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News, 29/11-6/12/02 (6) INSIDE IRAQ * Fans refuse to play politics * Oil Is Our Damnation * Iraq on Threshold of a "Legal Revolution" * Saddam's son sits on top * Saddam driven by 'inferiority complex' * Blocked Browsing * Saddam steps in to back inspectors NO FLY ZONES * Four dead as planes raid Iraqi oil plant * U.S. Warplanes Bomb Northern Iraqi Site * Russia Says US Air Raids in Iraq Unacceptable * Allied bombers aiming at Saddam's air defences INSIDE IRAQ http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,27-499373,00.html * FANS REFUSE TO PLAY POLITICS by Zoran Kusovac The Times, 2nd December Blood soaks the grass burnt by the harsh desert sun. Before the packed stadium, an Ashorta (Police) official beheads a rooster at the edge of the pitch. "A sacrifice offered for Ammar Ahmed, who failed to score in the last three matches," he explains. It fails to placate the gods. The attacker remains jinxed. Police, the undefeated leaders of the Iraqi national football league, draw 1-1 with third-placed Najaf, just two points behind and, to make things worse, Students thrash Air Force to join Police at the top of the table. The Iraqi football league includes powerful services teams from the Army, Air Force, Anti Aircraft Corps and Oil Ministry, although they refrain from any interference in the sport and contend themselves with simply flying the banner. With the Kurdish-dominated north of the country practically beyond control of the central Government in Baghdad, even that has political significance. The "real" Army does not even attempt to drive to places such as Zakho on the border with Turkey but, as the Jaish football team, they regularly play in Kurdistan. The only Air Force unit that can enter the no-fly zones without fear of being attacked by Allied aircraft is Al-Jawwiya, its football squad. Apart from a single zealous supporter carrying a picture of Saddam Hussein, fans appear no different from those elsewhere in the world. In fact, they are more peaceful than in most parts of Europe: Ashorta drummers and trumpeters noisily salute their team alongside fans from Najaf, the regional capital, who wave their blue flags. Others wear foreign kits. Brazil, Italy, England and South Korea seem the most popular nations while, among clubs, Manchester United, Arsenal, Real Madrid and Inter Milan are well represented. "I love Manchester United," Nassir Salah Hadi, a 29-year old construction worker, says. Proudly displaying Juan Sebastián Verón's jersey, he recites the United line-up. He is genuinely perplexed when asked whether he would continue to love his team if Britain took part in a war against Iraq. To him, connecting football and politics is sacrilege. "I would still wear it, why not?" he replies. "I love football. Manchester United is not politics, it is a passion and it is sport." Not all agree. "If they bomb us, I'll throw this jersey away," Hassan Hadi, a 24-year-old waiter who is wearing England's 2002 World Cup shirt, says. "Sure there is politics in football in every country," Dr Shamil Kamil, a member of the Iraqi Football Association, says. "Before 1990, we were one of the top teams in Asia, but sanctions cut our football off from the rest of the world. But we keep trying, for the sake of the game. Even if a war breaks out, we will try to continue playing league matches." Iraqis claim that their football is suffering from the bad image of their country. "The best international teams refuse to come here, our opportunity to travel is limited and players have no opportunity of learning new techniques," Naji Hamoud, the Najaf manager, says. Fans seem less deprived. The Sports Channel regularly airs international matches and leading European leagues. Newspapers and magazines report on the big stars in detail. Merchants who sell Chinese-made football gear offer popularity ratings. "Ronaldo's kit is by far the best seller, closely followed by Beckham's," one of them, Duarid Malik, says. "Children are crazy about them. United, Arsenal and Liverpool are among the bestselling team jerseys". But at 12,000 Iraqi dinars (about £5), they are not cheap by local standards and shopkeepers cannot get rid of all their wares. Bashar Bashir is considering throwing away two Middlesbrough kits. "In six months, nobody has even touched them," he says. http://www.progressive.org/dec02/sca1202.html * OIL IS OUR DAMNATION by Jeremy Scahill The Progressive, 2nd December IT'S AN UNDERSTATEMENT TO SAY THAT Baghdad is a congested city. Practically every car on the streets is a taxi. And while the government has recently put a fleet of shiny new yellow taxis on the roads, most of the cabs are "private." Teachers, engineers, sometimes even doctors, drive the family car to make ends meet in a country where the average monthly salary is about $5 to $10. Relatively speaking, riding