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News, 27/411/5/02 (1) IRAQI-UN RELATIONS * Annan Reports Progress in Iraq Talks * Security Council vote on Iraq sanctions delayed IRAQIS OUTSIDE IRAQ * Saddam agents in Australia: exiles * The exiles [A long article. I have given extracts on the British mandate and on politics among the Iraqi exile community.] IRAQI OPPOSITION * Iraqi Opposition Group Halts TV Broadcast * Harassing the Iraqi National Congress [Extracts. Some still rather vague background details suggesting that the shutdown of the INC radio was a result of State department opposition. Apparently the SD wants to support the Middle East Institute, but its director has declared that Mr Bush¹s Œaxis of evil¹ phrase is ridiculous. Since the INC is supposed to include the Iran-backed SCIRI, we may assume that¹s what they think too but in the Land of Free Speech you don¹t get grants for saying what you think ...] * US action on Iraq slowed by rift over whom to support [Fuller account of the problems surrounding support for an Iraqi opposition and on the conference that was much talked about a few months ago, which was supposed to show that there was a coherent and credible alternative to Saddam. Not stressed here that it was supposed to consist mainly of Sunni military men (or was that another conference?). We learn in passing that the INC advocate Œ a constructive policy on the Arab-Israeli conflict¹. What, we wonder, does that mean, and is it likely to enhance the groups democratic credentials within Iraq?] THE PRAGUE (DIS)CONNECTION * Newsweek: Czech Officials Say Story That Sept. 11 Hijacker Atta Met with Iraqi [Its taken quite a long time for this to get out, though it should have been obvious six months ago to anyone following these newsmailings.] * Czechs assert Atta met with Iraqi spy [Its still just an assertion that he was in Prague in April 2001, still no apparently convincing evidence.] CULTURAL MATTERS * Baghdad's 'flourishing' art scene [But why, if Iraq ³is the 'cradle of civilizations', once home to the Sumerians, the Assyrians, Abbasids and others² should Iraqi artists boast of going to Europe to learn to paint, especially since the best European art of the century has been an effort to recover the values that were current among Œthe Sumerians, the Assyrians, Abbasids and others¹.] * British Museum welcomes Iraq library project IRAQI-MIDDLE EAST/ARAB WORLD RELATIONS * Oman: Baghdad will not be bombarded from our lands * Moussa: Iraq will return back archives and documents for Kuwait TRADE * Iraqi oil shipments to start tomorrow: Official * U.S. probes cigarette sales to Iraq IRAQI-UN RELATIONS http://cgi.wn.com/?action=display&article=13404590&template=baghdad/indexsea rch.txt&index=recent * Annan Reports Progress in Iraq Talks The Associated Press, 4th May UNITED NATIONS (AP) ‹ U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan reported progress during meetings with Iraq's foreign minister that ended Friday and said he hopes at the next round of talks within a month Iraq will have ``some positive news.'' The three-day meeting focused on Iraq's disarmament and the return of U.N. weapons inspectors after three years, a key demand of the U.N. Security Council and especially the United States, which has accused Iraq of trying to rebuild its banned weapons programs and of supporting terrorism. ``We did move forward,'' Annan told reporters after briefing the Security Council on the talks. ``I hope once they've reported back ... they can take some decisions and come back to us with some positive news.'' Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri called the talks ``useful,'' saying ``We continued to debate in the same spirit of cooperation and positive spirit which characterized our meeting last time in March.'' While there was no breakthrough on the return of weapons inspectors, Annan said there was a ``thorough discussion'' of disarmament issues by technical experts for the first time since the inspectors left in December 1998. Council diplomats said the Iraqis asked a lot of serious questions about the definition of terms and the practicalities of inspections. ``If these series of meetings will advance what we want ‹ which is to get the inspectors back in ‹ then that's a good thing and we support the secretary-general,'' said U.S. deputy ambassador James Cunningham. ``But there wasn't any breakthrough made this time. We'll see what happens.'' Annan said Iraq still wants answers to questions it raised about ending U.S. and British enforcement of ``no-fly'' zones over northern and southern Iraq and U.S. threats to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Iraq wants to know ``if the inspectors were to go in, would it make any difference'' he said, alluding to U.S. and British policy. Annan said he told the Security Council that these questions can only be answered by ``council members,'' without naming the United States and Britain. But the United States and Britain didn't reply to a letter from Annan soliciting comment from the council to the 19 questions Iraq raised in March, and Cunningham reiterated Friday night: ``We're not going to provide any other answers.'' Asked whether questions about U.S. threats and the no-fly zone were hindering real progress on returning the inspectors, Annan said, ``We will know about that when they come back next time.'' The secretary-general said he wanted the next round of talks within a month ‹ ``I don't want to drag this thing out'' ‹ and the meeting could be in New York or elsewhere. Diplomatic sources said Vienna was a possibility. Sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait cannot be lifted until inspectors certify that Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons have been destroyed, along with missiles to deliver them. But arms inspectors left Baghdad ahead of U.S. and British airstrikes in December 1998 and Iraq has barred them from returning. Iraq maintains it has fully complied with U.N. resolutions. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow.asp?art_id=9385446 * Security Council vote on Iraq sanctions delayed Times of India (from AFP), 9th May UNITED NATIONS: A vote in the Security Council that had been expected this week to reform UN sanctions against Iraq has been delayed for a few days at the request of Russia, council diplomats said Thursday. Noting that Russia is a co-sponsor of a draft resolution to free up the flow of non-military goods to Iraq, one diplomat said: "We are not expecting any problems." The draft resolution, also sponsored by the United States, said the reforms would take effect on May 30. Russia and the United States are among the five permanent members of the council, which agreed Monday on a new mechanism for vetting imports under the United Nations oil-for-food programme in Iraq. "The Russians are awaiting final instructions from Moscow," the diplomat said, noting that President Vladimir Putin was busy this week with ceremonies commemorating the end of World War II. Two other council diplomats said a vote was expected early next week. The diplomats also said that Syria wanted to postpone the vote on the reforms, which have implications for its cross-border trade with Iraq. But Syria, a non-permanent member of the council, has no power of veto and cannot block its activities. IRAQIS OUTSIDE IRAQ http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/04/27/1019441313786.html * Saddam agents in Australia: exiles by Paul Daley The Age (Australia), 28th April Agents of Saddam Hussein's secret intelligence service, the Mukhabarat, are among asylum seekers being smuggled to Australia and other Asia-Pacific countries, according to Iraq's exiled opposition. Recent high-level defectors from Mukhabarat have told the Iraqi National Congress - an umbrella organisation of Iraqi opposition groups established by the American Central Intelligence Agency in 1992 - that Iraq gleans its best intelligence from agents posing as asylum seekers across the world, including Australia. The defectors have claimed that Mukhabarat agents posed as asylum seekers in order to spy on dissidents in their host countries and to raise cash for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program. In an interview with The Sunday Age, Nabeel Masawi, a senior congress member who has procured several high-level defections from Mukhabarat in recent years, stressed that the vast majority of Iraqi asylum seekers were genuine and deserved compassion. "We've discovered that a part of the Mafia that smuggles Iraqis into Australia from Asia is operated and funded by the Iraqi regime, by Iraqi intelligence," he said. "We've recently been able to make a link between a network that begins in Baghdad under the direct supervision of the intelligence service, and extends to Jordan and all the way to South-East Asia, bringing people to Australia." Mr Masawi says it is part of an Iraqi strategy to place Mukhabarat agents among large numbers of dissidents who are seeking asylum in countries such as Australia. "I have to emphasise that the very vast majority of Iraqi asylum seekers are genuine refugees who have suffered oppression and deserve compassion. But all you need to do is have five agents in the middle of 100 genuine refugees and you've got your network, basically. "We don't suspect, we know some of them are in Australia. We have had a recent (Mukhabarat) defector who said: 'The best intelligence we gather is through Iraqis seeking asylum. You know the advantage of places like Australia and New Zealand - they are so out of the way, they are so outside everyone's focus, people can go there and gain legitimacy and then travel again and do work on Saddam's behalf.' " Since September 11, the Iraqi National Congress has also focused on links between Iraq and extremist cells - mainly radical Islamic rebel militias - throughout the world, including South-East Asia. "South-East Asia, they have active cells there - Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia," Mr Masawi said. "They have different levels of agents ranging from people who work illegally on undermining the UN (arms embargo and cash for arms embargo) program, all the way to people who have the training to carry out other violent operations. "There is definitely an agreement between Iraq and some of these radical groups . . . The Iraqis provide the training and the facilities in exchange for getting a job done when they want it done." Despite Australia's growing concern about Middle Eastern asylum seekers, neither the Federal Government nor Australian intelligence agencies have had any significant contact with the congress, which says it could help them to determine genuine asylum seekers. "We could be of help here. We could help Australia and other countries establish who is not a genuine case and who might be using asylum as a cover for something else," Mr Masawi said. http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,707379,00.html * The exiles The Guardian, 30th April [.....] In fact, the modern state called Iraq is a British creation. Before the first world war, the fertile triangle around the rivers Tigris and Euphrates was simply three provinces in the Ottoman (Turkish) empire, and was known in Europe as Mesopotamia. When the Ottoman empire entered the war on the German side in 1914, Britain sensed a threat to its interests in the region - British trading companies already dominated local commerce - and quickly landed troops on the coast several hundred miles south of Baghdad. After a protracted campaign, the British finally captured all of Mesopotamia by late 1918. Two years later, the League of Nations declared the territory a British mandate: in effect a colony, occupied by British troops and largely administered by British officials as a single entity called Iraq (the ancient Arab name for the region), with independence promised in the long term. The British ended up staying for more than 30 years. Officially, Iraq became independent in 1932, but the reprimands were swift and fierce whenever Iraqi governments challenged London. Oil had been discovered north of Baghdad by a British company in 1927, and Iraq was considered a strategic point on the route to India. In 1941, Britain invaded Iraq again when it seemed that a new regime might tilt towards Germany and Italy in the second world war. As late as 1948, the British tried and narrowly failed to impose a treaty on Iraq allowing them to use air bases in the country, in time of war, for the next 25 years. [.....] But while Britain was safer than the Middle Eastern countries also favoured by Iraqi dissidents, the smart west-London hotels, mansion-block flats and cool pavements they frequented, along with the rest of the capital's growing Arab population, were not completely beyond the reach of Saddam's secret police. "I remember vividly that you would wear a carrier bag on your head with two holes in it for your eyes when you demonstrated outside the Iraqi embassy," says a former Kurdish activist who, like many exiles with friends and relations still in Iraq, would prefer his personal details to be left unstated. "The embassy would be filming you through the windows." The Iraqi government also used some of the students on its scholarships as spies, and set up a London surveillance network based at a "cultural centre" on Tottenham Court Road. There were sporadic assassination attempts against dissidents: in 1995 Latif Yahia, a defector previously employed by the Iraqi government as the official double of Saddam's brother, alleged that he had been attacked with knives by five men speaking Arabic while stuck in traffic on the capital's Edgware Road. In recent years, though, according to the Iraqi Community Association and other exile groups in Britain, the machinery of the dictatorship has been running down at home and abroad, gummed up by sanctions and its own internal flaws. Harassment of dissidents has dwindled. The "cultural centre" is long gone. Instead, Iraqi expatriates have become vulnerable to subtler torments. "There's depression and nostalgia," says Al-Ali. "People always talk about an Iraq that never was. They speak about the cafes and the cultural life and walking by the Tigris. Even the early days of Saddam, when things were supposedly better." Two years ago, a study of the health of Iraqis in London found that over half of them were "concerned" about their mental wellbeing. "You talk to someone in the pub who's a medical consultant and earns £200,000 but he's not happy," says Handrin Marouf, director of the Kurdish Information and Advocacy Centre in north London. "Back home, it's easier in some ways. Our cities are smaller. An easy, stress-free life does not exist in London." Nowadays, a growing minority of Iraqis in Britain live away from the capital. Recent arrivals seeking political asylum have been officially "dispersed" to other cities: according to Marouf, there are 3,000 Iraqi Kurds in Hull alone. The differences between such refugees and the longer-established exiles can be considerable. While there is some mixing between Kurds and other Iraqis - Marouf and Hasan know each other - Marouf says that Kurdish culture in Britain is "quite separate and closed". The latest Iraqi immigrants, moreover, are less likely to be professionals, political activists or Anglophiles, and more likely to be average citizens who are simply sick of sanctions and the growing difficulty of everyday life in Iraq. They are sometimes distrusted by their fellow exiles for enduring the regime as long as they did. And then there are the frequent and sometimes bloody feuds in Iraq, encouraged by Saddam, between the political parties still operating in areas of the country not wholly under his control; Iraqi community events back in London have been known to end in perilous arguments. Finally, there is the waiting. In the Lebanese writer Hanan al-Shaykh's recent novel Only in London, an Iraqi divorcee recalls endless mornings with her London flat full of her husband's male friends smoking and discussing the day's news about Saddam in the Arab newspapers. Everyone is in their best clothes, as if attending an important meeting in some ideal Iraq before, or after, the dictatorship; everyone has an unrealistic scheme for deposing the regime. Unemployment is surprisingly high nowadays - almost a third of Iraqis in Britain are out of work - for an immigrant group known for its professional aspirations. "People get paralysed," says Al-Ali. "They get quite bitter about the government here, and about their own government." Audiences at the London meetings of Iraqi political parties can often be counted in mere dozens. Likewise, confidence in America and Britain's current plans for deposing Saddam is not strong; every exile I spoke to, without exception, doubted whether he would be replaced by a more benign leader, if he was replaced at all. When I asked why, people gave cynical shrugs and thin smiles, and cited the west's history of supporting the dictator during the 70s and 80s, and its continuing friendship with authoritarian regimes elsewhere in the Middle East that reliably supply oil. "Many people believe that Saddam is still their [America and Britain's] man," says one exile who, as is common, does not want his name attached to any anti-Saddam opinions. The current sanctions against Iraq are perceived as having benefited Saddam's close supporters - who have become a "nouveau riche" elite of "war profiteers", according to a recent Iraqi visitor to the country - as much as they have weakened his dictatorship. Similarly, there is little enthusiasm for bombing or an invasion - as opposed to western help for a genuine national uprising against Saddam. Iraqi exiles are generally reluctant to mention the dangers that any Anglo-American military action would bring to friends and relations still in Iraq, but the concern is there, usually unspoken, whenever you ask them about the future. [.....] IRAQI OPPOSITION http://www.voanews.com/article.cfm?objectID=AA50D355-BEEB-4073-AF017382EE20D 108&Title=Iraqi%20Opposition%20Group%20Halts%20TV%20Broadcast&CatOID=45C9C78 D-88AD-11D4-A57200A0CC5EE46C * Iraqi Opposition Group Halts TV Broadcast VOA News, 2nd May An Iraqi umbrella opposition group in exile has halted its satellite television broadcast into Iraq, saying the United States has not released funds for the project since February. The London-based Iraqi National Congress or the INC says it is forced to stop the Liberty TV project, which it calls an important element in efforts to break Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's "stranglehold" on the media in his country. The INC says U.S. money has been withheld despite Bush administration assurances of "full confidence" in the group and its TV project. The State Department says the United States continues to support the INC, including its TV project, but that funds had to be stopped because of problems with the group's accounting practices. It says it will be happy to fund the broadcasts but only under conditions that insure the appropriate use of money. The U.S. State Department and the INC also differ about arrangements for a proposed conference of hundreds of Iraqi opposition figures, including former military officers. http://www.iht.com/articles/56717.html * Harassing the Iraqi National Congress by Jim Hoagland International Herald Tribune (fromThe Washington Post), 6th May [.....] This was no isolated event. The INC television shutdown came immediately after the White House rebuffed Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage's effort to funnel $5 million to the Middle East Institute, a Washington think tank working to promote rival Iraqi groups. Armitage had failed to notice that Ned Walker, the head of the institute, had publicly scorned President George W. Bush's "axis of evil" metaphor as "ridiculous." A State Department spokesman was quick to deny to me that this remark and other recent strong criticisms of Bush's Arab-Israeli policy by Walker, who was director of the Near East bureau in the Clinton administration, resulted in the withdrawal of the grant for a series of conferences that were to have been run by Walker's institute. The institute also receives funds from Saudi Arabia, which opposes the INC specifically and Bush's approach to regime change in Iraq in general. [.....] The funding cutoff to the INC, an amazingly detailed and fussy set of audits that the inspector general's office was instructed to perform on the Iraqi group, and State's abrupt cancellation of the Walker grant are matters of public record. State Department animus toward the Iraqi National Congress, much of it generated by old and festering quarrels between the group's leaders and the CIA over toppling Saddam Hussein, is also an established reality. Since Congress passed the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998 to force the Clinton administration to fund the INC as the core of an effective Iraqi opposition, the Near East bureau has worked to undo the intent of the legislation while avoiding responsibility for doing so. [.....] http://news.ft.com/ft/gx.cgi/ftc?pagename=View&c=Article&cid=FT3NILGDCQC&liv e=true&tagid=ZZZINS5VA0C&subheading=middle%20east%20and%20africa * US action on Iraq slowed by rift over whom to support by Michael R. Gordon Financial Times (from The New York Times), 10th May WASHINGTON, May 9 ‹ Despite repeated vows by President Bush to force Saddam Hussein from power, Bush administration officials are still at odds over which Iraqi opposition groups the United States should support, American officials and Iraqi opposition leaders say. Administration officials generally say that American military action would be needed to oust President Hussein and that Washington could not count on a coup in Iraq to do the job. But the question of which Iraqi insurgents to back is a critical issue because the United States wants to avoid a power vacuum in Baghdad after any American-led military campaign to topple the Iraqi leader. Iraqi insurgents would be expected to play an important role in any United States military strategy, since they could provide a base for American military operations, help identify targets, conduct sabotage against the Hussein government and perhaps carry out broader attacks. But as planning for a possible military campaign proceeds, the State Department, Pentagon and C.I.A. remain divided over which insurgents to back. The issue came to the fore recently when the State Department sought to arrange a conference of Iraqi opposition leaders that would have given only a limited role to the leadership of the Iraqi National Congress, an umbrella organization of opposition groups that is headed by Ahmed Chalabi, a former banker whose headquarters are in London. State Department officials say the organization has failed to establish itself as a unifying force for the opposition and has been less than meticulous with its financial accounting. The group also has poor relations with the C.I.A. But it is supported by Defense Department civilians, members of Vice President Dick Cheney's staff and Richard N. Perle, an influential adviser to the Pentagon, who insists that the organization's leadership is best equipped to coordinate Iraqi opposition groups. After weeks of behind-the-scenes maneuvers, the State Department finally postponed its plans for the conference. Financing for the Iraqi National Congress has also been a sore point. Late last week the State Department informed the organization that it was prepared to provide a short-term grant of about $1.1 million a month on the condition that a State Department official directly oversee its expenditures. But the group informed the State Department this week that it was not prepared to accept the grant on those terms because the funds were insufficient and the procedure it proposed was too encumbering. The group says it has run out of money and has stopped its four-hour daily satellite television broadcasts to Iraq, ended production of its newspaper and cut off salaries. At the heart of the debate are the starkly different assessments within the Bush administration about Iraqi opposition groups. The Iraqi National Congress has argued that an Afghan-style military campaign involving heavy American airstrikes, but only modest American ground forces, can work in Iraq and insists it is willing to carry out operations, which is music to the ears of civilians in the Defense Department. Mr. Perle, who heads the advisory Defense Policy Board, says that the group should be supported because its platform calls for a democratic Iraq, an end to Iraqi efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction and a constructive policy on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Mr. Perle contends that the failure to stir up opposition to Mr. Hussein in past years is not a result of the group's shortcomings but of halfhearted American support. The C.I.A., however, has viewed the group as ineffectual while the State Department has sought to establish ties with a broader array of groups, an approach that it insists provides a better basis for a new government if Mr. Hussein is ousted. The dispute over the conference began in February, when the State Department approached the Middle East Institute, a private group headed by Edward Walker, a former assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs. David Mack, the vice president of the institute and a former senior State Department official, was asked to develop a proposal for a conference that would grapple with the problems of governing Iraq if Mr. Hussein were removed from power. The plan he presented called for a conference of Iraqi opposition leaders to be held this summer in Europe. Working groups of Iraqi opposition leaders and experts would also be established to focus on issues like restoring the oil industry, the military, public health and education. The idea, Mr. Mack said, was not to set up a formal government in exile but to "lay the building blocks for a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq." The State Department earmarked $5 million for the project. As Mr. Mack set about organizing the conference, it was clear that the leadership of the Iraqi National Congress was not to play a dominant role. In preparation for the conference, a small group of Iraqi opposition leaders were invited to a planning session in Washington. The nine who attended included representatives from the two main Kurdish factions as well as the Iranian National Accord, an opposition group that includes former generals and former officials of the ruling Baath Party. The groups are members of the Iraqi National Congress, but were invited individually. The leadership of the Iraqi National Congress was limited to a single representative. Mr. Chalabi arrived for the session but left when the rule on a single representative was enforced. He arranged for another member to represent the group. Soon, however, the Bush administration discovered that the plan for the conference had a glaring, political vulnerability. Mr. Walker, of the Middle East Institute, had criticized Mr. Bush's statements about an "axis of evil" that consists of Iraq, Iran and North Korea. It did not help that the institute accepts contributions from wealthy Saudis and Qataris. Staunch conservatives on Capitol Hill moved to block financing. Yielding to the complaints, the State Department informed the Middle East Institute recently that it was no longer going to hold the conference. But that has left the Bush administration without an agreed policy that Iraqi opposition groups can support. It has also put the American effort to plan Iraq's future on a slower track. The State Department insists it has not abandoned the idea of a conference. The department plans to begin by organizing some working groups with the help of a variety of private organizations. The working groups could meet as soon as next month. "We are going to start this slower and hopefully build to critical mass" an administration official said. THE PRAGUE (DIS)CONNECTION http://hoovnews.hoovers.com/fp.asp?layout=displaynews&doc_id=NR200204281680. 2_9ddb0009c7c4db47 * Newsweek: Czech Officials Say Story That Sept. 11 Hijacker Atta Met with Iraqi Hoover's (Financial Times), 28th April NEW YORK, April 28 /PRNewswire/ -- Czechoslovakian government officials have quietly acknowledged that they may have been mistaken about a supposed meeting at the Iraqi Embassy last April in Prague between suspected Sept. 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi agent, Newsweek reports in the current issue. U.S. intelligence officials now believe that Atta, the hijackers' ringleader, wasn't even in Prague at the time the Czechs claimed. "We looked at this real hard because, obviously, if it were true, it would be huge," one senior U.S. law-enforcement official tells Newsweek. "But nothing has matched up." Still, Pentagon analysts are still aggressively hunting for evidence that might tie Atta or any of the other hijackers to Saddam Hussein's agents, reports Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff in the May 6 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, April 29). The story of the meeting came from the Czech Intelligence Agency, the BIS, when agents looked at surveillance photographs taken from the Radio Free Europe building in Prague. RFE started round-the-clock video surveillance in 1998, after it began broadcasting anti-Saddam programs into Iraq. The security measure was taken because Tom Dine, RFE director, says U.S. officials warned him that "the Iraqis were plotting to blow us up." The cameras caught a heavyset Middle Eastern man hanging around the RFE building taking pictures and he was sometimes accompanied by a thinner, taller man. The Czechs identified the heavier man as Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, an Iraqi diplomat widely believed to be a spy. The thinner man was never identified. In late April 2001, al-Ani was again caught casing the building and was expelled from the country. After Sept. 11, a Czech intelligence source inside Prague's Middle Eastern community saw Atta's picture in the media and reported that he had seen the same person meeting al-Ani at the Iraqi Embassy five months earlier, Isikoff reports. On closer scrutiny, the evidence became less convincing. Although Atta had indeed flown from Prague to the U.S. in June 2000, the Czechs had placed the alleged meeting in April 2001. The FBI could find no visa or airline records showing he had left or re-entered the United States that month. "Neither we nor the Czechs nor anybody else has any information he was coming or going [to Prague] at that time," says one U.S. official. http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/128/nation/Czechs_assert_Atta_met_with_Ira qi_spy+.shtml * Czechs assert Atta met with Iraqi spy by Brian Whitmore Boston Globe, 8th May PRAGUE - Czech officials insist that Sept. 11 hijack suspect Mohamed Atta met an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague last year, dismissing the contentions of US officials to the media that the meeting might not have taken place. In October, Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, the Czech Republic's top law enforcement official, announced that Atta met with Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, an Iraqi diplomat believed to be an intelligence officer. But last week US officials said they no longer believe that Atta met with Ani, eliminating the only known link between Saddam Hussein and the terrorist attacks. ''What's been said, we stick to it,'' Libor Roucek, a Czech government spokesman, told the English-language newspaper The Prague Post in yesterday's online edition. Gross said Atta visited the Czech capital on June 2, 2000, and April 8, 2001, and met Ani during the second visit, just five months before the attacks. He also did not rule out that the two met on other occasions. The assertion that one of the ringleaders of last September's terrorist attacks huddled with an Iraqi spy has raised questions about whether Baghdad established ties to Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network. The content of the alleged meetings between Atta and Ani is not known, but some US officials seized on the announcement as evidence that Saddam Hussein might have been involved in the attacks. During a visit to the United States in November, the Czech prime minister, Milos Zeman, told CNN that the two discussed a plot to attack the headquarters of the US-funded Radio Free Europe. Zeman later backed off on his statement. Ani, who is widely believed to be a member of the Mukhabarat, Iraq's feared intelligence service, was expelled from the Czech Republic on April 22, 2001, for ''activities incompatible with his status as a diplomat,'' a typical euphemism for espionage. Authorities in the Czech Republic caught him prowling around and photographing offices of Radio Free Europe in downtown Prague, and some Czech officials suspected that he was plotting terrorist attacks against US interests in the region. On June 2, 2000, Atta arrived in Prague from Germany, where he was a student, and flew to the United States the next day, Gross said. He visited the Czech capital again on April 8, 2001, when he was alleged to have met Ani, and returned to the United States three days later. But last week, news reports quoted US officials as saying that Atta was not in Prague in April 2001, casting doubt on the meeting. ''We have no evidence of him having met al-Ani in April of 2001 as had been previously speculated by the Czechs,'' Reuters quoted an unidentified US official as saying last week. ''There is no evidence that he left the United States or came back to the United States.'' The official said Atta was in Prague in June 2000 and may have also been in the Czech capital in 1999, but ''there was no evidence of who he might have met with.'' CULTURAL MATTERS http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/middle_east/newsid_1957000/1957596.st m * Baghdad's 'flourishing' art scene by Kim Ghattas BBC, 29th April When you think of Iraq today, you think of sanctions, dying children and weapons of mass destruction. But amidst the misery, the sadness and bitterness of what Iraq has become after 12 years of embargo, there is a peculiar ray of light and hope in the streets of Baghdad - art. Despite the harsh living conditions, art seems to have flourished since the sanctions hit Iraq in 1990. Baghdad now boasts several dozen private galleries, up from the two galleries that existed in the city before the embargo along with several state-owned galleries including the Saddam Center for Fine Arts. Thriving art scene "Before the embargo, artists painted for the sake of art. They produced maybe three to four paintings a year and often chose not sell them," said Ghayath el Jazairi, director of the al Inaa' gallery which opened in 1994. "Today, an artist can produce up to 20 paintings a year because he has to support his family. But the quality has not diminished to the expense of quantity. "On the contrary, it has given artists more experience, they are experimenting with different techniques and styles," Ghayath el Jazairiel added. In the 1930s when the Iraqi monarchy was put in place, artists were sent to study in Europe. They are now regarded as the pioneers of Iraqi art. Before the embargo, artists were provided with material free of charge and no conditions were put on their work. Iraqi artists are still well known around the world today and are thought to be the best in the Arab world. "There is great variety in art in Iraq, in every family there is creation and every week there are openings of exhibits. Even today, art is a tradition here," said Francis Dubois, resident representative of the United Nations Development Programme and an aficionado of Iraqi art. After all, he says, this is the 'cradle of civilizations', once home to the Sumerians, the Assyrians, Abbasids and others. "[Iraqi artists] have no paper, no pens, no colours. They suffer, and still they create and it's really good. Comfort is the enemy of art and creation, it's the difficult living conditions that create art," he said. Difficult conditions include a lack of good quality paint or brushes, colours that are rare and lots of recycling and bartering between the artists - a canvas for a red oil paint or a thin brush for a canvas. But the galleries keep receiving more paintings from new, promising artists. "We're part of the war and embargo generation, we have our own style I think," says painter Kareem Rissan who is slowly becoming famous outside Iraq. After graduating in 1984 from the Fine Arts faculty, Mr Rissan was conscripted in the army in 1990, just as the Gulf War was starting. In his own way, he carefully documented his time on the front. "Like a poet or a writer, I kept a diary, I painted my view of the bombing, of the destruction of oases. I still have the drawings," he said. Kareem Rissan incorporates natural material in his paintings such as wood and twigs and uses mostly earth colours. "I used to be inspired by figures from epics, from the Iraqi mythology. Now, it's all symbolic representation of ideas, life, the earth, death," he said. A lot of Iraqi paintings are quite modern in inspiration, somewhere between abstract and figurative. There are no state propaganda-style paintings in the private galleries. The colours vary, from very dark browns and blacks to bright blues and reds. Surprisingly one can even see naked bodies, something unthinkable in neighbouring countries. Iraq is a relatively secular state, especially compared to countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran. In Islam, representation of the face or human bodies is forbidden, restraining artists in some ways. Nobody is happy today, most of my friends have left the country. But with my gallery, I'm trying to make people happy This unrestricted Iraqi world of art is what artist Wadad Orfali has experienced her whole life. Married to a diplomat, she lived in Europe and exhibited her paintings around the world. After she returned to Baghdad, she opened her own gallery in 1983. Today, she still owns a gallery and every day of the week, the Orfali gallery offers a different cultural activity from concerts of classical Arabic music, lectures about art, psychology and screening of old movies. There is a bit of a faded glory feel to the gallery and even to the distinguished 72-year-old lady who sits in the garden of her gallery, smiling to everybody. "Nobody is happy today, most of my friends have left the country. But with my gallery, I'm trying to make people happy," says Wadad Orfali, as she waits for her guests who are coming for a concert. "Art, it's in our blood, my dear. Civilization is in our blood and nothing will change that." http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/middle_east/newsid_1978000/1978571.st m * British Museum welcomes Iraq library project by Lawrence Pollard BBC, 10th May The British Museum in London has agreed to help the Government of Iraq with a major cultural project. Iraqi archaeologists and academics are planning to recreate the earliest library of the ancient world and want to use material held in London. Despite the United Nations sanctions on Iraq, the museum says it will co-operate if permission is forthcoming from the UN. Iraq is hoping to recreate the famous library of the Assyrian King Ashurbanipal, who in the 7th century BC ruled an empire stretching from Egypt to Persia. His capital and the library were at Nineveh, the modern city of Mosul in northern Iraq. Ashurbanipal's library was the first indexed and catalogued collection in history, and consisted of clay tablets written in what's called cuneiform script. Some 25,000 fragments are held in London and Iraqi archaeologists have asked for replica casts to be made of the most important, as the centrepiece of the new library. The British Museum has agreed in principle, saying it sees the matter as a purely cultural exchange but two major obstacles remain. One is that the museum would have to be paid for making the copies but no monetary exchange is allowed with the Iraqi Government under the terms of UN sanctions. Secondly, the export of any replica tablets would have to be exempted from the same sanctions. Iraqi archaeologists hope that the UN's cultural body, Unesco, will help fund the library project which has the personal seal of approval of Saddam Hussein. Unesco has yet to comment on any Iraqi request. IRAQI-MIDDLE EAST/ARAB WORLD RELATIONS http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/020503/2002050311.html * Oman: Baghdad will not be bombarded from our lands Arabic News, 3rd May [.....] On the other hand, the Omani minister of state for foreign affairs Youssef Bin Alawi Bin Abdullah -- in a statement to the London- based al-Sharq al-Awsat issued on Thursday -- ruled out any cooperation with the US in the context of the possibility of a military operation against Iraq, opposed strongly by the Sultanate of Oman. The Omani minister said: "We will not permit striking any Arab state from Oman." He reiterated Muscat's objection to any military operation Washington threatens to launch against Iraq under pretexts that Iraq develops mass destruction weapons. He added that differences between countries are solved by negotiations and understanding. He warned Washington against the grave consequences of another adventure in the Middle East, in remarks [related? - PB] to the policy pursued by the US in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, which is strongly criticized by the Arabs. http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/020504/2002050418.html * Moussa: Iraq will return back archives and documents for Kuwait Arabic News, 4th May The secretary general of the Arab League Amr Moussa said on Friday Iraq will return what it has of official Kuwaiti documents and a national archive for Kuwait and asked it to do so through Moussa. Moussa said in an exclusive statement to the Kuwaiti News Agency from Cairo that the Iraqi foreign minister Naji Sabri informed him officially that the Iraqi foreign ministry coordinated with the other Iraqi ministries and authorities to get "the special documents relating to the national archive of the state of Kuwait and other documents and that the Iraqi government will continue collecting all documents relating to the state of Kuwait until these documents will be restored back fully." The Arab League chief said that the Iraqi government asked him to ensure returning back the documents and the archive to Kuwait, noting that that this measure is linked to what Moussa held of talks of discussions during his recent visit to Baghdad and in implementation of the resolutions of the recent Arab Beirut summit. He explained he conveyed this important message to Kuwait and to the UN general secretariat. Moussa added that the UN chief Kofi Annan greatly welcomed this step considering it as a positive development and he will inform the UN about that. TRADE http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow.asp?art_id=9265718 * Iraqi oil shipments to start tomorrow: Official Times of India (from AFP), 8th May BAGHDAD: Shipments of Iraqi oil will start from Thursday following Baghdad's decision to resume crude exports after a month-long suspension, the oil ministry said on Wednesday. "Iraqi oil will be loaded on tankers as of Thursday, May 9," a ministry official said, quoted by the official INA news agency. "Tankers will start arriving at Iraqi ports to be loaded with crude in keeping with Iraq's decision to resume exports," the official said. The Iraqi cabinet had decided during a weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, chaired by President Saddam Hussein, to resume exports halted on April 8 in retaliation for Israel's offensive against the Palestinians and US support for the Jewish state. The decision followed the failure of other Arab oil producers to join the embargo. Exports were due to resume through the southern Turkish port of Ceyhan and the Mina al-Bakr terminal on the Gulf, the two designated export terminals for sanctions-hit Iraq. Iraq exports around two million barrels of oil a day under a UN-supervised oil-for-food program introduced to alleviate the suffering of the population from crippling sanctions slapped on Baghdad for invading Kuwait in 1990. http://www.iht.com/articles/57164.html * U.S. probes cigarette sales to Iraq by Myron Levin and William C. Rempel International Herald Tribune (from Los Angeles Times), 9th May U.S. authorities are investigating allegations that R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc. and Japan Tobacco Inc. have violated trade sanctions against Iraq by channeling billions of dollars' worth of cigarettes into the country through intermediaries, according to people familiar with the inquiry. The allegations first surfaced publicly in a civil lawsuit by the European Union, which accused Reynolds, Japan Tobacco and Philip Morris Cos. of evading hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes by promoting a vast cigarette-smuggling operation. U.S. investigators have separately begun a criminal inquiry, tracking shiploads of cigarettes suspected of being diverted via Cyprus and other authorized ports into Iraq despite the trade embargo. Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the U.S. Customs Service, said he could "neither confirm nor deny any such investigation." But people familiar with the inquiry said it involves at least six customs investigators based in the United States and abroad. These people said the Customs Service was working with the office of the chief federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York. A spokesman for that office also declined comment. A Reynolds spokesman, Seth Moskowitz, said company executives had not heard of the probe. If contacted by the authorities, "we'll provide whatever information is required," Moskowitz said. Guy Cote, spokesman for JT International SA, the Japan Tobacco subsidiary that acquired the international cigarette business of Reynolds in 1999, also said his company was unaware of the investigation. Cote said that as far as company executives knew, their cigarettes had not been shipped to Iraq. In court papers and exhibits filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York, the EU has claimed that Reynolds's Winston cigarettes and other brands have flowed into Iraq continuously - and illegally - since August 1990, when U.S. trade with Iraq was outlawed after it invaded Kuwait. Penalties for criminal violations range up to 12 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Civil penalties of as much as $275,000 per violation also could be imposed. A District Court judge dismissed the EU's smuggling lawsuit in February. But the ruling did not absolve the tobacco companies or address the Iraq allegations, instead noting that other countries are barred from using U.S. courts to collect unpaid taxes. The EU has filed an appeal. _______________________________________________ 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