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[casi] News, 6-12/4/02 (2)

News, 6-12/4/02 (2)


*  U.S. delays briefing U.N. on Iraqi arms
*  Blair issues stern warning to Saddam [Account
of Blair's speech in Texas. Wholly inadequate,
like all the other accounts I've seen. The full
text, posted on,,1-
260742,00.html, was sent to the list in the
Voices mailing for 8th April. It is essential
reading as the statement of a militant and deeply
felt ideology. Far from acting as a moderating
influence on Bush the whole thrust of the speech
is to push him, using the most appalling
flattery, out of any last remaining tatters of
isolationism into the fullest
possible ‘engagement'. Instead of seeing Blair as
Bush's ‘poodle', it might be more appropriate to
see Bush as Blair's rottweiler.
*  Is this man leading us to war with Iraq?
[Includes the extraordinary statement that
Saddam ‘is now immeasurably better armed than he
was in 1990' (see Pepe Escobar in the Inside Iraq
section). Also indicates what is clearly the
thinking of the US State Dept that Saddam has to
be replaced by someone who resembles him. Takes
the INC defectors at their face value. Doesn't
probe too deeply into the problems faced by the
INC in trying to find an alternative. Nor does it
mention the existence of the INA.]
*  The anthrax hunter [on Hans Blix. The article
admits, in passing, that Richard
Butler's ‘inspectors had passed on secrets to the
US and Israel', without pausing to consider how
utterly damning the statement is.]
*  UK cites Iraq's support for MKO as proof of
sponsoring terrorism London, April 11, IRNA [An
interesting detail, noticed naturally enough by
the Iranians, that the Foreign Office have
branded the Mujaheedin al-Khalq, the major
Iranian opponents of one third of the ‘axis of
evil' as terrorists. We wonder if, when Iran
comes into the cross hairs, the Supreme Council
for the Islamic Revolution will be branded as
*  Pentagon Responds to Iraqi Offer on US Pilot's
Fate [Speicher affair. The US want ‘anyone,
anytime, anywhere' access; the Iraqis want the
press and S.Ritter present as a guarantee of
*  U.S. military fuels up Mideast bases


*  Booming Baghdad in fear of US [Article
suggesting that life in Baghdad isn't so bad
these days. Though it hasn't much to say about
life in Iraq outside Baghdad.]
*  Iraq Diary, Part 7: All guided up with nowhere
to go


*  US-UK mutual admiration society set to oust
*  Iraq isn't our enemy [Comment by Richard
*  BBC under fire for airing Iraqi cancer
claim 'propaganda' [Daily Telegraph complaining
about the BBC reporting on possible effects of DU
on cancer. Great play is made of the Royal
Society investigation two years ago. But this was
exploring the possible effects on soldiers
handling DU in its solid state. The argument on
Iraq turns on the effect of inhaling it in fine
powder form after an explosion. The paper sneers
that no respectable - ie western - scientists
have examined the question, ‘forgetting' that the
Iraqi government had called for a full UN inquiry
and this was blocked by Britain and the US. So,
on the whole, this article is a pretty disgusting
piece of work.]
*  Protesters demand Saddam overthrow [recent
demo in London. They also demanded an end to non-
military sanctions]
*  Book casts doubt on SAS mission [Criticism of
Andy McNab's Bravo Two Zero].
*  Head to head: Action on Iraq [MPs pro and anti
war on Iraq. Peter Lilley, charged with
expressing the pro view, is interestingly
hesitant about it all]
*  German Pol[itician] Speaks on U.S. Relations
[Edmund Stoiber, complaining that the German
government is not sufficiently pro-American]


*  U.S. delays briefing U.N. on Iraqi arms
Miami Herald (from Washington Post), 8th April

UNITED NATIONS - Faced with a crisis in the
Middle East, the Bush administration postponed
plans here last week to launch a new campaign to
expose Iraq's latest attempts to acquire
prohibited chemical, biological and nuclear
weapons, according to U.S. and other Western

U.S. diplomats were planning to provide Security
Council members with an intelligence briefing
alleging that Iraq is developing banned missile
technology, but rising Arab criticism of U.S.
support for Israel's military offensive resulted
in a delay. Although U.S. officials say they
still intend to present their findings, it
remains unclear when the briefing will be


Administration officials declined to characterize
the new information they intend to present to the
council, but they said they have photographs and
other information showing that Iraq is seeking to
build new missiles capable of delivering chemical
and biological payloads farther than 93 miles,
the maximum distance allowed by the United

The briefing would have marked the first time the
United States had supplied the 15-member council
with classified U.S. intelligence on advances in
Iraq's secret weapons programs since U.N.
inspectors left the country in December 1998. It
was designed to bolster an American and British
effort to prove that Iraq has reconstituted its
deadliest weapons programs.


Hans Blix, the Swedish diplomat who heads the
U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection
Commission, which is responsible for conducting
inspections in Iraq, said he has reviewed
satellite imagery showing new construction on
installations destroyed by U.S. warplanes during
Operation Desert Fox in 1998.

Blix said he has also received intriguing tips
from friendly governments about Iraq's attempts
to rebuild its weapons programs.

But he said he can prove nothing until he has
inspectors on the ground. ''We cannot exclude the
possibility that they retained something from the
past or that they have produced something new,''
Blix said in an interview.

*  Blair issues stern warning to Saddam
by William Walker
Toronto Star, 8th April

WASHINGTON — British Prime Minister Tony Blair
has delivered his strongest message yet that
he'll back a U.S.-led military effort to oust
the "detestable" Saddam Hussein as leader of
Iraq's government.

Saddam "has to let the weapons inspectors back
in — anytime, anywhere, any place that the
international community demands," or face the
consequences, Blair said yesterday.

Even as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell
departed last night on a Middle East peace
mission, Blair's strong words reflected the
extent to which his host, President George W.
Bush, is already focusing on the next target in
the war on terrorism.

Blair emerged from a two-day meeting at Bush's
ranch in Crawford, Texas, to deliver a speech in
which he boldly ignored criticism in Britain —
including from his own Labour party members —
that he is foolishly and thoughtlessly being led
by the Americans into a war with Iraq.

Speaking at former president George Bush's
library at Texas A&M University, Blair told his
American audience that Britain "is not a half-
hearted friend" of the United States and never
will be.

Blair urged other foreign leaders to join him in
supporting an American-led wider war against
terrorism, to continue outside Afghanistan's

He said the Sept. 11 attacks on America should be
a lesson to the international community that
terror can spring up at any time from
dysfunctional regimes that support it, such as
the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Warning that "instability is contagious," Blair
argued the world is more interdependent than
ever, so a "hard-headed pragmatism" is required
to deal with regimes such as Iraq that still
harbour terrorist groups or weapons of mass

Iraq has refused to allow U.N. weapons inspectors
into Iraq since December, 1998. "The
determination must be not just to pursue those
responsible (for the Sept. 11 attacks) and bring
them to justice, but to learn from what
happened," the British PM said.

International leaders must be prepared to
confront countries that harbour terrorism, with
force if necessary, Blair said. Some of those
regimes considered terror threats can change on
their own, but Iraq "is a regime without a qualm
in sacrificing the lives of its own citizens to
preserve itself," he said.

Declaring "the regime of Saddam is detestable,"
Blair said when it comes to such intransigent
governments, "if necessary, the action should be
military and again, if justified, it should
involve a regime change."

Bush has also called for a regime change in Iraq
and warned the international community repeatedly
that inaction is not an option. It's believed the
United States will wait, however, to determine
whether the Israeli-Palestinian war can be calmed
before moving against Iraq.

"We will proceed, as we did after Sept. 11, in a
calm, measured, sensible but firm way," said
Blair, who was summoned by Bush to the ranch
summit to discuss Iraq, although the two also
spent much time on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

"But," added the British PM, "leaving Iraq to
develop weapons of mass destruction, refusing to
allow weapons inspectors back to do their work
properly, is not an option." In Baghdad, Saddam
issued a strong message of defiance, saying his
country would confront a U.S. military action
with all possible means, state-run Iraqi TV said.

"We will fight them with the reeds of the
marshes, with stones, missiles and airplanes and
with all that we have, and we will defeat them,
God willing," Saddam said.

Saddam also said Iraq would continue support for
the Palestinian intifada, Reuters reported.

"If Iraq had the chance, the ability, to provide
Palestinians with all they need to enable them to
defend their land, sanctuaries, themselves and
properties, it would do it," Saddam added.

Iraq said last month it had raised the amount
offered to the relatives of each Palestinian
killed fighting Israelis to $25,000 (U.S.) per
family from $10,000.,3604,681589,0

*  Is this man leading us to war with Iraq?
Guardian, 10th April

Saddam Hussein will go. George Bush has decided,
and Tony Blair, after commuting between positions
of support and relative caution through the
winter, has given his wholehearted backing.
Regardless of what Labour MPs say, or what
happens in Europe and the UN, it seems likely
that by the end of the year the greatly enhanced
missiles of America's arsenal will be raining
down on strategic sites throughout Iraq.

Whatever we think about the prospect of a war in
the Middle East at this extremely fragile moment,
the statements over the weekend from Crawford,
Texas, represent a considerable victory for Dr
Ahmad Chalabi, who is one of six members of the
leadership council of the dissident Iraqi
National Congress (INC), its chief strategist and
head of intelligence.

Chalabi goes unrecognised as he walks in the
spring sunshine in London, which is probably a
good thing because the last count put the number
of attempts on his life at nine. There have
probably been others he hasn't known about and it
is certain that there is never a moment when
Saddam's intelligence service, the Mukhabarat, is
not dreaming up a way of killing him.

Under this threat, Chalabi is relaxed and
purposeful. "I don't like to talk about attempts
on my life. The details are sordid - thallium,
rockets, car bombs, snipers. Many of our people
have been killed by thallium [poison]. There have
been many deaths in northern Iraq - that's what

He leads me through the foyer of an anonymous
office block in central London, talking about the
works of ancient Assyrian art looted by Saddam.
We take the lift up to a floor where there are
two security doors and more cameras than you
would expect. At length we come to another door
and are let into a study. There is a leather
suite, contemporary Iraqi paintings and two walls
of books which include the World of Parrots,
Plato, Isaiah Berlin and many volumes of history.
He spends a lot of his time in this room,
plotting, but when he really needs to get away he
vanishes into the stacks of the London Library
and reads whatever his eye happens to fall upon.

Chalabi, an MIT graduate with a PhD in
mathematics from the University of Chicago, is a
promiscuous and retentive reader. It shows in his
conversation which typically darts between number
theory, ancient cultures and current espionage
techniques. As he talks his mouth forms a
boomerang smile that reaches up to a pair of
glittering eyes.

In many ways he is like a character from 19th-
century fiction, improbably lit with
intelligence, charm and sensibility and at the
same time blessed with the darker gifts of the
spy and master of intrigue. Among the things he
does very successfully from the room where we
talk is to run a spy network across Iraq.

More than anyone he is responsible for alerting
the west to the build-up of weapons of mass
destruction since the Unscom inspectors left Iraq
four years ago. The information is not just
rumour; it is high-grade intelligence, concerning
plans, locations, expenditure and named

INC information is by far the best coming out of
Iraq, but the CIA under director George Tenet
won't have anything to do with him. And when
Chalabi saw Colin Powell in the distance at the
state department the other day, the US secretary
of state waved weakly and made off in the
opposite direction. Even now, as Bush prepares
for war with Saddam, the state department does
everything in its power to hinder Chalabi and
limit his influence.

He has some friends in Washington DC, principally
at the Pentagon and among the staff of the
Defence Intelligence Agency. According to the
former CIA officer Bob Baer, whose book See No
Evil was published last month, Chalabi's
influence is now stronger than it was because, as
Baer puts it: "He talks their language. He knows
how to make himself clear and knows what they
want to hear. He doesn't go round in circles like
every Arab you ever sat down with in the Middle

Of much greater importance are the defectors the
INC has smuggled out of Iraq and served up to the
Americans. Recently the product of these
debriefings has been hitting the desk in the oval
office. But it has been around for a while. In
1995 the head of military intelligence, General
Wafic Sammarai, defected with Dr Khidir Hamza,
head of the nuclear programmes who worked on
Saddam's bomb. Late last year a building
contractor and engineer - still unidentified -
came out with information that the DIA
called "spectacular".

Chalabi couldn't be more pleased by the outcome
of the Crawford summit. He is unabashed by his
part in engineering the current state of high
alert because of one simple reason: he is a
freedom fighter and wants nothing more than to
introduce democracy to his country. "We want a
government that respects human rights, based on a
constitution, free elections and a federal
structure. But it is an oddly revolutionary idea.
It leads to a great deal of disquiet among US
allies. That is reflected in the hordes of
organisations that talk to the state department
and CIA about repressive Arab regimes, chiefly
Saudia Arabia." He refers to the lobbyists who
are at pains to reinforce the orthodoxy that Arab
states can only be run by strong men and platoons
of psychopaths, armed with electrodes and

This is the third time I have met Chalabi. I am
always struck by the clarity and reasonableness
of his ambitions, but it is important to remind
oneself that he is a skilled manipulator who
spends his time thinking how to hasten a war
against a man who a) is now immeasurably better
armed than he was in 1990; b) will probably
strike at Israel the moment he is attacked; and
c) will use anything he can when the chips are
down - including dirty nukes and biological

As Chalabi admits, if Saddam can go out having
killed 100,000 Israelis, his ambition to live on
in Arab memory as a modern Saladin will be
achieved. The stakes are high, which accounts for
the pallor of British ministers and officials who
have seen some of the recent estimates of
Saddam's arsenal and his plans.

Chalabi feels that the single greatest mistake of
the western governments is that they haven't
communicated their fears and knowledge to the
public. Besides this, he also points out that the
US is bound by an act of congress to seeing
democracy introduced in Iraq.

Little happened after the bill was passed by
congress during the last Clinton administration
because of what Chalabi believes to be deep-
rooted prejudice. "It's an attitude which nearly
borders on racism. There is an infernal circle
working which says the Iraqi people must be
savages because they allow Saddam to rule them.
Ergo they cannot be democrats and Saddam has to
be replaced by another strong man.

