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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. IRAQI/BRITISH-EUROPEAN RELATIONS * 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] INSIDE IRAQ * 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 week.] NORTHERN IRAQ/SOUTHERN KURDISTAN * F-16s Bomb Turk Kurd Rebels in Iraq - Kurd Sources * 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- Qaida] IRAQI/US RELATIONS * USA BLOCKING OVER 200 CONTRACTS TO SUPPLY MEDICAL AID TO IRAQ [complaint from UN Secretariat] * Iraq Invites U.S. to Discuss Pilot [Michael Speicher] * Checks on the American eagle [general round up of recent failures of US diplomacy from the Asia Times.] * 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 impunity.] IRAQI OPPOSITION * U.S. seeks $5 million for Iraqi opposition meeting * Europe snubs US request to host summit of Iraqi exiles IRAQI/MIDDLE EAST-ARAB WORLD RELATIONS * 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 signing IRAQI/BRITISH-EUROPEAN RELATIONS http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2- 2002141264,00.html * Prodi: Block US bombing by GEORGE PASCOE-WATSON 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 policy. 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 forever. 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 not?" Mr Blair flies to Crawford, Texas, next week for talks with President Bush — but he has no plans to warn him of EU wobbles. http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_556614.html * 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 Hussein. 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. http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/europe/news id_1902000/1902751.stm * 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 Iraq. 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. [.....] INSIDE IRAQ http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/st ory.jsp?story=277484 * 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 butcher." 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." http://www2.swissinfo.org/sen/Swissinfo.html? siteSect=143&eid=1078628 * 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 capital. 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. http://atimes.com/front/DC28Aa03.html * 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 destruction. 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 Iraq. 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 decades. 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. NORTHERN IRAQ/SOUTHERN KURDISTAN http://abcnews.go.com/wire/World/reuters20020323_1 95.html * F-16s Bomb Turk Kurd Rebels in Iraq - Kurd Sources 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 Newroz. 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 Turkey. More than 30,000 people have died since fighting between the PKK and Turkish troops erupted in southeastern Turkey in 1984. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,3- 250090,00.html * 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 1992. 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 Afghanistan. IRAQI/US RELATIONS http://hoovnews.hoovers.com/fp.asp? layout=displaynews&doc_id=NR20020324670.4_ec900003 e673e46b * USA BLOCKING OVER 200 CONTRACTS TO SUPPLY MEDICAL AID TO IRAQ 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 Interfax. 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. http://cgi.wn.com/? action=display&article=12656405&template=baghdad/i ndexsearch.txt&index=recent * 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 subject.'' 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 found. 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 1998. http://atimes.com/front/DC26Aa02.html * 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. http://www2.swissinfo.org/sen/Swissinfo.html? siteSect=143&eid=1085846 * 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 inspections. 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 destruction. "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 Warbrick. 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 pilots. 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 north. "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 inspections. 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. IRAQI OPPOSITION http://www.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/meast/03/26/iraq.opp osition.reut/index.html * U.S. seeks $5 million for Iraqi opposition meeting 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. http://portal.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml? xml=/news/2002/03/27/wirq27.xml&sSheet=/news/2002/ 03/ 27/ixworld.html * Europe snubs US request to host summit of Iraqi exiles by Ben Fenton in Washington and Toby Helm in Berlin 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 Baghdad. 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 venue. Germany has already rejected an initial approach from Washington to repeat its diplomatic success in hosting opposition leaders from Afghanistan in Bonn. 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 groups. 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 officers. 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 Americans. 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 plans. 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. IRAQI/MIDDLE EAST-ARAB WORLD RELATIONS http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow.asp ?art_id=4980430 * Yemen urges Arab states to lift embargo on Iraq 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 1990. "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. http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,36 04,675744,00.html * 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 Iraq" 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 purposes. http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/020329/2 002032912.html * 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." http://www.dailystar.com.lb/business/03_29_02_a.ht m * Lebanese-Iraqi free trade deal on verge of signing 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 Syria. 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 account. 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 Tripoli. 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. ------------------------------------------------- This mail sent through UK Online webmail _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk