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[casi] News, 10-15/01/03 (3)

News, 10-15/01/03 (3)


*  Russian warships on standby to sail to Gulf
*  Allies Slow U.S. War Plans
*  Loyal Iraqi troops already training to use chemical weapons: Czech
*  Where the world stands on an invasion of Iraq
*  Ben Bella calls for protests in West
*  Ukraine Denies Selling Bridges to Iraq
*  Attack would end Poland's consular surrogacy: ambassador
*  Patten warns US over aid for Iraq
*  Pope calls the potential war in Iraq 'a defeat for humanity'
*  Thousands of Moroccans march in support of Iraq
*  LUKoil Takes Its Oil Case to Iraq
*  Schroeder to Insist on Anti-War Stance Over Iraq in UN


by Nick Paton Walsh in Moscow
The Guardian, 10th January

Russia has put three warships on standby to go to the Persian Gulf within
the next month to protect its "national interests" in the event of an
American invasion of Iraq.

Russia's Pacific fleet has been ordered by the central command to prepare
two cruisers and a fuel tanker for immediate deployment to the Gulf.

The move will heighten tension between Moscow and Washington, who both have
interests in Iraq's oilfields.

The Marshal Shaposhnikov and the Admiral Panteleyev cruisers would be called
upon to defend Russian "national interests" in the Gulf if the conflict
between Iraq and the US escalates.

The ships - armed with missiles and reconnaissance equipment - have been
ordered to be ready for deployment between late this month and early

Lukoil, Russia's biggest oil firm, had a £13bn contract with Baghdad to
develop the West Qurna oilfield cancelled last month, reportedly after the
Iraqi regime discovered Russia had been negotiating with Iraq's opposition.

Military analysts pointed out that the defence of "national interests" may
also refer to the Russian military's desire to conduct surveillance on both
sides during any conflict.

by Michael Dobbs
Washington Post, 11th January

Over the past week, key U.S. allies have sent an unambiguous message to the
Bush administration to give United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq time
to complete their work, even if it means delaying the onset of hostilities.

The allied opposition to an early war with Iraq has strengthened the hand of
moderates in the administration who have been arguing against setting a firm
deadline for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to comply with demands for
giving up his weapons of mass destruction, according to U.S. officials and
allied diplomats. According to these sources, the odds of a February war
appear to be receding, barring a major Iraqi misstep that would galvanize
Western governments and public opinion.

"The odds have gone down for war," said a well-placed U.S. official. "We
don't have a good war plan; the inspectors have unprecedented access to
Iraq; we have just started giving them intelligence; we have to give them
more time to see how this works. There is no reason to stop the process
until it can't proceed any further."

The apparent relaxation in administration rhetoric contrasts with statements
by President Bush late last year advocating a "zero tolerance" policy toward
Hussein. After weeks of insisting that U.S. forces were poised to intervene
in Iraq if Hussein failed to properly account for his weapons of mass
destruction, administration spokesmen are now echoing their European
counterparts, and saying the inspectors should be given time to do their

Before this week, it appeared that the administration was intent on
orchestrating a final confrontation with Baghdad soon after Jan. 27, when
chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix is due to report back to the Security
Council on Iraqi compliance with international demands for the nation's
disarmament. This coincided with a major U.S. military buildup in the
Persian Gulf region -- putting maximum pressure on Hussein and providing
Bush with a credible military option to back up his threats of "regime

All of a sudden, this timetable seems in doubt. Not only are key allies such
as Britain and France publicly calling for the United Nations to come up
with clear-cut evidence of Iraqi wrongdoing, the military preparations for
an attack on Iraq have encountered a hitch because of delays by Turkey in
agreeing to the two-front North-South war plan developed by the Pentagon.

Although many administration officials believe that Turkey will eventually
go along with "urgent" U.S. requests to station as many as 80,000 troops in
the country in preparation for an attack on northern Iraq, it could take
weeks to conclude the negotiations and move the troops into position. The
lack of a definite response from Ankara has confronted the Bush
administration with the difficult choice of delaying the war or abandoning
plans for a northern front, which could mean higher U.S. casualties.

On the diplomatic front, some of the strongest words of caution have come
from Britain, which until now has played the role of Washington's staunchest
ally in the gathering showdown with Baghdad. British Prime Minister Tony
Blair, who is coming under increasing pressure from his own Labor Party to
distance himself from Bush, told the British cabinet on Thursday that the
weapons inspectors should be given "time and space" to finish their work.

Blair said that the Jan. 27 date for Blix's report to the Security Council
was "an important staging post," but "shouldn't be regarded in any sense as
a deadline," according to British officials.

Both Britain and France want the United States to return to the Security
Council for another resolution to endorse the use of military force against
Hussein and to formally declare Iraq to be in "material breach" of its
disarmament obligations. In order to get such a resolution through the
Security Council, allied diplomats say it will probably be necessary for
Blix to submit an unambiguous report accusing Baghdad of continuing its
weapons of mass destruction programs.

In an interim report to the Security Council on Thursday, Blix criticized
Iraq for failing to provide full information on its weapons programs, but
said inspectors needed more time to compile an accurate picture. He added
that his inspectors had so far failed to find "a smoking gun" demonstrating
Iraqi noncompliance.

