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News, 11-18/6/03 (2) HUMANITARIAN PROBLEMS * Aid agencies reject money due to strings * Iraq: Water and sanitation * Routine immunization of children re-established across Iraq PROBLEMS WITH THE REST OF THE WORLD * US seeks more time beyond the law * How to Stop America * US plays aid card to fix war crimes exemption * War crime vote fuels US anger at Europe * US turns to the Taliban * The Iron Handshake PROBLEMS WITH THE NEIGHBOURS * Iraqi oil chief freezes oil agreement with Jordan * Bahraini banks say agreement necessary on unpaid Iraqi debt before new investment can be made * Iraqis in Iran: Unwelcome at home, unwanted abroad * American-Arab free trade area HUMANITARIAN PROBLEMS Oregonian url: http://www.oregonlive.com/oregonian/ * AID AGENCIES REJECT MONEY DUE TO STRINGS by Richard Read The Oregonian (Portland), 6th June Two major American aid organizations are refusing U.S. government money aimed at building democracy in Iraq because federal officials want to limit their freedom to speak openly about their programs. Mercy Corps and Save the Children are objecting to conditions imposed by agreements for $7 million each with the U.S. Agency for International Development. Negotiations between the organizations and the federal agency continue. A copy of the disputed clause obtained by The Oregonian says that U.S. AID must approve and coordinate all contact with the news media, in Washington, D.C., or overseas, including interviews. While at least two humanitarian organizations have signed the agreements, Mercy Corps and Save the Children staff members say they don't want to sacrifice their independence. "I actually worked for 24 years for AID, and I don't recall ever seeing anything like that," said Ann Van Dusen,executive vice president of Save the Children, a large aid organization based in Westport, Conn. "It's an unfortunate move, and I'm hoping that AID will rethink it." The controversy comes as AID publicly promotes citizen participation in Iraq and the creation of open, pluralistic news media there. It exposes an unusual split between the U.S. government's main aid agency and the humanitarian organizations that depend on its funding. Others step back The disagreement occurs after leaders of three other major U.S. humanitarian organizations decided not to apply for the AID grants, describing the Iraq reconstruction effort as chaotic. Managers of the International Rescue Committee, Care and World Vision objected to working under the military, to promoting democracy in a place that first requires basic services and to aiding Iraq when other countries need help more. Top executives of Mercy Corps, the Portland-based humanitarian organization, are in Amman, Jordan, continuing negotiations with AID, which planned the meeting to divide assignments among five grant recipients. The Iraq Community Action Program grants are designed to involve Iraqi citizens of diverse backgrounds in grass-roots community development projects. Ellen Yount, AID press office director, defends the agency's restrictions on media contact as routine. She said officials merely intended to coordinate with grant recipients for a consistent message to the American public. She said she wanted to know in advance about news stories on AID projects. "I didn't realize it caused this much heartburn," Yount said. An AID press officer deferred requests for a copy of the proposed agreement with Mercy Corps for five days. He said Thursday that officials decided to require reporters to request it under the Freedom of Information Act. The Oregonian obtained the clause concerning the media from a source outside AID and Mercy Corps. Revised language On Thursday, Yount released new contract language she said was under discussion with Mercy Corps. It said: "Contact with the news media, in the U.S. or overseas, shall be notified to and coordinated with" AID press officers. A Mercy Corps spokeswoman said the proposed agreement includes multiple sticking points, but declined to comment on them. A spokesperson for Cooperative Housing Foundation International, one of the organizations that signed the agreement, declined any comment. "According to our contract," the Housing Foundation spokesperson said, "all press calls must go through U.S. AID." NO URL * IRAQ: WATER AND SANITATION US Agency for International Development (USAID), 11th June Brief Overview: A Recent UNICEF and CARE water and sanitation monitoring program in 14 governorates in Central and Southern Iraq found that out of 177 water treatment plants, 19% were classified as good, 55% acceptable, and 26% poor. Many of the water and sewage treatment plants were in poor states of operation prior to hostilities. In the Northern governorates, in general, potable water supply and sanitation systems are operating at greater capacity than in the central and southern areas of the country. Issues Repairs on main water network are underway, but are often constrained by lack of security. Many of the water and sewage treatment plants are dependent on electricity for their normal operations. Some back-up generators exist but many of these systems are plagued by the lack of spare parts and normal maintenance, vandalism, and lack of fuel. Generally there is a lack of trained and available manpower to operate the treatment plants on a regular basis, etc. Solid waste collection and disposal is hampered by a lack of a trucking fleet and excavators. Water quality and the treatment of sewage remain primary concerns for the long term rehabilitation efforts. Successes 1. USAID grantee UNICEF has established a water and sanitation coordinating working group that has been attended by USAID officials, other United Nations groups, NGOs, and Bechtel. 2. Strengthening evaluations are being undertaken in Basrah at several of the water treatment plants to determine the present quality of the drinking water. 3. With USAID funding, CARE has undertaken emergency water rehabilitation in Qaim and Ar Rutbah in the Al Anbar governorate, benefiting 80,000 persons. 4. With USAID funding, Save the Children has provided two submersible pumps to facilitate maintenance of main pumps at the Wafal Qaed water treatment and pumping station in collaboration with UNICEF. Approximately 500,000 persons will benefit from these activities. Save the Children is also reviewing 78 primary health care facilities in the Al Basrah governorate and will supply some of these centers with piped water and sanitation facilities. 5. Bechtel has prepared preliminary estimates of repairing water treatment plants in eastern Baghdad that would increase treated water by 45%. 6. Bechtel is developing rehabilitation plans for 8 potable water treatment facilities in the Basrah region and rehabilitating 6 waste water treatment plants in south central Iraq. 7. Through USAID funding, UNICEF has purchased chlorine gas, bleaching powder, chlorinators, water purification tablets, and aluminum sulphate. 8. Numerous hospital and public health clinic potable water and sanitation systems have been repaired by the NGO community through USAID funding. 9. Millions of liters of potable water have been provided by water trucks to the Iraqi population over the past two months. 