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[casi] News, 15-22/11/02 (4)



News, 15-22/11/02 (4)

IRAQI/MIDDLE EAST RELATIONS

*  Resolution 1441: what price Syria?
*  Hezbollah may strike Israel in case of US war on Iraq
*  U.S. Discusses Aid for Turkey to Defray Costs of an Iraq War
*  Syria and Iraq Tightening Their Ties
*  Jordan shortlists three firms for oil pipeline from Iraq
*  Hammoud: Strike on Iraq is now inevitable
*  [Lebanese] Families demand news on detainees in Iraq

IRAQI/INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

*  No power should enforce its will on Iraq: PM
*  NATO onslaught against Yugoslavia offers lessons  for attack on Iraq
*  Eritrean port may become US base for Iraq attack
*  Bosnian Serbs Seek Interpol Help in Iraq Arms Case
*  In with Iraq, out of NATO
*  Russian 'Interests' In Iraq Recognized
*  [Japanese] Govt eyes refugee aid for Iraq's neighbors
*  Key allies baulk at support for US in Iraq war


IRAQI/MIDDLE EAST RELATIONS

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/opinion/15_11_02_c.htm

*  RESOLUTION 1441: WHAT PRICE SYRIA?
Daily Star, Lebanon, 15th November

Considering the ultranationalist, anti-American rhetoric of the ruling Baath
Party branches in Damascus and Baghdad, Syria's vote in favor of Resolution
1441 at the UN Security Council on Nov. 8 came as a big surprise.

That's why Syria's vote for the harsh resolution ordering Iraq to disarm
didn't sit well with the Syrian street, which had grown used to hearing
criticism of US President George W. Bush and his administration from the
official media. The Syrian media had always told the public that Bush is
intent on "drawing a new Middle East map because the current one no longer
serves Israel's interests."

Those who whipped up this rhetoric - as well as the quasi-official and
popular drive to boycott American goods because of Washington's overt bias
toward Israel - were justifiably disappointed to see their country vote for
a US-drafted resolution, which made impossible demands of Baghdad calculated
to lead to "the occupation of Iraq and the appropriation of its oil."

Those who have been following Syrian foreign policy over the last few
decades however were not surprised. Damascus has always acted pragmatically
in critical situations, adopting positions that enabled the country to "bend
before a storm," in keeping with the belief of Syrian decision-makers that
"pragmatism does not cancel out principles."

The next most recent example of Syrian pragmatism in action took place in
October 1998, when Turkey massed its troops on the Syrian border demanding
that Damascus expel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan.
The Syrians didn't respond in kind, refusing to "enter into a war with
Turkey for the sake of a Kurdish party." In fact, then President Hafez Assad
gave orders that not a single Syrian soldier be moved north. Instead, he
agreed to set up a joint security committee with the Turks, which finally
resulted in the signing of a security pact with Ankara that settled the
issue. Ocalan was expelled from Syria in the autumn of 1998 (and was
subsequently abducted in Nairobi, Kenya, and brought to trial in Turkey in
February 1999).

Syrian public opinion was taken aback by that position, because the official
line was extremely hostile to Turkey, "which in collusion with Israel sought
to resurrect the policy of military axes aimed at besieging Syria." In fact,
some Syrian delegates to the joint security committee genuinely believed
that Syria was going to enter a war against Turkey.

Eight years before that, the Syrians woke up one morning (in October 1990)
to find their country had decided to join "the international coalition to
evict the Iraqi Army from sisterly Kuwait." The Syrian government's real
objective, however, was to avoid getting caught up in the global storm that
was brewing at the time in Eastern Europe. In other words, the Syrian regime
found it to be in the country's interest to make a symbolic contribution to
the US effort to liberate Kuwait by giving it - together with Egypt - a
semblance of "Arab legitimacy."

In exchange, Damascus at the time (1) gained international support and
protection against the changes resulting from the collapse of its erstwhile
communist allies; (2) ensured the launch of an Arab-Israeli peace process
that featured talks about the occupied Golan Heights; (3) won American
backing for the Syrian presence in Lebanon and got rid of Lebanese General
Michel Aoun who had declared a "war of liberation" against Syria; and (4)
bought Syria sufficient time to adapt to the new global situation and
repatriate Western hostages kidnapped in Lebanon.

But what price was Syria seeking this time in exchange for voting in favor
of Security Council Resolution 1441?

What the Syrians were after was:

 American political support for the Syrian presence in Lebanon, and the
linkage of that presence from this day forward to the establishment of peace
with Israel.

 American commitment to the establishment of comprehensive peace in the
region, which would return the Golan Heights to Syria.

 Diminution of US pressure on Damascus over the presence in Syria of
organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which Washington deems to be
terrorist.

 Support of the movement for political and economic reform in Syria,
whereby the country is given breathing space to adapt to the changes in the
global political situation since Sept. 11, 2001.

 American aid to Syria or, alternatively, American acquiescence in the
continuation of Syria's bilateral trade relations with Iraq, now worth $1.5
billion annually.

Those were the broad outlines of Syria's objectives as negotiated with
Washington. In fact, a fair bit of horse trading went on between Damascus
and Washington in recent months, with the Bush administration appreciating
Syria's weight in soothing Arab nerves frayed by the situation in the
Occupied Territories and in giving Arab legitimacy to Resolution 1441, but
nevertheless refusing to pay the full price demanded by Damascus. The
Americans thus resorted to the "stick" of political and economic pressure,
and the "carrot" of political and economic incentives.

The "stick" featured the following elements:

 Bush's declaration in a June 24 speech that Syria hosts "terrorist
training camps;"

 The US administration's refusal to hold official talks with Foreign
Minister Farouk al Sharaa when he was in New York last June;

 A congressional debate on the Syria Accountability Act;

 News leaks about the possibility of Israel settling scores with Syria and
Lebanon over Hizbullah;

 US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security
John Bolton's remarks about nuclear cooperation between Syria and Russia;

 US Undersecretary of State William Burns' warning to Syria against
violating UN sanctions by importing Iraqi oil and allowing weapons shipments
to Baghdad;

 French President Jacques Chirac's announcement, during a visit to
Damascus, that Israel was on the lookout for a pretext to attack Syria; and

 News that an American warplane "accidentally" violated Syrian air space
coinciding with leaks that the US might bomb Iraq's trans-Syria oil pipeline
"in error."

