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News, 10-15/01/03 (2) INSIDE IRAQ * At Your Service * Iraqis buying guns to fight invasion * Iraq's Shiites Describe Reign of Fear * Forbidden fruit: Iraq dates hit by war and sanctions * Ground under Saddam's heel, southern clans are seething NORTHERN IRAQ/SOUTHERN KURDISTAN * Iraq government cuts petrol supplies to Kurds * Iraq government restores petrol to breakaway Kurds * Ansar issues chemical war threat * Kirkuk: Iraq's northern tinderbox * Delicate Iraqi Kurd Notes Batter Mighty U.S. Dollar * Iraqi fundamentalist leader deported from the Netherlands NO FLY ZONES * Western planes again attack Iraqi air defenses * US hits anti-ship missile launcher in Iraq * Iraq says six civilians wounded in US-British bombings INSIDE IRAQ http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3933-538987,00.html * AT YOUR SERVICE by Greg Watts The Times, 11th January KNEELING before Pope John Paul II during Mass in St Peter's Basilica, Rome, Father Andreas Abouna must have experienced mixed emotions: sadness that he will be leaving London, and a mixture of joy and anxiety at the prospect of returning to his homeland of Iraq, as the new Assistant Bishop of Baghdad. Father Andreas was one of 12 new archbishops and bishops being ordained by the Pope, in a Vatican tradition which takes place each year on the Feast of the Epiphany. The rest of the group came from Italy, Vietnam, South Korea, Ireland, Slovakia, Ukraine, Benin and Spain. Four will be papal representatives in Asia, Africa and the UN, two secretaries in the Roman curia and six diocesan bishops. Born in northern Iraq, Father Andreas, 59, has, for the past 11 years, been chaplain to the UK's Chaldean Catholic community, who come from Iraq and live mainly in the London area. The Chaldean Church, which is an Eastern-rite Catholic Church, resumed full communion with Rome in the 16th century. Unsurprisingly, St Peter's was packed for such an event. Among the global congregation were around 50 Iraqis from Britain, along with Monsignor Vincent Berry, representing the Diocese of Westminster, and members of the Benedictine community at Ealing Abbey, where Father Andreas occasionally celebrates Mass. As the long procession of bishops and priests slowly entered the nave, heads began to crane expectantly. Then applause began to break out and flashbulbs went off, as the Pope, clad in gold and white vestments, and sitting on a mobile platform, wheeled by four men in suits, came into view. Despite being 82 years of age, frail and suffering from Parkinson's disease, he is determined to carry on as the 263rd successor to St Peter. Two bishops assisted him throughout the two-and-a-half- hour sung Latin Mass. After the readings and the gospel, which told the story of the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child in Bethlehem, came the ordination of the 12 new bishops. The Pope anointed each of them with the oil of chrism and then laid his hands on them to symbolise apostolic succession. Each was presented with a crozier, symbolising his role as shepherd, a silver ring, representing his marriage to the Church, and a mitre and book of the Gospels. They then embraced the cardinals and numerous bishops gathered around the sanctuary and received their blessing. In his homily, the Pope said: "Faith in Christ, the light of the world, has guided your steps from your youth to your offerings of yourselves in priestly ordination. To the Lord you did not give gold, incense and myrrh, but your lives. Now Christ asks you to renew that self offering, so that you may exercise in the Church the episcopal ministry." In February, Bishop Andreas will leave his flat in West Ealing for the offices of the Chaldean Patriarchate in Baghdad. As Raphael I Bidawid, Patriarch of Babylonia of the Chaldeans, is suffering from poor health, Bishop Andreas will have to take on extra responsibilities. Having lived through the Gulf War, he well knows what difficulties may lie ahead as the US gets tough with Saddam Hussein. "It is the will of God, so I have to go," he said after the Mass. http://www.gulf-news.com/Articles/news.asp?ArticleID=73820 * IRAQIS BUYING GUNS TO FIGHT INVASION Gulf News, from Reuters, 13th January Bedouin gunshop owner Yassin Al Jabbouri says Iraqi civilians are arming themselves to challenge the American invader. Iraqi clan groups, a key force in the country, are stocking up on rifles and pistols from the Iraqi capital's 45 retail gun outlets, taking heed of government calls for the populace to ready itself for a U.S. invasion, Jabbouri says. The United States is boosting its forces in the Gulf ahead of a possible attack to end President Saddam Hussain's 23-year rule saying he is hiding weapons of mass destruction. "I have a tribe of 200,000 people and 12,000 of them are in Baghdad ready to fight. We are all human shields against America," the 50-year-old Bedouin chief said. "There has been growing interest in buying weapons. It's in the interests of Iraqis to have weapons to face the American fighters...We are all military now," he said, adding that Iraqis would be keen to punish American troops for the suffering of Palestinians fighting U.S. ally Israel. Gun culture is deeply ingrained in Iraq, where possession of guns is seen as a mark of honour among the 150 or so Bedouin tribes. They form a critical base of support for Saddam, himself of Bedouin origin. Baghdad is festooned with large posters of the Iraqi leader in various poses handling guns, which anyone over 25 can buy. Pro-Saddam street parades over recent weeks have featured groups of men, women and children marching with an array of weapons. The United States says Iraqis will be glad to see the back of Saddam. The state set up a popular defence force two years ago, ostensibly to fight with the Palestinians. The state distributes arms for free to all members of the ruling Baath Party, thought to number over two million. "This is the one I'm going to fight with," Jabbouri said, pulling out a $1,500 Italian-made rifle. "Everyone has three or four guns each now. There's no tribe that doesn't use arms. Even my wife can fire a good shot over a distance." Rifles, from Beretta Italian originals to cheap Turkish copies, range from $200 to $1,000, Jabbouri said. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A52016-2003Jan13.html * IRAQ'S SHIITES DESCRIBE REIGN OF FEAR by Daniel Williams Washington Post, 14th January DAMASCUS, Syria, Jan. 13 -- Ali Hamaadi, a bookkeeper from the southern Iraqi town of Kufah, remembers being caught not long ago in a rain of little leaflets dropped from on high by an unseen U.S. plane. Uniformed members of a militia called Saddam's Fedayeen quickly cordoned off the neighborhood, he recalled, and began collecting the papers as if they were winning lottery tickets. "I didn't dare pick one up," Hamaadi said at the home of a friend in Damascus. "I didn't even glance up or down. It would mean execution for sure." Hamaadi was sipping tea with a half-dozen Iraqi visitors and refugees who have trickled across the border in recent weeks. Some came to avoid a war they think is inevitable. Others came for medical care, and a few to see relatives among the estimated 400,000 Iraqis, including Kurds, who have taken up residence in Syria over the past two decades. They brought tales of increased vigilance by President Saddam Hussein's multi-layered Baath Party observation corps, militia members and police officers, all tasked to keep an eye on the restive Shiite Muslim population in Iraq's southland. The Shiites, many of them poor and dissatisfied, make up the majority of Iraq's 24 million inhabitants. Beyond the thousands of U.S. troops poised for a possible invasion, the Shiites constitute the greatest potential threat to Hussein's grip on power. Shiites rose up against the government in 1991. They were encouraged by Iraq's swift defeat in Kuwait and the call of President George Bush to rebel. But the United States, with jets, helicopters and troops within striking distance, declined to support the revolt. Hussein's loyal military units assaulted Shiite towns and villages, hunted rebels down and crushed the revolt. Memories of American timidity 12 years ago were strong among the visitors from Kufah. This time, they said, Shiites will think twice before exposing themselves. "When we are sure that Saddam's security apparatus has collapsed, we will arise," Hamaadi said, "but not before." The visitors were wary of speaking to a reporter. Those who said they might return to Iraq before war breaks out feared reprisals. Others had relatives inside the country and did not want their names in print. Their accounts of life in Kufah are difficult to verify. But in Damascus, they spoke about subjects that their compatriots in Iraq would steer clear of when speaking with reporters in the habitual company of government guides. Even in the seclusion of an anonymous cinder-block house on the outskirts of Damascus, they were cautious. Why these detailed questions? Why the desire to know about security matters? Aren't our opinions enough? "The Syrians don't ask these questions when we come to the border. Why do you?" asked one. Kufah lies 10 miles northeast of Najaf, a major Shiite religious center. Najaf is the burial place of Ali, the Shiite martyr whose battle with Sunnism precipitated the major Islamic schism, and Kufah is where he was killed. The Shiite-Sunni split is one of Iraq's defining divisions. Sunni Muslims have traditionally formed the core of Iraq's ruling elite. Many Iraqis regard Hussein as a defender of Sunni prerogatives. One traveler from Kufah, a retired government employee, ventured that "Saddam is finished." However, he added, the Iraqi leader is trying hard "to ingratiate himself with the people." Fees on permits to leave the country have been slashed and rations of flour, beans, lard, sugar and rice increased in recent months. A prisoner amnesty last fall was regarded by the Kufah residents as a travesty. They said the government released only common criminals. Relatives of political inmates, they said, continue to line up at government offices to inquire about the fate of their kin. Officials from Human Rights Watch have received similar reports. In Kufah, Baathist officials routinely visit private homes to count heads, the visitors here said, carrying notebooks full of names and asking where everyone is. They occasionally draft at least one male member of a family for two months' service in the Jerusalem Army, a militia created two years ago. "They put us there just to make us think we are fighting for Palestine," said a bookstore owner. Recovery of Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state is a pan-Arab rallying cry. "Everyone will run when the bombs fall," the bookseller continued. "This is just a way Saddam tries to keep us busy." The recruits are taught to use a gun, but no one gets to take a weapon home. Uniformed, salaried members of Saddam's Fedayeen patrol the streets. Residents volunteer, "but only to get something to eat," the bookseller said. The visitors from Kufah said they listen to foreign radio broadcasts at night -- either the BBC Arabic service or Radio Sawa, the U.S.-funded news and music station. "The rhetoric on Sawa is not bad, but it won't make us American," Hamaadi said. He and the others are loyal to Dawa, a Shiite resistance organization inside Iraq. It is reputed to have a large, clandestine following. Dawa boycotted the recent exile conference in London on grounds that many of the exile leaders were American puppets. The U.S. government has been leery of Dawa because of its association with Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite movement that the State Department has listed as a terrorist organization. A Dawa official in Damascus said his organization has no "working relationship" with Hezbollah. In any case, Dawa is lying low in advance of the expected U.S. invasion, the official said. The invasion is unnecessary, he argued, because Iraqis could overthrow Hussein if U.S. bombers would pin his troops in their barracks for a time. He rejected the prospect of U.S. military rule in Iraq. "This idea shows a misunderstanding of Iraqi feelings," he said. "We don't want anyone's occupation." The Dawa official said about 60 of his relatives are jailed in Iraq. He expects many Iraqis will be tempted to carry out vendettas against pro-Hussein activists should the government collapse. "Only against criminals, of course" he took pains to say. "Many people only cooperate with Saddam in order to get by. No one wants killing for killing's sake." The retired government employee piped in with an exception. "There was a Baathist who hit me on the head with a rifle butt because I didn't know where my brother was. He, I will kill." http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20030113/od_uk_nm/oukoe_ir aq_singer_1 * POPSTAR'S LOVE LIFE TAKES IRAQIS MINDS OFF WAR TALK by Andrew Hammond Yahoo, 13th January BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqis are finding a brief respite from talk of impending war in the tangled love-life of the country's most famous entertainment export in the Arab world. The United States is threatening to invade Iraq to remove President Saddam Hussein over the country's alleged weapons of mass destruction programme. But the media in Iraq and the rest of the Arab world is abuzz with reports that popular Iraqi singer Kazem al-Saher has left his Iraqi first wife for another woman. Newspaper sales rose on the news and tongues are wagging in Baghdad, where the heartthrob no longer lives and access to the lively Arabic entertainment media is limited. "He married her in Paris," said one woman in a fashion boutique in the affluent Karrada district of Baghdad. "No, but she's Spanish," her companion chirped in. "Anyhow he's free to do what he wants." "No, no," frowns Walid Khaled, who works in one of a chain of music shops owned by Saher's family. "It's not true." Government paper al-Jumhouriya, sounding displeased at the news, asked Saher to make a public statement. "We will reserve judgement on whether to believe it until Saher decides whether it is true, or that he will not take a second wife," it said. The singer, known for pop videos featuring dozens of dancing women, has been based in Cairo with his Iraqi wife and two sons since making it big outside Iraq in the mid-1990s. But at home, Saher is still idolised. "Kazem is everything for people here. He speaks to everyone in his songs and he is very humble. He is an ambassador for Iraq," Khaled said. "People are wishing and praying he will come back," he said of the romantic balladeer, who last year had a song ranked number six in a BBC worldwide music poll of favourite songs. Newsagent Abbad Jassem said interest in Saher's love escapades outside Iraq had increased sales of entertainment papers and magazines, such as the weekly al-Maw'id. "When there is news about Kazem in the paper it sells three times as many copies as normal," he said. On sale for the equivalent of 25 U.S. cents, the weekly offers translations of reports in Egyptian, Lebanese and Gulf magazines that don't make it into the country or sell at prices which only the rich can afford. But not everyone was bothered by the reports. "I heard people talking about it. But I don't care. I didn't have any reaction at all," said Soad, a veiled woman shopping in Karrada. http://www.iht.com/articles/83194.html * FORBIDDEN FRUIT: IRAQ DATES HIT BY WAR AND SANCTIONS by Neil MacFarquhar International Herald Tribune, from The New York Times, 14th January BASRA, Iraq: The hundreds of packages of dates stacked on the concrete floor and metal shelves of the venerable Al-Moosawi Co. are remarkable for one curious absence. The label does not mention that they are Iraqi. The brand itself, "Dubai Dates," is misleading enough, but the name "United Arab Emirates" runs up one side of the package decorated with a drawing of a date bouquet. Anyone handling the packages - and their predominantly Russian labels signal their ultimate destination - would have no idea they were grown around this southern port city. That is the whole point, of course. Iraqis resort to subterfuge to avoid United Nations sanctions preventing exports of a product once viewed as more desirable than even the country's crude oil. The UN bans all exports from Iraq except under the oil-for-food program. "Nobody wants to hear about anything called Iraqi dates or, for that matter, about anything made in Iraq," lamented Fathi Atallah Raja, the Baghdad spokesman for the Iraqi Date Processing Marketing Co., a semiprivate collective that handles all sales. To a certain extent, the story of Iraq's dates mirrors the Iraqi experience since Saddam Hussein assumed control of the country. What was once a thriving industry finds itself inexorably fading after 23 years filled with war, economic sanctions and a negligence driven by the pursuit of industrial development and other, more lethal projects. Iraqis crow that the reputation of their dates was once such that Americans set sail with a whole shipload of date palm saplings to plant in California in the 1930s. Exports of Iraqi dates spanned the globe. War wrought the first devastation. Millions of trees in what Iraq boasts was once the largest date forest in the world, on the Fao Peninsula, just south of here, were either burned or felled by shrapnel during the raging battles of the 1980-88 war with Iran. What were once majestic stands of palms are gone, replaced by a stunted, nightmarish landscape of decimated trunks and blackened stumps. The former population of 16 million date palms around Basra is now estimated at 3 million. The Gulf War also took its toll, with a mysterious outbreak of disease afterward that some blame on depleted uranium shells. Iraqi scientists identified the disease as a fungus, fusarium, that attacks the crown of the tree, causing it to topple and leaving the flaccid trunk weirdly twisted. It is known around here as Mad Palm Disease. "The heart of the palm turns from white to black and it creates a bad smell," said Abbas Mahdi Jassim, director of the Center for the Study of Date Palms at the University of Basra. "We link it with the war because we didn't know this disease before." The only way found to prevent the spread has been to fell the trees and burn them. Jassim, who earned a doctorate in horticulture from Kansas State University in 1988, is trying to regenerate tens of thousands of trees through tissue culture in test tubes. On several occasions, the chemically intensive process has attracted the attention of UN weapons inspectors trying to determine whether the medium in which the tiny sprouts grow might have a more sinister use. Dates have long been a staple around the region's deserts - they are rich in minerals and vitamins and last for months without refrigeration. The Koran includes 18 mostly laudatory references to dates. The official date encyclopedia lists 627 varieties in Iraq, and everyone champions a favorite. Great nostalgia for the finest Iraqi dates lingers throughout the Arab world. A Saudi household wishing to show a guest particular honor will bring out a basket of the exquisite Barhi variety, now cultivated there. Egyptians of a certain age, when hearing that a traveler is going to Iraq, will urge, "Bring back dates." Growers in the Emirates and Saudi Arabia have bred millions of Iraqi date palms, becoming the main suppliers of the finer varieties that have all but disappeared in Iraq. Growers here sniff that others can never replicate the combination of conditions that give Iraqi dates their luscious, chewy quality. "Sure other countries can grow the trees, but the dates of Basra have a special taste," boasted Sayid Abdel Rida Moosawi, the patriarch of the clan that founded Basra's first date processing factory in 1959. Moosawi rails against what he calls American piracy in the Gulf, stopping Iraqi products like dates - exports are now less than one-fifth what they were before the Iran-Iraq war. http://www.iht.com/articles/83341.html * GROUND UNDER SADDAM'S HEEL, SOUTHERN CLANS ARE SEETHING by Neil MacFarquhar International Herald Tribune, from The New York Times, 15th January KARBALA, Iraq:The Shiite Muslim clan that oversees the gilded shrine of Abbas, where officials of Iraq's ruling Ba'ath Party were hanged during the rebellion against President Saddam Hussein after the last Gulf war, decided recently that Iraq's ruler might need reassurance that no sequel was under consideration. So 50 of them sent him an oversize petition written with their blood. "We declare that we will volunteer to defend our victorious Iraq and its holy land," read the flowing, five-centimeter (two-inch) high maroon script in part. "We give you our commitment as loyal men to stand behind the banner of 'God is Great,' to stand against the evil West, the infidels and international Zionism." Ever since that last uprising, Saddam has tried to buttress his popularity across southern Iraq, the heartland of the country's 55 percent majority Shiites. The region holds vast oil fields and Iraq's limited gateway to the sea and is generally considered his most vulnerable point in the event of an American-led invasion. On one hand, Saddam has bestowed favors, donating, for example, gold and silver to slather across the domes of the Shiites' holiest tombs. Meanwhile, senior clergyman deemed insufficiently subservient have either died under mysterious circumstances or disappeared. The south of Iraq bears a passing resemblance to its famous shrines: golden accolades to the government shimmer on the surface; underneath, everyone suspects, are the cracks and the festering wounds of a population who feels that its time is long overdue. Given that the first President Bush encouraged the Shiites to rebel after the last war and then left them to be slaughtered, there may be some initial hesitancy, but once assured that a real change of power is under way, the expected uprising of the south could prove more sweeping than the last. "The Shiites want more power, want their religious authorities to be autonomous," said a Western envoy in Baghdad. "There is no question that this area represents the most dangerous threat to the regime." Some analysts believe that Iraqi forces would move faster to try to quell any rebellion in the south than they would against an allied invasion. The governors across the south have been changed recently and are called to Baghdad for frequent security meetings, diplomats report. In October, Saddam summoned all the tribal leaders in the area to his palace and placed a Koran between their hands, ordering them to swear not to allow a repeat of the 1991 rebellion, according to opposition sources interviewed in London. There is some concern that the potential scale of any uprising could rip Iraqi society apart. "What happened in the spring of 1991 was a civilian slaughter that had nothing to do with human rights," said Wamidh Nadhmi, a professor of political science at Baghdad University. "Ba'athist officials were murdered or burned alive." "If there was something like that now it means more bloodshed inside Iraq between Iraqis," he said. "It means both sides are using absolute violence to try to conquer the other." The 1991 rebellion was sparked by soldiers retreating from Kuwait. The utter lack of communications within the country, whether radio or television broadcasts, gave them the sense that Saddam was no longer in control. The rebels deployed inside the holiest tombs in Shiite Islam. In Najaf, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of here, they took over the tomb of Ali, Mohammed's cousin and son-in-law. His son Hussein and his half-brother Abbas have similar shrines just a few hundred yards apart in Karbala; their deaths here in 680 prompted the schism that led to the creation of the Shiite branch of the faith. (Saddam had his family chart redrawn to prove he is their descendant.) The rebels used an underground prayer room in the Abbas Mosque to hang 20 to 30 local leaders of the Ba'ath Party. Tanks rumbled into the holy cities to retake the shrines, blasting holes in the domes and tearing the heavy cedar doors off the hinges. Reporters who visited the city shortly afterward said blackened corpses lay in the streets. The mosques have been repaired. A pleasant, far wider, palm-lined plaza now links the shrines of Hussein and Abbas. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims visit yearly, including some 5,000 a week from Iran under Iraq's attempts at détente with its neighbors. Officials around here also seem to suffer from a certain amnesia when it comes to those events. In the immediate aftermath, the officers who helped retake the city admitted that the rebels were soldiers. The accepted version now holds that Iranian saboteurs with perhaps a few Iraqi deserters used the confusion of the time to infiltrate the border and sow havoc. "I would like to explain to you that in 1991, the Iraqi people did not participate in the violence," said Ahmed Jawad Hassan, the assistant guardian of the Abbas Mosque, talking over glasses of sweet tea surrounded by huge backlighted pictures of Saddam. Mosques are usually devoid of pictures in the Middle East but Saddam's are even hung on the shrine. Residents interviewed in the presence of an official from the Ministry of Information tend to say they were out of town during the uprising. "The community did not achieve anything from these events," said one such man selling pastries across from the Hussein mosque. "Stores and houses were looted, the water and electricity were cut off. I hope nothing like that ever happens again." The 1991 uprising spread even to tiny hamlets, where rebels burned police stations, government identification card centers and other official buildings. In Baghdad, a man from Karbala, speaking out of earshot of any official, predicted mayhem. All that it will take for the entire Shiite population to rise up, he suggested, will be word that the scion of a venerated clerical family, the Ayatollah Mohammed Bakir Hakim, has landed somewhere in the south. The ayatollah, whose family was driven into exile, leads the Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Resolution in Iraq, an opposition group based in Iran. "Don't get me wrong, people respect Saddam as a strong guy, with a brave heart," said the man, wading into the kind of statement that could easily lead to his arrest. "But they are much more aware of who he is now than they were 10 years ago. Now they know he is a criminal. So any uprising will be much bigger this time." That