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[casi] News, 6-13/12/02 (3)

News, 6-13/12/02 (3)


*  Armitage in Asia to drum up support for Iraq war
*  Brajesh holds talks with Rice in Washington
*  Serbs Call Arms Sales to Iraq 'Peanuts'
*  German Coalition at Odds Over Help for U.S. in Iraq Attack
*  Iraq war turns off Russian power chief
*  Iraq slashes wheat imports [from Australia]
*  Germany will Participate in NATO Operations Against Iraq
*  Oil Deal Canceled, Iraq Tells Russians
*  Kaunda Speaks Out Against Bush, Blair


*  Iraqi Challenges Critics Over Arms Claim
*  Iraq's denies connection to killing of opposition member, al-Mayahi
*  How to stop the disintegration of Iraq
*  Three Iraqi Opposition Leaders Meet in Iran
*  Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq to Take Part in London
*  Iraqis eager to fight Saddam: US
*  Iraqi exile gets warm welcome home
*  Iraqi Opposition Tells U.S. to Spare Iraqi Army
*  Tehran Bars Iraqi Opposition From Using its Soil for Attacks
*  Smaller Saddam opponents feel ignored


Daily Star, Bangladesh, 9th December

AFP, Tokyo: US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage arrived in Japan
Sunday on the first leg of a four-nation tour of Asia in a bid to drum up
support for a possible American-led attack on Iraq.

Armitage, Washington's second highest-ranking diplomat, arrived at Tokyo's
Narita airport around 3:55 pm (0655 GMT) Sunday, an embassy spokeswoman
said, just hours after Iraq handed to the UN a 12,000-page declaration of
its banned weapons program.

The document is expected to determine whether the UN disarmament process
ends in peace or war.

The US envoy is expected to present a possible war scenario to Washington's
three key regional allies Japan, South Korea and Australia as well as China.

Armitage's spokesman Philip Reeker said the Asia trip was "part of our
continuing consultations with friends and allies on Iraq and efforts to
ensure that Iraq complies with the UN Security Council Resolution 1441 and
other relevant UN resolutions."

Resolution 1441, under which UN weapons inspectors returned to Iraq,
requires Baghdad to make a "currently accurate, full, and complete
declaration of all aspects" of its banned weapons programs.

On Monday, Armitage is to meet with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko
Kawaguchi, Vice Foreign Minister Yukio Takeuchi and Defense Agency Director
General Shigero Ishiba, a foreign ministry official said.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Sunday that he did not
believe Iraq's assertion it had no weapons of mass destruction and urged
President Saddam Hussein to disarm.

"If he doesn't then he'll of course invite military action," Downer told
Channel Ten television.

In Japan, opposition politicians attacked a move by the government to
dispatch an Aegis destroyer to the Indian Ocean to provide protection during
refuelling of US forces ships by Japanese vessels.

Times of India, 9th December

WASHINGTON (Press Trust of India): National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra
on Monday held talks with his American counterpart Condoleeza Rice
discussing the ongoing war against terrorism conveying concerns over
Pakistan's continued support to cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.

Mishra, who is visiting Washington a few days after Indo-Russian summit in
New Delhi, is understood to have told Rice that resumption of dialogue with
Pakistan was not possible until Islamabad completely stopped infiltration
and dismantled terrorist infrastructure in its territory as pledged by
President Pervez Musharraf.

The issue of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction held by Pakistan
and the possibility of their falling into the hands of terrorists is also
believed to have figured during the talks.

The two officials exchanged views on the Iraq crisis. Mishra is understood
to have told Rice that India was against unilateral use of force against
Baghdad if it fails to comply with UN resolutions on dismantling its weapons
of mass destruction. Any action against Baghdad must have the UN mandate, he
is believed to have said.

Asked about the meeting, a spokesman of the US National Security Council
Sean McCormack said "it is another in the ongoing series of meetings between
Rice and Mishra. They have a good working relationship and Rice values the

Mishra is scheduled to meet Secretary of State Colin Powell later in the

Other engagements of Mishra include a meeting with Deputy Defence Secretary
Paul Wolfowitz and CIA chief George Tenet.

by George Jahn
Newsday, from Associated Press, 9th December

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Serbs who helped Saddam Hussein's effort to rebuild
the Iraqi military say that ultimately their role hardly mattered.

Nobody here denies a Yugoslav state arms dealer ignored a U.N. ban on
weapons trade with Iraq, but culprits and investigators alike say the bottom
line is that war-battered Yugoslavia had little to offer.

"We were repairing old engines," said one, downing a second glass of whiskey
as he acknowledged involvement in refurbishing Iraq's Soviet-era MiG jet
fighters. "So what? What's the MiG-21 in comparison to the (U.S) F-16?"

"Peanuts," a beefy, black-clad arms dealer said of the shipments to Baghdad
in recent years. Asked about reports that Yugoslav experts furnished Baghdad
with cruise missile technology and possibly chemical weapons, he snorted:
"That's utter B.S.!"

Since revelations in October that the arms dealer Yugoimport had overhauled
MiG engines and provided other unspecified military services for Iraq, top
executives have been arrested and investigations launched, including one by
a U.S. team now in Belgrade.

Still, officials argue there was little Yugoslavia had to offer, following a
decade of wars that culminated in a NATO air assault in 1999 that destroyed
the country's arms industry.

Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic put the value of all arms and related
material shipped to Iraq over the past three years at less than $25 million.
"This is not an amount for which you can purchase anything serious," he told
The Associated Press.

At the most, he said, Iraq might have had maintenance work done on the Orkan
short-range, multibarrel rocket launchers it acquired in the 1980s or
received a few 125-mm howitzers.

Yugoslavia has "no missile program, no chemical, no biological and no
nuclear program," he said.

While U.S. officials won't discuss what their investigation has uncovered,
Yugoslavia's claim that little of military value was shipped to Iraq appears
to be getting a sympathetic hearing from the Americans.

A report last week by the International Crisis Group linking Yugoslavia to
Iraqi attempts to acquire chemical weapons and cruise missile technology was
dismissed as "full of speculation and errors" by U.S. Embassy spokesman
Abelardo Docal. He also said Yugoslav authorities were "cooperating fully"
with the U.S. investigation team.

Zivkovic said the bulk of the shipments from Yugoslavia were infantry
weapons, such as assault rifles and grenades, some from third countries like
Ukraine and Russia.

"There was also expert assistance, but only in the areas where we are
experts," Zivkovic said. Typically, he said, that would include the
occasional MiG aviation engineer, or mechanics and optics experts for the
Yugoslav-made M-84 tanks and howitzers that Iraq acquired in the 1980s.

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, now on trial before the U.N.
war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, developed close ties with
Saddam and allegedly encouraged illegal arms deals. That trade built on
links developed earlier under Yugoslavia's former communist leader, Josip
Broz Tito.

While Milosevic was still in power, Iraqi experts visited Belgrade to learn
about the Yugoslavs' spirited defense against the NATO bombing campaign.
Although outgunned, the Yugoslav air defense performed well, protecting
military targets in Kosovo and shooting down two U.S. jets, including an
F-117 stealth attack plane.

Yugoslavia's old guard remains welcome in Iraq. Yugoslav reporters recently
in Baghdad reported spotting former Milosevic aides who refused to discuss
their missions.

Zivkovic blames officials in the military appointed by Milosevic for the
violation of U.N. sanctions on Iraq. "The whole Defense Ministry and the
military was a Milosevic structure," he said.

The Defense Ministry has accused individuals of signing the export permits
for shipments for Iraq, arguing the ministry as an institution was not

The scandal broke in early October, when a raid by NATO peacekeepers on the
Orao aviation plant in the Serb part of Bosnia-Herzegovina turned up
evidence of illicit maintenance work on Iraq's MiG engines.

After making phone calls to Bosnian Serb generals, Orao managers said they
were not authorized to talk a reporter. But a senior employee said plasma
technology, which sprays worn-out metal components with a new metal coating,
was used to refurbish some MiG engine turbine parts.

Joining others interviewed dismissing the scope of Yugoslav aid, the
employee -- who like others talked to asked for anonymity -- said in some
cases there was little that even that technique could do.

"The metal was so corroded that it was too far gone for repair," he said.

Tehran Times, 10th December

BERLIN -- Germany's ruling coalition partners appeared at odds again Monday
over how Berlin should respond in the event of a U.S.-led attack on Iraq
without a UN mandate.

Angelika Beer, one of two newly-elected coleaders of the Greens, insisted
that Berlin should refuse all help without a mandate for military action
from the UN Security Council.

It was a demand immediately rejected by Olaf Scholz, a leading official in
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrat Party, while a government
spokesman refused comment, saying it was a "hypothetical" question, AFP

Beer's call has highlighted clear differences of interpretation between the
coalition partners over what help Germany should provide.

Schroeder has said that Germany would grant U.S. and allied forces
overflight rights and use of bases, but deliberately not specified whether
it would also be the case if there were no UN mandate.

Beer said the position was clear -- no mandate, no support.

"We will not take part in an unconstitutional attack in any coalition with
other nato partners," she told Deutschlandfunk radio. "Our Constitution,"
she told the daily Die Welt separately, "does not allow either logistical
support or participation in AWACS missions in the event of an attack."

Her reference to AWACS planes was because the United States has asked NATO
about the possible use of the surveillance aircraft.

Around 20 AWACS planes are based at Geilenkirchen, western Germany, and one
third of their crews are German.

Scholz, however, said U.S. forces would be able to use airspace and bases in
Germany without restriction even if there is no UN mandate.

"We have long agreed and stated, that of course our American allies can use
the bases they have in Germany and that they have overflight rights," he
told Deutschlandradio Berlin.

by Andrew Jack
Financial Times, 11th December

Valentin Kuznetsov spent four years in Iraq in the 1980s, supervising the
construction of some of the country's largest power stations. He has spent
much of the past decade returning regularly to rebuild them after their
destruction during the 1991 Gulf war.

Now the former Soviet official is head of Techno-promexport, the Russian
state-controlled power contractor, and he is anxious about the prospect of
renewed US military action - fearing he might have to begin all over again.

"There is a very difficult situation for electricity. Supplies are at a very
low level," he says. "If military action depended on me, I would vote
against it. I'm often in Iraq and I believe all this fear by the US is
exaggerated. The danger after an attack is that [the situation will turn
out] like in Afghanistan, with complete chaos."

With more than 400 power projects to its credit, Technopromexport is a rare
example of a Russian company outside the raw materials sector that is active
abroad as well as at home.

It has sold its services in the Soviet Union's traditional sphere of
influence in North Africa - including building Egypt's Aswan High Dam - and
in the near and Middle East and south east Asia, and it remains successful
today in eastern Europe as well as China.

But one of the company's biggest foreign markets is in Iraq. It has
maintained a representative office in Baghdad for the past 35 years, and
since 1997 it has worked on numerous hydroelectric and thermal plants
through the UN oil-for-food programme.

Mr Kuznetsov estimates that the total value of its contracts in the country
in the last five years is about $500m (€496m, £318m), on which it makes a
profit of about 5 per cent.

Currently, his company supervises some 400 employees from the Commonwealth
of Independent States working on its projects in Iraq. It had been planning
to expand this figure to 1,000 by the end of this year.

But in the wake of the recent uncertainties in the country - including the
return of United Nations weapons inspectors - Technopromexport says it is
putting further expansion on hold to take stock.

Mr Kuznetsov stresses that his company complies with the "smart sanctions"
scheme. While Technopromexport is, on paper, a leading beneficiary of
business with Iraq, he stresses that many western companies also benefit
indirectly. BNP-Paribas provides financial backing and the company's
sub-contractors include Siemens, Alsthom and WHB.

Many of his competitors are also proving active in the region. "The market
is very promising. There are lots of foreigners in Baghdad now," he says. "I
can smell the lobbyists. It is clear [Iraq] is an oil-rich country. Who is
not interested in getting their hands on it?"

The company has had no contact with the Iraqi opposition in exile, to
prepare for the possibility of a regime change, seeing this as the role of

But Mr Kuznetsov does not hesitate to argue that groups from countries that
have historically been supportive of Iraq, such as Russia, should benefit
from trade with it, in preference to commercial rivals from more hawkish
regimes. "If you have good political relations, there should be good
economic relations," he says. "It's normal.",5744,5666399%255E46

The Australian, 12th December

An AWB spokesman today confirmed Iraq would buy one million tonnes of
Australian wheat this financial year, down from 1.8 million tonnes last

It follows warnings from Iraq earlier this year that it would cut its wheat
imports because of Australia's support for the United States in a war
against Iraq.

Iraq was, before this decision, Australia's largest wheat export market.

All the wheat to Iraq is exported under the oil for food program.

The AWB spokesman refused to comment directly on any link between the
smaller contract and the Australian Government's comments about a war in

But he said that because of the drought, AWB had been forced to look at its
export program anyway.

"If we we're going to have 24 million tonnes of wheat to export this year
then that would be a problem, but we're only going to have 11 million
tonnes," he told AAP.

"We will continue to talk to Iraq about future possible sales."

Last year's wheat exports to Iraq were worth more than $800 million.,3367,1430_A_712661_1_A,00.html

Deutsche Welle, 12th December

Chancellor Schröder counters critics from within the governing parties and
says that German soldiers will fly NATO reconnaissance planes if the U.S.
goes to war with Iraq.
German soldiers will indeed take part in NATO operations in the event of a
war against Iraq, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder asserted in a television
interview on Wednesday. "Germany will fulfill its obligations towards the
alliance...and that naturally also means protecting alliance territory," he
The chancellor was responding to dissent within the governing Social
Democratic (SPD) and Green parties. Angelika Beer, the newly elected leader
of the Green Party, insists that Germany's constitution requires it to
refuse all support for a war against Iraq. The constitution forbids Germany
from taking part in a military offensive.
During Schröder's recent re-election campaign he declared that Germany would
not take part in a war on Iraq, whether or not the UN issues a mandate for
an attack. Now, it seems Schröder will indeed commit Germany to military
involvement in Iraq, even if the commitment is only passive.
In the interview on Wednesday the chancellor said he had already spoken with
Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer (Green) about his position and downplayed
Beer's power: "Ms. Beer will not have to make the decision…This is an
executive decision of the government and it will be made exactly as I have
set out."
Referring to the use of airspace and transportation of troops through
Germany, Schröder stressed that Germany would not restrict its alliance
partners' movements.
At NATO headquarters on Dec. 4, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz
suggested that the alliance could send AWACS planes to support American
The NATO fleet of 17 AWACS reconnaissance planes is stationed in
Geilenkirchen, Germany. The planes are manned by a multinational crew from
11 countries, nearly one third of which is German.
In the event of a war against Iraq the AWACS are likely to be used to
monitor Turkish airspace.

by Susan B. Glasser
Washington Post, 13th December

MOSCOW, Dec. 12 -- Iraq has canceled a multibillion-dollar contract with a
Russian consortium to develop an oil field in southern Iraq, a major
economic reversal there for Russia at a time when both Iraq and the United
States have been courting Russian support in the event of war.

The Russian giant Lukoil, which leads the group tapped to develop the
massive West Qurna oil field, announced the cancellation today, saying it
had received a letter on Monday from a deputy Iraqi oil minister breaking
the $3.5 billion, 23-year contract. Two other Russian companies, state-owned
Zarubezhneft and Machinoimport, are part of the consortium.

A spokesman for Lukoil, Alexander Vasilenko, denounced the move as
"blackmail" by Iraq and said the Russian firms would fight the decision. "We
do not understand how a petty bureaucrat from Iraq's Oil Ministry can tear
up a law that has been passed by the parliament of Iraq," Vasilenko told the
Russian news agency Interfax.

"Lukoil will take all appropriate action to defend its rights," the company
said in a statement.

The West Qurna deal is by far the most significant oil development project
undertaken in Iraq by Russian companies, but it has been stalled from the
start by continuing U.N. sanctions against the government of President
Saddam Hussein. The Iraqis have pressured Lukoil to defy the sanctions and
begin work, but it has refused.

The Iraqi government issued no official statement today on the canceled
deal, but Oil Minister Amir Mohammad Rasheed seemed to suggest it was
related to the inaction resulting from sanctions. "Any company that does not
fulfill their obligation over a long time, then we will be free to cancel
their contract," he told reporters in Vienna at a meeting of the
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. "This is the policy."

Russia has billions of dollars in economic ties to Iraq extending well
beyond the oil sector, including as much as $12 billion in Cold War-era debt
it hopes to collect. That debt is a reminder of the countries' close ties
going back to when the Soviet Union cultivated Iraq as a key partner in the
Arab world.

But those ties have assumed new urgency in recent months as Washington and
Baghdad have competed for Russian support in the confrontation between
Hussein and President Bush.

Until today's news, Iraq has mostly sought to placate Russia with reminders
of their close economic relationship, and disclosed in late August that it
planned to sign economic deals with Moscow worth up to $40 billion. At the
same time, the United States has tried to allay Russian concerns that it
would lose out economically in a post-Hussein Iraq. Most recently, Bush told
a Russian television interviewer that in the event Hussein were ousted,
Russia's "economic interests in Iraq . . . will be taken into account."

The Russians seem to have been satisfied by U.S. arguments -- to a point.
For months, they balked at U.S. demands that the Iraqis submit to a new
round of U.N. weapons inspections or face being attacked. But after
insisting on wording changes to a new U.N. resolution, Russia voted with the
United States in the Security Council on the measure.

South African Press Association (Johannesburg), 12th December

American President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair are
using "pretext upon pretext" to bring about a regime change in Iraq, former
Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda said on Thursday.

Bush and Blair wanted to recreate a regional balance of power where Israel
became the dominant force in the Middle East, he told reporters in Pretoria.

"The two leaders also have an urge to control the oil resources and reserves
in the Arab world."

Iraq has been subjected to United Nations-approved sanctions in the 11 years
since the 1991 Gulf War.

Kaunda, who was in Iraq recently as an official observer overseeing UN
weapons inspections, said the world had been bombarded with half-truths.

Inspectors returned to Iraq last month under a new UN Security Council
resolution, ordering Saddam Hussein's government to surrender any weapons of
mass destruction and shut down any programmes producing chemical, biological
or nuclear weapons.

Kaunda said the return of the inspectors was a great relief to those who had
genuine desire for peace in the Middle East region.

"For many months the region has been on the brink of war on account of
allegations that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction," he said, adding that
Bush and Blair had used these accusations to prepare for war.

"The world has been subjected to the most intense and biased propaganda
campaign in which half-truths and lies have been used as a justification for
not only continuing the sanctions regime, but also as a justification to
perpetuate daily attacks by the two governments on Iraqi installations.

"The misinformation has been so intense and vicious that the truth no longer
exists or matters when discussing Iraq," he said.

Kaunda said the resumption of inspections for weapons of war in Iraq was
seen as a major step in reducing tensions in the Middle East.

"Unfortunately we have now seen moves aimed at creating a new pretext for

Recently British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw had presented a report on
Iraq's human rights record before Britain's parliament.

Like many earlier reports, this was another document which was long on
accusations and very short on facts.

"The frightening aspect of all of this is that such a report could be used
as a pretext for war on the same way that accusations surrounding weapons of
mass destruction has become reason for Bush and Blair to invade Iraq."

Kaunda said while he was in Baghdad with other weapons inspection observers,
the group was invited to some of the sites previously visited by the

"This exercise was most revealing because none of the three sites we saw in
Baghdad resembled in any shape or form a facility that can manufacture
weapons that can threaten and harm the world."

He said one of the so called facilities mentioned in a report Blair tabled
before the House of Commons recently was an alcohol beverage manufacturing
company owned by a Christian family.

"This facility is unsophisticated and hardly a site that has the capacity to
produce biological agents used to build weapons of mass destruction."

The other sites were a veterinary facility and an artillery rockets
manufacturer constructing rockets with a range of between 50 and 150

"I have mentioned three sites because they were mentioned by Blair and could
have been easily used as a pretext to wage war and destroy Iraq.

"This has become a prime objective with an end reason, which is two fold by
and for destroying Iraq."

He said the group also witnessed Iraqis voting during a referendum whether
they wanted Hussein to remain their leader or not. Hussein received a 100
percent yes vote.

Kaunda said large numbers of Iraqis, voted by marking ballot papers with
blood as an expression of sovereignty and support for their leadership.

A number of families postponed funerals in order to cast a vote.

"This is a sign that these people will defend their country with blood if
need be," he said.

Kaunda urged the world community not to develop anti-American and British
sentiments because of the "arrogance" of the two countries' leaders.

"I do not hate Bush and Blair but I hate the way they are handling some
issues, especially the Iraq one.

"It will be wrong for anyone to hate Americans or British because of Bush
and Blair administrations' faults."

Kaunda called on the two leaders not to invade Iraq.

"We are seeing a superpower creating pretext upon pretext so that it can
achieve its ultimate goal of regime change in that country."

The two leaders' policy of unilateralism was setting a dangerous political

"If the same attitude is adopted by other countries, they are immediately
labelled as pariah states," he said.

"Bush and Blair have established a modus operandi operating on a misguided
philosophy that might is right."


Las Vegas Sun (from AP), 8th December


In Iran Sunday, the leader of the biggest Iraqi opposition group told The
Associated Press that he has documents proving Saddam is hiding weapons of
mass destruction and that he was prepared to hand over the documents to the
United Nations if the safety of his informers inside Iraq was guaranteed.

Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, leader of the exiled Supreme Council of the Islamic
Revolution in Iraq, offered no details. He said he had not approached the
United Nations, instead waiting for officials to come to him now that he has
publicized his claim.

U.N. investigators, who returned to Iraq two weeks ago after a four-year
absence, went out on their daily surprise inspections again Sunday morning,
visiting a mining and survey company in Baghdad and a pesticide plant west
of the capital.


*  Iraqi opposition member confirms Baghdad had liquidated al-Mayahi
Asian tribune, from Arabic News, 8th December
[Shi'ite opposition member in Lebanon. Difficult to know why more hasn't
been made of this.]

An Iraq opposition member on Friday accused the Iraqi intelligence of
killing another Iraqi opposition member who was found strangled in the
Lebanese city of Tyre, south Lebanon.

Sheikh Muhammad al-Basri, 37 year old, considered the killing of Walid
Ibrahim al-Mayahi, 34 year old, as a liquidation operation carried out by
officers in the Iraqi intelligence.

On Thursday, the Lebanese police found Ali al-Mayahi, a researcher at Imam
al-Sader Islamic culture complex, strangled with signs of strikes on his
body caused by an iron bar. The police said that other three Iraqis who were
living in the same building disappeared since the body was found.

Al-Basari said that the three Iraqis were intelligence officers who came as
refugees, and that workers at the complex gave them support and used to stay
with al-Mayahi. Al-Basari added that one of the three men tried to kidnap
him and steal his computer which contains files relating to the activities
of the Iraqi opposition in Lebanon. When they failed they killed al-Mayahi
who informed the police before his killing that the three Iraqis tried to
recruit him.

Worthy mentioning that the partisans of Ayatullah Muhammad Sadeq al-Sader,
the Iraqi Shiite religious man who was assassinated in Iraq in 1999,
established "Tyre" complex five years ago. The complex is trodden by Iraqi
Shiite men of religion who oppose the regime of the Iraqi President Saddam

Arabic News, 9th December

A well-informed source at the Iraqi embassy in Lebanon has denied any
connection for the Iraqi authorities to the killing of the Iraqi opposition
member, Walid Ibrahim al-Mayahi, whose body was found in an apartment he
lives in al-Sader Islamic complex in the Lebanese southern city of Tyre.

The London- based al-Sharq al-Awsat daily yesterday quoted the sources as
saying that the accusations addressed by officials in that complex against
the Iraqi authorities of being behind the crime are aimed at creating

The source added that this is a security issue and it is in the hands of the
Lebanese government and judiciary which are making investigations to unveil
the killer and disclose reality.

Meantime, the Lebanese specialized security departments continue their
investigations in the issue of assassinating al-Mayahi ( 35 year old)
without reaching new evidence, except confirming that those who committed
the crime are three Iraqis, who know the victim closely and the victim was
exposed to tortures by sharpened instruments before he was strangled by a

by Laith Kubba
Financial Times, 9th December

It is widely feared that the end of Saddam Hussein's regime will precipitate
the violent break-up of Iraq itself. There is something to this worry.
Decades of Arab nationalism and state repression of Kurds, Assyrians,
Turkomans and others have indeed polarised communities and weakened the
country's unity. Behind the shield of UN-sanctioned US and British airpower,
the Kurds in the north of Iraq have already set up de facto mini-states.

Soon Iraqis will face the challenge of convincing their fellow citizens in
the north to come back under the umbrella of a new government in Baghdad.
This will be no small feat, since the Kurds see relations with Baghdad in
zero-sum terms. They prefer to divide rather than share power and land.

Recently, Masoud Barzani, the prominent Kurdish leader, proposed an
Arab-Kurdish federation in which the Kurds would control four of Iraq's 18
provinces plus a few additional districts in the north. But neighbouring
Turkey, where many Kurds live, perceives Kurdish federalism as a threat
serious enough to warrant military intervention. And the Assyrians,
Turkomans, and Arab minorities of the north also harbour strong
reservations. In a similar way, the Sunni Muslim Arabs of the central region
(a group prominent in the army, the bureaucracy, and the economy) fear that
southern-based Shi'ites will dominate a future democratic Iraq, while the
Shi'ites want to end their longstanding exclusion from power.

All these groups are intermingled in a pluralistic and urbanised society.
Any attempt to resolve its tensions by forming ethnic or sectarian cantons
could turn the country into a Bosnia on the Euphrates.

The good news is that cantonisation can readily be avoided. The unity of
Iraq can be salvaged and the work can be done peacefully. The key to the
solution lies in the shape of a post-Saddam constitution. For Iraq to be
stable and democratic, it needs to safeguard the rights of all its citizens
(minorities included), meet legitimate Kurdish demands for self-rule, and
provide a framework within which other regions can also claim more of a
share in their own government.

The new constitution must guarantee equal rights for all citizens. The
central government and its courts must protect the rights and liberties of
every man, woman, and child, without regard to province of residence, ethnic
identity, or religious affiliation.

In order to protect Iraq's diverse communities from domination by the
centre, the constitution should give each province the right to rule itself
with a full panoply of local powers and institutions such as the power to
borrow and collect taxes, to regulate trade within provincial borders, to
have provincial courts and legal codes, to elect a provincial legislature
and governor, and so on. The proceeds from Iraq's oil and other natural
resources should be shared by all provinces according to a formula that
would take into account the size of each province's population and

The provinces will be represented in the central government in several ways.
Each province will have an equal number of elected representatives in a
national upper house. The central government will maintain control only in
key areas such as the currency, foreign policy, foreign trade and defence. A
constitutional court will regulate local disputes between the provinces and
with the central government.

In response to communal aspirations that may span provincial borders, the
constitution should allow provinces to merge, subject to approval in a
referendum in each affected province. The three predominantly Kurdish
provinces, for example, would be free to coalesce, with the proviso that the
new and larger entity would get only the same number of federal upper-house
seats as any other province. Voters in the Kurdish and other communities
would have to weigh the costs and benefits of such mergers.

After adopting the principles of civilian supremacy and national defence (as
opposed to domestic coercion), the constitution should require that each of
the national officer-training academies enroll an equal number of cadets
from each province. This would help to ensure that the military remains a
truly national institution.

Finally, Iraq needs a parliamentary system where representatives are chosen
in first-past the-post elections and the legislative majority forms the
government. This would encourage the politics of consensus rather than the
politics of ethnic division. The president should be elected through a
direct vote and should be a ceremonial head of state without substantive
powers, a symbol of national unity rather than a bone of contention between

A constitution along these lines should forestall volatile potential
disputes over issues such as the identity of the next president or the
status of the oil-rich and multi-ethnic northern city of Kirkuk. It should
help to bring the Kurds back into the Iraqi fold on fair and friendly terms.

To be sure, the country needs massive investment in new infrastructure and a
national plan for economic recovery. But after decades of repressive central
governments, nothing will restore the Iraqis' faith in their future as
anation like a democratic and decentralised state.

The writer is a former spokesman of the Iraqi National Congress and a senior
associate at the National Endowment for Democracy

by Jon Hemming
The State (from Reuters), 9th December

TEHRAN - Three top Iraqi opposition leaders held talks in the Iranian
capital Monday ahead of a long-delayed meeting of opponents of President
Saddam Hussein due to begin in London later this week.

With only days before the conference is set to start on Friday, the
opposition has yet to agree on who will attend and issue invitations.

Ahmad Chalabi, head of the pro-Western Iraqi National Congress (INC), met
Iran-based Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir Hakim who claims support from Iraq's
Shi'ite Muslims and Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani, also visiting

Observers said the meetings in Tehran appeared to be aimed at salvaging the
London gathering and retaining credibility in the eyes of Washington in
order to lay claim to a central role in Iraq after a possible U.S.-led

"You usually issue invitations for a birthday party 10 days in advance, now
we have a conference in four days that is supposed to decide the future of
Iraq and no invitations have been sent," a source close to the opposition
told Reuters.

The meetings come as U.N. experts in New York and Vienna begin studying
Iraq's 12,000 page weapons dossier that could decide whether the United
States decides to attack Baghdad.

Barzani and Hakim are wary of Chalabi, a former banker with links to hawks
within the U.S. administration who some see as playing a role in a
post-Saddam Iraq similar to that of Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan.

Hakim and the Kurds say Chalabi has no support inside Iraq and has no claim
to represent other opposition groups.

The London conference is due to establish a leadership committee over the
Iraqi opposition after Hakim, Barzani and the other main Iraqi Kurdish
leader Jalal Talabani rejected Chalabi's aim of setting up a government in

Analysts said Chalabi was trying to build bridges with the other opposition
leaders, to avoid being sidelined altogether.

"When the leadership committee is established, suddenly Chalabi becomes just
a committee member, not a leader," the opposition source said.

A spokesman for Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party said his visit to Iran,
his first for eight years, was part of a drive to ease neighboring
countries' concerns that the Kurds aimed to set up a separate state if
Saddam were overthrown.

Tehran remains strongly opposed to Saddam after its 1980-88 war with Iraq,
but is reluctant to see a pro-Western government in Baghdad completing its
encirclement by countries friendly to its arch enemy Washington following
last year's Afghan war.

Iran has adopted an official policy of "active neutrality" over a possible
war in Iraq, but is seeking closer ties with Iraqi opposition groups in
order to safeguard its interests.

Tehran Times, 11th December

TEHRAN -- A high-ranking delegation of the Supreme Council for the Islamic
Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) will take part in an Iraqi opposition conference
in London, Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim said.

SCIRI is one of the main organizers of the conference, Lebanese Al-Menar TV
quoted Hakim as saying.

"By taking part in the Iraqi opposition conference we want to express the
will and demands of the Iraqi people. Due to the suppressive policies of the
Iraqi regime, the airing of the people's will and demands has no effect
within Iraq," Hakim said.

He added that many activities of SCIRI are not reported by the media, such
as the fact that the organization has made serious efforts to arrange this

Hakim also said that SCIRI has no differences with the Iraqi National
Congress (INC) or any other Iraqi opposition groups.

Dawn, 12th December

WASHINGTON, Dec 11: Thousands of expatriate Iraqis all over the world have
expressed interest in a US programme to train them for fighting Saddam
Hussein, the State Department said Tuesday.

On Monday, President George W. Bush authorized using $92 million for
providing military training and other facilities to Iraqi opposition groups.

The money is given under a law passed by Congress in 1998. Under this law,
Congress had authorized $97 million for this purpose. The US administration
had already allocated $5 million for funding Iraqi opposition groups, of
which about a million had already been spent.

In the past two years, the Department of Defense, which oversees this
programme, trained 140 Iraqi opposition members under the Iraqi Liberation
Act of 1998. But this year the Bush administration decided to expand the
programme and asked Iraqi opposition groups to send a list of their members
available for training.

"We're quite gratified with the response we had under that," said State
Department deputy spokesman Philip Reeker. "Thousands of expatriate Iraqis
all over the world have expressed an interest in participating," Reeker told
a briefing in Washington.

Reeker denied reports that Washington has asked the opposition Iraqi
National Congress to be the sole intermediary for assistance to other
groups. "Under the plan as I understand ... each group is going to
coordinate with the Department of Defense through a committee made up of
representatives of a number of groups," said Reeker.

Besides INC, he said, the Kurdish Democratic Party, the Movement for
Constitutional Monarchy, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Supreme
Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq are also groups designated under
the Iraq Liberation Act.

by Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Gulf News, 12th December

Abdul Jabbar Kubaisi figured he would never return to Iraq as long as
President Saddam Hussain was in power.

A frail, chain-smoking engineer, he fled Iraq in 1976 after repeated arrests
for attempting to galvanise opposition to the ruling Baath Party.

But last month, he got a surprise invitation from Saddam's government: a
trip back to Baghdad and an offer to forgive old grudges. Since arriving
here from France a few weeks ago, he has received rock-star treatment.

There is the suite at the upmarket Al Rasheed Hotel. And there are meetings
with two of Saddam's most senior lieutenants, combined with coverage on
state-run television and in government newspapers.

Iraqi officials said they asked Kubaisi and two other Iraqi exiles  to
return because, after more than three decades of unbending one-party rule,
Saddam's government has decided to condone the formation of other parties.

The State, from Reuters, 12th December

WASHINGTON - Military and civilian opponents of Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein said Wednesday that the United States should spare the Iraqi army if
and when it tries to overthrow the Iraqi leader by force.

The Iraqis said they put their point of view to State Department officials
in two days of talks on the defense policy and military institutions of a
post-Saddam Iraq.

Their point of view indicates the difficulties Washington faces in dealing
with an Iraqi opposition which wants to get rid of Saddam but does not
always agree with the approaches proposed by the Bush administration.

Gen. Najeb al-Salhi, a prominent Iraqi defector, told reporters after the
talks that the army must be preserved.

"The important point which ... we submitted to the Americans was that if any
military operations are conducted to overthrow the current Iraqi regime,
these operations must not target the infrastructure, Iraqi civilians and the
Iraqi armed forces and, to be precise, the Iraqi army," the general said.

"If America wants to overthrow the regime, it should go directly to the
Iraqi regime, without the need to hit these forces," he told a news

Albert Yelda, another of the 15 participants in the talks, said the next
Iraqi government would need the army.

"We support the Iraqi army, the regular army, and we stated very clearly
that we don't want the regular army to be destroyed. The Iraqi regular army
should be intact in case of being used in providing security and maintaining
peace and stability during and after the change of regime," he said.

Some Iraqi opposition figures have said that only special forces favored by
Saddam would put up a fight.

But Salhi said he and his colleagues were opposed to attacks on any Iraqi
military forces. Units like the elite Republican Guard could be disbanded
after Saddam, he added.

The State Department organized the two days of talks as part of a series on
the future of Iraq, where the Bush administration favors getting rid of
Saddam and installing a friendly government in his place.

But the agenda was limited to the shape, size and role of the Iraqi military
after Saddam's departure, avoiding the question of how to get rid of him.

The participants said in a statement that the military should stay out of
politics and respect human rights.

Several of the participants said a future government would have to reduce
the size of the Iraqi army, one of the largest in the region, but also make
it more professional.

Palestine  Chronicle, 12th December

TEHRAN - Iran will not allow Iraqi opposition groups to attack Baghdad from
Iranian soil and does not intend to attend a weekend London conference on
regime change, a government spokesman said Wednesday, December 11.

"We will not let anyone use Iranian territory for military objectives
against any of our neighbors," Abdollah Ramezanzadeh told reporters.

Iran hosts the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), an
Iraqi Shiite armed opposition grouping led by Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer
al-Hakim which has an estimated 10-15,000 fighters, Agence France-Presse
(AFP) reported.

Officially, Iran had stated the same position when asked to describe its
support for Afghanistan's Northern Alliance prior to the ousting of the
Taliban, although it later emerged that Afghan anti-Taliban fighters had
been given safe passage and arms on Iranian soil.

Ramezanzadeh also said Iran "will not participate in the London conference"
of Iraqi opposition groups this weekend, even as an observer and even though
Tehran has reportedly been invited to send representatives.

And the spokesman said Iran played no role in discussions here between
visiting Iraqi opposition leaders - Kurdish chieftain Massound Barzani and
Iraqi National Congress (INC) leader Ahmad Chalabi.

Barzani revealed late Tuesday, December 10, he had held a series of
unprecedented meetings with Iran's president, foreign minister, intelligence
minister, powerful former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and
Revolutionary Guards commanders.

Officially, Iran is opposed to a U.S. attack on Iraq despite national
loathing of its leader Saddam Hussein, and a number critics have accused
officials here of failing to assert Iran's interests over the issue.

Meanwhile, fractious Iraqi opposition leaders will search for common ground
during a weekend London conference supposed to portray them as "credible"
partners for Washington as it plans the ouster of President Saddam Hussein,
AFP reported.

"This will be a political meeting, not a military operations room" plotting
details of the regime's overthrow, said Washington-based former general
Najib al-Salhi, one figure due to attend the conference along with major
opposition groups and independent dissidents.

Delegates are to gather informally on Friday, December 13, ahead of
Saturday-Sunday sessions in a London hotel. The outcome of their
deliberations would be announced Monday, December 16, organizers said.

"Meeting to debate what post-Saddam Iraq should look like and speaking with
a single voice is the right approach, and anyone who does so is bound to
have a role in changing the regime," Salhi told AFP.

"But you don't discuss this (military input) in conferences.

"The Iraqi opposition is being belittled by its adversaries and by the
Baghdad regime," he added, brushing off the suggestion that Iraqi dissidents
are resigned to the fact that only a U.S. assault can remove Saddam.

Iyad Allawi, head of the Iraqi National Accord Movement and one of the six
organizers said: "You don't expect us to topple the regime from London.

"It is the various forces of Iraqi society - military, tribal, etc. - that
will do so, and many of the conference participants have links with these

What the 300-350 delegates will do is debate various ideas without
inhibitions - including the Kurds' cherished proposal for a federal Iraq -
and "try to reach a modicum of agreement, a common denominator" on the
future of their country, Allawi told AFP by telephone from London.

Fleshing out those proposals will be left to representative bodies once Iraq
is rid of Saddam, he added.

According to Allawi, Iran and Turkey are two of Iraq's neighbors who have
taken up the invitation to send observers to London, in addition to Kuwait,
the only Arab country to have indicated it will attend so far.

Iraq's other Arab neighbors and Egypt have not said if they will come.

The White House said Monday that U.S. president George Bush had directed the
Pentagon to provide up to 92 million dollars in military equipment and
training to the six Iraqi groups organizing the London conference.

They are: the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the Patriotic Union of
Kurdistan (PUK) and the Constitutional Monarchy Movement, in addition to the
INC, SAIRI and National Accord Movement.

Accepting the aid would "(negatively) affect our reputation and that of the
Iraqi opposition," Supreme Assembly for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq
(SAIRI)'s representative Hamed Al-Bayati said, adding "change in Iraq should
be the work of the Iraqi people."

The Bush administration, expected to send observers to the conference,
pressed organizers to shelve differences that delayed the meeting and to
unite as it turns up heat on Saddam.

IslamOnline & News Agencies ( Redistributed via Press
International News Agency (PINA).

by Salah Nasrawi
News&Observer, 12th December

LONDON (AP) - Iraqi exile Ahmed al-Haboubi's credentials as an opponent of
Saddam Hussein are solid - he's seen the Iraqi president's brutality from
inside an interrogation cell.

But al-Haboubi, a former minister in the government overthrown by Saddam
Hussein's Baath party, has no plans to participate in a U.S.-backed
conference of major Iraqi opposition groups to be held this week in London.
"This is an American conference with an American agenda to serve American
interests and objectives," al-Haboubi said. "Regime change should be done by
Iraqis and for Iraqis."

His criticism is shared by others among the varied Iraqi opposition groups
who say the meeting to discuss a post-Saddam Iraq will be dominated by the
large Kurdish and Shiite parties. The three-day meeting begins Friday.

Smaller parties have allied themselves with the six main ones to gain entry
into the meeting. In addition, 300 spots have been reserved for independent
delegates - though the main parties have tried to fill those places with
their own supporters.

Conference organizers reject Al-Haboubi's criticism.

"This is a purely Iraqi gathering, organized by Iraqis and financed by
Iraqis and will come up with resolutions that serve the Iraqi cause," said
Hamid al-Bayati, a spokesman for the organizers. "If the United States has
an interest in getting rid of Saddam ... it is a matter of shared

"That will not make us agree to all their (Americans') views or their
plans," he added.

Al-Bayati also represents one of the conference's main participants - the
Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shiite group considered
the biggest Iraqi opposition faction.

Other major participants include the Constitutional Monarchist Movement led
by Sharif Ali bin Al-Hussein, a first cousin of the last Iraqi king; Iyad
Allawi's Iraqi National Accord; Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress;
Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party; and Jalal Talabani's Patriotic
Union of Kurdistan.

While some opposition groups have decided not to participate, a smaller camp
has called for closing ranks with Saddam against what it sees as foreign
threats. Derided by the mainstream opposition as stooges, leaders of a group
called the Iraqi National Alliance visited Baghdad last month and is working
to persuade exiles to return and fight against a possible American invasion.

Al-Haboubi is well known among the opposition groups.

In his 1999 memoirs "A Chilly Night at the Last Palace," al-Haboubi recalls
a night he spent in a Baghdad detention center opened by Saddam's ruling
Baath Party soon after it assumed power in a 1968 military coup.

>From his interrogation room on the second floor of a royal palace turned
intelligence headquarters, al-Haboubi could see scores of political
detainees taken to the garden and shot after summary trials by a tribunal
headed by Taha Yassin Ramadan, now Saddam's vice president.

Al-Haboubi was released after his jailers determined he had nothing to do
with a countercoup they believed was being plotted, and he fled the country
soon after. He now lives in Egypt.

Al-Haboubi is respected in Iraqi opposition circles because of his past
political prominence, his support for liberal causes and his roots in a
prominent Shiite family known for its resistance to British rule in Iraq at
the turn of the 19th century.

He's just the kind of figure the six main opposition would like to see at
their London meeting, to underline their stated commitment to hearing from
as many voices as possible as they try to foster democracy among Iraqis.

But opposition leaders also said it was not possible to accommodate

"We wanted to make the conference broad-based and comprehensive, as it
should represent Iraqis from different religious, ethnic and political
backgrounds," said Hoshyar Zibari of the Kurdistan Democratic Party.

"But we cannot invite all Iraqis in exile," he said. "This is not a party
... it is an event where important decisions will be made."

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