The "carrot" that America dangled in front of Syria's nose, on the other
hand, featured the following:

 Bush's refusal to ratify the Syria Accountability Act in September;

 Praise by administration officials of Syria's role in - and contribution
toward - the "war on terror;"

 One-on-one talks between Sharaa and Secretary of State Colin Powell on the
sidelines of the UN General Assembly last September;

 The invitation to the Syrian foreign minister to participate in the
meeting of the "Quartet" (bringing together the US, Russia, the European
Union and the UN) on the way forward to implement Bush's "vision" of a
Palestinian state being set up alongside Israel;

 Disclosures by an Arab diplomat, backed by maps, that Israel may pull back
from the Golan and sue for a comprehensive peace on all fronts;

 Hush-hush meetings in London between Syrian and US officials; and

 Chirac's personal intervention with President Bashar Assad to persuade him
to back Resolution 1441, plus Powell's letter to Sharaa asking him to do the
same.

Despite the fact that the Syrian government tried to sweeten the pill before
announcing its decision by publicizing the importance the world attaches to
Syria's vote on the planned resolution, most Syrians were convinced that
their country would either oppose or at least abstain - especially since
Damascus had strived to cultivate relations with all Washington's "axis of
evil" and "terrorist club" enemies such as Iraq, Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Libya,
and North Korea.

Once again, Syria demonstrated its ability to adopt pragmatic positions to
serve its own interests, as well as an ability to read accurately how the
winds were blowing and which way its chief international and regional allies
- namely, France and Iran - were bending.

The most important observation to come out of the recent Syrian vote,
however, was that the foreign policy established by the late Hafez Assad is
still alive and well under his son and successor, Bashar.

(Ibrahim Hamidi is a Damascus-based journalist specialized in Syrian current
affairs. He wrote this commentary for The Daily Star)


http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/cms.dll/html/uncomp/articleshow?artid=286
79703

*  HEZBOLLAH MAY STRIKE ISRAEL IN CASE OF US WAR ON IRAQ
Times of India (from AFP), 18th November

JERUSALEM: Lebanon's Shiite militia Hezbollah could use an anticipated US
war on Iraq to attack the Jewish state across its northern border, Israeli
public radio said Monday, quoting a senior army officer.

The officer said Hezbollah was reinforcing its military capacity in the
border region and there was no sign of it stopping, the radio reported.

He added that Hezbollah, which was credited with a key role in Israel's
withdrawal from south Lebanon in May 2000 after 22 years of occupation, had
around 1,000 fighters and reserve militia numbering several thousand more
men.

Syria was building up the force as a proxy to strike Israel in the event of
a US war on Baghdad, to avoid being embroiled directly in a burgeoning
conflict, the officer charged.

He said however the threat of an armed confrontration remained low.

The radio said that in the past two years, Syria, with whom Israel is still
officially at war, had provided Hezbollah with 220-mm rockets with a range
of 75 kilometres (45 miles).


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A7542-2002Nov18.html

*  U.S. DISCUSSES AID FOR TURKEY TO DEFRAY COSTS OF AN IRAQ WAR
by Bradley Graham
Washington Post, 19th November

The United States has begun discussions about compensating Turkey for
economic losses and other costs likely to be incurred in a U.S.-led war
against Iraq, according to American and Turkish officials.

Both sides described the discussions as still at an early stage and marked
by a wide gap in what the Turks would like to receive and what the United
States is willing to pay. But the mere existence of the talks, which
participants said were initiated by the United States within the past two
months, reflects the importance that U.S. officials place on Turkey in any
war with Iraq.

A longtime NATO ally bordering northern Iraq, Turkey is in position to serve
as a crucial base for U.S. military operations. Its bases and airfields
would likely be prime staging areas for American forces, and Turkish troops
could play a significant role policing the flow of refugees from Iraq or
guarding prisoners of war. At the same time, U.S. officials have expressed
concern that Turkish forces may attempt to take advantage of a war and
occupy northern Iraq to block the creation of an autonomous Kurdish region,
which could serve as a base of operations for Turkey's own separatist Kurds.

Preparing for possible military conflict with Iraq, the Bush administration
has launched a number of diplomatic and military moves to secure basing,
overflight rights and other crucial assistance from countries in the Persian
Gulf region and elsewhere. But U.S. officials described the offer of
economic assistance to Turkey as unusual, saying similar discussions have
been initiated with only one other ally in the region -- Jordan.

"We've told them that if there is military action against Iraq, we would
recognize that Turkey would have some losses and we would have to move in
some fashion to help them," a senior administration official said.

As another sign of the high-level attention that Turkey is receiving within
the administration, President Bush got involved yesterday in furthering
Turkey's bid to join the European Union. He phoned the EU president, Danish
Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and stressed the importance of
"advancing Turkey's evolution toward" membership when EU leaders convene in
Denmark next month, according to a White House spokesman. Bush also plans to
meet with Turkish President Ahmet Sezer on Wednesday while the two leaders
are in Prague for a NATO summit.

[.....]


http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/ny
wosyri1119,0,7788498.story?coll=ny%2Dnationworld%2Dheadlines

*  SYRIA AND IRAQ TIGHTENING THEIR TIES
by Mohamad Bazzi
Newsday, 19th November

Damascus, Syria -- The Iraqi taxi driver works the Baghdad-to-Damascus
route, filling his car with passengers and his trunk with sweets to sell on
the streets of the Syrian capital.

"I have the best honey in Iraq," Halim, who declined to give his full name
because of the doubtful legality of his peddler status, proclaimed on a
recent day to passersby. Occasionally, someone would peer into the open
trunk, taste a spoonful of honey and haggle over the price. Halim would
almost always capitulate to make a sale.

Hundreds of Iraqis sell clothes, toys, perfumes and other goods on the
streets of Damascus. They compete with Syrian vendors hawking their wares
from rickety pushcarts. The Iraqis' presence here is a signal of how
dramatically relations have improved since Syria backed the U.S.-led
coalition that drove Iraq out of Kuwait 11 years ago.

Today, Iraqi tourists are among the crowds enjoying ice cream and haggling
with carpet merchants in Damascus' winding souks. Trade is booming after
border controls were eased two years ago. From almost zero, Syrian exports
to Iraq reached $1 billion last year. Western officials and oil analysts say
Syria is importing about 150,000 barrels a day of Iraqi oil in contravention
of United Nations sanctions -- a charge Syria denies.

The improved ties highlight Iraq's success in recent years in winning over
old Arab rivals to help it overcome UN sanctions and blunt U.S. threats to
topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Syria has been staunchly opposed to
an American military attack on Iraq. But in a sign of the limits to its
support of Hussein, Syria  the Arab representative on the UN Security
Council  voted this month for a tough new resolution that requires Iraq to
disarm or face "serious consequences."