10. City water authorities (for example, the Baghdad Water Authority and the Al Basrah Water Authority) have been engaged by USAID's partners to assess current water and sewage systems and provide information and input to plans for rehabilitating municipal systems. Credit for providing emergency and relief potable water to the population is due to UNICEF and other United Nations Organizations, International NGOs, USAID, Kuwaiti government, and local water authority staff. http://www.unicef.org/ * ROUTINE IMMUNIZATION OF CHILDREN RE-ESTABLISHED ACROSS IRAQ UNICEF press statement, 16th June BAGHDAD, 16 June 2003 -- With support from UNICEF, the Iraqi Ministry of Health has begun the process of immunizing the country's 4.2 million children under the age of five against preventable diseases such as polio, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, measles and tuberculosis. The World Health Organization is also contributing to the reactivation of the Iraq's Expanded Programme of Immunization by re-establishing the country's vital disease surveillance system. According to UNICEF, no child in Iraq has been routinely immunized since the start of military action on 20 March 2003. "In the past three months, approximately 210,000 children have been born in Iraq," said Carel de Rooy, UNICEF's Representative in Iraq. "Not one of these children has been vaccinated against the myriad of deadly and debilitating diseases young children are susceptible to." "Parents know how important these immunizations are to their newborn and young children. An infant's immune system is very fragile and vulnerable to contracting disease without these vaccines, and given the current conditions in the country, children are at greater risk than ever if they are not vaccinated right away," added de Rooy. With the fall of the former regime came the breakdown of much of Iraq's health system. The Ministry of Health stopped functioning, communication between the capital and the governorates became impossible and vital services like routine immunization collapsed leaving children vulnerable to disease. The war also affected the country's store of vaccines. The country's vaccines were kept in a building at the Vaccine and Serum Institute of Baghdad. The institute was struck by missiles during the war and all electricity to the store room was cut. "When the electricity went down, the cold chain system for preserving vaccines was rendered useless," said de Rooy. "More damage was caused when looters tore apart wiring, compressors and circuit boards at the institute making immediate emergency repairs to the cold chain impossible. In the end, all vaccine stocks were spoiled and had to be destroyed," he added. To overcome this situation, UNICEF has been bringing millions of doses of vaccines into Iraq to restart the country's routine immunization programme in partnership with the reactivated Ministry of Health. The 25 million doses of vaccines were purchased through a $3.2 million grant from USAID. UNICEF has also been working with health officials to repair Iraq's cold chain system so that the vaccines that are brought in can be properly stored. The $1.85 million rehabilitation project was covered by funds from DFID (United Kingdom). "UNICEF and the Ministry of Health have been focusing our health initiatives on re establishing the country's routine immunization system. It is our main priority for protecting the health of Iraqi children," said de Rooy. "The size and importance of this endeavour can not be underestimated, and we are extremely pleased that immunization will begin across Iraq today." With support from UNICEF and WHO, Iraq has been certified polio-free, measles has been brought under control, and maternal and neonatal tetanus eliminated. However, according to UNICEF all of these gains would be lost if routine immunization were not restarted quickly. The re-emergence of polio in Iraq would also risk transmission to neighbouring countries, thereby threatening the region. For further information on UNICEF, visit its website at http://www.unicef.org/ PROBLEMS WITH THE REST OF THE WORLD http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/EF11Aa01.html * US SEEKS MORE TIME BEYOND THE LAW by Jim Lobe Asia Times, 11th June WASHINGTON - The United Nations Security Council is coming under pressure to reject Washington's upcoming request to exempt all its soldiers and officials from the jurisdiction of the new body for a second straight year. The administration of President George W Bush says that it needs more time to negotiate bilateral agreements with more countries around the world that would bar them from surrendering US nationals to the International Criminal Court (ICC), set up under the 1998 Rome Statute to investigate and prosecute individuals for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. So far, 37 countries have reportedly signed such agreements, although only a handful have ratified them. The most important include Romania, Israel, India, Egypt and the Philippines; most of the rest are small, poor countries that are heavily dependent on external aid, including US military assistance. "The [UN] resolution is an attempt to satisfy domestic political ideology and legislation, and it is another attempt by the United States to subordinate a multilateral institution to US power," said William Pace, convener of Coalition for the ICC. "It is vital that governments have an open meeting and continue to express their principled objection to misuse of the [UN] charter and the Security Council and the violation of the Rome Statute," he said. The Coalition, human rights groups and Washington's North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies have strongly resisted the administration's efforts - through both the Security Council and bilateral negotiations with weaker nations - to gain exemptions for its military and officials, arguing that they will undermine the ICC itself, as well as international law in general. The court started work in The Hague in the Netherlands last July. Last year, Washington asked the Security Council to approve a complete, indefinite exemption from the court's jurisdiction for US nationals, and even threatened to veto the renewal of UN peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and elsewhere if it did not get its way. But the other council members, particularly those associated with the European Union, refused to go along. After two weeks of intense and often bitter negotiations, the two sides compromised by approving a resolution that granted an exemption of one year for all individuals from countries that had not ratified the Rome Statute. While former president Bill Clinton signed the statute in the last days of his term, he did not refer it to the Senate for ratification and the Bush administration formally renounced his signature in May 2002. Washington has argued that the ICC, which is likely to hear its first case early next year, gives too much discretion to prosecutors, who may bring cases against US officials for political reasons. With some 150,000 US troops deployed in Iraq, another 9,000 in Afghanistan, and tens of thousands more in scores of countries across Eurasia and in and around the Gulf, it is worried that it will become a prime target for politicized prosecutions. But rights groups and European governments, including Britain, say that these fears are greatly exaggerated. "The US experts know that there is practically no justification for the Security Council exemptions and the likelihood that a US peacekeeping soldier would come under the jurisdiction of the court is almost zero," said Pace. Washington now hopes to extend the Security Council's exemption for yet another year. Last week, US ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, told Associated Press that the US would like "a technical extension ... of the resolution. It's very straightforward," he said. "We wouldn't introduce any substantive changes into the resolution we adopted last year by unanimity in the council, and we would assume - certainly hope - that this would receive overwhelming support." But opponents are expected to lobby council members to reject any extension. Richard Dicker of the New York-based Human Rights Watch warned that simply approving the extension would "increase the chance of its becoming a permanent fixture". The rights groups and government backers of the ICC have argued that the Security Council lacks the legal authority to grant exemptions because the UN charter does not grant it power to amend an international treaty. They want an open debate on the issue, and early indications are that council members Germany and Mexico will press for one. Of the 15 members of the council, only the US, China and Pakistan have not signed the statute. The other 12 have either signed or ratified it. Canada, a major champion of the ICC, is also expected to request an open debate that would include non-Security Council members like itself. Last year, Ottawa led a move by several dozen countries to publicly condemn US effort to seek exemptions for its citizens. Washington wants a vote before July 1, when last year's resolution