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News, 17-24/8/02 (2) IRAQI/UK RELATIONS * Don't trust Bush or Blair on Iraq * Straw plays down Iraq war talk * Ex-diplomat warns Blair over attack on Iraq * Iraq cannot be left to its own dangerous devices * Cook wins Cabinet debate over Iraq. IRAQI/INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS * US protests Germany's stance on Iraq * U.S. Makes Restrained Comment on Possible Russia-Iraq Deal * Iraqis reverse wheat ban [on Australia] * Iraqi FM to visit China next week * Russia 'giving illegal millions to Saddam for trade deals' * Police storm Iraqi embassy in Berlin * Iraq Embassy Invaders to Be Detained * Ex-envoy blasts Iraq stance IRAQI/UK RELATIONS http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,778092,00.html * DON'T TRUST BUSH OR BLAIR ON IRAQ by Richard Norton-Taylor The Guardian, 21st August Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons in the past is repeatedly cited by the US and British governments as justification for his removal from power now. But just what was their response to his use of poison gas against Iranian troops and Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s? Far from condemning his actions, they stepped up their support for Baghdad. One of the most damning revelations to come out of the Scott inquiry into the arms-to-Iraq affair was the British government's secret decision to supply Saddam with even more weapons-related equipment after he shelled the Kurdish town of Halabja in March 1988 with gas bombs, killing an estimated 5,000 civilians and maiming thousands more. Saddam said he had punished the Kurds for "collaboration" after the town had been successfully attacked by Iran. The weapons were produced with German-supplied chemicals. At the end of the Iraq-Iran war later that year, Sir Geoffrey Howe, the foreign secretary, drew up a paper entitled The Economic Consequences of the Peace. There were "major opportunities for British industry", he said. But he was terrified his plan to increase British arms exports to Iraq, secretly agreed by the government, would be leaked. "It could look very cynical if so soon after expressing outrage about the treatment of the Kurds, we adopt a more flexible approach to arms sales," one of his officials told the Scott inquiry. The government's decision to change its policy, but keep MPs and the public in the dark, was even more cynical, replied Lord Scott. As Whitehall turned a blind eye to exports to Baghdad of equipment which ministers and officials admitted could be used to produce chemical and nuclear weapons, Howe ordered his paper to be kept under wraps until, in the words of Ian Blackley, a senior Foreign Office diplomat, the "cloud had passed" - a reference to the attack on Halabja. This cynicism and hypocrisy was matched only by the US. Soon after the attack, Washington approved the export to Iraq of virus cultures and a $1bn contract to design and build a petrochemical plant the Iraqis planned to use to produce mustard gas. And while the Reagan administration condemned the use of chemical weapons during the eight-year Iraq Iran war, US officers were secretly supplying Iraqi generals with bomb-damage assessments and detailed information on Iranian troop deployments. "The use of gas on the battlefield by the Iraqis was not a matter of deep strategic concern," Walter Lang, a former senior US defence intelligence officer, told the New York Times this week. Washington was worried about the threat of Iran spreading its Islamic revolution to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Ever since TE Lawrence and his admirers in Whitehall drew the map of the modern Middle East after the first world war, the British and, later, American approach to the region has been dictated by naked self-interest. It is an approach which demanded a totally craven approach towards human rights. Saudi Arabia, no respecter of these and a past funder of Islamist extremism in Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere, remains one of Britain's biggest arms markets and a key supplier of oil to the US. Whatever the reasons, and there are many, for seeing the back of Saddam, don't listen to Bush or Blair when they talk of morality, democracy and good governance. The evidence of Lord Howe and his officials to the Scott inquiry revealed the government's priorities. This might be salutary to remember as the government prepares to respond to pressure for a debate about the Bush administration's plans to invade Iraq. "Public opposition in this country might have been embarrassingly vociferous, particularly in view of the use by Iraq of chemical weapons," Scott told Howe. Howe replied that he wanted to defend British corporate interests from "malicious commentators" and "emotional misunderstandings". The decision to prevent MPs from knowing about the government's shift in policy was a "perfectly legitimate management of news", he said. Then, the evidence against Saddam was there for all to see, but conveniently ignored. Britain and the US were desperate to benefit from Saddam's massive arms procurement programme. Now, we are told, Saddam must be overthrown because he is again said to be developing weapons of mass destruction, but we are not given the evidence. A senior Foreign Office official told the Scott inquiry: "If there had been an outcry [over the change in policy towards Iraq] I am not sure it would necessarily have reflected the view of the country, only of the number of people prepared to comment." Those words may be worth recalling in the weeks ahead. Richard Norton-Taylor is the author of Truth is a Difficult Concept: Inside the Scott Inquiry http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2209184.stm * STRAW PLAYS DOWN IRAQ WAR TALK BBC, 22nd August Weapons inspectors are the best way of reducing the threat posed by Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said. Military action had to remain an option but the possibility of an attack would "recede" if other ways of tackling the risk of Iraq were found, he said on Thursday. A change of government in Iraq would be welcomed, said Mr Straw, but it was not the goal of British foreign policy. His words will be seen as underlining a difference from American ambitions for "regime change" in Baghdad, but Mr Straw said the US did not view military action as the "option of choice" either. The minister suggested it was "jumping the gun" to be talking of an attack on Iraq now. Both the US and UK have stressed the need to deal with Iraq's alleged attempts to build-up weapons of mass destruction. United Nations weapons inspectors left Iraq in 1998 and since then have not been allowed to return. This month, Iraq offered to hold talks with UN officials about the possible return of inspectors. But the latest offer was reported to fall short of the UN's insistence that such an invitation must be unconditional. Mr Straw told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "If Saddam Hussein allows weapons inspectors back without condition, without restriction and when they are allowed to do their job properly, then the circumstances will change. "What everybody is concerned about is, yes, it's a terribly bad regime, but particularly about the threat Saddam poses from both his capability and his record to the security of the region and the security of the world. "The best way of trying to isolate and reduce that threat is by the introduction of weapons inspectors." Mr Straw said military action had to remain an option because of the risks posed by Saddam Hussein. If there was another way of dealing with that threat, then the case for international action "recedes", he said. US President George Bush met with his senior officials at his ranch in Crawford, Texas on Wednesday. Some observers suggested the meeting amounted to a war cabinet but the president said Iraq had not been discussed at the talks. Mr Bush repeated his assertion that Iraqi "regime change is in the interests of the world". But he promised to consult with his allies before making any decisions. There has been a difference of emphasis in the UK's attitude to a change of government in Iraq. Mr Straw said Saddam Hussein would be "removed by divine intervention" if his prayers were answered. But restarting weapons inspections was the crucial part of British policy. Mr Straw played down claims that Washington was set on war. "I don't believe, from all my discussions with the Americans, that military action is the option of choice," he said. He pointed to the way Mr Bush had been careful to consult his allies before taking military action in the wake of the US terror attacks. Opposition to Iraq is set to be aired at next month's Trades Union Congress and the Labour Party conference. Several Labour MPs have argued that an attack on Iraq could destabilise the Middle East and break international law. Such critics want Parliament to debate the issue before any decisions are made. Pressed on that point, Mr Straw replied: "There will be a debate in the House of Commons if any decisions are made by the cabinet in respect of military action." Downing Street has said Iraq will be among a range of issues on the agenda when the cabinet meets again next month. http://www.guardian.co.uk/guardianpolitics/story/0,3605,778543,00.html * EX-DIPLOMAT WARNS BLAIR OVER ATTACK ON IRAQ by Richard Norton-Taylor The Guardian, 22nd August Britain's top diplomat at the time of the 1991 Gulf war warned yesterday that a military attack on Iraq could have devastating consequences. Lord Wright of Richmond, former permanent secretary at the Foreign Office, joined the growing number of voices warning the government of the dangers of backing an American assault on Baghdad. "I do believe that ministers need to examine the case very carefully. "The implications of an attack against Iraq could be absolutely devastating," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "It is becoming increasingly clear that there is a strong body of opinion here, both in parliament and more widely, that an attack against Iraq would be a costly mistake", he said. "I don't personally believe that the case has yet been made." Lord Wright said it would be a mistake for the Americans to take action without the "widest possible measure of support" from the international community. "The administration probably would have the general support of the