higher awareness is attributable in no small part to the continued death and disappearance of respected clergymen, many under mysterious circumstances. To begin with, about 105 senior clerics and other religious scholars disappeared in the immediate aftermath of the 1991 uprising. The UN Commission for Human Rights has documented a series of incidents as of June 2001 in which high-ranking clerics died mysteriously, mostly in auto accidents or assassinations. NORTHERN IRAQ/SOUTHERN KURDISTAN http://biz.yahoo.com/rm/030112/iraq_kurds_petrol_1.html * IRAQ GOVERNMENT CUTS PETROL SUPPLIES TO KURDS Yahoo, 12th January SULAYMANIYAH, Iraq, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Iraq's government has cut off petrol supplies to the breakaway Kurdish-run north of the country, Kurdish officials said, sending prices soaring and ordinary Kurds rushing to stock up on fuel. The officials said they did not know why the fuel supplies, brought across the front lines between Iraqi government troops and the Kurdish north in tankers, car fuel tanks and gerry cans, had been shut off for a second day on Sunday. But the move comes amid U.S. preparations for a possible war in Iraq over Baghdad's alleged weapons of mass destruction, with thousands of American troops being despatched to the Gulf. The apparent embargo points up the fragility of the Kurds' de facto autonomy from Baghdad won when U.S. and British planes began enforcing a no-fly zone over the area in 1991 after Iraqi troops put down an uprising against President Saddam Hussein. Aside from a small oilfield in the east of the area and a converted refinery near the city of Sulaymaniyah which once refined sugar, north Iraq's three million Kurds rely almost entirely on supplies brought from the government-held region. Pump prices had more than quadrupled on Sunday compared with before the blockade, some petrol stations closed down altogether for lack of fuel while long queues formed at others as drivers sought to fill up while they could. One Kurdish official in the city of Sulaymaniyah, in the east of the rugged enclave, said petrol had been cut off before due to wrangling over prices with Baghdad. Iraqi Kurds would join other opposition groups in running the country under U.S. scenarios for a post-Saddam Iraq should a U.S.-led invasion topple the present government. The Kurds played a leading role in mustering opposition parties in a conference in London last month and are due to host a further meeting of leaders opposed to Saddam near the eastern city of Arbil later this month. http://biz.yahoo.com/rm/030113/iraq_kurds_petrol_1.html * IRAQ GOVERNMENT RESTORES PETROL TO BREAKAWAY KURDS Yahoo, 13th January SULAYMANIYAH, Iraq, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Iraq's government resumed petrol supplies to the country's breakaway northern Kurdish region on Monday after halting them at the weekend. "Iraqi government officials said it was for technical reasons," said a spokesman for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which controls the eastern half of the mountainous area. The Kurdistan Democratic Party, which runs the western half, said the government periodically disrupted supplies to maintain its own strategic supplies. As the United States prepares for a possible war in Iraq, Iraq's Kurds have played a leading role in mustering opposition parties in a conference in London last month. They are also due to host a further meeting of leaders opposed to President Saddam Hussein near the eastern city of Arbil later this month. The short-lived fuel stoppage demonstrated the fragility of the Kurds' de-facto autonomy from Baghdad rule, won when U.S. and British planes began to enforce a no-fly zone over the area in 1991, after Iraqi troops quashed an uprising against Saddam. The Iraqi government has long profited from petrol and diesel sold to the two Kurdish parties which control the mountainous north as a way to get around U.N. sanctions. The fuel is brought across the front lines between Iraqi government troops and the Kurdish north in tankers, car fuel tanks and jerrycans, generating a vital source of income for many on both sides of the divide. Aside from a small oil field in the east of the region and a converted refinery near the city of Sulaymaniyah which once refined sugar, northern Iraq's three million Kurds are almost entirely reliant on supplies brought from the government-held region. http://www.gulf-news.com/Articles/news.asp?ArticleID=73823 * ANSAR ISSUES CHEMICAL WAR THREAT by Damien McElroy Gulf News, from Daily Telegraph, 13th January Mullah Mohammed Hasan, the new leader of Ansar Al Islam, a radical Taliban-style mini state in Northern Iraq where ricin and other chemical agents have been tested as potential weapons, has vowed to use his arsenal to fight America and its allies if a war is launched against Saddam Hussain. Ansar has also given shelter to Abu Musaab Al Zarqawi - the Al Qaida quartermaster responsible for planning the terrorist group's attacks - in its camps, according to Kurdish officials in the area. The group has told recent visitors to its enclave that it holds stocks of the deadly chemical agents ricin, cyanide gas and aflatoxin. Some of its weapons are what the group calls "spoils of war'' - stocks captured as it has expanded the territory under its control - while others, thought to include chemical agents, have been smuggled into the enclave from Iraq, almost certainly with Saddam's blessing. Its threat last week to use this arsenal against American-led invasion forces fighting the Saddam regime could seriously disrupt the Pentagon's plan for a battle front pushing south from the Turkish border - either by direct chemical attack on American troops or by diverting Kurdish fighters, hostile to the Iraqi dictator, into a backyard battle against an Islamic enemy. Baghdad lost control of the three Kurdish provinces of northern Iraq after the domestic uprising set off by Iraq's 1991 defeat in Kuwait. The region has been ruled since then by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), two anti Saddam factions that adhere to a moderate interpretation of Islam. The mountainous tracts near the border with Iran have traditionally held to a strict religious way of life, however, and Iraqi Kurds from these villages were recruited to al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan in the late 1990s. On their return home to PUK territory, they merged a variety of radical organisations into the Ansar movement in 2001 and established their breakaway anti-PUK enclave. Following the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, scores of Arab Al Qaida fighters have joined them after escaping through Iran. Saddam is believed to have been secretly supporting the Ansar enclave with money and military assistance because they share an enemy in the PUK. The Sunday Telegraph reported last year that members of his Republican Guard had been seen in two Ansar-run villages by Western intelligence officials on a reconnaissance mission. Ansar's founder, Mullah Fatih Kraker, was arrested in Holland last September, but the group has continued to grow rapidly and now has 2,000 fighters, compared with fewer than 600 six months ago - many of them Arabs who fled from Afghanistan. "If America invades Iraq, we will attack its troops,'' Hasan told the Turkish journalist Namik Durukan, who was smuggled into the Ansar "capital'', Biyare, last week. "Our relations with others is based on their attitude to God. If they are against our God, we will attack them.'' Durkan reported seeing hundreds of foreign fighters in the region. "Bearded warriors with arms on their backs walk in the streets with their children, followed by their wives wearing the chador,'' he said. "They say they have come for jihad and a government that rules with sharia.'' A sprawling wooden mosque complex dominates the centre of the town from where the mullahs of the radical Islamic group are spreading a reign of terror across the eastern part of the Kurdish territory. From Ansar's stronghold on the Sharazoor Plains, its fighters have moved across the Shineray mountains to capture dozens of villages, where they have imposed the strict rules of the Sharia. The strategic passes into the mountains, which are pockmarked with caves and ravines, command access to the Iran-Iraq border. Ansar territory is guarded by units equipped with mortars, heavy machineguns and rocket launchers. The area has been described as an Iraqi Tora Bora, the mountainous stronghold where Al Qaida made its last stand in Afghanistan. Much of Ansar's stock of chemicals was smuggled in by Abu Wa'il, a former agent of the Iraqi secret service, Mukhabarat; his present whereabouts are unknown. He provided the logistics for smuggling from Saddam-controlled areas, and the funding to acquire weapons and materials, almost certainly with Baghdad's approval. Kurdish officials say that Ansar is experimenting with chemical weapons on animals and humans. Since the arrival of Al Zarqawi, Ansar has dispatched at least one team of would be suicide bombers, wearing tailored waistcoats studded with TNT, in a failed attempt to assassinate a Kurdish leader. The devastating effects of chemical weapons are well known in the area. At the foot of the mountains lies the city of Halabja which suffered an Iraqi chemical weapon attack in 1988. Residents are now afraid that a second batch of deadly poisons will descend from the mountains, this time from the radical Islamic group. "Ansar has taken chemical weapons left over from the Iran-Iraq war,'' said Mohammed Aziz, a Kurdish official in Halabja. "We feel the pressure of waiting in fear that they will throw chemicals on us again and hell will return.'' Behind the Shineray range, the valley's civilian life has been extinguished. Even villages nominally controlled by the PUK fear the spread of the mullahs' rule. The fighters of the PUK, expected to be a Washington ally, are engaged in a desperate battle to contain Ansar but Mullah Mohammad claims that his group has killed 1,000 Kurdish peshmerga - mountain fighters - since last year. "We have the videos of hundreds of dead PUK,'' Mullah Mohammad boasted. "We slit their throats and leave them on the roads for the PUK to come and bury them.'' http://www.kurdistanobserver.com/ * KIRKUK: IRAQ'S NORTHERN TINDERBOX by Scott Peterson Kurdistan Observer, from The Christian Science Monitor, 13th January BARDA KAROMAN CAMP, (Southern Kurdistan) - During the day, the expelled Kurdish family can barely fit inside their makeshift A-frame tent, with its paper-thin tarp covering. They fit better at night, when all eight members of the Karem family squeeze together like cordwood on the stone-cold floor, huddled close under eight thick woolen blankets. These Iraqi Kurds are among the latest to be forced from the northern oil city of Kirkuk, as part of Saddam Hussein's long-standing "Arabization" campaign. Its aim is to ethnically cleanse Kirkuk and make it an Arab city. Kirkuk looms large for US strategic planners because Kurds like the Karems claim the city - and its wealth - as their historical heritage. But Turkey warns that any attempt by Iraqi Kurds to seize control of Kirkuk - as they did briefly during a 1991 uprising - will spark a Turkish military reaction. Turkey announced last week that it has boosted its military strength inside northern Iraq to 12,000 troops, with armor. It is concerned that any increase of Kurdish sovereignty in northern Iraq will prompt unrest among Turkish Kurds. But it's the determination of Kurdish families - some 100,000 ethnic Kurds and Turkmen were expelled from Kirkuk during the past three decades - that is expected to present a key challenge to any American occupation of Iraq. "In the night I can't sleep, because I worry about my children," says mother Hamdiya Abdulrahman Karem, standing outside her tent home just inside the border of the Kurdish controlled territory of northern Iraq. Kirkuk is the likely fulcrum of US military plans for deployment in northern Iraq. The area is one of two leading Iraqi oil sites with more than 10 billion barrels of proven reserves, analysts say. But competing claims to the city by Kurds, Turkmen, and Turkey - complicated further by decades of enforced demographic change by Iraqi governments - promise to entangle US forces. "If the Kurds wake up one morning and find that Iraqi military checkpoints aren't there, they will be back in Kirkuk in a matter of minutes," says John Fawcett, an Iraq expert and author of a recent Brookings Institution report on displaced people in Iraq. "It could be a race for Kirkuk ... that is prone to agent provocateur attacks," Mr. Fawcett says. "It wouldn't take too much to get Kurds fighting each other, Kurds fighting Turkmen, Turkmen calling in the Turks, and whatever remains of the Iraqi military. "It could be quite a distraction for an invading army," Fawcett adds. "I'm not absolutely confident that these scenarios have been thought through in US military circles." Despite Turkey's warnings about Kirkuk, the Kurds aren't backing down. "Kirkuk is an important issue for us - it embodies the suffering of Kurds and the most brutal ethnic cleansing," says Barham Salih, prime minister of one of two main Kurdish factions in northern Iraq. "Kurds can't feel safe in Iraq until the historical injustice of Kirkuk is redressed. Iraq can't be at peace without reversing ethnic cleansing." Mr. Salih says it is "naive to think it can be solved by force only." But establishing justice after so many years of forced population shifts can be a minefield for outsiders, as the examples of Bosnia and Kosovo attest. "Some people have been away from their ancestral homes for up to 30 years or more - do they have the same rights as those who were moved out of a home in Kirkuk last week?" says Michael Amitay, director of the Washington Kurdish Institute. The "Arabization" of Kirkuk is only one facet in a much broader policy that Baghdad has used to control this oil-rich and fertile land, while trying to crush opposition among populations embittered by Mr. Hussein's repressive rule. An estimated 800,000 Kurds were forced to move from 4,000 villages blown up and bulldozed in northern Iraq during Baghdad's Anfal campaign of 1988. UN and human rights groups put the death toll at upwards of 100,000; poisonous gas was used against scores of Kurdish villages. In southern Iraq, Shia Muslims who make up the majority of Iraq's population have been hardest hit, with the draining of marshes and brutal tactics - including assassination of key leaders - resulting in some 200,000 displaced. In the north, the last census of Kirkuk thought to be accurate was taken in 1957. It showed Turkmen with a plurality in Kirkuk city, and Kurds with a plurality in the wider province. Arabs are now in the majority throughout - creating a potentially explosive mix. It is widely believed that "as soon as the battle begins, Arabs and others who have been resettled in Kirkuk will see. the writing on the wall and get out of town," says Mr. Amitay, who notes that most Arabs left during the brief Kurdish seizure in 1991. The collapse of the Kurdish uprising then caused another exodus of up to 1.5 million Kurds, who fled to Turkey and Iran. But while dislocation is part of life here, that doesn't ease the predicament of the Karem family. They lived on edge in Kirkuk for many years, and watched many Kurdish neighbors be forcibly evicted. "The police came to our house and told us to go six times, but we refused. Finally they said: 'If you do not go tomorrow, we will capture you and put you in prison,' " says Mrs. Abdulrahman. The family piled their possessions and six children into a truck, and - steeped in anger - left the five-room house where they had lived for 21 years. Now wood is stacked for winter burning beside this flimsy tent; the youngest son, Mohamed, plays with a bent and rusty nail. But the forced departure is a mixed blessing, since here they are free of Hussein's regime. "The balance is between living in a big house and being afraid, or in a tent and living in peace," Abdulrahman says. "We worried for our lives there, about security, about our father and [older] brother. If they were arrested, we would be alone," echoes daughter Scala Hassan Hamid, 18, who notes that the men were pressured to join Hussein's "Jerusalem" militia force. "The big change here is that now I have freedom." "All of us are waiting for the US to attack Iraq, and finish with this regime," says Hidayet Fayaz, a camp resident. "If the Americans attack Iraq, all of us will become guerrillas to liberate our city." Which is what US planners are worried may happen. A tripartite agreement between the US, Iraqi Kurds, and Turkey could stem a bloody result, though even if one were brokered, that "doesn't mean things can't go wrong very, very quickly," says Iraq expert Fawcett, who visited northern Iraq last fall. ' Kirkuk presents a double challenge for American forces. "It's not just how you fight and win the war - I'm sure they've thought through virtually everything on that. But how do you deal with the population bomb? How do you adjudicate disputes?" asks Fawcett. Preserving official documents in Kirkuk - from birth and land ownership records, to lists of who was forced out and who was moved in - will be key to preventing future headaches. But that's a tall order for soldiers who will be expected to wage war at the same time. "It's very tricky, and we've never gotten it right in any of these interventions; we've always screwed it up," Fawcett says. Unless American forces establish an "adjudication process that has some rule of law to it, rather than rule of the Kalishnikov ... the US military is going to be sitting there [imposing] martial law for some time." http://www.tehrantimes.com/Description.asp?Da=1/14/03&Cat=9&Num=7 * DELICATE IRAQI KURD NOTES BATTER MIGHTY U.S. DOLLAR Tehran Times, 14th January SULAYMANIYAH, Iraq -- In time of war the U.S. dollar is usually a safe haven, but in Iraqi Kurdistan the greenback is taking a battering from tattered and torn banknotes not recognized by any state. Kurdish currency dealers packed into the concrete stairwell that serves as the foreign exchange market in the northern Iraqi city of Sulaymaniyah shout the latest prices, waving one arm wildly and nursing bundles of cash in the other, Reuters reported. As each scrap of news comes in suggesting their country may be edging closer to war, the dollar slips further on the market. The rise of the local "Swiss dinar" as it is known, has been driven by a shortage of notes and a perception that it will become Iraq's new currency after a U.S.-led war. Warnings by experts that it may simply be scrapped have fallen on deaf ears. "Our dinar is strong, because America is going to attack Saddam," said dealer Bestoon referring to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. "When Saddam leaves, the economy will improve." Kurdish currency dealers take it for granted that Washington would quickly win any war with Baghdad and they are pretty sure they would remain safe from harm. "There won't be any problem here," said Muhammad, clutching a fistful of dinars. "No one here is afraid." The Kurds of northern Iraq broke from Baghdad's rule after the 1991 Persian Gulf war protected by a U.S. and British no-fly zone which stops Saddam's forces attacking them from the air. And when in the wake of that war, the Baghdad government changed their banknotes, the Kurds stuck firmly to the old ones printed in Switzerland and known locally as "Swiss dinars". Then the "Swiss" dinar stood at 90 to the dollar, by 1995 it was around 45, in the two years before the September 11 attacks it traded between 17 and 19, last July it stood at 15, a month ago it was 10, on Sunday it was down to just over seven. Loath to anger neighboring states who might see it as a step towards statehood and not sure of public acceptance, Kurdish authorities have so far avoided printing new notes, but no banknotes, even top quality Swiss ones, last forever. The blue 10 dinar and brown five dinar notes are now all at least 10 years old; grubby and dog-eared, many are simply falling apart. "This situation has nothing to do with any financial principle," said Adnan Mufti, the foreign affairs representative for one half of the Kurdish-run enclave and until two months ago economy minister. Everyone expected change in Iraq, he said. "They believe, in my opinion wrongly, the Swiss dinar will become the new currency, so they are all changing their savings from dollars into dinars and taking even more dinars out of circulation." http://newsobserver.com/24hour/world/story/716951p-5262639c.html * IRAQI FUNDAMENTALIST LEADER DEPORTED FROM THE NETHERLANDS by Toby Sterling News & Observer, 14th January AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) - The Dutch government has deported to Norway the Kurdish leader of an Iraq-based Islamic fundamentalist group believed to have ties to al Qaida, a Justice Ministry spokesman said Monday. Mullah Krekar, head of the radical Ansar al-Islam, has been in detention in the Netherlands for four months, and was scheduled to begin hearings next week on an extradition request by Jordan on drug charges. But the Dutch Minister of Defense decided personally to reject the extradition request and deport Krekar after Jordanian prosecutors failed to define exactly which laws he had broken, said Victor Holtus, a justice ministry spokesman. "When it became clear those answers weren't coming, and faced with the probability that without this vital information, Krekar would probably be set free, (Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner) made the decision to send him to Norway," Holtus said. He said that the Norwegian government had agreed to the move, and that Krekar would be taken into custody on arrival. He said Norwegian investigators are carrying out their own investigation of Krekar, but declined to elaborate. Krekar, who was born Najm al-Din Faraj Ahmad, is leader of a group of 500 to 600 Islamic militants in the mountains of northern Iraq that is on the U.S. government's list of terrorist organizations. Krekar was arrested at the airport outside Amsterdam on Sept. 12, after Iran had denied him entry and sent him back to Europe, tipping off western governments that he was on his way. After his detention, Norway said it would revoke Krekar's refugee status and FBI agents interrogated him on Ansar al-Islam's alleged links to al-Qaida. NO FLY ZONES http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/news/world/4917733.htm * WESTERN PLANES AGAIN ATTACK IRAQI AIR DEFENSES The State, from Reuters, 10th January WASHINGTON - Aircraft taking part in U.S.-British patrols attacked five air defense targets in the "no-fly" zone in southern Iraq on Friday in response to attempts to shoot down the warplanes, the U.S. military said. In Baghdad, an Iraqi military spokesman confirmed there were air strikes but said they hit civilian targets. He said Iraqi air defense units had fired on the planes. The U.S. Central Command said in a statement the attacks were "in response to Iraqi acts against coalition aircraft." They targeted a military command and control site at Tallil and four cable repeater communications targets between al Kut and Basra in the latest in a mounting number of exchanges in the no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq. The attacks occurred at about 3:15 p.m. local time (7:15 a.m. EST), the command said, adding that all aircraft left the area safely. It was the second time in three days that planes had struck cable repeater sites in the south. The Pentagon says fiber optic cables are part of a sophisticated air defense communications network of radars, command posts and anti-aircraft batteries. [.....] http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-542382,00.html * US HITS ANTI-SHIP MISSILE LAUNCHER IN IRAQ by Michael Evans, Defence Editor and Nicholas Blanford in Kuwait City The Times, 14th January THE United States raised the stakes with Baghdad yesterday by attacking an anti-ship missile launcher in southern Iraq within range of US warships in the Gulf. US strike aircraft attacked the launcher site in the southern no-fly zone near Basra with precision-guided bombs. RAF aircraft were not involved. The latest attack on Iraqi weapons systems came as the Ministry of Defence in London announced that a reconnaissance party of about 20 soldiers had arrived in Kuwait to study logistic requirements for British troops if the Government decides to deploy a ground force for a campaign against Iraq. The party from 102 Logistic Brigade, based at Gutersloh in Germany, will stay in Kuwait for about two weeks. Brigadier Shaun Cowlam, commanding officer of the brigade, is leading the party, which is studying locations for a British base. The MoD said that the party would return to Germany after completing its study and would then report on all the requirements for a ground force. After yesterday¹s raid south of Basra, a spokesman for US Central Command said that the anti-ship missile-launcher posed a threat to shipping. The US aircraft carrier, USS Constellation, is operating in the northern Gulf, its FA18 and F14 strike aircraft launching daily flights over Iraq for Operation Southern Watch, the no-fly zone mission. The spokesman indicated that the missile system, believed to be a Chinese-made Silkworm, had been locking on to warship radars at the northern end of the Gulf. The Silkworm has a range of about 60 miles and could hit ships operating in that part of the Gulf. Unlike Iraqi anti-aircraft systems, which have been firing almost daily on American and British aircraft, no Silkworms have been launched against ships. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2003-01/14/content_688639.htm * IRAQ SAYS SIX CIVILIANS WOUNDED IN US-BRITISH BOMBINGS BAGHDAD, Jan. 13 (Xinhuanet) -- US and British warplanes on Monday wounded six Iraqi civilians in their latest bombings in southern Iraq, an Iraqi Air Defence Command spokesman said. The coalition warplanes targeted civil and service installationsin the southern province of Basra, about 480 km southeast of Baghdad, and six civilians were injured by the attack, the officialIraqi News Agency quoted the spokesman as saying. While the US military said the bombing was actually aimed at destroying the anti-ship missile launcher which posed a threat to coalition maritime forces operating in the north Gulf. Basra is located within the so-called southern no-fly zone, parallel to another one in northern Iraq. 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