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[casi] News, 29/11-6/12/02 (6)

News, 29/11-6/12/02 (6)


*  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


*  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,,27-499373,00.html

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

"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

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.

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

"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

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, the only web site providing regular independent reporting
from the ground in Baghdad.]

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

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


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.,1113,2-10_1293080,00.html

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

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.

(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

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.

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 ‹ 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

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

Many journalists complained. Now, at least at Internet Center No. 23, we are
miraculously able to get broadband access to, 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

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 e-mail account can also be sure that all messages are carefully

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.

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

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

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.


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

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

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.

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

"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

It was the sixth leaflet drop in the last two months over southern Iraq.

*  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

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."


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.

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