formally expires. Before then, Washington is also expected to step up its efforts to gain new bilateral agreements, in part because under a law passed by Congress last year, countries that ratify the statute will be banned from receiving US military aid unless the president waives those sanctions before July 1. For example, Bush is expected to press visiting Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand this week on signing such a bilateral accord, despite recent US criticism of his government for serious rights abuses, including the summary execution of suspected drug traffickers. This provision of the so-called American Service Members Protection Act is likely to hit poor countries hardest, according to Pace's group, which represents dozens of human rights groups around the world. It is only one of several controversial provisions in the act, including another that authorizes the president to deploy military force to free any US citizen in the ICC's custody. Representatives of many countries have complained that Washington's campaign against the ICC and its efforts to exempt US nationals from its jurisdiction is yet another illustration of the unilateralist trajectory on which the Bush administration has taken US foreign policy. They have warned that the US attitude toward the ICC only increases resentment abroad and makes Washington vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy about the rule of law. http://www.monbiot.com/dsp_article.cfm?article_id=584 * HOW TO STOP AMERICA by George Monbiot New Statesman, 9th June Presidents Roosevelt and Truman were smart operators. They knew that the hegemony of the United States could not be sustained without the active compliance of other nations. So they set out, before and after the end of the Second World War, to design a global political system which permitted the other powers to believe that they were part of the governing project. When Franklin Roosevelt negotiated the charter of the United Nations, he demanded that the United States should have the power to block any decisions the UN sought to make. But he also permitted the other victors of the war and their foremost allies - the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, China and France - to wield the same veto. After Harry Dexter White, Roosevelt's negotiator at the Bretton Woods talks in 1944, had imposed on the world two bodies, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, whose underlying purpose was to sustain the financial power of US, he appeased the other powerful nations by granting them a substantial share of the vote. Rather less publicly, he ensured that both institutions required an 85% majority to pass major resolutions, and that the US would cast 17% of the votes in the IMF, and 18% of the votes in the World Bank. Harry Truman struggled to install a global trade regime which would permit the continuing growth of the US economy without alienating the nations upon whom that growth depended. He tried to persuade Congress to approve an International Trade Organisation which allowed less developed countries to protect their infant industries, transferred technology to poorer nations and prevented corporations from forming global monopolies. Congress blocked it. But, until the crisis in Seattle in 1999, , when the poor nations were forced to reject the outrageous proposals inserted by the US and the European Union, successive administrations seemed to understand the need to allow the leaders of other countries at least to pretend to their people that they were helping to set the global trade rules. The system designed in the 1940s, whose ultimate objective was to ensure that the United States remained the pre-eminent global power, appeared, until very recently, to be unchallengeable. There was no constitutional means of restraining the US: it could veto any attempt to cancel its veto. Yet this system was not sufficiently offensive to other powerful governments to force them to confront it. They knew that there was less to be lost by accepting their small share of power and supporting the status quo than by upsetting it and bringing down the wrath of the superpower. It seemed, until March 2003, that we were stuck with US hegemony. But the men who govern the United States today are greedy. They cannot understand why they should grant concessions to anyone. They want unmediated global power, and they want it now. To obtain it, they are prepared to destroy the institutions whose purpose was to sustain their dominion. They have challenged the payments the United States must make to the IMF and the World Bank. They have threatened the survival of the World Trade Organisation, by imposing tariffs on steel and granting massive new subsidies to corporate farmers. And, to prosecute a war whose overriding purpose was to stamp their authority upon the world, they have crippled the United Nations. Much has been written over the past few weeks about how much smarter George Bush is than we permitted ourselves to believe. But it is clear that his administration has none of the refined understanding of the mechanics of power that the founders of the existing world order possessed. In no respect has he made this more evident than in his assault upon the United States's principal instrument of international power: the Security Council. By going to war without the council's authorisation, and against the wishes of three of its permanent members and most of its temporary members, Bush's administration appears to have ceased even to pretend to play by the rules. As a result, the Security Council may have lost both its residual authority and its power of restraint. This leaves the leaders of other nations with just two options. The first is to accept that the global security system has broken down and that disputes between nations will in future be resolved by means of bilateral diplomacy, backed by force of arms. This means, in other words, direct global governance by the United States. The influence of its allies - the collateral against which Tony Blair has mortgaged his reputation - will be exposed as illusory. It will do precisely as it pleases, however much this undermines foreign governments. These governments will find this dispensation ever harder to sell to their own people, especially as US interests come to conflict directly with their own. They will also be aware that a system of direct global governance will tend towards war rather than towards peace. The second option is to tear up the UN's constitution, override the US veto and seek to build a new global security system, against the wishes of the hegemon. This approach was unthinkable just four months ago. It may be irresistible today. There are, of course, recent precedents. In approving the Kyoto protocol on climate change and the International Criminal Court, other nations, weighing the costs of a world crudely governed by the United States against the costs of insubordination, have defied the superpower, to establish a global system in which it plays no part. Building a new global security system without the involvement of the US is a far more dangerous project, but there may be no real alternative. None of us should be surprised if we were to discover that Russia, France and China have already begun, quietly, to discuss it. Of course, one of the dangers attendant on the construction of any system is that it comes to reflect the interests of its founders. There has, perhaps, never been a better time to consider what a system based upon justice and democracy might look like, and then, having decided how it might work in theory, to press the rebellious governments for its implementation. There is no question that the existing arrangement stinks. It's not just that the five permanent members of the Security Council can override the will of all the other nations; the General Assembly itself has no greater claim to legitimacy than the House of Lords. Many of the member states are not themselves democracies. Even those governments which have come to power by means of election seldom canvas the opinion of their citizens before deciding how to cast their vote in international assemblies. It is also riddled with rotten boroughs. Many of the citizens of the United States recognise that there is something wrong with a system in which the 500,000 people of Wyoming can elect the same number of representatives to the Senate as the 35 million of California. Yet, in the UN General Assembly, the 10,000 people of the Pacific island of Tuvalu possess the same representation as the one billion people of India. Their per capita vote, in other words, is weighted 100,000-fold. [.....] http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,975416,00.html * US PLAYS AID CARD TO FIX WAR CRIMES EXEMPTION by Ian Traynor in Zagreb The Guardian, 12th June The US is turning up the heat on the countries of the Balkans and eastern Europe to secure war crimes immunity deals for Americans and exemptions from the year-old international criminal court. In an exercise in brute diplomacy which is causing more acute friction with the European Union following the rows over Iraq, the US administration is threatening to cut off tens of millions of dollars in aid to the countries of the Balkans unless they reach bilateral agreements with the US on the ICC by the end of this month. The American campaign, which is having mixed results, is creating bitterness and cynicism in the countries being intimidated, particularly in the successor states of former Yugoslavia which perpetrated and suffered the worst war crimes seen in Europe since the Nazis. They are all under intense international pressure, not least from the Americans, to cooperate with the war crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia in the Hague. "Blatant hypocrisy," said Human Rights Watch in New York on Tuesday of the US policy towards former Yugoslavia. Threatened with the loss of $73m (£44m) in US aid, Bosnia signed the exemption deal last week just as Slovenia rejected American pressure and cut off negotiations. Of all the peoples of former Yugoslavia, the Bosnians suffered the most grievously in the wars of the 1990s, from the siege of Sarajevo to the slaughter of Srebrenica. The Bosnians signed reluctantly, feeling they had no choice. Former Yugoslavia is particularly central to the US campaign to exempt Americans from the scope of the ICC because there are US troops in Bosnia and Kosovo. Washington is vehemently opposed to the permanent international criminal court, arguing that US soldiers, officials and citizens will be targeted for political reasons, an argument dismissed by the court's supporters, who point out that safeguards have been built into the rules governing the court's operations. Under President Bill Clinton, Washington signed the treaty establishing the court. But the US did not ratify the treaty and Mr Bush rescinded Mr Clinton's signature. While the Slovenes have said no to the Americans, probably forfeiting $4m in US aid, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia are now being pressed to join the 39 other countries worldwide with which Washington has sealed bilateral pacts granting Americans immunity from war crimes. "While the United States rightly insists that the former Yugoslav republics must fully cooperate with the [Hague tribunal], it is turning the screws on the very same states not to cooperate with the ICC," said Human Rights Watch. Croatia is sitting on the fence, refusing to accept what the prime minister, Ivica Racan, dubbed "an ultimatum", but still hoping to reach a compromise with the US. The American ambassador in Zagreb published a letter in the Zagreb press last week warning that Croatia would lose $19m in US military aid if it did not capitulate by July 1. In Serbia, too, where the issue of war crimes is explo sive, the US pressure is being attacked as a ruthless display of double standards. The EU has sent letters to all the countries in the region advising them to resist the US demands and indicating that surrender will harm their ambitions of joining the EU. Regional leaders are waiting to see what kind of offers or promises this month's EU summit in Greece makes to the region before deciding on their stance towards the ICC. One idea being floated is that the EU could make up the lost US aid money in return for Balkan refusal to toe the American line. Although the eight east European countries joining the EU next year are expected to follow the Brussels policy and reject the US demands, the Poles in particular are also being pressed to reach an immunity deal with Washington. Sources in Warsaw say that the US state department has made several requests in recent weeks for a deal by July 1. Poland is the biggest American ally in the region but has not yielded to the US requests. http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,974891,00.html * WAR CRIME VOTE FUELS US ANGER AT EUROPE by Gary Younge in New York and Ian Black in Brussels The Guardian, 12th June The US has bitterly attacked European leaders for trying to stop the UN security council voting tomorrow to renew America's exemption from prosecution by the new war crimes tribunal. The Bush administration has accused the EU of "actively undermining" American efforts to protect its peacekeepers from prosecution by the international criminal court, which was set up to try cases of genocide, war crimes and systematic human rights abuses. A note written by a US official says Europe's objections "will undercut all our efforts to repair and rebuild the transatlantic relationship just as we are taking a turn for the better after a number of difficult months", according to the Washington Post. "We are dismayed that the European Union would actively seek to undermine US efforts." The row began in April when the EU issued a letter to prospective members urging them not to sign up to bilateral agreements with other countries granting them broad immunity from prosecution. The US, which was seeking such agreements with many eastern European countries, regarded the letter as hostile. EU officials insisted that they had a right to enforce union policy with candidate countries and denied any hostility towards the US. "The Americans see this as a campaign against them, but it's just a question of how we see things," said one. Under an agreement reached last year, American peacekeepers are exempt from trial or arrest by the ICC because Washington fears the court could be used for frivolous or politically motivated prosecutions of its troops. The agreement, which is backed by the EU, is up for renewal tomorrow at the security council. Despite opposition from Germany and France, the resolution extending the exemption will be adopted, as there is little stomach for another bruising row with the Bush administration, although it is not clear whether some countries will use their veto. Last year's vote was 15-0 after the US threatened to veto UN peacekeeping missions, one by one. America is said to have been threatening some Balkan countries with a withdrawal of aid if they do not sign bilateral deals. Last month Albania became the third European country, after Romania and Georgia, to sign a deal. Now Macedonia, Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro have been told to follow suit or lose US aid and support. The US has so far signed agreements with 37 countries worldwide. Defending the union's appeal to eastern Europeans, an EU diplomat said: "You can hardly describe this as heavy-handed pressure. Unlike the Americans, we have not threatened to disrupt funding." In response to pressure from Washington, Spain was seeking last night to persuade fellow EU members to tone down attempts to prevent bilateral agreements being signed. "The European Union is asserting the principles they have adopted and urging those states that want to join the EU to keep those principles in mind," Richard Dicker of the New-York based advocacy group Human Rights Watch told the Washington Post. "It's the US putting those governments that have ratified the treaty between a rock and a hard place." Jose Maria Aznar, the Spanish prime minister, was one of President Bush's strongest supporters during the Iraq war. Britain and Italy have also been seeking to avoid a new row before the EU-US summit this month. "There are a number of member states who are very keen not to antagonise the US on this issue and want a softer line," an EU official said. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/EF14Ag01.html * US TURNS TO THE TALIBAN by Syed Saleem Shahzad Asia Times, 13th June KARACHI - Such is the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, compounded by the return to the country of a large number of former Afghan communist refugees, that United States and Pakistani intelligence officials have met with Taliban leaders in an effort to devise a political solution to prevent the country from being further ripped apart. According to a Pakistani jihadi leader who played a role in setting up the communication, the meeting took place recently between representatives of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and Taliban leaders at the Pakistan Air Force base of Samungli, near Quetta. The source told Asia Times Online that four conditions were put to the Taliban before any form of reconciliation can take place that could potentially lead to them having a role in the Kabul government, whose present authority is in essence limited to the capital: ‹ Mullah Omar must be removed as supreme leader of the Taliban. ‹ All Pakistani, Arab and other foreign fighters currently engaged in operations against international troops in Afghanistan must be thrown out of the country. ‹ Any US or allied soldiers held captive must be released. ‹ Afghans currently living abroad, notably in the United States and England, must be given a part in the government - through being allowed to contest elections - even though many do not even speak their mother tongue, such as Dari or Pashtu. Apparently, the Taliban refused the first condition point blank, but showed some flexibility on the other terms. As such, this first preliminary contact made little headway. It is not known whether there will be further meetings, but given the fact that the reason for staging the talks in the first place remains unchanged, more contact can be expected. The channels for the contact have been set up by Taliban who defected when the government collapsed in Kabul, and fled to Pakistan, where they were sheltered in ISI safe houses. Now these defectors, working with Pakistani jihadis who know how to approach the Taliban leadership, are acting as go-betweens. The backdrop to the first meeting is an ever-increasing escalation in the guerrilla war being waged against foreign troops in Afghanistan. Small hit-and-run attacks are a daily feature in most parts of the country, while face-to-face skirmishes are common in the former Taliban stronghold around Kandahar in the south. According to people familiar with Afghan resistance movements, the one that has emerged over the past year and a half since the fall of the Taliban is about four times as strong as the movement that opposed Soviet invaders for nearly a decade starting in 1979. The key reason for this is that the previous Taliban government - which is dispersed almost intact in the country after capitulating to advancing Northern Alliance forces without a fight - is backed by the most powerful force in Afghanistan: clerics and religious students. For centuries, these people were the most respected segment of Afghan society, and before 1979 they never participated in politics. On the contrary, their role was one of reconciliation in conflicts. During the Afghan resistance movement against the USSR, things changed, and clerics threw their weight behind the mujahideen struggle, but, with a few exceptions, such as Maulana Yunus Khalis, they were not in command. With the withdrawal of the Soviets and the emergence of the Taliban in the early 1990s, though, the situation once again changed. The Taliban, taking advantage of the power struggles among bitterly divided militias in Kabul, consolidated themselves into an effective political movement led by clerics and in 1996 seized power in Kabul. A part of their success also lay in the fact that initially Afghans, especially Pashtuns who make up the majority of the country, were reluctant to take up the gun against clerics. Now, in the renewed guerrilla war against foreign troops, it is the clerics who are calling the shots. For instance, Hafiz Rahim is the most respected cleric in the Kandahar region, and he commands all military operations from the sanctuary of the mountainous terrain. The US forces have employed maximum air support and advanced technology in an attempt to curtail attacks, but without the help of local Afghan forces they are unable to track down Hafiz Rahim, who to date has targeted US convoys scores of times. The United States has admitted a few deaths, while the Taliban claim they have killed many more than the official numbers state. For funds, the Taliban use money looted from the central bank before they abandoned Kabul, estimated in excess of US$110 million, in addition to money received from Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda. At the same time, famed warlord Gulbbudin Hekmatyar has joined the resistance after returning from exile in Iran. His Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) is the most organized force in Afghanistan, and its participation has added real muscle to the resistance. Many top slots in the Kabul administration are occupied by former HIA members who, although they were once anti-Taliban, are loyal to the Islamic cause and anti-US. Also, several provincial governors and top officials are former HIA commanders. They are suspect in the eyes of the Americans, but because of their huge political clout it is impossible to remove them. With this groundswell of support - even if in places it is only passive - and with Kabul's influence restricted to the capital, the Americans and their allies will remain vulnerable targets, let alone be in a position to restore any form of law and order. It is in situations like this, argue most experts on Afghanistan, that traditionally insurrections begin in the Afghan army against foreign administrators. This is not the end of the problems. More than 2 million Afghan refugees, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, have returned to Afghanistan from countries all over the world, including India, Russia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Zimbabwe and Central Asian countries. Many of them belonged to communist factions during and after the Soviet invasion, while a number of their counterparts remained and now hold positions in Kabul. At present, Kabul is divided into two main factions. The first is pro-US, which is represented by the US and allied troops and those loyal to President Hamid Karzai. The second is pro-Russian and pro-Iranian, represented by Defense Minister General Qasim Fahim and his Northern Alliance forces. Although the camps are cooperating at present, they are silently building their support bases to make a grab for full power once the present interim administration runs its course, a process that is due to begin in October with a loya jirga (grand council). In this respect, every returned or returning former "communist comrade" is important, for should the Northern Alliance faction develop sufficient critical mass, it would come as no surprise if its leaders openly forged an alliance with the resistance movement. NO URL * BELGIUM: QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON THE "ANTI-ATROCITY" LAW Human Rights Watch, Revised, June 2003 What does the Belgian anti-atrocity law provide ? The 1993 law, amended in 1999 and again in 2003, gives Belgian courts the authority to prosecute persons accused of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes regardless of where the crimes took place or whether the suspect or the victims are Belgian. Amendments adopted in April 2003 create "filters" that limit the ability of victims to directly file cases with no connection to Belgium and also authorize the government to refer certain cases to other countries. What is the legal basis for this law? The Belgian law puts into practice the international law principle of "universal jurisdiction" which holds that every state has an interest in bringing to justice the perpetrators of particular crimes of international concern, no matter where the crime was committed, and regardless of the nationality of the perpetrators or their victims. A principal reason why international law provides for universal jurisdiction is to ensure that there is no "safe haven" for those responsible for the most serious crimes. Why is this law important? Prosecutions based on universal jurisdiction are an essential part of the emerging system of international justice. They help to break down the wall of immunity with which tyrants and torturers protect themselves in their own countries. Who may file complaints under the Belgian law? The state prosecutor may present charges to a court. In addition, as in most French-inspired civil law countries, in Belgium victims have the right to file criminal complaints directly before an investigating judge (juge d'instruction). However, amendments to the law adopted in 2003 limit the right of victims to file complaints directly to cases in which there is some link between Belgium and the crime (see below). Which other countries have universal jurisdiction laws? The United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, ratified by 132 countries, obliges states to prosecute -- or to extradite for prosecution -- persons on their territory accused of torture, no matter where the torture was committed. Similarly, the Geneva Conventions, ratified by almost all countries, prescribe that states parties must search for persons alleged to have committed grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions (that is, war crimes), and bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before their own courts. According to a study by Amnesty International, most states have given their courts universal jurisdiction over at least some crimes (Amnesty International, Universal jurisdiction: The duty of states to enact and implement legislation, http://web.amnesty.org/web/web.nsf/pages/legal_memorandum). In addition to universal jurisdiction, many countries, such as France, give their courts competence to investigate and even try a crime committed abroad against one of their nationals (the "passive personality" basis of jurisdiction) whether or not the suspect is in the country. Until recently, Belgium was one of the rare countries (together with Spain) which had a practice of undertaking investigations into charges of atrocities committed abroad even when none of its citizens was a victim and the suspect was not in the country. In the last two years, however, a number of countries, such as Australia, Germany, New Zealand and South Africa, have amended their laws, after joining the International Criminal Court (ICC), to provide for the opening of investigations without any such nexus requirement. What cases have been tried under the Belgian law? There has been only one trial thus far. Four Rwandans were convicted in June 2001 by a Belgian jury on charges of involvement in the 1994 genocide in their country. Most observers considered the trial exemplary. What are some other recent prosecutions under universal jurisdiction? Following the genocides in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, a number of European countries, including Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland, brought alleged perpetrators to trial on the basis of universal jurisdiction. A Danish prosecutor on November 19, 2002 initiated an investigation of Nizar al-Khazraji, former chief of staff of Iraq's armed forces, for his suspected involvement in war crimes perpetrated in Iraq against Kurdish civilians during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. The classic recent case of an attempted universal jurisdiction prosecution was Spain's indictment of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Spain charged Pinochet for crimes committed mostly in Chile and mostly against Chileans and then sought to obtain his presence for trial via extradition from Great Britain. (Belgium also indicted Pinochet and also sought his extradition to stand trial, as did France and Switzerland). Who has been sued under the Belgian law? Cases have been filed in Belgium against Mauritanian President Maaouya ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Cuban President Fidel Castro, Central African Republic President Ange-Felix Patassé, Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso, Palestinian Authority President Yassir Arafat, former Chadian President Hissène Habré, former Chilean President Gen. Augusto Pinochet, former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani, former Moroccan interior minister Driss Basri, former Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Yerodia Ndombasi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, among others. Many of these cases have not been actively pursued, however, and a recent rulings on state immunity bar states from prosecuting certain sitting foreign officials. The cases against Gbagbo, Yerodia Ndombasi and Sharon have been dismissed. How did the 2003 amendments change the Belgian law? The April 2003 amendments to the Belgian anti-atrocity law limit the ability of victims to file complaints directly and grant the Belgian government the power to transfer some cases out of Belgium. They also contain provisions designed to harmonize the Belgian law with the Rome Statute of the ICC and international law on immunity. Victims can now file suits directly only if there is a link between the crime and Belgium. Such a link exists if the suspect is on Belgian soil, if the crime took place in Belgium, or if the victim is Belgian or has lived in Belgium for at least three years. If this link does not exist, cases may now only be brought by the state prosecutor. However, the prosecutor must go forward with a case presented by victims unless one of four criteria is met: the complaint is manifestly without merit; the complaint does not allege a violation of the anti-atrocity law; the complaint does not fall within the competence of the Belgian courts; or, in the "interests of justice" and respect for Belgium's international obligations, the case should be transferred to another court, so long as that jurisdiction upholds the right to a fair trial. The victims may appeal the prosecutor's decision not to move forward. In addition, the Belgian government can now step in to send many cases elsewhere. One amendment allows the Belgian government to refer pending cases to the accused's home state or the state in which the accused is present if that state upholds the right to a fair trial. If that state does in fact take the case up, then the Belgian courts will dismiss the case. Another amendment provides that if the victim is not Belgian, the government can transfer the case to the accused's home state, so long as that state upholds the right to a fair trial and has laws that criminalize the grave human rights violations covered by the Belgian law. (For cases filed before the 2003 amendments, the government must first seek the non-binding advice of an appeals court regarding the four criteria described above.) The case is then dismissed even if the other state decides not to act on the complaint. This provision is very controversial because it allows the government to interfere with pending cases and opens the door to political and diplomatic negotiations over every case that is filed. Finally, the amendments allow for cooperation between Belgian courts and the newly established ICC and align the Belgian definitions of crimes with those in the ICC statute. They also recognize state immunity to the extent established by international law. What about the case against Tommy Franks? In May 2003, Iraqi victims alleging U.S. war crimes filed charges with the state prosecutor against U.S. Gen. Tommy Franks and other military officials. Before the prosecutor made a final decision as to whether to press charges, the Belgian government announced that, under the new amendments, it was referring the case to the United States. The victims are seeking to appeal this decision. What happened to the case against Ariel Sharon? In the case brought against Ariel Sharon, former Israeli General Amos Yaron and others for their alleged role in the 1982 Sabra and Shatilla massacres, the Belgian Court of Cassation, ruling in February 2003, dismissed the charges