in a taxi is a pretty inexpensive way to get around. Most destinations in Baghdad will cost about 750 Iraqi dinars (roughly forty cents). And going to the gas station to fill up is a bit of a formality--fuel is practically free. A gallon of gas costs less than five cents, while a liter of clean drinking water costs a quarter. But cheap gas is one of the few perks ordinary Iraqis gain from their country's vast oil resources. Ask anyone in Iraq what they think the coming war is about and you'll get the same answer everywhere, "Bush wants our oil." "Our oil is like our damnation," says Adil Raheem, a university professor in the oil-rich port city of Basra in southern Iraq. "It will never bring us health and happiness as long as we have the U.S. government and its so-called interests here." In addition to teaching English literature at a private college in Basra, Raheem is a volunteer with Iraq's Disaster Preparedness Team. Every week, he attends meetings where plans are being mapped out for coping with what many see as an inevitable war. "Unfortunately, we have experience that has taught us a lot," he says. He recalls his efforts to get ready for war the first time the United States invaded, in early 1991. This time, he is more prepared. "Back then, everything was theoretical," he says. "Now, it's practical." Iraq's oil belt, the south of the country, is clearly bracing for war. Trucks zoom along the highway pulling large howitzer-type cannons. Armed military posts line the roads. Some are large walled-in encampments; others are small bunkers with a half-dozen soldiers. On hillsides, people have arranged white rocks to form written messages, as though they are meant to be seen by aircraft. In several places, the message is in English: "Down U.S.A." In the distance, refinery flames dot the skyline in one of the most oil-wealthy regions in the world. Almost no one in Basra speaks of war in the future tense. The city of 1.7 million people lies within the so-called no-fly zones imposed by the U.S. and Britain, allegedly to protect Shi'ite Muslims from Saddam. Air raid sirens blare through the city as U.S. war planes zoom above, regularly dropping bombs. The Iraqi government says that more than 1,300 civilians have been killed in these attacks. "I feel sick when I hear the planes flying above. I cry," says Kareema, who lives in a two room shack with her husband and four children. "I have psychological shock. I can't bear it. I listen to the radio and I feel scared. We are asking God just to save us." Kareema's husband, Majid, is a struggling artist. Since the Gulf War, the family has had to move twice, both times to more sparse dwellings. The family members speak sadly of the "big" house they once had. Majid walks with a limp. During the Gulf War, he was driving in a carpool to the factory where he was working when a missile hit the road in front of them. Three of his co-workers were killed, while Majid and six others sustained injuries. The two small rooms in their shack are full of Majid's paintings of Imam Ali, one of the holiest figures in Shi'ite Islam. The front courtyard of the house is infested with flies, hovering around the enclosed hole in the ground that serves as a toilet. Just a few feet away is the open-air family bedroom--four shabby bedsprings with thin, rotting foam mattresses. Like many men in Basra, Majid works on the periphery of Iraq's oil industry as a mechanic. His monthly pay is a thin stack of nearly worthless dinars. While Majid and his co-workers see little benefit from their country's vast oil resources, American companies are already making a killing off of what many see as a final push to seize control of Iraq's oil. Halliburton, once run by Vice President Dick Cheney, helped Saddam rebuild the industry in the 1990s, and now is turning a buck by servicing the massive troop buildup in the region. Far away from Majid's shack in Basra, Western oil corporations salivate at their prospects in a post-Saddam Iraq. But it's not just the Exxon Mobils and Texacos. A recent report by Deutsche Bank says oil field services companies like Halliburton are in a prime position to profit from a war. "We expect to see oil service contracts to rehabilitate old fields, but anticipate long-drawn out negotiations on new fields," the report says, estimating the possible revenues to oil field services companies at around $1.5 billion. The New York Times reported on October 26: "Industry experts and the State Department have said that oil revenues will probably finance the rebuilding of Iraq, which has reserves second only to Saudi Arabia's." [.....] Iraq's proven oil reserves total more than 112 billion barrels. Potential reserves are estimated at more than 200 billion barrels. Additionally, according to U.S. Department of Energy documents, Iraq contains 110 trillion cubic feet of gas. "If you control the Iraqi oil, you are halfway there to controlling the world oil," says Dr. Faleh Al-Khayat, director general for planning at the Iraqi Oil Ministry. "And with your substantial hold on the Saudi fields, then you are in complete control of oil supplies for a long time to come." The fields Al-Khayat refers to lie in southern Iraq: Majnoun and West Qurna (known as "The Giant"). These fields have lain largely idle for several decades, as they were repeatedly attacked during the Iran-Iraq war, as well as the Gulf War. Russia, which is owed some $8 billion by Iraq, has a $3.5 billion, twenty-three-year deal to rehabilitate Iraqi oil fields. Included in this agreement is the fifteen-billion-barrel West Qurna field. A 1997 deal between Baghdad and Moscow resulted in a plan for the Russian company Lukoil to begin oil production at the site. For years, Iraq has been negotiating a contract with the French company Elf for the lucrative twenty-billion-barrel Majnoun field. But, citing the U.N. sanctions, neither of these "friendly countries" moved much on the projects. Last June, Iraq marked the thirtieth anniversary of its nationalization of foreign oil companies by announcing that it would no longer wait for the Russians or French. Iraq's oil minister, Amir Mohammed Rashid, accused them of "slackness" and bowing to pressure from the United States. Rashid announced that Baghdad was beginning immediate production at the two sites, saying it was a message to foreign oil companies that Iraq will not wait for them or an end to the sanctions. "We decided to move alone in developing these oil fields without any help," Rashid said. Al-Khayat says Majnoun and West Qurna are "the greatest prizes of the oil industry in the world. We're talking about a half a million barrels each, at least. Together, that is as big as many OPEC countries. Now, we're talking about giant fields at the tip of the Gulf, on flat ground--not in the wilderness of Alaska or in the isolation of the Caspian Sea." [.....] Abu Mohammed lives in the poor Jumurriyah district of Basra. He is an imposing figure with rough, strong hands. He has worked throughout his adult life as an oil mechanic. Yet the meager salary that he earns from his work in the oil industry barely allows him to feed his family of eight, including two children with Down's syndrome. The minimal cost of education in Iraq is still too much for the family to afford, so only one of the children can attend school. The family lives in a rat-infested, decrepit hovel. Apart from a ceiling fan and a broken TV, they have no electrical appliances. They recently sold their refrigerator and electric cooker to repair a wall that crumbled. Their residence is near an intersection that houses the garbage heap for their block. No one could remember the last time the massive, rotting mound was cleared away. When foreign visitors enter Abu Mohammed's home, he offers nothing. His behavior is totally uncharacteristic of Iraqi hospitality. It emerges that nothing is offered because there is nothing to offer--not even tea. The family says their monthly food rations usually run out after twenty days. He tells a longtime foreign friend who has campaigned against U.S. policy not to visit anymore "because it is too painful." He simply has asked for a Caterpillar catalogue so he can see what modern equipment looks like. Abu Mohammed is a proud and dignified man. He sits on the cement floor in his home, holding Haider, his teenage son with Down's syndrome, in his lap. The boy draws circles in the air as his father speaks. "I belong to a tribe and no matter what happens I will defend them," Abu Mohammed says. "Even this poor destroyed house is very dear to us. I will defend it, and I will not give it to anybody." Outside, Abu Mohammed's children play near the murky, green water running in sewage ditches outside. His girls have worn the same dresses for years. Their father has given up wondering why anyone would want to punish him and his family so relentlessly. He says he and his wife do not speak with their children about the current situation. "We don't want to scare them," he says. "What am I supposed to say? There will be a war and you will be dead?" [Jeremy Scahill is an independent journalist who reports for the nationally syndicated radio and TV show Democracy Now! He is currently based in Baghdad, Iraq, where he and filmmaker Jacquie Soohen are coordinating Iraqjournal.org, the only web site providing regular independent reporting from the ground in Baghdad.] http://www.tehrantimes.com/Description.asp?Da=12/3/02&Cat=2&Num=18 * IRAQ ON THRESHOLD OF A "LEGAL REVOLUTION" by Mohsen Mandegari Tehran Times, 3rd December TEHRAN -- Today is the sixth day UN arms inspectors have started work in Iraq in search for the country's reported chemical and nuclear arsenals. Yet, they have yet found nothing in their unhindered hectic searches, provoking suggestions that Baghdad had been right in denying U.S. accusations that the country possesses deadly weapons. Still, Washington has not been waiting to see what the outcome of UN arms inspections will be, and is pouring its forces and military hardware into the Persian Gulf to begin a long expected campaign that already seems inevitable, irrespective of inspection results. Iraq's Charge d'Affaires in Tehran Abdulsattar al-Rawi in an interview with the TEHRAN TIMES said that UN inspectors can prove to the world that the remarks of U.S. President George W. Bush are "sheer lies", stressing that the White House merely is seeking a pretext to wage a war on Iraq. Al-Rawi announced that Iraq will soon enter a new era: a legal revolution will take place in its political landscape whereby freedom of expression will be granted and political parties will be permitted. I believe that during the coming year, Iraq will witness some sea changes, he said. New groups are to enter the Iraq political landscape. There is going to be a new Iraqi strategy. This is to be unveiled in the next few weeks. On the recognition of the dissident groups by the new constitution, he said every country loves its true children. Following the new changes everything is going to be different. Every Iraqi citizen interested in transforming his or her country has to begin from within Iraq. Elaborating on the reasons for the acceptance of the UN 1441 Resolution, Al-Rawi said, Baghdad's decision to accept the Security Council Resolution 1441, which is American and not UN engineered, has been in line with the country's policy to cooperate with the UN. Still, he stressed that by accepting the resolution, the Iraqi government tried to demonstrate that what its leadership says about U.S. charges against Iraq regarding weapons of mass destruction is true. Washington's accusations are "utter lies," he undelined. On the other hand, al-Rawi said, Iraq has tried to foil U.S. ploys by accepting the resolution, and has tried not to give a pretext to the U.S. to attack the country. "Now, by the return of UN inspectors to Iraq, the international community will realize that Washington's allegations against Baghdad are all nothing but 'lies'. This is the best opportunity for Iraq to reveal the hypocritical and war-mongering identity of the U.S. to the world," he added. However, he warned, the idea of overthrow of government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussain will remain a dream for Baghdad's internal or external enemies that will never be materialized as the realities in Iraq are so different from what our enemies are yearning to get. "Iraq is not like a desert the inhabitants of which will hold their hands up to surrender to the U.S.," al-Rawi said. "The Iraqi people are already determined to withstand any foreign aggression to the last drop of their blood. People have become united to deal a heavy blow to the U.S. once it starts the war on our country." [.....] Asked whether the Iraqi government will hold talks with such opposition groups as the Supreme Assembly or the National Congress, Al-Rawi said, we hope that all Iraqis, inside and ouside the country, would cooperate in the realization of this new era. We need everyone's assistance to rebuild Iraq. At this stage our sole enemy is the U.S. Is it conceivable that an Iraqi would fight on the side of the United States against his own country? Any group interested in the glory of Iraq should return to Iraq and begin working from within the country. On the willingness of the Iraqi government to share power with the opposition groups, he said, Iraq's doors are open to everyone. We have announced our readiness. But are those who are sitting in America and look to an American domination of Iraq, willing to defend their country? On the possible attempts made to hold negotiations with the opposition, he said, we have not tried, for we live in a country like Iraq. Anyone shaking hands with the enemy is not a patriot. http://www.news24.com/News24/World/0,1113,2-10_1293080,00.html * SADDAM'S SON SITS ON TOP News 24 (South Africa), from Sapa-AFP, 3rd December Baghdad - Uday Saddam Hussein, elder son of the Iraqi president, has been awarded an academic title he alone has earned from the nation's universities. News of the degree, higher than that of a doctorate, was announced by local media on Tuesday. The award follows a 320-page thesis called The Future of the Arab Nation in the 21st Century which Uday presented on Monday to a gathering of ministers and eminent academics. Youth Television, which is run by Uday, showed Saddam Hussein's son defending his thesis on Tuesday. The 37-year-old, who already has a political science doctorate from Baghdad University, is a member of parliament, chairs Iraq's Olympic committee and football federation, as well as owning a trading and media empire. In his doctorate, published in 1998 by his own newspaper, Babel, Uday argued that the United States lost world dominance in the 21st century, sharing superpowerdom with Japan, the European Union and China. http://www.msnbc.com/news/843584.asp?0si=- * SADDAM DRIVEN BY 'INFERIORITY COMPLEX' (MS) NBC NEWS, 5th December LONDON, Dec. 5 ‹ As U.N. weapons inspectors resumed their work in Iraq, NBC's Dawna Friesen sat down with Dr. Hussein Shahristani, the former head of the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission. Shahristani, 60, was tortured for years under Saddam's government before fleeing into exile in London a decade ago. Below is his account of Saddam's rule. Dawna Friesen: What were your first impressions of Saddam Hussein? Hussein Shahristani: When we met at the Atomic Energy Commission board (in the late 1970s), it was clear that he was a vicious dictator who would not hesitate to eliminate anybody who dares to stand up to him, or even disagree with him on minor issues. He had just executed half of the Revolutionary Command Council and the Baath leadership that brought him to power. Friesen: What was it like working in that environment? Shahristani: By the time Saddam became president in 1979, it became more and more difficult for a scientist like myself just to go quietly to his lab and do his peaceful research. There were more security officers and personnel assigned to our labs. Our movements were observed more closely. Friesen: How did Saddam influence your work? Shahristani: When I informed Saddam that Iraq was obliged by international agreements to work only on peaceful nuclear applications, he told me that I was a good scientist and I should concentrate on my scientific work, and leave politics to him. Friesen: Describe Saddam's character. Shahristani: He's has never really impressed me with any charisma. I think he had an inferiority complex. He wanted just to take revenge on whoever he thought was smarter or more honorable than him. He would go out of his way to insult others if he felt they have anything that he lacked himself. I did not find him very respectful of scientists, because he was not able to finish his own university education. One day he went to the University of Baghdad school of engineering and told the staff that the Ph.D. theses they were considering were not up to international standards and Iraqi universities should be the best in the world. He said therefore he had decided that no Ph.D. degree would be honored to anybody without his approval of the Ph.D. dissertation. Just to show that he knows more than anybody else. Friesen: What was your imprisonment like? Shahristani: I was taken to the Baghdad security headquarters, down to the basement where the torture chambers are, and they started to torture me. This continued for 22 days and nights. They hanged me by my wrists. They used high voltage probes on sensitive parts of my body and beat me continuously. Later, Saddam's stepbrother came and told me that Saddam was very sorry for what had happened to me and they would like me to go back to my work at the Atomic Energy Commission. He said I was needed to help build an atomic bomb (Shahristani refused). These were his exact words. He said the bomb would give us a long arm with which Iraq would reshape the map of the Middle East. I was kept for over 10 years in solitary confinement. Friesen: How did you finally get out? Shahristani: I managed during the (1991) Desert Storm operations to get hold of the keys to the car of the chief security officer in the prison. With the help of a prisoner who was in their service, I put on one of their uniforms one night and we drove away. The guards, thinking that I was the security officer, opened the gate. Friesen: How would Saddam react to a U.S. attempt to topple his regime? Shahristani: Saddam will use any means at his disposal to stay in power. He will try to take as many Iraqis down with him in a hope that he will stir up the international conscience to stop the war because of the civilian casualties. I have information from inside Iraq that Saddam plans to distribute his chemical weapons in particular in major Shiite towns in southern Iraq. He plans to remotely detonate them and expose the population to nerve agents and cause very large scale civilian deaths. Friesen: Is it naive to think that Saddam will reveal his arsenals to the U.N. weapons inspectors? Shahristani: There's no way they can find them if Saddam decides to conceal them. He has been playing this game throughout the 1990s. Meanwhile, he was actually producing biological and chemical weapons. Friesen: There are some who say that it was a major U.S. foreign policy mistake not to remove Saddam during the 1991 Gulf War. Shahristani: For the Americans, it was a big mistake. Friesen: Then how much confidence do Iraqis have in the American government? Shahristani: I don't know any respectable Iraqi who has any confidence in American policies. The Americans can say they're sorry, but that mistake has cost the Iraqis more than 300,000 lives. http://abcnews.go.com/sections/world/DailyNews/baghdad_internet021205.html * BLOCKED BROWSING by David Wright ABC News, 5th December B A G H D A D, Iraq, Dec. 5 ‹ The Sheherezade Bar in the Al Rasheed hotel has become a hangout for many journalists in Baghdad. That's not because of any libations served there. (Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's government banned alcohol in public places several years ago.) Rather, it's because of what it says on the cardboard sign at the front door. "Internet Center No. 23" it announces. Behind the bar, there are 13 brand new PC's with color monitors. For 2,000 Iraqi Dinar (about $1), you can spend an hour or so surfing the Web via uruklink.net ‹ Iraq's own portal on the Internet. AOL it's not. Access to secure content is strictly forbidden. No Hotmail. No checking your bank balance. If you so much as try to have a peek at your frequent flyer miles, a message quickly pops up: "Your access has been denied." The filtering of content doesn't stop there. Type "Israel" into the Google search engine and you get the same rude message. Iraq does not recognize Israel's right to exist. In fact, Iraqis don't even like using the name "Israel." They refer to the place instead as the "Zionist Entity." No go for "CIA" either. Or for any porn sites. The software that blocks access to sites the Iraqi deems objectionable is produced by an American company: 8e6 Technologies, based in Orange, Calif., even though Eric Lundbohm of 8e6 denies they have sold their product to an Iraqi entity. The censoring used to be worse. For a time, 8e6 helped the Iraqis block access to many foreign news sites. Often we'd gain access to a site on one day, only to find it blocked the next. The government apparently didn't want to risk that even visitors to this country would hear alternative points of view. Many journalists complained. Now, at least at Internet Center No. 23, we are miraculously able to get broadband access to ABCNEWS.com, the BBC, the New York Times, and others without any problem. Except for any streaming video or audio, that is. For some reason, that still remains a state secret, kept by 8e6. A colleague of mine, a cameraman for CBS, has even discovered a way around the ban on sending e-mails through the server. He goes to news sites, clicks the "E-mail this article to a friend" icon, and types long messages into the little box. The rest of us surf the news sites at the Internet center, but send e-mails over our satellite telephones at the Ministry of Information. It is an imperfect solution, because a satellite phone call costs as much as $8 per minute and the connection speed is 115K. If we kept up on the news that way, we'd quickly hear about it from our bosses. According to the CIA World Factbook's entry on Iraq (accessed at great expense over the sat phone), an estimated 12,000 people in Iraq are connected to the Internet. In a country of 24 million, they are the privileged few. Government officials and academics are allowed to open their own accounts. But it's not cheap. The monthly fee for home service is in the neighborhood of 50,000 Iraqi Dinars ($25) per month. In a nation where a university professor is lucky to earn $120 a month, that's a significant sum. And for what? It's clear that the restrictions on home users would be even more onerous than the ones on foreign journalists. Anyone with an uruklink.net e-mail account can also be sure that all messages are carefully scrutinized. Recently, a journalist turned the tables. A reporter for Wired hacked into Saddam Hussein's e-mail account ‹ or at least into his "Send mail to" link on the official Iraq Web site. The reporter found that the messages fell into three broad categories: foreigners expressing sympathy for Saddam, foreigners expressing outrage and hostility at him, and companies trying to flatter him in the hope of winning business contracts. Apparently, in at least in one respect the Iraqi president is not above the law. His inbox had reached its size limit. http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c =StoryFT&cid=1037872605317&p=1012571727172 * SADDAM STEPS IN TO BACK INSPECTORS by Kim Ghattas in Baghdad and Peter Spiegel in Washington Financial Times, 6th December Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi president, yesterday broke a silence maintained since weapons inspectors returned to Baghdad three weeks ago to counter incendiary comments by his senior officials and insist that he would give the United Nations a chance to prove that Iraq had no banned weapons. "The important thing is to keep our people out of harm's way," Mr Hussein said as he received his top aides on the first day of the Eid el Fitr holiday, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Mr Hussein said Iraq had accepted UN resolution 1441, paving the way for the weapons inspectors' return, for the sake of the Iraqi people. "That's why we are giving [the inspectors] this opportunity," he said. The sequence of events yesterday resembled Iraq's moves before its eventual decision last month to accept resolution 1441. Then, the Iraqi parliament first voted unanimously not to accept the decision of the international community. Shortly afterwards, Mr Hussein stepped in to accept the resolution, claiming that he was keen to spare his people from immediate war. A rising chorus of criticism of the inspectors by Baghdad began on Wednesday with a statement from the Iraqi foreign ministry that lambasted the inspectors for trying to provoke a crisis by inspecting a presidential palace the previous day. The ministry accused the inspectors of spying for the US and Israel and likened them to their predecessors from Unscom, the UN agency which preceded Unmovic and which is known to have had links to western intelligence agencies. Taha Yassin Ramadan, Iraqi vice-president, then launched a scathing attack on the experts and suggested that neutral observers be brought in to check the sites after the UN inspected them. Tariq Aziz, the Iraqi deputy prime minister, added in a television interview that war seemed "inevitable" but that a conflict would be no picnic for the US. In Washington, the Bush administration yesterday reiterated it had evidence that Mr Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. "The president of the United States and the secretary of defence would not assert as plainly and as bluntly as they have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction if it was not true and if they did not have a solid basis for saying it," Ari Fleischer, White House spokesman, said yesterday. There were no inspections yesterday because of the Eid holiday. The inspectors' visits are scheduled to resume tomorrow, with about 30 more experts flying in on Sunday. NO FLY ZONES http://asia.reuters.com/news_article.jhtml;jsessionid=SLICVP3BNRV2CCRBAEOCFF A?type=worldnews&StoryID=1830949 * FOUR DEAD AS PLANES RAID IRAQI OIL PLANT by Hassan Hafidh Reuters, 1st December BAGHDAD: Western warplanes attacked an oil installation in Basra in southern Iraq on Sunday, killing at least four people and wounding several others, residents and officials said. U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida, said it had no information on the report. "We have nothing on it," Lieutenant Colonel Martin Compton said. A spokesman for Britain's Ministry of Defence said: "We are not aware of any such incident." U.S. and British warplanes police two no-fly zones in southern and northern Iraq. Oil sources said the raid would not interrupt Iraq's oil exports under an oil-for-food deal with the United Nations which allows Baghdad to sell oil to buy supplies for the Iraqi people. "U.S. and British warplanes raided the Southern Oil Company in Basra. Four people were martyred and several others wounded during the raid," one resident, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters by telephone from the port city. The attack was confirmed by Iraqi oil and civil defence officials. An official from the company said the warplanes targeted one of the administrative offices of the company and at least four people were killed. He said the casualties were company employees and passers-by on a road near the company. "The Southern Oil Company building itself was hit and some staff were killed," another SOC employee told Reuters by telephone. "No oil facilities were hit." A civil defence official in Basra reached by telephone confirmed the assault, saying the number of casualties was not known yet. Baghdad has not yet officially announced the raid, usually waiting until the end of the day when an Iraqi military spokesman wraps up daily activities of U.S. and British warplanes over Iraqi skies. The Iraqi Southern Oil Company supervises Iraq's oil exports under the oil-for-food deal with the United Nations via Mina-al- Bakr terminal in southern Iraq. A second outlet is through the Turkish port of Ceyhan in the Mediterranean. The zones were set up after the 1991 Gulf War to protect a Kurdish enclave in the north and Shi'ite Muslims in the south from attack by President Saddam Hussein's military. Iraq does not recognise the zones and views them as "state terrorism and wanton aggression", Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri told the United Nations in a letter last week. U.S. officials say continued firing at patrolling Western jets by Iraqi defences is a direct violation of a November 8 U.N. resolution, aimed at ridding Iraq of any nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. Other members of the U.N. Security Council, including Britain, disagree with that view. http://cgi.wn.com/?action=display&article=17089874&template=baghdad/indexsea rch.txt&index=recent * U.S. WARPLANES BOMB NORTHERN IRAQI SITE Associated Press, 2nd December ANKARA, Turkey: U.S. warplanes bombed an air defense site in northern Iraq on Monday after being fired upon by Iraqi forces while patrolling a no-fly zone, the U.S. military said. The U.S. European Command based in Stuttgart, Germany, said Iraqi forces fired anti aircraft artillery at coalition planes near the northern city of Mosul. "Coalition aircraft responded in self-defense to the Iraqi attacks by dropping precision guided munitions," the statement said. Iraq considers the patrols, set up following the 1991 Persian Gulf War, a violation of its sovereignty and frequently shoots at the American and British planes. The no-fly zones were set up over southern and northern Iraq to protect the Kurdish and Shiite Muslim minorities. The planes enforcing the northern no-fly zone are based at Incirlik air base in southern Turkey. Also Monday, U.S. aircraft dropped 240,000 leaflets over communications facilities in southern Iraq, about 100-150 miles southeast of Baghdad. The sites, between the cities of Al Kut and An Nasiriyah, were damaged by U.S. airstrikes Sunday. Two of the leaflet messages urged the Iraqi military not to repair the communications facilities, while a third warned that Iraqi firing on U.S. and British aircraft flying over southern Iraq could trigger more allied attacks. It was the sixth leaflet drop in the last two months over southern Iraq. http://palestinechronicle.com/article.php?story=20021202194855364 * Russia Says US Air Raids in Iraq Unacceptable Palestine Chronicle, 2nd December MOSCOW - Russian Federation's ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a communique here on Monday, announcing that there is absolutely no logical justification for the continuation of US air raids against Iraq under the current conditions. "Moscow is seriously concerned and worried about the Sunday heavy bombardment of residential areas of Basra, and other similar perations," says the communique, quoted by Russia's Interfax news agency. It is also emphasized in the Russian foreign ministry's statement that according to reliable sources, scores of innocent Iraqi civilians have got killed in the said attack, which is sad to hear and tragic. "Such attacks which are not approved by the United Nations not only create obstacles on the way of smooth performance of the inspectors of the U.N. Verification, Monitoring and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) duties, but also a serious threat against the regional and global security," adds the communique. Elsewhere it adds, "such intriguing moves are quite inconsistent and unharmonious with the international community's will to respect the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Iraq, one of the members of the United Nations." [.....] http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/12/04/1038950094726.html * ALLIED BOMBERS AIMING AT SADDAM'S AIR DEFENCES by Richard Norton-Taylor The Age (Australia), from The Guardian, 4th December The number of bombs dropped by British and American aircraft on southern Iraq has increased dramatically over the past few months, clearly indicating that the flight exclusion zone is being used to destroy air defence systems in anticipation of an all-out attack. Ordnance dropped on Iraq in response to threats has increased by 300 per cent since March this year, according to figures released by the British Defence Ministry yesterday. The total ordnance dropped on Iraq between March 1 and November 13 was 126.4 tonnes, an average of nearly 15 tonnes a month. For every threat detected in April and May, about one-third of a tonne of bombs was dropped on Iraq; between September and November, every threat was met with an average of 1.3 tonnes. British officials have admitted privately that the flight exclusion patrols, conducted by Royal Air Force and US aircraft from bases in Kuwait, are designed to weaken Iraq's air defence systems and have nothing to do with defending the marsh Arabs and the Shia population of the south. In recent weeks pilots have aimed at a wider range of targets, including communications systems, covering a larger area. British military sources said they were concerned about Iraq's communications network linking Baghdad's command centres to the rest of the country. Last month Britain and America stepped up the air war, with RAF fighters based in Saudi Arabia supporting US Navy aircraft in practice bombing runs. The New York Times reported that American commanders said the aircraft were "acquainting themselves" with targets they may be called on to attack and were being supported by RAF aircraft. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk