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[casi] News, 27/12/02-2/1/03 (1)

News, 27/12/02-2/1/03 (1)


*  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


*  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


*  Kurds Say Would-Be Assassin Proves Al Qaeda Is in Northern Iraq


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

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

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

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?"

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

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

"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

"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."

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

Authorities have said nothing about the Nov 27 overflight. There was also no
immediate official comment on Sunday.

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

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.''

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

"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.

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,1113,2-10_1301833,00.html

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

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

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

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

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."

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

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.

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.

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.


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

Internet security firms are taking his threat seriously, fearing the virus
could cause global economic damage.

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."


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

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

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

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."

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