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News, 27/12/02-2/1/03 (1) INSIDE IRAQ * Book market is telling of Baghdad's storied past * Talk of war rekindles Iraqi Jews' old feelings * Unidentified aircraft flies over Baghdad (my title - PB) * Poet rich with praise for Saddam * UN sanctions almost KO Iraq's boxing team * Iraq urges Korea-style defiance IRAQI/INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS * Russia slams US, UK bombings * Japan a hostile country, says Iraqi vice president * Germany Doesn't Rule Out Backing Iraq War * Most Pinoys [Filipinos] want RP to be neutral on Iraq war * ECB: War in Iraq Would Hurt Economy * Iraq attack [computer] virus threat * Pahad Warns of Fallout If US Invades Iraq NORTHERN IRAQ/SOUTHERN KURDISTAN * Kurds Say Would-Be Assassin Proves Al Qaeda Is in Northern Iraq INSIDE IRAQ http://www.accessatlanta.com/ajc/epaper/editions/saturday/news_e3d08427d6de8 1a10078.html * BOOK MARKET IS TELLING OF BAGHDAD'S STORIED PAST by Moni Basu Atlantic Journal Constitution, 28th December Baghdad, Iraq --- In the swirling desert dust blown in by the winds, you first notice Al Mutanabi Street not by sight but by the sound of conversation. As you walk past the juice stalls and shops on Al-Rashid Street, the Iraqi capital's oldest thoroughfare, the haze gives way to the colorful mosaic of book jackets --- thousands of them --- stacked on tables, perched precariously on makeshift storefront stalls and even strewn on the street. It is Friday, the Muslim holiday, but it's no holiday for the vendors on Al-Mutanabi Street, where the weekly book market has thrived for decades. The street is named for a well-known Iraqi poet who lived in the 10th century, an era when progress in the arts and sciences was defined by the Arab world. In Al-Mutanabi's time, Baghdad was one of the world's most important centers of higher learning. But now, Baghdad is a different story. With the nation under stringent international sanctions for 12 years, the printing and import of new books withered as rapidly as the buying power of the average Iraqi. Almost none of the books at the Al-Mutanabi market were printed after 1990, though customers' exuberance might make one think otherwise. Fadi Rimawai, a 25-year-old dental student, clutched a copy of "The Collected Works of Oscar Wilde" as though the book had just been published. "This is the only place to find this," he said. "You can ask for any book here and they will get it for you." Desperate for textbooks and literature from the outside world, Baghdad residents wander through the worn columns and verandahs of former British mansions to pay homage to their country's rich literary traditions and purchase a precious commodity. Abu Raa'fat, a regular on Al-Mutanabi Street, said the market has existed for 70 years, but has boomed since the Persian Gulf War. "We are starving for new material," said Raa'fat, 50, who earns his keep by translating academic texts for university students. "To me, this is my bread," he said, holding up a stack of books. "But in the last 12 years, we have no new novels, no new books. We were depending on foreigners to bring us books, but now, they do not come to Iraq." Customers inspect bruised coffee-table editions and a wild assortment of tattered paperbacks. Among the titles on display: "The Family Encyclopedia of Medicine," a 1965 copy of "The Oxford Dictionary" and "The Paintings of Caravaggio." Outdated computer and medical manuals share space with Robert Ludlum, Agatha Christie, Ernest Hemingway and William Shakespeare. There are the inevitable books on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. But the more sought-after items include Gavin Young's "Iraq: Land of Two Rivers," which traces the country's rise to wealth and modernity through the discovery of oil. Some copies of Young's work have fetched as much as $50. The books themselves saw better times on the shelves of professors, engineers, doctors and other middle-class professionals who have come down in the world. Many bear the names of their previous owners, who, bookseller Shukur Jassim said, must have once treasured them. "I buy my books from families who want to buy refrigerators or air-conditioners," said Jassim, 52. "So they sell their books. They have nothing else to sell." The merchants, too, once owned considerable libraries. Like Jassim, who now works two other jobs as a book designer and an editor for a Kurdish-language newspaper, many of the sellers have forfeited illustrious academic careers. "There is a tremendous tide of reading in Iraq," said bookseller Abdul Rasoul Ali, 38. "People are desperate, but this is a sign of high culture." Here, "high culture" is hawked on the streets just like ice cream or fish. "Only 500 dinars," (24 cents) shouts one man, holding up a book that has lost its cover. "Every day is getting worse here. I don't have any hopes of seeing new books," said Raa'fat, his eyes falling to the books at his feet. "Tell me, do you see hope when you see these books on the floor?" http://www.sunspot.net/news/nationworld/bal te.iraqi29dec29,0,6594039.story?coll=bal%2Dnews%2Dnation * TALK OF WAR REKINDLES IRAQI JEWS' OLD FEELINGS by Peter Hermann Baltimore Sun, 29th December OR YEHUDA, Israel - They talk about the good life they once had, with spacious homes perched on riverbanks in Baghdad, important jobs and sand so rich in oil that they could light a fire by digging a small hole and striking a match. They are Iraqi and Jewish, and they came to Israel half a century ago to escape violent attacks and killings targeting Jews. Now, many eagerly await an American war. If Saddam Hussein is ousted from power, they say, they could visit their childhood homes once more. Some remain bitter about the wealth and status they left behind in Iraq and complain that they have never become fully integrated into Israeli society. Others say that Israel is their true homeland and have purged memories of Iraq from their hearts and minds. They tell harrowing tales of getting out of Baghdad - some rushing across runways for planes, others taking months to walk across deserts dressed as Arab Bedouins to reach Iran with the help of a Jewish underground run by the Israeli Mossad, the intelligence service. About 450,000 Iraqi Jews live in Israel, which has a population of 6.5 million, making them the fourth-largest immigrant group, behind Russians, Moroccans and Romanians. Nearly a quarter came in the early 1950s as part of Operation Ezra and Nehemiah, one of the largest Jewish population transfers ever undertaken. Israeli officials say only 38 Jews remain in Iraq. Daily news accounts out of Iraq have rekindled old feelings and prompted debates about whether the exodus was as necessary as it seemed and whether their life in Or Yehuda and other Israeli cities is better than their life had been in Baghdad. "It is a difficult question," said Shaul Ben-Hai, 67, a former member of the Jewish underground who was hiding grenades from Iraqi police when he was 11 and escaped across a desert two years later. "It depends on what you've become here." Jews in Iraq enjoyed a special status as wealthy landowners, merchants, teachers, goldsmiths, spice dealers and tailors. They carved out their own existence with Jewish schools and synagogues, carrying on their religious traditions with an Arabic flavor. Most said they enjoyed warm relations with their Muslim neighbors. The violence against them began in the 1940s, they said, coinciding with the movement toward a Jewish state and the resentment that provoked in the Arab world. Ben-Hai's father was a prominent store owner in Baghdad. The family's house stood three stories high, and date palm trees grew in an inner courtyard. He remembers hot summer nights sleeping on the roof to feel the breeze blowing off the Tigris River. Upon arriving in Israel in 1949, Ben-Hai was sent to a kibbutz in the country's north, where, he said, he was forced to work as a laborer and farmhand. As a result, he did not receive a formal education in his early teens. He stayed in the army beyond his three years of required service and fought in three wars. In the Yom Kippur War of 1973, he crossed the Suez Canal with a division led by Ariel Sharon, now Israel's prime minister. The retired truck driver spends his evenings with fellow Iraqis playing dominoes at an abandoned storefront in Or Yehuda, a dilapidated working-class city near the airport outside of Tel Aviv. They drink hot spiced tea and argue politics in a mixture of dialects that effortlessly shifts between Arabic and Hebrew. Ben-Hai said he knows it was impossible to stay in Iraq, given his clandestine activities and the violence directed at Jews. Still, it was a shock for Jews from a traditional Arabic society to be suddenly thrust into a culture dominated by European immigrants. Jews in Iraq, Ben-Hai said, had at one time been "treated like kings." In Israel, he said, "I gave more than I got." A few blocks from where the gruff domino players gather is the Babylonian Jewry Museum, which tells the rich history of Iraqi Jews, recording how they came to Israel with the help of Mordechai Ben-Porat, the Mossad's chief undercover agent. Ben-Porat was born in 1923 in Adhamiya, a town north of Baghdad, and was the eldest of 11 children. His father was a clothing and silk merchant. Most of his family fled Iraq in 1944 on a seaplane that landed on the Dead Sea. Ben-Porat stayed behind to finish his studies and got out a year later. Ben-Porat, 79, fought in the 1948 War of Independence and commanded a platoon of soldiers in the fierce battle of Latrun, at the foothills of Jerusalem. A year later, he returned to Iraq as a Mossad agent to help tens of thousands of Iraqis escape. He was arrested four times and tortured. In 1955, he made it out a final time, barely eluding Iraqi authorities by climbing a rope dropped from a plane as it took off from a runway. By then, Ben-Porat's six-year mission was over, and more than 120,000 Jews had fled, many of them in convoys of planes that Iraqi officials allowed to fly out. They had granted permission for Jews to leave, apparently believing that only a few would accept. Ben-Porat's exploits are detailed in his book, To Baghdad and Back: The Miraculous 2,000 Year Homecoming of the Iraqi Jews. His fake passports and papers issued by the Mossad are on display at the museum, which he runs. Like others from Iraq, Ben-Porat has a soft spot for the country, now regarded as an archenemy by Israel. "The first sign that Saddam Hussein is out, I will go back," he said in an interview at the museum. But he doesn't want to live there. "I want to see the views," he said, referring to his family house, with plush gardens on the riverbank. "To live? I don't think so. But my dream is that Saddam is removed. Then, it will take a few years, but Israel can build an embassy in Iraq. Peace with the Iraqi people will be easier than peace with the Palestinians." Some Iraqis in Israel accuse Ben-Porat of orchestrating bombings against fellow Jews in Baghdad in 1951 and blaming Muslim extremists to convince the Jewish population that their lives were in danger if they stayed. In his book, Ben-Porat published previously top-secret transcripts of a government investigation into the allegations, which cleared him of the charges. But not everyone remains satisfied. Anwar Katsav, 78, came to Israel from Iraq when he was 32 and said he regrets his decision every day. In Baghdad, he was a prominent butcher; in Israel, he could find work only as a day laborer. After living four decades in Israel, he speaks only a few words of Hebrew, preferring his native Arabic. "I wish I could go to Iraq now," he said while sitting outside a small coffee shop in Or Yehuda and alleging that he and other Jews were scared into leaving by what he said was a fake bombing campaign. He gave up a four-story house in Baghdad for a two-room apartment in Or Yehuda, and he still is paying off the mortgage. "Once Saddam is out, everything will be fine in Iraq," Katsav said. "The people there are very good. And we had a very good life." Not everyone feels the same way. Yitzchak Basri, 68, is a successful lawyer who fled Basra in southern Iraq in 1949 at age 16. He barely made it out; most of his group was captured less than a mile from the Iranian border, but he and a friend managed to get away. "Life was hard," he said of growing up in Iraq. "We were rich. We had everything, but it was a difficult way to live. ... My father was respectable, and we had a nice life. But as I remember, we couldn't live the way we wanted." He, too, enjoyed a large house with spacious gardens, and he has fond memories of school outings in which the teacher would dig a small hole in the sand and light a fire from the oil that seeped up just below the surface. He also remembers being afraid to go out at night and once being beaten because of his religion. One time Basri fought back, and Iraqi police were soon after him. He fled to Iran and stayed with a cousin who, he said, was later hanged for helping Jews. If Hussein is ousted from power, Basri said, he has no plans to return. "I don't miss anything," he said over lunch of lamb skewers at Said's Restaurant in Or Yehuda, run by an Iraqi immigrant who left at age 7. "Israel is the only place in the world that I can live in as a Jew." http://www.dawn.com/2002/12/30/int2.htm * UNIDENTIFIED AIRCRAFT FLIES OVER BAGHDAD (my title - PB) Dawn, 30th December Unidentified aircraft: An unidentified plane flew over Baghdad at midday on Sunday, apparently breaking the sound barrier over the Iraqi capital, in the second such incident in a month. A loud bang, probably a sonic boom, was heard across Baghdad, where residents are already bracing for a possible US strike. The white streak of an aircraft flying at high altitude was seen in the clear sky by residents. An unidentified aircraft had similarly flown over Baghdad on November 27, the day UN arms experts resumed inspections in Iraq after a four-year break. Sirens sounded across the capital then, but no such measure was taken on Sunday. Authorities have said nothing about the Nov 27 overflight. There was also no immediate official comment on Sunday. http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/usatoday/20021230/ts_usatoday /4737946 * POET RICH WITH PRAISE FOR SADDAM by Vivienne Walt Yahoo, from USA TODAY, 30th December BAGHDAD, Iraq -- His eyes sparkle like fountains in the sunlight. They flash like lightning. Then they become sharp like swords in his head. This is poetry, Iraq-style. The author calls it a love poem. The man described in the verse is mysterious, mercurial, elusive. He isn't named. But it's clear to Iraqis to whom the words refer. The subject of the poem is Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi president has been called many things. To some U.S. politicians, he's a modern day Adolf Hitler, a liar, a ruthless dictator. In Iraq's official newspapers, he is the Great Leader. But inside the library of Abdul Razzaq Abdul Wahid, Iraq's most famous poet, Saddam is the muse. With the Tigris River glimmering outside, Wahid has penned scores of poems in praise of Saddam. The Iraqi president's spirit hangs over the room. ''His character gives me inspiration,'' says Wahid, 72, his voice dropping in reverence. ''I mostly write love poetry. And I love him. I've written many, many poems to him.'' Saddam's presence overwhelms this city. It's difficult to turn full-circle in Baghdad without spotting the Iraqi president's image on walls, affixed to lampposts or atop marble pedestals. On television, Iraq's thin regular programming is frequently interrupted by footage of the president praying at Muslim shrines, hugging babies or greeting religious Shiite women in black robes. As the leader moves among his people, red hearts float across the TV screen to an orchestral soundtrack. The thousands of Saddam portraits and statues around Baghdad will probably be destroyed quickly if a U.S.-led war topples the Iraqi president. But Wahid's words are likely to endure such an upheaval. Bound in books owned by average citizens, they will be a lot more difficult to remove after any change in government. Wahid has published 40 volumes of poetry in Arabic. Most include verses dedicated to the Iraqi leader, although he also writes love poetry and epic verses about Iraq's history. Some of his work has been translated by small publishers into English, Serbo-Croatian, French, Russian, Turkish and Finnish. He received poetry medals at festivals in Moscow in 1976, Macedonia in 1986 and Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in 1998. Not surprisingly, his Saddam poems are less popular abroad than in Iraq. Wahid regularly reads his verse on state-controlled TV. The compact, bronzed man opens government conferences in Baghdad with stanzas delivered in a voice that sounds younger than his age. He has been hired to recite his favorites at weddings and festivals. Wahid began to put his adoration for Saddam into verse more than 30 years ago, when the leader was a rising politician. ''It was during the 1968 revolution that I wrote my first poem to him,'' Wahid says, referring to the military coup that brought Saddam's Baath Party to power in Iraq. ''I knew him a little.'' Saddam soon noticed the attention. Once he was installed as president in 1979, the men became friends. Now, Saddam summons Wahid regularly to talk about life. On the coffee table in Wahid's spacious living room sits a photograph taken a few months ago of Wahid and Saddam laughing together in one of the many presidential palaces. ''Sometimes when I'm with him, he asks me to read him my poems,'' Wahid says. He explains that the leader enjoys spending time with ''a man of culture.'' Wahid lists Saddam's attributes: ''He's a man of principles and honor. Nobody can frighten him. He's very wise.'' Even the West's antipathy to Saddam has inspired Wahid. ''I feel proud that people can hate him so much.'' To Wahid, Saddam is Abu Uday -- ''father of Uday,'' Saddam's older son. It's an informal and affectionate way to address a friend. Saddam calls the poet Abdul Razzaq. Speaking to others about the president, Wahid refers to Saddam simply as ''him.'' Recently, Wahid asked Saddam whether he was anxious about a U.S.-led war that might oust or kill him. ''He said: 'Anything is expected. Perhaps they'll attack, perhaps they won't.' '' Wahid recalls. ''He's brave enough not to be afraid.'' Saddam, who has his own literary ambition, has sought Wahid's advice on writing. The president has published three novels anonymously. The cover of each gives the title and says it's ''a novel by its author.'' One, Zabibah and the King is a veiled rant against the 1991 Gulf War in which a married woman is raped and killed. In private, Iraqis discount the leader's talent. But the books are prominently displayed in bookstores. Wahid gushes about Saddam's writing skills: ''He called me into his office and asked me to have a look at the first five lines. I know his style. It's like quietly moving sentences, like waves on the Tigris.'' Saddam has rewarded Wahid for his devotion. Wahid receives $250 a month from Iraq's Ministry of Culture, several times more than a physician earns. A nurse earns just $84 a year. Iraqi painters and sculptors who make their names creating Saddam's likeness also are well paid by the government. The poet is paid in other ways too. In the early 1980s, the president asked Wahid to choose a stretch of riverfront on which to build a house. The result was a 5,400-square-foot, two story villa in Baghdad's Al-Qadissiya suburb. The garden is four times the size of the house and runs to the river's edge, where cows graze on river plants. Wahid lives here with two of his four children, six grandchildren and his wife, Salwa, 71, a retired gynecologist. One son lives in London. A daughter lives in Paris. Sweeping his arms around his large library with its ornate wooden shelves, Wahid says: ''I live like a poet.'' He senses his 20-year idyll is coming to a close. Wahid expects a U.S.-led war will end this good life. He says he is ready to die, but worries about those he will leave behind. ''I have lived a long life. I am filled with pain because of my grandchildren. For myself, I don't care. My poems will survive 1,000 years.'' http://newsobserver.com/24hour/sports/story/696378p-5156746c.html * UN SANCTIONS ALMOST KO IRAQ'S BOXING TEAM by Marwan Naamani News & Observer, 31st December BAGHDAD, Iraq (AFP) - Fourteen years of UN economic sanctions have dealt a near knockout blow to Iraq's once successful boxing team, but some Baghdad clubs are still hoping to train a new generation of athletes despite less than ideal training conditions. "We were the boxing champions of the Arab world. We even had international champions, but now, instead of a team of 12 we only send five" to foreign competitions, said boxing trainer Faruq Janjoun. "It's upsetting," added Janjoun who complains the UN sanctions imposed on Iraq since its ill-fated invasion of Kuwait deprive the athletes of a proper diet. "Our boxers need vitamins, special food, otherwise they cannot prepare themselves correctly and be in shape," said Janjoun, himself an Asian boxing champion in the 1980s. Iraq's imports are tightly controlled under the UN oil-for-food program, which allows Baghdad to exchange oil for essential humanitarian goods. One team is preparing to take part next month in a championship in Qatar, but in general over the past decade Iraqi teams have been prevented from going to international tournaments. In Baghdad's ill-heated al-Qadhemia club, some young athletes are hoping for future success in the ring. Oman and Seif, two young teenagers, bounce around the ring throwing rights and lefts, while nearby other young boxers in worn outfits punch rubber pads attached to the greying walls of the club. The gloves of the two sparring partners bear the flags of the United States, which is busy building up its forces in preparation for an expected invasion of Iraq. http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/Articles.asp?Article=40567&Sn=WORL * IRAQ URGES KOREA-STYLE DEFIANCE Gulf News, Vol XXV, NO. 288, 2nd January BAGHDAD: Iraq urged the Arab world yesterday to take inspiration from fellow "axis of evil" member North Korea, as US President George Bush voiced hope the Iraqi weapons stand-off could still be settled without bloodshed. "We Arabs need to revise our behaviour towards the US, as North Korea has done (by relaunching its nuclear programme in the face of stiff US criticism), to be respected," said the daily Babel, owned by President Saddam Hussein's elder son Uday. "Arabs need to learn the lesson from the Korean example to mobilise in order to stop an attack on Iraq and prevent a US-Zionist crusade in the Arab world," Babel said. "Korea insists on its right to possess a technology used by the US to raze Japanese cities (during the Second World War) and which it still uses to blackmail the world and force it to obey its orders. "Through its courageous stance, North Korea demands that international law be applied to all in the same manner." UN arms inspectors embarked on the 33rd day of their hunt for Iraq's alleged prohibited arms yesterday amid signs that they were preparing to spread their net wider. A UN source in Baghdad said that UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (Uumovic) is to open an office in Mosul 400km north of the capital, while an Iraqi official . And Iraq's foreign ministry expressed surprise at a first request by the UN arms experts to use a helicopter yesterday. "We were shocked that this request coincided with the start of the New Year, official days off throughout the world and for Iraqis of all religions," a spokesman said. It was not immediately known whether the helicopter was used. At least two teams left the inspectors' Baghdad headquarters in the Canal Hotel in four wheel drive vehicles. One went to a repair centre for cars and heavy goods vehicles in Al Khadra district in western Baghdad, while the other visited Al Harith Co in the vast Al Taji military complex north of the capital. Around 30 activists from Voices in the Wilderness, a joint US-British campaign to end the economic sanctions against the people of Iraq, were waiting for the teams as they left their compound. The activists sang peace songs, waving a banner reading "New Year's resolution: peace - no attack on Iraq" and wearing T-shirts with the slogan "War is not the answer" in an incident free protest. IRAQI/INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS http://www.news24.com/News24/World/0,1113,2-10_1301833,00.html * RUSSIA SLAMS US, UK BOMBINGS News 24 (South Africa, from SAPA/AFP), 27th December Moscow - Russia expressed "serious concern" on Friday over US and British air strikes against Iraq that Baghdad officials said killed at least three civilians. In the latest defence of its traditional Middle Eastern ally, Russia said the bombings of Iraq were made without agreement from the United Nations and only complicated the security situation in the region. "Moscow observes with seriously concern the continuing US and British air strikes against Iraqi targets - which include civilian ones," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement. "Russia once again persistently calls (on other powers) to refrain from actions against Iraq that infringe on its sovereignty," the statement added. Russia again called on the United States and Britain to abide by UN Security Council resolution 1441, which calls on the Iraqi leadership to come clean on its military program, and offer unfettered access to UN weapons inspectors. Iraq's official INA news agency reported that three Iraqi civilians were killed and another 16 wounded on Thursday in an air raid by US and British warplanes on southern Iraq. Earlier, US Central Command said US and British aircraft attacked an air military communications facility in southern Iraq in retaliation for the downing of an unmanned US spy plane earlier this week. It said the attack with precision-guided weapons came at 08:00 (05:00 GMT) on the facility near Tallil, about 280 kilometres south-east of Baghdad. The attack was in retaliation for Monday's downing of a Predator spy drone by Iraqi anti aircraft fire and warplanes which entered the "no-fly" zone over the southern part of the country, the command said. The air-exclusion zones over northern and southern Iraq set up after the Gulf war are enforced by US and British air patrols, though Baghdad has long opposed them and they exist without the sanction of a specific UN resolution. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20021228a7.htm * JAPAN A HOSTILE COUNTRY, SAYS IRAQI VICE PRESIDENT Japan Times, 28th December CAIRO (Kyodo) Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan on Thursday listed Japan as a hostile country to Iraq, next only to the United States and Britain. Ramadan made what is probably the harshest remark on Japan in recent months by a top Iraqi official, during a meeting in Baghdad with Nobuhiko Suto, an opposition lawmaker in the Diet. "Japan is taking a hostile and provocative posture on Iraq," Ramadan was quoted as telling the Democratic Party of Japan member of the House of Representatives, according to Iraqi media and people briefed on the meeting. Ramadan, who described Tokyo's position on Iraq as "irrational," said Japan has become a "satellite" of the "evil U.S. government." Although Europe and many Asian nations boosted economic ties with Iraq after the 1991 Persian Gulf war, Japan was the exception, Ramadan said. By way of example, he said Japan has refused to supply spare parts to Iraqi plants in the name of sanctions laid down by the U.N. "Even though Japan does not use military force, it is hurting Iraqi people," Ramadan said. On Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, Ramadan said Japan should "make its own judgment fairly" by sending its own representatives to Iraq, instead of relying on information provided by the United States. "There is much Japan can do," Ramadan said. "Repairing infrastructure destroyed by the Gulf War is one example." http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/world/wire/sns-ap-germany iraq1229dec28,0,3264313.story?coll=sns%2Dap%2Dworld%2Dheadlines * GERMANY DOESN'T RULE OUT BACKING IRAQ WAR Newsday, from, Associated Press, 28th December FRANKFURT, Germany -- Germany would not rule out supporting military action in Iraq while serving on the U.N. Security Council, the foreign minister said in an interview. In an early release of an interview with German weekly Der Spiegel on Saturday, Joschka Fischer said Berlin would not send any troops to Iraq, but he could not say how his country would vote if the issue of military action against Iraq came up during Germany's tenure on the council. "No one can predict that, because no one knows under which circumstances the Security Council will address" the issue, Fischer said in an interview to appear Monday. Fischer stressed the need to continue searching for a peaceful solution to the Iraqi situation and repeated his country's emphatic denial it would participate in any way in "a highly dangerous conflict, the necessity of which (Germany) is not 100 percent convinced." Iraq could face a U.S. military strike if it does not comply with U.N. resolutions to disclose and abandon efforts to acquire and develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Germany repeatedly has expressed reservations about the U.S. approach to Iraq. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder angered President Bush last summer by successfully campaigning for re election on his rejection of war. But at the same time, Berlin has said it stands firmly behind the United States in the international war against terrorism, a fight it does not necessarily consider linked to Baghdad. "We have enough to do with the war on terrorism," Fischer said. "And I think it would be wrong to place a change of leadership in Baghdad as our top priority." Last week, German lawmakers voted to double the number of German peacekeepers in Afghanistan to 2,500 and extend their mandate there for another year. http://www.philstar.com/philstar/News200212280408.htm * MOST PINOYS [Filipinos] WANT RP TO BE NEUTRAL ON IRAQ WAR The Philippine Star, 28th December Nearly half of Filipinos want the Philippines to remain neutral in a US-led war against Iraq even if it is sanctioned by the United Nations, results of a noncommissioned nationwide survey showed. Conducted by Pulse Asia from Nov. 9 to 22, 1,200 Filipinos were asked to choose a course of action from preselected choices on the issue. Forty-five percent said the Philippines should stay out of the standoff while only 10 percent favored total war against Baghdad, which has been accused of building weapons of mass destruction. Commenting on the survey results, which were released yesterday, Malacañang said President Arroyo will base her decision on what the UN will decide on the standoff and not what domestic opinion polls say. "At this point, we are supporting the UN resolution (barring Iraq from building weapons of mass destruction). Although there is a lot of talk of impending war, we have not been called upon to join any war at this time," Presidential Spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao said. Sixteen percent of the poll respondents said the country should support calls for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's ouster but should not use military force to do so. Fourteen percent said the Philippines should support any action the United Nations decides as long as it does not involve the use of force, while 13 percent said the country should support whatever the UN decides. When asked what the country should do if Washington unilaterally declares war on Baghdad, 46 percent of poll respondents said the Arroyo administration should remain neutral. Eighteen percent said Manila should ask the United Nations to stop the United States, while 12 percent said the government should provide a medical contingent to support US troops. Only 10 percent agreed with the government position to give US forces access to Philippine military bases, ports and other facilities, while eight percent said the government should send troops. Despite the ambivalence towards supporting a US attack, only six percent of respondents said the Philippines should criticize the United States for using military force to solve international problems, the survey said. "On the whole, these figures show that a large portion of the citizenry would like the country in general and the government in particular to stay out of the brewing tensions between the United States and Iraq," Pulse Asia said in a statement. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points and a 95 percent confidence level. The survey was conducted on Pulse Asia's initiative to gauge the public sentiment on the issue. Manila and Washington signed a five-year military logistics support agreement last month, seen as a key element in enhancing Manila's fight against terrorism. The Mutual Logistics Support Agreement would give the US limited rights to base equipment in the Philippines for a limited period. http://hoovnews.hoovers.com/fp.asp?layout=displaynews&doc_id=NR20021229140.6 _7dec0004d96965b1 * ECB: WAR IN IRAQ WOULD HURT ECONOMY Hoover's (Financial Times), 29th December AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) A war in Iraq would hurt the global economy, Europe's top banker Wim Duisenberg said in interviews Sunday, as he indicated the European Central Bank would not rule out a further interest rate cut to bolster growth next year. In an interview on Dutch television, the European Central Bank president said he believed consumer confidence in the United States was already suffering due to uncertainty over a possible U.S. attack on Iraq. "A war is bad news for the economy," Duisenberg said, also noting that rising oil prices will hurt consumers. [......] http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/page.cfm?objectid=12490724&method=full&sit eid=89488 * IRAQ ATTACK (computer) VIRUS THREAT Daily Record, 31st December A COMPUTER hacker is threatening to unleash the most destructive computer virus ever if Iraq is attacked. Malaysia-based Vladimor "Melhacker" Chamlkovic, 23, who named a previous virus after Osama bin Laden, refused to say what the new virus would do. But in an e-mail to the New York Post, he said: "I hate war. I hate people die." Internet security firms are taking his threat seriously, fearing the virus could cause global economic damage. http://allafrica.com/stories/200212310163.html * PAHAD WARNS OF FALLOUT IF US INVADES IRAQ Business Day (Johannesburg), 31st December 31, 2002 A range of severe consequences will flow from a US war against Iraq, including the need for contingency plans to assist thousands of South Africans living in the Middle East, says Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aziz Pahad. At a briefing yesterday, Pahad also criticised the Australian and British governments for expressing reservations about their cricket teams playing World Cup fixtures in Zimbabwe next year. "This political decision at this late stage is not in the interest of world cricket and not in the interest of trying to find a solution to the problems of Zimbabwe. To use the World Cup as a terrain of struggle is not correct. The sports people must decide themselves." Pahad said both the Australian and British cricket authorities had indicated their willingness to play in Zimbabwe. A war in Iraq would open up the floodgates of terrorism worldwide, Pahad said, and SA would have to continue beefing up security against the possibility of domestic terror attacks. War would have disastrous consequences for the Middle East and make the Israeli Palestinian conflict almost impossible to resolve. It would, he said, have a severe effect on the world economy and result in a massive hike in the oil price. SA trade flows with the Middle East would also suffer. He noted that thousands of SA professionals were working in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, Qatar and elsewhere in the Middle East. Contingency plans to assist them would have to be made in conjunction with other countries in the event of war. Government was engaged in continuous discussions about the consequences of a US-Iraqi war. "Our biggest concern is that it should not embolden elements to carry out terrorist attacks all over the world." Pahad said that SA was continuously upgrading its capacity to fight terror at home. "We are confident that we have broken the back of the Boeremag, and are confident that any other terrorist group which thinks that SA is fertile ground for terrorism will quickly realise that SA is quite well-equipped to deal with terrorism in the country. " SA was continuing all its efforts to secure a political solution related to Washington's allegations that Iraq holds weapons of mass destruction. On the outcome of the Kenyan elections, Pahad said it was "yet another indication of the growing commitment of African countries towards multiparty democracies and establishing societies that are democratic and transparent. We feel this will be a major boost for the New Partnership for Africa's Development process." NORTHERN IRAQ/SOUTHERN KURDISTAN http://abcnews.go.com/sections/world/DailyNews/ansar021231.html * KURDS SAY WOULD-BE ASSASSIN PROVES AL QAEDA IS IN NORTHERN IRAQ by Kevin McKiernan ABC News, 31st December S U L A I M A N I A H, Northern Iraq, Dec. 31 ‹ An attempted assassination case in northern Iraq could be the key link in a chain of evidence that establishes the presence of al Qaeda there, officials with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan say. The PUK, one of two controlling factions in northern Iraq, is preparing formal murder charges against Qais Ibrahim Khadir, 26, an Islamic extremist who freely admits he tried to kill the PUK's Barham Salih, the prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan, in April. The region of northern Iraq known as Iraqi Kurdistan has been autonomous from Baghdad since the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The PUK controls the eastern part of the autonomous zone and the western areas are controlled by its rival, the Kurdistan Democratic Party. Khadir says he was one of the three men who engaged Salih's bodyguards in a running gunbattle on a narrow, upscale street near Salih's home in the town of Sulaimaniah. Two of the assailants and five of Salih's bodyguards were killed, and another five bodyguards wounded. The mother of one of the slain bodyguards died of a heart attack when she received the news of her son's death. The police say Khadir fired more than 140 bullets in the 10-minute firefight, was shot twice in the leg and briefly escaped. Khadir claims he personally killed three of the bodyguards. Khadir told ABCNEWS that soon after his capture, enraged police officers drove him to the scene of the shootout, where he boasted that he would repeat the attack if given the chance. Salih, the prime minister, told ABCNEWS that Khadir is a member of the group Ansar al Islam ("Supporters of Islam"), which he said "was set up in northern Iraq on Sept. 1, 2001, at the behest of Osama bin Laden." Salih said the location was chosen "in anticipation of the fallout from Sept. 11." He said bin Laden's al Qaeda network was seeking an "alternative base" ‹ "in case Afghanistan became a denied area to them." Khadir has told ABCNEWS he was an Ansar sympathizer but that he had acted independently in the attempt to kill Salih. He said his ideas were nonetheless "very close" to bin Laden's and that they "came from the same source." He said he chose the prime minister as a target because he was "an infidel" and because Salih, who represented the PUK in Washington in the 1990s, had been "watered like a plant by U.S. policies." PUK leaders are revisiting the Khadir case after Jordanian Prime Minister Ali Abul Ragheb said he believes a top al Qaeda operative wanted in connection with the murder of an American diplomat is hiding in Iraqi Kurdistan. Ahmed al-Kalaylah, who is better known as Abu Musab al- Zargawi, is being sought for his alleged role in the killing of Laurence Foley, the USAID officer gunned down Oct. 28 outside his home in Amman. If he is in northern Iraq, one possibility is that he might be at the Ansar al-Islam camp, which is located about 65 miles from Sulaimaniah. PUK leaders maintain that al-Zargawi and Khadir met in the Ansar al-Islam camp and the al Qaeda operative personally ordered the attack on Salih. According to PUK Politboro member Nawshirwan Mustafa Amin, Syrian intelligence first alerted the PUK to the presence of al-Zargawi two months ago. Khadir said he has since been interrogated by Syrian and Egyptian intelligence. He described the agents as "arrogant." Shown a photo of al-Zargawi, the imprisoned Khadir admitted he had met "someone who looked like" the man in the photo, but he claimed it was not the man in question. The region controlled by Ansar al-Islam is located in the rugged Surren Mountains in a southeast corner of Iraqi Kurdistan. It is an enclave said to contain approximately 700 extremists, including 100 foreigners. It lies along the Iranian border, an area known in local shorthand as Biarrah, which is the name of the main village controlled by the guerrilla group. In recent weeks the Ansar force has killed dozens of Kurdish peshmerga ‹ a Kurdish term for fighters "who face death." PUK leaders say that past reluctance by U.S. intelligence to accept Ansar as a branch of the al Qaeda network has undergone a dramatic reversal in the last few weeks. According to a high-ranking Kurdish official, a CIA team stationed near Sulaimaniah recently met with PUK leaders and characterized the threat represented by the guerrillas as "urgent." The official, who said he was present at the meeting, said the intelligence team informed PUK leaders that U.S. military assistance for an offensive against Ansar al-Islam was "imminent" and that the promised aid for an attack would be separate from ‹ and in advance of ‹ threatened military action against Baghdad. "We were told that special forces do not want to land here with this unresolved question at their backs," the official told ABCNEWS, speaking on the condition he not be identified by name. A recent report in The New York Times of a chance encounter with a U.S. intelligence team, as well as increasing number of similar sightings by Kurdish shop-owners and others, have reinforced reports of U.S. activity in the region. A government minister also confirmed to ABCNEWS that CIA interrogators in northern Iraq are actively interviewing captured Ansar guerrillas. PUK military officers say they now have a force of almost 5,000 peshmerga in place opposite positions of Ansar al-Islam. Many observers suspect that any U.S. attack on Ansar positions prior to the expected war on Iraq would be limited to aerial bombardment and would not involve U.S. ground forces. Last week, Turkey's National Security Council met to consider the U.S. request to launch attacks on Iraq from Turkish soil. The U.S. request specifically includes permission to stage a prior attack on Ansar al-Islam from Turkey, according to a well-placed source in Ankara. Politically, there is the question of negative international reaction to an attack inside Iraq while the U.N inspections are still under way. But as the recent U.S. missile strike on a car suspected of carrying al Qaeda members in Yemen suggests, an attack on Biarrah might be defended under the stated Bush administration policy of taking the fight against terrorism to every corner of the world. Militarily, a campaign against guerrillas like Ansar, who are mixed in with the local civilian population behind a heavily mined frontier, could prove far trickier than targeting a vehicle on the highway in Yemen. If a U.S.-sponsored attack does take place, and if the Pentagon utilizes PUK forces on the ground, the question is whether Ansar guerrillas might escape to Iran across the snow-filled mountains, a harsh terrain that has been compared to Tora Bora in Afghanistan. As speculation grows about possible U.S. involvement in an attack on Ansar al-Islam, Khadir passes his time in an unheated cell. He says he is confident that any U.S. operation would fail, in part because it would not be a surprise. "Even the simplest person in Biarrah knows that America is planning to attack," he said. His captors are eager to advance the argument that his assassination attempt was directed by al Qaeda. Khadir, whom they describe as "very clever," is clearly enjoying his renewed notoriety. Warming himself by a kerosene heater in an interrogator's office, he jokes with and occasionally chastises one of his jailers. He waxes poetic, recalling the pleasure he felt on the morning he set out to assassinate the prime minister. "My heart was coated with honey," he said. At another point during the interview, the prisoner said he viewed the assassination plot as "part of" the events of Sept. 11. "Anyone who is part of Sept. 11 will be on the black list of America, but he will be on the white list of God." Such remarks rankle bodyguards who survived the shootout that killed their five colleagues last spring. Nahro Qadir, 23, one of the prime minister's guards who took part in the gunbattle, confessed he would like to kill Khadir "10 times over, then bring him back to life to kill him again." The chief of security in Sulaimaniah, Sarkout Quba, said Khadir ought to be killed "in such a way that he couldn't come back to life in paradise." Prime Minister Salih, the intended target of the assassination plot, brands such sentiments as "Kurdish Justice 101," and he says they are indicative of an old fashioned society he would like to change. Ironically, if the courts decide Khadir should face capital punishment, the decision to sign the required death warrant may land squarely in the lap of the prime minister himself. At present, there are several dozen prisoners on death row. But there is a moratorium on executions in effect and Salih, in his two years as prime minister, has yet to sign a death warrant. The Khadir case, he admits, places him in a "personal and moral dilemma." He expects "tremendous pressure" from the families of the slain bodyguards to approve the execution. Yet Salih, a former member of the human rights group Amnesty International, said he does not believe in the death penalty. "But when you lose dear friends," he said, "it is hard to remove the personal element." _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk