that might as well be on the moon as far
as the other two are concerned) could not possibly act in concert. We have
to fight Evil.

So - is Saddam's regime supremely evil? Possibly. It is more oppressive than
the Saudi regime. But there is religious freedom in Iraq, a secular state,
where there is none in Saudi Arabia. Saddam may have killed thousands of
rebellious Kurds and Shias, but he has probably not matched the single
greatest atrocity of the area: the late President Assad's massacre of tens
of thousands of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Syrian town of Hama.

But hasn't Saddam got megalomaniac ambitions? I am sceptical even here. Iraq
had a particular quarrel with Kuwait. It was partly a small dispute over an
oilfield from which Kuwait was alleged to be syphoning off Iraqi oil. Kuwait
had also pushed down the price of oil when Iraq desperately needed the
income to rebuild its infrastructure after the war with Iran, which Kuwait,
Saudi Arabia and all the other Arab states had cheered on.

Iraq had always claimed Kuwait. King Faisal I and King Ghazi used to
broadcast to the "lost province", urging it to "return" to the motherland.
So did all the republican rulers before Saddam. Obviously none of this
begins to justify the disgraceful seizure of Kuwait. But there is no
historical backing and no serious evidence to suggest that Iraq ever had
designs on Saudi Arabia or the Persian Gulf. Saddam now has peaceful
relations with these states.

The attempt to show that Iraq has links with al-Qa'eda seems to me worse
than feeble. There is no solid evidence. Saddam's main relation with Islamic
radicals has been to fight them. He fought against the Islamic Republic of
Iran for eight years - with very useful help from the CIA, who gave him
regular satellite updates on the battlefield dispositions of Iranian troops.

So it comes down to weapons of mass destruction. Do we know that Saddam has
rebuilt his armoury of chemical and biological weapons? Several members of
the United Nations inspection teams deny this. Few objective observers think
Saddam is anywhere near getting nuclear weapons - but he would obviously
love to have them.

Does that justify war? One of Aquinas's conditions for a just war is that
one's enemy has committed a "fault" - that is, done one an injury. The
possession of particular technologies is not in itself a "fault". The
question is what Iraq intends to do with them. The notion that it intends to
attack America is patently ridiculous. Israel? Israel is one of the most
formidable fighting machines in the world, and could pulverise Iraq, using
its own weapons of mass destruction if necessary.

And now some United States politicians are saying that, even if Iraq allows
the inspectors back, the march to war should still go on, since we can never
be sure of finding such weaponry. That means that we will be prepared to go
to war simply on grounds of suspicion. We are looking for excuses for a war
when the decision to wage it has already been taken. That has very
unpleasant historical resonances. The very name of Saddam Hussein is enough
to bring blood to the eye - but that should not be a guide to policy.
Neither on grounds of reason nor justice - let alone our national interest -
has the case for war been made.

The author is a fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge

IRAQIS OUTSIDE IRAQ,3604,668442,00.html

by Jonathan Steele in Tehran
The Guardian. 16th March

The United Nations has started moving tens of thousands of tents and
blankets to western Iran in readiness for a huge wave of Iraqi refugees who
are expected to escape across the border if the US and Britain launch
military action to topple the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein.

The move, which is the first concrete sign that international and Iranian
officials are taking the threat of a US-led war against Iraq seriously, is
described as a "contingency plan" by Pierre Lavanchy, who heads the Tehran
office of the United Nations high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR).

"We've started to prepare for a possible influx. We are in discussions with
Iranian officials", he told the Guardian yesterday. "We are taking stocks
which were in place in south-eastern Iran for refugees from Afghanistan and
moving them across the country to be near the border with Iraq."

As well as tents and blankets, the supplies include kitchen utensils,
plastic sheeting, pots, and jerry cans for water.

They will go to the main UNHCR depot at Ahwaz, and at an office in Orumiyeh.

Food and medicine is expected to be added after a meeting tomorrow of all
the Iran-based UN agencies, including the World Food Programme and the World
Health Organisation.

"We are already moving enough for 40,000 people. It's better to have at
least a minimum in place," Mr Lavanchy said.

Although Mr Lavanchy declined to give a figure for the total number of
refugees expected to flee across the border because of US air strikes and
ground operations, some diplomats believe it could reach 150,000, even
though Saddam Hussein is expected to close the frontiers, as he did in
previous conflicts. Tens of thousands of others would be displaced inside
Iraq, unable to bypass or bribe the Iraqi border guards.

During the US bombing of Afghanistan, both Pakistan and Iran mounted extra
guards on their respective borders to keep refugees out.

By contrast, in the case of a US attack on Iraq, Iran is expected to open
the door.

"Foreign ministry officials have said that they will allow refugees from
Iraq to enter," Mr Lavanchy said.

"The Iraqi lobby here is much stronger than the Afghan one."

The policy difference also seems to stem from the size of the refugee
communities that are already in Iran.

Iran felt it could not take any more Afghans after a registration drive last
spring discovered that 2.36 million Afghan refugees were already inside the

Only 203,000 Iraqis were recorded.

The Iranian government is just about to launch a new programme, with the
UNHCR, to persuade Afghan refugees to return home now that the Taliban have
been defeated.

The exodus from Iraq is expected to consist mainly of Kurds from northern

Arab Shi'ites from the southern Iraqi marshlands, which provided some of the
main battlegrounds in the war between Iran and Iraq in the 1980s, were
driven from their homes in the early 1990s by Saddam Hussein's strategy of
damming rivers and draining the marshes to destroy the livelihoods of
communities that he suspected of being hostile to him.

The area is now almost empty. Around 100,000 of the marsh Arabs fled to
Iran, while others fled to Iraqi cities.

Apart from creating a new refugee crisis, a war in Iraq is also likely to
put an abrupt end to a cautious refugee and prisoner-of-war return programme
which Teheran and Baghdad started just two months ago, almost 14 years after
the end of the Iran-Iraq war, which left some 500,000 dead.

Washington Post, 19th March

BARI, Italy, March 19 -- The Italian government admitted about 900 Iraqi
Kurds to a refugee center in southern Italy today after they reached Sicily
on a crowded, rusting freighter Monday. The group, the largest to land in
five years, has sparked a political debate in a country that has grown more
accustomed to taking in immigrants than keeping them out.

Interior Minister Claudio Scajola moved for the emergency release of
government funds to provide more shelter for illegal migrants, saying the
ship was likely to be followed by others. "The instability created in the
Middle East by September 11 means that many more people will decide to set
off in search of a better life," Scajola said. "Italy is the natural entry
point for the West."

At a gathering today in Padua, Italy's president, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, said
"the human spirit should prevail" in dealing with immigration.

But Umberto Bossi, Italy's reform minister and the head of the Northern
League, an anti immigrant group, retorted that Ciampi's words "continue to
give messages that we are accepting the problem when what's needed is
stopping it." His group has favored the rapid expulsion of immigrants after
they arrive.

Italian authorities are sheltering the new influx of people even as the
country's ruling coalition is trying to pass a law that would crack down on
such arrivals. The law, which is before the lower house of Parliament, would
send some illegal immigrants to jail for up to a year. To remain in Italy,
immigrants would have to prove that they had a job waiting; the Italian navy
would step up patrols off the coast.

In recent years, the clandestine inflow of people from Africa, the former
Soviet Union, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent has become one of
the most contentious political issues in the 15 countries of the affluent
European Union. Some of the migrants are fleeing political oppression, but
many seem to be motivated by hopes for a higher standard of living.

Citing respect for human rights, EU countries generally do not deport the
newcomers but allow them to live in refugee centers and work while they
formally seek asylum status.

Last year, about 20,000 immigrants landed in Italy.

Police said they believe that the immigrants who arrived on Monday began
their journey in Mersin, Turkey. When Italian naval ships approached the
ship, people aboard threatened to throw children into the sea if the ship
was not allowed to dock in Sicily, police said today.

The vessel, with 928 people aboard, was escorted to the Sicilian port city
of Catania. Most of the migrants then boarded 19 buses, which were ferried
to the mainland, and traveled to Bari, a city in the southern region Puglia
that is set up to care for illegal immigrants. Women, children and men gazed
through shaded windows of the buses that arrived at a government refugee
campground after a 16-hour journey. Some flashed a V-for-victory sign to

A young married couple expressed fear in recounting their week-long journey.
"We saw death," said Siham, 28, who said he comes from Mosul in northern
Iraq. "The waves were rough, and we didn't eat for four days. Everyone was
falling on top of each other, with vomit everywhere."

His wife, Siham, 20, said, "We wanted to leave our country and get away from
the control of Saddam Hussein."

About 10 adults and seven children suffering from exhaustion or dehydration
stayed in the Catania hospital, according to hospital workers. Riccardo
Grimaldi, a Red Cross doctor who worked as a volunteer during Italy's
largest immigrant influx -- 10,000 Albanians in 1991 -- said most passengers
he examined tonight were in reasonably good condition.

If the immigrants follow the patterns of other arrivals, most will ask for
political asylum. While waiting to see whether it is granted, they can stay
at the camp for 45 days, paying about $15.50 a day, said Sebastiano
Giangrande, the Bari refugee camp's director. They can leave to find a job
after their term is up, he said.


by Vladimir Isachenkov
Moscow Times (from The Associated Press), 19th March

Visiting Iraqi Oil Minister Amer Mohammed Rashid conferred with Russian
officials Monday about contracts that are on hold pending the lifting of UN
sanctions against Baghdad, and expressed gratitude for Moscow's support for
his nation.

"We highly assess Russia's efforts in the United Nations Security Council
aimed at lifting the unjust economic blockade imposed on our country,"
Rashid told his Russian counterpart, Igor Yusufov, Itar-Tass reported.

Yusufov called Iraq Russia's "top strategic partner in the region" and
voiced confidence that bilateral cooperation would expand further once the
sanctions are lifted.

Russia, Iraq's main trading partner, has strongly pushed for lifting the
sanctions, hoping that would allow Iraq to start paying off its $7 billion
Soviet-era debt to Russia and help expand trade. Iraq has several
prospective deals with Russian oil companies, but they have been put on hold
until the end of the sanctions, which were imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait
in 1990.


Lifting the UN embargo would "create the basis for full-fledged cooperation
between Russia and Iraq," Yusufov told Rashid during a meeting of a
Russian-Iraqi commission on trade, economic, scientific and technical

Rashid said the Russian-Iraqi contracts are now worth $2 billion, $500
million of which is in the oil sector, Itar-Tass reported. The bulk of them
have been frozen by the UN sanctions committee.

by Vladimir Frolov
Moscow Times, 19th March

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told The Times of London last week that Moscow
opposed any U.S. strike on Iraq but made it clear that Russia would not
withdraw from the coalition against terrorism even if the Bush
administration decided to attack Baghdad unilaterally. He indicated that
participation in this coalition served such vital Russian interests that it
couldn't be jeopardized by pushing disagreements over Iraq to the limit.

This pragmatic position, despite some strong criticism in the State Duma,
makes it possible to avoid the inevitable international humiliation other
options are likely to entail for Russia.

Washington's determination to confront Iraq over weapons of mass destruction
presents Moscow with both a challenge and an opportunity.

There is a need: to avoid disrupting the cooperative relationship with the
United States in which President Vladimir Putin has invested so much
political capital; to secure debt repayment and the significant commercial
interests of Russian companies in a post-Saddam Iraq; and to reaffirm
Russia's role as a leading player on a major international issue by
preserving the centrality of the UN Security Council in dealing with Iraq.

Any successful strategy for achieving these objectives is likely to include
the following elements: The exploitation of fissures within the Bush
administration in order to convince it of the need to exhaust the
inspections option. Verifying the elimination of Iraqi weapons of mass
destruction through a rigorous inspection regime in accordance with UN
armistice Resolution 687 is the only legitimate objective the international
community can support. Only Baghdad's obstruction of a serious international
effort to readmit inspectors could provide any semblance of legitimacy to
U.S. military action against Iraq.

Unfortunately, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick
Cheney have recently expressed doubts regarding the ultimate effectiveness
of renewed inspections in Iraq.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, on the other hand, seems open to the idea
that Saddam Hussein would prefer to get rid of his weapons of mass
destruction and cooperate with international inspectors if faced with the
credible threat of military force. Russia needs to help Powell convince
President George W. Bush that renewed inspections have a reasonable chance
of success in stripping Iraq of WMDs. And one way to do it might be to
inform Powell privately that, were the Iraqis to prove uncooperative, Moscow
would not seek any additional UN authorization for the use of force, but
rather accept the view that such authorization is already included in
Resolution 687.

Persuading Washington to temper its unilateralism and work through the UN on
Iraq could become a major foreign policy success for Putin and would
significantly strengthen Russia's international position.

It needs to be made clear to the Iraqis that this is really their last
chance to cooperate with the UN and that they cannot haggle over
inspections. For a U.S. unilateral strike to be avoided, the inspections
would need to be credible in Washington's view -- meaning there have to be
visits "any time, anywhere," or as UNMOVIC's chief Hans Blix puts it,
"immediate, unconditional, unrestricted."

The composition of inspection teams, however, could be the subject of
discussion within the Security Council, but not with Baghdad. Duma foreign
affairs committee chairman Dmitry Rogozin has recently proposed that the
Middle East "Group of Four" (the United States, Russia, the EU and UN) --
widely respected throughout the region -- be the principal source of
inspectors for the most sensitive missions. Iraq should be denied grounds
for claiming that inspections are being used for espionage.

The trigger for the final lifting of sanctions should be the UNMOVIC's
certification of full Iraqi compliance on all WMD programs. However, no
artificial deadline for completion of this process should be imposed.

Russia, furthermore, needs to establish direct channels of communication
with Iraqi opposition groups. Work must be done to secure our interests in
Iraq in the case of a forcible regime change. At a minimum, Russia needs to
be informed of the opposition's vision for Iraq's future and to make it
clear that it expects any new Iraqi government to respect Iraq's financial
obligations to Moscow. Washington could prod the Iraqi opposition to heed
Russian commercial concerns.

Vladimir Frolov, an adviser to the chairman of the State Duma foreign
affairs committee, contributed this comment to The Moscow Times. The views
expressed are those of the author and do not in any way reflect the position
of the committee or its members.

Arabic News, 21st March

The Russian President Alexander Lukashenko has called for canceling the
sanctions imposed on Iraq.

The Russian daily Izvestia said on Wednesday that President Lukashinko said
on Tuesday during his meeting with an Iraqi delegation chaired by the deputy
premier and minister of finance Hikmat al-Azouzi that the sanctions inflict
great damage in the Israeli people.

The Belarus president also stressed deliberate rejection to any military
pressure on Iraq.



BERLIN, March 17 (Xinhuanet) -- High-ranking German officials on Sunday
reiterated their reservations about Washington's intention to launch a
military strike against Iraq.

Speaking at the congress of the German Green Party, Foreign Minister Joschka
Fischer said he saw the reports of the U.S. intention with "great concerns"
and that there would be no " majority in the Bundestag (lower house of
German parliament)" to support Germany's participation in such a military

Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping, in an interview published in the
"Tagesspiegel," said that the best way to prevent Bagdad's efforts to
acquire weapons of mass destruction is to let U.N. inspectors return to
Iraq. Therefore, he added, it was necessary to put as much as possible
political pressure on Iraq.

Wolfgang Gehrke, a foreign policy spokesman for the Party of Democratic
Socialism (PDS), called on the Germans to demonstrate their protest against
possible U.S. action when U.S. President George W. Bush visits Berlin on May

Earlier this week, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Germany would not
participate in U.S. military action against Iraq if it was unsanctioned by
the United Nations.


by Anton La Guardia
Daily Telegraph, 19th March

IRAQI opposition to international weapons inspectors softened yesterday as
it mounted a major counter-offensive to America's campaign to convince the
Arab world to help Washington remove President Saddam Hussein.

As Iraqi envoys fanned out through the Arab world, criss-crossing paths with
US Vice President Dick Cheney on his 11-nation journey through the region,
Baghdad suggested it might be ready to re-admit UN weapons inspectors if
they provide precise details of sites they want to visit and how long they
will stay.

Iraq's conditional offer falls far short of the "any time, anywhere" arms
inspections demanded by the US and was seen in the West as reminiscent of
Baghdad's delaying diplomacy in the countdown to the Gulf War.

Nevertheless, it will allow Saddam to present himself as conciliatory as he
sends out three of his most senior lieutenants - vice-president Taha Yassin
Ramadan, Ezzat Ibrahim, deputy chairman of Iraq's ruling Revolution Command
Council, and the deputy prime minister, Tareq Aziz - to win over Arab

"Iraq refuses the return of inspectors for as long as the sites for
inspection and a precise timetable are not drawn up," Iraq's vice-president,
Taha Yassin Ramadan, was reported as saying.

He told the London-based Arabic daily, al-Sharq al-Awsat, that Iraq "is
totally free from weapons of mass destruction" and suggested that an Arab
inspection team could visit any site.

In Morocco, Iraq's parliamentary speaker, Saadoun Hammadi, reinforced the
message, saying: "Many Arab and non-Arab friends have called on Iraq to
remove all pretexts for a US invasion of Iraq, so we are happy to co-operate
with all countries . . . including the United Nations, Iran, Saudi Arabia
and Kuwait to avoid new US attacks."

Britain rejected the overture out of hand. "Our position is that we want
full and unfettered access. We're not prepared to accept any watering down
of the UN requirements," said a Foreign Office spokesman.

"Many of the so-called Iraqi offers have been ruses to make Iraq appear
reasonable when it has been unreasonable in refusing to co-operate with the
UN for many years."

UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in 1998, shortly before the US and Britain
launched a sustained bombing campaign against Iraq.

ABC News, 21st March

UNITED NATIONS March 20 ‹  Iraq has asked the United Nations whether U.S.
actions toward Saddam Hussein violate international law, according to
documents obtained Wednesday.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan passed this and 18 other questions posed by
Iraq to the U.N. Security Council, asking for "any response" it might want
to provide by April 10.

The questions were given to Annan by Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri
during talks earlier this month focusing on the return of weapons
inspectors. A second round of U.N.-Iraq talks is expected to be held around
April 18, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said Wednesday.

Annan said the initial meeting with Sabri had been "a good start." But it
produced no sign Iraq would allow weapons inspectors to return the first
step toward lifting 11-year-old U.N. sanctions and a key demand of the
United States and other council members.

Inspectors left Baghdad before the United States and Britain carried out
airstrikes in December 1998 to punish Iraq for not cooperating with the
inspection program. Saddam Hussein's government has barred them from

President Bush has warned Saddam that he faces unspecified consequences if
he fails to heed American demands that inspectors be allowed into Iraq to
verify whether it has dismantled its weapons of mass destruction.

While some questions were technical and deserved answers, a U.S. official
said "the other issues raised by the Iraqis were conditions, not questions."

"This is just an attempt by the Iraqis to open up a dialogue with the
Security Council ... which we're not willing to get engaged in. There's no
need for dialogue. The Iraqis know exactly what they need to do," the
official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "It's just another
example of Iraqi polemics."

Sabri also asked how Iraq's relationship with the Security Council could be
normalized "under the present declared U.S. policy," which he claimed was
aimed at overthrowing Saddam. And he asked if this violated international

Sabri's questions did not rule out allowing the return of weapons inspectors
but indicated that Iraq wants inspections to be conducted for a limited time
period and lead to certification that the country is free of weapons of mass
destruction the key condition for sanctions to be lifted. Western officials,
however, reject any conditions set by Iraq and demand unfettered access to
suspected weapons sites.

The questions deal with the time needed to complete weapons inspections and
to certify that iraq's banned weapons programs have been eliminated, the
nature of the inspections, and the composition of inspection teams.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix told the Security Council that if
Iraq gave a green light for inspectors to return, and actively cooperated
with them, he could recommend suspending sanctions in one year.

Iraq has accused some U.S. and British inspectors in the former U.N.
inspection agency of spying for the West. Sabri asked whether the United
Nations can guarantee that the new inspectors "are not spies and will not
conduct spying tasks," and how U.S. and British inspectors could be neutral.

Blix has said he will fire anyone found to be working for a government. He
also said Iraq should not have a veto over the composition of inspection

Las Vegas Sun, 21st March

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The United States does not want the Security Council
to consider a list of questions from Iraq, including whether U.S. actions
toward Saddam Hussein violate international law.

"The Iraqi questions given to Secretary-General (Kofi) Annan earlier this
month are an attempt by the Iraqis to distract U.N. attention away from
Iraq's noncompliance with ... Security Council resolutions and to portray
Iraq as a victim," said Robert Wood, spokesman for the U.S. mission at the
United Nations.

Annan passed the 19 questions on to the U.N. Security Council and asked for
a response by April 10.

The questions were given to Annan by Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri
during talks focusing on the return of weapons inspectors. A second round of
U.N.-Iraq talks is expected to be held around April 18.

Annan said the initial meeting with Sabri had been "a good start." But it
produced no sign Iraq would allow weapons inspectors to return - the first
step toward lifting 11-year-old U.N. sanctions and a key demand of the
United States and other council members.

Inspectors left Baghdad before the United States and Britain carried out
airstrikes in December 1998 to punish Iraq for not cooperating with the
inspection program. Saddam Hussein's government has barred them from

President Bush has warned Saddam that he faces unspecified consequences if
he fails to heed American demands that inspectors be allowed into Iraq to
verify whether it has dismantled its weapons of mass destruction.

Diplomats said some of the questions were technical in nature while others
appeared to be conditions.

Wood said the Security Council should not "entangle itself" with the
questions. "Iraq has an obligation to permit full inspections that can
demonstrate the end of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. That is
where the council should focus."

Sabri's questions did not rule out allowing the return of weapons inspectors
but indicated that Iraq wants inspections to be conducted for a limited time
period and lead to certification that the country is free of weapons of mass
destruction - the key condition for sanctions to be lifted. Western
officials, however, reject any conditions set by Iraq and demand unfettered
access to suspected weapons sites.

The questions deal with the time needed to complete weapons inspections and
to certify that Iraq's banned weapons programs have been eliminated, the
nature of the inspections, and the composition of inspection teams.

by Evelyn Leopold
Swissinfo, 22nd March


Specifically, Sabri asked if "threats to invade Iraq and to change the
national government by force violate Security Council resolutions (and)
rules of international law."

He asked whether it was possible to normalise relations between the Security
Council and Baghdad "when calls are made for invading Iraq and overthrowing
its national government by force."

And Iraq wanted to know if elimination of the U.S.-imposed flight-exclusion
zones over northern and southern Iraq could be "guaranteed" and whether
Baghdad would be compensated for the "destruction of its economic,
educational and other infrastructure" caused by sanctions and violations of
Iraqi sovereignty.

Sabri also asked if there were any limits on the powers Blix would have and
how inspectors from the United States and Britain could "fulfil a neutral
international mandate."


The Observer, 17th March

1920 Iraq placed under British mandate.

1932 Iraq becomes an independent state.

1937 Saddam Hussein born in Tikrit, Saladdin province

1959 Saddam sentenced to death for involvement in failed assassination of
General Abdul Karim Qassim

1963 Returns to Iraq, elected member of the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party

1968 Ba'athist coup installs Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr as president.

1975 At Opec meeting in Algiers, Iraq and Iran sign treaty ending border

1979 Shah toppled in neighbouring Iran by Islamic revolution. President
Al-Bakr resigns and Saddam is installed as the new leader.

1980-88 Iran-Iraq war

1988 Iraq uses chemical weapons against the Kurdish town of Halabjah.
Ceasefire between Iran and Iraq.

1989 The supergun affair. British engineering company provides parts to
Iraq, which are used by military to build huge artillery weapon capable of
striking Israel.

1990 Farzad Bazoft, an Iranian-born journalist with The Observer accused of
spying on a military installation, is hanged in Baghdad. 2 August Iraq
invades Kuwait. 8 August Iraq announces the merger of Iraq and Kuwait. 29
November UN resolution authorises states co operating with Kuwait to use
'all necessary means' to uphold Iraq's full withdrawal.

1991 Gulf war

16 January Operation Desert Storm begins with air strikes. 24 February The
start of a ground operation, led by US General Norman Schwarzkopf, which
results in the liberation of Kuwait on 27 February. 3 March Iraq accepts

1991 Plan for UN safe haven in northern Iraq to protect Kurds.

1992 No-fly zone imposed in southern Iraq.

1993 US forces launch a cruise missile attack on Iraqi intelligence
headquarters in Baghdad in retaliation for attempt on life of former US
President George Bush in Kuwait.

1995 UN allows partial resumption of Iraq's oil exports to buy food and

1998 Iraq ends all co-operation with the UN Special Commission to Oversee
the Destruction of Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction (Unscom). US and
Britain launch Desert Fox, a bombing campaign designed to destroy Iraq's
nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programmes.

2000 New weapons inspection proposals rejected.

2001 US and Britain launch bombing raids to disable Iraq's air defences -
but these gather little international support.

11 September Terrorist attacks on US raise spectre of Iraqi involvement.

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