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[casi] News, 20-27/9/02 (2)

News, 20-27/9/02 (2)


*  Romanian Minister Backs U.S. on Iraq
*  NATO Ministers Back U.S. Plan for Rapid Reaction Force
*  Bush gets his way at the United Nations
*  Canada now supports U.S. on Iraq


*  Schroeder defends Iraq as election looms
*  Schroeder writes off the Iraqi people


*  Al-Nahar: Hospitals on the Syrian- Iraqi borders
*  Tehran's relations with Riyadh continue to improve
*  US need UN to use Kuwait
*  Bahrain firm set to start Iraq flights


*  Report: French Firm Buying Iraqi Oil


*  Activist to Document Actions in Iraq


by Barry Schweid
Las Vegas Sun, 20th September

WASHINGTON (AP): Romanian Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu offered Friday
to cooperate with the United States in any military campaign against Iraq.

Pascu, who met with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld this week, said
Romania would permit overflights of U.S. aircraft and use of Romanian

Meeting with reporters, Pascu said any commitment of Romanian troops would
depend on the consent of the Romanian parliament.

The defense minister said the Bush administration's confrontation with Iraq
was another phase of the U.S. war against terrorism that began in

That war extends beyond territorial defense, he said.

The Romanian parliament in April approved sending 405 combat troops to
Afghanistan at a cost of $3 million. It also has contributed 1,000 assault
rifles and more than 300,000 rounds of ammunition to the new, postwar Afghan

Eager to gain membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in
November, Romania prizes its close cooperation with the United States.

Pascu seemed confident the invitation would be issued. "We did not come here
to beg for NATO admission," he said of his talks with Rumsfeld, Deputy
Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and other administration officials.
"This is behind us. The good news is this is not the subject."

by Bradley Graham and Robert G. Kaiser
Washington Post, 25th September

WARSAW, Sept. 24 -- NATO defense ministers today broadly backed a U.S.
proposal to establish a rapid reaction force that would enable the alliance
to respond more quickly and powerfully to emergencies and conflicts outside
of Europe, its traditional area of operation.

While France expressed some reservations, NATO authorities voiced confidence
that the plan, aimed in part at strengthening readiness against terrorism,
would be approved in November at a meeting in Prague of heads of state of
alliance countries.

"There was a general warm welcome from the defense ministers for a proposal
that will sharpen the edge of NATO's military effectiveness," George
Robertson, NATO's secretary general, told reporters.

The U.S. proposal came in the context of a new move by the alliance to
commit to streamlining its Cold War-era command structure and improving
airlift, communication, precision strike and other military capabilities. By
suggesting creation of a specific standing force, U.S. officials hope to
provide a focus that past modernization efforts have lacked.

"If NATO does not have a force that is quick and agile, which can deploy in
days or weeks instead of months or years, then it will not have much to
offer the world in the 21st century," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld
warned fellow ministers in pitching the proposal.

U.S. officials expect the force, if approved, to be operational within about
two years. It would have as many as 21,000 troops, comprising air, land and
sea units from Europe and North America, and be ready for deployment with 30
days' notice.

To ease the strain on national defense budgets, allies would assign troops
to the standing force on a rotating basis. But in contrast to NATO's
traditional focus on defensive operations within Europe, the proposed force
would be designed for action outside Europe's borders and for a range of
contingencies, from evacuations to all-out war.

Backers of the initiative said it underscores a recognition by the alliance
since last year's Sept. 11 attacks that the most significant threats to NATO
security now come from outside Europe, particularly from terrorism and the
spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, while indicating she was not
opposed to the proposed force, voiced some misgivings, suggesting that its
operations be limited to Europe. Some European defense analysts also
expressed concern that such action by NATO would undermine efforts by the
European Union to establish its own rapid reaction force.

In defending the idea, Robertson said the proposed force would complement,
not duplicate or replace, Europe's own drive for more rapidly deployable
units. And U.S. officials reported that at least a dozen ministers spoke in
favor of the plan during the start of a two day informal conference here,
the first meeting by NATO defense ministers on the turf of one of the three
former Soviet allies that joined the alliance in 1999.

The subject of Iraq also occupied the ministers, as John McLaughlin, the
U.S. deputy director of central intelligence, provided a classified briefing
on Baghdad's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and links to terrorism.
U.S. and European officials said the briefing echoed much of the information
already made public in the United States and Britain. The NATO ministers
were scheduled to discuss Iraq at greater length and with no aides present
during a dinner tonight.

The Bush administration has not approached NATO about using the alliance's
military structure in any action against Iraq, a fact that Rumsfeld today
attributed to the absence of any decision by President Bush to attack. But
tensions, particularly between the United States and Germany over the
prospect of a U.S.-led invasion, intruded on the conference here, with
Rumsfeld rejecting an overture Monday by his counterpart, Peter Struck, for
a private meeting.

In comments to reporters today, Struck played down the differences and said
he had approached Rumsfeld and shaken his hand. "I think we'll return to a
very normal working relationship, slowly but surely," he said.

In a move that could help mend relations, Struck informed other ministers
that his country and the Netherlands were looking at taking joint command of
the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan after Turkey's
mandate expires in December.

This, in turn, could be accompanied by NATO's first formal role in the
Afghan crisis. U.S. officials said NATO authorities are considering use of
the alliance's military structure to help the international force with
logistics and communications and to press member countries to provide
additional troops.

by Joseph Samaha
Daily Star, Lebanon, 24th September

>From Washington's perspective, foreign policy seems to be an extremely
simple business. President George W. Bush can summarize his Sept. 12 visit
to the UN in one short phrase: I came, I spoke, I conquered.

In his speech to the General Assembly, Bush didn't say anything new about an
imminent Iraqi threat. He produced no new evidence. All he did was read a
review of the press.

When Bush addressed the General Assembly, he did so with the supposition
that the overwhelming majority of UN member states opposed his policies in
general and his Iraq policy in particular. But while he failed to win a
standing ovation, the delegates did something even worse: They approved of
his speech.

This does not mean all countries approved of what the US president said. Yet
Bush's half hour address caused many of them to change their position.

Given an opportunity to express itself, "American arrogance" managed to pull
off a considerable coup. Bush passed the test full of confidence that
American power was so overwhelming as to make foreign policy a very simple
matter. Instead of delivering an ultimatum to Iraq, Bush put the UN Security
Council and its member states on notice.

He did not issue a final warning to Iraq because war is a foregone
conclusion. But he challenged the international community to either join the
US cause, or else America would fight on its own. To sweeten the pill, Bush
told the international community that he was giving it a chance to agree to
the American point of view.

If that were to be the new meaning of joint decision-making in world
affairs, then it would be difficult to distinguish it from unilateralism.
Joint action used to mean thinking through threats and dangers together,
prioritizing tasks, sharing costs and responsibilities, demonstrating a
modicum of cohesion in applying international norms and paying respect to
the UN Charter.

But all this has evidently changed. To gauge the degree of change, one must
examine the positions adopted by Europe and the Arab world vis-a-vis Iraq to
discover the type of accommodation the two blocs have arrived at with the
United States.

The Arabs and Europeans agree that where the Middle East is concerned,
priority must be given to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This means that
sufficient efforts must be made to calm down the situation in the occupied
Palestinian territories, or - better still - to find a solution for the
conflict, both of which necessitate pressure being brought to bear on
Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his government. They also agree
that the international coalition against terrorism needs to be consolidated,
which can only be done through working for a solution to the Palestinian

Moreover, the Europeans and Arabs concluded that the Iraqi regime poses no
real threat, notwithstanding its nasty nature. In other words, the Baghdad
regime might be oppressive, but the measures now in place against it are
sufficient to ensure it can not threaten its neighbors, far less endanger
world peace. In addition, the Americans failed to make a convincing case
that Iraq was developing a nuclear program, and by consequence failed to
persuade other nations of the urgency of military action.

The idea of regime change in Iraq has never appealed to Arab and European
leaders, who have always insisted that eradicating weapons of mass
destruction was the ultimate goal and that the return of weapons inspectors
to Iraq the first step toward that goal. Some Arabs and Europeans, in fact,
were even against calling on Baghdad to accept the return of weapons
inspectors unconditionally.

Yet, thanks to Bush's appearance at the UN, a deal has apparently been
struck between the United States on and the international community. With no
debate or any sort of discussion, Arabs and Europeans in particular seem to
have adopted Washington's original hard-line position. The Bush
administration refused to discuss the core issues, while making a point of
appearing flexible on cosmetic points.

Initial reactions to this American onslaught indicate it has already
achieved some success. European and Arab countries already seem to be trying
to adapt to inflexible US policies.

This is not joint action; it is a stage-managed ruse that allows different
countries to save face by saying they helped steer US policy to the right

The funny thing is that all this was done in the name of preventing American
unilateralism, like a back seat passenger insisting that he had his hands on
the wheel all the time.

Joseph Samaha is the editor in chief of the Beirut daily As-Safir. He wrote
this commentary for The Daily Star

by Tom Cohen
News and Observer, 26th September

TORONTO (AP) - After initially balking at unilateral action against Saddam
Hussein, Canada is now expressing full support for the kind of tough U.N.
resolution the United States is seeking on Iraq.

The pro-U.S. position reflects the country's historic ties and economic
interdependence with its North American neighbor, as well as a traditional
Canadian preference for a multilateral approach through international
organizations like the United Nations.

Prime Minister Jean Chretien had said as recently as two weeks ago that
Canada would oppose a unilateral U.S. military strike on Baghdad. But he
welcomed President Bush's appeal for U.N. involvement and claimed it as a
victory for Canadian ideals.

The United States wants the U.N. Security Council to approve a resolution
authorizing force against Iraq if it fails to comply with weapons
inspections again. The wording is still being worked out, but France has
said it won't approve a resolution that gives the United States "a green
light" to strike.

Chretien said he pushed President Bush during a Sept. 9 meeting in Detroit
to work through the United Nations instead of going it alone.

"He went as we wanted him to do, to include the U.N.," Chretien said Tuesday
about Bush's appeal to the world body three days after their Detroit

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham also called for a U.N.
resolution with "no wiggle room to fool around, or action will be taken."

"We can certainly endorse the United States position that there has to be
clear consequences for a failure to act," he said.

While neither Graham nor Chretien committed to supporting a military
campaign, Canada is considered a likely backer once the U.N. process has
played out.

Canada readily joined the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan after
the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, sending soldiers, ships and planes.

The Canadian commitment has cooled after four Canadian soldiers were killed
in an accidental bombing by a U.S. jet fighter in April, as well as
Washington's continued hard line stance on trade disputes, despite the
Canadian support in Afghanistan. Canada failed to replace 800 soldiers once
their six-month mission in Afghanistan ended in August, but continues to
send support ships and special forces fighters.

In the end, analysts say, the historic ties between the nations and their
trade partnership - the world's largest, worth more than $1 billion a day -
make Canadian support virtually inevitable.

"Canadian people are good friends with the American people, no matter how
the politicians get along," said Chris Sands of the Washington-based Center
for Strategic and International Studies, a foreign policy think tank.

An example of Canadian compliance came in recent weeks when it announced
Saudi and Malaysian citizens would now be required to obtain visas to enter
the country.

The government said the reason was potential fraud involving passports from
those countries, but the change also brought Canada's visa policies in line
with those of the United States.

Canadian public opinion on a war in Iraq is divided. While conservative
parties and newspapers call for a strong stand against Saddam, a group of
more than 100 mostly left leaning Canadians issued a statement Wednesday
urging the Canadians "do everything in their power to oppose military action
against Iraq."

"We are united in the belief that a military attack on Iraq at this juncture
would be profoundly immoral, and would almost certainly result in
destabilizing repercussions that would endanger the whole world," the group

Most Canadians would accept a war on Iraq if Saddam refuses to comply with
U.N. demands for unconditional weapons inspections, said David Dewitt, a
political science professor at York University in Toronto.

"If you have to go to war, make it under a multilateral umbrella," Dewitt
said of Canadian thinking.

Sands noted that having Canada as a coalition partner helps the United
States more politically than militarily. Canada cut military spending by 23
percent in the 1990s, leaving it unable to send significant forces beyond
the 4,000 peacekeepers it has in U.N. missions around the world.

Instead, the Canadian reputation for more equitable foreign relations than
its southern neighbor is valuable, Sands said. For example, Canada has
diplomatic ties with Cuba despite the U.S. embargo against the communist

"If the Canadians stand up, there is some sense that maybe this isn't just a
war for oil, that it has some other purpose," he said.


The Toronto Star, 21st September


Schroeder did not refer Saturday to the row over the remarks reportedly made
by Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin.

On Friday, he wrote a conciliatory letter to Bush, while Daeubler-Gmelin
again denied remarks attributed to her by a German newspaper which quoted
her as saying Bush, like Hitler, was threatening war to distract attention
from domestic problems.

Schroeder told Bush that "the minister has assured me that she never made
the remarks attributed to her." He added: "I would like to assure you that
no one has a place at my cabinet table who makes a connection between the
American president and a criminal."

However, in comments published Saturday in the Financial Times newspaper,
Bush's National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was quoted as saying that
the alleged comments created a "poisoned" atmosphere.

"I would say it's not been a happy time with Germany," Rice added. "There
have clearly been some things said that are way beyond the pale. The
reported statements . . . even if half of what was reported was said, are
simply unacceptable."

Tensions spiked after the Schwaebisches Tagblatt regional newspaper reported
Thursday that Daeubler-Gmelin told a labour union meeting: "Bush wants to
distract attention from his domestic problems. That's a popular method. Even
Hitler did that."