"Syria and Iraq are two brother countries. We speak the same language, we
share the same history and ambitions," said Bouthaina Shaaban, a senior
official at the Syrian Foreign Ministry. "We've always had great sympathy
for each other, no matter what our governments might have done."

Analysts interpreted Syria's recent UN vote as a sign that President Bashar
Assad did not want to antagonize the United States and that he would curtail
his support for Iraq. But few expect Syria to actively support a U.S.
attack.

"The Syrian position is that it would be a dangerous precedent to remove an
Arab regime by force, and this could destabilize the entire region," said
Imad Shueibi, a politics professor at the University of Damascus.

Since Assad assumed power after the death of his father, Hafez Assad, in
June 2000, he has worked to improve relations with Iraq. But the two
neighbors still have a complicated and distrustful relationship that is
largely built on economic interests. Syrian animosity toward Iraq dates to
the 1960s, when bitter divisions emerged between the Syrian and Iraqi wings
of the Baath party, which rules both nations. And Syria has long allowed all
the major Iraqi opposition groups to operate here.

By developing closer ties with its old rival, Syria has been accused of
undermining UN sanctions on Baghdad. Western officials say the arrangement
under which Syria imports oil from Iraq is channeling up to $1 billion a
year into Hussein's coffers and diverting funds from the UN-sponsored
"oil-for-food" program.

Under that program, Iraq can export unlimited amounts of crude oil, but the
proceeds must be placed in UN-controlled bank accounts and spent on
nonmilitary uses. Britain and the United States have asked Syria to place
the 550-mile pipeline from Iraq's Kirkuk oilfield to the Syrian port of
Baniyas under UN supervision. But Syrian officials say what was interpreted
as commercial activity was merely testing being done on the pipeline, which
stopped operating in the early 1980s.

Oil analysts say they first realized the pipeline had been reopened when
Syria's oil exports soared without any commensurate increase in its domestic
production. Western officials say breaking the sanctions works well for both
sides: Iraq gets money that is beyond UN oversight and, because it sells
Syria its oil at a steep discount, Syria also makes money by using the Iraqi
oil to replace its domestic supply. Syria then sells its own crude to other
countries at market prices.

"The Syrians say that it's entirely an economic relationship, and that
they're still suspicious of Iraq politically and militarily," said a Western
diplomat in Damascus. "The Syrian calculation was made at a different time,
when governments in the region thought that the sanctions against Iraq had
fallen apart, and they had to position themselves to take advantage of Iraqi
oil."

Officials in Damascus say the United States ignores the smuggling of Iraqi
oil to other neighbors. Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem
argued that the United States and Britain are singling out Syria for its
economic relations with Iraq. "The U.S. and British accusations are wrong
and selective," he said in an interview. "These issues should be addressed
in a regional way, not a selective way."

Al-Mouallem said all trade between the two nations is conducted under the UN
program. "Syrians and Iraqis are like brothers," he said, "and it's natural
that an economic relationship would develop between them."

Hafez Assad, who ruled Syria for 30 years, began making overtures to Baghdad
in 1997, and the two countries resumed trade and diplomatic ties in early
1998. The two neighbors still do not have embassies in each other's capitals
but instead keep interest sections in the Algerian embassies. Still,
relations are far improved from 20 years ago, when Syrian passports carried
a government statement that they were valid for travel to all countries in
the world  except Iraq.

"It used to be the worst accusation that you could face: either that you had
visited Iraq or had contact with someone inside Iraq," said a Syrian
opposition leader who asked not to be named. "It was a death sentence."

The opposition leader said Assad re-established ties with Iraq so he could
neutralize the possibility of external opposition to his son, whom he was
grooming for leadership. "Hafez didn't want Bashar to face a problem with
Iraq," he said.

The elder Assad was also worried Syria would be left behind after Israel and
the Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords in 1993, dashing Assad's hopes for
a unified Arab peace deal with Israel. Syria is determined to regain the
Golan Heights, land captured by Israel after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. As a
hedge, Syria has sought to develop new allies in the Arab world, especially
Iraq, which has long opposed making peace with Israel. Saddam Hussein and
Hafez Assad shared hardscrabble roots: Both came from poor families in the
countryside and rose to prominence in the Baath party by brutally
eliminating their opposition. But Hussein and Assad emerged from different
wings of the party, and that split was never reconciled. The Baath appeared
in Iraq in 1950, as a chapter founded in Baghdad by Syrian students studying
there.

Syria's and Iraq's regimes also are both ruled by minorities. Syria is
controlled by Alawites, a Muslim sect that constitutes about 12 percent of a
population of 17 million, and Iraq is ruled by Sunni Muslims, who make up
about a third of a country of 24 million.

Syria is now worried that a U.S.-led war on Iraq would destabilize its
neighbor's fragile ethnic balance and divide Iraq into three regions: a
north controlled by Kurds, a center controlled by Sunnis and a south
controlled by Shiites. Analysts say Syria is especially concerned that after
a war, the existing Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq would
become more independent. That could make Syria's own Kurdish minority 
about 1.5 million people  more restive.

"Syria does not only fear the fragmentation of Iraq because of ideological
and political reasons," said Sarkis Naoum, a columnist for the Lebanese
newspaper An-Nahar. "Syria also fears for its own integrity, especially
because it resembles Iraq so much."


http://www.dailystarnews.com/200211/20/n2112005.htm

*  JORDAN SHORTLISTS THREE FIRMS FOR OIL PIPELINE FROM IRAQ
Daily Star, Bangladesh, 20th November

AFP, Amman: Jordan has shortlisted three firms to build an oil pipeline
capable of carrying 150,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Iraq, a top
official said in remarks published Tuesday.

The tender will be awarded in January while financial close has been set for
May 2003 and the pipeline is due to come on stream at the end of 2004,
energy ministry secretary general Azmi Khreissat told the Al-Arab Al-Yawm
daily.

The scheme involves the construction of a 300-kilometre (190-mile) pipeline
from the Iraqi border to the Zarqa refinery, northeast of Amman, as well as
a plant to pump and stock the crude.

Khreissat said Jordan was currently evaluating the rival bids from Oman,
Russia and Britain with the project's German-Austrian consultants ILF
Consulting Engineers and Iraqi officials.

He said the project would be carried out on a build-own-operate-transfer
(BOOT) basis.

Jordan depends on Iraq for all its oil supplies and is due to import 5.5
million tonnes by year's end, half of it free of charge and the rest at
preferential rates.

The oil is currently transported overland by tanker trucks, putting huge
pressure on the road link between Amman and Baghdad.


http://www.dailystar.com.lb/20_11_02/art12.asp

*  HAMMOUD: STRIKE ON IRAQ IS NOW INEVITABLE
by Khalil Fleihan
Daily Star, Lebanon, 20th November

Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammoud, in an interview published Tuesday, said a
US-led strike against Iraq was inevitable and the focus was now on ways to
delay it.

He told As-Safir newspaper that UN Security Council Resolution 1441 on
Iraq's disarmament contained four main "traps" that could be used by the
United States to launch a war. They are:

 The exhaustive list that Baghdad must provide on Dec. 8 declaring its
weapons of mass destruction programs;

 The list naming all the scientists who contributed to weapons programs in
the last 20 years and their location;

 The lack of criteria defining how Iraq should facilitate the work of
inspectors;

 The fact that inspectors will rely on intelligence provided to them by UN
member states, including the United States.

Hammoud said the assurances received by Syria, the only Arab member of the
Security Council prior to the passing of Resolution 1441, were insufficient
because they only ensured the resolution would not allow an automatic use of
force against Iraq.

Meanwhile, Hammoud told reporters Tuesday that implementation of Resolution
1441 required cooperation between Iraq and the UN arms inspectors' team,
UNMOVIC, and he expressed hope that the conflict would be resolved within
the UN framework.

Hammoud said he had sent a message to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on
Tuesday, stressing the importance of a peaceful solution concerning the Iraq
issue. He also enclosed a copy of the decision on nonmilitary action taken
by the Arab Foreign Ministers Conference held in Cairo earlier this month.

Hammoud added that a significant meeting, due to be held in Damascus on
Wednesday by the Arab Follow-Up Committee, would discuss the latest
developments relating to the Palestinian and Iraqi problems, particularly
following the arrival of UNMOVIC's chairman, Hans Blix, in Baghdad.

The foreign minister will be going to this committee meeting, due to be held
in the Syrian capital, as the head of his country's delegation.

Hammoud described Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's visit to Washington as
important both in view of its coinciding with preparations for the "Paris
II" donors' conference and the "unequivocal" support for it provided by the
US.


http://www.tehrantimes.com/Description.asp?Da=11/21/02&Cat=9&Num=2

*  IRAN TO EXPORT GOODS TO JORDAN AND SYRIA VIA IRAQ
Tehran Times, 21st November

AMMAN -- Iran's Ambassador to Amman Nosratollah Tajik said here on Wednesday
that Iran will soon start exporting goods to Jordan and Syria via Iraq.

In a meeting with Jordanian Head of Chamber of Commerce, Heydar Morad, Tajik
added that the decision has taken on the basis of an agreement recently
signed between Iran and Iraq.

The export of Iranian goods to Jordan and Syria via Iraq will shorten the
current route through Turkey by 1,000km, he added.

Morad, for his part, referred to the favorable relations between the two
states and underlined further exchange of good and launching joint projects,
IRNA reported.

He cited the interest of the Jordanian government to broaden ties with all
world countries, specially the Arab and Islamic states.

Ways of expanding the economic and commercial cooperation between Iran and
Jordan, in particular in the private sector were discussed at the meeting.

The two sides also exchanged views on the date of holding Iran-Jordan Joint
Commission and a prospective exhibition on the productions of both states.

The volume of trade exchange between Iran and Jordan in the past Iranian
year (ended March 20) stood at about $21 million.


http://www.dailystar.com.lb/21_11_02/art21.asp

*  FAMILIES DEMAND NEWS ON DETAINEES IN IRAQ
Daily Star, Lebanon, 21st November

The families of a dozen Lebanese detainees in Iraqi prisons called on the
Lebanese government Wednesday to invest "serious effort" with Iraqi
officials to uncover the fate of their loved ones.

The Committee of Lebanese Detainees in Iraqi Prisons, headed by Hussein
Jaafar, the son of a detained Shiite sheikh, Ali Jaafar, said the records of
the Lebanese Foreign Ministry show that 35 Lebanese prisoners are still
being held in Iraq.

"The general presidential pardon released only three Lebanese nationals, who
were imprisoned for civil crimes. They were held in the Abu Ghreib Prison,
and the Lebanese Embassy in Baghdad often arranged for their families to
visit them," Jaafar said in a news conference at the Press Federation's
headquarters. Tyre MP Abdullah Qasir and Baalbek Hermel MP Marwan Fares
attended the news conference.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein issued a general pardon last month for all
prisoners, in celebration of the renewal of his seven-year presidential
term.

The committee presented a list of 12 Lebanese prisoners, who were detained
between 1980 and 1991.

"These detainees are being held without trial. We do not know anything about
their whereabouts, and even the

Red Cross is not allowed to inquire about their well-being," said Jaafar.

Mohammed, the younger son of Sheikh Jaafar, related his own escape from
capture: "My father, who was a teacher at the Shiite religious school in
Najaf (in southern Iraq), and my brother, who was a pupil there, were both
detained in March 1991. I was in Baghdad at the time, while my father and
brother were in Najaf."

In March 1991, a few months after the conclusion of the Gulf War, Iraqi
forces suppressed a Shiite revolt in southern Iraq by bombarding their holy
shrines and detaining leaders and religious figures.

The sheikh and his son were detained along with other Lebanese Shiite
sheikhs, namely Taleb Khalil, Sadeq Faqih, Mahdi Faqih and his brother Hadi.

Wives and sisters of the detained sat at Press Federation headquarters with
pictures of their husbands in their hands.

"My brother was detained in Baghdad in 1980. All we know about him comes
from an interview Al-Jumhuriya newspaper published that year, accusing him
of being a traitor and a supporter of the Amal Movement and the (Iraqi
Islamic opposition) Daawa Party," said Nassibeh, the sister of Nassif
Dheini, who showed reporters a copy of her brother's last interview.

"In 1999, Iraqi Foreign Minister (now Information Minister) Mohammed Sahhaf
told reporters in Beirut that he would try his best for the release of
Lebanese detainees in Iraqi prisons," Hussein Jaafar told the audience at
the conference.

He added that since then Lebanese and Iraqi officials have exchanged several
visits "with an aroma of love and fuel oil in the air, but no one mentioned
the detainees, as if they were of no concern to anyone."


IRAQI/INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/cms.dll/html/uncomp/articleshow?artid=287
51070

*  NO POWER SHOULD ENFORCE ITS WILL ON IRAQ: PM
Times of India, 19th November

NEW DELHI (PTI): In an oblique reference to the United States, Prime
Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Tuesday warned that no power should enforce
its will on any country and said all issues relating to Iraq should be
sorted out under the auspices of the United Nations.

"We hope no more war takes place in Iraq. All issues should be sorted out
through discussions under the auspices of the United Nations. No one should
try to enforce its will on others," he said in his speech at a Sikh
congregation to mark the 533rd birth anniversary of Guru Nanak here.

On the reported nuclear capabilities of Iraq, he said if it had "such
weapons which endangered humanity, it (Iraq) should give it up on its own".

In a categoric statement aimed at the United States administration, Vajpayee
said everyone should understand that "people of all nations have a right to
rule themselves and choose their own leader."

"No country should try to impose its will on any other country," the Prime
Minister said.

Vajpayee made these remarks, the most categoric since tension mounted
between US and Iraq, after he referred to Guru Nanak's visits to various
parts of India and the world including Baghdad.


NO URL (sent to list)2002

*  NATO ONSLAUGHT AGAINST YUGOSLAVIA OFFERS LESSONS  FOR ATTACK ON IRAQ
AP Alert Municipal, 19th November

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ As the U.S. administration edges  ever closer to
war with Iraq, concerns are emerging that  Baghdad may be wise to the
vulnerabilities of America's  state-of-the-art weaponry.

Although the Pentagon possesses the world's most  sophisticated military
arsenal, the U.S. led air war over  Yugoslavia in 1999 demonstrated that
even the most modern  weapons systems can be thwarted by low-tech
countermeasures.

"That's a matter of serious and legitimate concern," said retired  Gen.
Wesley Clark, who as NATO commander led the 78-day  bombing campaign aimed
at expelling Yugoslav forces from the  mainly ethnic Albanian region of
Kosovo, where they were  engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Recent revelations about Iraqi-Yugoslav cooperation after the  Kosovo war
have presented Pentagon strategists with a new  dilemma _ in the case of
hostilities, will the Iraqis employ the  same tactics that successfully
blunted NATO's air offensive in  Kosovo three years ago?

Before he was ousted in October 2000, President Slobodan  Milosevic
cooperated closely with Iraqi President Saddam  Hussein's regime. Yugoslav
advisers helped revamp Baghdad's  air defense system, and officers of Iraq's
Air Defense Command  toured Yugoslav bases to study the Kosovo war.

Analysts maintain that the Yugoslav deftness at countering  NATO's
overwhelming air superiority offers a cautionary tale for  dealing with Iraq
in any future conflict.

"The war here proved that a competent opponent can improvise  ways to
overcome superior weaponry because every technology  has weaknesses that can
be identified and exploited," said  Cedomir Janjic, an air force historian.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade confirmed that a  group of American
military experts was in Yugoslavia to  determine what benefits Saddam's
military had derived from its  cooperation with Milosevic's regime.

Wesley Clark identified several stratagems in which Yugoslav  experience
could prove valuable to the Iraqis.

The most significant, he said, was the ability of Yugoslavia's air  defenses
"to interfere in the electronic environment by using  different radar
frequencies and profiles, and passive tracking  systems."

Despite NATO's air supremacy, it never succeeded in knocking  out the
defenses. They remained a potent threat throughout the  conflict, forcing
attacking warplanes to altitudes above 5,000  meters (15,000 feet), where
they were safe from surface-to-air  missiles but far less effective in a
ground attack role.

"We were always aware we were being tracked and monitored  by them," Clark
said.

NATO finally prevailed in June 1999, following Milosevic's  decision to
withdraw his largely intact army from Kosovo, and  after the extensive
destruction of bridges, government buildings  and other infrastructure
targets throughout Yugoslavia.

In contrast, the effects of heavy bombing of the Yugoslav forces  in Kosovo
were minimal. British ordnance experts who  inspected the battlefields after
the war determined that only 14  tanks and a handful of armored vehicles
were destroyed in  nearly three months of bombing.

The Yugoslavs had dispersed their heavily camouflaged units,  thus
conserving their assets for the expected alliance ground  assault, and used
decoys and other mock targets to deceive the  attackers.

Iraq was quick to pursue insight from that conflict.

Teams of Iraqi intelligence officers rushed to Yugoslavia in the  aftermath
of the war to visit command centers and air defense  sites. Many toured
Belgrade's Aviation Museum, inspecting  destroyed drones, cruise missiles
and the remnants of U.S.  F-16 Falcon and F 117 Nighthawk stealth fighters.

"Although they wore civilian suits, it was obvious they were Iraqi  military
_ all of them had Saddam Hussein mustaches," said  curator Drasko Kostic.

Meanwhile, Yugoslav technicians were reportedly upgrading  Iraq's
fibre-optics communications network, allowing  commanders real-time control
of all subordinate units. They  modified launchers of SA-6 surface-to-air
missiles with optical  tracking equipment to allow them to hit targets
without using  ground guidance radars, and added fuel cells to SA 3 missiles
to extend their range to reach high-flying U-2 spyplanes.

Over Iraq, U.S. and British pilots enforcing no-fly zones soon  noticed a
new aggressiveness in the air defenses, which began  challenging them on a
daily basis. Although numerous  command bunkers and missile batteries were
hit in retaliatory  strikes, the Iraqis also managed some successes by
downing  reconnaissance drones and damaging a U-2.

Clark said that Yugoslav advisers had enabled the Iraqis to  reduce the
"effects of weaponry" and passed on "what works and  what doesn't in the art
of camouflage."

He noted that the Yugoslavs had demonstrated great skill at  hiding their
armor, guns and infantry in towns and villages.

"That will certainly be of great interest to the Iraqis," Clark said.  "We
shouldn't be surprised to find Iraqi forces in mosques,  schools and homes."

The White House is said to have settled on a war plan calling for  massive
air strikes on air defenses and key military facilities,  while invasions
from the north and south establish beachheads  for the final push on
Baghdad. The plan reportedly envisages  little ground combat and limited
American casualties.

But this could quickly unravel if Saddam's commanders _ like  Milosevic's _
shield their forces from the strikes and engage the  invaders in a long and
bloody ground war in cities and other  terrain favoring them.

Belgrade's war plan had been to ride out the air offensive, thus  forcing
NATO to invade Kosovo with ground troops. Yugoslav  generals believed their
entrenched units could then inflict heavy  casualties on the attackers _
quickly degrading their fighting  morale and forcing Western leaders to the
negotiating table.

Analysts predict Iraq will emulate that strategy, and that the  parallels
with Kosovo will be far more relevant to a possible  conflict than the
much-touted victory against the Taliban,  arguably the most primitive army
in the world.

"We realize that a conflict with Iraq will not be like ... Afghanistan,"
said retired Rear Adm. Stephen Baker of the Center for Defense  Information
in Washington."Our tactics should be driven by what  we learned in Kosovo,"
he said.


http://www.dailystarnews.com/200211/20/n2112013.htm

*  ERITREAN PORT MAY BECOME US BASE FOR IRAQ ATTACK
Daily Star, Bangladesh, 20th November

AP, Assab: One of the largest ports on the Red Sea stands eerily idle, its
huge cranes motionless in the oppressive heat. Yet this sleepy town on the
southern tip of Eritrea could become a base for US troops in the war on
terrorism and Saddam Hussein.

Western diplomatic sources say US military officials have already visited
the remote, strategically located town to assess its value as a staging
point for U.S. marines, Navy ships and troops.

Gen. Tommy Franks, head of US Central Command, or CentCom, visited Eritrea
in March, and the then defence minister, Sehat Ephrem, said his government
would happily host a US base. And on Oct. 29 Franks said the United States
has "security relationships or engagement opportunities" in many Horn of
Africa countries, including Eritrea.

The amphibious command ship USS Mount Whitney is expected to arrive in about
a month to serve as the Red Sea floating headquarters for a joint command US
task force for the Horn of Africa, said Maj. Pete Mitchell, a CentCom
spokesman.

US officials have said the headquarters, part of the war on terrorism, could
later move ashore.

"US forces in the region are making liaisons with a number of nations in the
Horn of Africa. That liaison covers a variety of issues," Mitchell said when
asked specifically about Assab.

The Eritrean government is said to be eager to have a US presence to bolster
its stature and inject cash into its struggling economy.

Eritrean officials would not say where things stand now, and U.S.
authorities are still weighing Eritrea's military usefulness against lending
credibility to an increasingly authoritarian government, said the diplomatic
sources, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Once admired in the West, the government of President Isaias Afwerki has
come under fire for human rights abuses following Eritrea's 2 1/2 -year
border war with Ethiopia.

Assab before the war a busy port that served Ethiopia would doubtless be
useful to the United States as it increases its military presence in an
unstable region cited as a possible terrorist haven.

"A base within the area is something that they must be considering," said
Phillip Mitchell, ground forces analyst at the London-based International
Institute for Strategic Studies.


http://www.voanews.com/article.cfm?objectID=A01A11AE-89BE-45DC
8C4FEDFFE17D2606&title=Bosnian%20Serbs%20Seek%20Interpol%20Help%20in%20Iraq%
20Arms%20Case&catOID=45C9C78D-88AD-11D4-A57200A0CC5EE46C&categoryname=Mideas
t

*  BOSNIAN SERBS SEEK INTERPOL HELP IN IRAQ ARMS CASE
Voice of America, 20th November

The interior minister of the Bosnian Serb Republic says his government has
asked Interpol for help in tracking down the bank accounts of a military
firm suspected of illegal arms sales to Iraq.

The official, Dragomir Jovicic, told reporters the request involves a probe
by the international police agency of contracts and bank accounts the
Bijeljina-based company Orao had in several foreign locations. He did not
identify the places, but the French news agency says they include Germany,
Hong Kong, Yugoslavia and the United States.

Two months ago, NATO-led peacekeepers discovered that Orao had been
refurbishing military aircraft for Iraq through a state-owned Yugoslav
company, Jugoimport.

Earlier this month, Bosnian Serb authorities dismissed five officials,
including the Serb Republic's defense minister and army chief of staff, in
connection with the scandal. Three managers of Orao remain in prison as
authorities probe the sales.

The 1995 Dayton Peace Accord that halted fighting in Bosnia Herzegovina,
divided the country into a Serb Republic and Muslim-Croat Federation.


http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/DK21Ak03.html

*  IN WITH IRAQ, OUT OF NATO
by Brian Kenety
Asia Times, from Inter Press Service, 21st November

PRAGUE - As Prague prepares to receive 46 leaders for the NATO summit on
Thursday and Friday, it is thinking also of the two not invited.

President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus has been denied an entry visa
while President Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine looks set to arrive, though he has
not been invited.

The NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) military alliance has made it
clear in recent weeks that the two Eastern European presidents will not be
welcome at the summit, the first to be held behind the former Iron Curtain.

On the face of it, the two presidents are being kept away because of their
human rights record. Lukashenko has long been a pariah in the West because
of his autocratic rule, marked by frequent crackdowns on dissent and media
freedom. Kuchma faces difficulties domestically and abroad over his alleged
role in ordering the murder of opposition reporter Heorhiy Gongadze, whose
headless body was found in a forest two years ago.

Neither Belarus nor Ukraine are NATO members, but both are members of the
Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), a consultative body to NATO which
is due to meet in Prague on the second day of the summit on Friday. The two
leaders are being kept out although under NATO rules each EAPC member is
allowed to choose its own delegates.

But it is no coincidence that both leaders have been accused of links with
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Belarus is a member of NATO's Partnership
for Peace program, but stands accused of training Iraqi military officers in
operating air defense missiles. Kuchma faces allegations that he violated
United Nations sanctions by approving a US$100 million sale of the Kolchuga
early warning radar system to Iraq.

The Czech hosts are being careful to single out the leaders, not their
countries. Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda says that his government does not
want Lukashenko to use a visit to Prague to "legitimize his position" in
Belarus. But he has said members of a Belarus delegation would be given
visas. From Ukraine, he says Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko has been
invited in place of Kuchma.

The West is keen to maintain good relations with Ukraine to help preserve
its fragile independence from Russia. Ukraine is the fourth-largest
recipient of US aid. But the US has suspended $54 million in aid over the
Kuchma controversy.

Kuchma has denied US allegations that it was his voice on a tape recording
authorizing the sale of the military equipment to Iraq. After talks with
Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow over the weekend, Kuchma visited
China seeking "proof" that he never sold weapons technology to Iraq. Kuchma
says that all Ukrainian officials would boycott the meeting if he was
barred. "If the president does not go, no one will go," he says.

Earlier this year, a court in the Ukrainian capital Kiev began to
investigate Kuchma over his role in the murder. In September tens of
thousands of people took to the streets calling for him to stand down. These
were the largest demonstrations since Ukraine's independence from the Soviet
Union in 1991. NATO officials in Brussels say that Western leaders would
boycott any session that Kuchma might attend.

In parallel with Kuchma's objections, the Belarus government has strongly
attacked the Czech government for denying an entry visa to Lukashenko. "The
Czechs will lose their position in Belarus for a long time, if not for
ever," the Belarus foreign ministry said in a statement. "This unprecedented
decision, forced on the Czech side, is one in a series of undisguised
pressure on Belarus. It shows that Czech foreign policy is not independent
and demonstrates what disregard Prague has for EAPC decisions in which it
has taken part."

Lukashenko immediately recalled the ambassador to Prague, Vladimir Belsky,
for consultations. He also threatened to open his country's borders to the
West. That, he says, would force Europeans to "crawl and ask for our
cooperation on drug trafficking and illegal immigration". He added, "We will
not defend Europe from the flood."

There is some dispute whether Belarus and Ukraine should be clubbed
together. "People do not see Ukraine and Belarus as being in the same
league," Chris Donnelly, special advisor for Central and Eastern European
Affairs to the NATO secretary general, told a conference last week.

Jiri Sedivy, director of the Prague-based Institute for International
Relations, said that the Ukrainian president was every bit as suspect as
Lukashenko. "Kuchma cooperates more with Iraq now than with NATO," he told
delegates at a meeting organized by the Czech civil society initiative Forum
2000 Foundation last week.


http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_106294,0005.htm

*  GERMANY CONFIRMS US ASKED IT FOR IRAQ SUPPORT
Hindustani Times, from Reuters, 21st November

Germany confirmed on Thursday it was among the some 50 countries the United
States had asked to contribute to a possible war with Iraq -- a request that
could raise pressure on Berlin to clarify its anti-war stance.

Germany is trying to repair relations that US officials said were "poisoned"
by what they saw as an anti-American election campaign by Chancellor Gerhard
Schroeder, whose anti war rhetoric helped him narrowly win September's vote.

Since then, Schroeder has repeated his assertion that German troops will not
be involved in any war, but supported the UN Security Council's tough new
resolution demanding Iraq disarm.

While US President George W. Bush is setting aside time to meet British
Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac at the NATO
summit in the Czech capital Prague this week, no private meeting with
Schroeder is planned.

While Schroeder's centre-left government has expressed concern about the
implications for regional stability of any war, it has declined to say what
Germany's position will be if Baghdad breaches the UN resolution, which
demands cooperation with arms inspectors who returned to Iraq this week.

A German government spokesman said of the US request:

"It will be carefully examined on the clear basis of German
non-participation in possible military action in Iraq, our NATO obligations,
legal possibilities and ties." He declined to comment on what sort of
support Germany might offer.

A US official said on Wednesday that the State Department had asked US
ambassadors to find out what its allies might contribute to a war, adding
the request included combat forces, logistics, humanitarian aid and
reconstruction assistance.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A23566-2002Nov21.html

*  RUSSIAN 'INTERESTS' IN IRAQ RECOGNIZED
by Michael Dobbs and Susan B. Glasser
Washington Post, 22nd November

Like his father during the run-up to the 1991 Persian Gulf War, President
Bush is using the lure of money and political respect to persuade a
reluctant Russia not to stand in the way of a U.S.-led war with Iraq.

Russian officials say they have reached an understanding with the Bush
administration on Russia's economic interests in Iraq, including concerns
about the plummeting price of oil as a result of an Iraqi oil boom should
President Saddam Hussein be overthrown. While vigorously denying that there
has been a specific agreement, U.S. officials say they are aware of Russian
concerns and are taking them into account in planning for a post-Hussein
Iraq.

"We understand that Russia has got interests there, as do other countries,"
Bush told the independent Russian television station NTV in an interview
broadcast last night. "And of course those interests will be honored."

On Saturday, Bush will acknowledge Moscow's role in agreeing to a unanimous
United Nations Security Council vote on a stringent new inspections regime
for Iraq, by traveling to the former Russian imperial capital of St.
Petersburg for his seventh meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Over the past few days, Bush has gone out of his way to praise Putin for his
help in the war on terrorism and his handling of a recent hostage crisis in
Moscow, in which 128 civilians were killed by poison gas administered by
government security forces in an attempt to free them from Chechen
guerrillas.

The American wooing of Putin is reminiscent of the diplomatic campaign waged
by President George H.W. Bush in the fall of 1990 to win the support of
then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev for U.N. resolutions endorsing the use
of "all necessary means" to end Iraq's occupation of Kuwait. In return for
Soviet acquiescence in the use of military force against Baghdad, Bush held
out the prospect of political and economic support for Gorbachev at a time
when he was struggling to hold the Soviet Union together.

The main difference between the two rounds of diplomacy, according to U.S.
and Russian analysts, is that Putin is more realistic than Gorbachev about
what he can get in return for giving Washington a relatively free hand in
Iraq. Rather than demanding a huge infusion of Western aid for a moribund
economy, he has focused his attention on gaining U.S. assurances of respect
for Russian economic interests in Iraq, most of which center on the
country's future as the largest Middle East oil producer, after Saudi
Arabia.

"Putin is a very pragmatic politician," said Dmitri Simes, president of the
Nixon Center, a Washington think tank that has focused on U.S.-Russian
relations. "Instead of trying to stop things that are going to happen
anyway, he tries to get the most he can, both for his country and for
himself politically."

At the top of Putin's list of economic concerns is the fear of collapsing
oil prices once U.N. trade sanctions against Baghdad are removed and Western
investment begins to pour into the neglected Iraqi oil sector. According to
an estimate by Celeste Wallander of the Washington-based Center for
Strategic and International Studies, a $6 fall in the price of a barrel of
oil would slash Russian economic growth in half. If the price fell to $13 a
barrel, most Russian oil companies would no longer be profitable.

Russian and U.S. officials said Putin is also anxious to protect the
contracts of Russian oil companies in Iraq, including a $3.5 billion deal
for the state-owned Lukoil to develop a giant oil field in southern Iraq,
and would like to recover up to $12 billion in old Iraqi debts. One
possibility believed to be under discussion is to use a portion of Iraqi oil
proceeds to pay off part of the Russian debt.

A high-ranking Russian foreign ministry official involved in negotiations
with the United States over the U.N. resolution told an American visitor to
Moscow this week that a "gentleman's agreement" had been reached with
Washington on Iraq.

He said the deal centered on maintaining a price of oil at around $21 a
barrel, the price used by Russian government planners for long-term budget
estimates. Oil prices have been hovering around $25 a barrel for much of
this year.

