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[casi] News, 17-24/8/02 (2)

News, 17-24/8/02 (2)


*  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.


*  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,3604,778092,00.html

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

Richard Norton-Taylor is the author of Truth is a Difficult Concept: Inside
the Scott Inquiry

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

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.,3605,778543,00.html

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

"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

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

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

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

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)

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

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.


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

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.

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

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

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.,00050004.htm

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.,3604,777349,00.html

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

"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

The amount Emercom is accused of paying is thought to be millions of

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.

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

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.

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.,5936,4957068%255E4

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.

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