French President Jacques Chirac underlined his insistence on the need for
explicit U.N. endorsement of the use of force against Iraq at a meeting with
foreign ambassadors earlier this week. He told the diplomats that any
decision on military action could only be taken by the Security Council "on
a basis of a report from the inspectors." As a permanent member of the
council -- along with the United States, Britain, China and Russia -- France
is in a position to veto Security Council decisions.

Both U.S. officials and allied diplomats said the public signals from London
and Paris urging Washington to give the inspectors more time have been
reinforced in private conversations at all levels. In an interview this
week, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said he was well aware of the
domestic pressures on Blair, who has been accused by left-wing British
newspaper commentators of being "Bush's poodle."

"My job as secretary of state . . . is to listen to our friends and see if
we can find a way to accommodate the positions they bring to us," Powell
said. "Prime Minister Blair and [British Foreign Secretary Jack] Straw are
never shrinking violets when it comes to laying forth the position of her
majesty's government. And we're trying to listen. To characterize Prime
Minister Blair as a poodle is an absolutely absurd and silly charge."

As for the problem posed by the Turkish government's delay in approving the
stationing of U.S. ground troops along the northern border of Iraq, Powell
said, "The Turks are receptive to all the requests we've put before them in
the sense that they have not yet said no to anything." He noted that a new
Turkish parliament is dominated by a moderate Islamic party that has yet to
fully sort out its policies toward the United States. According to polls, an
overwhelming majority of Turks are opposed to joining a U.S.-led war against

The Turkish leaders "are dealing with public opinion; they are dealing with
a new government; they are dealing with a new parliament and a gentleman who
is not yet quite prime minister," Powell said. "And so they have to move at
their own pace."

Powell said that Turkish leaders had indicated to him that it would be
easier to respond to the U.S. requests if there were an "international
consensus" on dealing with Iraq, in the form of a second Security Council
resolution. As the only NATO country bordering Iraq, Turkey is key to U.S.
plans to a two-front war.

Turkish officials said they have agreed in principle to U.S. requests for
overflight rights, and the use of Turkish seaports and air bases. But
opening the country to tens of thousands of U.S. troops poses a more
delicate problem, as the Turkish constitution requires parliamentary
approval for the stationing of foreign troops.

Staff writer Glenn Kessler contributed to this report.

by Patrick Seale
Daily Star, Lebanon, 10th January

It is time to put the question everyone is asking: Will the United States
and Britain attack Iraq? Yes or no? No one - not even the man in the White
House - can yet answer that question with total certainty, but several
indications suggest that the tide may have turned against the war.

Two unforeseen factors outside the Middle East have worked in Iraq's favor.
First, the Washington hawks' argument that Iraq must be disarmed by force
has been punctured by the Bush administration's mild, "diplomatic" response
to North Korea's nuclear weapons program. If the acute danger from
Pyongyang's "real" weapons of mass destruction can be defused and
neutralized by negotiations, surely the dubious threat from Baghdad's
"alleged" weapons can be dealt with in the same way. International public
opinion, not least in the United States, is now reaching this conclusion,
and this must certainly inhibit President George W. Bush from deciding to

The crisis in Venezuela is the second factor no one foresaw. Venezuelan oil
exports have been severely reduced by the six-week-long general strike which
is threatening to bring down the regime of  President Hugo Chavez. If a war
were also to disrupt Iraq's oil exports, the world oil market would lose a
total from both producers of some 5 million barrels daily. Such a large
amount could not be quickly made up by other producers, even if OPEC
increases production. As a result, oil prices, already well over $30 a
barrel, would soar still higher, dealing a severe blow to the already
depressed American and world economies. This factor, too, must cause Bush to

A third factor, perhaps even more important than the other two, is the
growing hostility of British opinion towards the war, as reflected in
Parliament and the press, and in numerous public meetings and interventions
by prominent personalities. George Monbiot, a leading columnist of The
Guardian newspaper, called this week for "a massive, though nonviolent,
campaign of disruption" if Prime Minister Tony Blair decided to take Britain
into war with Iraq.

There has also been a public clash on the subject between two members of the
British cabinet, notably Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who tilts in favor of
a peaceful resolution of the crisis, and his more hawkish colleague, Defense
Minister Geoff Hoon, whose responsibility is to prepare British forces to

In a major foreign policy speech last Tuesday, Tony Blair himself seemed to
signal a retreat from war when he urged President Bush to "listen back" to
the international community's fears over Iraq. He warned of the danger of
"chaos" if the world were split into "rival poles of power; the US in one
corner; anti-US forces in another". He also cited the threat from "pent-up
feelings of injustice and alienation", mentioning in particular not only
poverty and global warming but also the stalled Middle East peace process.

Blair is evidently feeling the need to show some independence from the
United States and to distance himself from the neoconservatives and Zionist
extremists in Washington who are pressing for war. He also wants to reassure
the Europeans, who are largely against the war, of Britain's commitment to
Europe. Blair's speech is important because, without the political backing
of America's most important Western ally, it is doubtful whether Bush would
dare to go to war.

Jack Straw said this week that Britain had always wanted a second Security
Council resolution authorizing military action in the event of an Iraqi
"material breach" of its obligations. He thereby contradicted the United
States, which has made it clear that it does not consider a second
resolution necessary. But the US would nevertheless need international cover
for any action it might choose to take. Having chosen to go the multilateral
route, it could not at this stage act alone.

Moreover, a major American ally such as Germany has reaffirmed its
opposition to war, while France's President Jacques Chirac has said that war
should only be a last resort. The first secretary of France's Socialist
Party, Francois Holland, has said France should use its veto at the Security
Council if the US tried to force through a Resolution authorizing war.
Russia's foreign minister has, in turn, warned the US against unilateral
military action.

In the region, Turkey's Prime Minister Abdullah Gul has completed a tour of
Arab states in which he has sought to assure his hosts that Turkey has no
enthusiasm for war. Parliamentary approval would be needed for any Turkish
participation in military action. Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince
Saud al-Faisal, has said that any provision of facilities to American forces
would be dictated solely by the kingdom's national interests. Syria's
President Bashar Assad has made clear that, in spite of his country's past
differences with Baghdad, he is totally opposed to war. Meanwhile, there
have been anti war and anti-American demonstrations in both Pakistan and

Developments on the ground in Iraq do not seem to point to war. For one
thing, after inspecting more than 200 sites in Iraq, the UN weapons
inspectors have so far failed to discover any trace of weapons of mass

Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector, is due to report to the Security
Council on Jan. 17, and many diplomats are predicting that his report will
be favorable. In other words, there is as yet no pretext to justify military
action against Baghdad.

Meanwhile, however, a contrary message is being sent with the continuing US
military buildup against Iraq, to which Britain is making a small but
significant contribution. As Tony Blair said in his speech this week, "The
price of influence is that we do not leave the US to face the tricky issues
alone." The theory behind the build-up is that Saddam Hussein will agree to
disarm peacefully only when the threat of military action against him is
imminent and wholly credible.

The trouble is that there are those in Washington and Israel who want to go
to war, regardless of whether or not Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.
For them, the weapons issue has been a sideshow. Their wider aims have to do
with American and Israeli regional hegemony, the breaking of Palestinian
resistance to Israeli occupation, and control over oil.

The regional gamble of Ariel Sharon, Israel's hard-line prime minister,
depends on war. If the US attacks Iraq, he will almost certainly seize the
occasion to strike at Hizbullah, and perhaps at Syria as well, and expel or
kill the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, completing the destruction of the
Palestinian Authority.

If Saddam Hussein does not provide a pretext for military action, the
frustration of the hawks in both Washington and Israel will rise to
dangerous levels. It can safely be predicted that they will then start
criticizing Hans Blix and dismissing the work of his weapons inspectors as
incompetent and inadequate. They will accuse Saddam Hussein of deception.
And if necessary, they will seek to manufacture a pretext for war, a not too
difficult task.

Meanwhile, they are trying to provoke the Iraqi leadership to anger, and
perhaps goad it into an impulsive act of hostility, by a campaign of
psychological warfare. Rumors have been floated that Arab leaders are
pressing Saddam Hussein to quit and seek asylum overseas. In view of
Saddam's character and record, this is a wholly unrealistic scenario.

The New York Times this week carried a detailed report, obviously "leaked"
by an official source, outlining American plans for a post-Saddam Iraq. US
military control would be assisted by a civilian administrator, perhaps
designated by the UN. Key officials would be put on trial but people who
helped overthrow the regime would be spared. Although the US would seize the
fields and restart production, oil would remain "the patrimony of the Iraqi
people." Iraq's "territorial integrity" would be preserved, but the American
military would run the country for at least a year and a half.

Such arrogant reports should not be read as a credible blueprint for the
future. They are intended to undermine Iraq's will to resist, and if
possible trigger a coup against Saddam. They reflect the growing nervousness
of the hawks who fear that war might be avoided after all.

The key question now is this: After all his bellicose threats and his call
for "regime change," can Bush now back down and still save face?

Patrick Seale is a veteran Middle East analyst. He wrote this commentary for
The Daily Star,0005.htm

Hindustani Times, 11th January

Agence France-Presse, Prague, January 11: Iraqi troops are already training
in the use of chemical and possibly even biological weapons, Czech Defence
Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik said in an interview published on Saturday in the
Prague daily Dnes.

"Weapons of mass destruction can be hidden easily in such a big country" as
Iraq, he said, adding that this was "going on at this very moment," he said
citing confidential analysis by NATO.

"Even if the UN arms inspectors did not find these weapons, the United
States is convinced that it can justify attacking Iraq on the grounds that
the US Army will find them," he said.

He said there were several possible scenarios for an attack on Iraq,
including an air strike, special units being airlifted in and a massive
ground operation involving hundreds of thousands of soldiers.

Iraqi President "Saddam (Hussein) is a dictator who governs alone in Iraq
and when he is eliminated, the resistance of the Iraqi troops will cease,"
he predicted.

He said it would be best if Saddam were "killed or captured" but if he fled
into exile that "would also give a clear signal for an end to the war."

The United States has asked the Czech Republic to increase its anti-chemical
and biological weapons unit based in Kuwait by another 100 experts before
any military operation is launched against Iraq.

This specialised company, which currently numbers around 250 men, could be
turned into a battalion, Tvrdik said, without indicating what the eventual
strength might be.

The reinforcement of the Czech unit as well as a modification to its mandate
allowing it to travel to other countries than Kuwait will require an
agreement by both houses of parliament.

Both Czech houses of parliament will debate the question on Thursday, the
minister has indicated.,6903,873049,00.html

The Observer, 12th January

United States

The military wheels are already in motion and according to Voice of America
'war plans are laid out for complete annihilation of Iraq via conventional
weapons, or if needed, via nuclear weapons'. George Bush has support from a
majority of the population, shown in a six nation survey in November. The
Princeton Survey Research Associates poll showed 62 per cent of interviewees
favoured taking military action to end Saddam Hussein's rule.


The US has pressured the UN to enable it to interview Iraqi scientists about
Iraq's nuclear capabilities. The dilemma for Saddam Hussein is that if he
allows a scientist out to blow the whistle on a banned weapons programme, it
could lead to war. Any attempt to block their departure, however, would also
be the cause of an all-out conflict. The Iraqi government, which claims it
has destroyed all banned weapons, is now insisting it does not expect any
scientist would volunteer to leave.


India is adamant that the US and Iraq abide by UN resolutions. Although the
country is a trading partner with Iraq and has called for an abolition of
sanctions, ultimately India will back a US-led war. Such a war would have a
worrying effect on the Muslim psyche, with 150 million Muslims residents in
India. Recently the US showed no objections to India's nuclear weapons


Along with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the government of
President Mohammad Khatami (below right) has taken a stand against a US-led
attack. Influential former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said on Friday
'a US installed government could not last long in neighbouring Iraq'. A
fundamentalist Islamic republic, Iran is one of Bush's 'axis of evil'
states. Even so, Tehran has called on Iraq to admit weapons inspectors and
comply with United Nations resolutions.


Defence Minister John McCallum has affirmed support for a US-led war and
says the government may commit forces without UN authorisation. He has
assured US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Canada will be 'militarily
involved' if the Security Council approves an invasion.


The government is 'approaching the point of a decision' on participating in
Iraq. But sources say that Australia will wait until the chief UN weapons
inspector, Hans Blix, delivers his final report on 27 January, before making
a 'commitment to go to war'.


The Chinese are historically suspicious of any US movement in the Middle
East, but seek to improve relations with America and are showing support for
the Security Council vote. They officially back the UN's decisions on the
Iraq situation, but would reluctantly support the US-led war as the people
fear terrorism even more.


While publicly the administration is against a war in Iraq, Defence Minister
Sergei Ivanov has said that multilateral action against Iraq would be
legitimate provided it had UN backing. However oil trading contracts have
been terminated by the Iraqis, lessening the sympathy vote from the


President Jacques Chirac continues to call for a diplomatic solution to the
crisis. He appears to be preparing public opinion for a possible conflict
and recently cautioned military leaders to be prepared for all eventualities
of war. A new survey indicates three-quarters of all French citizens oppose
a war on Iraq.


The government will not support the US in the event of a war with Iraq,
co-operate with the Iraqi opposition or allow the American military to use
Jordanian territory. On 6 January, Prime Minister Ali Abul-Ragheb and
Turkish leader Abdullah Gul expressed deep concern that a US invasion of
Iraq 'will have extremely negative effects on the security and stability of
the region'.


Some fear that tensions between Turks and Kurds could be reignited by a
conflict. On Friday, Prime Minister Abdullah Gul sent a letter to Baghdad
appealing to Iraq to comply with UN resolutions. A survey showed that 83 per
cent of Turks said they would not let the Americans use their bases to
attack Iraq. However, the US is one of Turkey's closest allies, a position
that would be seriously threatened if Turkey did not support the invasion.
America is trying to persuade Turkey to back an attack, and has promised to
assist in its application for EU membership in return.


Israel will support the US if it attacks. In response to Saddam's agreement
to allow weapons inspectors back into the country in September, Foreign
Minister Shimon Peres said 'inspectors and supervision only work with honest
people. Dishonest people know how to overcome this easily.' Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon has threatened to retaliate if Israel is attacked with chemical
or biological weapons. In an interview in December, Sharon said: 'We have
taken all the measures necessary to protect the population of Israel.'


Chancellor Gerhard Schröder took a strong anti-war stand during his campaign
for re election in September 2002, claiming that 'under my leadership
Germany will not take part in a military intervention'. Since then he has
granted US forces the use of German bases and airspace in the event of a
war. Germany will also send missile defence systems to Israel to defend
against attack from Iraq. Schröder cited 'moral and historic reasons' for
helping to protect Israel. Despite this, Schröder maintains an anti-war
stance and Germany will not become involved in military action.

Saudi Arabia

In an interview with the BBC in August, Foreign Minister Prince Saud
al-Faisal condemned the planned war and insisted that Iraq's future must be
determined by the people alone. He later stated that, even if the UN passes
a resolution authorising the use of force, 'we hope a chance will be given
to the Arab states to find a political solution to this issue'.


President Bashar al-Assad has made it clear that, despite his country's past
differences with Baghdad, he is opposed to war. America is putting pressure
on Assad to rein in Hizbollah and Palestinian groups operating within its
borders, something Syria refuses to do.


Pakistanis' allegiance in 'the war on terrorism' is with the US, however
they are reluctant to go to war. There is much anti-US sentiment in
Pakistan's tribal north-west Frontier, where it is reported some fleeing
al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters have found a safe refuge from US forces in
Afghanistan. Gen Pervez Musharraf, right, has shown support to the US's 'war
on terrorism.' He is keen to prevent the conflict in Afghanistan from
spreading to Pakistan, where support for Islamist parties is growing.


Relations between Lebanon and the United States are tense, with disagreement
on a number of issues. America insists that Hizbollah is an international
terrorist organisation, while Lebanon says it is a local party and has no
operations abroad. They also disagree over Israel and Palestine. At a summit
in October Lebanon's Prime Minister, Emile Lahoud, said America was
hypocrital in enforcing UN resolutions in Iraq but not in Israel.


In August, Health Minister Ahmed Ballal Osman expressed his country's
support for Iraq in the event of an attack by America, saying that the
Sudanese 'are standing alongside the Iraqi people in their confrontation
with the American plans'. Sudan supported Iraq during the Gulf War.


Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda has said that although the government
'supports every effort on the disarmament of weapons of mass destruction
through the UN security council... intervention along with disarmament that
targets a regime change in Iraq would be difficult to accept'.


In September 2002, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad suggested that 'we should
take action to lift sanctions' against Iraq once they had agreed to the
resumption of weapons inspections. In an interview in the Daily Telegraph,
Mahathir said of America's treatment of Iraq: 'I don't believe that you
should punish the people of Iraq because you don't like their
leader...Saddam Hussein is not being punished. He's fat, and he is eating
enough food and living in palaces. But his people are punished by denying
them food and medicine.'

United Kingdom

Britain has shown a close allegiance to the US 'war against terror' and has
deployed forces in the Middle East, seemingly starting to prepare for war.
Defence sources have disclosed that the Government has chartered more than
30 ships to transport tanks and heavy guns for a possible invasion and
Ministers are under military pressure to decide what forces should be
deployed. The public are divided. According to one survey, the same
percentage of interviewees opposed joining the US and other allies in action
in Iraq to end Saddam Hussein's rule, as favoured it.

Dawn, 13th January

LONDON, Jan 12: Still a political firebrand at 86, Algerian independence
hero Ahmed Ben Bella wants vast Vietnam-style peace protests in the West to
prevent war against Iraq.

In London for an anti-war meeting, the Arab statesman who was Algeria's
first post independence president called for a wave of protests to unsettle
US and British leaders George Bush and Tony Blair in their military

"We've got to stop Bush and Blair from going ahead with this war. Only the
people can halt their war machine," Ben Bella said in an interview late on

"If the Americans demonstrated like they did for Vietnam, then Bush will
rethink because he will risk losing power." And if a million or more Britons
turned out for a planned Feb 15 rally in London, they would force Blair to
reconsider his crucial support for Bush, Ben Bella argued.

Ben Bella - dubbed the "Arab Fidel Castro" in some left-wing circles -
admitted however that he had little hope war would be stopped.

"I think they have taken their decision, and not for the declared aims. Bush
wants to occupy Iraq to control the oil reserves," Ben Bella said, repeating
a familiar accusation by critics of Washington's threats against Baghdad.

"It is a strategy coming from the oil lobby, the one which his father is
closely connected to. It is not a question of weapons because they still
haven't found anything in Iraq."

Ben Bella, who met President Saddam Hussein last month on his 17th visit to
Iraq, said he was disappointed the Arab peace movement did not match
Europe's anti-war campaign.

"Public opinion in the Arab world is anti-war. And believe me, never have
the Americans been so hated," he said. "But the people won't be allowed to
demonstrate. They live under weak regimes who are frightened. They are
afraid three or four million people will come on to the street and they will
lose power. They are afraid of losing America's dollars."

Despite the threat over his head, Saddam was tranquil in their last meeting
a month ago, Ben Bella said. "He is a calm person. He controls his

Moscow Times, from The Associated Press, 13th January

KIEV -- Ukrainian officials have denied fresh allegations that the country
sold military logistics equipment to Iraq.

Citing an unnamed U.S. official in Washington, the British daily newspaper
The Times reported Friday that "a pontoon bridge had been transferred and
that other Ukrainian transfers to Iraq were 'a continuing problem."' The
report added that "evidence emerged of fresh sales on Monday, but details
were scarce."

Foreign Minister Anatoly Zlenko confirmed that Ukraine had exported pontoon
bridges, but denied that his country had violated United Nations sanctions
against Iraq.

"If there are any pontoon bridges in Iraq, our government doesn't have any
responsibility for it, because Ukraine never sold such bridges directly to
Iraq," Zlenko was quoted by Interfax as saying.

The report inflamed a controversy that has simmered since September when the
United States accused Ukraine of selling radars to Iraq in violation of UN
sanctions. Ukraine denies any sales.

by Robert Fife, Ottawa Bureau Chief
National Post, Canada, 13th January

Poland will abandon its role as the United States' surrogate in Baghdad to
safeguard its diplomats if George W. Bush, the U.S. President, authorizes a
military attack on Iraq in the coming months, according to Poland's
Ambassador to Canada.

Since the 1991 Gulf War, a handful of Polish diplomats have worked out of
the abandoned three-storey United States embassy in an upscale Baghdad
suburb where they maintain bare-bones consular services and keep the lines
of communications open.

But Ambassador Pawel Dobrowolski said in an interview with the National Post
it will be "too dangerous" for Poland to act as the head of mission for the
United States if U.S. forces attack Iraq.

Poland is particularly concerned its diplomats, who already face Iraqi
protests outside the former U.S. embassy, could become potential hostages.
Poland also operates its own separate embassy and its staff would be

"If the decision is taken on a military operation, the most likely step is
to withdraw the staff. Both the Polish embassy [staff] and most probably the
American section would be withdrawn," Mr. Dobrowolski said.

"It always remains the question whether if it comes to blows that those who
stay would become hostages and we would not be able to guarantee their
safety if the situation becomes tense."

Poland is already suspect in the eyes of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator,
after Polish intelligence operatives rescued United States spies from Iraq
after that country invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Polish intelligence officers, operating out the Polish embassy in Baghdad,
extracted CIA agents from Iraq disguised as Polish construction workers.
Part of Poland's debt was reportedly written off as a result of the

Mr. Dobrowolski would not discuss the intelligence operation or say whether
Polish agents continue to operate in Iraq.

He did say the task of representing Washington in Baghdad is a difficult
assignment, given repeated U.S. air strikes in the UN-imposed no-fly zones,
the presence of United Nations weapons inspectors and Iraqi protests outside
the former U.S. embassy.

"It is not for obvious reasons an easy posting. It is not an easy way to
conduct diplomatic affairs ... precisely because [Poland] is representing a
country that is at odds with Iraq," he said.

Despite the difficulties, Polish diplomats have played a helpful role for
the United States, including tense negotiations in 1995 to win the release
of two Americans imprisoned for illegally entering Iraq. The two Americans
were arrested travelling near the ill-defined desert border with Iraq.

Mr. Dobrowolski said Poland would prefer that Mr. Bush win United Nations
Security Council approval before Washington launches military strikes
against Iraq, but he also acknowledged his country would most likely
participate if the United States goes to war.

"If the United States approaches Poland on the basis of contributing to the
possible operation, the United States will be given an answer in a positive
sense," he added.,3604,874219,00.html

by Ian Black in Brussels
The Guardian, 14th January

Europe will not willingly pay for the reconstruction of Iraq if the US does
not obtain United Nations authority for war, Chris Patten, the EU external
relations commissioner, has warned.

Signalling a slightly more confident tone over a crisis which has deeply
divided the union, Mr Patten said it would be hard to persuade Europeans to
pick up the tab if President George Bush acted unilaterally to disarm Saddam

The EU, the world's biggest aid donor, is already paying billions of euros
to help rebuild Afghanistan after the US-led campaign against the Taliban
and al-Qaida.

The US is drawing up plans for post-Saddam Iraq while an apprehensive EU is
quietly looking at its role - but also cautioning that it should not be
taken for granted.

"I would find it much more difficult to get the approval of member states
and the European parliament if the military intervention that had occasioned
the need for development aid did not have a UN mandate," the former Tory
party chairman told the Guardian yesterday.

"This isn't provocative. This is describing what is a likely situation. I
see every possible argument for trying to go through the UN if it's at all
humanly possible.

"In Afghanistan we are the biggest provider of reconstruction assistance
after the conflict, but everybody supported the conflict."

The EU has earmarked €15m for humanitarian aid to Iraq this year, but would
be expected to contribute far more than that after a war. Senior commission
officials are due in Washington this week to discuss contingency plans.

The British commissioner made waves last year when he accused the US in a
Guardian interview of going into "unilateralist overdrive" since the
September 11 terrorist attacks.

Now he wants EU leaders to close ranks - despite differences between Tony
Blair, Mr Bush's closest ally, and Germany's Gerhard Schröder, who opposes
war - and use their collective clout to persuade Washington to act

By coincidence, four EU member states currently have seats on the UN
security council - Britain and France as permanent members, and Germany and
Spain occupying two of the 10 rotating seats.

"People may argue that the UN is not perfect. Doubtless it is not, but it's
the only UN we've got," said Mr Patten. There would be great difficulty in
persuading British or European public opinion that we should intervene
militarily in Iraq unless there was the stamp of international approval
through the UN.

"Opinion polls suggest that and what people are saying suggests that. It
isn't just the left wing of the Labour party which is articulating its
worries and reservations. There are worries across the board."

This week Mr Patten and EU ambassadors will hear a progress report from Hans
Blix, the chief UN weapons inspector, making only his second visit to

Diplomats suggested last night that Mr Patten was exaggerating the extent of
the EU's leverage over the US in threatening to withhold reconstruction aid,
since Iraq, with its vast oil reserves, is a far wealthier country than

by Frank Bruni
International Herald Tribune, from The New York Times, 14th January

VATICAN CITY: Pope John Paul II on Monday expressed his strongest opposition
yet to a potential war in Iraq, describing it as a "defeat for humanity" and
urging world leaders to try to resolve disputes with Iraq through diplomatic

"No to war!" the pope said during his annual address to scores of diplomatic
emissaries to the Vatican, an exhortation that referred in part to Iraq, a
country he mentioned twice.

"War is not always inevitable," the pope said. "It is always a defeat for

Wondering aloud what to say "of the threat of a war which could strike the
people of Iraq," he added: "War cannot be decided upon, even when it is a
matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last option, and in
accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring the consequences
for the civilian population both during and after the military operations."

The pope had previously articulated concerns about an American-led military
strike against Iraq, most notably on Christmas Day, when he beseeched people
"to extinguish the ominous smoldering of a conflict which, with the joint
efforts of all, can be avoided."

But in those instances, his message was largely implicit. He did not refer
to Iraq by name, and his words were not as blunt.

Monday's remarks came as the United States continues a buildup of its
military presence in the Middle East, and they exemplified international
leaders' apprehensions and attempts at political and moral suasion as a
moment of American decision seems to draw near.

The pope's comments also recalled his opposition to the Gulf War in 1991.
The pope's refusal to support that effort strained diplomatic relations
between the Vatican and the United States at the time. What the pope said
Monday was not surprising: He has consistently decried a range of wars
throughout his 24-year papacy, often without immediate or discernible effect
on events.

But after the terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, the
pope said that nations have a moral and legal right to defend themselves
against terrorism.

He did not condemn the bombing of Afghanistan, although he did say that such
military actions must be aimed solely at people with "criminal culpability"
and not whole groups of innocent civilians.

In speaking out about Iraq, he joined a large and robust international
chorus of opposition.

Wilfrid-Guy Licari, the Canadian ambassador to the Holy See, said that the
pope's voice would stand out as an especially resonant one.

"It is putting extra pressure, because he's one of the only moral voices
left in the world with credibility," Licari said.

He added that the pope's comments reflected the Vatican's intensifying worry
about, and preoccupation with, the situation in Iraq. Over the last month, a
growing number of Vatican officials have raised questions about the
morality, necessity and consequences of a war in Iraq.

R. James Nicholson, the American ambassador to the Holy See, also noted that
the pope "speaks with a great deal of credibility and moral authority."

"The United States listens," Nicholson said.

But he said that he did not interpret the pope's remarks as an indication
that the Vatican and the United States stood apart on Iraq.

"If you examine carefully what the pope said, he said that war is not always
inevitable, and we agree," Nicholson said, asserting that President Saddam
Hussein of Iraq can prevent it if he complies fully with weapons inspections
and eliminates any weapons of mass destruction.

The present and future question before the Vatican, Nicholson said, was
whether there was "sufficient provocation" for the United States to take
military action against Iraq.

"The answer to that," Nicholson acknowledged, "may remain something that we
don't agree on."

The pope's comments on Iraq were contained in a wide-ranging speech that
traversed the globe, reflecting on signs of desperation and hope on various
continents, and also touched on social issues.

He made special note of a series of expulsions from Russia of Catholic
priests there, a point of keen discord between the Vatican and Moscow.

He called these expulsions "a cause of great suffering for me," adding: "The
Holy See expects from the government authorities concrete decisions which
will put an end to this crisis."

He nodded to a series of recent scientific claims by mentioning human
cloning, saying that it, along with abortion and euthanasia, "risk reducing
the human person to a mere object."

"When all moral criteria are removed, scientific research involving the
sources of life becomes a denial of the being and the dignity of the
person," the pope said.

While he did not link that condemnation of war to the possibility of
military strikes against Iraq, he singled out Iraq during another passage of
his speech.

In that passage, he said, "International law, honest dialogue, solidarity
between states, the noble exercise of diplomacy: these are methods worthy of
individuals and nations in resolving their differences."

"War," he added, "is never just another means that one can choose to employ
for settling differences between nations."

Arabic News, 14th January

Thousands of Moroccans took to the streets in Rabat on Sunday to express
their support with Iraq against the U.S. war threats and refusal of "daily
crimes against the Palestinian people."

The demo was held by the Rabat chapter of the "Initiative of support to
Iraq," a NGO set up by the youth branch of the "Istiqlal Party" and
gathering 50 political organizations, trade unions and human rights, women
and youth associations.

Before the march set out from Rabat central "Bab El Had" square, a member of
the organizing association read out a communique that "denounces strongly
the new criminal aggression being prepared by the US-British-Zionist
terrorism against Iraq." The communique considers that the campaign is
"seeking to occupy Iraq and subdue its people."

The communique praises the "massive, enthusiastic, and mature participation
in the march that represents a new step in our struggle" and calls all the
country's forces to express "by all legitimate means and ways total and
categorical refusal of the genocide plans under preparation."

It further hails Moroccans' support to the Palestinian people, to the
Intifadah, and to resistance" and calls all freedom advocates worldwide and
all the world citizens to face the destruction and genocide policy adopted
by the US and the British administrations and by the Zionist leaders.

Participants in the demo chanted slogans that oppose the US and Israeli
policy in the Middle East region and brandished banners calling for a
war-free world and brotherhood among peoples and opposing the occupation of
Iraq and the looting of its wealth.

Before the march dispersed calmly, participants read out the Fatiha (first
verse of the Kuran) for the rest of the soul of the Intifadah martyrs killed
by the Israeli occupation forces and for the Iraqi people who are victim of
US-British shelling and the unfair embargo enforced against their country.

Spokesman of the demo organizers, Khalid Soufiani, told MAP the "march is a
new testimony of the Moroccan people's categorical refusal of daily crimes
perpetrated against people in Palestine and of aggression preparations
against Iraq."

"As a Moroccan people, we reject the principle of aggression and we will
face it with all forms of action, including boycotting American and Zionist
products and products made in countries that have relations with the
American terrorism," he stressed.

For Abdellah Bekkali, general coordinator of the march, "the demo is a
message from the Moroccan people to the world peoples calling them to
mobilize to face the American aggression against the Iraqi and Palestinian

by Catherine Belton
Moscow Times, 15th January

As positioning for a slice of the world's second-biggest oil patch heats up,
top executives from LUKoil will descend Wednesday on Baghdad to plead their
case for winning back a multibillion-dollar contract to develop a vast oil

The LUKoil executives will travel as part of a heavyweight delegation of top
government officials and businessmen seeking to secure Russia's economic
interests as the threat of a U.S.-led military strike mounts. Deputy Foreign
Minister Alexander Saltanov will head the delegation, which will also
include First Deputy Energy Minister Ivan Matlashov, Zarubezhneft president
Nikolai Tokarev and Viktor Lorents, president of Stroitransgaz, the
construction arm of Gazprom, LUKoil and Stroitransgaz said Tuesday.

LUKoil spokesman Mikhail Mikhailov said the priority of the two-day Baghdad
visit will be to make sure that the oil field contract remains in LUKoil

"We are going there to try and clarify the situation surrounding the
contract," Mikhailov said.

He said LUKoil still considers its contract valid despite a surprise
announcement by Iraq late last year that it was tearing up the deal because
the oil giant had failed to meet its obligations to develop the West Qurna
field, which is thought to hold about 2.5 billion tons of reserves.

He said the deal can only be voided through a decision of an international
arbitration court.

Mikhailov could not say, however, which LUKoil managers will travel with the
delegation or with whom they will meet.

Russian oil companies, including No. 1 LUKoil, have long feared they might
lose their competitive edge in Iraq to richer U.S. oil giants should a
successful military strike lead to Saddam Hussein's ouster.

The Baghdad trip comes in the wake of reports that leading U.S. oil majors
have been in intense talks with the Bush administration over the future of
Iraq's oil reserves. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that executives
from Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Texaco Corp., Conoco Philips and Halliburton
met with the staff of Vice President Dick Cheney in October to discuss a
future carve-up. The Bush administration denies the meeting took place.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz last month accused LUKoil of trying
to win U.S. guarantees that its stake in the West Qurna field would be
retained under a new regime. He said this "outrageous" behavior was the
reason for the deal being axed. LUKoil's stake is estimated to be worth as
much as $20 billion.

Leading Iraqi Oil Ministry officials have promised the West Qurna field
would be reserved for another Russian company.

LUKoil vice president Leonid Fedoun sharply criticized the Iraqi government
for deciding to break the deal, which he said could not be implemented under
UN sanctions.

"We have not violated any terms of the contract," he said in a recent
telephone interview.

He said the company had not conducted any official talks with the United
States on the possibility of gaining guarantees for the stake. He would not
say whether the issue had been discussed unofficially.

"But there is nothing in the contract that prevents us from having contacts
with whomever we want," he said.

The Energy Ministry on Tuesday declined comment on the purpose of the visit.

Stroitransgaz spokeswoman Valentina Smirnova said the company was hoping to
sign off on a deal to develop Block Four of the Western Desert field during
the trip.

"All the formalities have already been agreed," she said. "All that remains
is to get the signatures of both sides."

She could not say how much the contract might be worth or put a figure on
the volume of reserves contained in the field.

Vremya Novostei daily reported Tuesday that Iraq was dangling licenses for
the vast Nahr Umr field before state-owned companies Rosneft and
Zarubezhneft. Both of these companies refused to comment Tuesday on whether
negotiations were being held over rights to the field, which has estimated
reserves of 3 billion tons.

Zarubezheneft head Tokarev, however, told Vremya Novostei last month that
the companies were near to clinching a deal.

Tehran Times, 15th January

BERLIN -- Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder insisted Tuesday that Germany's
opposition to war on Iraq and its refusal to take part in military action
would be made "unmistakeably clear" in the UN Security Council.

He told a press conference here that his government wanted the latest UN
disarmament resolution on Iraq to be followed through without a war, AFP

Schroeder has refused specifically to say whether Germany would vote for or
against a war if the Security Council put forward a new resolution on
military action.

Germany joined the Security Council as a non-veto-bearing member earlier
this month for a period of two years, and will take the chair for the month
of February.

Schroeder also called for the first time for a second UN resolution before
any military action is launched against Iraq.

He said Germany and its European partners in the 15-nation body would likely
work together to try to have a second vote called.

"I think that is sensible," he told a press conference in Berlin.

He said he wanted Iraq to comply "fully" with UN Resolution 1441, which is
aimed at identifying its alleged program of weapons of mass destruction, and
so avoid a conflict.

But if "another decision" was taken, Germany "will make its basic position
unmistakeably clear in statements and votes" that it will not take part in a

The chancellor's anti-war stance is popular domestically -- it helped his
ruling coalition narrowly win reelection last year -- but his refusal to say
how Germany would vote on any war resolution has worried left-wing members
of his government.

Meanwhile, the leader of the German Greens along with German Foreign
Minister Joschka Fischer called for anti-war demonstration in Germany, a
report said on Tuesday.

The German daily Die Welt quoted the Green Party leader as saying that
Greens still consider themselves as pioneers of peaceful movement in

There is no clear reason so far to launch a war against Iraq and the United
Nations Security Council should take the lead in the Iraqi crisis as in the
past, the paper quoted the party leader as saying.

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