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[casi] News, 05-09/03/03 (3)

News, 05-09/03/03 (3)


*  Kurdish Leader Faces Charge in Norway
*  More Killings in Kurdistan
*  Kurds riddled with rivalries
*  Residents of border town locked in standoff with Iraqi soldiers


*  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 Shia Opposition to Meet in Iran Today
*  'Exciting times' inspire a leader-in-waiting


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

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.,8599,429465,00.html

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.

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

"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

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

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."

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

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

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

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."


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.


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

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

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).


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

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

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.



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

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.

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

"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

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

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

"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

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