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[casi] News, 22-29/01/03 (3)

News, 22-29/01/03 (3)


*  Activists search for signs of hope
*  Stronger than ever


*  Some Facts About Iraqi Military Forces
*  Iraq's Unknown Soldier: Rough but Ready?


*  Blix Laments Iraq Blocking Spy Plane Use
*  Iraq Asks Scientists to Give Interviews
*  Farm owner files suit against UN
*  Inspectors search mosque
*  UN denies 'inspecting' Baghdad mosque
*  U.S. evidence on Iraq questioned: Assertions about aluminum tubes come
under fire
*  Scepticism over papers detailing chemical warfare preparations
*  Iraqi Scientists Refuse Solo Questioning
*  Arms inspector's thumbs up
*  Iraq sought UN help to buy special radar-Blix


NO URL (sent to list)

by Linda Slobodian
Calgary Herald, 25th January

Peace activists are flocking here from across the globe to find ways of
preventing what the former United Nations humanitarian co-ordinator for Iraq
says will be a "war of cowards" destined to add a catastrophic human toll to
the woes afflicting an already crippled nation.

"How much higher can you go on a scale of suffering? Many households have
lost members, through sanctions or through war. This war will mean more
civilian casualties. It's not going to be a desert warfare. This will be an
urban warfare -- very different technologies from the Gulf War," said Hans
Sponeck on Friday. "I call it the war of cowards. You fly high, you push a
button, you don't see a victim. When you detect that movement has come to a
standstill on the ground, then you move in with ground troops.

"You will still find resistance, then you will have U.S. casualties, more
than you have in open-desert warfare."

Germany's Sponeck, now a special representative for the Centre of Economic
and Social Rights in New York, is in Iraq to meet with high-level government
officials as part of a multinational peace group comprising representatives
from Australia, South Africa, the United States and Germany.

"We are trying to negotiate with the Iraqi government what they have to
offer to show that Iraq is ready to open a new chapter," he said.

"There are all kinds of answers that the international community wants to
have with regards to Iraq having friendly relations with its neighbours, the
disarmament process going beyond (UN) Resolution 1441, and the status of
minorities -- for example, the Kurds in tomorrow's Iraq."

There are no ready answers from the Iraqi government.

Then there is the whole question of Iraq's participation or otherwise in
international terrorism, he said.

"In the Middle East the word terrorism is not a word they readily accept.
What may in the West be accepted as a sign of terrorism, may in the Middle
East be more appropriately referred to as a fight for freedom. We don't know
where Iraq stands," he said.

"At the same time it is very clear the Iraqi government has stated they are
not associating themselves in any form with the kind of terrorism that was
used against U.S. installations and internal U.S. facilities like the World
Trade Center. They want to disassociate themselves from that," said Sponeck.

Considering the massive buildup of U.S. and British troops in the Gulf
region, he acknowledged the pressure is intense to work quickly to convince
the Iraqi government to clearly demonstrate it is willing to co-operate.

"The military vehicle is driving at a speed that is difficult to stop. There
isn't a lot of time but there is still an opportunity to halt this
fast-moving vehicle and find an exit from war.

"With the mounting resistance to this madness I think the Americans are
becoming increasingly aware that they are catapulting themselves into a
tremendous isolation," he said.

A number of politicians are already in Iraq, or are on their way, on similar
missions to that of Sponeck, including MP Colleen Beaumier, Brampton

"Right now in town there is a Canadian MP, an Irish MP, and there are 37
members of the European Parliament. There have been many members from
several countries. But I think it's high time some of our leading figures
pack their bags and travel here," said Sponeck.

Beaumier, a Liberal backbencher, has briefly met with Transportation
Minister Ahmad H. Ahmad and Basil Dalaly, first under-secretary to the
minister of agriculture.

She is scheduled to meet with Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and and
Foreign Minister Naji Sabri.

"I've come to Iraq to assure the Iraqi people that the majority of Canadians
don't want a war," said Beaumier, who personally financed her trip to Iraq.

"I'm also hoping to be the conduit for the messages from Canada to the
Iraqis and from the Iraqi government back to our prime minister and foreign
affairs minister," she said.

Beaumier, however, has no meeting slated with Prime Minister Jean Chretien
upon her arrival back in Canada next Monday.

"In a perfect world I would go home and the prime minister would call me.
However, it's not a perfect world or a perfect system so I will be knocking
on his door four or five times a week," said the MP.

"Did the prime minister ask me to say anything on his behalf? No. However, I
think I can speak on behalf of my constituents who do not want to
participate in an unprovoked war against children. About half the population
of 23 million -- 46 per cent -- are under 16. Which baby do you want to get
first?" asked Beaumier.

"To think we could even think about attacking the Iraqis, who look at you
with no hatred in their eyes, is beyond my comprehension."

Life goes on as best it can on the streets of Baghdad -- but the mood of the
people is sombre. Most shops were closed this holiday Friday but street
vendors as usual peddled pop, cigarettes and assorted goods.

Between transactions, newspaper peddler Abdullah Habtoma simply shrugged
when asked what he thinks about a pending U.S. attack.

Are people afraid? "I don't know," he said without conviction. Sponeck said
the Iraqis are a resilient people trying to put a brave face on things.

"You ask people and very often get a quick answer, 'We are not worried.'
(But) my friends, people with whom I've worked here, are deeply worried.
They are fearful. There is mental agony in families," he said.

Sponeck attacked what he called the "scandalous misinformation" campaign
launched in the U.S. "For example, the documentation the U.S. just put out
about the implementation of the Oil For Food program . . .

"The Americans are getting desperate. One cannot defend a dictatorship. But
when there is a dishonest portrayal of what insiders like me know better
(about), then we must speak out against that.",3604,883654,00.html

by George Monbiot
The Guardian, 28th January

Mr Bush and Mr Blair might have a tougher fight than they anticipated. Not
from Saddam Hussein perhaps - although it is still not obvious that they can
capture and hold Iraq's cities without major losses - but from an anti-war
movement that is beginning to look like nothing the world has seen before.

It's not just that people have begun to gather in great numbers even before
a shot has been fired. It's not just that they are doing so without the
inducement of conscription or any other direct threat to their welfare. It's
not just that there have already been meetings or demonstrations in almost
every nation on Earth. It's also that the campaign is being coordinated
globally with an unprecedented precision. And the people partly responsible
for this are the members of a movement which, even within the past few
weeks, the mainstream media has pronounced extinct.

Last year, 40,000 members of the global justice movement gathered at the
World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil. This year, more than 100,000,
from 150 nations, have come - for a meeting! The world has seldom seen such
political assemblies since Daniel O'Connell's "monster meetings" in the

Far from dying away, our movement has grown bigger than most of us could
have guessed. September 11 muffled the protests for a while, but since then
they have returned with greater vehemence, everywhere except the US. The
last major global demonstration it convened was the rally at the European
summit in Barcelona. Some 350,000 activists rose from the dead. They came
despite the terrifying response to the marches in June 2001 in Genoa, where
the police burst into protesters' dormitories and beat them with truncheons
as they lay in their sleeping bags, tortured others in the cells and shot
one man dead.

But neither the violent response, nor September 11, nor the indifference of
the media have quelled this rising. Ever ready to believe their own story,
the newsrooms have interpreted the absence of coverage (by the newsrooms) as
an absence of activity. One of our recent discoveries is that we no longer
need them. We have our own channels of communication, our own websites and
pamphlets and magazines, and those who wish to find us can do so without
their help. They can pronounce us dead as often as they like, and we shall,
as many times, be resurrected.

The media can be forgiven for expecting us to disappear. In the past, it was
hard to sustain global movements of this kind. The socialist international,
for example, was famously interrupted by nationalism. When the nations to
which the comrades belonged went to war, they forgot their common struggle
and took to arms against each other. But now, thanks to the globalisation
some members of the movement contest, nationalism is a far weaker force.
American citizens are meeting and de bating with Iraqis, even as their
countries prepare to go to war. We can no longer be called to heel. Our
loyalty is to the principles we defend and to those who share them,
irrespective of where they come from.

One of the reasons why the movement appears destined only to grow is that it
provides the only major channel through which we can engage with the most
critical issues. Climate change, international debt, poverty, the hegemony
of the G8 nations, the IMF and the World Bank, the depletion of natural
resources, nuclear proliferation and low-level conflict are major themes in
the lives of most of the world's people, but minor themes in almost all
mainstream political discourse. We are told that the mind-rotting drivel
which now fills the pages of the newspapers is a necessary commercial
response to the demands of younger readers. This may, to some extent, be
true. But here are tens of thousands of young people who have less interest
in celebrity culture than George Bush has in Wittgenstein. They have evolved
their own scale of values, and re-enfranchised themselves by pursuing what
they know to be important. For the great majority of activists - those who
live in the poor world - the movement offers the only effective means of
reaching people in the richer nations.

We have often been told that the reason we're dead is that we have been
overtaken by and subsumed within the anti-war campaign. It would be more
accurate to say that the anti-war campaign has, in large part, grown out of
the global justice movement. This movement has never recognised a
distinction between the power of the rich world's governments and their
appointed institutions (the IMF, the World Bank, the World Trade
Organisation) to wage economic warfare and the power of the same
governments, working through different institutions (the UN security
council, Nato) to send in the bombers. Far from competing with our concerns,
the impending war has reinforced our determination to tackle the grotesque
maldistribution of power which permits a few national governments to assert
a global mandate. When the activists leave Porto Alegre tomorrow, they will
take home to their 150 nations a new resolve to turn the struggle against
the war with Iraq into a contest over the future of the world.

While younger activists are eager to absorb the experience of people like
Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali, Lula, Victor Chavez, Michael Albert and Arundhati
Roy, all of whom are speaking in Porto Alegre, our movement is, as yet, more
eager than wise, fired by passions we have yet to master. We have yet to
understand, despite the police response in Genoa, the mechanical
determination of our opponents.

We are still rather too prepared to believe that spectacular marches can
change the world. While the splits between the movement's marxists,
anarchists and liberals are well rehearsed, our real division - between the
diversalists and the universalists - has, so far, scarcely been explored.
Most of the movement believes that the best means of regaining control over
political life is through local community action. A smaller faction (to
which I belong) believes that this response is insufficient, and that we
must seek to create democratically accountable global institutions. The
debates have, so far, been muted. But when they emerge, they will be fierce.

For all that, I think most of us have noticed that something has changed,
that we are beginning to move on from the playing of games and the staging
of parties, that we are coming to develop a more mature analysis, a better
grasp of tactics, an understanding of the need for policy. We are, in other
words, beginning for the first time to look like a revolutionary movement.
We are finding, too, among some of the indebted states of the poor world, a
new preparedness to engage with us. In doing so, they speed our maturation:
the more we are taken seriously, the more seriously we take ourselves.

Whether we are noticed or not is no longer relevant. We know that, with or
without the media's help, we are a gathering force which might one day prove


New York Times, from AP, 27th January

Some facts about Iraqi military forces, which once were among world's
largest, with nearly 1 million soldiers at start of Gulf War:


Estimated at 350,000 soldiers, including about 50,000 in elite Republican
Guard, according to, Alexandria, Va.-based think tank
that compiles data on military forces around globe.

Additional 12,000-15,000 members of Special Republican Guard primarily
responsible for protecting President Saddam Hussein, commander in chief with
rank of field marshal.

People's Army, militia of Saddam's Baath Party, has hundreds of thousands of
members who have received light-arms training. Militia's role mainly to
indoctrinate Iraqis on Saddam's vision for country and counterbalance
regular army.

Saddam's son Qusai supervises Republican Guard, once open only to young men
from Saddam's hometown of Tikrit but expanded recruiting during 1980-88
Iran-Iraq War. Most members of Special Republican Guard still drawn from
Saddam's tribe or tribes closely allied with it.

Iraq's arsenal include estimated 1,300 tanks, 1,200 artillery pieces, 1,500
armored personnel carriers, according to GlobalSecurity. Military research
company Periscope concluded that while U.N. trade sanctions made it
difficult for Iraq to get spare parts or make advanced weapons, "Iraqi
domestic conventional weapons manufacturing capabilities remain essentially

Indigenous weapons include unknown number of Al Samoud, Ababil-100 and other
missiles developed to meet U.N. demands that Iraq have no missiles with
range of more than about 95 miles. Recent CIA report on Iraq said U.S.
officials believe those missiles can fly farther than U.N. limit. Iraq also
believed to have hidden up to two dozen Scuds, bought from former Soviet
Union and modified to extend range to 400 miles.


About 300 combat aircraft, only half of which believed to be serviceable,
according to Periscope. At start of Gulf War, Iraq had estimated 500-750
combat aircraft, including Soviet and French fighters.

United States claims to have destroyed 30 percent of Iraq's air defenses.
Since Gulf War ended, U.S. and British planes have been patrolling southern
and northern enclaves to protect Shiite Muslims and Kurds. Last year,
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld disclosed he had ordered that pilots
attack command and communications links in Iraq's air defense network rather
than guns and radars used to target U.S. and British pilots.


Has little access to sea. Was virtually destroyed in Gulf War.


Iraq pursued biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programs starting in
1970s. United Nations says Iraq has failed to provide enough details to
answer U.S. charges it is lying about having abandoned those programs. U.N.
inspectors in 1990s, for example, said they believe Iraq produced three
times amount of anthrax and 16 times more gas gangrene than it declared.
Saddam used only conventional weapons in Gulf War, but used poison gas
against Iran and his own people in 1980s.

New York Times, 27th January

DOHA, Qatar (Reuters) - Pity the Iraqi soldier. The U.S. invasion manual
says he is poorly trained, ill-equipped, demoralized, badly dressed and,
understandably, not confident.

President Saddam Hussein says his troops have nothing to fear in
face-to-face ground combat. But the CIA is telling U.S. forces massing
around Iraq the enemy is in a sorry state.

Once war starts and supply trains are hit the Iraqi fighting man may be
hungry, thirsty, and low on ammunition. Iraq imposes radio silence, so he
may also be completely in the dark, terrified by the rolling thunder of B-52
bombing raids.

The key question no one can answer is, will he fight? If he runs or tries
surrender, the record shows he may be shot by his own -- Soviet-style
commissars impose discipline and elite Republican Guard units tend to be
arrayed in the rear.

Compared to the blaze of television and gush of print about American forces,
the Iraq soldier is faceless in the West.

The CIA's Iraq Country Handbook fills in some blanks. A nominally restricted
publication, it aims to "familiarize military personnel with local customs
and area knowledge to assist them during their assignment to Iraq."

It says Iraqi forces "lack the ability to engage in sustained high-intensity
combat" due to poor equipment, poor logistics, poor maintenance and an
overall lack of spares.

With air superiority virtually guaranteed, the 350,000 soldiers of the army
would be America's main opponents. There are also an estimated 650,000 aging
reservists and a wild boast of seven million militia to be called on, in

The soldier's uniform, light brown or olive green, may be Iraqi, French,
British or Pakistani. His field jacket is thin, but he may get a
British-style woolly jumper against the cold.

U.S. forces will see the enemy in two dozen styles of camouflage, chosen for
the quality of cloth rather than the concealment value. Pants will often not
match tops.

Helmets are U.S.-style. Tank crews wear black overalls from Russia and hoods
with earphones and throat microphones. Weapons are Iraqi, Russian, Chinese,
French, U.S., British, Italian, Brazilian, Czech, Romanian, Yugoslav or

The CIA manual lists elaborate moves befitting a well-organized and
disciplined force, plus unconventional tactics including oil fires to
neutralize night-vision and heat-seeking weapons, and electroshock cables
laid in swampy territory and rivers to stun waders.

But there is "a disparity between theory and execution on the battlefield,"
the CIA says.

In 1991, when allied troops took prisoners of war wearing flip-flops and
loafers, Iraq military power was "greatly reduced by catastrophic losses,"
says the CIA. Sanctions since then have crippled attempts to rebuild the old

Iraq's army was built up by the Pentagon and the media before the Gulf War
as the "fourth largest in the world," battle-hardened by years of attrition
war against Iranian "human wave" attacks. It turned out to be a paper tiger.

The 100-hour land war was a walkover for numerically greater and
qualitatively far superior U.S. forces.

"Today, Iraqi forces are no match for the U.S. military. It is still a far
cry from even the modest level of competence it reached in 1990 but it is on
the mend," according to former CIA Iraq military analyst Kenneth Pollack,
now a pro-war author.

The bulk of the army -- 150,000 troops with 900 tanks and 1,000 pieces each
of armored vehicles and artillery -- is deployed in the north opposite
Kurdish insurgents.

Facing the Iranian border and restless Shi'ite Muslims in the south are
70,000 troops including three heavy divisions.

Baghdad has 30,000 including four of Iraq's six Republican Guard divisions,
with the best officers, arms and training.

Conscripts are mostly Shi'ite and have "last call" on supplies, Pollack
says. Iraqi doctrine puts them at the front, screening President Saddam
Hussein's Republican Guard.

The Guard's 80,000 men are mostly minority Sunni Muslims like Saddam, with
their own command. At the pinnacle are 15,000 Special Security Forces
Organization troops, all from his home Tikrit region.

Elite Guard units in 1991 fought with spirit but little skill. Iraq sprang a
tactical surprise by seizing the Saudi town of Khafji in 1991, but was too
disorganized to hold it.

"There are two types of withdrawal -- hasty and deliberate," the CIA says,
citing the Iraqi operations manual.

Whether the Iraqis deliberately retreat to make a stand in Baghdad streets
and how U.S. forces respond is anyone's guess.

But as U.S. officers candidly acknowledge: "We are not looking for a fair


by Peter James Spielmann
Las Vegas Sun, 22nd January

UNITED NATIONS (AP): Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix criticized Iraq on
Wednesday for blocking the United Nations from using the U-2 spy plane to
search for Baghdad's terror weapons, by placing unacceptable limits on its

"They are not denying it, or rejecting it, but they are putting up
conditions that would be unacceptable and stronger than they were in the
past," he said, without elaborating.

Blix was on the way into his offices at U.N. headquarters, where reporters
questioned him.

U-2 flights were a mainstay of the first hunt for Iraq's weapons of mass
destruction, from 1991-1998. American pilots flew them, but the
ultra-long-winged jet plane - used by the United States for reconnaissance
since the 1950s - was repainted in U.N. colors and covered flight paths
ordered by U.N. inspectors.

The United States has offered UNMOVIC, the current U.N. inspection agency,
the use of the craft for the inspections that resumed in November after a
four-year absence. But the Iraqi government thus far has resisted allowing
U-2 overflights at a time when the U.S. military is massing troops near
Iraq's border for a possible attack.

On Monday, Blix and top nuclear inspector Mohamed ElBaradei are to report to
submit a key report to the Security Council on Iraq's cooperation in
reporting and demolishing its chemical, biological, nuclear and long-range

Blix said Iraqi officials have been "prompt in opening practically all the
sites we wanted to come to," but "there are other things that are less
satisfactory, particularly when it comes to interviews."

Iraqi officials promised Blix and ElBaradei earlier this week to encourage
its weapons scientists to speak privately with inspectors - something
scientists have refused so far.

"We'll see if that happens," Blix said. U.N. officials hope the scientists
will be more candid without Iraqi liaison officers listening to the

Blix urged Iraq to "really make an effort in all respects," saying, "If you
do not have that kind of cooperation than it can drag out."

With U.S. troops, aircraft carriers and warplanes headed to the Persian Gulf
to be on station for an attack on Iraq, Blix was asked if he was trying to
help avert war.

"We as well as governments, including the United States government, see
inspection as a peaceful avenue for disarmament. The United States has
thrown its weight behind that. I have no doubt their preference is for a
peaceful solution," he said.

Bush administration official have in recent days spoken of their preference
for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to flee into exile, and have said they
would consider offering an amnesty for war crimes committed by senior Iraqi

Las Vegas Sun (from AP), 23rd January

BAGHDAD, Iraq- The Iraqi government has encouraged scientists to agree to
interviews with U.N. weapons inspectors in private but none has agreed to do
so, a senior Iraqi official said Thursday.

On Monday, Iraq told chief U.N. inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaredei
that it would encourage scientists to speak with inspectors without the
presence of Iraqi officials.

Lt. Gen. Hossam Mohammed Amin, the chief Iraqi liaison officer with the
inspectors, told reporters that Baghdad had encouraged scientists as
promised but none had so far agreed.

"We did our best" to encourage scientists to accept "but they refused," Amin

The United States has urged the United Nations to conduct such interviews in
private or outside the country to encourage scientists to give up
information about Iraq's alleged banned weapons program.

Amin also repeated Iraq's insistence that it has no weapons of mass
destruction as alleged by the United States and Britain.

Dawn, 23rd January

BAGHDAD, Jan 22: The owner of a farm where UN inspectors this week destroyed
a wall they suspected of hiding a biological laboratory said on Wednesday he
had filed suit for compensation.

"I filed a suit through the Iraqi ministry of foreign affairs, asking for
compensation, both material, moral and psychological," Sabah Anwar Mohammad
told reporters at the information ministry press centre.

"I am also asking for an apology for my national government and to me
personally," said Mohammad, who showed journalists a copy of the lawsuit.

Mohamad said the inspectors "took samples from tree leaves, from citrus
trees and oranges to analyse them to see if they contained some biological,
chemical or whatever materials.

"The funny thing is that one of the workers in the farm picked some oranges
and I offered them to all of the people there, and we ate some of them too,
so they came and ate oranges with us. This proves the fallacy of all this,"
he said.

"They did not ask me to go with them anywhere (for an interview). I am not a
scientist or anything like that, I am a normal private citizen," he

Dawn, 23rd January

BAGHDAD, Jan 22: A prominent Iraqi religious figure said on Wednesday that
UN weapons inspectors had searched a mosque in Baghdad this week in their
hunt for evidence of banned nuclear, chemical and biological weapons

"On Monday a car belonging to the UN inspection team with five inspectors
entered al Nidaa mosque where there are only copies of the holy Quran,"
Qutaiba Ammash, imam of the Al Nidaa mosque told reporters.

"The strange thing is that the questions raised by the five inspectors had
nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction," he said. "They asked
questions about the size of the mosque and even the number of worshippers at
Friday prayers because the United States is afraid of the number of Friday

A spokesman for the inspectors said he was checking the report, which could
anger Muslims in Baghdad and elsewhere, many of whom are unhappy with the
Western powers' treatment of Iraq.

"Can you imagine that struggling Iraq would be hiding weapons in places of
worship? We tell the inspectors 'you will not find what you want in our
mosques...only faith'," he said.

"If the worshippers were in the mosque at the time of their visit no doubt
this would have posed a danger to their lives...The Iraqi Muslim would not
accept their entry," he said. Reuters

Toronto Star, 23rd January

BAGHDAD (AP-CP)  Just days after they won an Iraqi pledge of better
co-operation, United Nations inspectors were on the defensive today over a
recent visit to a major mosque in Baghdad.

Muslim cleric Quteiba Saadi Amash said the sanctity of his Al-Nid'a Mosque
had been violated by five male inspectors who dropped in unexpectedly

A UN spokesperson in Baghdad said Thursday that the inspectors indeed
visited the mosque, but not to inspect it.

"It was a private visit. They just wanted to visit a mosque," spokesperson
Hiro Ueki told The Associated Press. "They had no intention to enter, but
they were invited to see it. They took pictures only after they asked.
Everyone at the mosque was very cordial to them."

Branding them "inquisitors, not inspectors," Amash said the men went to
Al-Nid'a, an imposing structure that opened to worshippers last year, and
were not accompanied by Iraqi liaison officials, who go with them on all
their inspections.

"Are they looking for weapons of mass destruction or are they gauging the
faith in our hearts?" he asked.

"This is a provocation for Muslims in Iraq and their right to worship," said
Amash, who added that the inspectors also wanted to know the number of
worshippers Fridays, when Muslims perform their main weekly prayers.

"We thank God that it was not a time of prayer when they came because their
lives would have been in danger if they had," he said, suggesting that angry
worshippers would have attacked them.


by Joby Warrick
(MS)NBC, 24th January

Jan. 24  When President Bush traveled to the United Nations in September to
make his case against Iraq, he brought along a rare piece of evidence for
what he called Iraq's "continued appetite" for nuclear bombs. The finding:
Iraq had tried to buy thousands of high-strength aluminum tubes, which Bush
said were "used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon."

Bush cited the aluminum tubes in his speech before the U.N. General Assembly
and in documents presented to U.N. leaders. Vice President Cheney and
national security adviser Condoleezza Rice both repeated the claim, with
Rice describing the tubes as "only really suited for nuclear weapons

It was by far the most prominent, detailed assertion by the White House of
recent Iraqi efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. But according to government
officials and weapons experts, the claim now appears to be seriously in
After weeks of investigation, U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq are
increasingly confident that the aluminum tubes were never meant for
enriching uranium, according to officials familiar with the inspection
process. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. chartered
nuclear watchdog, reported in a Jan. 8 preliminary assessment that the tubes
were "not directly suitable" for uranium enrichment but were "consistent"
with making ordinary artillery rockets  a finding that meshed with Iraq's
official explanation for the tubes. New evidence supporting that conclusion
has been gathered in recent weeks and will be presented to the U.N. Security
Council in a report due to be released on Monday, the officials said.

Moreover, there were clues from the beginning that should have raised doubts
about claims that the tubes were part of a secret Iraqi nuclear weapons
program, according to U.S. and international experts on uranium enrichment.
The quantity and specifications of the tubes  narrow, silver cylinders
measuring 81 millimeters in diameter and about a meter in length made them
ill-suited to enrich uranium without extensive modification, the experts

But they are a perfect fit for a well-documented 81mm conventional rocket
program in place for two decades. Iraq imported the same aluminum tubes for
rockets in the 1980s. The new tubes it tried to purchase actually bear an
inscription that includes the word "rocket," according to one official who
examined them.

"It may be technically possible that the tubes could be used to enrich
uranium," said one expert familiar with the investigation of Iraq's
attempted acquisition. "But you'd have to believe that Iraq deliberately
ordered the wrong stock and intended to spend a great deal of time and money
reworking each piece."

As the U.N. inspections continue, some weapons experts said the aluminum
tubes saga could undermine the credibility of claims about Iraq's arsenal.
To date, the Bush administration has declined to release photos or other
specific evidence to bolster its contention that Iraq is actively seeking to
acquire new biological, chemical and nuclear arms, and the means to deliver

The U.N. inspections earlier this month turned up 16 empty chemical warheads
for short range, 122mm rockets. But inspectors said that so far they have
found no conclusive proof of a new Iraqi effort to acquire weapons of mass
destruction in searches of facilities that had been identified as suspicious
in U.S. and British intelligence reports. U.N. officials contend that Iraq
retains biological and chemical weapons and components it acquired before
the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

"If the U.S. government puts out bad information it runs a risk of
undermining the good information it possesses," said David Albright, a
former IAEA weapons inspector who has investigated Iraq's past nuclear
programs extensively. "In this case, I fear that the information was put out
there for a short-term political goal: to convince people that Saddam
Hussein is close to acquiring nuclear weapons."

The Bush administration, while acknowledging the IAEA's findings on the
aluminum tubes, has not retreated from its earlier statements. White House
spokesman Ari Fleischer reacted to the IAEA's initial report on Jan. 8 by
asserting that the case was still open.

"It should be noted," Fleischer said, "that the attempted acquisition of
such tubes is prohibited under the United Nations resolutions in any case."
U.N. sanctions restrict Iraq's ability to import "dual-use" items that
potentially could be used for weapons.

U.S. intelligence officials contend that the evidence, on balance, still
points to a secret uranium enrichment program, although there is significant
disagreement within the intelligence services. Those supporting the nuclear
theory said they were influenced by "other intelligence" beyond the
specifications of the tubes themselves, according to one intelligence
official. He did not elaborate.

IAEA officials said the investigation of the tubes officially remains open.
Earlier this week, Iraq agreed to provide inspectors with additional data
about its intended use for the tubes.

The controversy stems from a series of Iraqi attempts to purchase large
quantities  thousands or tens of thousands  of high-strength aluminum
tubes over the last two years. Apparently none of the attempts succeeded,
although in one instance in 2001 a shipment of more than 60,000 Chinese-made
aluminum tubes made it as far as Jordan before it was intercepted, according
to officials familiar with Iraq's procurement attempts.

Since then, the officials said, Iraq has made at least two other attempts to
acquire the tubes. The more recent attempts involved private firms located
in what was described only as a "NATO country." In all, more than 120,000 of
the tubes were reportedly sought.

In each of the attempts, Iraq requested tubes made of an aluminum alloy with
precise dimensions and high tolerances for heat and stress. To intelligence
analysts, the requests had a ring of familiarity: Iraq had imported aluminum
tubes in the 1980s, although with different specifications and much larger
diameter, to build gas centrifuges  fast-spinning machines used in
enriching uranium for nuclear weapons. Through a crash nuclear program
launched in 1990, Iraq succeeded in enriching nearly enough uranium for one
bomb before its plans were disrupted in 1991 by the start of the Gulf War,
according to U.N. weapons inspectors.

By several accounts, Iraq's recent attempts to buy aluminum tubes sparked a
rancorous debate as Bush administration officials, intelligence analysts and
government scientists argued over Iraq's intent.

"A number of people argued that the tubes could not possibly be used as
artillery rockets because the specifications were so precise. It would be a
waste of dollars," said one knowledgeable scientist.

Ultimately, the conclusion in the intelligence discussion was that Iraq was
planning to use the tubes in a nuclear program. This view was favored by CIA
analysts. However, there were dissenting arguments by enrichment experts at
the Energy Department and officials at the State Department. What ultimately
swung the argument in favor of the nuclear theory was the observation that
Iraq had attempted to purchase aluminum tubes with such precise
specifications that it made other uses seem unlikely, officials said.

By contrast, in Britain, the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair said in
a Sept. 24 white paper that there was "no definitive intelligence" that the
tubes were destined for a nuclear program.

The tubes were made of an aluminum-zinc alloy known as 7000-series, which is
used in a wide range of industrial applications. But the dimensions and
technical features, such as metal thickness and surface coatings, made them
an unlikely choice for centrifuges, several nuclear experts said. Iraq used
a different aluminum alloy in its centrifuges in the 1980s before switching
to more advanced metals known as maraging steel and carbon fibers, which are
better suited for the task, the experts said.

Significantly, there is no evidence so far that Iraq sought other materials
required for centrifuges, such as motors, metal caps and special magnets,
U.S. and international officials said.

Bush's remarks about the aluminum tubes caused a stir at the IAEA's
headquarters in Vienna. Weapons experts at the agency had also been
monitoring Iraq's attempts to buy the aluminum but were skeptical of
arguments that the tubes had a nuclear purpose, according to one official
who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The IAEA spent seven years in the
1990s documenting and ultimately destroying all known vestiges of Iraq's
nuclear weapons program, including its gas centrifuges.

After returning to Iraq when weapons inspections resumed in November, the
IAEA made it a priority to sort out the conflicting claims, according to
officials familiar with the probe. In December, the agency spent several
days poring through files and interviewing people involved in the attempted
acquisition of the tubes-including officials at the company that supplied
the metal and managers of the Baghdad importing firm that apparently had
been set up as a front company to acquire special parts and materials for
Iraq's Ministry of Industry. According to informed officials, the IAEA
concluded Iraq had indeed been running a secret procurement operation, but
the intended beneficiary was not Iraq's Atomic Energy Commission; rather, it
was an established army program to replace Iraq's aging arsenal of
conventional 81mm rockets, the type used in multiple rocket launchers.

The explanation made sense for several reasons, they said. In the 1980s,
Iraq was known to have obtained a design for 81mm rockets through
reverse-engineering of munitions it had previously purchased abroad. During
the Iran-Iraq war, Iraqis built tens of thousands of such rockets, using
high-strength, 7000-series aluminum tubes it bought from foreign suppliers.
U.N. inspectors in the 1990s had allowed Iraq to retain a stockpile of about
160,000 of the 81mm rockets, and an inspection of the stockpile last month
confirmed that the rockets still exist, though now corroded after years of
exposure in outdoor depots.

By all appearances, the Iraqis were "trying to buy exact replacements for
those rockets," said Albright, the former IAEA inspector.

Albright, now president of the Institute for Science and International
Security, a Washington research group, said that even a less sinister
explanation for the aluminum tubes did not suggest Iraq is entirely

"But if Iraq does have a centrifuge program, it is well-hidden, and it is
important for us to come up with information that will help us find it,"
Albright said. "This incident discredits that effort at a time when we can
least afford it.",3604,881852,00.html

by Richard Norton-Taylor
The Guardian, 25th January

The significance of documents claiming Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard
have been issued with chemical warfare suits and an anti-nerve gas drug was
being treated with scepticism last night.

The smuggled documents were said to have been obtained by the Iraqi National
Coalition, an opposition group whose secretary-general Tawfik al-Yassiri, a
former brigadier-general in the Iraqi army, claimed that his organisation
had extensive contacts within the Iraqi armed forces.

"We have checked the information in other ways. We have members in our
organisation in most of the camps and cities in Iraq, from soldiers to
generals," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

They were seized on by Downing Street as showing that President Saddam was
preparing to use chemical weapons in the event of war and that he was not
complying with UN resolutions.

However, the prime minister's spokesman said: "We are not in a position to
say whether the report on the Today programme is correct or not. That is a
matter for the BBC".

It has long been assumed by western intelligence agencies that Iraqi forces
might use chemical or biological agents against invading troops. British
troops are being provided with suits designed to protect them against the

The BBC said the documents - handwritten Arabic-language notes claimed to
have been brought out of Iraq in the past month - suggest that Iraqi troops
have been given atropine, an antidote to nerve gas.

However, atropine has some perfectly normal medical uses - especially for
heart and respiratory disorders - and Iraq has bought large quantities of
the drug with the blessing of the UN security council. A claim in the New
York Times last year that Iraq had bought large quantities of atropine from
Turkey was denied by the Turkish authorities and drug companies.

Claims about the documents were made as US officials admitted that President
George Bush's assertion last year that Iraq had tried to buy thousands of
aluminium tubes "to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon", was wrong.

UN investigators will tell the security council on Monday that the tubes
were for ordinary artillery rockets, the Washington Post reported.

The Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, Menzies Campbell, yesterday
urged caution: "These documents may be of potential significance but their
authenticity needs to be established. It should be noted that NBC (nuclear,
biological, chemical) suits and atropine can be used for defensive purposes.
If there is a war, British forces will receive similar protection."

The father of the Commons, Tam Dalyell, a leading Labour opponent of a war,
said the documents could be propaganda. "I have always said there may be
some leftovers of chemical weapons... The most sure way of their being used
is if Saddam is cornered in Baghdad", he said.

More than 500 staff, students and alumni at the London School of Hygiene and
Tropical Medicine warned Tony Blair yesterday that more than 260,000 lives
could be lost in a war with Iraq. Their open letter was published in the
British Medical Journal and the Lancet.

The government, meanwhile, said yesterday that UN inspectors had visited all
the sites mentioned in its intelligence-backed dossier but had not found
"any signs" of weapons of mass destruction.

Nor were there any signs of "programmes for their production at the sites,"
Mike O'Brien, the Foreign Office minister, told the Labour MP Harry Cohen.

Mr O'Brien added that, given the advance publicity the government gave to
the sites, "it is not entirely surprising that the inspectors failed to
uncover any evidence".

by Hamza Hendawi
Newsday, from Associated Press, 26th January

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Three Iraqi scientists rejected a request by U.N. weapons
inspectors to undergo private interviews to aid the U.N. search for evidence
of forbidden arms programs, a senior Iraqi official said Saturday.

Both the United Nations and the United States have pressed Iraq to persuade
its scientists to speak privately to the inspectors, hoping the absence of
Iraqi officials would encourage them to be more candid about the nature of
their work.

Iraq's government maintains it's doing everything it can to "encourage" the
scientists but says they are refusing because of fears their information
could be distorted.

In other developments Saturday:

 Two men -- one carrying three knives and the other shouting "Save me!" --
were detained after trying separately to enter the U.N. inspectors' Baghdad

 Secretary of State Colin Powell urged other countries to not shrink from
the effort to disarm Iraq, by force if necessary, just because "the going is
getting tough."

 Iraq's parliament speaker warned that his country would use "every method"
to defend itself against an attack.

 For the second time in 24 hours, U.S. warplanes attacked an Iraqi military
target inside the no-fly zone in southern Iraq, the U.S. Central Command

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry had said late Friday that three scientists the
U.N. inspectors wanted to question in private Saturday were "encouraged" to
do so. But in the end all three refused, insisting government officials must
be present, said a senior Iraqi official, who spoke to The Associated Press
on condition of anonymity.

He said the inspectors interviewed one of the three Saturday, but with Iraqi
officials sitting in on the meeting. The identities of the three scientists
were not revealed.

Hiro Ueki, spokesman for the U.N. inspectors in Baghdad, confirmed the Iraqi
account. He said two scientists refused to be questioned without Iraqi
officials present, so the inspectors canceled the interviews altogether.

A team from the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency flew by helicopter
to the Kurdish region in northern Iraq to interview the third scientist
privately, but he would not agree, Ueki's statement said.

"The individual concerned declined the request. The interview was then
conducted with a representative of the NMD (Iraq's National Monitoring
Directorate) present," Ueki's statement said, adding that the inspectors
"will continue to seek interviews in private."

The interview took place inside the northern "no-fly zone" enforced by the
United States and Britain since the 1991 Gulf War to protect Iraqi Kurds
from Iraq's army.

Ueki's statement said officials from the Iraqi NMD flew on the same
helicopter. The United Nations last week canceled an inspection in the
no-fly zone when the Iraqi side insisted on following in their own
helicopters. Saturday's trip, with the Iraqis on board the U.N. aircraft,
was in line with an agreement reached last week to settle the problem.

At the inspectors compound on Baghdad's outskirts, there was no explanation
for the attempt by the two men to force their way inside. Nor was it known
if the two incidents were connected.

The first man, armed with three knives and a piece of metal, was apprehended
as he tried to get through the front gate and was taken away by Iraqi

About 45 minutes later, a young man ran in front of inspectors' vehicles,
shouting "Save me!", and was allowed to enter one vehicle. He was carrying a
notebook, which U.N. officials said was empty. Ueki said the man was turned
over to Iraqi authorities.

The subject of private interviews has become a major issue in advance of a
report to the U.N. Security Council Monday by chief inspectors Hans Blix and
Mohamed ElBaradei on Iraq's compliance with U.N. Resolution 1441 giving arms
inspectors the right to search for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons
anywhere in Iraq.

Washington, which accuses Iraq of hiding such weapons, has taken a hard line
on the interview issue.

Ken Lisaius, a White House spokesman, said Saturday the Iraqis' rejection of
private interviews is "further evidence that Iraq has something to hide."
Iraq's government must let such interviews happen, as required by the U.N.
resolution, "without delay and without debate," he said.


by Marcus Warren
Daily Telegraph, 28th January

It was the last gesture one expected in the circumstances. But, when the
histories are written of the confrontation with Iraq the point when war
became inevitable may be identified as the moment yesterday morning when
Hans Blix flashed the thumbs-up sign.

As hand signals go, it looked clumsy enough. However, what was even more
surprising was the figure to whom the gesture was addressed - John
Negroponte, the hawkish United States ambassador to the United Nations.

Whatever has passed between the elderly Swede and the US administration
until now - and in private much of it has been less than friendly - the two
men were clearly letting bygones be bygones.

Whether a token of bonhomie, an in-joke or just an alternative to the round
of handshakes before one of the security council's more momentous meetings
in recent years , the thumbs-up seemed to signal the end for Saddam Hussein.

Combined with what followed, a matter-of-fact recital of Iraq's failures to
provide more than symbolic co-operation with Mr Blix's weapons inspectors,
this appeared to mark the point of no return.

Mr Blix's verdict was all the more devastating as it came from the lips of a
normally jovial figure, dressed in a garish orange tie, who has in the past
bent over backwards to avoid taking sides.

"It is not enough to open doors. Inspection is not a game of 'catch as catch
can'," he said in one passage of his 15-page report. "It is not built upon
the premise of trust. Rather, it is designed to lead to trust."

>From the rest of the contents of his update on his inspectors' progress on
the ground in Iraq, it followed that trust between Mr Blix and the Iraqi
regime was still in very short supply.

Point by point, the veteran diplomat and scientist spelt out the extent of
Iraq's deceptions and the games Saddam has been playing with his inspectors.

Having made the case for the prosecution, Mr Blix, the head of the
biological and chemical inspection teams, left sentencing to his masters on
the security council.

He then gave the floor to his Egyptian counterpart, Mohamed ElBaradei, the
chief nuclear inspector, a low-key figure even by the standards of other UN

One hint of Mr ElBaradei's standing relative to Mr Blix was that many people
were either unaware or ignored the fact that he was to deliver a report to
the security council too.

Based in Vienna, rather than New York, the Egyptian has always been slightly
detached from the intrigues and politicking at UN headquarters but he also
had a brave stab at imposing himself on the proceedings.

Sitting next to Mr Blix he, too, chided Baghdad for not being proactive
enough in volunteering information. But, unlike the Swede, he confronted the
issue of timing head-on.

"The window of opportunity may not remain open for very much longer," he

After accusing Iraq of many of the same devious evasions as Mr Blix, Mr
ElBaradei launched into an impassioned plea for a few more months to pursue
inspections and prove that the country had no nuclear weapons programme.

"These few months would be a valuable investment in peace because they would
help us to avoid a war," he said.

Those words seemed to fall on deaf ears. Hardly had the two inspectors
finished their "updates", as the reports were termed, than a scrum of
diplomats grabbed copies of the text when Mr Negroponte strode up to the
microphone outside. Mr Negroponte was the most vocal of the UN ambassadors
yesterday, not surprisingly on a day when the debate over war with Iraq
seemed to shift decisively in favour of the hawks.

The sceptics among his colleagues kept a lower profile and will now exploit
the fiction of the need for "consultations with capitals" over what to do
next to lie low.

However, one ambassador could hardly miss his date with destiny, Mohammed
Aldouri, the hapless envoy for Iraq. Like an old record stuck in its groove,
he repeated the assertion that Iraq had fully complied with the UN's

One shouted query from the press caught him off guard, however. Wasn't the
best way of stopping the slaughter to remove Saddam Hussein and his regime,
Mr Aldouri was asked. "That is a very foolish question," the ambassador

by Irwin Arieff
Yahoo, 28th January

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Iraq demanded U.N. help in buying
sophisticated radar for two airfields as a condition for safe overflights by
a U-2 spy plane loaned to U.N. arms inspectors, chief inspector Hans Blix
said on Tuesday.

They asked that we support their request to acquire special radars for Mosul
and for Basra," said Blix, who is responsible for accounting for Iraq's
ballistic missiles and chemical and biological weapons.

In an interview with Reuters Television, he said he had rejected the demand,
particularly as the Iraqis had imposed no such condition on U-2 overflights
under a previous U.N. inspection regime.

Iraq's demand was "really not negotiable," Blix said.

Inspectors usually insist on safety guarantees for any flights or
overflights undertaken. As a result, there have been no U.N. U-2
overflights, although Blix said they could start if Iraq changed its mind.

"I cannot rule it out," he said.

U.S. and British coalition warplanes patrolling "no-fly" zones over Iraq
have regularly targeted radar facilities in recent months as the U.S.
military builds up forces in the Gulf region to prepare for a possible war
with Iraq.

Agreeing to help Iraq acquire new radar would have put the U.N. inspectors
in the awkward position of appearing to bolster Iraq's radar defenses at a
time Washington was working to weaken them.

U.N. inspectors have set up regional offices in Mosul to the north of
Baghdad and Basra in the south to help them in their work, and rely on
nearby airfields in both cities.

Blix's comments came a day after he briefed the U.N. Security Council,
giving a tough recital of gaps in Iraqi data on weapons of mass destruction
and saying Baghdad had not come to a "genuine acceptance" of its disarmament

During the closed-door portion of his briefing, Blix spelled out three
conditions set by Iraq before his inspectors could begin the U-2
overflights, council members told Reuters.

In addition to help in buying the radar equipment, Iraq wanted to be
notified in advance of every U-2 flight and asked that the no-fly zones be
suspended during those flights.

Blix said the U.N. inspectors were willing to inform Baghdad of their flight
plans but they had no control over the no-fly zones, so that demand, too,
was "not negotiable."

The United States and Britain declared no-fly zones in northern and southern
Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War to protect Kurds in the north and Shi'ite
Muslims in the south from Baghdad's forces. Iraq does not recognize the

The U.S. military is also using low-flying unmanned Predator spy planes in
the southern no fly zone.

Piloted U-2s -- veterans of Cold War flights over the Soviet Union -- fly
very high.

The United States has offered Predators to the U.N. inspectors as well, but
the United Nations has apparently turned down the offer.

Blix has repeatedly criticized Baghdad in recent weeks for imposing
unacceptable conditions on U-2 flights, but Iraq has not backed down.
"Satellites can't loiter over an area. If you have inspections in an area, a
U-2 can hover over it," Blix said last week.

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