While acknowledging that discussions have taken place with the Russians over
the price of oil, U.S. officials dismissed suggestions that the United
States can influence the market very much. They added, however, that they
have tried to allay Russian concerns about plummeting oil prices in the wake
of a U.S. victory in Iraq, concerns that are described as exaggerated by
many American experts.

"Generally, we would like to see stability [in the oil price]," said a U.S.
official involved in Russia negotiations. "Wild swings up and down unsettle
the markets."

Iraq produces around 2.4 million barrels of oil a day, compared with Saudi
daily output of around 7.4 million barrels. Estimates of Iraqi production by
2010, in the event of large-scale foreign investment and a lifting of
sanctions, vary from around 4 million barrels a day to 7 million or even 8
million.

By addressing Russian concerns about falling oil prices, the United States
would also be looking after the interests of Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally
in any future Persian Gulf conflict. In the short term, however, the low
cost of extracting Saudi oil means that Riyadh is much better positioned
than Moscow to ride out a period of low prices. In the past, analysts note,
the Saudis have deliberately used low oil prices as a weapon for forcing
other producers out of the market.

Russian officials have painful memories of the way in which the Saudis used
their excess capacity to flood world oil markets in 1985, the year that
Gorbachev came to power, causing prices to drop by more than half to a low
of $12 a barrel. Combined with declining Soviet oil production, plummeting
prices effectively destroyed Gorbachev's hopes of reinvigorating the Soviet
economy, leading directly to the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Since Putin took office in 1998, by contrast, Russian oil exports have
jumped sharply from 3.8 million to 5.4 million barrels a day, providing a
ray of light in an otherwise gloomy economic picture.

By drawing up a concrete economic wish list on Iraq, Putin is following a
different strategy from Gorbachev, who dreamed of a "grand bargain" with the
United States under which the Soviet Union would receive large-scale
economic assistance in return for sweeping economic reforms. "Both sides
made promises that they could not come through on," said Jack Matlock, a
Princeton university professor who served as U.S. ambassador to the Soviet
Union during the Gorbachev period.

Glasser reported from Moscow.


http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/newse/20021122wo01.htm

*  GOVT EYES REFUGEE AID FOR IRAQ'S NEIGHBORS
Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan, 22nd November

The government plans to offer Iraq's neighbors support for the large number
of refugees that would be expected to cross into those countries if the
United States attacks Iraq.

"The ministry will study how Japan could provide (refugee support to Iraq's
neighboring nations) as it is a very important issue." Foreign Minister
Yoriko Kawaguchi said Thursday at the House of Councillors Foreign Affairs
and Defense Committee.

By providing support for refugees, the government aims to help Iraq's
neighbors stabilize their security, support the United States in nonmilitary
areas and provide supplies from the humanitarian standpoint.

According to the Foreign Ministry and other sources, if the United States
launches an attack on Iraq, as many as 1 million people refugees could flee
the country, inundating neighboring countries, such as Iran, Syria and
Jordan.

To prepare for this contingency, the government will consider providing
supplies, such as tents, and support for nongovernmental organizations, in
addition to emergency economic cooperation for Iraq's neighbors, the sources
said.

The government plans to finance this by dipping into the budgetary
allocations for U.N. bodies, such as the U.N. High Commissioner for
Refugees, and using official development assistance. A reserve fund is also
being considered.

Meanwhile, in response to a question about how the government would respond
to a U.S. attack on Iraq, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said at a
press conference Thursday, "The Cabinet has been constantly discussing this
issue, although I can't disclose the details."


http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg/world/story/0,4386,156280,00.html?

*  KEY ALLIES BAULK AT SUPPORT FOR US IN IRAQ WAR
Straits Times, 22nd November

TOKYO (AP): Many nations around the world, including top US allies, were
baulking yesterday about supporting a possible war in Iraq after the United
States said it had quietly asked 50 countries to chip in troops or military
materials.

Australia said it was too soon to talk about committing forces. Japan could
not even confirm receiving such a request from its biggest military partner.
Advertisement

South Korea, which hosts about 37,000 US soldiers, said it was undecided.

The tepid response comes a day after a senior aide to US President George W.
Bush said the US had contacted dozens of nations, including Canada, Britain
and Germany, for military backing if Mr Bush decides to use force in Iraq.

Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has until Dec 8 to give the United Nations an
accounting of his weapons of mass destruction.

Mr Bush has been racing to assemble support for a possible military strike,
saying Iraq has only a 'short time' to come clean.

Even with many countries playing wait-and-see, the Bush administration has
managed to score some early victories in rallying a coalition.

US military forces are already in the Gulf states of Qatar, Bahrain and
Kuwait, which have indicated a willingness to serve as staging points.

And on Wednesday, Denmark approved the use of its soldiers and equipment in
an international force.

Even China, a chief opponent of US talk of war, has shown some readiness to
cooperate.

Earlier this week, Beijing approved port calls in Hongkong for two US
aircraft carrier battle groups - one bound for the Middle East.

Ms Victoria Clarke, a spokesman for US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld,
said she could not discuss specifics of US consultations with potential
allies.

She said there have been 'lots of conversations' - including unsolicited
offers of assistance from some unidentified countries - about 'who can do
what' if war comes.

The US is still awaiting feedback from some close friends.

Australia, one of America's staunchest allies in the war on terror, has
backed Washington's tough stance on Baghdad and in recent months has refused
to rule out supporting a US attack on Iraq, even without UN backing.

Prime Minister John Howard has said that Canberra is in talks with
Washington about 'contingency plans' for Iraq.

But in a radio interview yesterday, he said: 'It's premature at the moment
to be talking about decisions about committing forces to Iraq.'

In Japan, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's spokesman could not confirm
whether the US had made any specific requests to Tokyo. 'If and when there
is a more concrete situation, then we'll have to react,' said Ms Misako
Kaji. 'We're not in a position to respond to all these 'if' questions.'

Earlier this week, Tokyo extended the mission of Japanese warships in the
Indian Ocean so they can continue their refuelling and transporting of
supplies for the US-led anti-terrorism campaign in Afghanistan.

But Japan's contributions to a war in Iraq are limited by a pacifist
Constitution that restricts the military to non-combat roles overseas.

South Korea said it had been approached by the US but the request did not
seek troops and was vague on the amount of support and timing.

'We have not yet decided our position regarding this,' Foreign Ministry
official Lee Tae Woo said. Seoul would stay in contact with Washington, he
said.

Even Britain, whose air force routinely joins US warplanes in attacks over
the 'no-fly' zones in northern and southern Iraq, offered no easy answer to
Mr Bush's call.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said on Wednesday the US had requested troops
but added that Britain had not made a decision.




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