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[casi] War preparations paralyze economy

Arbil, Iraq Press, July 23, 2002  Business is sluggish in Iraq with little
economic activity taking place as war prospects loom over the country.

President Saddam Hussein, concerned about his personal survival, has put the
country on a war footing, with his security services and Special Forces in
control of almost every type of activity, including business transactions.

Baghdad traders, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Iraq Press that
Iraqis were trying to get rid of their dinars by changing them into dollars
and businessmen were almost idle, taking a wait-and-see attitude.

As speculation grows over an imminent attack by the United States to bring
down Saddam Hussein, the authorities have stepped up their war
readiness to levels unseen even in the run-up to the 1991 Gulf War over
Kuwait, devoting the country's meager economic resources to the war effort.

The traders said the authorities were so unnerved that they expect an attack
any time particularly after reported U.S. plans were leaked to the New York
Times newspaper.

The traders said the authorities were keeping a tight lid on bank deposits
and transactions. They said telephone lines of major traders in the country
were bugged and their movements traced.

President George W. Bush is reported to have issued an order, instructing
the Central Intelligence Agency to use all means at its disposal to get rid
of Saddam and increase its support for his opponents.

The Iraqi economy, devastated by wars, was showing signs of improvement due
to the U.N.-supervised oil sales worth billions of dollars every year.

But the economy deteriorated with the value of the the dinar plunging to
record lows following a short period of stability.

The dinar had stabilized at about 1,600 to the U.S. dollar but it has
nose-dived recently to about 2,000.

The traders said they expected the dinar to weaken further so long as Saddam
is obsessed with the idea of a massive U.S. attack to topple his regime.

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Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed

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