"The myopia of the left when it thinks of Iraq is
principally caused by residues of third-worldism.
But they also think that because the US is
targeting Saddam, Saddam must have redeeming
features. Let me tell you, Saddam has no
redeeming features."

One of the defectors brought out by the INC last
year, General Abu Zenab of the Mukhabarat,
underlines this. With his stories of torture,
random arrests and the killings of thousands of
young men after the 1995 uprising, he evoked a
landscape of unending darkness for the American
team sent to debrief him. He spoke without the
slightest whisper of conscience or any sense, for
instance, that raping a woman in his custody was
not a perk of the job enjoyed by security boys
the world over. Another defector has recently
told how children have been tortured to gain
confessions from their parents.

But between now and any realisation of Chalabi's
dream almost certainly stands a war - and one
which could sprawl through the Middle East - and
then an arduous unification process involving two
Islamic sects (the Sunni and Shi'a), three racial
groups (Arab, Turkoman and Kurdish) and numerous
clans. As the former CIA director Richard Helms
advised: "Pay attention to the things that are
hundreds of years old - the religious sects and
the tribes." Three quarters of Iraqis are members
of one the country's 150 tribal clans.

Chalabi is a Shi'a but says he has no special
brief for the Shi'as and anyway does not harbour
ambitions of standing for office if and when
Saddam is overthrown. "This is about creating a
civil society, liberating Arab history from
despotism. The thing about a civil society is
that there are common ideas about how it should
be run - what people think of taxation, health
and education services. That is what binds them

This is the vision of a cunning and humane
optimist. It will be greeted with scepticism by
many, but it is extremely difficult to argue with
an Arab intellectual who wants nothing more than
to give his people the freedoms enjoyed in the

*  The anthrax hunter
by Julian Borger [interview with Hans Blix]
The Guardian, 10th April

Under one of the more likely scenarios for an
Iraq crisis this year, Saddam Hussein would allow
UN arms inspectors into his country and then play
hide and seek with them, giving up a few secrets
about his weapons programmes but concealing most.
In such a situation the Bush administration, by
current form, would be spoiling for a fight. Much
of the rest of the world would meanwhile be
pleading for patience. And in the middle would be
a professorial 73-year-old Swedish diplomat
called Hans Blix.
Blix is the UN's chief weapons inspector, and it
is not too much of a stretch to imagine a
situation in which his judgment over whether Iraq
really possesses weapons of mass destruction
could mean the difference between war and peace.
Sure enough, if Washington is determined to go to
war, no mere UN functionary is going to get in
its way. But if Blix insisted that Iraq was
cooperating, then the international legality of
military action would be highly questionable, and
even staunch allies such as Britain would have
queasy second thoughts. It might cause the Bush
White House to pause.

A key moment for Blix is looming next Thursday,
when an Iraqi delegation is due in New York for a
second round of talks on weapons inspections. If
the Iraqis refuse, the problem is out of Blix's
hands. Otherwise, Blix's seat at UN headquarters
is likely to get significantly hotter.

His predecessor, Richard Butler, a charismatic
and sometimes abrasive Australian who led the UN
Special Commission (Unscom) inspection team, was
pilloried in the Arab world and beyond when it
emerged that his inspectors had passed on secrets
to the US and Israel. Blix has kept a lower
profile but there are many hawks in Washington
ready to denounce him at the slightest hint of
appeasement towards Saddam.

The critics point out that he was originally a
compromise candidate suggested by two nations
sympathetic to Baghdad (Russia and France) and
that he had a history of being soft on Baghdad
when he ran the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA). They say his organisation - the UN
Monitoring, Verification and Inspection
Commission (Unmovic) will be "Unscom-lite", a
wishy-washy version of its predecessor, and point
to the fact that his inspectors have been
given "cultural sensitivity" training as evidence
of their readiness to buckle under Iraqi

Blix speaks with a caution honed by decades in
the UN system, but insists he is ready to get
tough. He says the "cultural sensitivity"
training will not make them suckers for Saddam's
tricks - it merely means they are less likely to
be obnoxious (a charge often levelled at
Unscom). "You have to behave yourself, but you
have to be firm. You have to do your job. We
certainly feel there is a right to undertake
inspections on a Friday, or on a holiday or
during the night, but we do not see any need to
undertake any unnecessary provocations."

Once the Iraqis agree to inspections he will
respond decisively, deploying the first of 230
trained inspectors in Baghdad in a few days. "We
would be there with an advance team very quickly.
Perhaps within a week we would have some people
going down there to establish contact with the
Iraqis," he says. "We know where we can hire
helicopters and where we can lease airplanes. We
are trying to prepare as much in advance of the
green light as we can."

At full strength, there will be about 100 Unmovic
inspectors in Iraq at any one time. With a
headquarters in Baghdad and bases in Basra in the
south and Mosul in the north, they could reach
any point in the country within hours. The search
for nuclear weapons will mainly be the IAEA's
job, but that is the more straightforward task,
as making atom bombs requires extensive
facilities and leaves telltale signs of
radiation. Unmovic will have the far harder job
of looking for chemical and biological weapons,
and missiles: anthrax or smallpox can be
cultivated in a cellar, and transported in
innocent-looking refrigerated trucks.

Blix's inspectors will visit suspect sites from a
list of 700 drawn up by Unmovic, on the basis of
information inherited from Unscom and
intelligence provided by national intelligence
agencies and defectors. They will use state-of-
the-art sensors to detect traces of chemical or
biological weapons. Then, within 60 days of these
preliminary inspections, Unmovic will present the
Iraqi government with the list of evidence it
needs to provide.

"It's not just 'let the inspectors in'. They have
to convince the inspectors that there is nothing
left," says Blix. In the case of anthrax, for
example, he adds: "Iraq states that it has
produced 8,500 litres, but there are no
production records to sustain that, so it's a
unilateral statement. Then they say they
destroyed it all in the summer of 1991, but there
are no protocols, no records, of the destruction.
It's an open issue. Maybe it is truthful, but
until evidence has been produced then I would
have to draw the conclusion that they could dry
it - and if the anthrax were dried, it could
still be viable."

If, at next week's meeting, Baghdad relents and
lets Blix in, his experience as head of the IAEA
will not be forgotten. He concedes that while he
was in charge, before 1991, the Iraqis concealed
an advanced nuclear weapons programme. "It's
correct to say that the IAEA was fooled by the
Iraqis, but the lesson was learned," he
says. "Because not seeing something, not seeing
an indication of something, does not lead
automatically to the conclusion that there is

*  UK cites Iraq's support for MKO as proof of
sponsoring terrorism London, April 11, IRNA

The British government for the first time has
cited Iraq's support for the outlawed Mujahideen-
e Khalq Organisation (MKO) as evidence of Saddam
Hussein's sponsoring of terrorism.

Foreign Office Minister Baroness Symons repeated
Wednesday that the government had "consistently
made it clear that at present we have seen no
definitive evidence of a link between Iraq and al-
Qaeda" network in Afghanistan.

But speaking during a debate on the Middle East
crisis in the House of Lords, she insisted
that "Iraq does, indeed have a long record of
supporting terrorism."