American public and probably the majority support of congress," he said. "But I believe it is absolutely vital that the Americans acquire the support of a much wider constituency and if they don't I believe they could be in serious trouble." Lord Wright pointed out that a dossier promised by the government providing evidence of Iraq's chemical, biological, and nuclear pro gramme had not been produced. A Conservative MP yesterday warned against any attack on Iraq unless it could be shown "incontrovertibly" that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was about to use them. John Gummer, the longest-serving cabinet member of the Thatcher and Major administrations as agriculture and environment secretary, said it would be wrong to risk fanning the flames of violence in the Middle East unless there was a "genuine, immediate and otherwise unstoppable" threat from Iraq. In a letter to the chairman of his Suffolk Coastal constituency party, Mr Gummer warned that without the support of other Arab nations, an invasion of Iraq would put the US firmly in the "anti-Islamic camp" and set back hopes of a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. "The invasion of Iraq can only be justified if it can be shown incontrovertibly that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction, that he has the means to deliver them, and that he has the intention to use them," he said. "Mere assertion is not enough". Mr Gummer said that Tony Blair's "much vaunted special relationship" with President George Bush placed a particular responsibility on the prime minister to urge caution on the US. "Friendship is not the same as sycophancy. A true friend warns a comrade who contemplates dangerous adventures of which he appears not sufficiently to have weighed the consequences," he said. The TUC will debate a motion opposing an attack on Iraq at its conference next month, its final agenda published yesterday confirms. An amendment tabled by the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association, states: "To reduce international tensions and promote peace, congress opposes the proposed military attack by the USA on Iraq. "The situation is urgent and congress urges the UK government to withhold support for such an attack which it considers is contrary to international law and would inevitably destabilise the Middle East." Alex Salmond, the Scottish National party's leader at Westminster, yesterday accused Mr Blair of dodging a debate on war against Iraq in both the cabinet and parliament, and attacked the government for drifting to war without a mandate, either domestically or internationally. Asked about Iraq during a visit to a mosque in London, the home secretary, David Blunkett, said: "There's no decision been taken, despite the hype of the last couple of weeks and there won't be for a considerable time to come." Menzies Campbell, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said that Mr Blunkett's comment "does not conceal the fact that Mr Blair has been unable to persuade the cabinet about the merits of military action against Saddam Hussein in support of the US. "If he can't persuade the cabinet, how he can expect to persuade the British people?" http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,779278,00.html * IRAQ CANNOT BE LEFT TO ITS OWN DANGEROUS DEVICES by Martin Woollacott The Guardian, 23rd August People in Indiana are talking about Iraq, Senator Richard Lugar said in London this week. And not only in Indiana. A mood of unease, and a readiness to examine the case for and against an attack on Iraq, may be spreading across the United States after a period when it seemed as if the mass of ordinary Americans were sleepwalking their way towards war. According to Lugar: "We are in a dialogue with our constituents, who are deeply interested in these issues ... This is not a situation of going blindly over a cliff, that's the advantage of checks and balances." The old Republican internationalist has played his part by holding Senate hearings which helped move the debate out of the backroom where government departments and pressure groups contend, and to make it a matter of potential importance in the mid-term elections in November. The relative caution with which both sides are now treating the war issue suggests that the question of how it will affect the fortunes of the parties in the elections and beyond remains mysterious. Some Democrats seem to be probing, while taking extreme care not to sully their patriotic credentials, to see whether the administration's approach to the problem of Iraq can be faulted. By contrast, some politicians from both parties mainly see the debate as a means of increasing the depth of public support, and support in the legislature, for a policy and a war on which the basic decision has already been taken. The president himself has increasingly been emphasising the need for patience and the necessity of consulting with America's wise men, including those who have weighed in with their opinions in recent weeks, and with allies. Karl Rove, the president's political adviser, ever on the lookout for policies that may play badly with the voters, may well have had as important a role as the foreign policy sages or the doubtful friends abroad. It is true that the "debate" so far has been largely about the how and when of war rather than about whether there should be a war at all. But it may be that under the guise of a discussion of ways and means, the question of whether military action is wise or appropriate is emerging. War is perhaps no longer quite the certainty that it had seemed to be. A shift against war among ordinary Americans, should it come, would be likely to be based on the perception of risk, whether to servicemen in combat or to all Americans if a war led to the use of weapons of mass destruction, had dire economic consequences, or led to more terrorist strikes against American home territory. Such a shift would be welcomed by those in Europe who are against the war, but it could not in itself be taken as an absolute argument against it. Populations in the past have been against war when it was necessary, making the eventual recourse to it more difficult and dangerous, as Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, has said, and they have been for it when it was unnecessary. Conversely, the views and interests of Iraqis, although they should be seriously consulted and considered, as argued in this column last week, are not paramount either. What should be paramount is the question of order in a world in which America is the most powerful state. This is a world which, as Zbigniew Brzezinski has insisted in his contribution to the Iraq debate, needs America's capacity to enforce as a last resort. When such a large group of nations demand, rightly, that America put pressure on Ariel Sharon's government or even act in such a way as to change Israel's government, they implicitly acknowledge this need. "Without a respected and legitimate law enforcer," Brzezinski wrote, "global security could be in serious jeopardy." The irony of the present situation is that America's legitimacy in that capacity, already questionable, could be damaged both by recourse to war and by a retreat from it after so many threats and statements. A disastrous war against Saddam Hussein would be terrible. But another victory for Saddam, if he manages once again to see off the Americans diplomatically, would hardly be welcome. The second outcome may seem to many less dreadful than the first. But the precedent is a dismal one. Are we to make the world safe for dictators? There has been a brief period in which the rescue of peoples under vicious or deeply inadequate governments had begun to emerge as a kind of duty for more fortunate countries. That rescue could take many forms, only a few of them involving military force, yet in some cases force had to be an option. Flawed in application, never unmixed with motives of national interest, never equally applied everywhere, and less than entirely predictable in its consequences when it was undertaken, this interventionism was still, on balance, a good development. Now we face the possibility that all a regime needs to do to ward off any prospect of intervention to relieve its suffering people is to acquire a few primitive weapons of mass destruction. These are not so much a danger to others in the offensive sense as they are the lock on dictatorship's door. Used directly against invading troops or indirectly against their home countries via terrorist groups, they represent an unacceptable threat to anyone who may try to interfere. It is true that the idea that the world is pullulating with rogue states is wrong and alarmist. Still, one is too many, and who can say what the situation may be in 10 or 20 years' time? Then there is the question of a more general effect on the readiness and capacity to intervene, even where such weapons of mass destruction are not part of the equation. That may not be logical but governments are not always logical. Ideas have their moments and those moments can and do pass away. The most powerful argument against war on Iraq is that the Bush administration has been planning something both very radical and very risky without much thought and while over committed to Israel. The result is that there is now no cost-free course of action. Iraq without Saddam is a hugely worthwhile objective, but the dangers of war to all in the Middle East, including Iraqis, are clear. An American war without European help would, in addition, mark a divide in the west that would be deeply damaging and perhaps long-lasting. On the other hand, a simple retreat from war would once again abandon Iraqis to their fate, hand Saddam a triumph, and leave Americans equally embittered at Europe's failure to help. Perhaps a long game of manoeuvre over inspections, in which the build-up of US troops will play a part, and in which other states and the UN will put pressure on Iraq, will diminish both Saddam and the prospects of war. It is sad to rest hopes on the chances that something will turn up, but that is the situation we face. NO URL (taken from Iraq Sanctions Monitor) * COOK WINS CABINET DEBATE OVER IRAQ. Daily Mail, 20th August Robin Cook has won his battle for a full Cabinet debate on whether Britain should go to war with Saddam Hussein. Iraq will be on the agenda for the first Cabinet meeting after Ministers return from their summer break next month, Downing Street said yesterday. This is a clear indication that Tony Blair accepts he faces a massive task in winning public support for his pro-American stance on Iraq. Opinion polls suggest strong public opposition to war with Saddam while more than 150 Labour MPs have signed a Commons motion opposing an attack on Baghdad. Mr Cook, Leader of the Commons, has emerged as the standard bearer for the powerful antiwar faction inside Labour. Labour MPs have been seething because the issue has not been properly debated by Ministers or MPs. Mr Cook let it be known last week that he was demanding an early Cabinet debate on the biggest decision to face the Government so far. Meanwhile, the U.S. is organising a huge Middle East arms build-up so it will be ready to invade Iraq if the order comes from President Bush. Pentagon sources say the idea is to unnerve Saddam Hussein and weaken his troops' morale. Leaks suggest a giant cargo ship has been contracted to move troopcarrying combat vehicles to the Gulf. Another has been hired to carry vehicles, helicopters and ammunition. Pentagon officials said the build-up does not mean an invasion is imminent but that one at relatively short notice is increasingly possible. Russia is set to sign a £25billion trade agreement with Iraq, despite opposition from Washington. IRAQI/INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS http://www.dawn.com/2002/08/18/int1.htm * US PROTESTS GERMANY'S STANCE ON IRAQ Dawn, from AFP, 18th August, 08 Jamadi-us-Saani 1423 WASHINGTON, Aug 17: The United States has expressed official displeasure about critical comments made by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder regarding a possible US-led war on Iraq, the New York Times reported on Saturday. The newspaper wrote that US ambassador to Germany Daniel Coats went to the chancellor's office in Berlin this week to relay Washington's unhappiness about recent remarks by Schroeder describing the proposed US pre-emptive strike against Baghdad "an adventure". Washington "is not happy at the accusation that it is not consulting with its allies" or that Bush is "a trigger-happy Texan," one senior American official told the Times. It was "a highly unusual event between such close allies," one unnamed official told the daily. Coats did not speak directly to Schroeder - a choice made by the United States in order to keep its criticism more general and low-key, officials told the Times. Last week, Schroeder told German media that an attack on Iraq could "destroy the international coalition against terrorism" formed after the September 11 attacks on the United States. "The Middle East needs peace, not a new war," Schroeder said. Schroeder was the first major European leader to publicly state his country's refusal to join any military intervention aimed at toppling Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Nevertheless, the chancellor's comments reflect general European doubts about the urgency and wisdom of an attack on Iraq in the absence of intelligence showing that he currently has nuclear weapons or that he has aided the Al Qaeda network. http://www.tehrantimes.com/Description.asp?Da=8/19/02&Cat=9&Num=8 * U.S. MAKES RESTRAINED COMMENT ON POSSIBLE RUSSIA-IRAQ DEAL Tehran Times. 19th August WASHINGTON -- The White House has made a rather restrained comment on Saturday's media reports about the upcoming signing of an economic cooperation agreement between Russia and Iraq. A White House spokesman told journalists in Crawford, Texas, where President George W. Bush is on a vacation, the United States hopes that Russia understands its obligations assumed under the UN Security Council resolution with regard to Iraq and will continue to comply with them. Iraqi Ambassador to Russia Abbas Khalaf told ITAR-TASS earlier in the day that the two countries would soon sign a program of long-term cooperation. It covers a period of 10 years and includes 67 contracts in the fields of oil and gas extraction, transportation, and communications, to a total tune of about 60 billion U.S. dollars. "Iraq gives preference to Russian companies as business partners and primarily in the oil business. We have given full priority to Russian companies to trade Iraqi oil on the world market", the diplomat said. This information has been confirmed in an interview with the "Washington Post" by Deputy Head of the Russian Prime Minister's Office, Oleg Buklemeshev. He said that after several years of negotiations, the parameters of the future Russian-Iraqi agreement were agreed upon by various ministries and agencies and sent to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov for final approval. "All ministries agreed with this document. As for the signing ceremony, it will be held very soon", Buklemeshev said. The news of the agreement came as a surprise to the U.S. Department of State. Like the White House, it has expressed the hope that the implementation of this document will not breach the sanctions imposed by the UN on Iraq. Russia is a member of the UN Security Council and well aware of its obligations under UN Security Council resolutions, a high-ranking State Department official who asked not to be named said, adding that he did not know of any agreement. The "Washington Post" said the signing of a new economic agreement between Moscow and Baghdad may complicate a planned U.S. military operation against Iraq. http://www.themercury.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,4926578%255E462,0 0.html * IRAQIS REVERSE WHEAT BAN [ON AUSTRALIA] by Steve Lewis The Mercury (Australia), 19th August AUSTRALIAN wheat farmers have secured a breakthrough agreement with Iraq, guaranteeing a $200 million export deal for this year, and the possibility of billions of dollars in future contracts. Signalling Iraq's willingness to consider trade and diplomatic issues separately, Baghdad relented after earlier threatening to ban 500,000 tonnes of Australian wheat to be shipped this year. Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammad Saleh earlier had placed a ban on wheat exports and signalled this would not be lifted until Australia softened its hawkish support for a US-led strike against Saddam Hussein. But the wheat deal came as Labor and the Government stepped up their war of words over Australia's possible involvement in the US-led military campaign to oust the Iraqi President. As MPs return to Canberra today after a seven-week absence, John Howard indicated the Government would send troops to support a US-led campaign to topple Mr Hussein, even if Labor opposed the move. The Prime Minister's remarks came as he rejected a request by Opposition Leader Simon Crean to address parliament over the likelihood of Australia supporting a war on Iraq. Following a last-ditch diplomatic effort, the Australian Wheat Board announced that 130,000 tonnes of wheat -- stranded off the Iraqi coast -- had been cleared by Baghdad after concerns over quality were resolved. The Iraqi Government had raised concerns over the quality of the shipment, putting at risk a further 370,000 tonnes of Australian wheat to be shipped over coming months. Wheat board managing director Andrew Lindberg said the agreement ensured all shipments under the current contract could go ahead. "This is a very successful outcome for both parties, given this trade is vitally important for the Australian wheat farmer and the Australian economy," he said. Mr Howard accused the Labor leader of seeking to "unduly politicise an extremely sensitive issue with potential adverse consequences for the national interest". His attack, contained in a letter to Mr Crean, followed a call by the Opposition Leader for Mr Howard to deliver a statement to parliament outlining "all relevant facts" about the situation. Opinion polls show a clear majority of Australians opposed to military action against Iraq, and the issue is set to dominate parliamentary debate this week. Mr Crean, in his letter to the Prime Minister last Friday, called for a "comprehensive statement" on the issues. These included any evidence linking Iraq with Osama Bin Laden's al-Qa'ida terrorist network, and the impact of any military campaign by Australia on regional security. Mr Crean said Labor expected the statement to be delivered within two weeks. Greens senator Bob Brown is expected to move for a parliamentary hearing this week over Australia's possible involvement in any war. Mr Howard said it would be "desirable" to have bipartisan support if Australia joined the US in the conflict. http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_40859,00050004.htm * IRAQI FM TO VISIT CHINA NEXT WEEK Hindustani Times, from Agence France-Presse, 20th August Beijing: Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri will visit China from August 26 to 28, Beijing said on Tuesday. The talks are expected to cover US threats to launch a military campaign to topple Saddam Hussein's regime. China's foreign ministry announced the dates via the official Xinhua news agency, adding only that Sabri and his hosts would discuss "bilateral relations and other issues of common concern". A foreign ministry official said she did not yet have details on who Sabri would be meeting in Beijing and what topics were to be discussed. However a diplomatic source in Baghdad said earlier this month that Sabri was planning to visit China as well as Russia, and was expected to discuss the US threats with both countries. China and Russia, both veto-holding permanent UN Security Council members, maintain good relations with Iraq, and are opposed to any strike on the sanctions-hit country. Earlier this month Beijing welcomed Iraq's recent invitation for the chief UN arms inspector to visit Baghdad for talks on resuming weapons inspections interrupted in 1998, calling it "a positive step". China hoped the issue of alleged weapons proliferation in Iraq would be resolved "through political and diplomatic channels" on the basis of UN resolutions, the foreign ministry said at the time. Beijing has itself been accused by Washington of not doing enough to prevent weapons related exports to Iraq, and several Chinese companies have been hit by US sanctions over the issue. http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,777349,00.html * RUSSIA 'GIVING ILLEGAL MILLIONS TO SADDAM FOR TRADE DEALS' by Nick Paton Walsh in Moscow The Guardian, 20th August Russian officials have given millions of dollars in illegal payments to Saddam Hussein's regime to secure oil purchases from Iraq, according to western diplomatic sources. Emercom, the Russian government ministry which distributes aid in emergency situations, signed a $270m deal last month under the UN oil-for-food programme, enabling it to buy 12m barrels of Iraqi crude oil. But western diplomats have told the Guardian that they have seen evidence that large "sweetener" payments were made to Baghdad to secure the deal. Such payments are illegal under international law, since security council resolutions prohibit companies making deals with Iraq unless they are supervised by the UN sanctions committee. The oil-for-food programme allows companies to buy Iraqi crude oil at a prices below the normal market value. The companies pay the UN for the oil, and it then allows Iraq to spend the money on approved goods, such as food or medicines. Iraq has allegedly demanded that some companies pay a commission into accounts not supervised by the UN. Experts fear that such behind-the-scenes payments are used to finance Iraq's procurement of weapons of mass destruction. A spokeswoman for Emercom strongly denied the allegation, saying that it had been awarded the contract because of its humanitarian work in the area. The revelation came 48 hours after Russia confirmed that it intended to sign an economic and trade cooperation agreement with Iraq, worth an estimated $40bn, with Iraq. The deal is likely to complicate relations between Russia and the United States, but White House officials sought to play it down, saying it complied with the UN sanctions regime. The Iraqi ambassador to Moscow, Abbas Haliaf, told the Russian media that the deal might be signed in early September. "We give Russians full priority" he said. "Over 200 Russian companies are now working in our country." The Emercom deal, approved by the UN on 11 July, is twice the size of any other under the oil-for-food programme in the last three months. "It was noticeably large," a western diplomatic source said. "Iraq is having a problem attracting people prepared to break the sanctions. When they find someone who is willing, then they give them the biggest deal that they can." He added that he had seen clear evidence of payments "within the last few months". "It clearly came from [Emercom]," he said. "The money is paid into bank accounts in Jordan. Saddam can then spend it on whatever he wants - be that weapons or palaces. These payments are illegal under international law. There is no grey area here." UN rules for oil deals permit companies to negotiate a commission of about 5 cents for the Iraqi regime on each barrel of crude purchased. But Iraq asks companies to pay between 25 and 40 cents commission on each barrel: payments which are illegal if made outside the oil-for-food programme. The amount Emercom is accused of paying is thought to be millions of dollars. The Emercom spokeswoman said the ministry simply worked as an agent for the oil companies, not buying crude oil directly, and all deals were conducted according to international law. She added that the total commission Emercom had received for acting as an agent in the deal was significantly lower than the commission allegedly paid to Baghdad - so such illegal payments would have made no economic sense for the ministry. Bank records clearly showed this, she said. The UK and US first received intelligence that Russian officials might be making illegal payments to Iraq a year ago, and immediately contacted the Russian government, which held an inquiry. This concluded that no impropriety had taken place. Russia's cooperation with Baghdad in energy projects has grown considerably in recent years, since Iraq is keen to repay the $8bn in loans which it received from the Soviet government. In March the two countries announced 67 new projects in the energy and communications fields, worth an estimated $2bn. Some analysts have dismissed this week's announcement of a $40bn agreement as a simple attempt by Iraq to cultivate opposition to an American invasion, as many doubt that the country can afford such a deal. http://www.dawn.com/2002/08/21/top20.htm * POLICE STORM IRAQI EMBASSY IN BERLIN Dawn, from AFP, 21st August, 11 Jamadi-us-Saani 1423 BERLIN, Aug 20: German police raided the Iraqi embassy building in Berlin on Tuesday night, freeing two hostages, both of whom were slightly injured during the operation, and arresting five of their abductors. The building was occupied for nearly five hours by suspected members of a little-known Iraqi opposition group, which burst into the Iraqi embassy on in the afternoon and took six people hostage. Police said that 10 people were in the building, in the Zehlendorf residential area in Berlin's southwest, including the hostage takers and the Iraqi charge d'affaires Shamir Mohammed, who only arrived in Berlin last month. Police confirmed that the Iraqi charge d'affaires Shamir Mohammed was one of the two people freed. Responsibility for the incident was claimed by a group calling itself the Democratic Iraqi Opposition of Germany, which had said in a statement that the occupation would be a "peaceful and temporary action". In Washington, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the United States had nothing to do with the incident. "The thought that the United States would be engaged in something like that is far afield. You know that, I know that, everyone here knows that," Rumsfeld told reporters. http://www.baghdad.com/p/8d/df508f0be8bd.html * IRAQ EMBASSY INVADERS TO BE DETAINED The Associated Press, 22nd August BERLIN (AP) ‹ A Berlin court has ordered the detention of five Iraqis who took their country's top diplomats in Germany captive for five hours, judicial authorities said Thursday. The five men, aged between 32 and 43, would face a prison sentence of between five and 15 years if convicted of hostage-taking at the Iraqi Embassy, Berlin justice ministry spokeswoman Ariane Faust said. The men, who were not identified, also are accused of causing bodily harm, attacking representatives of a foreign state and breaching the peace. They appeared in court late Wednesday. German commandos stormed the embassy in a western Berlin suburb after a five-hour standoff Tuesday, freeing Iraq's acting ambassador, Shamil Mohammed, and his designated successor, Muaead Hussain. The two men had been bound with tape and held at gunpoint by the assailants, who were armed with a loaded pistol, two tear gas guns, a hatchet and a stun gun. An Iraqi man and his German wife who had been at the embassy also were taken captive but almost immediately released, suffering from the effects of the tear gas. A little-known dissident group calling itself the Democratic Iraqi Opposition of Germany faxed news agencies a statement saying "we are taking over the Iraqi Embassy in Berlin and thereby take the first step toward the liberation of our beloved fatherland." A statement from the Berlin justice ministry said, however, that "the detainees have yet to talk about the issue ‹ the background and motives are still being investigated." The five suspects had been living at a hostel for asylum-seekers in the state of Brandenburg, which surrounds Berlin. Four of them applied for asylum in March, and one last year, but Faust gave no details on when they entered the country. Mohammed said he is convinced that that his captors were either Israeli or American agents whose goal was to raise German support for a U.S. attack on Baghdad. Germany has voiced opposition in recent weeks to a U.S.-led operation to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Iraqi dissidents said they had never heard of the Iraqi Democratic Opposition of Germany, and it appeared to be a new group. The U.S. government also said it had no knowledge of or contacts with the group. http://www.dailytelegraph.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,4957068%255E4 21,00.html * EX-ENVOY BLASTS IRAQ STANCE Daily Telegraph, Australia, 23rd August FORMER United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq Richard Butler has lashed out at the Australian Government's handling of the threat of war with Iraq. He said today the Federal Government was "trashing our moral values" by giving unequivocal support to United States President George W. Bush's desire for war with Iraq. Mr Butler was speaking as part of a Sydney corporate luncheon panel discussion called "September 11, 12 months on the Australian perspective". He said while Foreign Minister Alexander Downer "probably regretted" seeming keen to go to war alongside George Bush, Mr Downer's remarks on return from a trip to Washington had showed "the character of the government we have". "It's the same in respect of the Iraq war just as Robert Menzies did 40 years ago when he lied to the Australian parliament about us being invited to join in the Vietnam war," Mr Butler said. Mr Butler had earlier warned guests at the luncheon he was going to fire a bombshell at the government, saying "I'm now going to lobb a hand grenade into the room". He said the Government's cynical use of crises such as the Tampa refugee issue raised serious questions. "I think they raise very serious issues of the abuse of public life in this is country," he said. Mr Butler stressed "there were very good reasons why Saddam Hussein should not be president of Iraq". But he said the reasons for attacking Iraq had to be the right ones and the rest of the world had to understand it was not just because America felt it could do what it wanted, when it wanted. "What is emerging is an interpretation in Washington that says we will do whatever we want, anytime, anywhere all under the rubric of terrorism whether it is provable or not," he said. "I'm not suggesting terrorism is OK," Mr Butler said. "To Iraq I'm the 'Butcher of Baghdad'. "I persecuted those people for their weapons of mass destruction. "There is a serious job to be done in Iraq but we must do what we do for the right reasons." He said fanatical hatred of America, such as that which produced the September 11 attacks, had come about because of the end of the Cold War and the emergence of the United States as the world's only superpower. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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