Daeubler-Gmelin gave a different version. She said that during a chaotic
discussion that touched on Iraq, she had referred to diversionary tactics
and had used the words "we know that from our history, since Adolf Nazi."
But she denied saying the name Hitler, and insisted she had made no
comparison with Bush.

Stoiber has called for Daeubler-Gmelin's immediate removal. The Christian
Democrats' chairwoman, Angela Merkel, pointed Saturday to Washington's
undiminished irritation over the reported remarks, and said that
"German-American relations are so valuable that there can be no further
delay in this affair."


 by David Frum
National Post, 24th September

LONDON - At a meeting with trade union leaders in the last week of the
campaign, Germany's Social Democratic Justice Minister, Herta
Daeubler-Gmelin, accused Bush of using the same "classic tactic" as Hitler
used: exploiting war to divert attention from domestic troubles.
Daeubler-Gmelin later expressed surprise that anyone might take offence at
her remarks. "I didn't compare the persons Bush and Hitler, but their

In truth, if anyone in the world today is exploiting war for domestic
political purposes, it is Daeubler-Gmelin's own boss, German Chancellor
Gerhard Schroeder. For more than a decade, over-taxed, over-regulated
Germany has struggled with chronic unemployment. In 1998, the charismatic,
jovial Schroeder won the chancellorship by promising to reduce the number of
unemployed below 4 million within 4 years.

Four years later, the number of unemployed remains exactly where it was in

Obviously, he needed a new issue. He chose Iraq.

Eight weeks ago, Iraq was not a controversial subject in German politics.
After all, Schroeder's opponent, the solid and serious Christian Democrat
Edmund Stoiber had also declared his opposition to a U.S. war upon Saddam
Hussein. To move votes, Schroeder had to up the ante: Stoiber, he pointed
out, only opposed war if the U.S. went it alone; whereas he, Schroeder,
opposed war under any and all circumstances. Under his leadership, Germany
would not participate in a war with Iraq even if the United Nations and the
NATO Council voted in favour of it.

Think for a minute about what an amazing statement this is. For six months,
Americans have listened to Europeans warning them against unilateralism --
against setting their own national will against the international community.
And nobody has clucked louder at them than the Germans. Now, quite suddenly,
it is the Germans who are the unilateralists, disdaining their allies, NATO,
even the UN.

UN, Schmu-en says Schroeder -- it is German national interests that come

And what a set of national interests they are, too! The single most
important suppliers of Saddam's technologies of mass-murder have been German
companies. They sold him the dual-use factories that now manufacture poison
gas and bio-weapons. I don't like dragging Hitler into conversations where
he does not belong. But since Daeubler-Gmelin mentions him, it's worth
pondering this fact: If Saddam ever does make good on his threat to "burn up
half of Israel," the poisons he will use for this second Jewish holocaust
will come from many of the same companies that supplied the gas for the last

Schroeder's methods of diverting attention from a crummy domestic economy
worked, sort of. His Social Democratic-Green coalition has eked out a bare
majority in the Bundestag. But his victory is not one of which Germans can
-- or will -- long be proud.

By coincidence, I happened to spend the evening of the German election in
the apartment of Ahmed Chalabi, the leader of the opposition Iraqi National
Congress, and the likely leader of a democratic post-Saddam Iraq. Does it
seem ridiculous to think of a democratic Iraq? Not more ridiculous than it
would have, 60 years ago, to talk about a democratic Germany.

Chalabi showed me a photograph taken in Baghdad at that darkest year of
Hitler's tyranny, 1942. Eight Middle Eastern men stood shoulder-to-shoulder
in Western pin-striped suits: Three of them were Sunni Muslims, three were
Shi'ites, one was Christian, and the last was Jewish. They were the
directors of the Iraq Vegetable Oil Company -- a major exporter of farm
products and the largest firm then listed on the Baghdad stock exchange. One
of them was Chalabi's own father. That was what Iraq used to be: not a
perfect democracy by any means -- but a society that might have evolved
toward a better and freer future.

That evolution was brutally interrupted. Iraq's relatively benign monarchy
was overthrown in 1958 -- since then, Iraq no longer grows enough grain to
export. The men in the photo were driven into exile and their property
confiscated. The stock exchange was closed. The Jews were robbed and
expelled; the Christians oppressed; the Shi'ites massacred. Dictator
followed dictator, each crueler and more dangerous than the last -- until we
reach Saddam, the cruelest and most dangerous of them all.

Where would Germany be if the Western powers had not believed that it could
be something different and better than it was in 1942? Why are we so
determined to believe that Iraq can never be different and better than it is

For all the terror and horror of modern Iraq, it has produced an exile
leadership that is more humane and decent than that of any any other Arab
country. When the United States (and its friends and allies) fights Saddam,
it will not be fighting against Iraq - it will be fighting for Ahmed Chalabi
and the Iraqi National Congress. America and its allies will be fighting
against the Iraqi dictatorship. They will be fighting for the Iraqi people.
That's a fight that the confident new united Germany ought to understand and


Arabic News, 21st September

The Lebanese daily al-Nahar said Friday quoting western diplomatic sources
that the Syrian government is to install hospitals on the Iraqi borders in
preparations for any American military attack against Iraq.

The sources explained that this Syrian measure means that Syria is convinced
of the inevitability of the American military attack against Iraq.

by Ali Nourizadeh
Daily Star, Lebanon, 21st September

Mohammad Khatami's Sept. 11-14 visit to Saudi Arabia seemed to vindicate the
confidence Riyadh placed in the Iranian president when he first assumed
office five years ago.

Immediately after his landslide election victory in May 1997, the Iranian
ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Mohammad-Reza Nouri Shahroudi, sent an urgent
cable to Tehran reporting that the Saudi leadership wanted to dispatch a
special envoy to congratulate Khatami and deliver a message to him from King
Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah.

Iranian officials were so surprised that they asked the ambassador to
double-check the news. For this was no ordinary gesture or act of diplomatic
protocol. By proposing to send a special emissary to congratulate the new
reform-minded president and wish him success, the Saudis were signaling that
they were willing to turn a new leaf in relations with Tehran.

Ties had been strained for years. Riyadh had close relations with Tehran
prior to the 1979 Islamic revolution and initially tried to maintain them.
The Saudi leadership sought early on to build bridges to Iran's new leaders
via messages from the late King Khaled and then Crown Prince Fahd to the
late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and then Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan.

But in the climate of revolutionary ferment - "revolutionary fever," as
Bazargan was later to call it - that prevailed in Tehran in the aftermath of
the shah's overthrow (which generated the takeover of the US Embassy by
radical students), the Saudi overture did not have the desired impact.

That was evident at the first hajj following the establishment of the
Islamic Republic, when the Saudi leadership realized that pilgrims coming
from Iran had changed. Prior to the revolution, they were renowned both for
their exemplary behavior and the purchases they made in Jeddah, Mecca and
Medina. The new pilgrims brought with them revolutionary slogans hostile not
just to America and "global arrogance" but to Saudi Arabia as well. They
were largely clerics and youths, whose only interest in the local shop
windows was as places on which to stick their anti-American posters - along
with the walls on the streets of Jeddah, Mecca and Medina.

For years the Saudis tried to devise different ways of containing the annual
influx of propagandists coming from Iran as part of its contingent of

During the 1986 hajj season, they discovered 55 kilograms of Semtex hidden
in the luggage of some 50 pilgrims who had arrived from Isfahan. They were
released and allowed to perform their pilgrimage after it transpired they
were innocent. The explosives had been planted in a set of green suitcases
(bearing the emblem of the Iranian Hajj Organization) that had been given to
them ostensibly as a gift prior to their departure for Saudi Arabia by the
head of the Revolutionary Guards' Liberation Movement bureau.

The following year, despite warnings by the Saudi authorities to the
organizers, members of the Iranian hajj contingent - including Revolutionary
Guards, Baseej volunteers, intelligence types and revolutionary clergymen -
staged a violent demonstration in Mecca and around the Haram featuring
provocative anti-Saudi slogans as well as denunciations of various Arab and
Western countries. Saudi security forces intervened and in the ensuing
stampede hundreds of people were killed, mostly women and elderly pilgrims
trampled underfoot by the revolutionaries.

Following the 1987 events and until the year after Khomeini's death in 1989,
the Iranian government boycotted the hajj. After Tehran resumed sending
annual contingents of pilgrims to Saudi Arabia in the early 1990s, they were
barred from staging their "renunciation of infidels" rallies in Mecca and
Medina and reduced to holding small token demonstrations within their

The two countries eventually reopened their embassies in each other's
capitals, which were closed after the murder of a Saudi diplomat in Tehran
by militants in the wake of the 1987 Mecca riots. Then Iranian President Ali
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani also met Prince Abdullah at the March 1997
Organization of the Islamic Conference  (OIC) summit in Islamabad. But
mutual suspicion and mistrust continued to linger between the two sides
until Khatami was elected and unveiled his conciliatory new foreign policy
platform, which identified the elimination of tension between Iran and its
neighbors as a top priority.

Prince Abdullah's subsequent trip to Tehran for the OIC summit held there in
December 1997 was no ordinary visit. His hosts received him with exceptional
warmth and the Saudis reciprocated it when they welcomed Khatami,
accompanied by a delegation consisting of 170 advisors and officials, on a
return visit in May 1999.

A key member of the Iranian president's entourage then was his interior
minister, and one of the architects of his reform program, Abdullah Nouri
(currently doing time in prison on charges of opposing clerical rule). His
Saudi opposite number, Prince Nayef, told Nouri that the kingdom was willing
to conclude a security pact with Iran.

This vindicated the thinking of Khatami's foreign policy advisors. A year
prior to his election, reform strategist Said Hajjarian had written a report
arguing that it was in Iran's interest to start work immediately on forging
a strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia, and that the Saudis would welcome
the prospect if they felt Iran was sincere and willing to conclude strategic
agreements with them - above all a security cooperation pact. Nouri was
jailed before he could welcome his Saudi counterpart to Tehran, so the task
of signing the agreement with Prince Nayef in April 2001 fell to Nouri's
deputy and replacement, Abdolvahed Mousavi-Lari.

Iran demonstrated its commitment to its security pacts with the kingdom in
June, when its security agencies handed to the Saudi authorities 16 Saudi
nationals allegedly linked to Al Qaeda.

Earlier, the support shown by the Islamic Iran Participation Front (the main
pro-Khatami political party) and the reformist press in Iran for Prince
Abdullah's Arab Peace Initiative showed clearly that there was more than
just good will and mutual understanding binding the Khatami administration
and the Saudi leadership. A strategic meeting of minds was also taking
place, valued equally by both sides.

Khatami's latest trip to Saudi Arabia earlier this month began with a
private visit to Mecca and Medina (to perform the minor pilgrimage, or Umra)
and culminated in an important summit meeting in Jeddah with Prince

 The two men held a one-hour tete-a-tete before inviting top aides and
officials, notably those in charge of Iraq and Middle Eastern affairs, to
join them for extended talks - which aroused as much interest in Washington
and Baghdad as they did locally.

According to an Iranian official who accompanied Khatami, the two sides
agreed - especially in light of US President George W. Bush's speech to the
UN General Assembly on Sept. 12 - to do their best to persuade the Iraqi
leadership to agree to the readmission of UN arms inspectors in the hope of
averting an American attack.

Both believe the consequences of such an assault would be catastrophic for
Iraq and dangerously unpredictable for the wider region.

The official also said Khatami assured his hosts that in the event of war,
there would be no repeat of what happened in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf
War over Kuwait, when Iranian Revolutionary Guards units mounted
cross-border incursions into southern Iraqi cities in support of the Shiite
uprising there.

Khatami said he believes the Iraqi people are capable of determining their
own future and choosing for themselves whatever system of government suits
their aspirations.

Ali Nourizadeh, one-time political editor of the Tehran daily Ettelaat, is
an Iranian researcher at the London-based Center for Arab-Iranian Studies
and the editor of its Arabic language newsletter Al-Mujes an-Iran. He wrote
this commentary for The Daily Star.,1113,2-10

News24 (South Africa, from Sapa-AFP), 22nd September

Kuwait City - Kuwait reiterated on Sunday its refusal to allow the emirate
to be used as a launchpad for strikes on Iraq unless such action is mandated
by the United Nations.

Defence Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak al-Sabah told Sunday's Al-Watan
newspaper that Kuwait does not object to the launch of a military operation
against Baghdad, or its territory being used in the process, provided it is
in accordance with an international decision through the United Nations.

He added that Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad
al-Sabah, who is currently in New York, had made this clear to the United

The defence minister also denied press reports that the number of US
military forces in Kuwait had reached 20 000, or even 10 000.

He added that US troops rotate in and out of Kuwait according to a military
agreement the emirate signed with the US after it led a coalition to
liberate Kuwait from a seven-month occupation in 1991.

General Tommy Franks, Commander of US forces in the Gulf, said on Saturday
that the US had increased its level of military activity in Kuwait and that
US forces were "prepared to do whatever we're asked to do".

"I don't believe our activities in the region have been characterised as
anything that resembles what we have seen over the last 11 years," Franks
told a press conference.

US reports have said up to 10 000 US troops are currently based in Kuwait,
mainly at Camp Doha, north of the city, which is also used to stockpile
heavy equipment, including tanks and artillery.

The headquarters of the US Third Army - which controls troops in North
Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia - was transferred to Kuwait in late
2001 amid a military buildup in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon recently confirmed that more US military equipment, including
tracked combat vehicles, was being shipped to Kuwait for Operation Desert
Spring, a months-long exercise involving more than 2 000 American troops.

The latest shipment includes 67 tracked vehicles such as Abrams tanks and
Bradley fighting vehicles, as well as wheeled vehicles, containerized cargo
and general cargo.

Gulf News, 27th September

The UN has approved a plan by a Bahraini firm to operate direct flights to
Iraq, making the Kingdom the first GCC country to establish air links with
the sanctions-ridden country since the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, a
Bahraini businessman said yesterday.

The firm, UCO Travel, will be able to launch the Bahrain-Baghdad flights
before the end of the year, Chairman Ali Al Musallam was quoted by the
official news agency as saying.

The firm is finalising a lease-purchase agreement with the China National
Aerotechnology Company for its M-60 aircraft, which can carry 65 passengers
or 5.5 tonnes of cargo, he said.

Negotiations on the agreement are in their final stages, after which the
firm is required to submit details of the aircraft to be operated to the UN
Committee on Iraq.

"It has been a long haul since our application was made 18 months ago to
establish the air link," he added, "We received the UN approval two days ago
and we have also been given a code number for the flight."

Musallam's announcement comes in the wake of a high-profile Iraqi trade
mission's week long visit, aimed at boosting commercial ties between the two

OIL MATTERS,2933,63700,00.html

Fox News, 20th September

NEW YORK  ‹ In another sign of Iraq's renewed connections with Western oil
majors, the United Nations has approved a 5 million barrel crude sale to
French major oil company TotalFinaElf , U.N. diplomatic sources said on

"This tells me that Iraq wants to get its oil exports up again," said a
Western diplomat when informed of the contract approval.

This is the largest reported deal with a Western oil firm since 2000, before
Iraq starting adding an illegal surcharge to oil contracts and selling its
oil mainly through little-known middleman firms that do not have oil

Iraq's oil exports, administered by the United Nations in its oil-for-food
program, have flagged from 1.7 million barrels per day in 2001 to 1.1
million bpd this year, with Baghdad blaming a strict U.N. oil pricing policy
designed to thwart the surcharge.

Iraqi exports are expected to go over 1 million bpd this week for the first
time since early August, and to ramp up to 1.5 million bpd and beyond within
two weeks, U.N. sources said on Friday. Iraq has a sustainable export
capacity of 2.2 million bpd, not including a reported 200,000 bpd that is
smuggled to Syria outside U.N. control.

All oil sales in the program must be approved by the United Nations. The
oil-for-food program allows Iraq to sell crude, with the bulk of the
proceeds paying for humanitarian supplies for Iraq's 23 million citizens. In
1990, Iraq was placed under strict sanctions that include an oil embargo
because it invaded Kuwait, which led to the 1991 Gulf War.

U.S. firms have not yet been invited to rejoin in the direct buying of Iraqi
crude from Baghdad as have European companies with refineries, or
-end-users, diplomatic sources said. The United Nations has this week signed
contracts with Italy's AGIP.

Repsol of Spain and Petrobras of Brazil have also signed contracts or are
close to closing them, diplomatic sources said on Friday.

All of those companies and many more have been in direct contact with Iraqi
oil officials to buy crude, industry sources said. But thus far, no U.S.
companies have been invited to Baghdad to have been talking directly with
Iraq about buying crude, diplomatic and industry sources said on Friday.

While many European end-users have been invited to talk with Baghdad about
buying oil directly, neither BP Plc nor Royal Dutch/Shell Group has been
taking with the sanctions bound nation, industry sources said.

U.S. oil firms were shut out by Baghdad from buying oil directly from Iraq
in the oil-for-food program in 1998, and since have had to rely on buying
crude from middleman oil firms or from Russian firms that have their own

In 2001, the U.S. refiners were by far the biggest consumers of Iraqi crude,
taking in an average of nearly 800,000 bpd. The surcharge had been widely
reported since late 2000; but when it was reported by general interest U.S.
newspapers earlier this year, Washington put pressure on U.S. oil firms to
stop taking in so much Iraqi crude, diplomatic sources said.

The top U.S. consumers of Iraqi crude in 2001 were Valero Energy Corp. ,
which bought 55.4 million barrels (151,800 bpd); ChevronTexaco Corp. , at
47.7 million barrels (130,600 bpd); Exxon Mobil Corp. at 32.3 million
barrels (88,500 bpd); and Koch Petroleum at 30.50 million barrels (83,600

Initial checks with U.S. firms on Friday showed that most have no plans to
buy oil directly from Iraq if it were offered and some have even stopped
refining Iraqi crude bought through middlemen.

But none went on the record when asked to comment on their plans for Iraqi

U.S. and British officials on Thursday said that they have no plans to lift
the tough "retroactive" pricing policies that Iraq blames for the slower
exports this year. Both officials said that Iraq will have to prove over an
undetermined but extended time that the surcharge is gone before any
alternatives to the current pricing policies will be considered.

And any alternative, the officials said, must keep Iraq from reinstituting
the surcharge, which Baghdad has never officially admitted exists.


Associated Press, 21st September

CHICAGO (AP) ‹ At age 25, Nathan Mauger has seen much of the world ‹ and
been kicked out of some of it. He was banned this year from Israel, the West
Bank and the Gaza Strip for delivering food and medical supplies to
Palestinians who'd occupied the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Now the young peace activist from Spokane, Wash., is off to Iraq. Despite
strong disapproval from the U.S. government, Mauger and six other members of
an American "peace team" are positioning themselves in Baghdad in case of a
U.S. attack there.

Mauger plans to stay "indefinitely" to report the stories of Iraqi citizens
for newspapers and television stations in his home state, using video and
audio equipment he's bringing along.

He's not an apologist for Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein. But Mauger and others
in Voices in the Wilderness, the Chicago-based group organizing the trip,
believe the suffering of the Iraqi people has not been highlighted enough.
They oppose a U.S. attack and want an end to sanctions.

"The goal is to humanize Iraq because it is a nation of human beings,"
Mauger said last week before leaving for Iraq. "There are 25 million people;
it's not just Saddam Hussein."

Relief groups say life for the average Iraqi is difficult at best.

Contaminated water has created an epidemic of dysentery and infectious
diseases, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths. UNICEF says Iraqi
children younger than age 5 are dying at more than twice the rate they were
before the sanctions.

At least one U.S. official called the peace team's concerns for the Iraqi
people "valid."

"It's just that we don't feel anything's going to change by ending sanctions
or making it easier for Saddam," said Gregg Sullivan, a spokesman for the
State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. "This is a guy who's not
a force for alleviating human suffering in the world. He's a force for
exacerbating it."

Neither that argument, nor the $10,000 fines imposed on some activists
who've gone to Iraq in recent years without U.S. government permission, sway

He knows many Americans deplore what he's doing. He also concedes that the
Iraqi government is "as horrible as people say" and admits he's more than a
little frightened.

He says it was his experience studying abroad in the West Bank ‹ seeing
death and destruction firsthand ‹ that turned him from a "mainstream
liberal" college student to peace activist.

"When you see a war happening in front of you, with people you care about
caught in the middle, you don't forget that," he said. "It changes you. It
changed me."

In Bethlehem, Mauger was among a group of Palestinian supporters, called the
International Solidarity Movement, who tried to bring food and supplies to
Palestinians holed up inside the Church of the Nativity on May 2. Ten made
it inside; Mauger and a dozen others didn't and were deported.

Mauger, who's awaiting a journalism degree from Washington State University
while credits transfer from his Chinese language studies in the West Bank,
made the comments last week at a Chicago apartment that is part office for
Voices in the Wilderness, part living quarters for its volunteers. He joined
the group two months ago after being released from an Israeli prison and
returning to the United States.

As he packed Wednesday, Mauger listened to music through headphones, while
recording two CDs. They are among the only personal possessions he took with

Mauger left Chicago's O'Hare International Airport Thursday for Iraq via
Jordan with two large duffel bags in tow ‹ most of them filled with medical
journals, donated clothing, vitamins, children's pain reliever and cough
syrup and a few packages of magic markers to give to kids.

The team expects to be in Iraq by Monday. Eventually, Mauger plans to settle
into a Baghdad hotel and volunteer at a hospital.

Adly Natsheh, a 21-year-old Palestinian who met Mauger while both were
students at Washington State, said he realizes Mauger's cause may be
unpopular here. But he calls his friend "my American hero."

"There are few people in the world like him," Natsheh said.

Though his cause can be a lonely one, Mauger and Voices in the Wilderness do
have allies.

Both Scott Ritter, an ex-Marine and former U.N. weapons inspector, and Hans
von Sponeck, a German who also resigned from the U.N. after overseeing the
organization's oil for-food program, have gone on the public speaking
circuit to oppose attacking Iraq and the sanctions.

Still, polls show that most Americans support President Bush's tough stance
on both fronts. Mauger hopes reports and film footage he sends back home
will change some minds.

"I'm hoping for the best," he said, "But expecting the worst.

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