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[casi] News, 17-24/8/02 (4)

News, 17-24/8/02 (4)


*  Al Qaeda Presence In Iraq Reported
*  Al-Qaida Link to Iraq Lab Suspected
*  KDP to Turks: Kurdistanis will turn Kurdistan into a graveyard to
*  Turkey, Iraqi Kurdish Tensions High
*  Saddam's son points finger at Iran
*  Iranian troops deployed on Iraqi border: Kurds
*  Militant Kurds training al-Qaida fighters


*  Iraq: Military Spokesman Says Four Civilians Hurt In U.S.-British Attack
On Iraq
*  US, UK jets raid civilian installations: Iraq [Saturday, 17th August]
*  Western jets strike air defence site [Tuesday 20th August]
*  U.S. Planes Bomb Iraqi Site [Friday, 23rd August]


*  Bid to market US policy on Iraq to Arabs
*  Saddam's foes hope to recruit soldiers


*  Saudis reconsider US links after terrorism lawsuit
*  Aide says Nidal confessed to Lockerbie bombing    


by Bradley Graham
Washington Post, 21st August

At least a handful of ranking members of al Qaeda have taken refuge in Iraq,
U.S. intelligence officials said yesterday. Their presence could complicate
U.S. efforts against the terrorist network's leadership but could also give
the Bush administration another rationale for possible military action
against the Iraqi government.

Iraq has frequently been cited by administration officials as a haven for al
Qaeda fighters who have fled the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan. But
what is new, officials said, is the number and senior rank of the al Qaeda
members who have been mentioned in recent classified intelligence reports as
being in Iraq.

"There are some names you'd recognize," one defense official said.

Alluding to these reports, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday
repeated earlier assertions about al Qaeda's presence in Iraq, but he
declined to elaborate on the evidence.

"I suppose that, at some moment, it may make sense to discuss that
publicly," he said at a news conference. "It doesn't today. But what I have
said is a fact -- that there are al Qaeda in a number of locations in Iraq."

The reports of a more significant al Qaeda presence in Iraq come amid
Pentagon planning for a possible invasion of the country and would appear to
back President Bush's arguments for toppling President Saddam Hussein. Eager
to bolster the case for military action, administration hawks have pressed
for months for whatever evidence can be uncovered about any links between
Hussein's government and Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.

One of the most tantalizing claims, involving a Czech report of a meeting in
Prague in April 2001 between Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi
intelligence agent, has yet to be corroborated. But U.S. officials continue
to probe this and other possible connections.

As fresh evidence of Hussein's links to terrorism, White House spokesman Ari
Fleischer yesterday pointed to the death this week of Palestinian terrorist
Abu Nidal in Baghdad, where he had been living for the past four years. "The
fact that only Iraq would give safe haven to Abu Nidal demonstrates the
Iraqi regime's complicity with global terror," Fleischer said.

Mindful of the additional advantage that any verifiable association with al
Qaeda would hand the Bush administration, the Iraqi government has appeared
to distance itself from the fugitive terrorists. A senior U.S. intelligence
official said there is no evidence that Hussein has formally "welcomed in or
sheltered" the terrorists.

"They aren't the official guests of the government," another official said,
describing them largely as still "on the run."

But Rumsfeld scoffed at the notion that al Qaeda members are hiding in Iraq
without the full knowledge of the government or its protection.

"In a vicious, repressive dictatorship that exercises near-total control
over its population, it's very hard to imagine that the government is not
aware of what's taking place in the country," the Pentagon leader said.

Tariq Aziz, Iraq's deputy prime minister, said in an interview with CBS News
yesterday that members of al Qaeda are operating in Iraq, but in the
northern part of the country under the control of Kurdish opposition leader
Jallal Tallabani, "an ally of Mr. Rumsfeld."

"It is not under the control of the government," Aziz said.

The Bush administration has been working with Tallabani and the leaders of
other Iraqi opposition groups to build a united front against Hussein.

Qubad Talabany, Washington representative of the Kurdish Patriotic Union of
Kurdistan, which operates in northern Iraq, said a group of about 120 Arabs
with some links to al Qaeda did arrive in the eastern town of Biyara last
September. Their numbers have grown since the U.S. military campaign in
Afghanistan began, Talabany said.

Al Qaeda has often used northern Iraq to travel between Afghanistan and
other countries. So, U.S. officials said, they are not surprised to find
some members taking shelter in Iraq.

"Given that people dispersed in a variety of different directions, you would
expect those with Iraqi ties or nationality to show up in Iraq," the
intelligence official said.

