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[casi] News, 29/01-05/02/03 (3)

News, 29/01-05/02/03 (3)


*  'The transatlantic bond is our guarantee of freedom': Declaration of
Eight European Leaders in Support of United States on Iraq
*  German parliament ponders role of U.S. bases in Iraq action
*  Chirac should accept a timetable
*  8 European states back US over Iraq: Setback to France, Germany
*  11 Security Council members oppose war against Iraq
*  Mandela denounces Blair over Iraq war
*  Poets see no rhyme or reason for Iraq war
*  Op-ed diplomacy makes its mark
*  The UN game and the logic of war
*  Australian PM First Victim of Iraq War


*  US, British Planes Attack North Iraq 'No-Fly' Zone
*  Iraq Bombing Softens Air Defenses


*  Iraqi Opposition Leader Back in Homeland


Washington Post, 30th January

What follows is the text of a joint declaration signed by the leaders of
eight European states in support of the United States in its efforts to
disarm Iraq. The declaration was published in various European newspapers.

The real bond between the United States and Europe is the values we share:
democracy, individual freedom, human rights and the Rule of Law.

These values crossed the Atlantic with those who sailed from Europe to help
create the USA.

Today they are under greater threat than ever.

The attacks of 11 September showed just how far terrorists - the enemies of
our common values - are prepared to go to destroy them.

Those outrages were an attack on all of us.

In standing firm in defence of these principles, the governments and people
of the United States and Europe have amply demonstrated the strength of
their convictions.

Today more than ever, the transatlantic bond is a guarantee of our freedom.

We in Europe have a relationship with the United States which has stood the
test of time.

Thanks in large part to American bravery, generosity and far-sightedness,
Europe was set free from the two forms of tyranny that devastated our
continent in the 20th century: Nazism and Communism.

Thanks, too, to the continued co-operation between Europe and the United
States we have managed to guarantee peace and freedom on our continent.

The transatlantic relationship must not become a casualty of the current
Iraqi regime's persistent attempts to threaten world security.

In today's world, more than ever before, it is vital that we preserve that
unity and cohesion.

We know that success in the day-to-day battle against terrorism and the
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction demands unwavering
determination and firm international cohesion on the part of all countries
for whom freedom is precious.

The Iraqi regime and its weapons of mass destruction represent a clear
threat to world security.

This danger has been explicitly recognised by the United Nations.

All of us are bound by Security Council Resolution 1441, which was adopted

We Europeans have since reiterated our backing for Resolution 1441, our wish
to pursue the UN route and our support for the Security Council, at the
Prague Nato Summit and the Copenhagen European Council.

In doing so, we sent a clear, firm and unequivocal message that we would rid
the world of the danger posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass

We must remain united in insisting that his regime is disarmed.

The solidarity, cohesion and determination of the international community
are our best hope of achieving this peacefully. Our strength lies in unity.

The combination of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism is a threat of
incalculable consequences.

It is one at which all of us should feel concerned. Resolution 1441 is
Saddam Hussein's last chance to disarm using peaceful means.

The opportunity to avoid greater confrontation rests with him.

Sadly this week the UN weapons inspectors have confirmed that his
long-established pattern of deception, denial and non-compliance with UN
Security Council resolutions is continuing.

Europe has no quarrel with the Iraqi people.

Indeed, they are the first victims of Iraq's current brutal regime.

Our goal is to safeguard world peace and security by ensuring that this
regime gives up its weapons of mass destruction.

Our governments have a common responsibility to face this threat.

Failure to do so would be nothing less than negligent to our own citizens
and to the wider world.

The United Nations Charter charges the Security Council with the task of
preserving international peace and security.

To do so, the Security Council must maintain its credibility by ensuring
full compliance with its resolutions.

We cannot allow a dictator to systematically violate those Resolutions.

If they are not complied with, the Security Council will lose its
credibility and world peace will suffer as a result.

We are confident that the Security Council will face up to its

Jose Maria Aznar, Spain
Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, Portugal
Silvio Berlusconi, Italy
Tony Blair, United Kingdom
Vaclav Havel, Czech Republic
Peter Medgyessy, Hungary
Leszek Miller, Poland
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Denmark

by Tony Czuczka
News & Observer, 30th January

BERLIN (AP) - Legal experts in parliament argued Thursday that Chancellor
Gerhard Schroeder's pledge to let the United States use German bases in a
war with Iraq need not apply if Washington acts unilaterally.

While angering Washington by staunchly ruling out a German role in military
action against Iraq, Schroeder said in November that the U.S. military could
count on using crucial bases in Germany and German airspace.
But a parliamentary study made a potentially significant distinction,
concluding that accords on the stationing of U.S. troops in Germany
guarantee base and overflight rights only for exercises or if the NATO
alliance acts jointly. A copy of the study was obtained by The Associated

"Preventive military measures by an individual country ... are not covered
by the current NATO troop statute," said the study, commissioned by
conservative opposition lawmaker Hans-Peter Uhl.

Schroeder has avoided revisiting the question of basing rights as U.S.
pressure for action against Saddam Hussein has built. But he has insisted
that any decision on war must be an international one, made by the U.N.
Security Council.

Schroeder's anti-war stance has aligned him with France and the German
public, but he has found himself increasingly at odds with other European

The chancellor hinted Wednesday in the clearest terms yet that he is losing
hope that war can be avoided.

Speaking in the western town of Wesel, Schroeder said he was "concerned -
more than one might sometimes think - concerned whether we will succeed" in
preventing a war in Iraq.

