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[casi] News, 29/6-6/7/02 (1)

News, 29/6-6/7/02 (1)


*  Israel¹s submarine menace raises stakes
*  The real case against Saddam
*  Iraq using new mobile missile launchers: Jane's
*  A shameful attack
*  BBC was fair on Iraq


*  Iraqi President Discharges 3 Elderly Ministers
*  Baghdad slams UNESCO over World Heritage List
*  Diverse Iraqi painting revealed in all its richness

IRAQI/INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS (South Africa, Pakistan, India, Czech
Republic, Europe, Eritrea, Russia)

*  Iraqi Deputy Minister Visits SA
*  Baghdad accepts 31,000 tons wheat
*  India's FICCI [Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry] to
send delegation to Iraq
*  Iraq denounces the Free Europe radio
*  EU approves aid package to Iraq
*  Eritrea eager for U.S. military partnership
*  Iraqi Ambassador Talks the Talk


*  Kurds grit teeth for US strike
*  Restaurant Explosion Injures 20 in Kurdish-run northern Iraq
*   '88 gassing still killing Iraqi Kurds
*  Iraq Turns Up Heat on Ethnic Kurds, Non-Arabs in Kirkuk


by Ed Blanche, The Daily Star (Lebanon), 30th June


In 1995, Tariq Aziz, then Saddam Hussein¹s foreign minister, disclosed that
during the 1991 Gulf War the Iraqi military loaded nearly 200 Scud-type
missiles with chemical and biological warheads, but never fired them. He
said that was because the Americans had threatened nuclear retaliation if
they did. In January 1996, Rolf Ekeus, then head of the United Nations
Special Commission (UNSCOM) charged with dismantling Saddam¹s weapons
programs, said that 191 weapons were armed with anthrax agent, botulinum
toxin and aflatoxin: ³Their use, which seemed to have been possible at any
time, would have killed millions of people.²

He also said his inspectors came across an Iraqi document dated 1990 that
explained the procedures for authorizing the use of biological weapons.

³If Baghdad had been destroyed by weapons of mass destruction, then the
decision to use biological weapons was delegated to the local commanders,²
Ekeus said.

³In other words, the document envisages biological weapons being used in
retaliation, and not as a first strike. But that document refers only to
circumstances in which local commanders can use weapons. We know there was
also an option for a Œthunder strike,¹ a surprise attack which seems to mean
a first use of the weapons. I assume that a Œthunder strike¹ would have had
to be authorized by the top political officials.²

Saddam and his cronies are still in power in Baghdad and no one knows for
sure what weapons he still has, or could assemble quickly. But there is
clearly a danger that he would strike out in the event of a US military
operation intended to topple him. Israel would be a likely target and
missile-armed submarines probably wouldn¹t be much of a deterrent to a
doomed tyrant.

by Joshua Micah Marshall
New York Post, 1st July

EVER since 9/11, commentators who support war to overthrow Saddam Hussein
have been trying to strengthen their case by tying the Iraqi dictator to al
Qaeda terrorism. But this hurts their cause - unnecessarily.

The charges keep coming. In the wake of 9/11 came the suggestion that Saddam
might have played some role in assisting, if not directing, the attacks.
After the anthrax assault, these same voices more plausibly pointed to
Saddam's bioweapons facilities as the ultimate source of the lethal spores.
And only last week the Washington Times reported that Iraq was giving safe
passage or even safe haven to al Qaeda fugitives fleeing Afghanistan and
that this might itself be a new justification for an American attack.

The problem is that there is very little solid evidence that any of these
claims are true - certainly not the sort of proof that justifies an

Czech intelligence still claims that it monitored Mohamad Atta meeting with
a top Iraqi intelligence officer in April 2001. But the report stands
against mounds of other evidence pointing in quite a different direction.
You don't have to be a dove to cast doubt on these theories. Even Danielle
Pletka - Jesse Helms' former chief Iraq staffer, and no slouch when it comes
to taking a hard line against Saddam - says, "Nobody credible makes the case
that there's some connection between Saddam Hussein and what happened Sept.

On anthrax, the FBI still hasn't tracked down the culprit. But there is as
yet no plausible evidence of Saddam's involvement. None.

The hawks who keep leveling these charges seem to be following that old
theory that if you throw enough mud at a wall, some of it will eventually
stick. But they're sullying themselves more than Saddam. Tossing off claims
that don't stand the test of evidence makes the case for ousting Saddam seem
just like what its opponents say it is: Mindless or dishonest warmongering,
an effort motivated by some never quite-stated ulterior motive, or simply a
goal in search of a rationale.

In short, the campaign gives the public the idea that the case against
Saddam must not be very good.

What's maddening about this is that you don't need any of these theories to
make a very strong case for regime change in Iraq. There are several strong
arguments for removing Saddam's regime by military force in the near future.
Iraq hawks just need the courage and patience to make case honestly.

That argument has essentially four pillars:

1) Saddam and his regime are demonstrably evil-minded. Even more important,
he is demonstrable reckless.

2) He not only continues to develop weapons of mass destruction, but does so
with an astonishing single-mindedness, subordinating almost every other
national priority to that aim. If we don't act, he'll get them.

3) Given Iraq's size, wealth and strategic location, Saddam's Iraq is the
long-term threat to U.S. interests in region.

4) Our current policy of sanctions and containment has not worked and our
ability to maintain even the current policy diminishes by the day.

