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News, 05-09/03/03 (3) NORTHERN IRAQ/SOUTHERN KURDISTAN * Kurdish Leader Faces Charge in Norway * More Killings in Kurdistan * Kurds riddled with rivalries * Residents of border town locked in standoff with Iraqi soldiers NO FLY ZONES * Western Jets Up Patrols, Attack Iraq Air Defense * Allied raid kills three Iraqis * U.S. warplanes fired on from Iraq * Allied planes pound Iraqi mobile radar * Western Jets Attack Iraqi Radar System IRAQI OPPOSITION * Iraqi Shia Opposition to Meet in Iran Today * 'Exciting times' inspire a leader-in-waiting NORTHERN IRAQ/SOUTHERN KURDISTAN http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-eur/2003/mar/06/030609753.html * KURDISH LEADER FACES CHARGE IN NORWAY Las Vegas Sun, 6th March OSLO, Norway (AP) - Mullah Krekar, the leader of a Kurdish guerrilla group suspected of having links to al-Qaida, faces preliminary charges of kidnapping nine people in northern Iraq, Norwegian police said Thursday. When questioned by Norway's Police Security Service, the domestic intelligence agency, last month, Krekar told investigators that he had held nine men in northern Iraq in December 2001, said Brynjar Meling, Krekar's Norwegian lawyer. The men, who were not identified, were released three days later. Details of the detainment were not available. Erling Grimstad, a senior police official, confirmed the charges but declined further comment. Prosecutors have the ability to charge someone in Norway for a crime that took place beyond the country's borders, even if the suspect is not a Norwegian citizen. Krekar, who commanded the Kurdish Ansar al-Islam group in northern Iraq, has denied the allegations. If convicted he could sentenced to as long as 10 years in prison. "He had nothing to do with that incident," Meling told The Associated Press. "Krekar was the one who made sure they were released." Krekar also faces a preliminary charge of having participated in a military organization. Ansar al-Islam, a group of approximately 500 Islamic militants in the mountains of northern Iraq, is on Washington's list of terrorist organizations. He has denied he or his group has any links to terrorism. Krekar, who was given refugee status in this Nordic country of 4.5 million, was arrested in September 2002 in the Netherlands. He was released and returned to Norway. If Krekar is formally charged, he is likely to be detained by Norwegian authorities and face possible trial. Last month, Krekar told Norwegian media that he had told Norway's intelligence agency that he had met Osama bin Laden in 1988 but didn't know who he was at the time. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,429465,00.html * MORE KILLINGS IN KURDISTAN by Michael Ware/Halabja Time, c6th March The Kurdish region in northern Iraq, a pivotal staging point for any U.S. invasion, is an unsettling place at the best of times. Five bodies left sprawled on the road by a checkpoint on March 4 has made it even more so. Among the dead was Abullah Qasre, a leading figure in a local militant Islamic group known as Komal, one of the plethora of sectarian factions that riddle Kurdish politics. Komal, however, has come to be particularly important in recent months in light of the bloody war raging between ruling parties of Iraqi Kurdistan and Islamist groups linked with al-Qaeda, such as Ansar al-Islam. The local government had entered into a covert dialogue with Komal, hoping to draw it out of the Islamist nexus. The bloody checkpoint scene, captured by a Time photographer who arrived during the gun battle, has now thrown that dialogue into disarray. Komal supporters immediately blamed local government forces for the ambush. On muddy battlefields near the town of Halabja on the Iran-Iraq border, the Kurdish militants of Komal guard the northern flank of the war's principal aggressors, Ansar al Islam. Western and local intelligence services have suggested variously that Ansar is backed by al-Qaeda, Tehran and Baghdad. Whatever the identity of its sponsors, Ansar has proved to be a major headache for the local authorities ‹ the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which runs the eastern section of the Kurdish region protected by the Anglo-American "no-fly" zone. For the past year, Ansar fighters have periodically attacked and overrun PUK positions, slaughtering everyone they find and videotaping the carnage for distribution as propaganda ‹ the tapes have depicted prisoners being decapitated or burned alive. On February 26, Ansar sent a suicide bomber behind PUK lines, killing two soldiers and a taxi driver outside of Halabja. The PUK's dialogue with Komal was designed to isolate and weaken Ansar from a potential ally. For some time PUK intelligence and government figures have been in communication with Komal's leadership. The day before the suicide bombing, Ansar's pirate radio station, transmitting only a few miles beyond the snowy mountains that host their bunkers, aired a vehement denunciation of the Kurdish group's contact with the government. On the PUK's frontline, troops gathered around radios and listened to the diatribe accusing Komal of being infidels. The soldiers dismissed it as a ploy ‹ a few hours later Ansar vehicles and gunmen had moved into Komal's area of control to improve their position for the nightly attack. The PUK's director general for security, a man who goes by the name of Dr. Khasraw, hints there may have been more substance to the split between the Islamic groups. Indeed he readily makes concessions for the local militants, suggesting somewhat sympathetically that Komal's logistic support for Ansar's attempted assassination on the Kurdish prime minister earlier this year may have been given without the leadership's knowledge. "They cannot account for individuals," he says. He confirmed government discussions had been underway with Komal, but did not give details. American advisers have recently been seen visiting PUK command posts on the Ansar frontline. Speculation abounds that U.S. bombers will soften the terrorists' bunkers in the lead-up to a Kurdish assault. Anything Komal could have offered in whittling away Ansar's support would have been helpful to the cause. That is now lost, with mourner's at Qasre's funeral charging the PUK with his assassination, rejecting claims that government soldiers had overreacted in nervous anticipation of another suicide bomber. That suggests they've been pushed back into the arms of Ansar, who may be the biggest beneficiaries of the latest shootout. http://www.post-gazette.com/World/20030309kurdistanworld3p3.asp * KURDS RIDDLED WITH RIVALRIES by Borzou Daragahi Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9th March SULAYMANIYAH, Iraq -- Maybe the five bearded men shot first. Maybe they had driven past the checkpoint so often they no longer bothered to stop, just rolling through as they did driving back north every Tuesday from the weekly meeting of their political party. But this past week in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq was different. Local security forces were on the lookout for carloads of Islamic militants from the group Ansar al-Islam, who had been allegedly scouting sites frequented by Americans. The exact sequence of events remains unclear. But by 3 p.m., Tuesday, the five men lay dead, their bodies riddled with bullets, the windows of their white Toyota Land Cruiser shattered, pools of blood on the pavement. They were the wrong Islamists. These men belonged to the Islamic Group, an organization with friendly ties to the Kurdish authorities. Officials apologized for the incident, expressing regret for the loss of life and announcing an investigation. "If there are people who have overreacted and did not adhere to the rules of engagement, there will be repercussions for those involved," said Barham Salih, prime minister of the eastern half of the Kurdish autonomous area. The violent, mistaken deaths of these five men illustrate the tricky ground-level political minefield the United States will encounter if it occupies Iraq or uses the Kurdish region as a staging point for a northern front against Saddam Hussein's Baghdad regime. Since its establishment after the 1991 Gulf War, the northern Kurdish-run section of Iraq has become a relatively prosperous enclave where people enjoy many of the civil liberties denied those living in other Middle East countries. But that freedom has also produced an often confusing mix of political parties, armed militias and ethnic-based groups. A jumble of secret alliances and lingering animosities underlies the apparent political calm of Northern Iraq. Pro-Kurdish Turkoman groups vie for legitimacy against anti-Kurdish Turkoman with strong ties to the government in Ankara. An Assyrian party claims to represent northern Iraq's Christians, but is distrusted by the mostly Chaldean Christian community. Pro-U.S. Islamic groups are distinguished from vehemently anti-Western ones only by a letter in their acronyms. Many of the groups are armed. "There are many groups with their own militias," Salih said. "We can't deny anyone the right to organize their militia." The apparent peace established in 1998 between the broad-based Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party is belied by simmering blood feuds and dangerous machinations. It was the Patriotic Union, for example, that invited the predecessors of Ansar al Islam to hole up in the mountains near the Iranian border after the Democratic Party kicked them out. "Unfortunately, the brothers from the other side thought that if a group is opposed to the Kurdistan Democratic Party they must be very important, and helped them out," said Nechirwan Barzani, prime minister of the Democratic Party-controlled section of the autonomous zone. Ansar has terrorized the area. Late last month, a suicide bomber killed himself and three others at a checkpoint on the road to Halabja, near Ansar's stronghold in the mountain village of Biyare. In early February, Ansar militants posing as defectors lured a prominent Patriotic Union leader to his death. In December, Ansar killed scores of Patriotic Union soldiers during an early morning raid on a military outpost. In April 2002, Islamic militants attempted to assassinate Salih, killing members of his entourage. Almost all of the incidents have left innocent bystanders, including children, dead or wounded. Patriotic Union officials have been itching for revenge. In Tuesday's killings, officials of the Patriotic Union apparently mistook the Islamic Group's Toyota Land Cruiser for one of three cars that had been spotted spying on airstrips and homes of government officials said to be frequented by the small number of U.S. clandestine operatives working here. Spent casings littered the ground near the checkpoint as Patriotic Union officials dragged bloody corpses into pickup trucks. Counter-terrorism officers, led by Bafel Talabani, son of Patriotic Union leader Jalal Talabani, came quickly to the scene and claimed they had scored a victory against Ansar. A few hours later, government officials retracted the Ansar story and conceded the possibility of a mistake. Tuesday evening at the Jihad Mosque, Islamic Group members wept as the bodies of the five men wrapped in blankets were brought inside. One was Abdulla Qasri, a prominent politician in the organization. A single halogen light bulb hung from the ceiling as a man sobbed loudly. The Patriotic Union, the mourners complained, didn't even hand over the bodies themselves, instead giving them to the Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party, another armed militia with an ambivalent relationship to the government. Members of the Islamic Group called for justice. "If they follow procedures in their investigation, the Patriotic Union has nothing to worry about," said Haji Dilshad Garmiyani, head of the Islamic Group's armed wing. "If they don't, we reserve our right to retaliate." A 1993 killing of four Islamists at a checkpoint by the Patriotic Union sparked three years of fighting that left more than 600 dead, officials of the Islamic Group said. "This should be cooled down," said Nasih Mullah Salih, a member of the Islamic Group's leadership. "This is the kind of incident that leads to wars." http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/news/world/5342399.htm * RESIDENTS OF BORDER TOWN LOCKED IN STANDOFF WITH IRAQI SOLDIERS by Mark McDonald The State, 9th March KALAK, Iraq - It's a drab little village, pleasant enough when the olive trees are in flower, but mostly it's just sunburned shepherds and their black-faced sheep. Even the locals admit that Kalak is unremarkable - except that it's probably the most dangerous place in all of Iraq. Pitched above a broad tributary of the Tigris River, Kalak is part of Kurdistan, that broad swatch of northern Iraq that's beyond Saddam Hussein's control. A quarter-mile away, dug into a ridgeline above the town, Saddam's infantry keeps a wary 24-hour watch on the well armed Kurdish militia stationed in the village. The standoff has left everyone frightened and nervous. Hair-triggered Iraqi sentries shoot at anyone who ventures too close to their bunkers or trenches, and the broad sloping pastures below their positions are heavily mined. Kalak villagers still jump when they hear that odd and sickening sound - a short, muffled explosion - that tells them another wayward sheep has stepped on a land mine. Sometimes, heavy rains unearth a patch of Iraqi mines, which tumble downhill into the village. The latest victim was a boy who kicked at a loose mine that ended up on a soccer field. So many Kalak men have fled the frontier or been killed in battles that women now outnumber men by 8 to 1. Everybody in Kalak, of course, blames Saddam. Aisha Malood was washing some turnips the other day, and the water in her bowl had turned a dark crimson. "I wish this was Saddam's blood on my hands, Insha'allah," she said, appealing to Allah to make it so. "I'd love to have his blood up to my elbows. I'd slay him myself, and then I'd bury him directly under my outhouse. Only then would the Iraqi people finally be free of him." Just down the lane, under a pomegranate tree in her backyard, Amina Ahmed was stoking an outdoor oven and turning out thin, crisp wheels of nan, the flat Kurdish bread. She had heard, yes, that Iraqi troopers are now begging local shepherds to bring them bread. "But those soldiers will get no bread from me," said the 65-year-old widow. "They terrorize us every day, just by being up there on our hills." "If Saddam came to Kalak, I wouldn't give him bread. I'd give him rat poison. I'd slaughter him." She squinted, smiled, and then slowly drew a finger across her throat. Ahmed's mud-walled house overlooks the Zab River, which is rushing fast these days, swollen by the snowmelt from the nearby mountains. The Zab dumps into the Tigris, which, 200 miles downstream, runs right through Baghdad. The Kurds of Kalak have been battling Baghdad for nearly 35 years. After the 1991 Gulf war and a failed Kurdish uprising, the terrified villagers fled to Iran. When they returned, their Arab neighbors had looted their homes. "They even took my baby's cradle," said Aisha Malood. "In the last war, I fled," said the widow Ahmed. "This time, I'm staying put." The Kurds have driven all the Arabs out of Kalak, which sits just above the 36th parallel, a few miles inside the United Nations no-fly zone. As a village, it's not much to look at - stray dogs, the bleating sheep, some vegetable patches, a few shops and schools, a scattering of low-slung houses. Look closer, though, and nearly every one of Kalak's houses is pockmarked with a bullet hole, or five, or 20. Look into the courtyards of those houses and there's sure to be a few Kalashnikovs propped in a corner, loaded and ready. Look at the arms or the chests of the Kalak men and there's sure to be a purpled scar or two from an Iraqi bullet or bayonet. The hard history of Kalak is right there, shot right into their bodies. Their children know the history, too. They learn it in Patriotism class. "The main theme of the Patriotism class is an independent Kurdistan," said Ali Zorab Ali, headmaster at the Avesta Primary School for Girls. "We teach them about homeland, nationality, democracy and dictators. "Our children also know about fear and tension. They learn this at an early age. They're used to soldiers in the streets, the low-flying American planes, and regular evacuations of the town. Sadly, these things have become normal for them." Kalak's crumbling police station serves as the headquarters of the protective Kurdish forces, an odd mix of regular soldiers and security brigades from the Kurdistan Democratic Party, furtive intelligence men driving battered Peugeot sedans, and squads of volunteer peshmerga, the Kurdish guerrilla fighters. Most days, the KDP security commander prowls the roof of the stationhouse, fingering his string of worry beads, smoking ferociously and peering through his field glasses at the Iraqis up on the ridge. He also looks downstream to a new bridge spanning the Zab, a bridge that's capable, he said, of handling tank columns. One side of the half-mile bridge is controlled by his men, the other side by Saddam's. If a war breaks out, the first order of battle is to seize and hold that bridge. After that, the important oil center of Mosul is just a day's march. "We can't wait. We want a war as soon as possible so we can be rid of Saddam and his damned soldiers," said Capt. Hajar Mullah Omar, the Kurdish commander. "Whenever the people in the village hear the news that the war has been delayed again, they feel sick. "That's our land up there," he said, pointing to the Iraqi positions, "and very soon we're going to reclaim it. Even the oldest shepherd here is ready to fight. Give us one day of American bombing and there won't be a single Iraqi soldier in sight." He smiled and nodded confidently, then told about an Iraqi trooper who recently crept down near the village. The soldier told a local man to spread the word among the townspeople. "Please don't shoot us if a war breaks out at night," the Iraqi said. "I promise you we'll be gone by morning." Local shepherds who graze their flocks near the bunkers say the Iraqi soldiers are shabbily clothed and poorly provisioned. They refer to the sentries as "shaqeena," cracked and crumbling like an old stone wall. Only one shepherd from Kalak, a deaf and mute young fellow named Hazim Fattah, is allowed to pass beyond the "red line" that separates Iraqi and Kurdish territories. When Fattah or his sheep stray too close to a minefield, the soldiers toss rocks at him to warn him off. Last week, however, hungry troopers stole one of Fattah's sheep while he was taking a nap in a pasture. Before they could butcher and grill the sheep, an apologetic Iraqi lieutenant returned it. "I was happy to get my sheep back, but those men are not our brothers," said Fattah, using sign language. "We want the American bombers to come tomorrow. They will kill the soldiers and we can finally get our pastures back." NO FLY ZONES http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20030306/ts_nm/iraq_usa_st rike_dc_3 * WESTERN JETS UP PATROLS, ATTACK IRAQ AIR DEFENSE by Charles Aldinger Yahoo, 6th March WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. and British warplanes, sharply increasing patrols over southern Iraq ahead of a looming war, attacked two air defense targets west of Baghdad on Thursday, the U.S. military said. Defense officials told Reuters that attack jets taking part in U.S.-British patrols over "no-fly" zones in Iraq had more than doubled flights over the southern zone in recent days to confuse air defenses ahead of a possible U.S.-led invasion. One of the officials noted the United States had deployed hundreds of additional naval and other attack aircraft to the Gulf since early January in a massive military build-up that now has more than 250,000 U.S. and British troops in the area. "It stands to reason that if they (Iraqi military) see a lot of planes and varied patterns of flights, it's more difficult to discern what's going on," said another of the officials, who asked not to be identified. The U.S. military's Central Command, which declined to comment on the number of patrols or say whether they had been increased, said in a release that aircraft attacked a surface-to air missile system and an anti-aircraft artillery battery 240 miles west of Baghdad at about 5:10 a.m. Iraqi time (9:10 p.m. EST). Warplanes also dropped 660,000 leaflets over 11 locations about 220 to 250 miles southeast of Baghdad, the Central Command said. They have dropped millions of such leaflets in recent months encouraging Iraqi troops not to fight if there is a war and giving civilians the frequencies of western military radio broadcasts critical of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The command said Thursday's strikes were launched after the Iraqi military moved the "highly mobile" anti-aircraft missile system into the zone from central Iraq, where it was seen as a threat to the air patrols. [.....] http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=2338336 * ALLIED RAID KILLS THREE IRAQIS Reuters, 6th March BAGHDAD: Three Iraqi civilians were killed when U.S. and British warplanes bombed targets in a southern "no-fly" overnight, the Iraqi military has said. A military spokesman said in a statement on Thursday the aircraft patrolling the no-fly zone hit civilian targets in the Anbar province, killing three. It said Iraqi forces fired at the planes before they returned to bases in Kuwait. The U.S. military said earlier on Thursday that U.S. and British warplanes had attacked a surface-to-air missile system and an anti-aircraft artillery battery 240 miles west of Baghdad at about 5:10 a.m. Iraqi time (2.10 a.m. British time). [.....] http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/world/1809145 * U.S. WARPLANES FIRED ON FROM IRAQ Houston Chronicle, from Associated Press, 7th March ABOARD THE USS KITTY HAWK -- U.S. pilots enforcing the no-fly zone over southern Iraq have been fired on from the ground in the past few days, returning pilots said today. As the number of air patrols launched from three U.S. aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf grows, pilots say Iraqi ground defenses are responding with greater aggression. "It was just coming on twilight when I noticed a very bright flare," said Cmdr. Jay Bynum, who led a sortie of F/A-18C Hornets over southern Iraq this week. "White flashes, just like fireworks, only a lot higher. I didn't know what it was at first." The explosions were quickly identified as having been fired from a weapon, he said. The explosions occurred too far away to be a real danger to the warplanes, and in the fading light the pilots couldn't see where the attack came from, he said. The U.S. planes did not return fire. U.S. and British planes have been enforcing "no-fly" zones in Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War to protect minority Kurds in the north and Shiite Muslims in the south. Iraqi forces regularly fire at jets in the zones, but have failed to bring down any piloted aircraft. A senior defense official in Washington said the coalition has nearly tripled the number of patrols recently in order to keep Iraqi defenders guessing and mask the start of combat. President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have threatened war unless Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's gives up weapons of mass destruction. Iraq denies having banned weapons. Five U.S. carrier battle groups and ships from Britain and other allies have massed within striking distance of Iraq. Three carriers -- the Kitty Hawk, the USS Abraham Lincoln and the USS Constellation -- are in the northern gulf region and have sent patrols over Iraq in recent weeks, crowding the sky with warplanes. More than 160 warplanes -- mostly Hornets and F-14A Tomcats -- have been launched from the Kitty Hawk this week, about one-third of them to conduct patrols over Iraq. Bynum, 40, a Texan who said he'd moved so often in his military career that he no longer called any place home, said he'd flown patrols over southern Iraq four times in the past few years, but that things felt different now. "The last few times it was a more benign environment," Bynum said. "This time, there seems to be a little more hostility from the Iraqis on the ground." http://www.gulf-news.com/Articles/news.asp?ArticleID=79816 * ALLIED PLANES POUND IRAQI MOBILE RADAR Gulf News, from Reuters, 8th March U.S. and British warplanes taking part in patrols over southern Iraq yesterday attacked an Iraqi mobile radar system, the U.S. military said. It said the radar system had been moved into the area and posed a threat to the allied aircraft. The allies have more than doubled their patrols over the Iraqi "no-fly" zones to at least 500 a day, U.S. defence officials said on Thursday, as a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq appeared close. U.S. Central Command said in a statement from its headquarters in Florida that the aircraft used precision-guided weapons to strike an Iraqi mobile "target acquisition" radar system 370km west of Baghdad. "The coalition executed strike after Iraqi forces moved the highly mobile radar system, which is associated with a surface-to-air missile system, below the 33rd parallel into the southern no-fly zone," said Central Command. http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20030308/ts_nm/iraq_usa_st rike_dc_1 * WESTERN JETS ATTACK IRAQI RADAR SYSTEM Yahoo, 8th March WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Warplanes on U.S.-British air patrols on Saturday attacked an Iraqi mobile radar system in a southern "no-fly" zone, the U.S. military said. The strike, the second in as many days in an area about 230 miles west of Baghdad, was in response to threats against the regular patrols, the military's Central Command said in a statement. Precision-guided weapons were used to target a mobile missile guidance radar system, the statement said. A similar surface-to-air missile system and an anti-aircraft artillery site were attacked on Friday and Wednesday. [.....] IRAQI OPPOSITION http://www.tehrantimes.com/Description.asp?Da=3/6/03&Cat=2&Num=9 * IRAQI SHIA OPPOSITION TO MEET IN IRAN TODAY Tehran Times, 6th March TEHRAN -- Opposition leaders of Iraq's majority Shia population will meet in Iran today to discuss their role in Iraq if President Saddam Hussein is overthrown, a Shia leader said on Wednesday. Originally scheduled for February, the meeting was postponed so that some delegates could attend last week's meeting of Iraqi opposition groups in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. "About 150 to 200 Iraqi Shia leaders will attend the meeting to discuss the Shia political role in the future Iraqi government," said Mohsen al-Hakim, a close aide to Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). "We will discuss the ways to consolidate our political, economic, social and other rights in the future government of Iraq," he said of the one-day meeting. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi called on Tuesday for a national reconciliation between Saddam and Iraqi opposition groups and a UN-supervised referendum to give Iraqis the chance to decide their future. But Al-Hakim said national reconciliation would only be possible if Saddam relinquished power first, Reuters reported. "If dictatorship, religious and racial apartheid is removed in Iraq, if free elections are held under the supervision of the United Nations, Islamic, and Arabic countries, and if Saddam steps down from power, then it is possible to have a national reconciliation. "Otherwise, no process can take place in a reconciliatory way," he said. http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c =StoryFT&cid=1045511438139&p=1012571727085 * 'EXCITING TIMES' INSPIRE A LEADER-IN-WAITING by Roula Khalaf, Middle East editor Financial Times, 7th March Adnan Pachachi had not intended to spend his retirement years in smoke-filled rooms or stifling aeroplane cabins, or staring at a deluge of e-mails on his computer screen. He and his wife Salwa had planned a quiet life - winter months in the soft climate of peaceful Abu Dhabi and more stimulating summers in London, where two of their daughters live. Yet the 80-year-old former Iraqi foreign minister, now tipped for a leadership role in a postwar Iraq, can hardly conceal the thrill he feels at a possible late-in-the-day political rejuvenation. "I was having a pleasant life, I adore classical music and I was going to the festivals. My wife told me: Why bother with politics?" he says. "But I'm involved, whether I like it or not, in a huge undertaking, of transcendental importance." "These are exciting times," he adds. "Nothing comparable has happened to Iraq since the fall of the Ottoman empire." Sitting on the balcony of his Abu Dhabi apartment, overlooking the city's high-rises and the Gulf beyond, Mr Pachachi says he is uneasy about the prospects of an American occupation. He has called on Saddam Hussein to relinquish power to avoid both a war and an occupation. And he has rejected an offer to be part of a six-member opposition committee set up in the autonomous Kurdish north of Iraq and expected to play an advisory function under a US military presence. He advocates instead an Afghanistan-like UN role in which the world body would consult groups inside and outside the country to create an interim Iraqi administration. "We want the UN to have a role and a civilian administration composed of technocrats inside and outside to run the country," he told the FT. "But a UN involvement poses a problem for the US if it fails to win a new resolution [on war.]" The expectation that Mr Pachachi will be engaged in what is still a muddled US vision for postwar Iraq is based on the assumption that he can bring a calming and mature influence to bear on various Iraqi opposition groups vying for power. He has no political party or following inside the country, having left Iraq in 1969, a year after Mr Hussein's Ba'ath party coup, and never setting foot there since. But he says he represents a silent majority that wants a secular, liberal Iraq. He took up citizenship in the United Arab Emirates, where he acted as a government minister in Abu Dhabi for 20 years, retiring in the early 1990s. He makes no secret that he has enjoyed advantages in life, an existence that is far removed from the daily hardship suffered by Iraqis. "I was born to power and privilege," he says. "My father was prime minister under the monarchy, my uncle was prime minister and my father-in-law was prime minister." He joined the Iraqi Foreign Service in 1944 after studying at the American University of Beirut and before that at Victoria College, then an English public school in Cairo. He served as Iraq's ambassador to the UN and also to the US. He was named foreign minister in the first civilian government after the 1958 revolution that toppled the monarchy. "I graduated 60 years ago, can you imagine? I must sound like a dinosaur." Yet it is his age, experience and assumed lack of political ambition that have earned him such respect, particularly among exiled technocrats disillusioned with the bickering of the opposition and eager to have a national figure involved in a postwar process that promises to be highly contentious. Prodded by friends, he helped set up a secular, liberal opposition group - the so-called Democratic Centrist party - two years ago. But disappointed by the personal rivalries in the opposition, he quickly ended his participation. Since then, however, he has been courted by US officials, most recently holding a meeting at his Abu Dhabi home with Zalmay Khalilzad, the US envoy to the opposition. The exact role the US has in mind for him remains unclear. But that he is a secular Sunni within an opposition dominated by the majority Shia and the Kurdish groups has been an added attraction for US officials. "There should not be one leader for Iraq, there should be a collective leadership," insists Mr Pachachi. "It's difficult for people to agree on one person; they'll ask 'Is he Sunni, Shia or Kurd?' " Mr Pachachi is also, in many ways, part of the solution to Iraq that Arab governments want. The region's leaders are desperate to avoid American control of Iraq, which they assume will be the starting point of a grander vision to reshape the Middle East. The UAE recently issued an appeal that echoes the substance of his own proposal. It called on Arab leaders to back an initiative urging Mr Hussein to step down but for the Arab League, not only the UN, to take control. Not surprisingly, as Mr Pachachi's name has been increasingly mentioned in postwar plans, there have been whispers of criticism from some circles of the exiled opposition backed by hawks in the US administration. A 1961 statement he made at the UN, repeating his government's position that Kuwait was part of Iraq, has been quoted as a stain on his reputation, though this was what most Iraqis believed at the time. He is now careful to point out that he has good relations with Kuwait and had loudly denounced Mr Hussein's 1990 invasion of his neighbour. "They say I'm an ardent Arab nationalist as though it were a sin," says Mr Pachachi. "But I believe it would be in the interest of the Arabs to have closer relations with each other. Our weakness is our division." As he shuttles between European capitals this week trying to bring together exiles in an independent movement to push for UN involvement in postwar Iraq, he also recognises that time is fast running out on his preferred solution to the crisis. "The chances of Saddam going [into exile] are rather slim but he's a very experienced practitioner of brinkmanship and he may, at the very last moment, say 'Let's discuss it'," he says. "Iraqis want change but they want it peacefully. So there is no other way. The US will not pull its troops back." _______________________________________________ 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