"We have to use all our strength to ensure ... that we avoid war and resolve
the conflict peacefully," Schroeder said.

by James Rubin
Financial Times, 30th January

Europe is more divided than ever on how to deal with Saddam Hussein. The
leaders of Britain, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Denmark, Poland, Hungary and the
Czech Republic appear to back America's threat of war. The opposition of
France and Germany has hardened. But before war comes, the US should make a
last push for further international support. At today's Camp David summit
with Tony Blair, George W. Bush should focus as much on giving Jacques
Chirac a last chance to join the US-led coalition as on giving Mr Hussein a
last chance to disarm.

Without an eleventh-hour change of heart by Baghdad in favour of
disarmament, or exile of Mr Hussein and his cronies via a coup, an
American-led invasion of Iraq appears imminent. Such a war could be
mercifully short, or nasty, brutal and longer than predicted. In either
case, America and Britain would prevail - but they would be best served by
having the maximum degree of international legitimacy and support.

The endorsement of the United Nations Security Council would be important,
to make it easier for Turkey and Arab allies to provide bases and political
cover if a long siege of Baghdad is necessary. And when it comes to the
aftermath of war, the occupation and rebuilding of Iraq and its
reintegration into the international community, Washington should be seeking
to share the burden and the responsibility. But the Bush administration will
not wait long for a UN endorsement. For political and logistical reasons, a
massive invasion force cannot be kept ready and waiting in the region for
another six months.

The two crucial issues facing Mr Bush and Mr Blair are evidence and time.
The presentation by Colin Powell, secretary of state, to the UN next week is
designed to persuade the world that the threat from Mr Hussein is so urgent
and immediate that a year-long programme of inspections must be cut short.
Unless there is dramatic new proof, the administration's belief that
Baghdad's links with al-Qaeda will clinch the argument is likely to be
mistaken. The Central Intelligence Agency has publicly disavowed the
likelihood of Mr Hussein's handing over his most prized weapons to Osama bin
Laden. The rest of the world will not accept that the mere possibility of
such a transfer justifies immediate war.

Instead, Mr Powell should focus on the argument the US and Britain are now
winning, rather than the smoking gun they appear not to have found.
Resolution 1441 requires Iraq to co operate actively with UN inspectors and
disarm. Hans Blix, chief UN weapons inspector, this week made it clear that
Iraq was not doing so, bolstering Washington's case. Mr Powell should use Mr
Blix's words to put on the spot those countries that see inspections as a
form of containment rather than disarmament.

As for timing, the French government has never answered the fundamental
question: how much time would Paris allow for inspections without Iraqi
co-operation in destroying the thousands of tonnes of chemical and
biological agents that, as the UN confirms, are unaccounted for? Dominique
de Villepin, French foreign minister, says the US is "impatient". But how
long is long enough? It is France that cites the UN as the only source of
legitimacy for international security. How long will the French allow Iraq
to defy the very institution they say they treasure?

Of course, after two years of America's gratuitous unilateralism - spurning
the Kyoto protocol on climate change, the International Criminal Court, even
Nato, and pronouncing a new security strategy of pre-emption - it is hard
for France to believe that Washington wants to uphold the international
order. Perhaps if the British prime minister were making the case, it would
not be so easy for Paris to object. For it is Mr Blair who has been prepared
to use force against the enemies of civilisation and international order -
in Bosnia and Kosovo, in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

Whoever makes the case, Mr Bush and Mr Blair can agree that if a short delay
brought Paris on board - and with it UN endorsement - it would be
worthwhile. But if Mr Chirac will not say how long is enough for
inspections, or if he is prepared to give Baghdad another year in which to
defy the UN, they should proceed without him. France should now clarify its
stance or step aside. That should be the message from Camp David.

The writer is a former US assistant secretary of state

Dawn, 31st January


In Berlin, officials insisted it was "plain wrong" to describe the Germans
as isolated and France said that all of Europe agreed on the need to enforce
UN resolutions while urging weapons inspectors be given more time. But
Russia, which wields veto power in the UN Security Council, warned that the
aim of the United Nations was to disarm Iraq and not oust President Saddam.

"The objective on Iraq is stated in the Security Council resolution - they
should not have arms of mass destruction nor the means to produce them. This
is the main problem," Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said during a visit to
Sofia. "Some countries link the issue of weapons of mass destruction to a
regime change in Iraq. But this goes against the resolution," he said.

In Greece, which has joined France and Germany in criticizing the war plans
of Mr Bush, a foreign ministry spokesman said the Greek EU presidency had
not even been informed in advance about the letter.

"We were not invited to sign that letter," the spokesman said, while Prime
Minister Costas Simitis said the letter did not help attempts to create a
common EU position on the crisis.

The European parliament passed a resolution by a vote of 287 to 209 opposing
any unilateral military action against Iraq.

EU Chief slams "gang of eight": Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, current
president of the European Union, on Thursday criticized eight fellow leaders
for a declaration on Iraq which he said was at odds with the EU's drive for
a common position.

The joint letter, signed by eight European leaders backing the United States
over the crisis with Iraq, had highlighted and brought into the open the
EU's divisions on the issue.

"The way in which the initiative on the issue of Iraq was expressed does not
contribute to the common approach to the problem," Simitis said in a
statement in his role as EU president. "The EU aims to have a common foreign
policy so on Iraq there is a need for coordination."-AFP/Reuters

by Masood Haider
Dawn, 31st January

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 30: At a closed-door UN Security Council meeting on
Wednesday, 11 out of 15 members expressed their reservations against
launching military action against Iraq until UN inspectors have completed
their job.

It became apparent that most council members are not convinced that the
negative report from Chief Inspector Hans Blix that Iraq was not cooperating
nor the case made against Iraq by President Bush, have changed any positions
in the council.

Supporting continued inspections were France, Russia and China, which all
have veto power, as well as Germany, Mexico, Chile, Guinea, Cameroon, Syria,
Angola and Pakistan. Only Bulgaria and Spain backed the United States and
Britain in focusing on Iraq's failures rather than the inspections process.

Mohamed ElBaradei, Chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, again
called for extension of months to allow inspectors to come to a conclusive
judgment about Iraq's weapons programme.

"I still believe that we have not exhausted the possibility for the peaceful
resolution of the issue, and I will continue to plead for more time,"
ElBaradei said.

Some Security Council diplomats told reporters that the possibility of a
second resolution paving the way toward war was being widely discussed. The
most likely scenario would set a relatively short deadline for Baghdad to
meet certain steps to avert military action, the diplomats said.

The United States and Britain are the only two countries to declare Iraq in
"material breach" - which could trigger war. Diplomats said that after
Powell's appearance, the two countries might try to get the entire council
to declare Iraq in "material breach."

US Secretary of State Colin Powell will present classified information on
Iraq's weapons programme to the Security Council on Feb 5 to prove that
Baghdad was still hiding its weapons of mass destruction. The presentation
is likely to include a slide show behind closed-doors.

President Bush, meanwhile, was given a boost by the support expressed by
eight European community leaders.

In a signed letter published on Thursday in newspapers including The Wall
Street Journal and the Times of London, the leaders of Britain, Spain,
Italy, Portugal, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Denmark paid homage
to the "bravery and generosity of America" in ensuring peace in Europe.

France and Germany stood out as the two holdouts against the support given
by their eight counterparts.

At the UN the French Ambassador, Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, told reporters
that "the majority in the council is in favor of giving more time to the
inspectors," adding "as long as the prospect... of the disarmament of Iraq
through peaceful means exists, we have to continue."

The foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, Prince Saud, was scheduled to meet
President Bush and the Secretary of State Colin Powell on Thursday. Mr Bush
also planned to meet on Thursday with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of
Italy and on Friday at Camp David with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Tony Blair was due to go to Madrid late on
Thursday afternoon for a two-hour stop to meet the Spanish prime minister
before jetting across the Atlantic for Friday's meeting with Mr Bush at the
Camp David retreat.

Diplomats here are of opinion that Mr Bush and Mr Blair are expected to
align military strategy for a possible attack on Iraq, but will agree to
wait a few weeks for more UN weapons inspections before launching war.

This week, Mr Blair has already talked by phone to leaders of France,
Canada, Australia, Turkey and Greece.

Next week Mr Blair is expected to visit France for a meeting with President
Jacques Chirac, and Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi visits London,
where British officials will put the case for war to Iraq's key neighbour.

Mr Blair, the reports here say, has aligned his position closer with Mr Bush
prior to his departure by explicitly linking Iraq with the militant Al Qaeda
network blamed for Sept 11 and other attacks.,,3-561252,00.html

by Michael Dynes in Johannesburg
The Times, 31st January

NELSON MANDELA, South Africa's former President, made a scathing attack
yesterday on plans for war against Iraq, denouncing the United States and
Britain for seeking to plunge the world into "a holocaust".

Condemning Tony Blair for his robust support of American threats to disarm
Iraq by force with or without UN approval, Mr Mandela said that the Prime
Minister had become "the foreign minister of the United States. He is no
longer the Prime Minister of Britain."

Mr Mandela asked: "Why is the United States behaving so arrogantly?" Saying
that all America wanted was Iraqi oil, he accused President Bush and Mr
Blair of undermining the authority of the United Nations because Kofi Annan,
the Secretary-General, was black.

"Is it because the Secretary-General of the United Nations is now a black
man?" Mr Mandela said. "They never did that when secretary-generals were

He called for the American people to rise up in protest against President
Bush and urged all world leaders with vetoes in the United Nations Security
Council to unite in opposition to the US-British plans for disarming Iraq.

"One power with a President who has no foresight and cannot think properly
is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust," Mr Mandela, 84, told a
cheering audience at an international women's conference in Johannesburg.

In recent months, Mr Mandela, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has repeatedly
criticised the policy of President Bush and Mr Blair towards Iraq, demanding
that Washington and London respect the UN's authority. But yesterday's
speech was far harsher and more personal than anything hitherto.

Mr Mandela said that the United Nations was the only reason that there had
not been a third world war, and that it should be up to the Security Council
alone to decide how to deal with the regime of President Saddam Hussein.

The United States, which had callously dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and
Nagasaki, had no moral authority to police the world, Mr Mandela said. "If
there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world,
it is the United States of America. They don't care for human beings."

Mr Blair and Thabo Mbeki, the South African President, are to meet at
Chequers tomorrow. Mr Mbeki is expected to give dire warnings about the
consequences of a war against Iraq for Africa's prospects for economic

Mr Mbeki, who will also be speaking for the African Union and the
Non-Aligned Movement, is expected to exhort Mr Blair to pull back from using
force to disarm Baghdad, and to grant UN weapons inspectors more time.

Fearing the effects of a 1970s-style oil-shock, in which prices could reach
$80 (£48) a barrel, Mr Mbeki will tell Mr Blair that such a development
would effectively mean saying goodbye to African economic progress.

The four to five hours of largely one-to-one talks will also cover Zimbabwe,
the war against terrorism, the Middle East and other regional issues such as
the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad), although there is no
formal agenda, British diplomats said.

Mr Mbeki, who has said that Iraq has not hindered the UN inspectors, earlier
called on all South Africans to join the world peace movement to help to
prevent a US-led war against Iraq.

He has also offered the services of R.F. "Pik" Botha, the former Foreign
Minister, who played a key role in co-operating with the International
Atomic Energy Agency over the destruction in 1993 of the seven atomic
weapons built by apartheid South Africa, in helping Iraq "to improve its
co-operation" with UN weapons inspectors.

Defending Pretoria's "no war at any cost" position, Mr Mbeki said that it
took UN inspectors two years to verify South Africa's disarmament. "It is
clear to us that it is necessary to give additional time to the inspectors,"
he said.

"We are united in our conviction that weapons of mass destruction must be
liquidated, but there is no need to go to war to do this. War would create
new and enormous problems. This is not necessary. Nothing has happened to
suggest that the Security Council must take a route that leads to war," Mr
Mbeki added. Mr Blair is likely to give Mr Mbeki a cordial hearing. But Mr
Mbeki has already stated publicly that he has no power to alter the course
of events.

Although South Africa's ruling African National Congress cultivated close
ties with the British Labour Party during its years in exile, relations
between the two since Mr Blair came to power in 1997 have undergone periods
of severe strain.

Britain remains by far the largest foreign investor in South Africa and is
also its third largest trading partner. But Pretoria's post-apartheid
foreign policy has been preoccupied with developing new ties with Africa and
the rest of the Third World rather than with the West.

Britain has denounced President Mugabe's illegal land seizures in Zimbabwe,
the destruction of the rule of law and last year's fraudulent presidential
election. But South Africa has consistently refused to condemn Mr Mugabe's
regime, saying that Africans should be left alone to sort out Africa's

South Africa also recently found itself the target of intense Western
criticism after voting for Libya, a former sponsor of terrorism with an
appalling record on human rights, to take the chair of the United Nations
Human Rights Commission.

Mr Blair, initially an enthusiastic supporter of Nepad, in which the West
promised billions of pounds in aid and investment in exchange for a
commitment to uphold democracy, the rule of law and good governance, is now
calling for African leaders keep their part of the bargain.

by Robert Melnbardis, 31st January

MONTREAL (Reuters) - A group of more than 100 English-language poets who
banded together to produce a electronic book of poems speaking out against a
war on Iraq hopes to expand the project, its editor says.

Todd Swift, a 36-year-old published Montreal poet who lives part of the year
in Paris, edited poems sent in by writers from around the world over just
one week. They were published in an electronic anthology coinciding with the
report earlier this week by U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix.

Entitled "100 Poets against the War," the 95-page electronic book can be
download free at "," a London-based online magazine.

Swift encourages those interested to host, share, swap and print the
collection. Download instructions include tips on how to fold and staple the
pages into book form.

A revised version of the anthology will be available for download on Monday,
and some better known names from the international poetry community will be
added, Swift told Reuters.

"I don't want to give the impression that we're just trolling for big names
now, but there are a few very fine poems by well-known and lesser-known
poets that will be added," he said on Thursday.

Swift said the impetus to cobble together a book of poems by those opposed
to armed conflict against Iraq came from a desire to do "something more
dynamic" than simply signing a petition against war.

Relying on an e-mail network of fellow poets around the world, Swift sent
out the call, challenging 75 of them to submit a poem within the week while
passing on the word.

He received more than 400 poems by e-mail, and after sifting through them,
selected and edited those that would make it into the book. Several of the
submissions were entitled "collateral damage." Swift said the project was
inspired by legendary poets such as Americans Allen Ginsberg and Robert
Lowell, who opposed the war in Vietnam during the 1960s.

"I don't think a book of poetry can stop a war from happening," Swift said.
"But what I am hoping is this kind of cultural activity crosses into the
mainstream and encourages people to be brave with their opinions -- and that
can have a ripple effect." Swift said he was struck by both the poems
produced and the public response to them. In the flood of verses sent in
were many from first-time poets or those who had not previously been

"These are very sincere and moving poems and I actually included one or two
of those because they were so strong -- an effective use of language and
imagery," he said.

by William Safire
International Herald Tribune, 4th February

WASHINGTON: Even before seven brave astronauts aboard Columbia perished in
what President George W. Bush called "the service to all humanity" by
reaching for the stars, leaders of nine nations of Europe made plain their
appreciation of what America stood for in the service of freedom here on

A politically weak chancellor of Germany, followed by a president of France
eager to exploit popular anti-Americanism, had joined to drive a rift in the
Atlantic Alliance. "Old Europe," in Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's apt
phrase, was presuming to speak for all the nations of Europe in resisting an
American-led disarmament and liberation of Iraq.

The underlying purpose of the push by Gerhard Schröder and Jacques Chirac
was less about protecting or defanging Saddam Hussein than it was about a
much more parochial goal: to assert permanent Franco-German bureaucratic
dominance over the growing federation of European states. Opposition to
American superpower, they thought, was their lever of Archimedes to move the
Old World.

But then, by happy accident, a new form of statecraft was born.

"Op-ed diplomacy" has its antecedents -- Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah's
demarche last year through my Times colleague Tom Friedman was one - but
mediation-by-media bloomed last week at the instigation of Michael Gonzalez,
an op-ed editor for The Wall Street Journal in Brussels.

"I knew that the Schröder-Chirac view of Saddam's threat was not shared by
other European leaders," he tells me, "so I called Rome to get a piece by
Prime Minister Berlusconi."

That started the ball rolling, which soon got out of The Journal's hands.

The Italian leader liked the idea, but apparently didn't want to go it
alone, and contacted Jose Maria Aznar, the like-minded Spanish prime

Aznar, even after the Bush mistake in letting the Koreans deliver a boatload
of missiles to Yemen, wanted to make clear Spain stands with the United
States on nonproliferation.

He signed on and got in touch with his counterpart in Portugal and then in
Britain with Tony Blair, the European trying hardest to hold the Atlantic
Alliance together.

The journalistic interest of two Journal editors, Paul Gigot in New York and
Therese Rafael in London, was not in the op-ed copy itself, which at that
point was being negotiated among a half-dozen prime ministers without their
editorial help. What the journalists wanted was that whatever document the
politicians worked out would be exclusive to their newspaper.

The media-savvy Blair said no; it had to be made available to an op-ed page
of a newspaper in each country whose leader signed on.

The op-ed diplomats were obliged to make that concession. (How many
divisions has the Journal?)

The draft document was then circulated by the Europeans among other leaders
thought to be (1) critical of the Franco-German proposal to assert dominance
in the European Union; (2) genuinely worried about their nations' exposure
to weapons of mass destruction being developed by Saddam; and (3) eager to
express solidarity with the United States, which three times in the past
century had saved them from tyrannous takeover.

As deadline time approached, Schröder and Chirac, not invited to sign, got
wind of the document and leaned hard against it.

The Netherlands caved in. But Denmark and Poland did not waver.

Hungary, where the United States is training a thousand Iraqi oppositionists
(no Kurds allowed, lest Turks take offense), held firm.

The Czech Republic, in the throes of government transition, was on the
fence, but at the last minute the departing president, Vaclav Havel, was
reached and unhesitatingly signed. Slovakia followed.

In all, nine European nations issued a historic op-ed article calling Saddam
"a clear threat to world security." Despite polls showing much local
sentiment for appeasement, the leaders stated: "We cannot allow a dictator
to systematically violate those (UN) resolutions. If they are not complied
with, the Security Council will lose its credibility and world peace will
suffer as a result."

Signatories to the new op-ed diplomacy laid it on the line to forgetful
French and "ohne mich" (without me) Germans: "Today more than ever, the
trans-Atlantic bond is a guarantee of our freedom."

As U.S. citizens receive condolences in the aftermath of America's latest
space disaster, they value most those from people who understand that
Americans often risk their lives "in the service of all humanity."

by Pepe Escobar
Asia Times, 4th February

CAIRO - The date is virtually set for a deadly cargo of 3,000 bombs and
missiles to start falling on Iraq in the first 48 hours: March 3, after the
climax of the hajj Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, a day which, according to
American meteorologists, presents the ideal conditions. The logic of war,
imposed by America from the start, prevails. From now on, it's just a
question of procedure.

In a crucial Anglo-French summit this Tuesday in the north of France,
British premier Tony Blair will pull all stops in trying to convince French
President Jacques Chirac that the UN must authorize the use of force against
Saddam Hussein's regime. This happens exactly one day before US Secretary of
State Colin Powell is due to deliver at the Security Council his "smoking
gun" evidence to convict Iraq. But whatever the spinning, Asia Times Online
has learned from European diplomatic sources that it all amounts to a single
issue, and one issue only.

The Bush administration - including words by Powell himself - may in the
past have promised to hold Iraqi oil fields "in trust" for the people of
Iraq. Nobody seriously believed that this would happen. The Bush
administration instead is now promising behind closed doors to spread the
riches among American, French, Russian and Chinese oil companies by
enforcing contracts signed by Saddam Hussein himself. Saddam had already
offered French giant TotalFinaElf exclusive rights to Iraq's largest oil
field, the Majnoon, which may hold 30 billion barrels of oil. Iraq has also
signed a contract with Russia's Stroytransgaz to develop Iraq's Western
desert. And Russia and China want to strike deals to explore the West Qurna
and Rumaila fields.

If that is the case, it means no French, Russian or Chinese veto in a second
Anglo-American sponsored Security Council resolution authorizing an attack
on Iraq. Germany - which is presiding over the Security Council in February
- will most certainly abstain.

Meanwhile, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak maintains his frantic but vain
diplomacy "doing everything to spare the Iraqi people from a military
operation". Greek Foreign Minister Georges Papandreou - currently in the
European Union presidency - launched a tour of Arab countries trying to
sound out possible peaceful solutions for the crisis. The Turkish
government, in its continuous highwire act, said that it is not - yet -
demanding parliament's approval for a massive deployment of American troops
on Turkish soil; but Turkish troops are already massing at Iraq's Kurdistan

But these are all peripheral developments. The fact is that the war is being
decided in Washington, London and Paris. France - and most European Union
member countries for that matter - maintain the position that as long as the
inspectors are working on site, there is no risk of weapons proliferation in
Iraq. Tony Blair, once again playing the go-between, at least persuaded
George W Bush last Friday in Washington to pay lip service to the acceptance
of a second and final resolution at the Security Council.

It all amounts, once again, to a - crucial - problem of interpretation. A
second resolution, according to Bush, has absolutely nothing to do with a
resolution as viewed by most of the members of the European Union: this
would be a sort of ultimatum to Saddam, and if he was judged to be in
breach, a definitive authorization for the use of force. Bush thinks that he
already has the authorization in his hands, provided by Resolution 1441,
because, as the mantra goes, "Saddam is not disarming". Moreover, he would
prefer not to take any risks with a second resolution. American and British
diplomats have been drafting a second resolution for days now. But supposing
that there is a vote in the Security Council this Wednesday, after Powell's
presentation, Bush will be certain to collect only four "yes" votes to war:
the US, Britain, Spain and Bulgaria.

European diplomats keep stressing that the key question, now, is not whether
Iraq is cooperating or not: it is to establish beyond any doubt whether
Saddam's regime represents a menace to the international community, and then
discuss ways to deal with it. As a Portuguese diplomat puts it, "We have to
answer three questions, and there should be no doubts about the answers. Is
he a menace to world peace? Is a war necessary now? And is this war legal?"

For the European Union - as well as for Arab countries - war is the last
option after all other possible options have failed. As France stresses
officially, Hans Blix, the UN weapons inspector, did not say that the
inspectors could not work; himself, along with the International Atomic
Energy Agency's chief Mohamed ElBaradei, will be back to Baghdad on Sunday
for more talks with the Iraqi leadership. Any imaginable Iraqi weapons
program is frozen as long as the inspectors are working.

But this interpretation of Resolution 1441 cannot possibly be accepted by
Washington because it delays a war indefinitely.

Powell's case - the ultimate pitch of his career - runs the risk of not
swinging most European Union member countries. His pitch won't swing the
vast majority of European public opinion either, because there's absolutely
no proof of the far-fetched Saddam link to al Qaeda.

To top it all, there's an image problem. Bush, the character, travels not
badly but miserably. And not only to Europe, but to Latin America, Africa
and Asia, not to mention the Muslim world. A great deal of Americans may
find a connection to his blunt language, stripped-to the-bone vocabulary,
cartoon images and religious fervor. But as far as the rest of the world is
concerned, his is a major public relations disaster.

The UN game is a very serious matter. France is carefully considering its
implications. A key actor in the Middle East since Napoleon fell in love
with the pyramids, France knows that it cannot afford to be excluded from
the post-Saddam regional new order. It cannot afford to lose its billionaire
oil contracts already signed with Iraq. And it cannot afford to see the
Security Council dismissed by the Americans in case Bush and his hawks
decide to go along with their "coalition of the willing". Diplomats comment
in private that if France, through Chirac, feels it can unify the European
Union, the Arab world, Asia and the rest of the world for that matter around
a pacifist, legal, no-war solution for the Iraqi crisis, it would certainly
defy the US with its own "no" vote in the Security Council.

Germany has a different kind of problem: it is boxed in in its resolute
no-war stance. German public opinion remains overwhelmingly anti-war. But
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats have just suffered a
thunderous defeat this Sunday in regional elections in Hesse and Lower
Saxony, the chancellor's home state. Apart from all the effusive praise to
the solid Franco-German alliance recently celebrated in Versailles by Chirac
and Schroeder, France is now obviously considering how weak the chancellor
might become. But anyway, their position on Iraq remains the same.
Ultra-pacifist and extremely popular German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer
- who will preside over Powell's pitch on Wednesday - has already said on
the record that in the event of a smoking gun being found in Iraq, this
means only that the UN inspectors must continue their mission for as long as
it takes, so that Saddam can be made to disarm peacefully.

France is skillfully playing the diplomatic game. It has maintained enough
balance to allow it to swing either way. Blair is clearly the US's ally in
the European Union: the issue is how to restrain and isolate Britain within
Europe. European public opinion - including the business elite - also
regards the American Middle East game plan as extremely dangerous, with the
very concrete possibility of a nasty fallout contaminating Europe itself.
Britain is already al Qaeda's top European target. In the end though, France
might even go along with the Anglo American axis. After all, there's too
much oil at stake. The UN game is nowhere near its climax.;$sessionid$SLSWJJJQBXMKJQFIQMGSFF

by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
Daily Telegraph, 4th February

Watch what Jacques Chirac does, not what he says. Meeting Tony Blair for an
awkward mini-summit in Le Touquet today after months of Anglo-French
skirmishing, the French president continues to bask in his star role as
Europe's "conscience" and leader of restraint.

His public posture is to resist the slide towards an "unjustifiable" war
that  is opposed by the citizens of every European state.

But early today a French armada including an aircraft carrier, nuclear
submarine and other warships slipped out of Toulon and headed for the
eastern  Mediterranean.

France's defence minister, Michele Alliot-Marie, said the mission was a
routine training exercise, but added: "French military forces will be ready
to intervene in Iraq, should the decision be taken."

Unlike Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, M Chirac has been careful not to
"exclude" the option of war, if all else fails.

It suggests that he may copy President François Mitterrand's tactics in the
first Gulf war, which was to join the US-led coalition at the last moment
after extracting every ounce of possible advantage.

Geoffrey Van Orden, a Tory MEP and vice-chairman of the European
Parliament's  foreign affairs committee, predicted that M Chirac would come
off the fence  once he had guaranteed France's share of the
post-reconstruction and oil  contracts in Iraq and, more important, once he
had exploited the acute  vulnerability of Tony Blair, who is struggling to
prevent his loyalty to  America from shattering his European policy.

M Chirac is walking a political tightrope at home, where public opinion is
set against any military action not sanctioned by the UN and where an
immigrant population of four million Muslims exercises an unspoken influence
on policy.

Muslim youths in Paris and other cities are carrying out a low-level
"intifada" against French authority, burning cars in nightly raids, mostly
unreported in the national news. The risk of escalating violence is real.

EU diplomats in Brussels said M Chirac had nothing to gain by aligning
France  too quickly behind the Bush administration, and is taking some
pleasure in  letting Downing Street squirm for a while by holding back
support for the war.

"Britain has been making too much of the running without paying the price of
EU influence, which of course is joining the euro, so there's an element of
taking Blair down a peg or two," said one official.

But M Chirac has to watch his back as well. The letter published last week
by  Europe's "Gang of Eight" backing US policy in Iraq was a warning that
France  and Germany no longer call all the shots in the EU.

Palestine Chronicle, 5th February

CANBERRA - Australian Prime Minister John Howard suffered a historic defeat
Wednesday, February 5, in an unprecedented no-confidence vote by Australia's
Senate over his handling of the Iraq crisis.

The Labor opposition, left wing Greens, Democrats and Independent senators
used their upper house majority to pass the motion by 34 votes to 31,
following an emotional, 11-hour debate over the looming conflict, reported
Agence France-Presse (AFP).

It was the first time in the 102 year history of the Australian parliament
that the upper house has censured a serving prime minister with a vote of no

Howard's conservative Liberal-National government was also censured in the
motion, which condemned its decision to deploy troops to the Gulf without
reference to parliament and contrary to public opinion.

Australia and Britain have been the only countries to join the United States
in deploying troops to the Gulf in preparation for war in Iraq.

Labor Senate leader John Faulkner moved the motion, saying no explanation
had been offered to the Australian people for sending defense personnel to
the Middle East.

"The prime minister has made a unilateral decision and sent 2,000 of our
defense personnel off to a war undeclared in the northern hemisphere without
any cogent explanation of his actions," Faulkner said.

The motion expressed the Senate's full support and confidence in Australia's
servicemen and women while expressing opposition to the government's
decision to forward deploy them.

It declared opposition to a unilateral military attack on Iraq by the United
States, insisted the disarmament of Iraq proceed under UN authority and
expressed total opposition to any use of nuclear arms.

Greens senator Bob Brown said the censure marked a historic condemnation of
the prime minister.

"The prime minister made the decision to deploy 2,000 defense personnel with
no reference to the parliament, without the backing of the Australian
people, without a request from the United Nations.

"He stands condemned, censured and without the confidence of the house of
review, the Senate in Australia," he said.

The debate, in which speakers from both sides vented passionate feelings on
the issue preoccupying Australia, continued Wednesday in the House of
Representatives, in which a government majority ensures it stays in office.


by Will Dunham
Reuters, 31st January

WASHINGTON: Warplanes taking part in a U.S.-British patrol staged their
first attack in Iraq's northern "no-fly" zone in nearly two months on
Friday, dropping precision-guided munitions after coming under fire from
Iraqi air defenses, the U.S. military said.

An Iraqi air defense spokesman said in a statement in Baghdad that one
civilian was wounded when U.S. and British planes bombed civilian targets
near the northern city of Mosul, 230 miles north of Baghdad.

The warplanes patrolling the northern no-fly zone attacked a site located 10
miles east of Mosul after drawing fire from Iraqi integrated air defenses,
said Maj. Timothy Blair, a Pentagon spokesman. All the coalition planes
departed the area safely, Blair added. No details were provided about damage
to the Iraqi targets.

The Iraqi air defense spokesman said the Western planes flew 16 sorties over
wide areas in the north before attacking civilian installations near Mosul.
Iraqi air defense units opened up at the attacking planes, forcing them to
return to bases in Turkey, the spokesman added.

The U.S. military says the patrolling aircraft never target civilian sites
and "go to painstaking lengths" to avoid hurting civilians.

The vast majority of attacks by the U.S. and British aircraft come in the
southern no-fly zone. The previous attack in the northern no-fly zone was on
Dec. 4, Blair said.


by Pauline Jelinek
Las Vegas Sun, 31st January

WASHINGTON (AP): American bombers are hitting hard inside Iraq, getting a
head start toward disabling Saddam Hussein's defenses in the south, while
other U.S. forces are on the ground in the north preparing for war.

U.S. and British warplanes bombed three dozen sites in January, most
associated with air defense communications in the southeast. That's the
route invading U.S. ground troops probably would take if war should come.
The Pentagon also has acknowledged it has inserted a small number of troops
into the north, although it refuses to describe their mission.

Meanwhile, pilots have nearly doubled the supplies of leaflets dropped over
the south to undermine the rule of Iraqi President Saddam, to 3 million this

"We're kind of getting a head start," Lexington Institute military analyst
Loren Thompson said, speaking of the increasing airstrikes. "We're taking
advantage of the situation to reduce Iraqi defenses so we can use the full
weight of our air power when the war does come."


Pilots go out with lists of predetermined targets, parts of the air defense
system officers want destroyed. Last fall they would hit one or perhaps two
targets in response to Iraqi gunners. But of the 12 days in which coalition
pilots have bombed so far this month, half have seen pilots bombing three,
four, five or eight sites on the basis of one Iraqi move.

Most of the multiple sites targeted were cable repeater sites, stations
built at intervals along a fiber-optic cable network to strengthen signals
passing through the network.

This cable system, which connects elements of the air defense system, helps
Iraqi defenders process a larger volume of communications data and better
protect data against eavesdropping by American electronic warfare planes,
officials said. It was one of the reasons U.S. and British aircraft
conducted a larger-scale attack in February 2001, although their success was
limited in part because more than half the bombs missed their mark. A few
months after the attack, Iraq had largely reconstituted the network, and the
United States protested to China, which officials have said was helping
Iraqis build the system.

This month, coalition planes targeted cable repeaters frequently in the
southeast, five times near Al Kut, four near An Nasiriyah and twice near
Basra, the country's main port, according to U.S. Central Command press
releases put out after each mission.

Because the command now refuses to say whether it hits or misses targets in
the zones, it was impossible to learn whether pilots flying the repeat
strikes were going after missed targets or hitting new targets near the same

Defense officials also have said that pilots frequently have to go back and
strike the same areas because Iraqis constantly rebuild or replace what is

"A lot of it is not terribly sophisticated," Anthony Cordesman of the Center
for Strategic and International Studies said of parts of the air defenses.
He said Iraqis have learned to buy multiple supplies of things to keep
replacing what is bombed.

Officials differ on the extent of damage that has been done to the air
defense system, with one saying it's been severe, another less effective
than that and still another that it has damaged the morale of those who must
rebuild it more than the system itself.

>From time to time, strikes have focused on wearing down other important
Iraqi targets. A spate of bombings in September and October focused on
Tallil Air Base, a facility key to Saddam's defense against any invasion.
It's also in the south.


by Borzou Daragahi
Las Vegas Sun, 31st January

SALAHUDDIN, Iraq (AP) - Returning to his homeland for the first time in
nearly five years, a prominent Iraqi opposition leader entered the Kurds'
autonomous enclave with the help of Iran and declared Friday he would stay
there to battle Saddam Hussein's government.

"If we want to fight Saddam, we'll fight Saddam in Iraq," Ahmed Chalabi,
leader of the Iraqi National Congress, said in an interview with The
Associated Press.

Chalabi said he returned to Iraq "to be on the stage" in the formation of a
post-Saddam administration. He promised to work with Kurdish opposition
groups to form a provisional government to rule once Saddam is gone.

Chalabi, who enjoys support within the U.S. Congress but is a controversial
figure within the fragmented opposition, entered Iraq with four colleagues
on Thursday. They crossed the Iranian border at Hajj Omran after spending a
week in Tehran meeting with Iranian political leaders and Iraqi opposition

The five are part of a 65-member steering committee, set up during a
conference in London last month. The committee is to meet in mid-February in
this enclave, which is protected by U.S. and British planes patrolling the
northern "no-fly" zone.

The committee hopes to form the basis of a transitional government if the
United States - which threatens to attack Iraq if Saddam does not give up
alleged banned weapons - topples the Iraqi regime. The opposition members
are to meet Feb. 15, according to the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which
controls the western section of the autonomous region.

Chalabi's links to Iran, which the Bush administration has designated as
part of an "axis of evil" along with Iraq and North Korea, may cause concern
among his conservative backers in Washington.

His Iraqi National Congress, based in London, has received millions of
dollars from the United States for such projects as a satellite television
channel tailored for Iraqi viewers.

The INC officials said they informed Zalmay Khalilzad, an adviser to the
Bush administration, that they were headed to northern Iraq before they left
London for Iran eight days ago.

In the interview, however, Chalabi said the United States should not
dominate the composition of any future government in Iraq.

"There must be no gap in the sovereignty of Iraqis over Iraq," he said.
"People who have come to the idea of removing Saddam recently must
understand that this fight has been going on for decades and has cost tens
of thousands of lives. It's a major mistake to think you can sidestep the

Chalabi sidestepped questions about reports that the United States did not
entirely trust the exiled opposition groups.

"We're not an exile group because we're in Iraq now," he said. "It's
difficult to call us exiles when we're in our own country working for

U.S. relations with the INC have been complicated by what State Department
officials see as the group's financial mismanagement. Chalabi was convicted
of fraud in a banking scandal in Jordan in 1989 and sentenced to 20 years in
prison. He fled the country before the trial began and has refused to return
until the government agrees to reverse the conviction.

Furthermore, Iraq's opposition has long been split along ethnic and
political lines and its history has been marked by infighting and betrayal.
While Chalabi's congress is often portrayed as closest to the United States,
it has never been fully accepted by U.S. administrations.

One INC official, speaking on condition of anonymity in London, described
relations with Washington, especially the State Department, as "long,
tangled and convoluted."

Chalabi, a Shiite Muslim from a wealthy family who fled Iraq in 1958, formed
the Iraqi National Congress in 1992. He is an MIT graduate with a doctorate
from the University of Chicago who has been active in anti-Saddam efforts
since the early 1970s.

The Iraqi National Congress tried to start a revolt against Saddam from
within the northern no-fly zone in the mid-1990s. The group blamed their
failure on the U.S. government, which didn't provide support, believing they
had no chance of succeeding.

The visit is Chalabi's first to Iraq since 1998, when he briefly visited the
Kurdish-controlled city of Sulaimaniyah to meet with Jalal Talabani, the
leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which governs the eastern
section of the Kurdish autonomous zone.

More significantly, it marks the first time Chalabi has visited the western
part of Kurdistan, controlled by the Kurdistan Democratic Party, since
August 1996. In that year, the leader of the KDP, Massoud Barzani, invited
Saddam to help liberate the city during a war with the rival Patriotic Union
of Kurdistan.

About 130 fighters from the Iraqi National Congress were killed in the
fighting or executed thereafter.

Kanan Makiya, a Brandeis University professor and Iraqi opposition member,
said the Iraqi National Congress and the Kurdistan Democratic Party have
mended fences. "I believe a very genuine reconciliation has taken place," he

"It's not a tactical maneuver. The single most important thing is to bring
the KDP back into the fold of Iraqi opposition politics," Makiya added.
"Without them, we can't say we have a really representative government."

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