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News, 12-19/02/03 (2) NOT SO UPPITY ARABS * Iraq and the 'astonishing quiescence' of Arab leaders * Please handle with care * The great Arab face-saving theater UPPITY EUROPEANS * Vatican rolls out red carpet for Christian Aziz * Aziz prays at tomb of St Francis 'the pacifist' * Who did Chirac and Schroder shock the most? The federalists * NATO Settles Rift Over Aid to Turks in Case of a War * Supporters desert Aznar as Spaniards reject conflict * European Union Says Iraq Must Disarm Quickly and Fully NOT SO UPPITY ARABS http://www.dailystar.com.lb/opinion/13_02_03_f.htm * IRAQ AND THE 'ASTONISHING QUIESCENCE' OF ARAB LEADERS Daily Star, Lebanon, 13th February The Eid al-Adha holiday provides no respite from the overpowering feeling that the Arab world is about to be subjected to a potentially horrific ordeal in which it has no say, and which could determine its future for years to come. To the backdrop of the widening rift between the US and Europe over Washington's plans to invade Iraq, Abdelbari Atwan, publisher/editor of pan-Arab Al-Quds al-Arabi, wonders why Arab leaders are failing to provide support to the budding international anti-war camp. He writes that after meeting the Jordanian monarch in Aqaba, and then conferring with the Syrian and Libyan leaders in Sharm el-Sheikh at the weekend, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak "brought us the glad tidings that the Arabs can do nothing to prevent or push back the war on Iraq, and that it's up to the Iraqi president to do what he can in this regard." What Mubarak failed to spell out "is that the Arab leaders he met have come to the firm conclusion that Saddam Hussein should step down and look for some temporary sanctuary, pending his permanent relocation, in an orange tracksuit befitting his stature, to Guantanamo Bay to await trial as a war criminal." Mubarak, says Atwan, apparently "did not hear" US Secretary of State Colin Powell's declaration to a congressional panel last week that the invasion of Iraq is aimed at "reshaping that (Middle East) region in a positive way that will enhance US interests." America defines its interests principally in terms of a strong Israel and cheap oil, and the changes it wants to make in pursuit of those twin objectives are not restricted to Iraq but encompass Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Libya. With the world polarizing into two camps, one focused on war and the other demanding that arms inspections continue, "we would have expected the Sharm el-Sheikh summit to produce an Arab position in support of the latter but, as usual, we were disappointed," Atwan says. Indeed, the leader of the biggest Arab state even shrugged off suggestions that the end-March summit should be brought forward to deal with the Iraq crisis. Meanwhile, Atwan continues, the defense ministers of the six Gulf Cooperation Council partners met under Saudi auspices in Jeddah, and issued a "wacky" announcement that they had agreed to a request from Kuwait to send their joint military force to the emirate to help protect it. "As though Kuwait, on whose soil over 120,000 American troops are already deployed, needs a few hundred pot-bellied soldiers who have never fought a war in their history," he remarks. Kuwait is not threatened with aggression, but is hosting a massive American invasion force that is poised to invade and occupy Iraq and kill tens of thousands of its people, Atwan writes. "So are Gulf forces being sent out there to take part in the invasion, or merely as a prelude to a collective decision to open up the Gulf's bases to American warplanes?" In the Beirut daily As-Safir, publisher Talal Salman writes that the Arab regimes' sluggishness over Iraq reflects their terror of being associated with Saddam in America's eyes. He writes that no Arab leader has considered visiting Baghdad to mediate in the crisis or confront the regime there with some Arab viewpoint, whatever it may be. When Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa dared do so (as his job requires), the official media in a number of Arab states vilified him. Indeed, no Arab leader has been in touch with Saddam for years - at least not openly - and even "famous friends," like Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh, have kept their distance in order to avoid being linked to him. This is also partly because "the harsh campaign America has been waging against its 'traditional friends' among the Arab leaders has forced them to keep busy defending themselves and the fate of their 'thrones,'" Salman remarks. "They were reduced to appeasing Washington at any cost, and it was natural for them to defer any discussion of Iraq until after they had reassured themselves that they had regained its approval." The war preparations have underlined the intense disapproval not just of the Iraqi regime, but of all the Arab governments, Salman remarks. Their confusion over Iraq is telling. They have failed to forge any common position at all on the crisis, and are rowing over whether or not to bring forward their "banned" annual summit to discuss the situation. They have been ruthless in cracking down against any popular anti-war protests. And none of them has dared put to Saddam the "offer" they have been debating amongst themselves - which initially was, "Save your regime by sacrificing your army and all your other sources of strength," and then changed to, "Save yourself by sacrificing your regime," he says. "The reason they (Arab leaders) have been hesitant about adopting this magnanimous offer is that Washington might apply it more generally, and may already have brandished it in the face of some allied regimes, not least its oldest friends in the region," Salman writes. Khaled al-Shami suggests in Al-Quds al-Arabi that Mubarak seems to be positioning himself to eventually come out in support of America over Iraq. He writes that the Egyptian president's remarks about the Arabs being incapable of preventing the imminent American invasion coincide with a sudden and evidently orchestrated "campaign" of denunciation against the Baghdad regime in Egypt's government controlled press. Shami writes that Washington has been putting pressure on its Arab allies, including Egypt, to come out in support of its war in the same way that the leaders of eight right-wing European governments did by signing a joint "pledge of obeisance" to the US aimed at undermining European opposition to military action. According to one report, Mubarak was "advised" by confidants to "hitch a ride on the American train before it is too late, in order to prevent Egypt from being excluded from the post-war arrangements and deprived of the economic and political dividends," says Shami. He promptly dispatched his son Gamal to the US as part of a high-powered delegation including his top foreign policy advisor Dr. Osama al-Baz and other pro-American figures. The aim of the trip was to mend fences "after channels of dialogue were blocked and Uncle Sam's envoys began avoiding what always used to be an obligatory stopover on their regional tours." This wooing of America followed the breakdown of Egypt's efforts to forge a common position with other Arab countries over Iraq, mostly for reasons outside Cairo's control. This despite visits by Mubarak to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Jordan and his hosting of the Syrian and Libyan leaders at Sharm el-Sheikh. But whatever the reasons for Egypt's "backslide," Shami says there is no excuse for the failure of Cairo and the other Arab capitals to throw their weight behind European-led efforts to ensure that the arms inspectors are given more time to complete their mission in Iraq. Although Egypt's foreign minister has voiced support for those endeavors, Mubarak's remarks suggesting that war is inevitable undermine them. Shami argues that Egypt's effective "withdrawal" from the anti-war camp is not in its own interest - even in the narrow and immediate economic sense of the word, following the government's sudden capitulation to longstanding pressure to float the national currency. Experts estimate that a US war on Iraq would cost Egypt between $2 billion and $6 billion in lost exports, jobs and other earnings - far in excess of American aid. Mubarak is also being honest when he warns of the catastrophic regional consequences an invasion of Iraq could have. "It might not be realistic to expect Egypt to lead a worldwide diplomatic offensive against the US position, similarly to major countries like Russia, France and Germany," Shami says. "But the least that could be expected of it would be to join their coalition, and thereby compel America to take Egyptian and Arab national considerations into account in its strategy," at a time when it is either ignoring the Arabs or threatening them with the prospect of "reshaping" their region. "And if Egypt cannot prevent America from attacking, it could at least refrain from offering free concessions - such as inviting the butcher Ariel Sharon to visit Cairo while his partner George W. Bush is preparing to occupy Baghdad - an irony history might never forget." Leading Egyptian Islamist commentator Fahmi Howeidi warns that Powell's remarks about the US "reshaping" the Middle East "in a positive way that will enhance US interests" and Israel's after it has occupied Iraq "should be taken seriously." He sees them as an echo of earlier calls made by neoconservative ideologues within and close to the Bush administration, who have spoken of plans to radically alter the balance of power in the region in Israel's favor by "changing the regimes in this or that country and even terminating entire states." Intriguing scenarios have been suggested in this context. One posited Iraq as the "tactical objective," with Saudi Arabia as the "strategic objective" and Egypt as the "prize." Another suggested using war on Iraq to act out a chain of events under which "Palestine becomes Israel, Jordan becomes Palestine, and Iraq becomes the Hashemite Kingdom." In his weekly opinion piece, featured in Cairo's semi-official Al-Ahram and a number of other daily newspapers throughout the Arab world, Howeidi draws parallels with the period immediately following World War I. At the time, Howeidi recalls, the Arabs were inspired by America and its Wilsonian principles of self-determination, and were mistrustful of the colonialist Europeans. "This time, the roles are reversed, with the US as the object of our mistrust and some of us pinning hopes on Europe. But the difference is not that great. Less important than the identity of the culprit is the fact of the crime, and the fact that the we are the victims!" The English had promised the Arabs independence if they revolted against the Ottoman Empire. They did so, but London and Paris had secretly agreed to carve up the region between them. They proceeded to occupy the Arab countries and earmark Palestine as a future homeland for European Jews, without considering the wishes of the inhabitants of the region, and the Arab leaders who had trusted the colonial powers were humiliated. "Among the differences this time, stemming from the differences in the balances of power, is that the powerful actors are not concealing their objectives," Howeidi writes. "They have declared openly that the region will be targeted for reshaping. There is no longer any reason for them to keep things secret. Many questions remain unanswered about whom, where, why and when, but the intentions are clear, and were not concealed by the secretary of state or other principals and officials of the US administration. They have said candidly that the purpose is to enhance American interests." This, says Howeidi, is not shocking in itself. "The real shock is this astonishing quiescence which has overcome the Arab world. What I fear most, amid this quiescence, is for people to lose confidence in any possibility of collective and institutional action, if only to request clarification, and for some to come to the conclusion that there is no escaping individual initiatives - which could plunge Arab society into a period of anarchy whose scope God alone can know." In the Saudi-run pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat, Iraqi Kurdish commentator Sami Shourosh argues that the Turkish government's seeming willingness to go along with a US war on Iraq is motivated chiefly by domestic concerns. He argues that Ankara's avowed reasons for opposing war - fear of a Kurdish state emerging in northern Iraq, and concern about the economic impact - are overstated. The Iraqi Kurds have no illusions about secession, and Washington has shown (with its offer of a $14 billion aid package) that it appreciates the need to offset the economic losses Turkey stands to incur. Shourosh believes that the real reason Ankara is so apprehensive is that it fears war on Iraq will rekindle Turkish Kurd separatism at home. The 1991 Gulf War did that by inadvertently providing the Kurdistan Workers Party with a rear base, and renewed conflict in Iraq can be expected to have a similar impact. That, in turn, would provide the Turkish military establishment, whose wings have been gently clipped by the Islam-based Justice and Development Party government, to regain the ascendancy and reassert its control over the country's politics, he writes. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/opinion/13_02_03_b.htm * PLEASE HANDLE WITH CARE by Rami G. Khouri Daily Star, Lebanon, 13th February Last week US Secretary of State Colin Powell said that after the completion of American led action to change the regime in Iraq the United States would work to rearrange the Middle East in order to better suit US interests. There are few areas in life where I have more knowledge than Powell, but rearranging the political configuration of the Middle East is one of those areas. We Middle Easterners (Arabs, Iranians, Turks, Israelis, Kurds, and others) have a long track record of both arranging others' national configurations and having our own rearranged by others. This open letter to Powell offers suggestions for applying the rich lessons of past similar episodes that produced a new map of the region, hoping that whatever emerges from the upcoming adventure may make some sense for all concerned, and not only for the United States. Dear Colin, Greetings from the Arab world. Since you and your president are determined to rearrange the Arab world to better suit American national interests, I thought you might profit from the following few suggestions that attempt to bring together the lessons of our history with the intent of your policy: ‹ Avoid straight line borders: The map of the Arab world is peculiar for having so many national borders that are straight lines, a phenomenon totally missing from, say, Europe, where countries emerged through a more natural process of historical evolution. Straight line borders are typically the work of foreign map-makers who don't know the area they are reconfiguring. Such borders tend to ignore local ethnic, religious, and national realities, and usually lead to conflict years later. That's one reason why several hundred thousand of your young American soldiers are now in our region, rifles loaded. ‹ Seek balance among demography, geography, geology and hydrology: The modern Middle East was largely configured by British and French who sought to ensure their own colonial interests; they created new countries whose fundamental assets and attributes often make little logical sense. We have tiny states (like Kuwait, UAE, Qatar) with small populations, plentiful oil, and virtually no arable land or water; large states (like Saudi Arabia) with massive land areas but limited agricultural land and water; other large states (Algeria, Libya, Sudan, Morocco) with a better balance of land, water, minerals and people, but Western-launched and maintained political histories that have largely seen those resources wasted; and small states (Lebanon, Jordan) with modest populations and hard-working people, but that have been buffeted by the distortions and irrationalities of the surrounding area. (By the way, the only Arab state that seems to have all the basic components of viable statehood - people, land, water, and energy - is Iraq, which became a regional power.) ‹ Keep your eye on our airline schedules: One of the problems we suffered after our last reconfiguration by the British and French around 1920 was that most of the Arab countries had closer relations with London and Paris than they did with each other. This was reflected in the route maps and scheduled flights of our Arab national airlines, most of which went to Paris and London more frequently than they went to other Arab capitals. This indicated that political and economic ties with the former colonial powers were more important for the nascent Arab ruling political powers than relations with other Arabs. If the new Arab world you have in mind sees Arab airlines flying to Washington and New York more frequently than to other Arab cities, you should catch that early on as a sign of impending trouble, and put one of your bright young assistants to work on either rescheduling Arab air carriers or doing a better job of reconfiguring states and their exercise of power. ‹ Consider applying the principle of "the consent of the governed" to the people being rearranged. There is nothing inherently wrong with being rearranged; peoples, societies, and states do it all the time, to themselves and to others. But our experience in the Arab world indicates that if the people being reconfigured have a say in the process, and their new national map corresponds somehow to their identities and aspirations, the resulting reconfigured region may prove to be both satisfying to its citizens and stable within the global context. The British and French did not do this around 1920, and left behind a mess of fragile, often violent, states that you have inherited. Osama bin Laden and his brand of terror can be traced, in part, to the delayed consequences of the messy reconfiguration that the French and British carried out; that episode resulted in unsatisfactory, intemperate statehood in many cases, a terrible modern legacy of security states, and tensions that finally exploded in the 1990s and beyond. ‹ Do not double-cross or make promises you do not intend to keep. A major deficiency of the 1920s map-making exercise was that it was defined by instances of deceit, and did not treat all peoples in the region fairly. The Zionists (later Israelis) were given far more importance than the Palestinians, and the Kurds were sold out again, to mention only two prominent examples of imperial inequity. You should avoid such duplicity at all costs. If freedom and justice are "indivisible for all," as your American credo states so eloquently, then American map-making should address the rights of "all" in this region, not just the rights of some. If you redraw our map to suit Israel more than the Palestinians, or Turkey more than the Kurds, for example, you will only ensure that your children and grandchildren, and mine, will re-arm and fight another day. We surely want to avoid that, and the way to ensure stability and peace is to apply in the Middle East the same principles of universal equal rights that define the American national experience. I have other suggestions, but there is no more room here, and little time left before your armada moves against Iraq. Please pass this letter on to those young lads in your office who are working on the new map of my world. I remain, sincerely yours Rami Rami G. Khouri, executive editor of The daily Star, wrote this column from Washington http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/EB19Ak07.html * THE GREAT ARAB FACE-SAVING THEATER by Pepe Escobar Asia Times, 19th February CAIRO - The media crunched in the courtyard of the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on Sunday were desperate to know something, anything, on where the leaders of the Middle East stood, but Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal had other things on his mind. He was going out for lunch. Foie gras maybe? The other foreign ministers of the 22 members of the Arab League stuck to their kebabs inside the building. Later, the Kuwaitis also went out - not for foie gras but for "consultations". The wait was tense: everybody knew, for instance, that Kuwait, converted into an American armed camp, could not possibly agree with Iraq on the current standoff. Only at 10.30 in the evening was a declaration issued. And it was deeply disappointing. There's something unreal about the Arab League. The extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers was supposed to reinforce the Beirut declaration of March 2002, according to which an attack on an Arab country is considered an attack on all 22 members of the Arab League. Indeed, Arab states this time sort of agreed "that they will not accept, cooperate with, deal with, rally to or facilitate a strike on Iraq", in the words of Arab League secretary general Amr Mussa. But they could not even agree on a date for a summit of heads of state to hammer out a solid message to Washington. No wonder: at least three members of the league - Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar - totally contradict the message enunciated by Mussa. The secretary general tried to put on his bravest face: "A summit will happen." Maybe after a war on Iraq? Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has lobbied non-stop to convene a summit in Sharm-al Sheikh. According to Egyptian officials, 15 of the 22 Arab League members have already agreed. Even Kuwait, through Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Jabar al-Sabah, has confirmed that it will attend the summit. A date was floated: February 22. Then another: February 27. But the question remains: a summit for what? The best that the Arabs can hope for at this stage is to attach their camels to the European peace caravan led by France and Germany plus Russia at the UN Security Council. And that's exactly what appears to be happening. One day before the also-extraordinary European Union summit in Brussels, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou - whose country holds the current presidency of the EU - and European external relations commissioner Chris Patten were also present at the Cairo meeting. Papandreou said that he talked one-on-one to Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri and advised Baghdad to comply with each and every UN disarmament term, the only way to avoid a US-led war: the position was set in stone the day after at the EU summit in Brussels. Mubarak was due in Germany on Tuesday on a state visit, and will meet French President Jacques Chirac in Paris on Thursday, on the margins of a Franco-African summit. Mubarak at least must be given the credit of trying to maneuver to find a unified Arab position. But like the 2 million hajjis recently in Mecca dressed in white and praying as one, the appearances of uniformity belie the differences. There's a lot of wishful thinking all over the Arab world - as if people are fatalistically waiting for a divine intervention from Allah himself. In practical terms, this would happen in the form of a package to be formulated at the still-tentative Arab summit. The Egyptian Saudi plan is to urge Saddam Hussein to fully comply with anything - for the sake of the long-suffering Iraqi population; or step down, leave Iraq along with his family and the leaders of the Ba'ath Party, and exile himself in any Arab country under the protection of the Arab League. Arab disunity among their unelected leaders is mirrored by Arab silence in the streets. Well over 10 million people, mostly marching in the streets of Europe this weekend carrying colorful, good-humored banners and quoting Hans Blix verbatim, have de facto vetoed the war. This is a thunderous political development - comparable to the European popular revolutions of 1848 and the Eastern European peaceful revolutions of 1989. The numbers are particularly staggering in three countries whose governments are staunch supporters of the Bush administration: 3 million people marching in Spain (including 1.3 million in Barcelona alone); almost 3 million people in Rome; and 1.5 million in London (these are the real figures, not the "police estimates" quoted by the mainstream media). Meanwhile, what were the Arabs doing? The Arabs are about to witness nothing less than the invasion of the eastern flank of the Arab nation. Only Arabs can fully understand what this invasion really means - something that US Secretary of State Colin Powell himself finally admitted last week on the record: the US wants to change the whole map of the Middle East, which was drawn by the West (Britain and France) at the end of the Ottoman empire. Arabs can scream in private, but they cannot shout in public. In Cairo, for example, they were afraid, very much afraid, like the concierge of a five-star hotel surreptitiously mimicking the gesture of a man handcuffed. On Saturday morning, government officials "had no idea" where the protest would take place. Less than 600 people eventually showed up, surrounded by no less than 3,000 security police. Even in Tel Aviv, 2,000 people protested against the war. Mubarak, the Saud family, King Abdullah in Jordan, they may all agree with the anger and the fatalistic feeling of impotence of their own populations, but still they don't allow people to express it. Tyrannies anywhere assume that to prevent the expression of popular will is to prevent the will from existing. There were indeed thousands protesting in Baghdad, and 200,000 in Damascus, but these were in support of the respective regimes. They only reflect the Ba'ath party's ability - in Iraq and in Syria - to organize or intimidate its citizens. The backwardness of Arab regimes even makes one feel a certain sympathy for the American dream - but not the methods - of bringing democracy to the Middle East. The problem is, democracy cannot be imposed by bombing and territorial invasion: Arabs themselves will have to learn from scratch - and this will certainly take a political and social earthquake, as in Iran in 1979. What are most current Arab leaders good for, apart from providing a good life for themselves and their cronies? America wants to bring them down - at least the ones it doesn't yet keep on a leash. Al-Qaeda also wants to bring them down - for different reasons, and in a completely different register. In his latest audiotape, Osama bin Laden says, "The recent deployment of forces for an attack on Iraq is only a link in the chain of continuing attacks on the countries of this region, including Egypt, Syria, Iran and Sudan. However, their real intention is to conquer and divide the land of the two holy sanctuaries [Saudi Arabia], as they have long realized the strategic value of this target, ever since this objective was passed on from Britain to the United States 60 years ago ..." Any Arab would agree with that, and many a reputable Western think tank as well. Asia Times Online has reported that plans are being made at the Foreign Office in London for a partition of Arabia: the Arabs keep the holy places, the West keeps the oil. (Listening to Europe , Feb 1) In the same audiotape, bin Laden then examines the proliferation of unrepresentative Hamid Karzai-style clones (as in Afghanistan) as the great drama of the Arab world: "What is the difference between Karzai the non-Arab and Karzai the Arab? Who implanted and established the rulers of the Arabian Gulf? They are none other than the crusaders, who appointed the Karzai of Kabul, established the Karzai of Pakistan, and implanted the Karzai of Kuwait and the Karzai of Bahrain and the Karzai of Qatar and others. Who appointed the Karzai of Riyadh? ... they were none other than the crusaders, and they are continuing to enslave us to this very day." Kanan Makiya, an Iraqi intellectual exiled in the US, advances an explanation for Arab inertia: since the end of World War II, Arabs increasingly view themselves as eternal victims "condemned to pursue a combat-like Sisyphus against absolute or satanic injustice". He contends that this inferiority complex is found in different degrees among all the peoples in the Middle East: Palestinians, Kurds, Armenians, Chaldeans, Oriental Christians, Turkmen - Shi'ite and Sunni. Makiya says that especially after the unexpected Israeli victory in 1967, "this inferiority complex became the engine of politics and culture; it was the basis on which regimes like Saddam's in Iraq and Hafez Assad's in Syria were built. Another factor was that deadly anti-Americanism changed hands from Arab secular nationalists to religious fanatics who used to be marginalized". Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal has told the BBC that an American attack without a UN resolution would be perceived in the Arab world as "an aggression". Arab leaders contemplate the scenario with desperation - because they know in the current fundamentalist American administration mode ("if you're not with us, you're with the terrorists"), the regimes which are not America's vassals yet are condemned to extinction. From America's point of view, the Roman "divide and rule" maxim as applied to the Arab world has been a resounding success. For Arab leaders, there's nothing left but the great Arab face-saving theater. It may not be enough to prevent a massive political and social earthquake in the not too distant future. EUROPES, OLD AND NEW http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-575893,00.html * VATICAN ROLLS OUT RED CARPET FOR CHRISTIAN AZIZ by Richard Owen The Times, 13th February THE Vatican is rolling out the red carpet for Tariq Aziz, the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, as part of a last-ditch attempt by the Pope to avert an "unjustified war". The newspaper Corriere della Sera said that Mr Aziz would be "treated like a media star" when he arrives today for a five-day visit to Rome and Assisi. He will be staying in a luxury hotel on the Via Veneto with his own staff and bodyguards. The Vatican is hoping to engineer a meeting between Mr Aziz and Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, who arrives in Rome on Monday. However, the visit of Mr Aziz, a Chaldean Christian, is causing political embarrassment in Italy, whose Centre Right Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has sided with the United States by offering bases, airspace and moral support. Pierferdinando Casini, the Speaker of Parliament, said yesterday that he would refuse to meet Mr Aziz because this would give legitimacy to the Baghdad regime. It is not clear if Mr Aziz will meet Signor Berlusconi but he is likely to be received by Franco Frattini, the Italian Foreign Minister. Avvenire, the Italian Catholic daily, said that there was a "long list" of Italian and Vatican figures "lining up to shake Tariq Aziz's hand" despite claims by human rights organisations that his hands were "stained with crimes against humanity". Diplomats said that Mr Aziz might also meet unnamed "European politicians linked to the Franco-German plan for disarming Iraq without recourse to war". The highlight of Mr Aziz's trip will be his audience with the Pope in the Vatican tomorrow, when he is expected to invite the pontiff to Baghdad. Although some conservative Catholics have sought to persuade the Pope that conflict with Iraq is a just war, many Catholic bishops and dioceses have echoed the Pope's assertion that war is always a defeat for humanity. The Pope who opposed the 1991 Gulf War, regards Iraq as the cradle of Christianity because it contains the birthplace of Abraham at Ur of the Chaldees. His personal envoy is on a peace mission in Baghdad and likely to meet President Saddam Hussein today. Avvenire said that Mr Aziz's visit would be one long round of ceremonies, receptions and dinners. He is to visit the Italian Parliament and then meet "stars from the world of Italian culture" at a dinner in his honour. He is to appear on a television chat show tonight and at the Foreign Press Club tomorrow. Mr Aziz travels to Assisi at the weekend, a visit apparently timed to ensure that he is not in Rome for Saturday's anti-war march, expected to attract a million protesters. Father Vincenzo Coli, custodian of the Basilica of St Francis, said that there was intolerable hostility towards Mr Aziz. The Franciscan friars, he said, "hold out the hand of peace to everybody". "We don't ask people to account for themselves. Ex-terrorists have come here to pray to St Francis, and industrialists accused of corruption. They all come to find themselves." He said that Mr Aziz would light a lamp of peace at Assisi and pray at the tomb of St Francis. He would also handle one of the Basilica's greatest treasures, a small ivory horn given to St Francis by Sultan Kamil of Egypt in 1219 when the saint was in the Middle East seeking to halt the Crusades, which he regarded as hypocritical and bloodthirsty and driven by Western economic, rather than religious, interests. The horn was used by St Francis to summon the faithful to prayer. The visit was organised by Father Jean-Marie Benjamin, a French priest in Rome who has often visited Baghdad. However, Charles Forrest, of the British human rights organisation Indict, who is in Rome, said that Mr Aziz deserved a Nuremberg-style trial. "This is his first visit to Europe for five years and a chance to arrest him," Mr Forrest said. "He is implicated in a long list of crimes against humanity including the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the maltreatment of hostages during the 1991 Gulf War, the torture and murder of thousands of opponents of the regime and genocide against the Kurds. "He is as barbaric as Saddam Hussein himself. It is scandalous that he can travel freely and be received by the Pope and the Italian authorities." There are almost a million Christians in Iraq, 70 per cent of them Chaldeans, in a predominantly Muslim population of 23 million. According to Raphael Bidawid, Patriarch of Babylonia of the Chaldees, Iraqi Christians enjoy the protection of Saddam Husain. The Chaldeans are descended from the Nestorians, named after Nestorius, a 5th century monk from Antioch who was condemned for heresy for claiming that the Incarnate Christ was not God and man simultaneously but separate persons, one human and one divine. The Nestorian Church survived, with its headquarters in Baghdad from the 8th century. It was later reconciled with Rome and is in communion with the Pope. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=%2Fnews%2F2003%2F02%2F16%2Fwi rq316.xml * AZIZ PRAYS AT TOMB OF ST FRANCIS 'THE PACIFIST' by Bruce Johnston in Assisi Daily Telegraph, 16th February Tariq Aziz, the Iraqi deputy prime minister, prayed before the tomb of St Francis of Assisi yesterday as he continued his controversial campaign in Italy to drum up support for his country's case against war. The media event unfolded to the solemn strains of organ music in the crypt of the basilica of St Francis in the Umbrian hilltown of Assisi. St Francis was the great pacifist figure at the time of the Christian Crusades against the Muslims in the 13th century. But the visit by Mr Aziz, who is the only one of Saddam Hussein's inner circle to be Christian, has provoked strong criticism in Italy. Corriere della Sera, the country's best selling quality newspaper, argued in a front-page editorial that by hosting Mr Aziz and giving him a "peace lamp", the friars were providing legitimacy to the Iraqi regime. Mr Aziz, a Chaldean Catholic whose oriental rite is in line with Rome, joined the friars after prayers for lunch. He later wrote in their guest book: "May God the Almighty grant peace to the people of Iraq and the whole world. Amen." Later, he said: "I think there is some cause for hope for peace, should Allah will it." Franciscans said the visit had been "in the spirit" of an inter-religious peace conference which the Pope held in Assisi in the aftermath of September 11 when leaders of world faiths pledged to act against all forms of terrorism or war. In the ceremony's high point, a replica of an oil-burning "lamp of peace", which the Pope left on the tabernacle before the tomb of St Francis in January 2002, was lit and given to Mr Aziz. On Friday, Mr Aziz met the Pope, who is adamantly opposed to war, while in Baghdad, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, the papal envoy, met Saddam yesterday. The Franciscans rejected suggestions that they had played into the hands of Saddam's propaganda machine. "Communion with everyone is an important part of the Franciscan philosophy," Brother Enzo, who was born in Northampton, told The Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=%2Fnews%2F2003%2F02%2F16%2Fwh ann16.xml * WHO DID CHIRAC AND SCHRODER SHOCK THE MOST? THE FEDERALISTS by Daniel Hannan Daily Telegraph, 16th February Eurosceptics, especially Tories, have a straightforward view of the row in Nato. They see, in the Franco-Belgian-German position, ingratitude laced with cowardice. They believe that anti-war rhetoric is a cover for anti-Americanism. And they detect a plot to destroy the Atlantic alliance and replace it with an EU defence structure. When I set out to write this column this was, broadly, my own view. I had planned to gather some provocative anti-American quotes from Euro-MPs, to fulminate about the Axis of Snivel, to fret about the end of the Western alliance. I wish I could have written this: it would have bolstered my prejudices and settled my occasional qualms about the coming war. The trouble is, it isn't true. Most MEPs are outraged not by America's unilateralism, but by that of France and Germany. Even in those countries, there is a sense that Chirac and Schroder have behaved in a reprehensibly non communautaire way. Hans-Gert Pottering, the leader of Germany's Christian Democratic MEPs, drew heartfelt rumbles of approval when he conjured up the "dreadful prospect" of Washington dealing bilaterally with Berlin, London and Rome rather than with a common European front. A Belgian Euro-fanatic told me that in breaking with the rest of Nato, his government was undermining the whole basis of Belgium's post-war foreign policy. "We are not a large country," he pointed out, a touch unnecessarily. "We should think before we attract attention to ourselves like this." We sceptics are forever inveighing against plans for a common European defence on the grounds that they would undermine Nato. Yet the truth is that the biggest enthusiasts for European integration are solid Nato supporters. On one level, this is hardly surprising. Nato and the EU are, after all, answerable to pretty much the same people. The foreign minister of Belgium (or wherever) is not suddenly going to change all his assumptions simply because he happens to be sitting around a Nato table rather than an EU one. More insidiously, the staffs of the two organisations are virtually interchangeable. Sometimes, the same people flit from one to the other - most prominently Javier Solana, the former Nato Secretary General who is now in charge of EU foreign policy. Even when they are not the same individuals, they are the same kind of people, mingling in the restaurants and embassies of Brussels, fulminating about the "anti-European" London press, reinforcing each other's prejudices. The Eurosceptic belief that Nato is somehow a counterweight to an EU army simply does not fit the facts. As long ago as 1990, Nato explicitly declared that it supported "the development of a European defence identity", an objective reiterated at every subsequent Nato summit. Supporters of European integration are chiefly motivated by the conviction that nations should not be left sovereign over their military affairs. This naturally inclines them to be sympathetic to Nato. Conversely, the few anti-Nato politicians in Europe - French Gaullists and the far Left - tend also to be Eurosceptic. Euro-federalists are not opposed in principle to war in Iraq, nor even, for the most part, to American hegemony in the region. What worries them is the prospect of unilateral action. They are determined that Washington should be constrained by supra-national structures - chiefly Nato and the UN - just as their own states are. By acting as they have, Chirac and Schroder have destroyed any pretence that the action against Saddam Hussein will be waged in the name of the New World Order. And that, for the Euro-federalists, is the true crime. [.....] Daniel Hannan is a Conservative MEP for South-East England http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/17/international/europe/17IRAQ.html * NATO SETTLES RIFT OVER AID TO TURKS IN CASE OF A WAR by Richard Bernstein with Steven R. Weisman New York Times, 17th February BRUSSELS, Feb. 16 ‹ Resolving a bitter dispute that pitted the United States against France and Germany over military plans on Iraq, NATO agreed tonight to an American request to supply Turkey with equipment to defend itself in the event of a war to overthrow Saddam Hussein. The settlement was reached at NATO headquarters in Brussels after several days of tough negotiations amid mounting concern that the alliance might rupture on the eve of a possible war. Some officials said they hoped that the NATO agreement could pave the way for resolving the much more contentious dispute over authorizing the use of force against Iraq at the United Nations Security Council. But for now, European and American officials were pleased that one of the nastier disputes in NATO's history had been patched up. "Alliance solidarity has prevailed," said George Robertson, the NATO secretary general. But in a sign of possible fraying of support for the United States in the Middle East, a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo broke up today after failing to reach agreement calling for an emergency Arab summit meeting to press Mr. Hussein to comply with the United Nations disarmament demands. The NATO decision brought widespread relief throughout the alliance. The United States is "very pleased" by the agreement "to come to the defense of Turkey," said R. Nicholas Burns, the American ambassador to NATO. "We worked very hard to make sure that our core alliance responsibility of reaching out to an ally in a time of crisis was secured." The dispute was resolved when it was agreed to have the military staff of the NATO Defense Planning Council, which does not include France, make plans for Turkey's defense, specifically by sending Awacs air reconnaissance planes, Patriot missiles and chemical and biological warfare defense teams to Turkey. France had objected to such a step on the grounds that the Security Council had not yet authorized the use of force against Iraq. Shifting the decision to the planning council rather than NATO itself was a way of circumventing French opposition. Germany went along with the compromise, and the last holdout, Belgium, agreed to go along under pressure from other NATO members. Belgium dropping its long-held demand that any NATO decision be linked to authorization of force by the Security Council. After the announcement tonight, France, Germany and Belgium issued a joint statement reiterating their opposition to military action unless authorized by the Council. [.....] The NATO accord settled a dispute that administration officials had said was more about symbolism than substance. In December, Washington asked the alliance to supply Patriot missiles, Awacs planes and chemical and biological warfare defense systems to Turkey. The package was intended as an incentive to persuade Turkey to authorize its own troops to take part in an Iraqi invasion and to allow American forces to use it as a base. The administration was also hoping that help from NATO would bolster the Turkish government's political standing in the face of widespread popular opposition to a war. NATO, which was established in 1949 to counter the Soviet Union, has a tradition of responding to many such requests by consensus, so that if any one nation objects, the decision is held up. France and Germany, joined by Belgium, argued that the equipment should be supplied informally by individual alliance members but not by a formal decision of NATO. Indeed, although Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of Germany has adamantly opposed the American stand on Iraq, he also allowed Patriot missiles to be loaned to the Netherlands, which would then ship them to Turkey. >From the European point of view, the United States demand of NATO was intended to serve as a political gesture for Turkey. Indeed, a senior administration official said a week ago that the primary objective was to "send a signal of resolve" to Mr. Hussein in Baghdad. Some NATO officials said France was the main obstacle in the impasse, and that as soon as it was decided to shift the decision to the planning council, to which France does not belong, it took only a short time to authorize what Turkey needed. France won praise from some officials for agreeing to let the decision be made in this way. [.....] http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,897753,00.html * SUPPORTERS DESERT AZNAR AS SPANIARDS REJECT CONFLICT by Giles Tremlett in Madrid The Guardian, 18th February Spain's prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar, was coming to terms yesterday with the fact that his unswerving support for George Bush on Iraq had inflicted heavy political damage that could cost his conservative People's party its hold on power. Ministers admitted that the government's position was "causing significant electoral damage" and Mr Aznar's wife, Ana Botella, was quoted as saying his party was going through "one of the worst moments in its history". Between 2 million and 3 million people took to the streets of Spanish cities to protest at the weekend in what was said to the biggest overall turnout in the world. As many as one in 15 Spaniards marched. More significantly for Mr Aznar, opinion polls have shown that, for the first time since securing a clear victory in elections three years ago, the Socialists have overtaken the People's party in voting intentions. Mr Aznar also faced embarrassment yesterday when it was revealed that in 1997 he had offered to pay Baghdad in "aid" if it gave oil contracts to the Spanish-owned Repsol company. The government was ready to make a "donation" if Repsol was given a concession in the Nasiriya field, despite the fact that the UN had just issued a series of resolutions condemning Iraq's continued blocking of inspections, according to El Mundo newspaper, which quoted official documents. The amount of money involved was described as "a sum to be set later". But Repsol never managed to close the deal. More than any other political leader in Europe, with the exception of Tony Blair, Mr Aznar is flying in the face of popular opinion. An El Pais newspaper poll two weeks ago showed 69% of Spaniards were against even a UN-backed war. Nearly two-thirds of the People's party's own voters opposed war. The Socialist opposition has called him to vote against war at Nato and the UN security council. Mr Aznar's personal conviction that Saddam Hussein still possesses chemical or biological weapons appears to remain unshaken. This, government officials said, was partly due to the private conversations he has had with Mr Bush and top US officials, who see him as one of their most important diplomatic allies. He has also argued that for a government that has made domestic terrorism its No 1 priority, the alleged relationship between President Saddam and international terrorism cannot be ignored. Few observers expect him to change his opinion. Far from backing down, Mr Aznar explained his position in leaflets inserted into daily newspapers at the weekend. Illustrated with pictures of the blazing twin towers, they said only that the government considered a new UN resolution as "possible and desirable", rather than a prerequisite to invasion. The extent of Mr Aznar's commitment to a possible war against Iraq was underlined yesterday with the publication of photographs showing the construction of accommodation for 600 new military personnel at a US base in southern Spain. Protesters in Madrid taunted the prime minister on Saturday with chants of "Mr Aznar, send your own sons". Yet, despite his stance as a leading European hawk, Spain is unlikely to play a significant military role in a war. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/18/international/europe/18EURO.html * EUROPEAN UNION SAYS IRAQ MUST DISARM QUICKLY AND FULLY by Richard Bernstein New York Times, 18th February BRUSSELS, Feb. 17 ‹ The leaders of the 15 members of the European Union warned Iraq today that it must disarm "immediately and fully," but said that Europe wanted to achieve this disarmament peacefully and that war should be a last resort. The European statement was issued at the end of an emergency summit meeting and after a weekend of huge demonstrations in several cities against war in Iraq. It appeared to represent an effort to paper over trans-Atlantic differences through firm demands on Saddam Hussein while maintaining a distinct European position dedicated to a peaceful outcome. "War is not inevitable," the statement said. "Force should only be used as a last resort. It is for the Iraqi regime to end this crisis by complying with the demands of the Security Council." "The Union's objective for Iraq remains full and effective disarmament," it said, adding: "We want to achieve this peacefully. It is clear that this is what the people of Europe want." The European leaders did not approve a timetable for Iraqi disarmament and rejected a British proposal that the statement include the phrase "time is running out." That phrase was rejected by Germany, which, together with France, has stood at the forefront of European resistance to the Bush administration's plans to disarm Iraq through force if necessary. In a demonstration of the continued distance between Europe and the United States, President Jacques Chirac of France said that there was "no need" for a second United Nations resolution reinforcing the threat of force against Iraq, and that France would oppose one if the United States and Britain proposed it to the Security Council. "Iraq must have no illusions," the Greek president, Costas Simitis, said tonight, summarizing the European declaration. He added that "Iraq alone will be responsible for the serious consequences" if it continued to defy United Nations resolutions. The phrase "serious consequences" is widely viewed as meaning military force. It appears at the end of Security Council Resolution 1441, which last year provided arms inspectors with a strong mandate to return to Iraq and verify disarmament. Differences between Europe and the United States over Iraq have become so acute in recent weeks that officials have expressed concern over the future of the NATO alliance. Today, European leaders seemed anxious to allay those fears, saying they were committed to "working with all our partners, especially the United States, for the disarmament of Iraq." In its most forceful passage, the European statement said: "Baghdad should have no illusions. It must disarm and cooperate immediately and fully. Iraq has a final opportunity to resolve the crisis peacefully. The Iraqi regime alone will be responsible for the consequences if it continues to flout the will of the international community and does not take this last chance." Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who faces intense domestic opposition to his support for the Bush administration's war plans, insisted before the meeting that European leaders must show a united front with America as the best means of compelling Mr. Hussein to disarm. [.....] _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk