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News, 10-15/01/03 (3) IRAQI/INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS * Russian warships on standby to sail to Gulf * Allies Slow U.S. War Plans * Loyal Iraqi troops already training to use chemical weapons: Czech minister * 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 IRAQI/INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,871983,00.html * RUSSIAN WARSHIPS ON STANDBY TO SAIL TO GULF 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 February. 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. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A40551-2003Jan10.html * ALLIES SLOW U.S. WAR PLANS 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 work. 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 change." 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 Iraq. 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. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/opinion/10_01_03_d.htm * HAS THE TIDE TURNED AGAINST ANOTHER GULF WAR? 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 attack. 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 pause. 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 fight. 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 Bahrain. 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 destruction. 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 http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_136247,0005.htm * LOYAL IRAQI TROOPS ALREADY TRAINING TO USE CHEMICAL WEAPONS: CZECH MINISTER 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. http://observer.co.uk/focus/story/0,6903,873049,00.html * WHERE THE WORLD STANDS ON AN INVASION OF IRAQ 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. Iraq 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 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 tests. Iran 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. Canada 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. Australia 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'. China 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. Russia 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 Russians. France 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. Jordan 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'. Turkey 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 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.' Germany 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'. Syria 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. Pakistan 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. Lebanon 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. Sudan 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. Indonesia 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'. Malaysia 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. http://www.dawn.com/2003/01/13/int3.htm * BEN BELLA CALLS FOR PROTESTS IN WEST 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 preparations. "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 Saturday. "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 feelings."-Reuters http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2003/01/13/019.html * UKRAINE DENIES SELLING BRIDGES TO IRAQ 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. http://www.nationalpost.com/world/story.html?id=218C6A2C-9250-42E7-A16F 4D968519D93A * ATTACK WOULD END POLAND'S CONSULAR SURROGACY: AMBASSADOR 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 recalled. "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 operation. 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. http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,874219,00.html * PATTEN WARNS US OVER AID FOR IRAQ 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 Hussein. 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 multilaterally. 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 Brussels. 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 Afghanistan. http://www.iht.com/articles/83231.html * POPE CALLS THE POTENTIAL WAR IN IRAQ 'A DEFEAT FOR HUMANITY' 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 means. "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 humanity." 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." http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/030114/2003011425.html * THOUSANDS OF MOROCCANS MARCH IN SUPPORT OF IRAQ 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 peoples." http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2003/01/15/002.html * LUKOIL TAKES ITS OIL CASE TO IRAQ 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 field. 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 hands. "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. http://www.tehrantimes.com/Description.asp?Da=1/15/03&Cat=2&Num=25 * SCHROEDER TO INSIST ON ANTI-WAR STANCE OVER IRAQ IN UN 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 reported. 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 war. 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 Germany. 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. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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