These included "support for Palestinian terrorist
groups and the activities of the MKO against
Iran, as well as the assassination of political
opponents," the Foreign Office Minister said.

Her comments come ahead of the UK government
producing a dossier of evidence based upon
assessments of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction
that is expected to try to justify the extension
of the US-led war against terrorism to Iraq.

In recent weeks, British ministers have
repeatedly cited Iraq's use of chemical weapons
against Iran and on its own Kurdish population as
well as its invasion of Iran and Kuwait to
demonise Saddam's regime.

Symons clarified that the objective of her
government was to"address the threats posed by
Iraqi weapons of mass destruction" rather than
specifically a regime change in Baghdad.

But she added that "we are all agreed it would be
best for the Iraqi people, for the security of
the region and for the world as a whole, if
Saddam Hussein went."

*  Pentagon Responds to Iraqi Offer on US Pilot's
People's Daily (China), 12th April

The United States has formally responded to an
Iraqi offer for sending a delegation to the
country to investigate the fate of a U.S. pilot
whose plane was shot down early in the Persian
Gulf War in 1991, a Pentagon official said on

The United States has formally responded to an
Iraqi offer for sending a delegation to the
country to investigate the fate of a U.S. pilot
whose plane was shot down early in the Persian
Gulf War in 1991, a Pentagon official said on

Baghdad sent an offer earlier this week to the
State Department, via the Red Cross, proposing
that a U.S. team visit Iraq to determine what
happened to Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher.

The Iraqi offer had several conditions, including
that the media cover any search team's activities
and that American Scott Ritter, a former U.N.
weapons inspector who has been critical of some
U.S. policies toward Iraq, be part of any U.S.

The Pentagon official said that Washington had
issued a tentative response to the Iraqi offer.
the reply is thought to reject the conditions
made by Baghdad, while demanding full U.S. access
to any sites, materials or personnel it requests.

The official said the United States would send a
search team only if Iraq can offer new

*  U.S. military fuels up Mideast bases
by Richard Valdmanis
Swissinfo, 12th April

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of
Defence says it is seeking an extra 1.4 million
barrels of marine diesel fuel for bases in the
Middle East, continuing a rate of military fuel
purchases for the region not seen since the
Persian Gulf war.

The supplemental tender for F76 grade marine
diesel fuel calls for the barrels to be delivered
to the Diego Garcia base in the Indian Ocean,
Star Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates, and
Guam in the Western Pacific between July 1 and
Dec 31.

The solicitation on Friday comes after the
Pentagon already purchased 7.4 million barrels of
fuel above and beyond normal contracts for its
Mideast bases over the past four months,
according to the Defence Energy Support Center,
the DOD's fuel buying wing.

This rate of fuel buying from the world's largest
single purchaser of petroleum mimics emergency
buys made after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 and
dwarfs supplemental purchases during the NATO air
war against Serbia in 1999.

The U.S. military's big appetite for oil, which
has underpinned strong petroleum prices in recent
weeks, has intensified speculation that the
United States may broaden its fight against
terrorism beyond Afghanistan, possibly to Iraq,
as tensions continue to boil in the region.

President Bush labelled Iraq as part of a three-
member "axis of evil" which includes Iran and
North Korea, and the White House and Baghdad have
been at loggerheads on the issue of United
Nations arms inspectors in Iraq to make sure the
country is not developing weapons of mass

The solicitation for marine diesel was issued
April 11, with bids requested by April 25, said a
DESC official. The solicitation is supplemental,
meaning it falls outside of the DESC's routine

The tender follows the DOD's supplemental
purchase of 5.6 million barrels of fighter jet
fuel in late February, and 1.8 million barrels of
supplemental fuel buys before that, all for
Middle East bases.

The volume of the supplemental tenders combined
adds up to 8.8 million barrels, or more than 9
percent of the DOD's worldwide bulk fuel
purchases during the year 2000, and is 47 percent
higher than worldwide supplemental purchases
during 2001, according to data provided by the

It matches supplemental tenders issued by the
military in 1990 for sorties over Baghdad, which
amounted to 8.1 million barrels, and dwarfs a
series of supplemental buys made in 1999 during
the U.S.-led NATO air war against Serbia -- the
last time the U.S. was engaged in significant
fighting -- which amounted to roughly 1.5 million


*  Booming Baghdad in fear of US
by Rageh Omaar
BBC, 6th April

Our car nudged its way through the familiar,
congested street.

The old dilapidated vehicles around us were as I
remember them from my last visit 18 months ago -
billowing out diesel fumes - and shrouding the
district in a grey, hazy film that catches you at
the back of the throat.

Shorja market - in the heart of Baghdad - its
same heaving self. Mothers in their Islamic
dress - their black abayas caught in the gentle
breeze, negotiating their way around the
different stalls.

The women trying at the same time to keep their
mischievous children under control. A comforting
scene. But there was something that wasn't
somehow right.

I couldn't put my finger on it - but something
was out of place.

I got out and walked around the narrow alleyways
of the covered market. Yes, I could still make
out the huge murals and statues of Saddam Hussein
on the main streets.

And yes, the market's porters still almost tear
your ankles without warning as they carry goods
from one end of the market to the other.

And then I looked a bit closer: chocolate of
every description in bulk, crate upon crate of
soft drinks; Fanta, Pepsi. And what is this? Diet
Coke? Grooming products - hair gel for goodness
sake. I asked about the prices.

I was stunned - 10p for an imported can of cola.
This was easily affordable for most middle class

The city has boomed since the last time I was
here 18 months ago. You can get just about
everything now - if you have the money.

It is a far cry from the Baghdad I knew at the
height of international sanctions - where the
government here was almost completely isolated
from the rest of the world.

Whilst the world looked elsewhere - concerned
with other crises, Iraq has used the time out of
the headlines to shed its image as THE regional

There are trade fairs virtually every week at the
major hotels. New agreements with its Arab
neighbours who are now exporting huge amounts of
goods to Iraq.

The authorities here are hoping that their
attempts to build alliances in the Arab world
will pay real political dividends. And it is
hoping the payoff will come now.

The minute I arrived back in Baghdad, friends of
mine wasted no time in seeking out my opinion.

Since 11 September hardly any foreign
correspondents have been allowed into the
country, such is the desire of the government
here to keep a low profile.

And with good reason. The increasingly serious
comments by senior officials in the American
administration - warning of military action
against Iraq if it does not allow UN Weapons
Inspectors back into the country - have been on
everyone's mind.

But it is been the warnings of what Secretary of
State Colin Powell has described as "regime
change" that has led to the greatest fears here.

I ran into one of my friends this week - I'll
call him Bilal. "Bilal, how afraid of US military
action are ordinary people?" I asked.

"They are afraid," he replied. "Ordinary Iraqis
can only carry on with their lives. There's
nothing they can do about the situation. We just
sit and wait for the future."

This is not a city where any sense of fear or
preparation on the part of the authorities is
evident. You don't see troops and equipment
moving through the city - or anti-aircraft units

But there is something in the atmosphere, the
mood of the place is different.

