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[casi] [Fwd: [ARTICLE] Quote Kurds: Americans must stop taking us for granted]

-------- Ursprüngliche Nachricht --------
Betreff: [ARTICLE] Quote Kurds: Americans must stop taking us for granted
Datum: Sat, 17 May 2003 10:54:51 +0200
Von: KRGinGermany <>
An: Alexander Sternberg <>

Office Berlin: Please, forward this from my private account to I will be coming to look after matters in Berlin
soon. Please, in the meantime, try to take care of my most urgent
running bills in Berlin (including, please, some late coming hospital
bills) as I have not been receiving any salary since January.

Iraqi Kurds Growing Restless Over Unpaid Wages
By Carol J. Williams
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
May 16, 2003

IRBIL, Iraq — In sharp contrast to desperate Baghdad, there are no gas
lines here, electricity is uninterrupted, and water flows so plentifully
that verdant parks offer respite from the baking heat.

But even here in Kurdistan, where Americans are cheered as allies and
saviors, anger is mounting at the mess the U.S.-led war has made of the
economy and at the absence, a month after the allies won the war, of any
visible effort to win the peace.

Because this region in northern Iraq had been severed from the regime of
Saddam Hussein for a dozen years, Kurds were largely spared the bombing,
destruction and ensuing lawlessness that hit the rest of the country.
But the chaos elsewhere threatens to spill into this region as
government salaries go unpaid and businesses go under.

"Where is the government? Where is the water, the electricity, the
security? What are you doing here?" Sami Abdul Rahman, the deputy prime
minister in the western half of Kurdistan, demanded to know from
Americans, whom he accused of creating a dangerous power vacuum in Baghdad.

In an interview at his lavish office, air-conditioned and appointed with
the requisite portrait of late Kurdish freedom fighter Mustafa Barzani,
Abdul Rahman criticized U.S. allies for the paralyzing delays in getting
Iraqi money into the hands of Iraqi people.

Civil servants who haven't been paid for three months listen keenly to
TV and radio broadcasts about the Iraqi riches found abroad and in
Baghdad, stashed by Hussein and his inner circle in the frantic last
days of his rule. U.S. investigators Wednesday announced the discovery
of $495 million in Iraqi assets at a Lebanese bank, and Treasury
officials in Washington acknowledge that they have now accounted for
most of the $1 billion plundered by Hussein's son Qusai from Iraq's
central bank on the eve of war.

"This is Iraqi money that should be used to pay salaries. We have
provided two of the three essentials — security and public services —
but it is up to the U.S. to give Iraqi people their money," said Abdul
Rahman, the Kurdish region's No. 2 official and a key figure in western
Kurdistan's ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party.

Kurds, like most Iraqis, are grateful that Hussein has been ousted and a
path opened to developing a united and democratic Iraq, Abdul Rahman
said. But holdouts from Hussein's Baath Party are exploiting the U.S.
inaction, he cautioned, in a campaign that could turn Kurds against the
Americans as fiercely as in lawless Baghdad.

"Imagine what would happen in the United States if salaries weren't paid
for three months," he said. "Saddam made this country into an empire of
government workers, not us. We would prefer to see private business. But
at present, 60% to 70% of our people live on wages from the government."

Compounding the economic stagnation that has set in since the U.N.
"oil-for-food" program was interrupted by war is a growing impression
among Kurds that U.S. mediators expect them to make all the concessions
necessary to forge a new national alliance.

Kurdish leaders were outraged when U.S. troops from the Army's 101st
Airborne Division ordered Kurds out of a military housing block in the
town of Domiz. The housing block was built on land from which Hussein
expelled Kurds a decade ago so he could settle Arabs there and shift the
ethnic balance in the region. U.S. officers insist that it is up to
Iraqi courts to address all property disputes.

"Americans must stop taking us for granted," Abdul Rahman warned, adding
that Kurds have managed to maintain reasonable security and social
services but can't do so forever without income.

At grocery stores and produce stands, merchants complain that their
sales have plummeted since the bombing because civil servants haven't
been paid.

"My sales are down about 50%, which means I can't afford new orders,"
lamented Ahmed Maki, owner of the Majestic supermarket. "No one is
getting paid. No one has any money."

Part of the money problem stems from the perception among some U.S.
officials with the Pentagon-run Office of Reconstruction and
Humanitarian Assistance that the Kurds have their own resources and are
holding back on the public payroll to get a share of the money that will
be paid out from Baghdad.

The Kurdish region was in effect exempt from U.N. sanctions imposed
after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, because its border with Turkey was open
and Kurds imposed trade tariffs on incoming goods. The Kurds also had
separate oversight of the oil-for-food program in their territory.

Kurdistan's payroll totals about $40 million a month, a sum Abdul Rahman
described as a pittance compared with the Iraqi wealth at the United
States' disposal. Salaries would kick-start businesses, he said, and
help workers survive until vital oil facilities can be repaired.

"It's said by all U.S. officials that the oil wealth belongs to the
Iraqi people. How it is managed can be negotiated," but it is dangerous
to wait for a new government to be formed to make these decisions, Abdul
Rahman said.

Although critical of some elements in the newly named interim government
in nearby Mosul, Abdul Rahman said a flawed administration was far
better than no government at all.

With two-thirds of Kurdistan's workers bringing home nothing, food
vendor Hasim Salah is selling barely half his prewar volume and
therefore buying less from local farmers.

For some Kurds, however, the postwar paralysis is providing a profit bubble.

There has been a flood of consumers from central and southern Iraq
seeking big-ticket items such as televisions and refrigerators, which
have long been unavailable outside Kurdistan because of sanctions.

Hogar Jawher, a 16-year-old from Baghdad, drove to Irbil on Thursday to
buy two Daewoo color TVs, paying $135 for each. He predicted that he
could sell them for $250 apiece in the capital. Smiling, he proclaimed,
"I hope this lasts forever!"

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