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[casi] News, 29/11-6/12/02 (5)

News, 29/11-6/12/02 (5)


*  Future of Iraqi Kurds Still Uncertain
*  Iraqi Kurdish leaders, Javier Solana discuss developments in Iraq
*  Arab League, Iraqi Opposition Leader Meet
*  Islamic Fighters Battle Kurds in Iraq
*  Kurdish militia regains positions from Ansar fighters
*  Kurdish areas 'starved of aid'


*  Iraqi ship fires on Kuwait patrol: Interior ministry
*  Pentagon: Kuwait boat accident didn't involve Iraq
*  Retraction On Turkey Air Bases
*  Iraqis living illegally in Jordan returning home in surprising trend
*  Turks, Saudis offer aid in a war on Iraq
*  Lebanese do well at Iraq fair
*  Centrepiece: GCC vs Iraq: who benefits after the war?
*  Kuwait seizes Iraqi vessel with four people


by Borzou Daraghi
Las Vegas Sun (from AP), 30th November

IRBIL, Iraq- Despite carving out a relatively prosperous, liberal enclave in
Iraq's far north, many Kurds believe their self-rule experiment will die if
America does not oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

While President Bush has persisted in threats to attack Iraq unless it fully
cooperates with U.N. arms inspectors, some Kurds worry that the
international, and American, stance has subtly shifted from eliminating
Saddam's regime to simply eliminating its lethal arms.

"Some say if he disarms, he will still be in power," said Fowzi Hariri, a
top official of the Kurdish Democratic Party. "What happens to us? Are we
expected to continue to revolt? Or are we expected to live together with

In the years since the 1991 Gulf War and creation of the U.S.-Britain no-fly
zone that helped establish an autonomous Kurdish enclave, the region's 3.7
million Kurds have achieved much.

Kurdish schools have been built, roads fixed and cultural institutions
established in a bid to develop a Kurdish identity in the region.

With help from the United Nations and the Iraqi oil-for-food program,
Kurdish authorities have rebuilt from scratch many villages wiped out by
Saddam's forces during his three decades of rule.

They have also laid aside political differences and achieved peace between
the Kurdistan Democratic Party and its one-time rival, the Patriotic Union
of Kurdistan.

But a range of pressures - including Saddam's continuing rule and economic
problems - have many Kurds fearful of the future. They are also worried
about the role of neighboring Iran, Syria and Turkey, which oppose autonomy
for Iraqi Kurds since it could feed the nationalist desires of their own
Kurdish minorities.

Without a change in the Iraqi government, officials privately acknowledge
that "Kurdistan" - which encompasses three of Iraq's 18 provinces and 3.7
million of its 22 million people - will remain an isolated backwater
surrounded by distrustful neighbors.

One Kurdistan Democratic Party official said Kurdish forces would be crushed
if they tried to attack Saddam outside a U.S.-led war. He said the situation
was at a political dead end as well, since the Kurds were in no position to
negotiate their future with Baghdad.

Kurdish-controlled Iraq has no internationally recognized status. It cannot
issue passports to its citizens nor grant visas to visitors. It has no
airport and visitors come and go by motor vehicle.

The transportation issue is particularly vexing as many guests invited to
the Kurds' Oct. 4 parliament reconvening were unable to attend because they
could not gain permission to enter northern Iraq across the Turkish, Iranian
or Syrian borders.

The isolation and lack of opportunities in Iraq's Kurdish region are
convincing many of its brightest young people to emigrate. Its leaders avoid
nationalistic or civic gestures, wary of how Turkey, Iran or Syria would
react if they were to make moves such as issuing Kurdistan license plates.

The region remains financially dependent on the U.N.'s oil-for-food program,
under which Iraqi petroleum is sold and its revenues spent on humanitarian
projects. But expenditures under the program must be approved by Baghdad.

Since its 1991 separation from Iraq and the 1998 end to the civil war
between the Democratic Party and Patriotic Union, a nascent private sector
has developed. Mobile phone services, Internet providers, building
contractors and light industry have sprouted up.

But the economy has slowed down because of a shortage of currency. Kurds
still use the pre 1991 Iraqi dinar, not the Baghdad-issued dinar emblazoned
with Saddam's face. Apparently, Iraqi, Turkish and Iranian speculators have
been hoarding the pre-1991 dinars in hopes they'll make a killing on them
should the U.S. remove Saddam.

As many Kurds are paid in U.S. dollars by international agencies, they have
to use more dollars to buy goods. Those items are priced in old dinars,
making them more expensive.

"If we could just print new money, we could get rid of this problem," said
Adeham Karim Darvish, director of the Kurdistan Regional Bank, housed in an
ultramodern, marble-tiled tower built a year ago.

"But because the (Kurdish) government is not the government, we can't do
anything about it," he said.

Hoover's (Financial Times), 29th November
Kurdistan Satellite TV, Salah-al-Din, in Sorani Kurdish 1800 gmt 29 Nov 02

[Kurdistan Democratic Party, KDP] Leader Mas'ud Barzani and [Patriotic Union
of Kurdistan, PUK, leader] Jalal Talabani have been received by the EU high
representative for foreign and security policy, Javier Solana.

Solana received leader Mas'ud Barzani and Jalal Talabani in the Belgian
capital Brussels at 1200 on Friday [29 November]. During the meeting, they
discussed the situation in the Iraqi Kurdistan region, the internal peace
process and political developments in Iraq and the [Middle East] region.

They also discussed the Iraqi opposition conference due to be held on 13
December in London.

During their meeting with the EU high representative for foreign policy,
leader Barzani and Jalal Talabani called for a greater [European] role in
supporting the Kurdish issue and for taking more interest in the situation
in Iraq.

A spokesperson for Solana made a statement to Kurdistan Satellite TV, saying
that the EU high representative for foreign policy has stressed the European
Union's support for the Kurdish issue.

Associated Press, 2nd December

CAIRO, Egypt: The head of the Arab League met with an Iraqi opposition
leader to discuss the possibility of a U.S. military strike, Arab diplomats
said Monday, describing an unusual move by an organization that is wary of
meddling in the internal affairs of its members.

Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa and Omar Boutani, a key envoy for
the central committee of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, met Saturday, the
diplomats told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Iraqi opposition groups are planning a meeting later this month to map out a
strategy for governing if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is toppled by the
United States for his alleged stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction.

The Arab diplomats, who closely watch Iraqi affairs from Cairo, Egypt, said
Boutani briefed Moussa on recent efforts by exiled opposition groups to
create a unified front against Saddam.

They said Boutani, whose movement shares control of northern Iraq with the
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, assured Moussa that Kurds have no plans to
break away from Iraq.

The meeting, unlike most of Moussa's official activities, was not

Moussa's spokesman, Hisham Youssef, rejected the diplomats' characterization
of the meeting but would provide no details.

Boutani was no longer in Cairo Monday and officials at the Kurdistan
Democratic Party headquarters in London did not immediately return phone
calls requesting comment.

Traditionally, the 22-member Arab League shies away from internal Arab
disputes and rarely criticizes member governments.

Since taking office in 2001, Moussa, a plainspoken former Egyptian foreign
minister, has tried to assert the league as an effective regional group.

Last year he angered Morocco when he proposed a league role in the dispute
with Algeria over the western Sahara conflict. But he won praise from Sudan
for his effort to involve Arabs in its efforts to end the war with the
rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army. Morocco, Algeria and Sudan all
are league members.

In a related development in Kuwait on Monday, Jalal Talabani, who heads the
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, met with deputy prime minister Sheik Sabah Al
Ahmed Al Saba. The official Kuwaiti news agency quoted Sheik Sabah as saying
the government invited Talabani for "consultations" about the "situation in
the area."

The discussions with Iraqi Kurdish leaders come amid diplomatic efforts to
arrange an emergency Arab summit that would deal primarily with a possible
war between Iraq and the United States.

The Associated Press, 4th December

SHASHIK, Iraq (AP) ‹ Islamic radicals believed linked to Osama bin Laden's
al-Qaida seized two remote hilltop posts from their Kurdish guerrilla rivals
Wednesday in a fierce battle that left at least 20 fighters dead or wounded,
Kurdish military officials said.

The attack by the Ansar al-Islam fighters was the latest in a long series of
skirmishes with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which has sought to drive
the extremist Muslim militia from its mountain stronghold on the eastern
edge of the Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Iraq.

Jaffer Mustafa, a Patriotic Union commander, said the Ansar al-Islam let
loose with artillery barrages before dawn, killing some of his men as they
slept, then charged with assault rifles and grenade launchers at the
positions near the city of Halabja.

Mustafa said the Islamic militants succeeded because some of his men were
given leave for the Islamic holiday of Eid el-Fitr, which begins Thursday
and marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

"They took advantage of the situation," he said. "Everywhere in the Muslim
world, people usually stop fighting for Ramadan."

Massoud Kazem, a local commander, said three or four Patriotic Union
fighters were killed and 11 wounded. He said about 10 from Ansar al-Islam
were killed.

While some of the Ansar al-Islam forces are Kurds, Mustafa said they include
Arabs trained in Afghanistan who are believed to have ties to al-Qaida. The
Islamic fighters have admitted to reporters in the past that they trained in
al-Qaida camps but denied current links to bin Laden's group.

Brown smoke rose from the hills along the Iraq-Iran border after the
fighting. Isolated military outposts dot many hilltops in the region between
the Suren and Nooye Bardebar mountain ranges.

At the Shoresh Hospital in Sulaymania ‹ headquarters of the Patriotic Union
about 65 miles from the battle ‹ wounded fighters said the early morning
artillery barrage was a bitter surprise.

"They suddenly started attacking us with Kalashnikovs, rocket-propelled
grenades and artillery. It was very frightening," said Sarkout Faeq Karim, a
35-year-old Kurd shot in the left hand and shoulder.

Karim said the Ansar al-Islam fighters had earlier bragged they would attack
around the Islamic holiday but added: "We didn't believe them."

The fighting took place about six miles from Halabja, a city notorious as
the scene of a poison gas attack by the Iraqi army in the waning days of the
Iran-Iraq war in March 1988. An estimated 5,000 Kurds were killed in the
attack, often cited by American officials as evidence of Iraqi President
Saddam Hussein's cruelty.

The city of 35,000 is now part of the Kurdish autonomous zone created after
Kurds rose in revolt against Saddam after the 1990-91 Gulf War. The
rebellion was crushed, but the area has remained out of the Iraqi
government's control, protected by U.S. and British overflights.

The Patriotic Union runs the eastern part of the zone, while the rival
Kurdistan Democratic Party rules in the western sector.

By Wednesday afternoon, Patriotic Union militiamen were vowing to recapture
the hilltop posts. Fighters in sports-utility vehicles and pickup trucks
outfitted with artillery poured into the region.

Islamic groups have been a thorn in the Patriotic Union's side for years. A
separate group called the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan held Halabja from
1998 to 2000, but was driven out by the Patriotic Union.

The Patriotic Union accuses the Islamic Movement of secretly supporting
Ansar al-Islam, which is believed to have several hundred fighters. The
larger Islamic group denies the charge.

Mustafa said the Ansar militants had repeatedly attacked his forces in the
last few months. "Each time they've attacked they've been defeated," he
said. "This time they took a chance and got lucky."

Bahrain Tribune, 6th December

SIRWAN, Iraq (AP): Dozens of Kurdish fighters and Islamic militants were
killed in a battle that saw a remote hilly area of northeastern Iraq change
hands twice in 24 hours, Kurdish military officials said yesterday.

In an overnight assault, fighters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
regained two hilltops that had been captured by Ansar Al Islam guerrillas a
day earlier, said a Patriotic Union commander, Shaikh Jaffer Mustafa.

The Ansar had seized the Patriotic Union positions near the city of Halabja
as the Kurdish fighters slept, killing nearly 20 and capturing an equal
number, Mustafa said.

He said he believed the Kurdish prisoners had been killed because villagers
reported that Ansar members had asked them to collect their bodies.

Mustafa said about 15 Ansar were killed in the fighting. He did not know how
many were wounded. Thirty fighters from the Patriotic Union suffered wounds,
he said.


by Michael Howard in Arbil, Iraqi Kurdistan
The Guardian, 6th December

Baghdad is stopping vital humanitarian supplies reaching the Kurdish
self-rule region in northern Iraq, and the UN, which administers the
oil-for-food aid programme, is doing nothing to stop it, Kurdish officials
said yesterday.

More than $3bn (£1.9bn) in unspent Iraqi oil revenues allocated to the
Kurdish region under UN security council resolution 986 is languishing in
the UN's accounts because Baghdad is "manipulating and obstructing" the
programme for its own ends.

Shafiq Qazzaz, minister of humanitarian aid in the Kurdish regional
government in Arbil, said the Iraqi authorities are refusing to allow the
importation of equipment destined for the north. As a result, critical
demining, water treatment and health projects have been put on hold.

Baghdad is also refusing visas to hundreds of experts working on electricity
and irrigation projects in the area, he said.

"It is an unacceptable situation," Mr Qazzaz said. "They are making life
very difficult for us, and no one seems to care."

The security council voted on Wednesday to extend the oil-for-food programme
for 180 days.

It is the largest aid project in UN history, using revenues from the
UN-monitored sale of Iraqi petroleum, to buy food, medicine and civilian
supplies to ease the impact of UN sanctions imposed after Iraq's invasion of
Kuwait in 1990.

The programme is managed by the Iraqi government in the centre and the
south, but in the Kurdish region, which has been free of Baghdad's control
since 1991, 10 UN agencies cooperating with the Kurdish authorities are in

Baghdad controls the purchase of food and medicine.

Under the scheme, 13% of UN-monitored Iraqi oil revenues should go
separately to the Kurdish self-rule area.

Stafford Clarry, an adviser on humanitarian affairs to the Kurds, said that
half of the amount earned for Iraqi Kurdistan had been spent in the past six
years through the programme.


Times of India (from AFP), 4th December

KUWAIT CITY: An Iraqi vessel opened fire on a Kuwaiti coastguard patrol
craft on Tuesday near the Emirate's northern island of Warba, the interior
ministry said in a statement carried by the official KUNA news agency.

"Two boats from the coastguard were on a routine patrol in the northern area
near the Warba island, when an Iraqi boat, which happened to be in the area,
started shooting at them," an interior ministry official said.

The shooting caused no injuries but a member of the coastguard was slightly
injured when the two Kuwait craft bumped into each other after the shooting,
the official said.

Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait in August 1990, sparking the 1991 Gulf War
when the United States led an international coalition which quickly ousted
Iraqi forces from the emirate.

CNN, 4th December

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A U.S. Special Operations member and a Kuwaiti sailor
were slightly injured when two Kuwaiti Navy boats collided Tuesday, Pentagon
officials said Wednesday, revising an initial Kuwait report of a
confrontation with an Iraqi gunboat.

The boats were involved in routine movements off the Kuwaiti island of
Bubiyan, a Pentagon official said.

Both injuries were slight but required stitches, the Pentagon official said.

The accident occurred, according to the U.S. Special Operations member, when
the lead boat came to a sudden stop and the second vessel hit the first from
behind, Pentagon officials said.

Initial reports from Kuwait Tuesday said the injuries came after an Iraqi
gunboat fired on the Kuwaiti boats. Pentagon officials said they did not
know what prompted the Kuwaitis to give that account.


Newsday, 4th December

Ankara, Turkey -- Turkey's foreign minister said Tuesday that his country
would allow the United States to use military bases in the country for a
strike against Iraq, but his ministry later said that his comments were not
a firm commitment by Turkey.

Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis' statement came as U.S. Deputy Defense
Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was in the country lobbying for Turkey's support of
an operation against its neighbor, Iraq.

Yakis' comments were the firmest yet by Turkey on whether it would allow the
use of its bases. But several hours after he spoke, the Foreign Ministry
issued a clarification that he was speaking of "possibilities," not

The apparent backtracking reflects the sensitivity of the Iraq issue here:
The Turkish public is widely opposed to military action against Baghdad, but
leaders feel they have little choice but to support a war if their close
ally the United States pushes ahead with one.

"The fact that he has referred to these possibilities does not mean a
commitment on the part of Turkey, because these possibilities have not been
the subject of discussion with any country," the ministry said in a

Turkish officials have previously refused to publicly commit as to whether
they would allow the United States to use bases in a strike against Iraq.

Yakis said Turkey would allow the bases' use ‹ but only if the United
Nations approved military action.

"There should not be left any stone unturned before resorting to a military
solution," Yakis told reporters. "But if it comes to that, then of course,
we will cooperate with the United States because it's a big ally and we have
excellent relations with the United States."

Asked by a reporter to define cooperation, Yakis said, "the opening of air
space, first of all, and the utilization of facilities in Turkey."

"The military authorities of the two countries are consulting on the
assumption that such a cooperation may be necessary one day," Yakis added.

Yakis' original comments were widely broadcast on Turkish media. The Foreign
Ministry later issued its statement "in order to bring clarity to this

A possible war in Iraq is extremely unpopular in Turkey, NATO's only Muslim
member. Many Turks fear that a war will devastate the lucrative tourism
industry as Turkey is struggling to recover from its worst recession in

The Turkish military, which wields tremendous political power, is fearful
that a war might lead to the collapse of the central government in Iraq and
lead Kurds living in an autonomous zone in the north to declare
independence. That might encourage autonomy seeking Turkish Kurds, who
battled the army for 15 years, a fight that left 37,000 dead.

Turkey has repeatedly said any action in Iraq must have UN approval.

Asked if the United States would have to seek a new UN resolution to use
force against Iraq, Yakis said: "Yes, yes, yes. The Turkish understanding
[is] that the present resolution, 1441, does not allow automatic resorting
to armed intervention."

The support of NATO ally Turkey is crucial to any war. Turkey hosts some 50
U.S. aircraft patrolling a no-fly zone over northern Iraq and was a key
staging post for U.S. air raids against Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War.

Turkey, however, puts restrictions on aircraft patrolling the no-fly zone.

A Turkish military officer monitors all flights over the no-fly zone from
Incirlik air base, sitting next to the U.S. and British officers who command
the missions.

The Turkish military must also approve any strike in northern Iraq and must
also approve the deployment of allied aircraft to the base and which weapons
they use.

Although the United States is looking at the possibility of sending ground
troops into northern Iraq, Yakis said Turkey would have trouble supporting a
large U.S. military presence.

"It may be difficult to see tens of thousands of American forces being
transported through Turkish territory into Iraq or being stationed or
deployed somewhere in Turkey and their carrying out strikes inside Iraq," he

Wolfowitz did not answer directly earlier when asked if the United States
had asked for permission to base U.S. troops in Turkey during a war.

"Military and diplomatic planning must proceed because Saddam Hussein must
see that we are serious," he said.

The Persian Gulf nation of Qatar, to the south of Iraq, has also been touted
as a likely staging ground for any military action. Qatar has suggested it
would likely accept any U.S. request to use a base there but has not said
whether U.N. approval is a condition.

Yakis' statements follow intense lobbying by the United States to win
Turkey's support and come just a week before a crucial EU summit in which
Turkey is hoping to gain a date for starting EU membership talks. The United
States has been pressing European states to agree to that request.

by E.A. Torriero
The State, from Chicago Tribune, 4th December

(KRT) - War may be looming, but that didn't stop Shatha Thaimi from buying a
bus ticket last week for Baghdad. After nine years of living in Denmark and
Jordan, the Iraqi woman is returning home.

"Why should I be scared?" asked Thaimi, who went back to Iraq for a variety
of reasons, including to stay with her sick mother. "If war comes, I'd
rather die with my mother in my country than be outside Iraq."

Thaimi is one of a few thousand Iraqis who have been making a surprising
move in recent weeks - streaming east across the border from Jordan into
Iraq for patriotic, economic and social reasons.

Jordanian taxi drivers and shuttle bus operators say business rarely has
been better. Hundreds of passengers line up daily at a transit point east of
downtown Amman to pay about $10 for the 12-hour-plus trip to Baghdad. Most
of the fares are one way. The numbers returning far outweigh those leaving
Iraq, drivers say.

An Iraqi official at the embassy credits the surge to a kinder, gentler
Saddam Hussein. In recent weeks, Hussein has flung open Iraqi jail doors in
a blanket amnesty, eased costly travel restrictions and increased food
rations. Iraq's embassy in Amman is flooded with applicants looking to renew
residency papers so they can live again in Iraq. More than 2,000 requests
were granted this fall, embassy officials say.

"It's a good time to go back home because things are better there," said
Said Abdil Hasan, 32, who waited outside the embassy recently to obtain
documents to return to Baghdad.

More than Hussein's overtures, however, are luring Iraqis back home. For
many of the 300,000 Iraqis who live in Jordan, stressful living conditions
are a driving force. Iraqi immigrants and international social workers
report a marked increase in crackdowns against undocumented residents from
Iraq by Jordanian authorities.

Police sweeps are almost a daily occurrence in industrial areas where Iraqis
work. Jordan has long been a haven for illegal immigrants, and authorities
say they are stepping up enforcement. Several dozen Iraqis a day are rounded
up and deported, Jordanian officials say.

"Increasing numbers of Iraqis are being detained pending deportation," said
Sten Bronee, the UN refugee agency representative in Jordan.

Analysts say that King Abdullah II is sending a message to Iraqis who may be
thinking of fleeing Baghdad if war breaks out: Don't come to Jordan.
Abdullah has warned that refugees would only be allowed to cross Jordanian
territory but not remain.

During and after the 1991 gulf war, more than 350,000 Iraqis settled in
Jordan, many of them illegally. They contribute to the country's
unemployment rate still hovering at roughly 25 percent.

Hasan, a laborer who came to Jordan last year hoping for a better life, said
Jordan is no place for Iraqis. Jordanian intelligence agents infiltrate
Iraqi neighborhoods looking for activists for and against Hussein, Hasan
said, to curb potential dissidence. Police question Iraqis in their homes
and at work, looking for reasons to send them back to Iraq, he said.

"We are hassled all the time," said Hasan, 32, who stayed after his
three-month work permit expired but has been unable to find work.

Fleeing sanctions in Iraq, Hasan figured he could make money in Jordan to
send back to his wife and three children in Baghdad. Instead, he has had to
live on handouts.

"It's far better to be under Saddam than to be here," he said. "In Iraq, I
am welcome in my country."

Even some Iraqis who have jobs are heading back to Baghdad. A coffee
salesman, who gave his name as Karim Al Iraqi, said in an interview outside
the embassy that he is fed up with social and economic discrimination and is
leaving Jordan after a little more than a year.

Hussein's amnesty applies to Iraqis living abroad. Al Iraqi, 40, crossed the
border illegally to find work. Now he hopes that war will be averted,
sanctions will be lifted, and Iraq will prosper.

Iraq is Jordan's main trading partner. Hussein gives Jordan steep discounts
on oil and allows Jordan to pay for the shipments with goods and services.
Once back in Iraq, Al Iraqi hopes to capitalize on his Jordanian trading

"Jordanians should treat us better," Al Iraqi said. "But if things continue
like this, no Iraqi will want to stay in Jordan."

Still, most Iraqis who live in Jordan say they will remain for economic
reasons. But if the Bush administration decides to invade Iraq, some Iraqis
vow to return and fight.

"Already some guys are returning because they have received the military
call from Baghdad," said Moied Jasem Mohammed, 32, an Iraqi who works in the
Amman bus depot selling tickets to Baghdad. "No matter how good my job pays,
I will return to fight for my country."

For Thaimi, the mother of a young girl, Baghdad is the only place to be. She
was excited as she boarded the bus for Iraq. She left her country after the
gulf war as sanctions deepened and made her way to Denmark, where she did
clerical work.

"I can't wait to get there," said Thaimi, who is in her 30s. "Iraq is the
only place where Iraqis feel at home."

by John Hendren
Baltimore Sun, from the Los Angeles Times, 4th December

ANKARA, Turkey -- The Turkish government Tuesday offered the use of its
bases in a potential war against Iraq, as U.S. officials confirmed that
Saudi Arabia has also agreed to give its long-sought military support, twin
moves that could clear the way for a formidable attack on multiple fronts.

Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis said that Turkey would not necessarily
accept large numbers of U.S. ground troops but that the United States would
be allowed to use air bases to launch combat flights into Iraq to the south.

Yakis, whose Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party came to power last
week, emphasized that the Turks want the United States to leave "no stone
unturned" in seeking to avert war, and Turkish officials have made it known
they would like a U.N. resolution authorizing force before action is taken.
Yakis nonetheless pledged to provide military support.

"If it comes to that, then of course we'll cooperate with the United
States," said Yakis, whose country could win much-needed U.S. aid if it
joined an anti-Iraq coalition. Asked to elaborate, he added, "Cooperation is
the opening of the airspace, first of all, and utilization of facilities in

The news came as Saudi Arabia, another member of the coalition that fought
Iraq in the 1991 Persian Gulf War but has shown reluctance to join a second
war with Baghdad, agreed to allow a U.S.-led coalition to use its airspace
and the Prince Sultan Air Base if the Bush administration leads a coalition
against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, administration officials said on
condition of anonymity.

The informal agreements, which came with strings, would dramatically expand
the United States' leverage in pressing Hussein to eliminate any weapons of
mass destruction.

"It's important that he see that he's surrounded by the international
community, not only in the political sense but in a real practical military
sense, and Turkey has a very important role to play in that regard," said
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, who is leading a U.S. delegation
on a visit to the new Turkish ruling party.

The developments came even as Iraqi officials allowed U.N. weapons
inspectors immediate access to a presidential palace Tuesday ‹ and as the
administration continued its anti Hussein drumbeat, with Defense Secretary
Donald H. Rumsfeld saying that if inspectors don't find anything on their
searches, that will mean merely that Iraq has hidden its weapons very well.

The Turkish bases in particular are key to the Pentagon's strategy, defense
officials and military experts said.

"Turkey is obviously crucial. I don't think you could do anything without
Turkey," said Eliot Cohen, a military analyst at the Johns Hopkins School of
Advanced International Studies in Washington. "The United States is less
dependent on the Saudis, but [their support] gives the United States a lot
more room to maneuver."

U.S. and British planes routinely fly from Incirlik in southern Turkey to
patrol the "no-fly" zone in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. War
contingency plans for Iraq call for the U.S. led coalition to crush
Hussein's military by striking from the north as well as from U.S. bases to
the south and, possibly, the west. Saudi Arabia is a southern and western
neighbor of Iraq.

"Two-front wars are hard to fight. Three-front wars are even harder to
fight," a senior U.S. official said. "If we have to, we can come at him from
any direction."

The offer to use well-positioned military sites from a critical ally across
Iraq's northern border came during Wolfowitz's visit here. The primary goal
of the No. 2 Pentagon official's visit, part of a new Bush administration
campaign to rally allies for a possible war, was to garner backing from the
United States' most Western-leaning Muslim ally in the region.

Speaking to reporters between meetings in Ankara, the capital, before the
Turkish foreign minister's comments, Wolfowitz seemed visibly buoyed.

"It's been an excellent day," he said. "I do feel that we have obtained a
common understanding."

The agreement with Saudi Arabia was perhaps less expected. Threatened by
Iraq in the Gulf War, Saudi Arabia has remained reluctant to agree to let
coalition bombers attack its neighbor from Saudi soil.

The Pentagon had grown so doubtful of Saudi aid that it has tried to
replicate the Saudi air operations center on a smaller scale in the
neighboring Gulf state of Qatar. If the Saudis follow through, Pentagon
planners will have obtained the bulk of the cooperation they had sought from
an ally whose wariness stems largely from its citizens' opposition to a war
in Iraq. The Prince Sultan base is a $1 billion facility built by the United
States after the Gulf War and used to direct airstrikes in Afghanistan.

"We don't need facilities for troops on the ground" in Saudi Arabia, one
senior U.S. official said.

The acquiescence by the Saudi ruling family followed mounting pressure from
U.S. critics in Congress and elsewhere that began with the disclosure that
15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudi nationals and that intensified
with the recent disclosure that the wife of the kingdom's U.S. ambassador
may have, knowingly or unwittingly, financially supported two of the

"If you're a Saudi, the prospect of being left out in the cold with a really
hostile United States is not something they want, and I think at the end of
the day they knew that," Cohen said.

Turkey's pledge of support included significant caveats. Unlike their U.S.
counterparts, Turkish officials interpret the U.N. resolution that demands
Hussein declare and give up any chemical, biological or nuclear weapons as
requiring a second Security Council vote before force could be used against

Omer Celik, a lawmaker and political advisor to Turkey's new ruling party,
said a second U.N. resolution "would be helpful" in legitimizing a call for
war, but neither he nor Yakis said he would insist on one.

Turkish leaders also voiced concern that strong opposition by Turks to a war
would make it difficult for the nation's leaders to approve a massive
foreign infantry presence on Turkish soil.

"If we are talking of extensive presence of the American forces in Turkey,
we have difficulties in extending this [due] to the Turkish public opinion,"
Yakis told a small group of reporters at his residence in Ankara. "It may be
difficult to see tens of thousands of American forces being transported
through the Turkish territory into Iraq, or being stationed or deployed
somewhere in Turkey and then carrying out strikes inside Iraq. We have to
know first of all the extent to which this number will go up."

The Turkish government later issued a clarification of the foreign
minister's statement that said he was discussing only "possibilities," not

U.S. and Turkish officials denied reports in Turkish media that Wolfowitz
had asked Turkey to offer the use of half a dozen bases and 35,000 troops,
presumably for border patrol and refugee management, saying they had not yet
decided on specific numbers. One senior U.S. official said the Pentagon
would not seek to involve Turkish troops in direct combat.

Pentagon strategists reason that a coalition that included Turkey could pose
a more formidable military force that would either dissuade Hussein from
challenging U.N. weapons inspections or speed a U.S.-led force to victory.
Turkey would benefit through regional stability and increased trade in a
post-Hussein Iraq, the thinking goes.

Wolfowitz and his delegation are discussing with the Turks ways to ease the
economic turmoil of a war in Iraq that could further depress trade and
tourism in a Turkish economy that has never fully recovered from the 1991
war, a senior U.S. official said on condition of anonymity. The aid is
likely to come in part from the International Monetary Fund but also to
include direct assistance, the official said.

"The Turks want basically two things: no independent state for the Iraqi
Kurds in the north, and they want a ton of dough," a senior Western diplomat
said. "Billions and billions of dollars, and I think we're going to pay it."

The effort to secure Turkey's contribution in any war with Iraq followed
queries by the State Department to dozens of governments for possible
support, some of it outside the Persian Gulf, in order to free up American
resources, a second senior U.S. official said.

Times staff writers Jeffrey Fleishman in Ankara and Robin Wright in
Washington contributed to this report.

by Dania Saadi
Daily Star, Lebanon, 5th December

Baghdad: Rony Haikal was stunned on Sunday after Iraqi Trade Minister
Mohammed Mehdi Saleh asked the sales manager of the Lebanese-based hi-tech
company whether he would like to ink a $4 million contract.

Haikal did not clinch the deal on pure luck. The vice-chairman of the Iraqi
Revolutionary Command Council, Izzat Ibrahim, had just paid a visit to
Haikal's Jubaili Bros. stand in the Lebanese wing of Baghdad's International

Jubaili Bros. is only one of some 56 Lebanese exhibitors  taking part in the
35th international Iraqi fair, where 49 countries are competing for the rich
and consumer-hungry Iraqi market.

Minister of State Beshara Merhej and a high-ranking delegation of
industrialists inaugurated the Lebanese wing Friday with ceremonial pomp.

But Ibrahim's visit has just added more impetus to Lebanese industrialists
who are vying for Iraqi contracts.

The Saudi-Iraqi rapprochement during the Arab League summit held in Beirut
earlier in the year also allowed Lebanese officials to get the official Gulf
nod needed to sign a free-trade agreement days later.

"Lebanon may be small economically," Ibrahim said, "but it scored big during
(March's) Arab summit."

Lebanon's signing of a long-awaited trade agreement with Baghdad, Lebanon's
former No. 1 trade partner, in April this year provided Beirut with an extra

The agreements skirt tough UN rules under the 1996 oil-for-food program,
which allows Iraq to purchase goods in exchange for oil sales determined by
the world body.

But such progress does not spell an end to Haikal's troubles.

"I have five contracts worth some $2 million that were frozen by the United
Nations," he said.

"By the time I got the approval, the Iraqi authorities did not have enough
allocations for them," he added.

Haikal cannot resort to the agreement although it offers zero tariffs for
goods traded with the private sector.

"We as manufacturers of electrical goods have not benefited much from the
free-trade agreement," Haikal said. "Our contracts are mainly with the
public sector, through the oil for-food program. We can't make use of the
free-trade agreement because the government buys our equipment and it later
sells at nearly half price to the private sector."

Haikal said his heart was set on a protocol with Iraq that exchanged oil for
goods, similar to pacts Baghdad has secured with Jordan and Syria.

But so far, Iraqi officials have remained quiet on the issue.

"I do not have details about the negotiations over the oil protocol," Iraqi
Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz told the Lebanese delegates Friday.

Even Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan, the man who inked the
understanding in April, would not comment on an oil agreement that could
possibly rid Lebanon of its energy bills for good.

"I think the Lebanese and Iraqi governments aspire for better bilateral
ties," he said.

Playing the political game is tough work for Lebanese industrialists, who
need greater government involvement to secure better contracts.

"I am an industrialist and not a politician," said Fadi Abboud, president of
the Lebanese Industrialists Association.

"The contracts through the UN need political weight. That's why I am
focusing on getting as much as possible from the free trade agreement, which
deals directly with the Iraqi private sector," Abboud said.

"We are conducting talks with Iraqi officials to import oil and gas, with
Syrian coordination," Merhej said after his meeting with Aziz.

But he cited technical difficulties for delaying talks on the signing of an
oil protocol.

"We can't move ahead with the protocol due to political reasons, and I think
the Iraqis understand our situation," Abboud said.

The political situation inside Iraq or Lebanon may be outside the
industrialists' control, but it is not deterring them from forging ahead in
a quest to secure more deals.

"Coming here may be a risk, but all trade is based on risk," said Haikal.

"All in all, Lebanon's contracts with Iraq have reached $500 million,"
Abboud added. "Only $200 million are industrial goods made in Lebanon."

According to Saad, Lebanon's trade with Iraq has amounted to $1.250 billion
since 1997.

"I had participated in this fair in 2000, but came again this year because
the free-trade agreement phased out the 200 percent tariffs we had to pay
before," said George Nasraoui, general manager of Sonaco, a producer of
agricultural and industrial goods.

Despite the stiff competition and the threat of war, industrialists say they
cannot afford to abandon the Iraqi market.

by Nadim Kawach
Gulf News, Abu Dhabi, 6th December

While speculation has mounted on the damaging impact of a U.S. offensive
against Iraq on GCC economies, there has been hardly any reference to such
effects once the war is over.

But one scenario involves even worse prospects as it means the slumbering
Iraqi oil giant will return to the oil market in full force.

Given their enormous crude production, GCC states will naturally be the
immediate victim of such a return at a time when they are struggling to keep
oil prices on their feet and prevent a repetition of their 1998 collapse.
But such an impact will be felt more in Saudi Arabia than in the UAE and
other GCC nations given its massive public debt and other fiscal and
economic woes.

The scenario, presented by well-known Arab economist Henry Azzam, envisages
a post-war change in Iraq's regime and consequently a decision by the UN
Security Council to lift its 12 year-old crippling embargo on Baghdad.

The end of the sanctions means Iraq, a founding member of Opec, will be able
to rehabilitate its devastated oil sector and use its mammoth crude reserves
to lift its output to at least 10 million barrels per day, far higher than
pre-war levels.

"In case of a change in the Iraqi regime, there is a strong possibility that
the sanctions which were imposed in 1991 will be removed and this will allow
that country to return to its previous oil situation," Azzam said in a

"Within a few years, Iraq will have the capability to gradually increase its
production capacity to 3.5 million bpd and later return to pre-war levels of
at least six million bpd...this increase will naturally depress oil prices
in the following months or years because Saudi Arabia and other key
producers are not expected to agree to drastic output cuts to give way to
Iraqi supplies...

"Most likely, Saudi Arabia will suffer most from the decline in oil prices
as it is already reeling under heavy unemployment and public debt which was
estimated at nearly $168 billion at the end of 2001, more than 95 percent of
the country's gross domestic product during that year."

Azzam, manager of Jordan Investment Trust, said the UAE and Bahrain would be
less affected by such a situation given what he termed as their active
non-oil sectors. Qatar's growing gas exports will also offset lower oil
revenues while Kuwait will be able to attract investment once the Iraqi
threat is over.

Azzam said a U.S.-led attack on Iraq would have an immediate upward impact
on oil prices but they could quickly fall back later.

Iraq, the world's second oil power after Saudi Arabia, has exported an
average two million bpd over the past decade because of the Gulf war embargo
compared with its pre-war output of 3.5 million bpd.

Saudi Arabia and other major Opec producers have benefited from such
tightened supplies as they were able to lift output. But growth in their
supplies has been stifled by steady increases in output by non-Opec

As a result, Opec has been forced to return to its previous role of a
residual producer by repeatedly cutting output to forestall a steep slide in

As most Gulf states have pumped heavy investments into development of their
oil fields, such cuts have led to a sharp expansion in their idle output
capacity. They are estimated at around three million bpd in Saudi Arabia and
nearly 500,000 bpd each in the UAE, Kuwait and non-GCC Iran.

Saudi Arabia, which controls a quarter of the global crude wealth, and its
key partners in Opec, have already orchestrated their suffering from
tightened supplies and loss of their market share and this justifies their
fears about Iraq's full return to a market already awash with non-Opec

Experts said the Saudis and other major Gulf producers have so far tolerated
growing non Opec supplies as they were gradual and were negligible in some
countries. But Iraq's return means huge additional supplies by a single
giant producer which controls more than 10 per cent of the global oil
resources and seeks to make up for lost output and revenue during the years
of the sanctions.

The impact of Iraq's comeback to the oil market is highlighted by former
Iraqi oil minister Fadel Chalabi, who believes it could redraw the world oil

"Iraq's dormant oil potential is so huge that once it is activated and
released, it could cause drastic changes in the world oil and energy
politics," said Chalabi, Director of the London based Centre for Global
Energy Studies (CGES).

"Iraq's present recoverable crude reserves, amounting to 112 billion
barrels, are more than enough to sustain production at Iraq's pre-sanctions
levels for over 100 years .But this is not in-depth study
undertaken by CGES tries to prove that reserves yet to be discovered exceed
those known to be recoverable.

"Accordingly, a totally rehabilitated and sanctions-free Iraq could expand
its production capacity way beyond eight million bpd, easily reaching 10
million bpd, and theoretically even 12 million bpd under certain conditions,
when the sanctions are lifted or Iraq is allowed to develop its oil sector."

Experts said Saudi Arabia, which now produces over seven million bpd
compared with a peak of 12 million bpd during the oil boom, has three
alternatives to deal with a full Iraqi comeback.

"Saudi Arabia and other Gulf oil giants will either have to work out a
proportionate production formula with other producers to readmit Iraq into
the market or agree on drastic cuts in their own supplies," Kuwaiti
economist Jassim Al Saadoun said.

"The third option is a price war...but the question is whether these
producers, especially Saudi Arabia, can now afford another price
war...conditions have dramatically changed and any prolonged collapse in oil
prices will be at the expense of our people this time."


KUWAIT CITY, Dec. 5 (Xinhuanet) -- An Iraqi vessel with four Iraqisaboard
was seized on Thursday upon entering Kuwait territorial waters, Kuwait's
official KUNA news agency reported.

Kuwaiti Defense Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak al-Hamad al-Sabah told KUNA
that he had ordered concerned officials to turn over the incident to the
Interior Ministry for investigation.

The minister, on a routine visit to a naval base earlier in the day, said he
saw the vessel anchored there and met the four Iraqi detainees and
instructed officials at the base to treat them properly.

Last Saturday, Kuwait said it has intercepted two Iraqi boats that were
"infiltrating" the country's territorial waters.


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