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News, 19-26/03/03 (1) DISHONEST CASE FOR WAR * Nuclear inspectors reportedly angry * Blix: Iraq Won't Use Chemical Weapons * U.S. Plans Hunt for Iraqi Bio-Weapons * USA lied about Iraq's weapons * CIA voiced doubts about Iraq's uranium purchases * Soldiers 'find huge chemical arms plant' MURPHY'S LAW * Seven crew killed in helicopter crash * Missing ITN crew may have come under 'friendly fire' * 'Iraqis unable to reach refugee camp in Jordan' * British plane shot down by U.S. missile * One killed, 12 injured by 'resentful' Muslim GI * US missile hits bus, killing five Syrian civilians * 'Friendly fire' kills two more UK troops * Second Officer Dies From Sunday's Grenade Attack DISHONEST CASE FOR WAR http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/news/5418901.htm * NUCLEAR INSPECTORS REPORTEDLY ANGRY by Dan Stober Mercury News, 18th March As United Nations nuclear inspectors flee Iraq, some of them are angry at the Bush administration for cutting short their work, bad-mouthing their efforts and making false claims about evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Some inspectors are "scandalized" at the way President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell, among others, have "politicized" the inspection process, said a source close to the inspectors. None of the nuclear-related intelligence trumpeted by the administration has held up to scrutiny, inspectors say. From suspect aluminum tubes to aerial photographs to documents - revealed to be forgeries -- that claimed to link Iraq to uranium from Niger, inspectors say they chased U.S. leads that went nowhere and wasted valuable time in their efforts to determine the extent of Saddam Hussein's arsenal of weapons banned after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The administration said the Iraqi aluminum tubes were uniquely suited for centrifuges to make bomb-grade uranium. But U.N. officials argue that the Iraqi explanation -- that the tubes were destined to become artillery rockets -- was more plausible. Moreover, the source close to inspectors said, the U.S. military uses similar tubes for a rocket known as the Hydra 70. In October the White House released aerial photos of activity at former Iraqi nuclear facilities. The inspectors, however, found no sign of weapons activity and suggested that Saddam was not likely to reuse known nuclear sites. In February the administration said trucks were spotted at facilities shortly before the arrival of inspectors, apparently to haul away and hide banned equipment. But in one case, according to a U.N. official, the trucks were fire engines standing by the building for safety reasons. In the case of the Niger documents, they appeared genuine at first glance -- accurate nomenclature, proper stamps -- but further study turned up crude errors, such as words misspelled in French and dates that did not match the day of the week. Who created the counterfeit documents remains a mystery. Recent inspection teams have included a new batch of U.S. nuclear scientists from Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos national laboratories. The U.N. official described these inspectors as arriving as hawks and leaving as doves, after finding Iraq "a ruined country, not a threat to anyone." It is a view radically different than the administration's. The nuclear inspectors trudged through the Iraqi countryside for months. They found the Iraqi weapons infrastructure, built at great expense in the 1980s, to be in a state of decay. They sought out out-of-the-way machine shops or companies where Iraqi scientists might be congregated. But they found no sign of an organized nuclear weapons program. At the most, the U.N. official said, there may be "a few guys with paper and pencil and some computer in a back room." Responding to the U.S. emphasis on underground facilities, the inspectors slugged through the mud beneath a petroleum plant and paid a visit to an irrigation reservoir carved into the inside of a mountain. Neither contained anything suspicious. The nuclear inspectors -- the International Atomic Energy Agency's Iraq Action Team -- are lead by a Frenchman, Jacques Baute. Under his direction the team has focused on unraveling the clandestine Iraqi procurement networks that imported nuclear weapons technology in the 1980s and the aluminum tubing more recently. During unannounced visits to trading companies, the inspectors used special equipment to copy the hard drives of computers. Among the thousands of files they found some leads, as well as pornography. Traders in the procurement networks, the inspectors discovered, have been using their positions to steal oil-for-food money and shift the stolen profits out of the country. For example, a $100,000 purchase of humanitarian goods from Jordan might be inflated to $200,000, with the extra money split between the Iraqi buyer and the Jordanian seller. Some of the inspectors leave with a deep suspicion of U.S. motives. Some believe, for example, that recent flights of U.S. U-2 spy planes were intended to help the military draw up target lists, not to aid the inspectors in their search for weapons of mass destruction. http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-2490853,00.html * BLIX: IRAQ WON'T USE CHEMICAL WEAPONS The Guardian, 19th March UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said Tuesday he does not believe Iraq will use chemical or biological weapons during a war, even though it can produce warheads and deadly agents to fill them. The reason, he said, was world opinion would turn in favor of the United States if Saddam Hussein used weapons of mass destruction. And even on the brink of defeat, when using such weapons might be a last resort, Saddam's government would still care about public opinion, Blix said. "Some people care about their reputation even after death," he said. Blix gave a news conference as the Security Council prepared to hold an open meeting Wednesday, attended by five foreign ministers, to discuss his list of key remaining disarmament tasks for Iraq and what the United Nations can do to provide humanitarian relief when war begins. The council session will take place hours before the expiration of President Bush's 48-hour deadline for Saddam and his sons to leave Iraq or face military action. The 15 members agreed Tuesday they were ready to discuss proposals by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to deal with the humanitarian situation in Iraq. About 60 percent of Iraq's 22 million people rely on the U.N. oil-for-food program, in which Iraqi oil sales fund food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies. New arrangements would be needed if the Iraqi government falls. Blix's list of a dozen questions that Iraq must answer to prove it is disarming peacefully has been eclipsed by the looming war and the withdrawal of U.N. inspectors, but Germany's U.N. Ambassador Gunter Pleuger said it still "makes sense" for the council to discuss and adopt it. "The system of inspections is now suspended but not abolished," he said. "We will need the system of inspections after the war" because a 1999 U.N. resolution foresees "that inspections, verification and monitoring would go on after the disarmament of Iraq." France, Russia and Germany, which led the opposition to a war against Iraq, had pressed for Wednesday's council meeting to discuss a "realistic" timetable to implement Blix's list on issues such as anthrax, VX nerve agent, and Scud missiles. Blix expressed disappointment that the United States, Britain and Spain had decided so quickly that inspections weren't working. In the face of strong council opposition, the three countries on Monday abandoned efforts to seek Security Council backing for war. When Resolution 1441 was adopted Nov. 8 giving Iraq a final opportunity to disarm, Blix said he believed all council members were serious about strengthening inspections and giving them a chance. "But then some didn't have the patience a little earlier than others have done, and I think that's a pity," he said. During 3 months of inspections, Blix said, his teams found no evidence of chemical or biological weapons. Asked whether he believed Saddam would use such weapons, if he has them, Blix said: "I think they would be able if the weapons were there - and I'm not saying they are. And I'm not saying that they have means of delivery - but they could have it. ... But I doubt that they would have the will to do it." http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-me/2003/mar/19/031906608.html * U.S. PLANS HUNT FOR IRAQI BIO-WEAPONS by Mark Fritz Las Vegas Sun (from AP), 19th March While Saddam Hussein is a target to be toppled, the other goal of the U.S.-led military campaign is to embark on a scary scavenger hunt: finding the elusive weapons that convinced the Bush administration to wage war in the first place. The aim is to get to the toxic arsenals before they can be deployed or moved, and perhaps show the world evidence of a tangible threat that justified war. As a March 3 Defense Department report noted, "Though initial emphasis was on the ouster of Saddam Hussein, the administration has more recently pointed to weapons of mass destruction disarmament as its prime objective." Any attacks on the Iraqi leadership and its command centers are expected to be carried out in concert with seizures of suspected chemical and biological weapons sites, along with oil fields. Burning oil would pose its own health hazard if Saddam sets Iraq's 1,685 wells ablaze, as he did in occupied Kuwait during his 1991 retreat. Finding the weapons that have eluded U.N. inspectors carries huge practical and political ramifications for the Bush administration. Failure to turn up significant evidence of biological, chemical or nuclear arms research and production would raise questions about a mission already condemned by much of the world. "The difficulty is a matter of intelligence," said Kelly Motz, an analyst at a nonpartisan think tank called Iraq Watch. "To find it rapidly and destroy it rapidly, you pretty much need to know where it is. "It's definitely the right idea and the right strategy, but in terms of carrying it out, you're going to need better intelligence than what I've seen so far." During the 1991 Persian Gulf war, the U.S.-led coalition was flummoxed by Iraq's mobile Scud missile launchers, which constantly eluded detection. It failed to locate any of them during the war, according to the Defense Department report to Congress. Failing to find significant evidence of biological and chemical arms would mean one of two things: that U.S. claims they exist were exaggerated, or that Saddam was successful in moving them out of the country. Iraq denies it has any such weapons. "If we find little evidence ... it's going to be an embarrassment," Motz said. "They're banking that they are going to prove themselves. Either it's not there, or it's been shipped across borders, which would mean that the mission increased proliferation." Disagreements over whether Iraq is indeed a threat that justifies war has splintered alliances and left the United States without many of its traditional allies as it enters a conflict. "I'm among the people who are most curious to know" if an invasion will uncover hidden weapons, Hans Blix, the most recent in a long line of U.N. weapons inspectors, told CNN Wednesday. [......] http://www.aftenposten.no/english/world/article.jhtml?articleID=511811 Oppdatert: 19.03.2003, kl 11:45 * USA LIED ABOUT IRAQ'S WEAPONS Aftenposten (Norway), 19th March A US-based Norwegian weapons inspector accuses the USA and Secretary of State Colin Powell with providing the United Nations Security Council with incorrect and misleading information about Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), newspaper Dagbladet reports. Joern Siljeholm, Ph.D. in environmental chemistry, risk analysis and toxicology, said that the USA's basis for going to war is thin indeed, and called it a slap in the face to the United Nations weapons inspectors. Siljeholm told Dagbladet that Colin Powell's report to the Security Council on how Iraq camouflaged their WMD program was full of holes. "Much of what he said was wrong. It did not match up at all with our information. The entire speech was misleading," Siljeholm said. Asked if the Americans lied, Siljeholm said: "Lie is a strong word - but yes, the information Powell presented about Iraq's nuclear program was simply incorrect," Siljeholm said. "We received much incomplete and poor intelligence information from the Americans, and our cooperation developed accordingly. Much of what has been claimed about WMDs has proven to be sheer nonsense. From what I have seen they are going to war on very little," Siljeholm told Dagbladet. After 100 days in Iraq, Siljeholm, now a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, is on holiday in Florida with his family. "I strongly doubt that the American will find anything at all. In any case I doubt that they will find WMDs that constitute a military threat," Siljeholm said. Siljeholm said that his thoughts are now with the Iraqi people he met, and who cooperated with the inspectors. "It is a weary country with many weary people. The people want peace," Siljeholm said. http://www.gulf-news.com/Articles/news.asp?ArticleID=81830 * CIA VOICED DOUBTS ABOUT IRAQ'S URANIUM PURCHASES by Dana Priest and Karen DeYoung Gulf News, from Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service, 24th March Washington: CIA officials now say they communicated significant doubts to the administration about the evidence backing up charges that Iraq tried to purchase uranium from Africa for nuclear weapons, charges that found their way into President Bush's State of the Union address, a State Department "fact sheet" and public remarks by numerous senior officials. That evidence was dismissed as a forgery early this month by United Nations officials investigating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programmes. The Bush administration does not dispute this conclusion. Asked how the administration came to back up one of its principal allegations against Iraq with information its own intelligence service considered faulty, officials said all such assertions were carefully tailored to stay within the bounds of certainty. As for the State of the Union address, a White House spokesman said, "all presidential speeches are fully vetted by the White House staff and relevant U.S. government agencies for factual correctness." Questioned about the forgery during a recent congressional hearing, Secretary of State Colin Powell said, "We were aware of this piece of evidence, and it was provided in good faith to the (UN) inspectors." But in the days preceding the invasion of Iraq, some intelligence officials had begun to acknowledge more openly their doubts about how this and other information was used to support charges that Iraq has a significant covert programme to produce weapons of mass destruction. "I have seen all the stuff. I certainly have doubts," said a senior administration official with access to the latest intelligence. Based on the material he has reviewed, the official said, the United States will "face significant problems in trying to find" such weapons. "It will be very difficult." According to several officials, decisions about what information to declassify and use to make the administration's public case have been made by a small group that includes top CIA and National Security Council officials. "The policy guys make decisions about things like this," said one official, referring to the uranium evidence. When the State Department "fact sheet" was issued, the official said, "people winced and thought, 'Why are you repeating this trash?"' Some have questioned whether the United States was duped by a foreign government or independent group. http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=390162 * SOLDIERS 'FIND HUGE CHEMICAL ARMS PLANT' by Gethin Chamberlain outside Basra and Paul Peachey The Independent, 24th March US forces were reported early today to have found a 100-acre chemical weapons complex near the Iraqi city of Najaf. Reports of the discovery of the plant by US infantry advancing on Baghdad were treated with some scepticism last night. The former weapons inspector Scott Ritter said the find was likely to be "much ado about nothing". However, the claim came as British troops, mopping up Iraqi opposition outside Basra, also discovered cruise missiles and warheads hidden inside fortified bunkers. The chemical weapons factory find was first reported by The Jerusalem Post and Fox News, quoting unidentified Pentagon sources. The network reported that a general in charge of the facility was being questioned. The complex was found next to military barracks and surrounded by electrical fence. One soldier was slightly wounded when a booby-trap exploded as he was clearing the facility, the Post said. Asked at a news conference in Qatar yesterday about the reports, Lt-Gen John Abizaid of US Central Command declined to comment. He said top Iraqi officers have been questioned about chemical weapons. If the plant is confirmed as a factory, it would be the first find by the US-led invasion force validating their allegations that Iraq still has weapons of mass destruction. Iraqi officials have insisted they destroyed all of the chemical and biological weapons they made after the 1991 Gulf War - a claim UN weapons inspectors have questioned. A spokesman for the inspectors said today they were not aware of any large sites that could be used to make chemical weapons in the area. Meanwhile, outside Basra, cases of rockets, giant anti-shipping mines and other ammunition piled in dozens of bunkers were found at the Az-Zubayr Heliport. Some of the boxes were clearly marked with the names of British manufacturers. One pile of boxes in a store housing rocket-propelled grenades bears the name of Wallop Industries Limited, based in Middle Wallop, Hampshire. The most disturbing find was two Russian-made Al-Harith anti-shipping cruise missiles (self-propelled guided missiles), each 20ft long and 3ft in diameter, and nine warheads hidden in two enormous reinforced concrete bunkers. The scale of the find took British forces by surprise and raised questions about the ability of weapons inspectors to cope with the task of scouring such a vast country for prohibited ordnance. The discovery of the missiles - date-marked 2002 - came as British troops from the Black Watch Regiment fought to secure the area around Iraq's second city. http://search.ft.com/search/article.html?id=030325001055&query=%22Mark+Huban d%22&vsc_appId=totalSearch&state=Form * SEARCH AT NAJAF YIELDS NO SIGN OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS by Mark Huband, Security Correspondent Financial Times, 25th March Department of Defense officials said yesterday that no evidence of chemical weapons production had been found at a facility close to the southern Iraqi town of Najaf occupied by US forces on Sunday. Forces from the US 3rd Infantry Division occupied the 100-acre site. According to military officials, the site is surrounded by an electric fence and the buildings within it are camouflaged, raising suspicions that it was still in use. However, a Pentagon official said yesterday that the site had probably been abandoned some time ago. Two military sites described in a CIA assessment last year as part of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programme are now in territory occupied by US and UK forces. Neither site - one at Nasiriya and the other at al-Khamisiya, both in the southern part of the country - has so far provided evidence of WMD production. General Tommy Franks, the commander of US forces, said yesterday: "It's a bit early for us to have any expectation of having found them . . . We'll wait for the days ahead." Responding to the first report of the Najaf site's alleged purpose, which appeared in the Jerusalem Post, a senior western intelligence officer said yesterday: "It's been in the interests of the Israelis to play up a whole range of issues. A degree of healthy scepticism is very necessary." Iraq is thought by intelligence services to have dispersed its chemical weapons production among 16 sites, seven of which are around Baghdad. Among the 2,000 Iraqi troops the US is now holding, several senior officers - in particular, two army generals - are being interrogated with the specific purpose of trying to establish a clearer picture of Iraq's WMD arsenal. Documents seized by US special forces who captured two airfields in western Iraq at the weekend are also being examined for leads on the WMD arsenal, a US military spokesman said. The Najaf site did not figure in either the US or UK intelligence analyses of suspected WMD sites issued last year to bolster the case against President Saddam Hussein. Nor did United Nations weapons inspectors suspect or visit the site during their mission to unearth Iraq's WMD arsenal. Intelligence officers and military officials believe that Iraq has successfully hidden a substantial amount of its WMD arsenal and research, much of it buried and sealed. They are working on the basis that only the occupation of substantial parts of the country will give them the opportunity to prove that the WMD arsenal exists. "I think we'll find weapons of mass destruction once we have had an opportunity to occupy Baghdad, stabilise Iraq, talk to Iraqis that have participated in the hiding and the development of it," said Lt Gen John Abizaid of US Central Command. Even so, the challenge to coalition forces to find the evidence with which to justify the war to overthrow the regime is stark. Hans Blix, the chief UN weapons inspector, said in the early hours of the conflict: "The paradox is, if they don't find something then you have sent 250,000 men to wage war in order to find nothing." MURPHY'S LAW http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=389585 * SEVEN CREW KILLED IN HELICOPTER CRASH by Nick Allen, PA News, at Central Command, Qatar The Independent, 22nd March Seven more British servicemen died in the Gulf today after two Royal Navy Sea King helicopters collided over international waters. The Sea King Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft went down at around 4.30am local time (1.30am GMT), a day after eight British commandos and four US crew died when a US Marine CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter crashed in northern Kuwait. Neither crash was the result of enemy action. Group Captain Al Lockwood, a UK spokesman at the Allied command centre in Qatar, confirmed all seven people on the two early warning helicopters had perished. He said: "I have just had a report that all those on the helicopters have perished. Circumstances are such that accidents of this type can happen. It's a great tragedy. "Certainly there must have been extenuating circumstances and our investigators are into the process of trying to establish the facts. "Circumstances are still unclear. An investigation is under way and obviously, it will take some time to ascertain what happened. "But we are doing our utmost to establish very, very quickly what the implications could be and what caused the accident itself." He added: "Our thoughts are very much with their fellow comrades-in-arms, their families and their friends." Sea King helicopters are among the most recognisable aircraft in the world and are usually associated with search and rescue operations. These distinctive aircraft, with their long, bright-yellow fuselage, operate from RAF bases such as Lossiemouth in Scotland and Boulmer in Northumberland. Flying low over Britain's coastline at speeds of up to 140mph, they have played a key role in locating missing people both on land and at sea. But the helicopters that collided over the Gulf were Royal Navy-operated Mk7 Airborne Early Warning (AEW) Sea Kings that fulfil an entirely different role. Following the Falklands conflict in 1982, military commanders decided that AEW, or Airborne Surveillance and Area Control (ASAC) as it is now called, was an essential part of air power at sea. Sea Kings were chosen for the job and provide vital tactical control to the Sea Harrier "Jump Jets" and other planes based on British aircraft carriers. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,920291,00.html * MISSING ITN CREW MAY HAVE COME UNDER 'FRIENDLY FIRE' The Guardian, 24th March Missing British TV reporter Terry Lloyd and two of his ITN news crew may have been hit by "friendly fire" from coalition forces in Iraq, it was reported today. Cameraman Fred Nerac and local translator Hussein Othman were also missing after the incident which happened as they were trying to get to the front at Basra. Another cameraman, Daniel Demoustier, was injured as the crew drove towards the key southern city in two vehicles, but was able to get to safety. He told Barbara Jones of the Mail on Sunday, who eventually rescued him, that they had been fired on by tanks from the coalition forces at Iman Anas, while they were trying to drive away from a group of Iraqi soldiers. "Immediately the allied tanks started heavy firing directly at us. Rounds were coming straight at the Jeep, smashing the windows and puncturing holes in the bodywork," he was quoted as saying. "Then the whole car was on fire. We were enveloped in flames. It was terrifying. "I'm so angry that we were fired on by the allies. The Iraqis must have been their real target but I'm sure they were surrendering - and anyway they were all dead within minutes." The US military said it had received unconfirmed reports that three journalists had been killed or injured covering hostitilies in southern Iraq on Saturday. US army General Guy Shields, director of the coalition press information centre in Kuwait, said he had reports that journalists had come under fire in four separate incidents while operating independently of US or British forces. "We have had phone calls from journalists who have called the press desk while under fire screaming for help," he told a news briefing. There was no immediate indication of whether any of the incidents Gen Shields mentioned involved the missing ITN crew. The Ministry of Defence said tonight that it was still not clear what had happened to Mr Lloyd and his colleagues. ITN said it was increasingly concerned about the fate of the three men. "Fourteen hours after the incident we still have no conclusive evidence as to the whereabouts of the three missing men," an ITN statement said. "However, such evidence as we do have has given us increased cause for concern. "As soon as we have conclusive information ITN will first inform the families and then make a further announcement." Defence sources said that the ITN team were believed to have passed through a number of military checkpoints, where they were advised to turn back but chose to carry on. Mr Demoustier acknowledged that the crew had passed a US mortar position where they saw US troops. "It was worrying but at the checkpoints all the soldiers had been very casual. Our Jeep was marked clearly with the letters TV all over it. We felt we would be safe," he told Ms Jones. Mr Lloyd, 51, started work at ITN as a reporter for Central Television in 1983, based in the East Midlands, before moving on to general news coverage. He was the first reporter inside the Iraqi town of Halabja after the Saddam Hussein regime dropped a chemical bomb in 1988, killing 5,000 Kurds. He has also reported from Kosovo, Bosnia and Yugoslavia, as well as covering major sporting events. http://www.jordantimes.com/Sun/news/news3.htm * 'IRAQIS UNABLE TO REACH REFUGEE CAMP IN JORDAN' by Tareq Ayyoub and Roufan Nahas Jordan Times, 23rd March RUWEISHED ‹ The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) emergency supervisor Douglas Oldman on Saturday said the agency is working hard to accommodate more than 20,000 refugees expected to come from Iraq as a result of the ongoing war on the Kingdom's eastern neighbour. Oldman, who was inspecting two camps constructed in the past few days to host thousands of Iraqi refugees in the desert town, said UNHCR is trying to put up 400 tents in the coming days as part of their endeavour to ease the plight of these refugees. He said the organisation is coordinating with the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organisation (JHCO)in their efforts in the camp, one of the two established by local and international organisations. "We are here to support the Jordanian government. We are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst," Oldman told reporters following his visit to the camp. The UNHCR official attributed the absence of Iraqi refugees to what he described as "the inability of Iraqis to reach the border," confirming that no Iraqis are on the Iraqi side of the border. UNHCR is one of the three groups which have recently launched efforts to accommodate those fleeing from Iraq as a result of the ongoing US and British military operations there. A humanitarian official recently indicated it was too early to appeal for international assistance to bolster the ongoing relief operations, saying that the situation in Jordan remains "under control." The official indicated relief organisations are preparing to deal with 250,000 Iraqis in Jordan, Syria, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The JHCO public relations director, Mahmoud Hmoush, said Jordan is prepared to receive thousands of evacuees and refugees of all nationalities without exception. Meanwhile, Jordanian drivers coming from Iraq said the body of Ahmed Bazaa, killed by a US missile assault targeting an Iraqi telecommunications centre in the Ramadi governorate last week, was brought by ambulance to the border two days after he was killed. Drivers indicated that rescue workers were unable to free Bazaa's body from the rubble following the attack, which also injured an Iraqi travelling with Bazaa. The victim, a Jordanian who owned a transport company in Baghdad, is expected to be buried in his hometown today. Despite warnings from different sources, Jordanian and Iraqi drivers are still travelling through the desert that links Amman and Baghdad, transporting journalists and travellers desiring to move between the two capitals. Journalists, who were allowed to visit the Karama border post Saturday said they saw very few oil tankers and trucks coming from Iraq. This indicates that drivers were unwilling to make the trip because of what they described as "American missiles targeting vehicles leaving Baghdad for the border." One driver, Ibrahim Anton, said he saw several vehicles destroyed by what he claimed to be US missiles inside Iraqi territory. Anton, who was speaking to The Jordan Times in Ruweished, said that a US fighter flying low launched a missile near his car, forcing him to leave his vehicle and seek refuge under a nearby bridge. "I was travelling back to the border when I saw the plane nearby," Anton said. "The plane came close to my car and I decided to stop and leave the car to escape any possible attack. Fortunately the missile did no damage to my vehicle." http://www.gulf-news.com/Articles/news.asp?ArticleID=81844 * BRITISH PLANE SHOT DOWN BY U.S. MISSILE Gulf News, 24th March London, Reuters: Britain said a Royal Air Force plane that went missing in the Gulf yesterday was likely shot down by a U.S. Patriot missile in the first known "friendly fire" incident of the Iraq war. "It appears the RAF aircraft was engaged by a Patriot missile near the Kuwaiti border. The crew are missing. I can't confirm the type of aircraft or the number of crew," said a spokesman for Britain's Defence Ministry. A U.S. spokesman said a Patriot missile battery may have engaged the aircraft, which was returning from a mission on day four of the Iraq war. "This is the first friendly fire incident (of this war)," a British defence spokeswoman said. Patriots are designed to down enemy missiles and the mistaken firing on a coalition plane is a blow for allied morale as it faces resistance from Iraqi forces on the ground. "This is a tragedy," Group Captain Al Lockwood told BBC television. "We are doing everything we can do to find out the rationale behind the problem." It was Britain's third air tragedy of the conflict and underscored the perils of waging round the-clock strikes on Iraq, which has been pounded by bombs and missiles. Prime Minister Tony Blair - who has for the first time won majority backing for war from the British public - has committed 45,000 troops to help the United States oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussain in a major air and ground war. Britain has since lost 14 troops in two helicopter crashes. A U.S. Sea Knight helicopter crashed in Kuwait on Friday, killing eight British soldiers and four U.S. Marines. On Saturday, two Royal Navy helicopters from the aircraft carrier Ark Royal - Britain's flagship in the war - collided in mid-air, killing six Britons and one American. "We have sadly witnessed the sacrifices our forces are ready to make for our safety and security," Blair wrote in the People newspaper before the latest air loss. "And we have to be ready for more sadness and setbacks ahead." In the 1991 Gulf War to drive invading Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, nine British troops were killed accidently by allies so-called "friendly fire". The accident will figure at a war cabinet due to be held later yesterday, when Blair will discuss the war's progress with his top ministers. Blair's decision to go to war without UN blessing has divided Britain and confronted him with by far the most serious and sustained opposition of his six-year premiership. But with war now underway, the public is finally rallying behind U.S. President George W. Bush and his top ally Blair, who has staked his political career on the Iraq crisis. Two newspaper polls yesterday showed the British public appeared to have softened its previous strong opposition to the Iraq war. An ICM poll for the News of the World showed 56 per cent believed Blair's handling of the crisis had been "about right". The paper said support two weeks ago was just 29 per cent. In the Sunday Times, a YouGov poll showed 56 per cent now thought the United States and Britain were right to take military action, with 36 per cent opposed. In the previous YouGov poll before the war, the figures were almost exactly the reverse. Nearly a quarter-of-a-million demonstrators marched for peace in the streets of London on Saturday, but the numbers were well down on a million-strong protest staged before the war began. http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,920560,00.html * ONE KILLED, 12 INJURED BY 'RESENTFUL' MUSLIM GI by Oliver Burkeman in Washington The Guardian, 24th March An American army sergeant was in custody yesterday after one soldier died and at least 12 were injured in a grenade attack on a US command centre in Kuwait. Tents belonging to the 101st Airborne Division at Camp Pennsylvania, central Kuwait, were left burnt and bloodstained after two grenades were thrown at around 1.20am local time yesterday. Two Kuwaiti translators were detained, but about an hour after the incident the missing sergeant, described as "armed and dangerous", was found hiding in a bunker. Three of his grenades were missing, and some witnesses said they had heard a third explosion. The soldier was a Muslim, Sergeant Asan Akbar, an engineer from the 326th Engineer Battalion, said George Heath, a spokesman at the division's home base at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Sgt Akbar had been "having what some might call an attitude problem," Mr Heath told reporters. He has not been charged. According to reporters based at the camp, Sgt Akbar was angry about the war in Iraq and might also have been the target of derogatory anti-Muslim remarks at the camp. He had been acting "insubordinate", Time magazine's correspondent at Camp Pennsylvania reported, and "his superiors had decided not to bring him into Iraq". The motive was probably "resentment", a US army spokesman said. Other Muslim soldiers at the camp have apparently complained about a hostile atmosphere. The tents targeted were described as command tents housing officers of the 1st Brigade. Immediately after the second blast, soldiers could be heard screaming: "Get out! Get out!" One woman yelled: "I'm hit!" and reports described moments of disorder as bleeding soldiers tried to bandage themselves before medics arrived. Soldiers initially feared the camp had come under terrorist attack. Footage showed Sgt Akbar being led away handcuffed. There were unconfirmed reports that a second soldier had been detained by military police. At least three of the 11 people evacuated to military hospitals by helicopter were reported to be seriously injured. Colonel Richard Thomas, the division surgeon, said most of the soldiers were expected to recover but that several of the injuries were very serious. The phenomenon of soldiers deliberately attacking those on the same side became known as "fragging" during the Vietnam war, because fragmentation grenades were often used. The attacks were often sparked by confrontations involving racism. Precise figures remain unknown, but according to some historians at least 600 American soldiers were killed in fragging attacks in the course of the Vietnam conflict. http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=390540 * US MISSILE HITS BUS, KILLING FIVE SYRIAN CIVILIANS by Anne Penketh The Independent, 25th March Syria protested to the US and Britain last night after a US missile killed five Syrian workers and injured 10 who were fleeing the war in a bus. The vehicle, which was carrying 37 passengers, was struck on the Iraqi side of the Syrian border on Sunday morning as it stopped for a rest break in Rutba. The Syrian Foreign Ministry summoned the US and British ambassadors to Damascus "to protest this appalling aggression". The Syrians reserved the right to claim damages and warned against targeting civilians. One of the wounded, Marwan al-Shayesh, told Syrian television: "Passengers were coming down from the bus when there was a huge explosion. We ran away and looked back to the bus and saw more than 10 wounded inside." The Pentagon admitted last night that the bus had been accidentally bombed as it was crossing a bridge. General Stanley McChrystal, vice-director for operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: "A coalition aircraft was dropping ordnance on a bridge 100 miles from the Syrian border. After the bombs were released, a bus came into the pilot's view but too late to recall the weapons. "The bombs struck the bridge and the bus," he said, adding that "unintended casualties like this are regrettable." A Syrian official said the strike violated the 1949 Geneva Convention that protects civilians during times of war. [.....] http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=390870 * 'FRIENDLY FIRE' KILLS TWO MORE UK TROOPS by Cahal Milmo The Independent, 26th March Two British soldiers were killed and two were injured yesterday in the latest "friendly fire" incident to blight the campaign in Iraq. The soldiers' tank was destroyed during fighting near Basra. The two dead soldiers were named last night as Corporal Stephen John Allbutt from Stoke on-Trent and Trooper David Jeffrey Clarke from Staffordshire. The incident took place while British armour and infantry were battling against militiamen and irregular forces leading a guerrilla-style campaign in and around Iraq's second city. The four-man Challenger II tank was fired on by another British tank during the battle in the darkness. The families of the dead men, from the Queen's Royal Lancers Regiment, have been told of the deaths. An inquiry is under way and will centre on why the tank's new identification technology failed to prevent the attack. Colonel Chris Vernon, British Army Field headquarters spokesman, said last night: "Despite careful planning, excellent training, top-class night vision equipment and sophisticated combat ID measures, these events happen in the fog of war and the heat of battle." The risk of Allied forces inflicting casualties on their own side was further underlined by reports an US F-16 jet had fired on an Allied Patriot missile battery inside Iraq which had locked on to the aircraft. Therewere no casualties in the incident on Monday, which led to the fighter firing an anti radiation missile to destroy the Patriot's radar. http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/international/AP-War-101st-Attacked.html * SECOND OFFICER DIES FROM SUNDAY'S GRENADE ATTACK New York Times, 26th March BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- A second U.S. serviceman has died from wounds he suffered in a grenade attack on soldiers in Kuwait, an attack an Army sergeant is suspected of carrying out. Air Force Maj. Gregory Stone, 40, based in Boise, was pronounced dead early Tuesday at an Army field hospital in Kuwait, the Idaho Air National Guard said. Capt. Christopher Scott Seifert, 27, of Easton, Pa., also was killed in Saturday's attack, and 14 other soldiers were injured. Advertisement Sgt. Asan Akbar is in custody. He was shipped to a military jail in Germany on Tuesday after a judge found probable cause to try him for the assault. The probable cause ruling keeps Akbar confined as military investigators continue to investigate. Akbar, an American Muslim who told family members he was wary of going to war in Iraq, has not been charged. The Army said Akbar was taken from Camp Doha, Kuwait, to the Mannheim Confinement Facility, where he will await a pretrial investigation. It was not clear where that would take place. Akbar was taken into custody Sunday, shortly after explosions rocked several tents at Camp Pennsylvania, the Kuwaiti headquarters of the 101st Airborne Division's 1st Brigade. ``It appears that the explosions were the result of three grenades that were thrown or rolled through the front door of each of these three tents,'' said a statement from Fort Campbell, Ky., home of the 101st. Army investigators will complete a report and send it to Akbar's superiors, said Marc Raimondi, a spokesman for the Army's Criminal Investigation Division in Virginia. Before the latest death, military experts said Akbar could face one charge of intentional murder and additional charges of attempted murder for the wounded soldiers. Eugene Fidell, a Washington lawyer and founder of the National Institute of Military Justice, said the crime could warrant the death penalty, which is rare in the military. There are six people on the military's death row, but there have been no military executions since 1961. Lt. Col. Tim Marsano, spokesman for the Idaho Air National Guard, said Stone, a 20-year active and reserve veteran of the Air Force, was the Air Liaison Officer with the Army's 101st Airborne Division at Camp Pennsylvania. Stone graduated from Benson High School in Portland, Ore., and Oregon State University. He enlisted in 1983, went through the ROTC program at Oregon State and was commissioned in 1988. Stone had two sons, ages 11 and 7, who live in Boise. ``He was wonderful, the best son anybody could ask for,'' said his stepmother, Sally Stone of Riggins, Idaho. Stone's mother, Betty Lenzi of Ontario, Ore., said she was too upset to talk. The slain man's father, Richard Stone of Riggins, Idaho, told television station KIVI that his last contact with his son was through an e-mail Saturday. In it, Stone said things were going well and that he was a little nervous but ready for the mission. _______________________________________________ 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 firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk