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[casi] News, 23-30/3/2002

News, 23-30/3/2002

A rather truncated news produced under difficult
circumstances for a week which saw something of
an unraveling in US Imperialist plans: friendship
and solidarity among the Arab nations, hostility
within Europe and among the population in
Britain, inability to put forward a convincing
case for Iraqi involvement with al-Qaida or even
possession of weapons of mass destruction,
apparent inability even to organise an Iraqi
opposition conference.


*  Prodi: Block US bombing [Sun's indignation
against ‘arrogant Prodi' who not only wants to
take our pound away, he also wants to take away
our long established right to go beat up the
Arabs whenever we have a mind]
*  Cardinal urges caution over action against
Iraq [Caution from Cardinal Cormac Murphy
O'Connor, ‘head of the Roman Catholic Church in
England and Wales']
*  Thousands demonstrate against Iraq war [In
London on Saturday 30th March]


*  Saddam parades families of exiled critics on TV
*  British bombs still killing Iraqi fish
[Effects of DU on fish farms in Iraq]
*  IRAQ DIARY, Part 1: Baghdad glued to Beirut
[First part of an interesting series by Pepe
Escobar in the Asia Times. To be continued next


*  F-16s Bomb Turk Kurd Rebels in Iraq - Kurd
*  Saddam and bin Laden help fanatics, say Kurds
[More, but not much more, on the Kurdish Islamist
movement round Halabja. Current best bet for
establishing a link between S.Hussein and al-


MEDICAL AID TO IRAQ [complaint from UN
*  Iraq Invites U.S. to Discuss Pilot [Michael
*  Checks on the American eagle [general round up
of recent failures of US diplomacy from the Asia
*  War on Iraq based on shaky legal ground
[Experts in international law who still haven't
got the point that the veto gives the US the
right - legally - to defy international law with


*  U.S. seeks $5 million for Iraqi opposition
*  Europe snubs US request to host summit of
Iraqi exiles


*  Yemen urges Arab states to lift embargo on
Iraq [Plucky little Yemen is notionally now at
the mercy of the US and yet it keeps popping up
with cheeky observations and ideas. Such as this.
That the Arab/Muslim world should simply and
unilaterally start to disregard the embargo on
Iraq. That is indeed exactly what they should do.]
*  Iraq and Kuwait strike reconciliation deal
[Let's hope this is the most important news of
the week.]
*  The text of the case between Iraq, Kuwait
*  Lebanese-Iraqi free trade deal on verge of


*  Prodi: Block US bombing
The Sun, date unkown (c28th March)

ARROGANT EU chief Romano Prodi last night ordered
Tony Blair to put the brakes on the planned US
military action in Iraq.

Mr Prodi told the PM to take advantage of
Britain's special relationship with America and
persuade President Bush not to bomb Baghdad.

And in a startling boast, he predicted the
European Union would become a "superpower" to
rival the US.

His outburst came in an astonishing interview in
which he warned that Britain must ditch the Pound
or "vanish" and the EU must have a single foreign

He also slammed Mr Blair for snubbing the EU over
Afghanistan war planning.

Mr Prodi told the PM through Britain's left-wing
New Statesman magazine: "If you are a friend to
America, you can warn them of the dangers.

"That is what a good ally can do. You could
influence the European debate in a strong,
influential way."

The EU President — an ex-Italian Premier — urged
Britain to surrender control of its foreign
policy to Brussels.

He also hinted that the UK cannot keep its opt-
outs from the euro and taxes set in Brussels

Asked if he was annoyed at being left out of a
No10 war planning meeting, he said: "I didn't
like it. Do we want to shape a common policy or

Mr Blair flies to Crawford, Texas, next week for
talks with President Bush — but he has no plans
to warn him of EU wobbles.

*  Cardinal urges caution over action against Iraq
Ananova, 29th March

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England
and Wales is urging Britain and America not to
take any action against Iraq which will lead to
further violence in the Middle East.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor joined the
growing chorus of opinion cautioning against a
fresh military intervention against Saddam

He says Britain and the US must take account of
the impact on the situation in Israel and the
Occupied Territories before launching any attack
on the Baghdad regime.

"Anything that doesn't lead to greater stability
in the Middle East, anything that doesn't lead to
a long term peace in the Middle East should not
be done," he told the BBC.

If a unilateral attack on Iraq would in fact
cause instability, would cause the loss of
ultimate peace in the Middle East, then, in my
view, it would be a very dangerous step to take.

The consequences must be very, very seriously
looked at."

He also urged Tony Blair not to take any action
which would lead to a split with the rest of the
European Union, where many countries are deeply
concerned about the prospect of an attack on Iraq.

"We are part of Europe. I would be very sorry if
the United Kingdom ruptured its joint mind with
the rest of the European community on this
issue," he said.

The Cardinal spoke out as Mr Blair is preparing
to travel next week to Texas to discuss how to
tackle Saddam's continuing attempts to acquire
weapons of mass destruction with George Bush.

His comments reflected the concerns among many
Labour backbenchers who are strongly opposed to
any British involvement in renewed military
action against Baghdad.

*  Thousands demonstrate against Iraq war
BBC, 30th March

More than 3,000 anti-war demonstrators marched
peacefully through central London today calling
on UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to steer the
United States away from military action against

The protest was arranged by the Campaign for
Nuclear Disarmament amid mounting speculation
that US President George W Bush is planning to
launch an offensive against Iraq.



*  Saddam parades families of exiled critics on TV
by Patrick Cockburn
The Independent, 23rd March

Saddam Hussein has started a campaign to silence
members of the Iraqi opposition in exile by
forcing their families to denounce them on
satellite television.

The families, who appear terrified, hint that
they face death or rape if their relatives abroad
do not stop opposing the Iraqi government.

Faiq Sheikh Ali, a distinguished Iraqi writer and
journalist living in London who has often
publicly criticised Saddam Hussein, was
astonished earlier this year to see his mother,
two sisters and brother being interviewed on
television in their home in the city of Najaf
south of Baghdad.

Each of Mr Sheikh Ali's family members denounced
him in turn, asked him to stop his activities and
strongly hinted that they were vulnerable to
retaliation by the Iraqi government.

"Your father died because of your activity," said
his mother Amel, dressed in the dark robes
traditionally worn by Iraqi women in the
south. "You have to think about us."

Fuad, Mr Sheikh Ali's young-er brother, his eyes
darting nervously from side to side as he sat
beside his mother, said: "I don't want to
say 'hello' to my brother. I don't know him."

At one moment in the 25-minute interview a
younger sister, also called Amel, pleaded with
him. She said: "Please Faiq, you have to think
that you have a sister in this country before you
do anything." Mr Sheikh Ali fears his sister
could be raped by the Iraqi security forces
unless he stops speaking against President Saddam.

The Iraqi government has in the past often
imprisoned and tortured the families of their
opponents. "It is this which has made it so
difficult to have an organised opposition in
Iraq," commented one Iraqi exile this week.

But the use of satellite television, which can be
picked up in Europe, to put family members on
display is a new and chillingly effective method
of intimidation.

Mr Sheikh Ali, 39, a short, neatly dressed man
speaking faltering English, said he will not be
silenced. "If you ignore what Saddam did in the
past in Iraq, he will do even worse things in
future," he said.

A Shia Muslim from a prominent family in the
Iraqi holy city of Najaf on the Euphrates river
110 miles south of Baghdad, he practised as a
lawyer until the Shia uprising against President
Saddam in 1991 in the wake of the Gulf War. After
taking part in the rebellion he was forced to
flee, first to Saudi Arabia, then Iran and
finally London where he has lived for the past
nine years.

In Britain he became a journalist, writing
articles hostile to President Saddam as well as a
book about assassinations carried out by the
Iraqi security services. But the reason why
Baghdad is now trying so hard to silence him is
explained by an angry debate on al-Jezeera, the
widely watched Arab satellite channel, in which
he took part last December. "I said the first
terrorist in the world was Saddam and not bin
Laden," recalled Mr Sheikh Ali. "I said he was a

Soon afterwards, Mr Sheikh Ali's mother, two
sisters and brother were arrested in Najaf and
taken to Baghdad for five days by the Iraqi
security services. They were finally released but
still have to go to sign their names at the
security headquarters in the capital once a week.
It was not the family's first brush with the
security police. In 1996 his father was arrested
four times in Najaf and died suddenly soon after
he was released the last time. His family suspect
he may have been killed by poison put in a bowl
of yoghurt.

In mid-January this year, a convoy of black
Mercedes cars and Land Rovers suddenly drew up
outside the family home in Najaf at 7am. Gunmen,
some in black masks, jumped out holding
Kalashnikovs and pistols and entered the house.
His two sisters, Afrah and Amel, were brought
with their four children from their houses. Two
Iraqi TV crews with cameras were present and
family members were then compelled to sit
together to denounce their brother. Whenever the
interviewer was dissatisfied with their replies
they were forced to repeat their words. The whole
process took five hours.

"It is a general message to all the Iraqi
opposition in the world," said Mr Sheikh Ali. "Be
careful or we will kill your family."

*  British bombs still killing Iraqi fish

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An Iraqi vet says thousands
of fish that have died at fish farms near Baghdad
have been poisoned by munitions used by British
and U.S. forces.

"Mortality rate among fish has reached 100
percent in some of the fish farms," said Dhahir
Habib Dhahir, a veterinary surgeon at state-run
Swairah fish farm 50 km (30 miles) south of the

Iraqi television showed large quantities of the
diseased fish being burned by workers at one of
the fish farms.

"Researchers and specialists have attributed this
disease which affected the fish to the use of
banned weapons dropped by American forces against
Iraq," the vet told Reuters television.

Head of the farm Adel al-Samaraee said the Iraqi
Agriculture Ministry was due to study the fish,
adding that the deaths were "clearly caused by
depleted uranium and poisonous materials dropped
by American and British forces".

Depleted uranium is used as a component of armour
piercing munitions. When a uranium-tipped weapon
hits an object, it produces a vapour that is
weakly radioactive.

Iraqi authorities say the allied forces used an
estimated 300 tonnes of depleted uranium
munitions against Iraq in the U.S.-led 1991
offensive to recapture Kuwait.

The fish farms are within a southern no-fly zone
set up by the United States, Britain and France
after the 1991 Gulf War to prevent possible
attacks by Baghdad forces on Shi'ite Muslims.

A similar no-fly zone was established in the
north to protect a Kurdish enclave. Baghdad,
which does not recognise the zones, says U.S. and
British warplanes patrolling them have frequently
hit Iraqi targets.

Iraq also says the number of cancer cases among
Iraqis has soared since the Gulf War because of
depleted uranium.

Last year, the World Health Organisation began an
in-depth study into the health impact of the
shells used in Iraq.

In November, however, after lobbying from
Washington, the United Nations General Assembly
voted down an Iraqi proposal for a U.N.-backed
study into the effects of depleted uranium shells
in the Gulf War.

*  IRAQ DIARY, Part 1: Baghdad glued to Beirut
by Pepe Escobar
Asia Times, date unknown (c28th March)

BAGHDAD - Saddam Hussein ordered the construction
of the Om Al Maariq mosque in 1998, slightly
before a US bombing campaign. The magnificent
mosque - sort of Islam meets art deco - is
capable of holding 1,800 worshippers and is the
largest in Baghdad.

It was finished last year, but Thamir Ibrahim,
the chief of the protocol department at the
mosque, refuses to say how much it cost. But
despite the secrecy surrounding many sensitive
buildings in Baghdad, it would be a stretch of
the imagination to accuse the mosque's
authorities of hiding weapons of mass

Saddam has visited the complex only once, last
September. He did not go to the inauguration but
during the three years of construction he was
very busy writing - in handsome Arabic
calligraphy - a copy of the Holy Koran. This is
now solemnly displayed at the mosque behind a
circular glass wall.

Iraq's Islamic credentials could be very handy at
this crucial juncture in the history of the
Middle East. Already in Jordan's capital city,
Amman, before crossing the Jordanian-Iraqi border
and cruising the 551 kilometers of impeccable
freeway through the desert towards Baghdad, it is
possible to sense the Arab world's refusal to
link Washington's involvement to defuse the
tragic spiral of violence in the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict with support for a military
strike against Iraq.

>From Amman to Baghdad, and including echoes from
Cairo, Damascus and Beirut, Arab diplomats admit
in private that a collective Arab position
supporting Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah's proposal
is the key to breaking the impasse in Palestine
and to preempting a US military strike against

But this would mean less American dominance of
the whole Middle Eastern peace process - while
the European Union is busy reconfiguring itself
as the big player-in-waiting. The EU is more than
eager to assume an extremely high profile. Talks
have been going on since 1991. The Arab world is
definitely considering a formal "invitation". Not
accidentally, endless German delegations travel
to Baghdad.

Arab diplomats - echoing Brussels - also comment
that the US and Israel definitely don't want the
EU to have a strong role in the Middle East. Musa
Kellani, a respected Jordanian columnist,
observes, "The European posture is based on the
realization that Europe stands to bear the brunt
of instability in the Middle East - by sheer
proximity and the historical European involvement
in the region's affairs."

>From the point of view of both Amman and Baghdad,
and for a number of not necessarily the same
reasons, it is fair to assume that increasingly
the Arab world is going to rely on Europe. Arab
diplomats, including those present at the Arab
League summit that began in Beirut on Wednesday,
are convinced that Washington's interest in the
Middle East revolves around one issue only: oil.
And they have also seen how Washington has simply
ignored the EU collective criticism of the Bush
administration's obsession on attacking Iraq.

Baghdad has its eyes set firmly on Beirut. In the
past few weeks Iraq has staged a complex
diplomatic dance around many Arab capitals -
designed to offset US Vice President Dick
Cheney's 11-nation Middle East trip. The vice
president of the Iraqi Revolutionary Command
Council, Izzat Ibrahim, and Foreign Minister Naji
Sabri visited Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt,
Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab
Emirates. Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan
visited Sudan and Yemen. Deputy Prime Minister
Tariq Aziz went to Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and
Morocco. Cheney left the Middle East without an
Arab mandate to attack Iraq.

Unlike the Arab street, the official Arab world
wants the US to play a strong, resolute role in
resuming the Arab/Israeli peace process - but on
one condition: Iraq cannot be sacrificed. This is
the "message" likely to emerge from the ongoing
Beirut summit. Consequently, an impasse is
inevitable: the US wants a solution to Palestine,
but also a free hand to attack Iraq. Amir Musa,
the Arab League's secretary general, has repeated
again and again, "The Arab-Israeli conflict is
one thing. The Iraqi-Kuwait conflict is a
different one." The Arab world's version
of "saving face" in this confrontation would be
to extract a maximum of concessions to the
benefit of Palestine, since Washington has
already made up its mind regarding Iraq.

While politics is the main axis of the Arab
summit in Beirut, economic issues are equally
important. Arabs are finally realizing that they
must put aside political differences for the sake
of economic interests. The Arab world is facing a
common challenge: countries as diverse as Saudi
Arabia and Iraq are confronted by low economic
growth, high unemployment, very high internal and
external debt and weak exports.

Oil wealth of late has meant practically nothing
in terms of achieving a better standard of
living. The Arab countries' combined gross
domestic product (GDP) was US$440 billion in
1980. It was about $730 billion in 2001. The
annual growth rate was about 2 percent - with an
average inflation of about 3 percent. So real GDP
growth was actually negative. The average real
GDP growth globally was 3 percent in these two

The Arab countries' population in 1980 was 140
million. It was 285 million in 2001. So per
capita income has also declined. In Saudi Arabia,
for instance, it fell from $25,000 in 1988 to
$8,500 in 2001.

Trade has not provided a solution. The Arab Free
Trade Agreement (AFTA) has existed since 1998,
with 14 member countries. Total exports of the
Arab world in 2000 - including oil - were $243
billion: this is less than the combined exports
of Hong Kong and Singapore ($250 billion in
2000). Inter-Arab trade was only $33.5 billion in
2000, only 8.6 percent of the total. Excluding
oil and minerals, inter-Arab trade is only 16
percent of the total.

As the Arab world struggles in Beirut to find the
same voice politically as well as economically,
Iraq - as we hear everywhere in a Baghdad prone
at the moment to extremely metaphoric sandstorms -
 remains a country at war. But the popular mood
is defiant.

At a "Scientific Conference on the Impact of
Weapons on Humans and the Environment in Iraq",
the best scientists in the land denounced the
effects of US bombing with depleted uranium,
while the president of the organizing committee
stressed that "evil powers want to destroy Iraq
in the name of peace".

For educated Iraqis, the martyrs of the second
intifada in Palestine are as cherished as the
martyrs of the Gulf War - thousands of them
victims of bombing by depleted uranium. No
wonder: for people of the Book - Jews,
Christians, Muslims - Iraq is a holy land, as
well as Palestine. The Biblical Eden was situated
somewhere between the Tigris and the Euphrates.
When God chased Adam and Eve from paradise,
paradise was located in Mesopotamia (in
Greek: "the earth between the rivers".)

At the traditional souk Al Alabi, in old Baghdad,
vendors of shirts and socks from Syria are
unanimous, "I am Iraqi. I am strong." Ministry of
Information officials assure that no bunkers are
being built to protect the civilian population
from possible US bombing.

In the relatively upscale Masba neighborhood,
Baghdad boys cruise in luxury cars and eat pizzas
at California-style cafes. In this land at war,
which has suffered the ravages of Sumerians,
Akkadians, Elamites, Babylonians, Assyrians,
Medes, Persians, Greeks, Parthians, Sassanians,
Ummayyads, Abbassides, Seljuks, Safavids,
Ottomans and British, another war may be
inevitable - but nobody seems to be running for
cover yet.


*  F-16s Bomb Turk Kurd Rebels in Iraq - Kurd
by Ferit Demir
ABC News, 23rd March

TUNCELI, Turkey (Reuters) - Warplanes have
hammered Turkish Kurdish guerrilla encampments in
northern Iraq, killing about 25 rebels, but it
was not immediately clear where the aircraft were
from, Iraqi Kurdish sources said on Saturday.

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which
administers northern Iraq, said it saw the
aircraft bombing areas on Kandil Mountain in the
region late on Thursday.

"Four F-16s flying from the direction of Turkey
bombed four separate points as PKK guerrillas
celebrated Newroz," PUK sources in northern Iraq
told Reuters in Tunceli, eastern Turkey, by
telephone. "A high number of PKK were killed."

The PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) has thousands
of rebels based in the area. On Thursday, they
celebrated the traditional new year holiday

They had lit fires for the festival, making them
easily identifiable, the PUK official said.

Mezopotamya TV, a Europe-based satellite
broadcaster, reported 25 rebels had been killed
in the bombing, quoting PKK sources.

Turkish military sources based near Tunceli
declined comment on the PUK and PKK reports, but
said there had been military action in the region.

Turkish troops regularly cross the border in
pursuit of PKK rebels encamped in northern Iraq,
which Iraqi Kurds wrested from Baghdad's control
in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War.

U.S. and British warplanes based in Turkey have
since patrolled a no-fly zone over northern Iraq
to protect the enclave administered by the rival
PUK and Kurdistan Democratic Party.

The Turkish military says some 5,000 PKK fighters
have been based in the region since Turkish
special forces captured rebel commander Abdullah
Ocalan in 1999. Ocalan has ordered his followers
to withdraw from Turkey and abandon their armed
struggle for a Kurdish homeland in southeastern

More than 30,000 people have died since fighting
between the PKK and Turkish troops erupted in
southeastern Turkey in 1984.,,3-

*  Saddam and bin Laden help fanatics, say Kurds
 From Catherine Taylor in Halabja, northern Iraq
The Times, 28th March

A TALEBAN-style Islamic group said to be linked
to Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein is
expanding its ranks at a stronghold in Kurdish
northern Iraq.

The Iraqi Kurds say that Ansar al-Islam
(Supporters of Islam) is the world's newest al-
Qaeda cell, established under orders from bin
Laden. Ansar al-Islam, which fights under the
slogan "Ten minutes to Heaven", a reference to
the time followers believe that it will take for
their souls to reach paradise after death in
battle, might also have links to Baghdad, a
Kurdish military commander said.

We have picked up conversations on our radios
between Iraqi agents of Saddam Hussein and al-
Islam," Mustapha Saed Qada, a Kurdish military
commander based in Halabja, said. "I believe that
Iraq is also funding al-Islam. There are no hard
facts as yet, but I believe that they are
supporting them because it will cause further
instability for the Kurds."

Kurdish military intelligence said that the group
received about £200,000, weapons and Toyota Land
Cruisers from the al-Qaeda network. Commander
Qada said that Ansar al-Islam guerrillas,
captured by Kurdish soldiers and held in the city
of Sulimanieh, received training in al-Qaeda
camps in Afghanistan and had admitted that links
between bin Laden and Saddam that go back to

The two main political factions in Kurdish Iraq,
the Kurdish Democratic Party and Patriotic Union
of Kurdistan (PUK), recently said that they had
settled their differences after spending much of
the past 11 years fighting. They say that they
are united against Ansar al-Islam, which is based
in PUK territory.

The enclave of ten Kurdish villages and about
4,000 civilians is in remote mountains near the
border with Iran. Villagers who have escaped the
area say that beauty salons have been ransacked
and razed, girls' schools bombed, men told to
grow beards and women murdered for refusing to
wear the burqa.

On September 23 Ansar al-Islam insurgents
ambushed a convoy of Kurdish soldiers and killed
42 men, which was taken as a declaration of war.
Since then, Kurdish fighters have pushed Ansar al-
Islam back towards the Iranian border. Both sides
have suffered heavy casualties.

Kurd military sources say that Ansar al-Islam's
leader, Kreker, is a former member of a more
moderate Kurdish Islamic political party. The
group's deputy, Abu Abdullah Shafae, is also an
Iraqi Kurd who trained with al-Qaeda in
Afghanistan for ten years. They say that the
multinational group, with about 700 fighters,
includes Moroccans, Jordanians, Palestinians and
Afghans, some of whom fled the US attacks in


Financial Times, 24th March

NEW YORK. March 22 (Interfax) - The United States
is blocking in the UN Security Council more than
200 humanitarian contracts to supply medical
equipment to Iraq.

The UN Secretariat has sent a document to the
Security Council Sanctions Committee saying the
U.S. delegation to the Council is blocking 210
bids to supply Iraq with medical equipment worth
a total of $462.5 million, New York sources told

The sources said this made up more than one-fifth
of the cost of all medical equipment contracts
laid before the Sanctions Committee.

The sources said the greatest problem were
contracts on complex hospital equipment (47
contracts totaling $150.7 million), radiological,
X- ray and ultrasound appliances (21 contracts
totaling $117.7 million), transport (eight
contracts totaling $58.6 million), and biological
preparation and processing equipment (27
contracts totaling $39.9 million).

Russian companies have eight contracts for $30.3
million that they have been unable to put through
the Security Council, according to sources.

The sources said the Iraqi health system had an
acute shortage of medical supplies, and that for
this reason, the Sanctions Committee would bring
up this matter at one of its next meetings.

*  Iraq Invites U.S. to Discuss Pilot
 The Associated Press, 24th March

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — Iraq said on Sunday it was
ready to receive a U.S. delegation to discuss the
fate of an American pilot shot down over Iraq
during the 1991 Gulf War.

``Iraq is ready to receive any American team,
accompanied by U.S. media, in order to discuss
and document this issue under the supervision of
the International Committee of the Red Cross,'' a
Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement.

In Washington, Vice President Dick Cheney said on
CBS' ``Face the Nation'' that he was unaware of
the Iraqi offer, and would want to ``see whether
or not this is a serious proposition or whether
Saddam Hussein is simply trying to change the

Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher was lost when
his Navy F/A-18 Hornet jet was shot down on Jan.
17, 1991, the first night of the war.

Speicher, 33, had been listed as the first
casualty of the Gulf War. Last year the Pentagon
changed his status from killed in action to
missing in action after persistent reports he
survived and was being held captive. His
tombstone is over an empty grave at Arlington
National Cemetery.

In a search of the crash site in December 1995,
investigators found the canopy, which ejects with
the pilot, spent flares and a survival kit. They
also found a tattered flight suit. But no trace
of Speicher was found.

When the U.S. Navy changed his status to missing,
the State Department asked Iraq, through the
International Red Cross and other channels, for
information about the flier.

Iraq says Speicher was killed without ejecting
from the cockpit, though his remains were never

The Iraqi spokesman, who was not identified, said
the best way to solve ``such mere technical
matters'' was through specialized legal channels.
He did not elaborate.

The United States has warned Iraq it may become
the next target in the war on terror unless it
allows U.N. weapons inspectors back in the
country to investigate Western claims the country
is building weapons of mass destruction. Iraq
insists it has destroyed all such weapons, and
has barred inspectors since they left in December

*  Checks on the American eagle
by Ahmad Faruqui
Asia Times, 26th March

This month, US Vice President Dick Cheney emerged
from his safe place at an undisclosed location in
the United States to begin a 10-day journey
through the Middle East. He had a single-point
agenda: garner support from the Gulf countries to
launch a military strike against Iraq.

Reports from Washington indicate that the
invasion is being planned for September, once the
summer heat has abated, and the Pentagon has
replenished its inventories of precision
munitions. The goal is to destroy Saddam's armor
in two weeks, remove him from power and install a
compliant regime in Baghdad. Washington's timing
is designed to capitalize on the success of the
war in Afghanistan, while it still appears to be
a success.

Winning domestic support for a strike against
Iraq will not be a problem. Americans remain
grief-stricken and will back any attack on
anybody in the name of the war against terrorism -
 at least at first. Winning support overseas
continues to be a tall order, and the White House
is reluctant to move unilaterally. A coalition is
badly needed to establish the legitimacy of any
US-led strike against Iraq, and to prevent the
media in the Muslim world from portraying it as a
war against Islam.

Access to Arab air and land space will be
critical for launching an integrated attack on
Baghdad. The US would not mind getting paid for
its efforts. During the Gulf War, Saudi Arabia
and the other Persian Gulf countries paid
Washington US$36 billion, which helped defray
about half of the final price tag of $61 billion
to $71 billion. It is unlikely that the US will
need any large numbers of Arab troops to mount
its military operations, and their involvement
will be mostly symbolic. The US fielded 500,000
marine and army personnel in the Gulf War, and
these constituted the bulk of the troops.

Cheney hoped to establish a connection between al-
Qaeda and the Iraqi regime, knowing well that
evidence was scant. In fact, Osama bin Laden had
tried to create an Arab coalition to fight Iraq
after it invaded Kuwait in 1990. Cheney's
diplomatic blitz began in Britain, and he was
able to get a guarded statement of support from
Prime Minister Tony Blair. However, within a few
days, splits had emerged among Blair's party, and
a Guardian poll showed that a majority of Britons
opposed a strike against Iraq. The nine Arab
nations on his itinerary had been in the vanguard
of the Gulf War coalition of 34 nations, and he
expected to get a fair hearing in their capitals.

Bringing back memories of his August 5, 1990,
trip to Saudi Arabia, Cheney told reporters that
he knew the region and its leaders well. He was
expected to use his no-nonsense approach
to "knock heads together", and build support for
the US position. As he said before boarding his
plane from Washington, the portents were ominous.
Just a week earlier, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak,
during a trip to Washington, had counseled the US
not to move militarily against Iraq.

Then the Los Angeles Times published details from
a classified Pentagon report. It stated that the
US would use nuclear weapons against Iraq if it
attacked Israel. Jordan's King Abdullah, a
staunch US ally like his father, expressed strong
opposition to a US attack, saying that it would
create "a catastrophe for the region".

The normally reticent Saudis begged the US not to
strike Iraq. To prepare Cheney, the Saudi Crown
Prince gave a pair of rare television interviews
before his visit, indicating that an attack on
Iraq would destabilize the region. The United
Arab Emirates told him bluntly that it would
oppose any US strikes on Iraq. The Emir of Qatar
suggested in a newspaper interview that Arab
countries should try to solve the Iraqi problem
by opening a dialogue with Baghdad. The Crown
Prince of Bahrain, where the US Fifth Fleet is
headquartered, reminded Cheney during a joint
press conference that "the people who are dying
today on the streets are not a result of any
Iraqi action".

To make matters worse, the Arab News carried an
article by a retired US general, James David,
that said Iraq was no threat to the US, but it
was a threat to Israel. He questioned whether
American lives should be endangered to protect
Israel, whose military in just the past 17 months
had killed more than 900 Palestinians, demolished
more than 300 homes, and made more than 1,500
children homeless. Cheney's last Arab stop was in
Kuwait, which not only opposed the strikes, but
also refused to allow its soil for being used to
attack Iraq. Cheney was told that any US attack
would hurt the people of Iraq, without ensuring
the removal of Saddam.

When he visited Turkey, Prime Minister Bulent
Ecevit said another war with Iraq would create
severe economic difficulties for Turkey, which is
still in the throes of a serious macro-economic
crisis. Turkey suffered economic losses of $30
billion during the Gulf War.

Cheney's journey gave Iraq a chance to mount a
charm offensive, and four of Saddam's top
lieutenants were dispatched to various Arab
capitals. They stated that Iraq had not committed
any provocation, such as invading a neighboring
country, and had no connection with the events of
September 11.

These visits evoked a positive comment by
Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, who urged the US
to focus on diplomacy. While visiting London,
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the US
should not undertake any unilateral strikes
against Iraq, and urged it to work through the
United Nations.

All through his journey, the continuing violence
in Palestinian territories continued to tug away
at Cheney's single-point agenda. The world was
reminded that while Iraq may possess weapons of
mass destruction, so did Israel. UN Secretary
General Kofi Annan asked Israel to stop violating
the Geneva Conventions, and Saudi Arabia called
on it to end its illegal occupation of Arab lands
that dated back to the 1967 war. In the end, a
flustered Cheney conceded that the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict "is a preoccupation for
everyone in this part of the world".

Cheney's trip may be judged a failure, but it may
have helped Washington come to terms with the
limits on its powers. Like ancient Rome, the US
has unrivaled military primacy across the globe.
The American eagle spans the globe like a
colossus. Yet such a posture is insufficient for
shaping world events today, which are shaped even
more by the information revolution, technological
change and globalization. As Harvard strategist
Joseph Nye puts it, wars have ceased to be the
arbiter of politics.

Thus, hard power based on military assets is much
less important today than it was in ancient
times. What matters more is soft power,
the "ability to get others to want what you
want". If Cheney's trip has made it easier for
the White House to grasp this basic lesson,
historians may well call it a success.

*  War on Iraq based on shaky legal ground
by Dominic Evans
Swissinfo (from Reuters), 29th March

LONDON: If U.S. President George W. Bush extends
his "war on terror" to strike against Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein, he will not just be
walking into a military minefield.   He might be
breaking the law.

Bush has fanned expectations that his
administration will take its battle to Saddam by
naming Iraq in a three-strong "axis of evil" and
ratcheting up his rhetoric against Baghdad over
its obstruction of United Nations weapons

But legal experts say that, without a new United
Nations Security Council resolution explicitly
backing the use of force, the justification for
strikes against Baghdad is at best shaky.

The United States and its close ally Britain say
Saddam is already violating several U.N.
resolutions, putting him in material breach of
the 1991 Gulf War ceasefire reached after his
troops had been expelled from Kuwait.

"Legally we would be perfectly entitled to use
force as we have done in the past without the
support of a United Nations Security Council
resolution," British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon
said earlier this week.

In fact it is unclear whether the law is on the
side of Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair.

At issue are two questions -- whether the Gulf
War ceasefire allows a resumption of conflict if
Iraq fails to co-operate, and whether pre-emptive
action can be justified to avert a military
threat or humanitarian disaster.

U.N. Security Council resolution 687, adopted
shortly after a U.S.-led coalition expelled Iraqi
forces from Kuwait in March 1991, formally
brought hostilities to a close. It also demanded
that Iraq destroy all its weapons of mass

"The ceasefire is clearly conditional on Iraq
doing certain things. If Iraq is in violation of
those terms then the ceasefire is called into
question," said Adam Roberts, professor of
international relations at Oxford University.

The difficulty for Washington lies in the
phrasing of the resolution, which appeared to
leave responsibility for overseeing that
ceasefire with the U.N. Security Council itself,
not individual states.

"There is no provision for enforcement in the
resolution which authorises states to carry out
military action," said Durham University's
Professor Colin Warbrick. "It's for the Security
Council to decide what action to take."

Seeking a mandate for use of force from the
council -- where veto-wielding members China,
Russia and France have all expressed concern at
possible military action against Iraq -- would be
a huge task for Bush.

The justification for military strikes as self-
defence -- invoked in Afghanistan -- or as part
of a humanitarian intervention as in NATO's 1999
Kosovo campaign and Britain's deployment to
Sierra Leone a year later, is also disputed.

"The argument is not to alleviate a humanitarian
tragedy in Iraq but to make it comply with the
United Nations, or in a broader context...that it
is prevented in engaging in terrorism," said

The self-defence argument was "too remote"
because Washington could not convincingly portray
Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction as an
immediate threat, he added.

The same questions have been raised about
sporadic punitive air strikes against Iraq since
1991 and the "no-fly zones" over northern and
southern Iraq patrolled by U.S. and British

The two countries say the zones, set up without a
specific U.N. mandate, were justified on
humanitarian grounds to prevent Saddam
persecuting Shiites in the south and Kurds in the

"To maintain this justification over what is now
literally a decade, one would need to demonstrate
that there are populations in danger of imminent
destruction and that this measure is strictly
necessary to avert that danger," said Marc Weller
of the Centre of International Studies at
Cambridge University.

"There has not even been a serious attempt over
recent years to make this argument," Weller said,
adding that pilots' rules of engagement had been
widened to include attacks on targets which
appeared to pose no threat to their patrols.

Washington and London have shown in the past that
they are prepared to act alone and without a
specific U.N. backing. In December 1998 they
launched four days of air strikes against Iraq to
punish Saddam for hindering some weapons

But this time, the stakes are higher.

"What may be at issue is major war," said Oxford
University's Roberts.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was less certain
than his cabinet colleague this week that there
was a green light for action. Straw, a lawyer
like Defence Secretary Hoon, said Washington and
London "don't have a mandate to invade Iraq now".

Iraq has argued for years that the Gulf War
ceasefire brought hostilities to a complete halt.
But a senior diplomat argued in a foreign policy
pamphlet this week that there was a powerful case
for active intervention to address security
threats and that sometimes Western countries
would have to break the rules.

"Among ourselves, we operate on the basis of laws
and open co-operative security," said Robert
Cooper. "But when dealing with more old-fashioned
kinds of states outside the postmodern continent
of Europe, we need to revert to rougher methods
of an earlier era -- force, pre-emptive attack,
deception," he wrote.


*  U.S. seeks $5 million for Iraqi opposition
CNN, 26th March

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The Bush administration
has set aside $5 million to bring Iraqi emigres
together in Europe to plan the governing of Iraq
after the departure of President Saddam Hussein,
officials said Tuesday.

Edward Walker, a former assistant secretary of
state and one of the main organizers, said he
expected the conference to take place in May at a
European venue yet to be decided.

The conference is separate from a gathering of
former Iraqi military officers which the main
opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress
(INC), plans to hold in Washington in April.

The U.S. State Department has notified Congress
of its intention to give the $5 million grant to
the Middle East Institute, the Washington-based
nongovernmental organization which is putting the
European conference together.

"This conference will enable Iraqi opposition
figures to discuss practical steps to make a
better future for the Iraqi people when a new
government takes over in Iraq," said a State
Department official, who asked not to be named.

It will discuss justice, public health and
education, eradicating corruption, the role of
the Iraqi military under new civilian leadership,
revitalizing the economy, returning Iraqi
families forced from their homes and tracking
down assets appropriated by Saddam Hussein and
his sons, the official said.

But the conference will not talk about how to
overthrow Saddam Hussein, who has been in power
since the 1970s and has survived two major wars
and several coup attempts.

The Bush administration says it is committed
to "regime change" in Iraq but has found little
support internationally for any military action
against the Baghdad government.

A congressional study released Tuesday said the
administration seems far from any decision on
using military force to topple Saddam and may
favor an internal coup rather than an overthrow
by dissident exiles.

"Increasing (U.S.) outreach to Iraqi former
military officers suggests that the
administration may want to return to the strategy
of promoting a coup d'etat rather than an
opposition insurgency or perhaps considering the
pursuit of both plans simultaneously," said
Kenneth Katzman of the Library of Congress'
Congressional Research Service, which examines
issues in depth for the U.S. Congress.

The United States has also had trouble agreeing
on a credible and willing Iraqi opposition group
to play the role played by the National Alliance
last year when U.S. air power drove the Taliban
out of power in Afghanistan.

The State Department official said for the first
time that the administration was working with the
Iraqi National Congress on its military
conference, which would talk about plans to
overthrow Saddam.

"We are fully supportive and would hope to fund
such a conference," the official said. The State
Department earlier said the conference was a
matter for the Pentagon, and a Pentagon spokesman
said the military was not involved either.

Adding to the confusion over U.S. relations with
the Iraqi opposition, the State Department has
invited four Iraqi groups to Washington for
separate talks on the future of Iraq.

The groups are the Iraqi National Accord, the
mainly Shi'ite Muslim Supreme Council for the
Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the two large
Kurdish groups.

Only the Kurdish groups are members of the INC,
an umbrella group which has had trouble asserting
its claim to be the most representative and
comprehensive opposition group.

A source close to the Iraqi opposition said he
expected members of Congress to oppose and block
the $5 million grant, scotching the State
Department's plans.
03/ 27/ixworld.html

*  Europe snubs US request to host summit of
Iraqi exiles
by Ben Fenton in Washington and Toby Helm in
Daily Telegraph, 27th March

EUROPEAN governments have rejected requests from
Washington to host an international conference on
the future of Iraq, amid growing opposition to
American plans to launch military strikes against

Although the US State Department yesterday
budgeted £3.5 million to pay for a gathering of
former Iraqi generals, opposition groups and
those who might form a post-Saddam government,
the conference still has nowhere to meet.

The opposition of European countries, with the
exception of Britain, to President Bush's stated
objective of removing Saddam Hussein from power
has prompted at least three countries to show
reluctance to play host to the Iraqis.

Officials involved in organising the conference,
which is due to take place in late May, admitted
that they were "getting a little desperate" for a

Germany has already rejected an initial approach
from Washington to repeat its diplomatic success
in hosting opposition leaders from Afghanistan in

The State Department had asked to use the
Marshall Centre in Garmisch-Partenkirchen near
the Austrian border to bring together the four
main Iraqi opposition factions and other smaller

The planned event is intended to increase
pressure on Saddam to comply with United Nations
weapons inspectors. But it has a practical
application too, to judge the strength and
credibility of the Iraqi exile delegation which
includes several high-ranking former army
The plan seems to have run aground due to the
reluctance of several European nations to be
associated with the American and British-led
plans for military action. The German government
has made clear that it has no plans to do so.

A spokesman for the foreign ministry in Berlin
dismissed suggestions that it was to play host
and curtly referred all inquiries to the

The spokesman refused to say if there had been a
direct approach to hold the conference from the
State Department, but a source in Washington told
The Daily Telegraph: "The Germans don't want us."

Similar responses are believed to have been
received from the Austrian government after
requests from Washington to hold the conference
in Salzburg, and from Spain in reference to
Barcelona. Officials in the foreign ministries of
both countries said they were unaware of any such

The Dutch government is considering a request to
hold the meeting in The Hague. The State
Department wants the conference held in Europe
partly to show that ditching Saddam is supported
by states other than America and Britain.


*  Yemen urges Arab states to lift embargo on

SANAA: Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh on
Tuesday urged Arab leaders meeting for a summit
in Beirut to unilaterally lift the UN sanctions
regime slapped on Iraq for invading Kuwait in

"We stress the importance of taking a collective
Arab initiative at the Beirut summit to lift,
unilaterally if needs be, the embargo imposed on
Iraq for 11 years," Saleh said as he left for the
two-day Arab summit that opens Wednesday.

"To continue to follow the embargo cannot be
justified, notably for countries that have just
signed free- trade accords with Iraq," such as
Yemen, he said.

The president also demanded "strong and clear
support for the Palestinian intifada so they can
recover their legitimate rights.

"The realisation of a fair and comprehensive
peace in the Middle East is dependent on the
application of UN resolutions relating to the
Arab-Israeli conflict, stipulating the withdrawal
from all occupied territories, the establishment
of an independent Palestinian state and the
return of refugees."

Saleh demanded that UN resolution 194 on the
right of Palestinian refugees to return to homes
lost in 1948 be clearly mentioned in the Saudi
Middle East peace initiative that will top the
agenda of the two-day summit.,36

*  Iraq and Kuwait strike reconciliation deal
by Brian Whitaker and Agencies
The Guardian, 29th March

In a move that could undermine US efforts to
build support for the overthrow of Saddam
Hussein, Iraq and Kuwait agreed yesterday to
settle their their long-standing differences.

The Arab summit in Beirut approved a
reconciliation plan between the two neighbours
and voiced its "total rejection of any attack on

The deal, reached on the sidelines of the summit
after mediation by Qatar and Oman, was sealed
with handshakes between the Iraqi presidential
envoy, Izzat Ibrahim, and the Kuwaiti foreign
minister, Sabah al- Ahmad al-Sabah, and reflected
in the final communique.

Arab leaders welcome Iraq's confirmation to
respect the independence, sovereignty and
security of the state of Kuwait and guarantee its
safety and unity of its land to avoid anything
that might cause a repetition of what happened in
1990," the statement said.
Iraq, which seized Kuwait in 1990 before being
driven out by allied forces, has previously been
ambivalent about Kuwait's borders and sover
eignty. In Baghdad, Salim al-Kubaisi, head of the
Iraqi parliament's foreign and Arab relations
committee, hailed the agreement as "a big step
towards foiling [American] hostile schemes
against Iraq"

The summit statement said Iraq must work with
Kuwait to resolve the issue of prisoners and
missing persons. More than 600 people disappeared
in Kuwait during the Iraqi occupation, and most
of them were last seen in Iraqi custody. Iraq has
always maintained it knows nothing about them.

The statement also called for the lifting of
sanctions against Iraq but added that UN
resolutions must be respected.

In Moscow yesterday, Russian and US diplomats
said they had reached a stronger consensus on a
revised list of goods that Iraq can import under
the oil-for-food programme.

This could pave the way for quick approval of a
new sanctions regime by the UN security
council. "Our hope is that the council will act
as soon as possible and it will act unanimously,"
said US assistant secretary of state John Wolf.

The Russian foreign ministry said talks
had "achieved significant progress".

The aim of the refined sanctions is to loosen
restrictions on civilian goods, while tightening
controls on military items. The main difficulty
up to now has been in defining "dual use" items,
which might be imported for civilian or military

*  The text of the case between Iraq, Kuwait
Arabic News, 29th March

The following is the full text of the two
articles relating to Kuwait and Iraq. They are "
the case between Kuwait and Iraq," and
the "threats of attacking certain Arab states"
stated in the final declaration approved by the
Arab summit in conclusion of its works on
Thursday in Beirut.

1.. On the case between Iraq and Kuwait.." the
Arab leaders welcome confirmation made by Iraq to
honor the independence, sovereignty and security
of the state of Kuwait and ensuring the security
and unity of its territorial integrity so as to
avoid the repetition of what happened in 1990

2.. The threat of attacking several Arab
states..," the Arab leaders discussed the threats
to attack certain Arab states especially Iraq.
And stressed their total rejection of striking
Iraq or threatening the security and safety of
any Arab country as being a threat to the
national security of all Arab states."

*  Lebanese-Iraqi free trade deal on verge of
by Dania Saadi  Lebanese Daily Star, 29th March

Lebanon and its former top trade partner, Iraq,
are expected in the coming days to sign a highly
anticipated free trade agreement eradicating
tariff and non-tariff barriers, Iraqi Economy and
Trade Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh said Thursday.

"The time is ripe to sign the agreement, and it
should take place in the next few days in
Beirut," Saleh said during the inauguration of
the Iraqi Trade Center in Beirut. The agreement
had faced many hurdles over the past year due to
Iraq's troubled ties with key Lebanese allies,
such as Kuwait.

Saleh's announcement comes on the heels of the
political entente achieved by Iraqi, Saudi and
Kuwaiti officials during the two-day Arab summit
in Beirut, which ended Thursday. Iraq formally
recognized Kuwaiti sovereignty at the summit in
an attempt to end the economic and political
isolation it has experienced since its invasion
of Kuwait in 1990.

Saleh, his Lebanese counterpart Basil Fuleihan
and Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri inaugurated
the center after a two-decade absence of an Iraqi
trade office, prompted by a bomb attack against
the Iraqi Embassy in Beirut in 1978.
Industrialists in Lebanon, who had long demanded
a free trade agreement with Iraq in order to
regain their primary export market, had
complained about Lebanese fears that such an
agreement would upset key Gulf states, Syria and
the United Nations. Prior to the UN-imposed
sanctions, nearly 25 percent of Lebanese goods
were sold to Iraq, which also pumped oil to
Lebanon through a major pipeline passing through

But the Iraq-Iran war, Iraqi invasion of Kuwait,
the Lebanese civil war and the severing of
political ties stemmed the flow of goods between
Iraq and Lebanon. Lebanon's ties with Iraq were
formally severed in 1994 due to the assassination
of a senior Iraqi opposition leader in Beirut.
They were almost fully restored last year when
Lebanon appointed a charge des affaire at its
embassy in Baghdad.

If Lebanon signs the free trade agreement with
Iraq, it would be the eighth country to do so,
after Syria, Egypt, Algeria, Tunis, UAE, Yemen
and Sudan. Iraq is determined to expand the scope
of its free trade agreements in order to bypass
the 12-year-old sanctions regime, which often
blocks contracts that are thought to include
materials used for weapons of mass destruction.

The free trade agreement, however, could fly in
the face of the United Nation's 1996 oil-for-food
program, which stipulates that the Iraqi
government strike contracts through a UN escrow

The program, which was brokered to ease the
sanctions imposed by the UN on Iraq following its
invasion of Kuwait, has failed to live up to the
needs of the Iraqi people.

"The free trade agreement has nothing to do with
the UN oil-for-food program, which is restricted
to government contracts, which in Lebanon's case
have reached around $1 billion so far," said
Saleh. "The free trade agreement would govern
trade exchanges between the private sectors in
Lebanon and Iraq, whereby any Lebanese product
can enter Iraq tariff-free as if it is being
traded among Lebanese governorates."

Saleh refused to say if Iraq would couple the
agreement by pumping Iraqi oil through the Iraqi-
Lebanese pipeline, which was ruptured during the
civil war.

"This issue is subject to discussion once the
pipeline linking Lebanon to Syria is repaired,"
said Saleh.

Iraqi officials had in the past offered to pump
oil to Lebanon at a discount rate, but the issue
of repairing the Lebanese-Syrian link has delayed
the matter. Iraqi oil used to be a windfall for
Lebanon's now damaged refineries in Zahrani and
Beddawi and Lebanon's second largest port in

Fuleihan pointed out that Iraq, Lebanon and Syria
were due to discuss harmonization of standards,
particularly since the three countries have
bilateral free trade agreements with each other.

Trade between Lebanon and Syria on industrial
goods is set to go down to zero this year.
Lebanon's free trade agreement with Iraq would
erode high tariffs imposed on some Lebanese agro-
industrial goods that carry tariffs as high as
200 percent in some cases. Also non-tariff
barriers such as import licenses would be
eliminated under the agreement, which falls in
line with the Arab free trade zone to be set up
by 2005.

"Lebanese goods entering Iraq will carry zero
tariffs provided they comply with the country of
origin rules," said Saleh.

The rules, which decide whether a product is made
in Lebanon, are set at 40 percent of the
product's value.

"But a 20 percent rate could apply to assembled
products," said Saleh.

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