Of particular interest to U.S. authorities, though, are what two officials
characterized as a handful of "second- and third-tier" al Qaeda operatives
in Iraq.

It is people of this rank in the network who have become a greater focus of
U.S. anti terrorism efforts around the world as bin Laden and his top
lieutenants have disappeared from view for months. These operatives are
considered responsible for managing much of the terrorist group's activities
and may possibly still be in a position to plan future attacks against the
United States, officials said.

At one point in yesterday's news conference, Rumsfeld expressed a measure of
frustration with the intense public attention that the administration's
deliberations about Iraq have received in recent weeks. He said news
organizations are mistaken "to focus excessively on this one subject and
particularize everything to it," calling the debate "a little out of

"I don't know what one can do about that, except that I've found that from
time to time, I'll give an interview and never mention the word Iraq, and I
find that the whole interview is cast around Iraq," he said.

by Sandra Sobieraj
Las Vegas Sun, from Associated Press, 20th August

CRAWFORD, Texas- Arab terrorists with al-Qaida ties may have tested
biological weapons at a small facility in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq,
a U.S. official said.

American intelligence agencies had reason to suspect that the facility, in a
part of northern Iraq not controlled by President Saddam Hussein's
government, was a kind of laboratory for chemical and biological weapons
activity that included testing on barnyard animals and at least one man, the
official said Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

U.S. officials believe the terrorists tested a biological toxin known as
ricin, a deadly poison made from the castor bean plant.

The Defense Department has reviewed possibly taking military action against
the site in northern Iraq because any time there is intelligence about
production of weapons of mass destruction all options are considered,
including military, a U.S. counterterror official said in Washington.

In a related development Tuesday, U.S. fighter jets bombed an air defense
facility in southern Iraq near the city of al-Amarah, about 120 miles
southeast of Baghdad, U.S. officials said. They said it was in response to
"Iraqi hostile threats and acts" against U.S. and British pilots who enforce
a "no fly" zone over southern Iraq. No other details of the threats or the
attack were disclosed.

The Bush administration considered a covert military operation against the
suspected bio weapons facility in northern Iraq, but President Bush did not
approve military action, ABC News' "World News Tonight" reported Monday.

Citing unidentified intelligence officials, ABC said that as U.S.
surveillance of the weapons facility intensified, Bush administration
officials concluded it was too small and crude to be worth risking American
lives and the outcry among allies that might follow any U.S. action inside

At the White House, a spokesman for Bush's National Security Council refused

"As a matter of policy, we don't discuss whether something was or was not
briefed to the president," spokesman Michael Anton said in Washington. "We
don't discuss military targeting - whether something is, was or might be a
military target."

The official who privately discussed U.S. knowledge of the facility said it
was operated recently by a small number of people connected to terrorists in
Ansar al-Islam, an Arab organization with links to Osama bin Laden's
al-Qaida terror network. The official would not say whether the facility was
still in operation.

U.S. intelligence agencies have no evidence that Saddam is linked to the
operation, the official said.

The revelations put the Bush White House in an uncomfortable position,
because the president has promised every audience he addresses that his
administration will "hunt the killers down one by one" and prevent America's
enemies from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

"With the spread of chemical and biological and nuclear weapons, along with
ballistic missile technology, freedom's enemies could attain catastrophic
power. And there's no doubt that they would use that power to attack us and
to attack the values we uphold," Bush told a group of conservative leaders
from the International Democrat Union at a White House dinner in June.

"We will oppose the new totalitarians with all our power. We will hunt them
down one by one and bring them to justice," Bush said.


London ( 21 August 2002: On 21 August 2002: Brayeti, the
daily organ of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, has strongly attacked Turkish
authorities in an article, entitled ³the time of threats has well passed
away². Turkish officials have been constantly attacking, since the KDP
proposed the constitution of future democratic Iraq (1st July 2002), which
defines the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

This constitution defines the map of Kurdistan region of Iraq, which covers
the two Kurdish cities of Kurkik and Musil. Turkish authorities have been
noisy and provocative since this proposal has being published. The KDP
fights back as an international entity now.

In the Brayati article, the KDP uses a strong language to attack the Turkish
Defence Minster, who attacked the KDP for their proposal, in a Turkish
newspaper on 19 August 2002.

They KDP states that the Kurds will turn Iraqi Kurdistan into the graveyard
for the Turkish army, should they attack Kurdistan.

Brayaty asks:

³We must ask why Turkish officials spread these propaganda? Do they expect
to implement their own filthy objective in the US attack on Iraq?²

Then Brayety has the answers:

What is clear is that the Turkish officials do not hide their determination
to control the Musil Wilayet (The Kurdish Region of Iraq); they regard it as
part of the Ottoman Empire¹s occupying regime. In their annual budget,
Turkey sill allocate one TL for it, without knowing that the Musil Wilayet
is part of Iraq according to the international treaties. Therefore, Turkey
has no right over this Wilayet anymore.²

Then the KDP attacks Turkey and terms what Turkey names as southeast Turkey,
³Turkey¹s Kurdistan²; this is a crime by Turkish law which may carry a death

³No one in this county is willing to link her or his fate with a state such
as Turkey, because everyone knows very well that the future of their
children will be the same as the fate of Turkey¹s Kurdistan children; they
become shoe polishers in Istanbul, Azimir and Ankara.²



London ( 20 August 2002: Mudir Ali, a 65-year-old
eyewitness, on a videotape, says that on 4th May 1988, during Anfal, he has
seen Al-Khazraji with his own eyes kicking a little Kurdish child to death.
The videotape was recorded by the campaign to bring Nizar Al-Khazraji to
international justice.

Mr Ali says:

³This man [Al-Khazraji] is a terrorist and a war criminal. I saw him with my
own eyes how he kicked a little Kurdish child to death. If this happened in
the west, he would have received severe punishment.² Then Ali raises his
hand and say, ³He must be hanged.²

Here Mr Ali tells the story of his village, Goptape, and reveals that on the
3rd May 1988 his village was gassed and bombarded. He states that the Iraqi
regime used gases that smelled like a rotten apple. Then, the day after, a
unit of the Iraqi army, led by Al-Khazraji, rounds up all the population to
be taken to unknown destination for a massacre. In these crimes, Mr Ali lost
27 members of his extended family, including his wife and four children.

Anfal was a codename of the Iraqi regime to find the ³final solution² to the
Kurdish issue, genocide.

One of the leading members of the campaign to bring Nizar Al-Khazraji to
international justice is Mr Darsim Rahman Farhan, who has been living in
Denmark for the last 9 years.

Mr Farhan himself suffered under the Iraqi injustice. He was jailed from
March 1986 to September 1988, where he was tortured severely. When he was
released after over two years, Mr Farhan found his town, Debaga, that was
razed to the ground by the Iraqi army.

Now Mr Farhan is a leading international figure to bring the Iraqi regime
into international justice.

The Associated Press, 23rd August

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) ‹ Talk of a possible U.S. attack on Iraq is exacerbating
tensions between Turkey and an Iraqi Kurdish faction ‹ two crucial allies if
the United States takes military action against Saddam Hussein's regime.

Turkey is worried that the Iraqi Kurds, who run an autonomous zone in
northern Iraq, would try to carve out their own state if Saddam is
overthrown. Turkish officials fear that would encourage Kurdish separatist
movements in Turkey.

The tensions could complicate Washington's efforts to build an anti-Saddam
coalition because Turkey is home to a key air base that U.S. warplanes use
to patrol a no-fly zone over northern Iraq. Washington is also apparently
interested in using former Iraqi air bases in the Kurdish enclave.

Turkey fought Kurdish guerrillas for 15 years in the southeast of the
nation, which borders northern Iraq, and says that a Kurdish state would
serve as an inspiration for the rebels.

The Iraqi Kurds fear Turkish domination and have been angered by recent
statements by some Turkish nationalist politicians suggesting that oil-rich
areas of northern Iraq, including the Kurdish enclave, should be part of

Northern Iraq was part of the Ottoman Empire for centuries and some Turkish
nationalists have questioned the treaty that put the area in Iraq and not
Turkey after the collapse of the empire following World War I.

"It is an area which had been forcibly separated," Defense Minister
Sabahattin Cakmakoglu said Tuesday. "Northern Iraq is under our

The statement sparked outrage from the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which
controls about half of the autonomous enclave in northern Iraq.

The KDP warned that it will turn northern Iraq into a "graveyard" for the
Turks if they enter. The KDP is believed to be able to mobilize some 40,000

Turkey also recently announced that it is choking off vital border trade
that is a critical source of funding for the KDP.

Diesel imports from the Kurdish region ended in February and Turkish
officials announced last week that the trade will not be restarted.

The Kurdish enclave depends on the smuggling of diesel to Turkey for a large
part of its income. Sources say that the KDP has only been able to pay half
the salaries of officials due to the cutoff in trade.

"Do they expect to implement their own filthy objective in the U.S. attack
on Iraq?" Brayeti, the KDP's newspaper asked in an editorial. A translation
of the Kurdish-language editorial was released on a Kurdish website close to
the KDP and verified by a KDP official.

"Let them try their luck in today's Kurdistan. They will ... witness that
this nation will turn ... Kurdistan into a graveyard for those who attack
it," the newspaper said.

Turkish analysts seemed surprised by the harsh tone of the KDP's reaction.

KDP leader Massoud Barzani "should understand that he does not have the
luxury to lose the support of Turkey," columnist Sami Kohen wrote in
Thursday's Milliyet newspaper. "It would very useful for the U.S. to remind
him of this again."

Turkish media have reported that Turkey recently refused to renew Barzani's
diplomatic passport. A Turkish intelligence source confirmed that report. As
Iraqi citizens living in territory that is not controlled by the Iraqi
government, most Kurds travel on old or forged Iraqi passports.

Fianncial Times, 23rd August

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - President Saddam Hussein's eldest son has accused Iran
of being behind a group of militant Islamists in Kurdish-run northern Iraq
and has dismissed claims that it was connected with Osama bin Laden's al
Qaeda network.

Uday Hussein told a group of Iraqi journalists that the shadowy group had no
links with al Qaeda, the organisation accused by Washington of carrying out
the September 11 attacks on U.S. cities.

"The Iranians have created what is called Jund al-Islam, which has nothing
to do with Islam and has no link whatsoever with al Qaeda," Uday was quoted
as saying by al-Shabab (Youth) television, which he owns.

"This game is a purely Iranian game," Uday said in remarks made on August 14
but only broadcast on Friday.



ARBIL, Iraq, Aug 22 (AFP) - Iran is amassing troops on its border with Iraq
in case of a US invasion to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, two
Kurdish parties told AFP Thursday

"Iranian troops have returned to the positions they held during the
(1980-1988) Iran-Iraq war," said the Revolutionary Union of Kurdistanchief
Hussein Yazdanpana, who lives in the eastern city of Arbil.

In recent days, Iranian troops, including the elite Revolutionary Guard,
"have been deployed... along the 2,000 kilometre (1,200 mile) border," he

Iran has also closed its border crossing to the northern Iraqi Kurdish
enclave, which is protected from Saddam by US and British air patrols, he

Yazdanpana accused Iran of also deploying militant bands like the Islamist
Ansar al-Islam, which is suspected of having ties with the al-Qaeda
organisation, blamed for the September 11 attacks on the United States.

"The Iranian army is waiting for the United States to conduct a war against
Iraq so it can interfere in the affairs of the Kurdish region and the rest
of the country," he said.

Yazdanpana pleaded for Washington "to ensure the protection of Kurds in Iraq
and Iran in case of a military strike on Iraq."

Meanwhile, a member of the rival Kurdish Democratic Party also confirmed
Iranian troops were amassing on the border.

"Iranian army helicopters are patrolling the border region for surveillance,
under the pretext of chasing drug traffickers," he said on condition of

Iran on Wednesday said its military was ready for any invasion of Iraq by
its longtime foe, the United States.

The KDP is one of two major Kurdish parties that control the
Western-protected enclave in northern Iraq, which has been off-limits to the
Baghdad government since the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.,3604,779223,00.html

by Michael Howard in Halabjah, Iraqi Kurdistan
The Guardian, 23rd August

High up in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan, a small but powerful Islamist
group with links to al-Qaida has for months created a major security
headache for the region. This week it attracted the attention of the Bush
administration, which suspects it of trying to develop chemical weapons.

The Ansar al-Islam (supporters of Islam) is an extreme Kurdish Salafist
group whose 500 fighters have taken control of a series of villages in a
remote mountainous area of eastern Kurdistan on the border with Iran.

Intelligence officials in the Kurdish self-rule area say the group is also
providing a refuge and major training base for 100-150 al-Qaida fighters
fleeing Afghanistan. There are also reports that the group is testing the
effect of toxic agents such as cyanide gas and ricin on farm animals.

The "foreigners," as the trainees are called, are kept well away from the
Kurdish villagers in the region and have already begun to establish a cave
complex in the sides of the towering Sharam mountain on the Iranian border.
The area has been dubbed the Kurdish Tora Bora by locals.

The largely inaccessible peaks and plains have been surrounded by mines and
are defended by a militia of around 500 Ansar guerrillas. Military advisers
for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which controls the south-eastern
region of Iraqi Kurdistan, are said to be at a loss as to how to deal with
the group.

An officer of the PUK's Kurdish intelligence organisation, which has
infiltrated the area, said: "They are definitely al-Qaida. And we need help
to deal with them."

Despite the Kurds' claims, a true picture of Ansar still remains unclear.
And some accuse the PUK of exaggerating the group's links with al-Qaida to
draw in US support.

Interviews with Ansar members arrested by the PUK appear however to confirm
the claims of connections to the international al-Qaida network, and to the
inner circle of Osama bin Laden. They also suggest the group receives
logistical, financial and political support from such strange ideological
bedfellows as Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Iraqi regime, each with their own
reasons for supporting a group that will serve to weaken the largely
pro-western Kurds-either during a US-led attack on Iraq or in the "nation
building" that might follow.

"This unlikely triangle of Iran, Iraq and al-Qaida in support of a small
radical Islamic group based in the Iraqi Kurdish area serves to preoccupy
Kurdish forces and possibly sideline them from participation in a US
offensive," said the Kurdish intelligence officer.

So far, the extent of Baghdad's involvement with Ansar is largely
circumstantial. Barham Salih, the prime minister of the PUK regional
government in Sulaymaniyah, said: "This is a matter of speculation. I can't
give you hard truth one way or the other. But I can ask in whose interests
it is to damage the Kurds at this time."

Though Saddam has been condemned as an unbeliever by Osama bin Laden,
analysts say he would not balk at helping an Islamic militant group if he
thought it would be to his advantage.

Kurds claim to have captured militants who have told them of secret meetings
with agents of the Iraqi mukhabarat. The PUK has also seized some of the TNT
used by Ansar in its suicide attacks. The TNT, say Kurdish explosives
experts, is produced by the military industrialisation department in
Baghdad, and is released only at the say of the head of Iraqi military

Local newspapers in Kurdistan have quoted villagers in the Ansar area as
claiming that trucks laden with arms have arrived from the
government-controlled area. There have also been reports of western military
advisers visiting the region and seeing members of Iraq's Republican Guard
in the area around Tawela.

Some of the prisoners in the PUK cells in Sulaymaniyah claim to have had
personal contacts with al-Qaida leaders, including an Iranian Arab, who said
he smuggled arms from Iraq to Afghanistan.

Another prisoner in the hands of the PUK is a senior Iraqi intelligence
agent who says he was dispatched to the Kurdish area to make contact with
Abu Wael, the mufti of Ansar Islam and one of its chief link men with the
al-Qaida leadership.

Ansar al-Islam started life as Jund al-Islam, a radical offshoot of an
Iranian-backed Kurdish Islamic group, based in Halabjah. A city long the
cultural heart of Iraqi Kurdistan, Halabja was also the scene of one of
Saddam's most horrific crimes in his attempt to wipe Kurds from the map
during a chemical weapons attack in 1988.

After their formation, Jund seized Tawela and Biyara and declared jihad
against the secular Kurdish authorities. There were almost immediate armed
clashes with the PUK.

During a battle on September 23 last year, the Jund slit the throats and
mutilated the bodies of more than 20 PUK peshmerga fighters (meaning those
who face death). "They used swords and machetes," a witness said. "They were
speaking Arabic and Persian." They also at tempted to assassinate the PUK's
prime minister Barham Salih.

Recently, they have outraged moderate Muslim opinion in the region by
desecrating Sufi shrines in their area, an act reminiscent of the bombing of
the Buddha statues in Afghanistan.

In the winter the Jund merged with another small group called Islah (reform)
to form Ansar al-Islam. But Ansar is not just the product of infighting
among local Kurdish Islamist groups. The ideological and material influence
of al-Qaida has been there since its inception.

Its leader is the elusive figure of Mullah Krekar, a charismatic 46-year-old
Kurd whose links with Afghanistan, like many of his followers, date back to
the jihad against the Soviet invasion.

In Pakistan in the 1980s, Krekar studied Islamic jurisprudence under the
Palestinian ideologue Abdullah Azzam, the founder of al-Qaida and mentor of
Osama bin Laden.

In a rare interview, which took place before the September 11 attacks,
Krekar described Osama bin Laden as the "jewel in the crown of the Muslim

Mullah Krekar enjoys asylum status in Norway, where his wife and four
children live. His trips to Europe are regularly followed by influxes of
thousands of dollars into the Ansar coffers; his brother Khaled is in charge
of the group's treasury.

But Krekar disappeared in Iran about two months ago. Norwegian television
said yesterday that he had not been seen in Oslo, where he lives, since the
September 11 attacks.


Hoover's (Financial Times), 18th August

United States and British warplanes attacked civilian installations in
Wassit and Meisan provinces, resulting in the injuries of four civilians,
the official Iraq News Agency reported Saturday. A spokesman for the Iraqi
Air Defense Command told the news agency that at 22:35 (local time) on
Wednesday, August 14, U.S and British warplanes, supported by AWACS,
violated Iraqi airspace and carried out 46 sorties from Kuwaiti bases. The
warplanes flew over the areas of Basra, Qurna, Amara, Artawi, Bissiya,
Jeleba, Jebayish, Nassiriya, Shatra, Rafai'I, Qal'at Suker, Alhay, al-Kut,
Nu'maniya, Hjashimiya, Afik, Dywaniya, Rometha, Samawa, Salman, Shanafiya,
Lassif and Ashbicha, and attacked civilian installations in Wassit and
Meisan province leaving four civilians wounded. Since December 17, 1998 till
August 15, 2002, U.S and British warplanes carried out a total of 41,405
sorties from Saudi, Kuwaiti and Turkish airspace, of which 14,713 sorties
were from Kuwaiti airspace, the agency concluded.

Times of India, from AFP, 18th August

BAGHDAD: US and British warplanes raided "civilian installations" in
southern Iraq, an Iraqi military spokesman said, without reporting

The planes, coming from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait on Saturday, bombed civilian
buildings in the Zi Qar province 375 km south of Baghdad, the spokesman
said, quoted by the state's INA news agency.

The planes took flight after coming under anti-aircraft fire, the agency
added, but did not say how many sites had been hit.

The planes also carried out raids on the southern provinces of Basra, Amara,
Qurnah and al-Salman, the spokesman said.

On July 23, US and British air strikes left one Iraqi dead and wounded 22
others, Baghdad says.

Almost daily skirmishes are reported in "no-fly" zones enforced by British
and US warplanes over northern and southern Iraq since the end of the 1991
Gulf War.

But the confrontations have intensified in recent months as Washington makes
clear it has aspirations to invaded Iraq, which it suspects of harbouring
weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq says US-British raids in the air exclusion zones have now killed 1,484
Iraqis. Baghdad does not recognize the zones, which are not sanctioned by
any UN resolution.

The United States says only military installations are targeted.

Gulf News, from Reuters, 21st August

U.S. and British fighter jets bombed an air defence command and control
facility about 190 km southeast of Baghdad around 1:40 a.m. EDT (0540 GMT)
yesterday, the U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Central Command said the strikes against the Al Amarah facility came "in
response to recent Iraqi hostile acts against coalition aircraft monitoring
the southern no-fly zone" and were executed using precision-guided weapons.

It was the third Western raid against Iraqi targets within a week, following
a strike against a mobile radar unit on Saturday.

"Coalition strikes in the no-fly zones are executed as a self-defence
measure in response to Iraqi hostile threats and acts against coalition
forces and their aircraft," said Central Command, which heads U.S. military
operations in the Gulf.

The U.S. military cited more than 110 separate incidents of Iraqi
surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery fire directed against
coalition aircraft this year.

Central Command said coalition aircraft never targeted civilian populations
or infrastructure.

Yesterday's raid was the 28th this year by U.S. and British warplanes in
northern and southern "no-fly zones" of Iraq, set up after the 1991 Gulf War
to protect Kurds in the north and Shi'ite Muslims in the south from attack
by Baghdad's forces.

The Associated Press, 23rd August

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) ‹ U.S. warplanes bombed an air defense site in northern
Iraq on Friday after being targeted by an Iraqi missile guidance radar
system, the U.S. military said.

The planes were on a routine patrol when Iraqi radar locked on the warplanes
flying near the northern Iraqi Kurdish city of Irbil, the Stuttgart,
Germany-based U.S. European Command said in a statement.

"Coalition aircraft responded to the Iraqi attacks by firing on the radar
site," the statement said. "All coalition aircraft departed the area



by Roula Khalaf in London
Financial Times, 19th August

The US is enlisting Iraqi opposition groups to help market its policy of
regime change in Baghdad and ease widespread popular Arab opposition to a
possible war.

The six opposition organisations which met US officials in Washington
earlier this month are to form joint delegations to visit Arab countries.
They will seek to reassure governments of their commitment to Iraq's
territorial integrity and tell the public that the US is acting with Iraqi

"The idea is to make the Arabs feel secure, to explain that the US won't
remain in Iraq and that change won't be just by the US but also with
Iraqis," said a senior opposition official. "It's also to go to the Arab
states and tell them there won't be blind revenge or disintegration of the
country or chaos."

The move is part of US diplomatic efforts to give the mostly-exiled
opposition a greater political role, as the administration focuses on the
future of Iraq if the Baghdad regime is overthrown. As important is to make
a highly unpopular US policy more palatable to the Arab world.

But the opposition faces an uphill battle. Most of the groups clamouring for
regime change in Iraq are seen in official and popular Arab circles as
lacking credibility and support inside Iraq.

Arab governments will not be easily convinced that Iraqi organisations that
have traditionally spent more time feuding than co-operating can agree on a
power-sharing arrangement that maintains Iraq's stability.

The opposition official said the US had encouraged the Iraqi groups to play
a larger role in the region, after hearing suggestions from some of the
organisations during the Washington meetings.

Arab regimes oppose US military action to oust the Iraqi regime. Moreover,
many governments in the region consider that, if regime change is
inevitable, the only viable option is for Iraq to be governed by another
strongman from the currently dominant Sunni minority, albeit one that would
adopt more pro-western policies.

They fear that a loose federal structure as a possible prelude to the
partition of the country into Kurdish, Sunni and Shia states. Similar
concerns are expressed by Turkey.

Whether the opposition groups can put their differences aside and show a
more credible facade will be tested over the next few weeks.

by Khaled Yacoub Oweis, 22nd August

LONDON (Reuters) - Senior Iraqi military officers in exile have opened
centres to encourage 200,000 former soldiers to take up arms against Saddam
Hussein, the head of the exiles' military council says.

Major-General Tawfiq al-Yassiri, who helped lead an armed rebellion against
Saddam immediately after the Gulf War in 1991, told Reuters on Thursday the
aim of the volunteer centres was to screen applicants and assess their
combat ability. They are located in Washington, London and undisclosed
places in the Middle East.

"Saddam has militarised the whole of Iraqi society. There are tens of
thousands of defectors from the army who would take up the opportunity to
fight him," Yassiri said, adding that 1,580 officers had defected from the
Iraqi army but still commanded loyalty among their units.

Yassiri said the opening of the centres was not coordinated with the United
States but he expected the U.S. government to seek the military council's
help if it decided to attack Saddam.

"Iraqi troops will defect more easily if they are approached by their former
comrades," he said.

U.S. President George W. Bush has vowed to oust the Iraqi president, accused
by Washington of trying to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons
programme, but says he has yet to decide whether to take military action
against Iraq. Iraq has denied having such weapons.

Yassiri said a U.S. led military campaign to remove Saddam would succeed,
although the Iraqi president planned to transform Iraqi cities into
battlegrounds and avoid placing troops in the desert, where they could be
easily attacked by U.S. planes.

The general was injured when Iraqi helicopters attacked his rebel force in a
southern Iraqi city during the Shi'ite rebellion that followed the Gulf War
in 1991.

During the Gulf War, the United States relied heavily on air power to
destroy Iraq's infrastructure and decimate Iraqi troops who were exposed in
the desert of Kuwait after occupying the country.

This time Saddam, his survival at stake, would fight differently, said

"Saddam has vowed to fight from the windows of his palace and turn Iraq into
scorched earth if he is facing defeat," the general told Reuters in an

But he added: "An invading force could win city warfare. Cities do not only
offer advantages for their defenders." Saddam was "not a born military
commander by instinct but he can be efficient", Yassiri said, adding that he
had built up stocks of biological and chemical weapons in the last few

A prime objective of a U.S. attack, he said, would be to cut off
communications between Iraq's military command and the rest of the army.

"This would help weaken morale and limit Saddam's ability to use his
chemical and biological arsenal," Yassiri said.

Yassiri was among scores of exiled officers who met in London in July and
formed the council to lead efforts to topple Saddam and work towards a
transition to civilian rule.

Among its 15 members are Major-General Najib al-Salhi, who once led a
mechanised division of the Iraqi army, and Major-General Saad Obeidi, who
was in charge of psychological warfare under Saddam's rule before defecting
in 1986.

The council has ties with the Iraqi National Congress umbrella organisation,
which was set up by former banker Ahmed Chalabi in 1992. The London-based
group includes the main factions opposed to Saddam, including the two
Kurdish parties which dominate northern Iraq, former Iraqi army officers,
businessmen and intellectuals.

The Iraqi National Congress manifesto calls for a transitional government to
take power if Saddam falls and the drafting of a federal constitution that
would be ratified through a referendum.


by Roula Khalaf in London
Financial Times, 19th August

The trillion-dollar lawsuit filed against Saudis by relatives of September
11 terrorism victims has intensified the debate in the kingdom over the need
for a re-evaluation of ties with the US.

Islamic charities and banks named in last Thursday's lawsuit vehemently
denied at the weekend any involvement in terrorism financing, and a leading
Saudi newspaper called for a reconsideration of the strategic alliance with

"In the context of a debate we must question those who think that the US is
our strategic option and that there is no alternative to it," said the daily
al-Riyadh. "This could be putting us in a narrow space that is not justified
by objective considerations or perhaps this options carries too high a

The editorial is significant because the paper closely reflects government
views. Similar calls have been expressed in recent days in other
publications, including the front page of yesterday's Saudi-owned pan-Arab
daily al-Hayat.

Heads of Islamic charities charged in the lawsuit filed in Washington lashed
out at what they said was a "campaign to discredit Islamic charitable work",
with some claiming that the move marked another US attempt to press Saudi
Arabia into backing a war against Iraq. The accused also included three
prominent members of the Saudi royal family.

Analysts warned that the lawsuit could provoke Saudis to withdraw some of
their US investments, which are believed to reach more than $600bn (£380bn).
"The lawsuit is very disturbing - Saudis have huge assets in the US and this
could lead them to take their money out," said Jamal Khashoggi, deputy
editor of Arab News, the English-language daily.

The lawsuit has exacerbated tensions between the two allies and revived
accusations of terrorist financing that US and Saudi officials have tried to
tackle through increased scrutiny of financial transactions and the conduct
of Saudi charities.

The strains that emerged after September 11, when the US discovered that 15
of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals, were highlighted again earlier
this month in a briefing to the Pentagon that described the kingdom as an
evil enemy of the US.

But differences are currently most apparent over Iraq. Although Saudis are,
in theory, in favour of a change of regime in Baghdad, they oppose a US
military campaign to accomplish this and have openly said bases in Saudi
Arabia should not be used for military strikes. This position frustrates
Washington, which has been expanding a military base in Qatar for use as a
possible alternative.

Although the official position of both governments is that the alliance
remains strong, questions are now being raised in both Washington and Riyadh
about future ties, on both official and business levels.,3604,779442,00.html

by Nicholas Pyke
The Guardian, 23rd August

The Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal admitted to a meeting of his most
trusted colleagues that he was behind the 1988 Lockerbie plane bombing and
the culprits were not Libyans, it is claimed today in a leading Arabic

In an interview with the London daily, Al-Hayat, a former colleague, Atef
Abu Bakr, says Nidal made the confession to the inner circle of his
revolutionary council some time before his death earlier this week.

Bakr, once a politburo member of Nidal's Fatah-Revolutionary Council, told
the paper that Nidal had said: "I will tell you something very important and
serious. The reports which link the Lockerbie act to others are false
reports. We are behind what happened."

According to Bakr, Nidal threatened anyone who leaked what he said with
death, "even if he is in the arms of his wife".

Last night a spokesman for Al Hayat confirmed that the interview with Bakr
was conducted some time before Nidal's death.

The Lockerbie disaster happened when a New York-bound Pan Am plane blew up
over the town in Scotland, in December 1988, killing 259 passengers and
crew, and 11 local residents. A Scottish court sitting in Holland convicted
a former Libyan agent, Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, over the bombing and in
January 2001 gave him a life sentence.

The group led by Nidal, once one of the world's most wanted men, has been
blamed for a series of horrific attacks in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Iraqi authorities have claimed that Nidal, found dead in his Baghdad
apartment, committed suicide. Members of the Fatah-Revolutionary Council,
better known as the Abu Nidal organisation, said he committed suicide as he
was suffering from cancer.

Nidal set up his headquarters in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, in 1987. He
was put under house arrest when Libya's leader, Muammar Gaddafi, came under
pressure to crack down on militants after the Lockerbie bombing.

Bakr and another dissident split from Nidal's group in late 1989, almost a
year after the bombing. After the attack, Bakr was quoted as extending
condolences to victims on behalf of Nidal's group.

Tam Dalyell, Labour MP for Linlithgow, has long maintained that Nidal was to
blame, and not Libyans. Last night he said: "If true, this is a hugely
important development. If he has said that no one else had anything to do
with it, where does that leave Mr al-Megrahi? I believe the Libyans had
nothing to do with it. This is one hell of a thing."

He said that the Foreign Office must now investigate Bakr's claims "as a
matter of the utmost urgency".

He added: "If these allegations are true they blow everything relating to
Lockerbie out of the water, including the trial in Holland."

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