And it is the reason why the official newspapers
have their eyes on the turmoil between Israel and
the Palestinians.

Every day, numerous headlines and column inches
are given to what is referred to here as
the "massacre of Arab Palestinians".

The state papers, with increasing shrillness,
call on the Arab world to sever all ties to "the
Zionist Entity" - the term used to refer to

And the editorials constantly stress that
Israel's actions against the Palestinians are not
only wholeheartedly supported by the United
States - but are co-ordinated by Washington.

I have been to Baghdad during other crises - when
this city and country faced the threat of British
and American military action.

And at such times, driving through this city that
I have come to know, I have wondered what would
remain of the familiar and often beautiful
features of this low-built capital on the banks
of the Tigris River.

But 11 September changed the world. When one
listens to what is being said in Washington, one
can't help but feel that this year could be a
decisive one for Iraq - and its emotionally
exhausted people.

*  Iraq Diary, Part 7: All guided up with nowhere
to go
by Pepe Escobar
Asia Times, 12th April

UR and BASRA - It's absolutely impossible to get
close to the legendary ziggurat of Ur without a
letter of authorization. Ur, the Biblical city of
the Chaldeans, is the land of the prophet
Abraham, father of the three great monotheist
religions. What is presented as the ruins of his
house from around 4000 BC can also be seen near
the ziggurat.

According to the Holy Koran, Abraham was not
Jewish, but a true believer in Allah. Around 4000
BC, Abraham left Ur for what is now southern
Turkey, and then went to Palestine. Later he went
to Egypt, and then visited Arabia, where he
helped his son Ishmael reconstruct the Kaaba in
Mecca, built by Adam.

According to theologian Hamidullah, a Koran
translator, the personality and events in the
life of Abraham even inspired the Ramayana, the
great Sanskrit poem.

The ziggurat of Ur (Entemen-ni-Gur) is a massive
three-staged pyramid built by King Ur-Namu and
his son Dungi, "kings of Sumer and Akkad, kings
of the four corners of the Earth", around 2300
BC. The ziggurat was re-engineered by the famous
Nebuchadnezzar (Nabochodonosor) II. A monumental
staircase - rebuilt by order of Saddam Hussein -
allows the visitor to ascend to the second stage.
The facade of the ziggurat still bears traces of
American bombing during the Gulf War - or "Mother
of All Battles" as it's known in Iraq.

Nowadays the ziggurat is protected by a
checkpoint, with two sleepy guards battling giant
mosquitoes and equipped with a single, rattled
Kalashnikov. An isolated house occupies the
middle of the plain, in ruins, they say, due to
American bombing three months ago. The house is
about 1.8 kilometers away from the ziggurat.
There's an electricity plant 3km away. The strike
against the house might be another example of
American not-so-smart bombing. Or maybe someone
in the Pentagon believes the ziggurat is a cover
for a weapons of mass destruction site.

There's no need of a letter of authorization from
a "director" to visit the pyramids in Egypt,
Palmyra in Syria or Petra in Jordan. But in Iraq,
even historical monuments are a matter of
national security. There's a lot of visible
military activity around Ur. On the highway from
Nassiriya to Basra, there's a military post every
20km, with a single soldier equipped with the
same rattled Kalashnikov: not exactly a match for
the F-16s.

Basra - from where Sinbad sailed to Legend - is
in the heart of oil country. Iraq literally
floats over oil. One liter of gas costs only 20
Iraqi dinars (500 Iraqi dinars equals 40 US
cents). Twenty-five liters of gas is the same
price as a 1.5-liter bottle of Furat, a brand of
mineral water from Baghdad.

But Basra is not Dallas. Desperadoes and their
kids roam the streets. The foul smell of rotten
meat is pervasive. Trash is piled up everywhere.
The odd foreigner, Ukrainian or Algerian, works
in the spare parts business related to the oil
industry, and drowns his malaise in "cabarets"
straight out of a Fellini movie.

At the level of the ordinary citizen, Iraq works
through a logic of secrecy and fear. It's
sometimes possible to learn from a bazaar
merchant or from a teacher doubling as taxi
driver that the regime fears the possibility of
Israel exporting its "repression" to Iraq. It's
very easy to get arrested in Iraq: one just has
to go out in the street unaccompanied and film or
photograph one of a plethora of Saddam Hussein
portraits and murals: Koranic Saddam, Artistic
Saddam, Bedouin Saddam, Saladin Saddam, Rifle-
toting Saddam.

Even trying to photograph a cinema lobby - full
of posters of cheap American flicks - could be a
one-way ticket to jail: one is immediately thrown
out by a "security officer". The bazaar merchant
or the taxi driver will then tell us that every
foreigner is under suspicion of being a spy. To
show the merits of Iraq - and they do exist - is
even harder because of this pervasive paranoia.

We try to find the representatives of a French
non-governmental organization (NGO), Medecins du
Monde (Doctors of the World), in Basra: there are
only two nurses, one French, one Dutch. We learn
they are "on vacation in Baghdad". In Baghdad we
were told they were working in Basra, helping to
rebuild and re-equip hospitals.

At 16h30 practically every afternoon in Basra
there's a siren. Then another at 17h30. The first
day we are told a "Kuwaiti civilian helicopter"
violated Iraqi airspace. It's a joke, of course:
the reality may be an incursion by American F-
16s. The next day - after another siren - we
learn from an official Basra guide that the last
American bombing was actually five months
ago: "Military installations," he remarks. In
Baghdad, officials from the Ministry of
Information swear the bombardments happen every
day. A comprehensive tour of Basra reveals that
the visible anti-aircraft artillery is not
capable of even shooting pigeons - not to mention
F-16s. So much for the myth - built by the
Pentagon - of the "fourth strongest army in the

One cannot even go to a restaurant in Iraq
without an official guide from the Ministry of
Information in Baghdad. But this official guide
is little more than a tourist in Basra. One needs
a specialized Basra guide. Depending on the
occasion - a visit to a hospital, a visit to a
mosque, a visit to the Kuwait border - another
guide guides the Basra guide. One is soon in the
surreal situation of being a single foreigner
surrounded by a horde of minders, like a rapper
or a mafia don.

Basra guides are particularly effective in
guiding one nowhere. Dr Jawad al-Ali is a
consultant physician at the Saddam Hospital. He
is responsible for statistics concerning patients
with leukemia - caused, they say, by American
bombing with depleted uranium. Dr Ali manages to
give us the address of a family with four cases
of leukemia, living in a heavily bombed area near
Basra. But the guide says a visit to the family
is a no-go: we don't have an authorization from
the Ministry of Health.

We go to a primary school, trying to check the
state of the educational system in southern Iraq.
The guide even knows the director of the school.
But we cannot visit: we don't have authorization
from the Ministry of Education. The justification
for all this: "We are surrounded by enemy
countries" (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and most of all

Iraq officially ends about 20km south of Basra.
There are only two guards on the Iraqi side of
the border, a barrier, a small billboard in
Arabic, and a "Stop" sign in Arabic and English.
On the other side of an absolutely void 1km no
man's land between Iraq and Kuwait is the point
where America decided to end the Gulf War. To
cross this no man's land one needs to address a
message to the International Committee of the Red
Cross, which is then relayed to the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs. The reply might take weeks.

On the outskirts of Basra, we find a former
soldier who fought the eight-year Iran-Iraq war.
He is weary. Most of his friends died in battle.
He still carries a bullet in his left shoulder.
Looking at the smoke and fire breathing from the
oil and gas fields in the distance, he decides
not to mince his words: "The Arab world is not
good. This government is no good. Before the war,
Iraq was good. Iran now is better."


tml?in_review_id=545811&in_review_text_id=51177 5
*  Blair needs to learn a lesson about trust
by Peter Kellner
London Evening Standard, 8th April
{The article distinguishes between ‘the Galloway
gang', who are always going to be opposed to the
Crusade against Evil, and ordinary decent Labour
MPs who just want to be sure that nothing will be
done illegally, ie without the support of the UN.
Mr Kellner assures the latter that that is also
Tony's position so everything's OK. He forgets
that we went to war against Serbia without UN
permission. And that ‘UN permission' means
permission of the UN Security Council, which
means in this case, of Russia, China and France.
Is that likely to be forthcoming? Is Mr Bush
likely to care?]

*  US-UK mutual admiration society set to oust
by Rime Allaf
Daily Star (Lebanon), 8th April

LONDON: "Good job," said President George W. Bush
to his weekend guest in Crawford, Texas, after
the two had just finished addressing the media.
As he shook hands with Prime Minister Tony Blair,
Bush looked satisfied, as indeed he should be,
for in spite of the mass of advice he has
received from his own people in the past few
days, Blair heeded none other than Bush's.

After weeks of vocal opposition to British
participation in an attack on Iraq, many here
were hoping that Blair would use the weekend
summit to warn the American president against
such an action, and to persuade him that it would
risk inflaming the whole Arab world even more,
especially in the absence of evidence against
Saddam Hussein.

With the Israeli incursions into Palestinian
towns, critics found this not only gave Blair
more reason to control America's urge to start
another war in the region, but that it was also
time to contain the double standards applied by
the superpower. In pleading or downright blunt
tones, the media cautioned the prime minister.

A telling example of the ever more irate public
opinion was a direct warning from the hugely
popular tabloid, The Mirror, traditionally a pro-
Labor daily. On Friday, with a gigantic front-
page headline condemning Bush (and
his "collaborator" Blair) of being a "hypocrite,"
journalist John Pilger accused Bush of only
asking Israelis for restraint so that he
could "lay his own war plans."

Asking why Blair condemns Iraq as he remains
silent on "Israel's current bloody and illegal
rampage through Palestine," Pilger declares in a
long and scathing attack: "It is time Tony Blair
came clean with the British people on his part in
the coming violence against a nation of innocent
people. As the crisis in Israeli-occupied
Palestine deepens, Tony Blair will meet George W.
Bush today to plan an attack on another country,

The perceived subservience of Blair toward his
American ally was hinted at repeatedly before the
prime minister traveled to a summit about which
many have misgivings. Pilger considers Blair will
be "in admiring attendance" while other papers
have described him, again, as Bush's "poodle."

Sarcasm and anger have both been mounting in
Britain. Blair's refusal to allow a discussion on
the Middle East as Parliament convened last week
to pay tribute to the Queen Mother is far from
forgiven, and most of the media was sympathetic
to the MPs who chose to stay away that day. In
fact, having been denied a chance to speak in
Westminster, some voiced their frustrations
directly to the media or, rather, in the media.

Veteran Conservative MP Sir Patrick Cormack
simply wrote a letter to the editor of The Times
on Thursday, expressing concern about the Middle
East and blaming Ariel Sharon for both the
intifada and the present carnage. "His response
to terror, based on his Beirut excesses in 1982,
has been that of the terrorist, not of the
statesman." Cormack hopes that Blair and Bush
will make it plain to Sharon that "the current
Israeli regime deserves to stand condemned in the
eyes of all who call themselves civilized."

Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker explained in The
Independent on the same day why he boycotted the
tribute session while "meltdown is now in sight"
in the Middle East. Not taking sides, Baker
argued for British involvement "in helping to
persuade President Bush to rein in the Israeli
government and put pressure on the Palestinians
to prevent further suicide bombings."

But as has been the case for the past few weeks,
the prime minister has chosen to ignore his
people, his Parliament, his Cabinet, and his
media. After standing alongside Bush in total
agreement about the Arab-Israeli conflict and
Iraq, he knows that he must still, somehow, sell
the Bush policy to all of them.

It is unlikely that much praise will be awaiting
Blair in Britain, when he returns just in time to
participate in the Queen Mother's funeral on
Tuesday. As of this writing, reactions to the
joint press conference held on Saturday have not
yet emerged, and there will be many after Blair's
speech on Sunday. Judging from local feelings in
the past weeks, Blair is likely to encounter a
storm of hostility when he faces his home crowd.

Even setting aside the Iraq and Palestine issues,
Britons have grown tired of their prime
minister's constant support of America, and
particularly for its president. There is now a
sense of fatigue about the intensity of
the "special and unique relationship," and many
were probably alarmed to hear Bush's admission
that he and Blair "have a common reading of

Many Britons, who had hoped Blair would convince
America to rein in Israel's Palestine incursion,
partly credit him for Bush's sudden turn-about
Thursday when he said "enough is enough."
Although this would be ignoring the divisions
within the American administration and the
apparent momentary success of the State
Department, the perception that Blair had some
influence on Bush's sudden call on Israel to
withdraw is in fact a double-edged sword. For if
he does have influence on the American president,
Blair obviously chose to use it selectively.

With regard to Israel, and following Bush's claim
that "we share a vision of two states, Israel and
Palestine, living side by side in peace and in
security," Blair was confident in his support,
especially of Israel. "I think that most people
in Israel will realize that they don't have two
greater friends in the world than the United
States of America or Britain."

As for Iraq, if there were any doubts before the
Crawford summit, there are none now: Blair gives
his full backing to America's plan to remove
Saddam Hussein. In praise of his support, Bush
said: "The thing I admire about this prime
minister is he didn't need a poll or a focus
group to convince him of the difference between
right and wrong." While these words were
certainly meant as a compliment, Britons will
surely interpret them as Blair's casual dismissal
of their opposing stance.

But for all the unity displayed by the two
leaders, Blair did differ slightly in his
approach to justifying and defining the removal
of Saddam Hussein, seeming anxious to clarify
that "how we approach this, this is a matter for
discussion. This is a matter for considering all
the options." Blair was clearly addressing his
own home public, trying to imply that no decision
had yet been taken on the actual logistics. Even
more indicative of his concern over British
resistance, in spite of the bravado he had tried
to show so far, Blair made a point of mentioning
the UN, which obviously did not concern
Bush. "There is a reason why United Nations
resolutions were passed, nine of them, calling
upon him to stop developing weapons of mass
destruction," insisted Blair just before the
meeting ended.

Blair will have many more opportunities to
explain himself on Iraq, and on where he plans to
take his country. While it seemed easy for him to
agree to everything George W. Bush said in
Crawford, he will be facing a much less pleasant
mood when he returns to confront the wrath of a
good number of Britons. When Bush said "history
has called us into action," they will probably
want to know who, exactly, is "us" and what,
exactly, is this "action.",6903,680182,

*     Iraq isn't our enemy
by Richard Ingrams
The Observer, 7th April

According to a report in the Guardian last
week, 'Mr Blair is genuinely puzzled that anyone
should be opposed to an opportunity to topple
what he regards as one of the world's worst
regimes.' The reference is, of course, to Saddam

As one who has always believed that it is a
mistake to underestimate the eccentricity, if not
the insanity, of most leading politicians, I am
not surprised by Mr Blair's genuine puzzlement.

Others, less conscious of the physiological
peculiarities of our leaders, may find it
alarming that our Prime Minister appears to think
it perfectly normal and, indeed, the right thing
to do to go round the world toppling nasty
dictators wherever you find them. Saddam one day,
then Mugabe, Gadaffi, the chappie in North Korea,
all of them ripe for toppling.

In the old days, politicians tended to go in for
this toppling only if it was considered that the
person to be toppled posed some kind of threat to
us. Even then you had to proceed with caution.
But this is not the way the Reverend Blair
thinks. Others, including many members of his
party, point out that Saddam, for all his
beastliness, poses no threat to the people of the
British Isles. We go on with our daily business
quite unconcerned about the Iraqi dictator.

Blair, however, cannot understand this attitude.
He is, as the Guardian reports, quite genuinely
puzzled by our apparent reluctance to join him in
a spot of toppling (along with our American

If we are not alarmed about Saddam, perhaps we
all ought to be more alarmed by Blair, possibly
even concluding that if anyone is due to be
toppled he himself should come top of the list.
04/ 07/ixhome.html

*  BBC under fire for airing Iraqi cancer
claim 'propaganda'
by Chris Hastings and Charlotte Edwardes
Daily Telegraph, 7th April

THE BBC has been accused of peddling propaganda
on behalf of Saddam Hussein after it broadcast a
report highlighting discredited claims that
Allied shells used in the Gulf war caused cancer
in Iraqi children.

Leading scientists have condemned the news item
by Rageh Omaar, a BBC correspondent, in which he
reported claims that there was a direct link
between depleted uranium ammunition used in the
conflict and an increase in childhood cancer.

Mr Omaar did not say that he was subject to any
reporting restrictions, even though he was
accompanied by Iraqi officials at all times.

The nature of the report, which was aired on
BBC1's 10 O'Clock News last week, has left the
BBC open to speculation - strongly denied by the
corporation - that it was trying to curry favour
with the Iraqi regime in order to get access to
the country in the event of war.

Peter Hain, the Foreign Office minister, last
night said: "Any British journalist, especially
one working for the BBC reporting from Iraq, must
surely be aware that they are doing so only
because the Iraqi regime wants them to. Objective
journalism in Iraq is well-nigh impossible."

Mr Omaar, speaking from a hospital in the
southern Iraqi city of Basra, stated that Iraqi
doctors reported a 20-fold increase in all
cancers since the end of the Gulf war. He quoted
Iraqi claims that such cases were non-existent
before the outbreak of the conflict in 1991.

The news item carried harrowing footage of
children suffering from eye and brain cancers,
and focused on the case of a six-year-old girl
who is suffering from cancer of the cervix. The
report, however, was not based on any new
scientific research by the BBC and did not
interview any Western scientists.

While Mr Omaar made a passing reference to the
fact that the United States and Britain deny any
link between depleted uranium and cancers in
children, he did not state that this view is
based on a body of independent scientific

Last year the Royal Society concluded that any
link between depleted uranium and cancer was so
minimal that it was almost non-existent. The
research was based on soldiers who were in direct
contact with the material.

Dr Richard Guthrie, an expert in chemical warfare
at Sussex University, said that it was far more
likely that any childhood cancers were caused by
Saddam's use of chemical weapons against his own

"Scientists knew in 1986 that there was going to
be a rise in childhood cancer cases in southern
Iraq," he said. "The reason for that was because
during the Iran-Iraq war the Iraqi government
used sulphur mustard gas in the southern area and
that has a proven link to these types of cancer."

Mr Omaar made no mention of this possibility.

Dr Guthrie also questioned the BBC's motive for
reporting on an issue that had been addressed by
scientists two years ago. He said: "I find it
hard to understand why the BBC should tackle what
is essentially an old story."

Prof Brian Spratt, who chaired the Royal Society
inquiry into depleted uranium, said:

"Claims that there is an increase in birth
defects and childhood cancers in Iraq are
impossible to measure as there is no comparable
data from before the war. At the moment,
therefore, this 'evidence' is anecdotal."

Dr Michael Clark, a spokesman for the National
Radiology Protection Board in London, said he
thought the report was "not exactly objective".
He added: "It is difficult to get proper
information from Iraq, in particular in relation
to depleted uranium. Therefore the BBC's claims
are not helpful to understanding the real issues."

Vin Ray, the deputy head of news-gathering at the
BBC, denied that a deal had been done with Iraq
to gain access to the country in case of war. He
said: "I can categorically refute that. The BBC
is the most regularly banned media organisation
from Iraq because of what we report. While it is
true to say they don't let us in often, we would
not compromise our standards."

*  Protesters demand Saddam overthrow
Ananova, 7th April

Some 1,200 people have marched through central
London demanding the overthrow of Iraqi President
Saddam Hussein.

But the protesters, drawn from mainly Iraqi
communities across Britain stressed that any
military action against the dictator must not
harm the people of Iraq.

The 1,200-strong demonstration, organised by the
Iraqi Human Rights Division called for sanctions
against Iraq to be lifted and members of Saddam's
regime to be charged with committing crimes
against humanity and arrested if they leave the

Organiser Yasser Alaskary said the protesters
wanted to send a clear message to Texas where US
President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony
Blair are meeting to discuss possible strikes
against Iraq.

He said: "Bush has made the world into black and
white, saying you're either with Saddam Hussein
or you're with us.

"We're saying we are with the Iraqi people.
Whatever is in their benefit we would support.

"We want concerted effort against Saddam Hussein
directed at him - only at him - and not at the
Iraqi people. We won't give Bush a blank cheque."

*  Defiant Blair attacks critics of his Iraq
by Brian Groom, Political Editor
Financial Times, 9th April
Worth retaining this statement of Mr Blair's
philosophy on political debate: "People will make
their judgments when we make our judgments."

*  Book casts doubt on SAS mission
Scotsman, 9th April

A BOOK which challenges the foundations of one of
Britain's most famous modern war stories was
being published today.

The Real Bravo Two Zero paints a different
picture of many of the events on which the
account of the legendary SAS mission behind Iraqi
lines are based.

Speaking to Iraqi witnesses about the doomed
mission, author Michael Asher heard different
versions of dramatic firefights described in the
book and of the SAS patrol's attempted escape.

Bravo Two Zero, which tells the story of a failed
SAS mission during the Gulf War, was a best-
selling title for patrol leader Andy McNab.

Seven members of the troop were either captured
or killed - only Chris Ryan managed to escape.

Mr McNab, who was captured on the mission and
released at the end of the conflict, was
unavailable for comment.

Mr Asher, a former SAS reservist, spent five
weeks in Iraq investigating what happened during
the Gulf War.

He managed to find people who claimed to be
witnesses and traced what he claims was the
actual taxi hijacked as the soldiers fled.

Mr Asher, an Arabic speaker, said: "I just wanted
to find out the truth."

Mr McNab wrote that the soldiers hijacked a
yellow New York taxi with chrome bumpers and
white-walled tyres whereas Mr Asher claims it was
a white Toyota with neither of these features.

Iraqi witnesses dispute Mr McNab's accounts of
gunfights at the border crossing and then several
miles further on, in which dozens of Iraqi
soldiers were allegedly killed.

According to local witnesses, there were no Iraqi

Although escorted by two Iraqi guides during his
visit, Mr Asher said he made it clear that he
would not be introduced to people by them to make
sure a false story was not being set up. "I am
absolutely certain that this wasn't set up by the
Iraqi government," he said.

*  Head to head: Action on Iraq
BBC, 10th April

 As Tony Blair faces tough questions over his
support for possible military action against
Iraq, BBC News Online speaks to two MPs with very
different views on the prospect of confronting
Saddam Hussein.

Former Conservative cabinet minister Peter

Essentially, if there is evidence that Iraq is
behaving in a way that is a threat to the peace
of the region, the stability of the world and the
interests of the UK, then that justifies taking

But we should not take action just because the
United States tell us to do so.

I suspect that if we see Saddam Hussein being
intransigent about having weapons inspectors from
the United Nations and failing to meet the UN
resolutions, that is the evidence.

Toppling Saddam Hussein could well be a
consequence of action against Iraq but it
probably should not be the final objective

 I am not an expert on the legal position on what
authority is needed before the US and UK take any
military action but ultimately one cannot be
vetoed by Outer Mongolia or whatever.

Toppling Saddam Hussein could well be a
consequence of action against Iraq but it
probably should not be the final objective.

Instead, any plans should concentrate on dealing
with weapons of mass destruction and on whether
there is any involvement in terrorism.

In any case, I do not think we should be
precipitate about Iraq.

The need for thorough preparation and proof of
the need of action goes hand-in-hand, hopefully,
with calming down the situation between Palestine
and Israel.

Resolving that conflict cannot be a condition of
action against Iraq but it would be preferable.

Labour MP Alice Mahon:

First of all, why do we want to go to war against

That question has to be answered - we have Mr
Blair, along with the US, sidelining the United
Nations, suggesting that military action is

I do not believe it is and I think we are now
seeing the majority of voters think the same.

Two people cannot start yet another war in the
Middle East on some shaky evidence, if they have
it, from inside the CIA.

 Where is the evidence of Iraq building up
weapons of mass destruction?

Scott Ritter, one of the last weapons inspectors
to come out of Iraq in 1998, said Iraq was a
broken state.

Iraq has not since the Gulf War attempted to
attack another state and every one of Iraq's
neighbours, except Israel, does not believe it is
a threat.

Mr Blair is the prime minister of the United
Kingdom and Mr Bush is president of the United
States. They are very important people.

But they do not constitute the international
community. We have got the United Nations which
does that.

Two people cannot start yet another war in the
Middle East on some shaky evidence, if they have
it, from inside the CIA.

Anybody watching what is going in the Middle East
must be appalled. This is not an equal struggle,
the Palestinians' country has been occupied.

I absolutely deplore the loss of life whether it
be through the suicide bomber or the helicopter

But Ariel Sharon has only been given a limp slap
across the wrist and a lot of us would be a lot
more convinced about US policy in the Middle East
if it took a stronger stance against Israel.

*  German Pol[itician] Speaks on U.S. Relations
Las Vegas Sun, 10th April

MUNICH, Germany (AP) - The German government has
neglected its strong ties with Washington since
Sept. 11 by focusing on internal debates over its
role in the war on terrorism, the conservative
challenger in national elections said in an
interview ahead of a visit to the United States.

Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber said Germany
should move to unify Europe as a strong U.S.
partner. Squandering energy on internal debates
only highlights the absence of a cohesive
European foreign policy, he said.

"What I blame the government for is that it is
doing nothing to make the Europeans speak with a
strong unified voice on security and partnership
issues," Stoiber told The Associated Press in an
exclusive interview Tuesday.

"We have to make up our minds: Do we as Europeans
want to be a strong partner? And here Germany
must take a decisive role to make Europe a strong
partner of the Americans."

The diverging European views have both political
and military consequences, especially as the
growing gap in military technology places
additional strains on the trans-Atlantic
relationship, he said.

"Basically, the Americans will only involve us in
their decision-making if we are a strong
partner," Stoiber said.

Although he has been a fixture in German politics
for 20 years, Stoiber's two-day visit to New York
and Washington will be his first foray into the
international arena since becoming a candidate
for chancellor three months ago. On Friday, he
will meet President Bush for the first time.

At home, the 60-year-old Stoiber is campaigning
on Bavaria's economic successes, despite the
embarrassing bankruptcy of the Kirch media
empire's core unit, which drew heavily on loans
from the Bavarian state bank. Stoiber maintains
that Germany, once Europe's economic engine, is
now falling behind.

But in the United States, Stoiber's focus will be
on foreign policy. His message: Chancellor
Gerhard Schroeder's government has undermined
bilateral ties, in particular by debating what
Germany's role would be if the United States
expands its war on terrorism to Iraq.

"I believe that Germany is making the mistake ...
by holding a public debate on things that America
is considering but has by no means made official
policy, instead of trying to get the Europeans
behind the idea that in the first place Baghdad
must be pressed to comply with the U.N.
resolutions," Stoiber said.

"That is a point where trust is being
squandered," he said.

Stoiber's picture of Germany as a staunch
American ally closely mirrors former Chancellor
Helmut Kohl's cozy relationship with the United
States - and with President Bush's father, who
gave the nod to German reunification in 1990 on
the strength of his trust in Kohl.

Stoiber's criticism has angered Schroeder's
administration, which has repeatedly expressed
solidarity with the United States and faced a
confidence vote last fall over sending German
troops to participate in the war on terrorism.

Matthias Machnig, a Schroeder campaign adviser,
accused Stoiber of damaging Germany's reputation
by talking the country down.

"I believe that Gerhard Schroeder has made one
thing clear after Sept. 11, that he stands in
solidarity with the United States," Machnig
said. "He has supported all American initiatives
and measures."

During the interview, Stoiber drew frequently on
Kohl's legacy, underlining conservatives' belief
that a campaign financing scandal that made the
former chancellor a political liability has been

Suggesting a more modest German profile
consistent with Kohl's model, Stoiber said the
lead on resolving conflicts like the Israeli-
Palestinian fighting belonged to the United
States, due primarily to its military

He cited the failed European Union mission to
Israel last week, when a delegation led by Javier
Solana returned home after being denied a meeting
with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

"This makes Europe look smaller than it is - if
not to say ridiculous," Stoiber said.

"Without military strength, which naturally only
the Americans can muster, there's no way to force
peace in the Middle East. The Europeans are
overextending themselves if they try to go it

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