This isn't as eye-catching or as exciting an argument as pinning the anthrax
attacks on Saddam. It's complex and sometimes difficult to explain. And it
doesn't overwhelm all the rationales for caution and restraint, as pinning
9/11 or anthrax on Saddam obviously would.

But it's a very good argument. And it has the added virtue of being provably

Saddam Hussein really is a threat to the United States. And now is the time
to deal with him. But leaving the case against him to be made by
unscrupulous polemicists and yahoos helps Saddam more than it hurts him.

Times of India (from AFP), 2nd July

LONDON: Baghdad is using new mobile missile launchers against British and US
planes that monitor "no-fly" zones in the north and south of Iraq, the
specialist Jane's Intelligence Review reported in its July edition.

Jane's said the weapons system comprised two S-125 Neva missiles capable of
being fired from a truck.

"By mounting the missiles on mobile launchers the Iraqis have complicated US
and UK efforts to monitor Iraqu's air defences," Jane's said.

The S-125s originally supplied by the Soviet Union during the 1970s and
1980s were static missiles fired from fixed launch pads.

Almost daily skirmishes are reported in the skies of Iraq, which Washington
and London patrol to impose a policy of containment on President Saddam
Hussein's forces.

Iraq does not recognise the two air exclusion zones, which are not covered
by any UN Security Council resolution. According to Baghdad, US and British
air strikes have killed 1,477 people and wounded 1,367 since the two zones
were set up after the 1991 Gulf War.,4273,4451725,00.html

by Mark Seddon
Guardian, 1st July

'Advocacy journalism" is the phrase used by US rightwing polemicist David
Brock to describe the tactics he employed to pursue the Clintons throughout
the 90s. In his new book, he describes how he regularly mixed fact with
allegation to serve up a heady cocktail of innuendo designed to fatally
undermine a Democratic presidency that the right could never accept.

To attack advocacy journalism risks falling into a trap set by professional
politicians. After all, Labour party chairman Charles Clarke recently
rounded on political journalists, accusing them of being "pious and
hypocrical". Immediately and predictably he ran into a storm. Those who live
by media management, it would appear, are destined to die by it when the new
breed of advocate journalists bite back. Or as a North American trade
unionist once advised Labour MP and former journalist Denis MacShane, "never
get into a pissing match with a skunk".

But the problem with advocacy journalism is it frequently doesn't come with
a health check. Newspapers and current affairs programmes increasingly
labour under tight budgets. The temptation therefore is to cut corners and
sometimes seek opinion before fact. In the Gadarene rush for ratings, the
headline-grabbing potential is sometimes valued more than the cool, studied
approach of such veterans as the BBC's John Ware or David Sells.

Objectivity matters more in the broadcast media; the public expect it
especially in the BBC and impartiality features prominently as a cornerstone
value in the corporation's impressive guidelines on impartiality and
fairness. It follows that the BBC, the guardian of objectivity in an
increasingly cut-throat, cost-cutting world, will be under closer scrutiny
than other broadcast medium.

That objectivity was sadly lacking in the BBC Correspondent's film Iraq -
Mother of all Ironies, which was broadcast on June 23. It would matter less
that such a partial programme had been made had there not been similar and
serious complaints aimed at another two recent reports from Correspondent.

The complaints of lack of objectivity that have been levelled by
commentators and some viewers have greater weight when it is remembered that
less and less space is devoted to serious foreign reporting at a time when
domestic policy is hugely influenced by what goes on beyond our borders. The
programme examined the effects of alleged Iraqi sanctions on Kurdistan. It
highlighted the appalling suffering of the Kurds under Saddam Hussein during
the 1980s, but failed to make use of facts and footage from Baghdad which
might have shown that ordinary Iraqis continue to suffer and die in their
thousands less as a result of embargoed medicines, but because of a
collapsed sanitation system.

The programme's central claim was that the Iraqi authorities, through the
United Nations health programme, refuse to allow cancer-treating drugs into
Kurdistan. But the shortages in the north are mirrored in the south - in
cities such as Basra - which remain under Baghdad's aegis and are affected
by sanctions. Little attempt was made to hook up with Unicef and those other
international bodies responsible for adminstering the funds from the United
Nations' "oil for food programme", and "advocacy journalism" found its
target in the shape of Labour MP and anti-sanctions campaigner George

At no time was he allowed to directly answer the charges flung towards him
by the reporter, John Sweeney. The Mother of all Ironies was that Galloway
has facilitated entry into Iraq for numerous BBC reporters - as he did on
this occasion for Correspondent. He has since issued a formal complaint to
BBC director-general Greg Dyke, claiming that footage of him was gathered
under false pretence.

I declare an interest. I was the "Baghdad producer" for the Correspondent
programme. I had no idea of Sweeney and Galloway's long antipathy, nor even
that Sweeney was reporting for Correspondent from Kurdistan. I was promised
that the "editorial line would be agreed between producers and reporters".
It was not. And the end result, I believe - in common with many others who
have since written and emailed the programme - was an authored, polemicised
report that was a classic case of "advocacy journalism". An important
opportunity afforded by rare access to Iraq and Kurdistan to report
objectively on the effects of economic sanctions was, I believe, lost.

There is a strong case for authored reports - and for a campaigning
journalism that is capable of reaching a different conclusion if the facts
suggest it. Sadly, without the budgets and enough trained staff needed to
produce them, many current affairs programmes are falling wide of the mark.

Mark Seddon is editor of Tribune.,3604,748776,00.html

Letter from Mark Damazer, Deputy director, BBC News
The Guardian, 4th July

Mark Seddon's article (A shameful attack, Media, July 1) about BBC2's
Correspondent on Iraq, in which he alleges a lack of impartiality, contained
a number of serious inaccuracies. Every argument in the film about Saddam's
manipulations was backed by the evidence we found.

The World Health Organisation's food and medicine programme is being
administered through Saddam. There is money in a WHO account to pay for
vital medicines in northern Iraq - and Saddam is the obstacle.

Further, it was absolutely right for the programme to challenge George
Galloway's claims about the number of children dying as a result of
sanctions. It was Mr Galloway's choice not to answer. Correspondent also
examined the effects of sanctions.

The reporter, John Sweeney, explained how "dual use" sanctions are still
causing hardship. We heard from doctors who despair because they cannot get
radiology equipment to treat cancer because such machinery is deemed to have
a dual use - in other words, Saddam may make weapons with it.

I regret Mr Seddon felt unhappy about the programme. But it was a fair
report on a matter of real concern

Mark Damazer
Deputy director, BBC News


People's Daily, 30th June

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has issued decrees to discharge three
ministers "because of their age," the state-run Iraq TV reported Saturday.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has issued decrees to discharge three
ministers "because of their age," the state-run Iraq TV reported Saturday.

The relieved officials include Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Saadi
Tohma Abbas and two ministers of state, Abdel Wahab al-Atrushi and Samal
Majid Faraj, the report said.

The decision is expected to take effect as from Monday, the report said,
without mentioning who will fill in the vacant posts.

The three above-mentioned ministers are believed to have reached the
retirement age, which is 65 in Iraq.

Times of India (from AFP), 2nd July

BAGHDAD: Iraq has charged that "political reasons" were behind UNESCO's
failure to add five archeological sites in the country to its World Heritage
List, an Iraqi weekly reported on Monday.

"UNESCO's refusal to include five Iraqi archeological sites in its World
Heritage List was due to political reasons," said an official from the
department of archeology and heritage, cited by Nabdh Al-Shabab.

UNESCO's World Heritage Committee on Thursday added nine new sites to the
World Heritage List and extended two sites already on the list.

Iraq contains more than 10,000 archeological sites, many in the northern
region of Kurdistan, and most of which have not yet been uncovered,
according to official statistics.

Another official from the department of archeology and heritage was quoted
as saying the department had recently discovered two temples, one Babylonian
and the other Sumerian.

by Bill Rashleigh
Daily Star (Lebanon), 2nd July

³It¹s my dream to see deep purple,² confides Delair al-Khattat, manager of
Baghdad¹s Qais al-Sindy art gallery, as he gazes at a particularly
psychedelic painting in Hamra¹s Galerie Zamaan.

Really? Does this affection spring from the color¹s emotive qualities, or
perhaps its association with a certain mood?

A puzzled look: ³Their drumming is just amazing,² he says of the rock group
Deep Purple.

This hard-rockin¹ art manager, who drums in a Baghdad-based band, has now
set his sticks aside for a month to oversee a new exhibition of some 50
paintings by 22 of Iraq¹s finest contemporary artists. Entitled Palettes
Irakiennes III, the display is a medley of styles and techniques.

³It¹s a collective exhibition showing a full panorama of the art currently
being produced in Iraq. All the paintings have their own personality and
nothing is similar,² says Moussa Kobeissi, director of Galerie Zamaan.

The walls of the gallery are lined with a huge variety of artwork.

Watercolors depicting Baghdad street scenes by Jassem al-Fadhl jostle for
space with more audacious optical assaults by Ayad al-Douri. There is even a
romantic riverside scene - complete with fishing boats and huts - which
wouldn¹t look out of place in a 19th-century English drawing room. Not far
off hangs an anarchic piece of abstract art, its great chunks of primary
color peppered with Arabic script.

Some of these you would choose to hang on your wall, others might frighten
the cat. But the variety of work is undeniable, and demonstrates the current
vibrancy of Iraq¹s art scene.

The country has long been home to some of the Arab world¹s most important
artists. It was here that the epic poem Gilgamesh was carved in clay 1,500
years before Homer, and where the Abbasids honed their calligraphy skills.

But while this reputation for artistic virtuosity has been carried into the
modern era, recent world events have left their mark. In 1993 Leila
al-Attar, doyen of Iraqi painting and director of Baghdad¹s most prestigious
gallery, the Saddam Art Center, was killed by a US cruise missile. Some
claim she was deliberately targeted following her less than flattering
portrait of then-President George Bush. True or not, her death offered the
grim potential of a decline in the Baghdad art scene.

Instead, she has now become a ³glorious symbol,² says Qais al-Sindy,
director of the eponymous Baghdad galley, inspiring an increasing number of
young Iraqi artists to attack the canvas. Delair estimates there are
currently around 100 internationally respected painters plying their trade
in the capital.

But underneath this rich veneer of artistic prosperity, the cracks caused by
12 years of economic embargo are clear. Lifting a painting off the gallery
wall, he points to the frayed edges of a cotton sheet that was varnished to
form a makeshift canvas.

³It is really difficult for artists to get hold of materials like brushes
and paint, and when they can, it costs a lot,² he says.

You¹d expect that artists, forced to chop up their bed sheets just to
acquire the basic materials, would express a sense of frustration in their
work. But there¹s really nothing of the sort, says Kobeissi. ³Do you see any
interaction with depression, poverty or negativity? Do you feel sadness when
you look at these paintings?² he asks. ³I think the artists are not showing
the present. They are showing the future, and it¹s positive.²

He points by way of example to an oil painting by Ali Abbas, depicting black
candles, their wicks burning bright yellow.  ³Look at this,² he says. ³There
is sadness, but it¹s very important that it then shows hope.²

Sindy believes the economic hardships have fostered a new style in Iraqi
art, ³merging social traditions and folklore with how the Iraqis suffer
through missing medicine and food.² Even so, the paintings on display show
no representations of Iraq¹s current plight. Nor, for that matter, does the
strong arm of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein exert an obvious influence.
Mustachioed images of the leader, or overt government propaganda, are
absent. Instead the work is liberated - with some pieces finding room for a
spot of naked flesh.

This is the first time these works have been displayed outside Iraq. And
unlike most international exhibitions of Iraqi art, the work hanging in
Galerie Zamaan is produced almost entirely by artists still living in their
home country. Given the number of Iraqi artists now in exile, this is
something of a rarity. The result is the work on display is comparatively
inexpensive. Not dirt cheap, but substantially less than you¹d pay for
similar pieces by Western or Lebanese artists.

Palettes Irakiennes III runs at the Galerie Zamaan through July 20. For more
information call: 01/745571

IRAQI/INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS (South Africa, Pakistan, India, Czech
Republic, Europe, Eritrea, Russia)

by Trevor Gozhi
BuaNews (Pretoria), 3rd July

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz is expected to arrive in South Africa
later this afternoon for a six-day visit, at the invitation of Deputy
President Jacob Zuma.

Mr Zuma extended the invitation to Mr Aziz, after South Africa sent
humanitarian aid to Iraq in June last year.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement, government would
exchange views with Mr Aziz on the situation in the Middle East, and in
particular, on the expected effects of the new sanctions regime for the
people of Iraq.

'The people of Iraq have been subjected to severe suffering by more than ten
years of stringent international sanctions.' There will also be discussions
on ways of breaking the impasse on weapons inspections.

The arms inspectors, key to suspending the 12-year-old UN sanctions against
Iraq, left on the eve of a US-British bombing campaign in December 1998, and
have since not been allowed to return to check on any remaining weapons of
mass destruction programmes.

During his visit, Mr Aziz will hold political discussions with Deputy
President Zuma and with foreign affairs deputy minister Aziz Pahad.

Health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and minerals and energy minister
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka will also hold bilateral meetings with Mr Aziz.

by Parvaiz Ishfaq Rana
Dawn, 3rd July, 21 Rabi-us-Saani 1423

KARACHI, July 2: Iraq has accepted the second shipload of 31,000 tons of
wheat, replacing the earlier one, and presently the cargo is being unloaded
at the Iraqi port, official sources said on Tuesday.

After winning a contract of 100,000 tons of wheat under UN programme of 'oil
for food' for Baghdad, the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) had last
year shipped the wheat but, on some ground, Iraq rejected two vessels of
around 31,000 tons each.

After re-negotiating the contract, Baghdad agreed to allow TCP to replace
the same quantity at an fob price of 214 euro per ton, the sources said.
However, the first vessel of around 31,000 tons, replacing last year's
rejected consignment shipped early last month, was also rejected by Baghdad,
and the TCP had to sell it to a private party of Dubai at c&f price of $115
per ton.

The Iraqi wheat market is not only fairly large in size but it also gives
good price for wheat. Entering the Iraqi wheat market was a major
breakthrough for Pakistan. Traditionally, Iraq had been importing from
developed countries like Australia, Canada and the US.

The chairman, TCP, Syed Masood Alam Rizvi told Dawn that after deducting 17
euro per ton in freight charges and around 50 euro inland transportation
cost taken by Iraqi government under the agreement in advance, the Trading
Corporation of Pakistan would fetch around 147 euro per ton or $140 per ton.

Though officially no decision was made with regard to the rejected vessels,
Rizvi said, the TCP would like to complete the contract by sending another
vessel of equal load. "It is encouraging that our second vessel has been
accepted, and TCP could easily meet the required quality for replacing the
earlier wheat consignment," the TCP chairman said.

The country has already exported over 300,000 tons of wheat to some African
as well as Middle Eastern countries, and is gradually trying to have a
permanent place on the world wheat map.

Rizvi said for ensuring quality wheat for exports the government has already
initiated several projects, including setting up of silos as well as
introducing mechanised system for cleaning wheat.

He said that many Middle Eastern countries had been traditionally importing
wheat from developed countries who have advance technologies, whereas
Pakistan has just made its debut and would need some time to develop the
required know-how as well as infrastructure.


New Delhi, Jul 04, 2002 (AsiaPulse via COMTEX, PTI) -- A high-powered
50-member delegation, led by Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and
Industry, will visit Iraq for enhancing business relations and have
negotiations on larger allocation for wheat, rice and sugar under the 'Oil
for Food Programme'.

The delegation, whose visit coincides with the India-Iraq Joint Commission
meeting to be attended by Petroleum Minister Ram Naik, will focus on
infrastructure, steel, diesel generating sets, oil engines, medical
disposables, pharma products, hospital furniture and spares for oil
companies apart from the traditional Indian exports to Iraq such as tea,
wheat and soyabean meal, according to an FICCI statement Wednesday.

FICCI said the share of Indian business in Iraq had dipped considerably
while Saudi Arabia had received contracts for almost 70 millions Euros.

One of the main objectives of this delegation would be to request for
allocation of contracts for 400 million euros (US$390.89 million).

Another issue to be raised during the deliberations, was the 10 per cent
surcharge for all Indian contracts to Iraq even before the shipment reaches
Um Qaser port.

The delegation should also ask for double entry visas to be allowed to
Indian businessmen for 6 months, which would enable them to visit Iraq even
on a short notice, it said.

Arabic News, 4th July

The Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri has denounced the programs broadcast
by the "Free Europe radio" broadcast to Iraq, stressing that these programs
constitute an act against Iraq.

In a statement issued on Wednesday by a Czech daily, Sabri said that " The
Czech provides a shelter for Iraq's foes and permits the CIA to disseminate
anti- Iraqi campaign. A matter which is considered as damaging for the
relations between the two countries." The Iraqi minister indicated that the
radio's programs do not effect the situation in Iraq and mean nothing.

Worthy mentioning that the said radio which is financed by the US Congress
was established in the 1950s during the cold war in Munich, Germany and then
transferred in 1995 to Prague and started broadcasting against Iraq in the
autumn of 1998.

Times of India (AFP), 5th July

BRUSSELS: The European Union plans to send 13 million euros in aid to Iraq
to build up the country's crumbling health and food systems, the European
Commission said on Thursday.

"The situation in Iraq is still serious despite the fact that international
media don't cover it a lot at the moment," said Poul Nielson, the
commission's development and humanitarian aid official.

"More than 10 per cent of Iraqi children die before reaching the age of five
because of sickness or malnourishment," he added.

Iraq has blamed its humanitarian crisis on a United Nations embargo, slapped
on the country after Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

by Anthony Sipher
Yomiuri Shimbun (Japan), 5th July

The U.S. Defense Department is considering establishing a military base in
Eritrea. With newly established bases in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia,
Kazakhstan and Pakistan, along with preexisting bases in Greece and Turkey,
Eritrea would be the final geographical link in the administration of
President George W. Bush strategy to create a military perimeter around the
Middle East.

Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of U.S. Central Command, has traveled to the
country at least four times since Sept. 11 in an effort to work out details
for such a plan. Girma Asmerom, the Eritrean ambassador to the United
States, has confirmed that Franks has met with the president, defense
minister and foreign affairs minister of Eritrea. The meetings have
primarily focused on base issues.

It has been learned that Franks is interested in the construction of a
bombing and gunnery range in southern Eritrea. According to recent reports,
officials within the department say that while there are no concrete plans
to establish a base, Eritrea's strategic location would be beneficial.
Currently, defense relations between the two countries consist of small
training programs.

High-ranking Eritrean government officials say their country is willing and
able to host any type of military base the administration of Bush may want.
Asmerom told The Yomiuri Shimbun, "It would benefit the U.S. government to
set up a military base in Eritrea."

Asmerom, who fought against Ethiopian forces during his country's war of
independence, claims that Eritrea can greatly enhance the United States'
position in the region. "We are perfect for America; we have deepwater ports
for its navy, mountains very similar to those in Afghanistan that can be
used for training purposes and airfields that can accommodate its aircraft,"
he said.

According to diplomatic sources, Gen. Ephrem Sebhat of the Eritrean Defense
Forces sent a letter U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, offering to
stage U.S. troops in Eritrea. A subsequent letter to Franks from Eritrean
President Afwerki Isaias applauded the use of force by U.S. forces in

The letter hinted that the United States needs Eritrea to fight its war on
terrorism in the Horn of Africa. Regarding the current troubles in Somalia
and Sudan, the letter said, "I believe that the U.S. has no choice but to
play a pivotal role."

"The matter cannot certainly be relegated to regional actors--Ethiopia,
Kenya or Djibouti," the letter continued.

Fiona Hill, a foreign policy expert with the Brookings Institution, said
although Eritrea would be advantageous, there are strong concerns within the
Defense Department that U.S. forces are stretched too thin due to increased
troop deployments to South Asia, the Philippines, and Colombia along with
the U.S. commitment to various peacekeeping forces.

Moreover, the department has to worry about potential repercussions in host
countries. Hill said that locals employed by U.S. forces have raised the
cost of living in some areas due to their higher salaries.

Hill also said that the success of the strategy could depend on the outcome
of other factors such as the situation between India and Pakistan. It has
been reported that remnants of Al-Qaida are still operating in the vicinity
of the Line of Control, where their actions add to the tensions between the
two nuclear powers.

If tensions were to flare, the envisaged boundary of containment might

Despite possible problems associated with the newly created alliances,
Eritrea could provide access to the rogue states of East Africa.

According to George Friedman, chairman of Stratfor, Inc., a private think
tank based in Austin, Texas, Eritrea would be an ideal place for the United
States to fight the war on terrorism against countries such as Sudan,
Somalia, and Yemen. "The most important element that it will have is to
suddenly allow the buildup of special operations forces," Friedman said.

Friedman said this has been a new strategy developed by U.S. officials
shortly after Sept. 11. "If you look at American strategy for the past six
months, the U.S. has been deploying small numbers of troops in a number of
strategic countries."

"These countries are places were the U.S. can reach other countries fairly
easily," he said.

Eritrea could also serve a launching point for a future attack on Iraq,
Asmerom said. His argument is that the United States would not have to
conduct sorties from Saudi Arabia, a country whose population overwhelmingly
opposes the presence of U.S. forces in its country. "You could do it easily
from Eritrea and only have to ask for fly-over rights from the Saudis," he

The idea of a U.S. base in Eritrea has been warmly welcomed by members of
the Senate and House armed services committees. In a recent meeting between
Asmerom and Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., Smith expressed shock that the U.S.
military had not established a base there earlier.

"They are writing a letter to CENTCOM (Central Command) asking some
questions," said a former staffer who was present at the meeting. "He could
not believe that we were in Yemen when we had the possibility of being in
Eritrea in the first place." The senator was referring to the bombing of the
USS Cole while refueling in the Yemeni port of Aden.

A Senate aide present at a meeting between Sen. Jean Carnahan, D-Mo., and
Asmerom, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the senator assured
Asmerom that the next time Gen. Franks appeared before her committee,
Carnahan would question him on the matter.

Apart from a strategic and military standpoint, Asmerom also added that his
country is willing to allow U.S. energy companies to explore Eritrea's
natural resources. Recent surveys have confirmed that Eritrea has high
deposits of gold, zinc, copper, salt, oil and natural gas. "We want them to
come and invest in us," Asmerom said.

by Natalia Yefimova
Moscow Times, 5th July

Iraq's new ambassador to Moscow, who served for a time as Iraqi President
Saddam Hussein's personal interpreter, officially took up his duties
Thursday, saying that his 25-year relationship with the country of this, his
first, diplomatic posting has left him "nearly Russified."

Speaking in fluent Russian peppered with idioms, Abbas Khalaf told reporters
that Baghdad considers Russia and Russian companies -- which do a brisk
business with Iraq under the UN sanctions regime but say they stand to gain
billions of dollars more if the sanctions are lifted -- a top priority, not
a last resort in the face of international isolation.

"Some press reports have said that Iraq wants to use Russia as a Trojan
horse" to subvert the sanctions regime and then to abandon the relationship,
but "this is not the case," said Khalaf, who holds a doctorate in philology
and a journalism degree from Moscow State University.

Russia's Foreign Ministry has said that in 2001 the two countries signed
$2.3 billion worth of nonmilitary deals, not including oil trade contracts.
Since the start of the UN oil-for-food program, in which Russia is a major
participant, Russian-Iraqi trade turnover has reached a reported $6 billion.

Asked about Moscow's new pro-Western stance in the wake of Sept. 11, Khalaf
said Russia's foreign policy is its own business. But, in a momentary lapse
of composure, he accused the United States and Britain of using the
sanctions as a tool to hit Russia where it hurts -- its pocket.

By keeping the sanctions in place, "the United States and Britain want to
inflict the greatest damage on Russia," he said emotionally.

Iraq owes Russia an estimated $8 billion in debt, which Khalaf said Baghdad
is prepared to pay but can't because of the sanctions.

Khalaf also cited an official letter from Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov
saying that Russia's losses as a result of the sanctions totaled $30

Russian oil companies that help Iraq export oil under the UN program now
earn some $200 million to $400 million annually from the project, according
to industry analysts. But their access to some major oil fields -- which
they have rights to develop and which could be worth tens of billions of
dollars in the long-term -- have been frozen pending the lifting of

Khalaf indicated Iraq would honor the Russian companies' rights, saying oil
was a strategic issue and "we insist it remain in the hands of our friends."

Despite his unreserved criticism of the sanctions, Khalaf said he was
optimistic about the latest round of talks between Baghdad and the United
Nations, which kicked off in Vienna on Thursday. While the UN aim is to
clinch a deal allowing arms inspectors back into Iraq after a 3 1/2 year
shutout, Baghdad has a much longer list of issues to discuss, including U.S.
threats to oust Saddam and the future of the U.S.- and British-imposed
no-fly zones.

Khalaf brushed aside reports about a New Zealand national arrested in the
United States and identified by FBI officials as Saddam's stepson, calling
them "unworthy" of comment. He added that such sensational reports were a
typical attempt by the Western press to derail the UN-Iraq talks.

"This time the American media found some stepson of Saddam Hussein's. They
know that the Iraqi president's real sons cannot leave the country, so they
had to find an adopted one. Next there'll be a prodigal son," he quipped.


by Jim Muir in Iraqi Kurdistan
BBC, 29th June

The Kurds of northern Iraq find themselves, once again, facing an uncertain
future, with the Americans vowing to bring about the removal of Saddam
Hussein's regime in Baghdad.

After the upheavals which followed the US-led war against Iraq in 1991, the
four million or so Iraqi Kurds have enjoyed a quasi-independence under the
protection of a western air umbrella which keeps Iraqi government forces at

Although it is a precarious existence, the prospect of change is one which
raises anxiety as well as hope among the Kurds.

They have a lot to lose, and are in no hurry to plunge into an adventure
against Baghdad.

Travelling through this beautiful land of towering mountains and fertile
valleys and plains it is easy to see why.

In recent times the Iraqi Kurds have never had it so good. They have been
able to carve out what amounts, in almost all but name, to an independent

The people enjoy a freedom which is rare in the region. Many newspapers and
radio and TV stations, reflecting different points of view, have sprung up.

Alcohol is available for those who want it. Women are free to wear the
Islamic hejab, or not, as they choose.

There is still a lot of poverty. One recent study concluded that more than
half the households had an income of less than $25 a month.

But those same households are also given a monthly food basket worth $50,
financed by Iraq's oil-for-food exports.

And there is a lot of prosperity about. Much of it derived from trading, or
smuggling. Gleaming Mercedes, BMWs and brand new four-wheel-drive vehicles
are common sights, as are internet cafes.

In the countryside there has been a bumper harvest after a winter of
generous rainfall.

Although they ultimately depend on western air protection, both the main
Kurdish factions, who divided the area between them after clashing in the
mid-1990s, have a kind of unspoken modus vivendi with the Baghdad
government, from which they both buy the petrol they need.

So why risk all this?

Well, the Kurds may have little choice. Both the main leaders, Masood
Barzani and Jalal Talabani, told me they had been informed by the Americans
that Washington is serious about removing Saddam, though the timing and the
exact manner are not yet decided.

The Kurdish guerrillas, known as Peshmergas, are the only organised Iraqi
opposition force in the country.

They would obviously be expected to take part in some way.

An active Kurdish role could also help to secure what both leaders say they
want to see - a strong Kurdish say in a democratic, federal new Iraq.

Nobody is interested in seeing one dictator replaced by another.

The Kurds are also united in not wanting to see a military role played by
any of their big brother neighbours, Syria, Turkey or Iran.

They also want guarantees of protection against Saddam's retribution if
things do go wrong. Memories of his use of chemical weapons against them in
the last 1980s are still very strong.

If all those conditions are met, the Kurds will join in, hoping to help
build a more stable future, both for themselves and for Iraq as a whole.

VOA News, 30th June

An Iraqi Kurdish official says 20 people have been injured, two of them
seriously, in an explosion at a restaurant in Kurdish-run northern Iraq.

The official from the Kurdistan Democratic Party says no one was killed when
the blast occurred in the town of Arbil.

He says it is not clear who placed the bomb. But police are reportedly
questioning members of Jand El Islam, a militant Islamic group. The group
has clashed repeatedly with the Democratic Party's main rival, the Patriotic
Union of Kurdistan.

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan says Jand El Islam members have been
trained in al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan.

by Joshua Kucera
San Francisco Chronicle, 1st July

Halabja, Iraq -- Omar Ali Mohammed has terminal skin cancer. His wife has a
chronic eye problem, and their young nephew has a nasty growth jutting out
of his neck.

Doctors believe all three suffer from the aftereffects of the largest
chemical attack on a civilian population in history -- the assault on this
Kurdish town 14 years ago ordered by Saddam Hussein.

As President Bush continues his campaign to topple the Iraqi strongman, he
often refers to the 1988 poison gas attack here as an example of Hussein's
willingness to use weapons of mass destruction. Bush has said, "He even
gassed his own people."

In 1987, Hussein intensified his fight against ethnic Kurds for their
support of Iran during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, bulldozing some 4,000
villages and using a combination of nerve agents, mustard gas and possibly
biological weapons on several towns. The 4 million Kurds living in northern
Iraq have a different culture and language from Iraqi Arabs and have fought
for independence for decades.

Human Rights Watch estimates that 500,000 to 100,000 people died during the
campaign. But the assault on Halabja and other Iraqi repression received
little attention from the administration of then-President Ronald Reagan,
which backed Iraq over Iran.

"The Western countries in 1988 didn't do anything against the Iraqi regime,
" said Dr. Adil Karem, director of the Halabja Martyrs Hospital.

"Now they use the Halabja issue for their own benefit," he added, referring
to Bush's citing of the incident.

Indeed, the international community has long ignored the plight of victims
of the chemical attack.

On March 16, 1988, Mohammed was walking to a small plot of land just outside
town to tend to his fruit trees and beehives when Iraqi jets dropped a
variety of chemical weapons, which experts believe included mustard gas,
sarin, VX nerve gas and aflatoxin dissolved in tear gas. Fortunately, nobody
from Mohammed's family perished, but he saw "people die from the chemical
weapons, and we knew it would hurt us too."

Experts estimate that between 5,000 and 7,000 residents were killed
immediately while tens of thousands more were exposed over the years by
drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food. A photograph of a
man shielding an infant with his body -- both were killed by the gas -- has
become an icon of Kurdish suffering and a monument here.

Halabja, a city some 150 miles northeast of Baghdad in the southern part of
so-called Iraqi Kurdistan, is situated at the foot of mountains that
separate Iraq from Iran. It is below the 36th parallel and thus outside the
protected area of the American and British fighter-patrolled U.N. "no-fly"
zone established after the Gulf War. Hussein, however, has not attacked any
Kurdish- controlled areas since the war.

Halabja was once a vibrant market town of 80,000. Today, the population has
dwindled to about 43,000. Doctors say residents suffer from a range of
cancers, respiratory disorders such as asthma and pulmonary fibrosis, skin
rashes, birth defects, Down syndrome, infertility and mental health

Christine Gosden, head of Medical Genetics at Liverpool University in
northwest England, is one of the few scientists to research the aftermath of
the 1988 attack. She estimates that more than half the population suffers
from respiratory problems and that major chromosomal disorders such as cleft
palates and spina bifida appear in three times the number of people than in
the nearby city of Sulaymaniyah, 10 times the size of Halabja.

Karem complains that Halabja's remote location and political instability
have thwarted research projects. Aside from individuals such as Gosden, he
says there has never been a systematic testing of the lasting effects on the
water table, air, food chain and animals.

He says that Halabja hasn't even had its soil measured for chemical residue.

In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where the levels of congenital malformations,
sterility, cancer and mutations were comparable, some 3 feet of soil was
removed after the atomic bomb was dropped in 1945.

Karem adds that most laboratories that specialize in such research belong to
government defense departments. Since many of the chemicals were
manufactured in the West -- including the United States -- companies there
could face legal claims if the results were well documented.

Karem and Gosden co-wrote a 1998 study of the aftereffects of the Halabja
incident. It showed that the situation gets worse each year as the chemicals
alter a victim's DNA.

The Kurdish physician pointed out that in April, there were four stillborn
and four anencephalic (born without most of the brain) babies out of 108
deliveries. "Even two years ago, it was not like this," he said.

The report also showed that the gas attack had a profound psychological
effect in a city that lacks even a single mental health worker.

Depression and anxiety are common, and the rates of suicide are higher than
average. It is not uncommon for some people to feel the need to keep a
suitcase packed in case of another gas attack.

In 1999, Karem asked the World Health Organization to do an environmental
study but was told the subject was too "sensitive." Although the Kurds run
the local government, U.N. agencies are here by invitation of the Iraqi
government, and such research could alienate their hosts.

Although new and clean, Halabja Martyrs Hospital lacks basic equipment such
as surgical gloves and antibiotics, let alone chemotherapy to treat cancer
or equipment to transplant a diseased lung. As a result, victims like
Mohammed, now 84, receive no treatment and die slowly at home.

Mohammed, however, will not die in peace. He has a new worry -- another
chemical attack by Iraqi planes if the United States opts to take out
Hussein militarily. It's a fear that is not uncommon in Halabja.

"People here have a phobia for Saddam Hussein," said Karem. "And they have a
phobia for the future."

by Amberin Zaman
Voice of America, 4th July

Iraq's government has recently stepped up its campaign to evict ethnic Kurds
and other non-Arabs from Iraq's main oil-producing province, Kirkuk.

For Jiyan Ahmad and her four children, home is a tiny mud hut with no
running water or windows. She and her family have been living here for the
past month and-a-half on meager rations of flour, rice, and sugar provided
by the local government.

Jiyan is like hundreds of other refugees at this rundown camp on the
outskirts of the Kurdish-controlled city of Sulaymaniyah in northern Iraq.
She said she and her family were forced at gunpoint by Iraqi security forces
to leave their home in Iraq's main oil-producing province, Kirkuk, and to
move to Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq.

Jiyan said she was expelled from Kirkuk after she and her husband Mahmoud
repeatedly refused to sign papers presented to them by Iraqi officials that
identified the couple as ethnic Arabs. Jiyan said her husband Mahmoud is in
an Iraqi jail, and she has not heard from him since she arrived in northern

Western diplomats said as many as 150 families are driven out of Kirkuk
every month. Such expulsions have continued for decades.

Diplomats said the Iraqi policy apparently is to prevent the Kurds from
claiming Kirkuk province for themselves. That is what they did during their
failed rebellion against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein at the end of the
1991 Persian Gulf War.

Thousands of Kurds died after the U.S. led coalition failed to intervene
against advancing Iraqi troops. An international outcry arose when televised
images showed millions of Kurdish refugees camped in the mountains bordering
Iran and Turkey.

And the United States and its allies were prompted to declare a "no fly"
zone in northern Iraq that is enforced by U.S. and British planes.

Barham Salih is an official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or PUK, one
of the two main Kurdish factions that have administered the Kurdish enclave
in northern Iraq for the past 11 years.

Like most Iraqi Kurdish leaders, Mr. Salih insists that Kirkuk should be
incorporated into the federal government the Iraqi Kurds said they want
established in exchange for their participation in any U.S. led operation to
overthrow President Saddam Hussein.

"The Iraqi government continues with its policy of ethnic cleansing,
evicting Kurds and Turcomens, dispossessing them of their belongings,
properties and replacing them with Arabs. This is what the government of
Iraq calls part of the Arabization campaign, which is a truly repressive
ethnic cleansing policy aimed at changing the demographic characteristics of
these areas of Iraqi Kurdistan," Mr. Salih said.

Mr. Salih said the influx of refugees from Kirkuk is putting huge economic
pressure on his administration.

For example, he cites conditions at this refugee camp. A single pipe
provides all the drinking and washing water for about 500 families. Snakes
and scorpions are a constant threat to children. So are hepatitis and
exposure during the icy cold Kurdish winter.

However, some refugees say that despite the hardship, they are happy to be
living in Iraqi Kurdistan, where they said they enjoy a degree of freedom
that would be unthinkable in areas controlled by Iraq's government.

Hassan Karim Fattah, an ethnic Turcomen, from Kirkuk is one of them. "After
graduation, we are obliged if we are in the central government of Iraq under
the authority of the central government, we are obliged to do the soldier
serve in the military maybe one year or two years, so we lose our lives or
lose our youth with being a soldier. I think it's a bad thing. Here, no one
comes and pulls you from your hand and ask you to defend your country. There
is no war that's a good thing for us," Mr. Hassan said.

The PUK's Barham Salih expresses frustration at what he calls the failure of
the international community to deter the Iraqi government from its current

"We continue to call for international action against the government of Iraq
to end this policy of ethnic cleansing and to allow the refugees to go back
to their homes. This must not be tolerated. Ethnic cleansing in Kosovo,
Bosnia, and Kirkuk are the same, and the world community, the civilized
community of nations, must act to stop it," Mr. Salih said.

Like many Kurdish leaders, Mr. Salih said that ultimately, the most
effective way to bring an end to ethnic cleansing and other rights abuses in
Iraq is to topple President Saddam Hussein.

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