against Sharon pursuant to principles of customary international law regarding immunity for sitting heads of government, but held that the case could go forward against Yaron. In June 2003, an appeals court rejected the defense's other arguments against admissibility. The case will thus go forward unless the government steps in. What other cases now stand a good chance of being tried before the Belgian courts? The case against Chad's exiled former president, Hissène Habré, may be the next in line after a Belgian judge and police team visited Chad last year to investigate the charges. The Belgian government has said that it will not seek to block this case. Habré lives in exile in Senegal, where he was indicted two years ago on charges of torture and crimes against humanity before the Senegalese courts ruled that he could not be tried there. The president of Senegal has agreed to hold Habré pending an extradition request from Belgium and the government of Chad has told Belgium that it would waive any immunity that Habré might seek to assert. More information on this case can be found at http://www.hrw.org/justice/habre. Why is the Belgian law needed now that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has come into being? The establishment of a permanent ICC is among the most significant events in the global fight against impunity. The ICC has jurisdiction over cases of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity when national courts are unable or unwilling to prosecute. While the ICC will be a powerful tool to attack the worst atrocities, it will not eliminate the need to bring prosecutions based on universal jurisdiction. First, the ICC's jurisdiction is prospective only - addressing crimes committed after its statute went into effect on July 1, 2002. Second, the ICC will only be able to handle a limited number of cases. Finally, the ICC suffers from a jurisdictional regime which requires that, in the absence of a Security Council referral, either the state on whose territory the crimes were committed or the state of nationality of the accused be a party to the statute or consent to jurisdiction. Many future atrocities may thus be outside of the court's reach. http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20030623&fname=Advani+%28F%29&s id=1 * THE IRON HANDSHAKE by Ashish Kumar Sen Outlook India, 23rd June (?) Whether it was a sign is debatable, but when Lal Krishna Advani and his entourage arrived in the United States the weeks of incessant rains did suddenly peter out leaving the capital bathed in brilliant sunshine. It seemed the elements wanted to encourage the deputy prime minister as he endeavoured to project himself as a statesman whom the world's only superpower respected and admired. In fact, they courted him and extended courtesies they normally don't to others. President George Bush dropped in when Advani and national security advisor Condoleezza Rice were meeting; defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld came over to the DPM's hotel; vice-president Dick Cheney found ample time for the Indian leader; and attorney general John Ashcroft and homeland security secretary Tom Ridge exchanged notes with him on combating terrorism. Just about everyone Advani met wanted to know whether India would send troops to 'stabilise' Iraq? New Delhi is still pondering over that one. Analysts took notice as they dissected the significance of an impressive array of US leaders meeting Advani. Walter Andersen, deputy director of South Asia studies at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, told Outlook, "The very fact that you had the president dropping in for such an extensive period of time (30 minutes), and the fact that the defense secretary visited him at his hotel, all go to show that the administration takes Advani very seriously as a leader. Of course, he is also a possible future prime minister." Others thought this also shows the importance the US attaches to its relationship with India. Ironically, the weather threatened to change as soon as Advani winged out of the city. The weatherman predicted weeks of thundershowers‹and this could well turn out to be true for the future of Indo-US relations as well. For, just about everyone whom Advani met wanted to know: would India accept America's request to send troops to 'stabilise' Iraq? The request has been pending for weeks now, and all Advani could offer was the hope that New Delhi would take a decision soon. Obviously, there were reservations in India and the US needed to allay these. Always quick on the draw, the Bush administration declared it was sending a Pentagon team to New Delhi to address the Indian government's concerns. Some of which are: why are Indian troops needed? Would they be required to employ force? And, more importantly, to whom would they report? Even as you read this report, perhaps the US team is already engaged in fielding such questions from its Indian counterparts. [.....] PROBLEMS WITH THE NEIGHBOURS RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT, Vol. 6, No. 26, 12 June 2003 * IRAQI OIL CHIEF FREEZES OIL AGREEMENT WITH JORDAN [Saudi Arabia steps into the breach] Thamir Abbas Ghadhban, the most senior Iraqi at the Iraqi Oil Ministry, has announced that oil agreements signed between the former regime of Saddam Hussein and Jordan have been frozen, Amman-based daily "Al-Ra'y" reported on 10 June. Ghadhban said that Iraq's post Hussein oil policy will be characterized by transparency and openness, and that oil revenues would play a central role in the country's economic revitalization. Ghadhban's statement appeared to indicate that Jordan would no longer receive the preferential treatment it once did under the sanctions-burdened Hussein regime. For years, Jordan received oil and oil byproducts at grossly subsidized prices. The annual agreement was renewed in November, allowing Jordan to purchase four million tons of crude oil in 2003 at $18 per barrel. In addition, Hussein granted other subsidies to Jordan (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 22 November 2003). Luckily for Jordan, the Gulf states have come to the rescue. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait have agreed to supply Jordan with oil for the next three months (beginning in June) under soft terms in order to ease the financial burden incurred by the Jordanian treasury since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom on 20 March. (Kathleen Ridolfo) RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT, Vol. 6, No. 26, 12 June 2003 * BAHRAINI BANKS SAY AGREEMENT NECESSARY ON UNPAID IRAQI DEBT BEFORE NEW INVESTMENT CAN BE MADE Bahraini banks have said that they must recover millions in unpaid debt owed by Iraq before they would reconsider investing in reconstruction projects there, "Gulf Daily News" reported on 7 June. The loans were made to state-owned agencies to finance legitimate projects, according to Arab Banking Corporation (ABC) President and Chief Executive Officer Ghazi Abd al Jawad. "Before any bank -- be it ABC or any other -- commits new monies we have to come to an agreement that is equitable and fair on how we [should] resolve the debt that is on the book," Abd al-Jawad said. He said that the process has been hindered by the lack of a functioning government administration in Iraq. ABC is calling for a joint strategy by Bahraini banks. One option would be a debt-for-equity conversion -- banks would write-off some Iraqi debt in exchange for banking privileges in Iraq. "As a bank which has been dealing with Iraq in the past, we need somehow to reach an understanding on the exposures that we have to Iraq," Abd al-Jawad said. (Kathleen Ridolfo) http://www.iht.com/articles/99468.html * IRAQIS IN IRAN: UNWELCOME AT HOME, UNWANTED ABROAD by Neil MacFarquhar International Herald Tribune, from New York Times, 13th June AHWAZ, Iran: Saad Kavarizadeh remembers that miserable day long ago in Baghdad like no other. She was just 14 when her mother yanked her out of school, rushing her home, where Saddam Hussein's security men were forcing the family into government jeeps at gunpoint, having already dumped their possessions onto the street and sealed the house. Within 24 hours, Kavarizadeh was packed onto an overcrowded truck and left with tens of thousands of other Iraqis on the Iranian border with just the clothes on their backs. "They told us our great-grandfather had been Iranian, but even he was buried in Iraq," said Kavarizadeh, now 37, sitting on the carpeted floor of a two-room unfurnished house in southeast Iran, where she has lived for 23 unsettled years. "We had no idea that we were of Iranian origin, we had never even been to Iran and no one had ever said that to us before. We were victims of the fight between the Sunnis and the Shiites." Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees scattered throughout Iran find themselves in a particular anguished limbo since the fall of Saddam two months ago. Having fled persecution under the Ba'athist regime or been forced out, they are impatient to pick up the pieces of their lives across the border. Iran, too, would like to see them gone, but the U.S. and British occupation forces are not particularly eager recipients. For one thing, accepting tens of thousands of families seeking to reclaim confiscated property would only augment the tumult the administrators can barely contain. Second, Washington openly accuses Iran of fomenting instability and despite Tehran's denials, anyone coming from the Islamic republic remains automatically suspect. Even some refugees voice suspicions about their hosts. The Iraqis have grown increasingly angry at the lack of answers about when they might return. A team from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees had to flee one refugee camp recently after it came under a hail of rocks by impatient residents. An estimated 4 million Iraqis fled their country, most after the first Gulf War, but only about 10 percent of them are officially classified as refugees by the United Nations. Of those, about half, or 202,000 people, live in Iran. "Some came because their relatives were involved in politics and they feared being victimized by the Iraqi regime, some came arbitrarily, just for food," said a high school teacher in Motahari camp. "Everyone here has a story." Most of the stories involve joining the failed 1991 uprising against Saddam. Abbas Khdeir, 50, was a truck driver for the Umm Qasr Pipe Co. When the uprising started, he said, he drove his truck across the border, filled it with Kalashnikovs and drove back, handing them out in his neighborhood as part of Iran's first attempt to foment an Islamic revolution there. "If I had stayed, I would have ended up in one of those mass graves you have seen," he said. Iraqis are easy to spot here. Many like Khdeir still drive vehicles sporting Basra license plates. He said driving the vehicle made finding work harder in Ahwaz - the police automatically turned it away at checkpoints. Most Iraqis subsist on day jobs in construction and farming. Khdeir and several other refugees said they turned to the one source of sure revenue available to them, joining the Badr Brigade, the armed fighters of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The group announced Saturday in Baghdad that it would boycott any interim administration appointed under U.S. auspices. The Iraqi opposition groups that Iran sponsored defend Tehran's interest in what unrolls right next door. "Of course the Iranians want a government in Iraq that will not be an enemy," said Ali Adeeb, a member of the politburo of Al Dawa, one of the Islamic opposition groups that has gradually decamped from Tehran since the Iraqi regime fell. It stopped publishing its newspaper here three weeks ago, transferring operations to Baghdad. "All the countries in the region are trying to interfere - Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey - they all have their reasons," he said. "We want to administer ourselves without any interference from outside, be it Iranian or American or any other country." Some refugees themselves harbor concerns that the Iranians will foment armed unrest against the American occupation forces by using the Badr Brigade. "We have suffered a lot from Saddam Hussein," said the school teacher, asking not to be named out of concern for reprisals. "The Badr Brigades belong directly to the Iranian government. If they come with their arms they will begin to create problems. We don't want to get stuck because of their intentions." Western diplomats here echo charges by the U.S. and British forces next door that Iran seeks to influence events in Iraq - although they say the influence to date appears to consist mostly of strong-arming supporters in local political squabbles. Arms, they point out, are readily available in Iraq and do not need to be shipped over the border. For its part, Iran professes only an interest in free elections in Iraq. Given the country's 60 percent Shiite majority, they are virtually assured of a government likely to befriend Shiite Iran. The Iranians grumble that they have received little recognition for the services they have provided for the Iraqi refugees for 10 years with virtually no international aid. The Iraqis, added to some 2.4 million Afghans, make Iran host to the largest refugee population in the world. They win high marks from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for the free housing, electricity, medical care, education and other help they provide in nine camps housing about 45,000 refugees from southern Iraq. Eleven other camps house a few thousand Iraqis from the Kurdish areas. Most, by far, live in poor urban areas. At Ansar camp, one of six in the largely Arab province of Khuzistan bordering Iraq, the official version of why there are refugees differs slightly from that offered by the residents. "They escaped because of American bombing during the first Gulf War," said Alireza Nouri Gorouhi, the director of the camp housing over 7,000 refugees. They live in two-room cinder-block houses built around a small courtyard, the smell of raw sewage wafting above open drains. A sign outside the health clinic urges parents to have just two children apiece, but the small army of urchins suggests they ignore that advice. Most of them are anxious about going back. They are angry that refugees from some countries have been handed considerable sums to resettle. The Saudi government granted each refugee $2,500 per person to resettle, UN officials say, whereas Iran lacks the means to provide anything like that. Most Iraqis have no homes to go back to and face only uncertainty. For Kavarizadeh, who only got her Iranian surname when she was expelled, a nagging identity crisis deepens her unease. "In Iran, they call us Iraqis, but they kicked us out of there," said Kavarizadeh, whose children where educated in Persian in the poor Ahwaz neighborhood where they live. "If we go back to Iraq, they will call us Iranians," Kavarizadeh added. "I am miserable in this big country, but I don't know what I would do in Iraq. They confiscated everything, including our future." http://www.jordantimes.com/Mon/opinion/opinion2.htm * AMERICAN-ARAB FREE TRADE AREA by Fahed Fanek Jordan Times, 16th June THE "GENEROUS" offer made recently by the president of the United States to establish a free trade area between American and the Middle East over ten years is supposed to be one of the prizes the US decided to grant to the Arab world to swallow the results of the unjustified war on Iraq. It is a carrot to make up for the stick and to help heal the Arab wound. President George Bush reiterated the offer while in our part of the world and left it to two of his ministers to explain it during the World Economic Forum, taking place in Jordan's Dead Sea resorts the coming week. This step, even if implemented, is not good enough as a prize, simply because it will not have major consequences, from a trading stand point, as evidenced by the actual experiment. The European Union foresaw the idea and concluded a similar project with several countries of the southern and eastern Mediterranean, but did not have any visible or material impact because the Arab industries are not able to penetrate the European markets in as big a way as hoped. However, the European deal could be much better and more attractive than its American counterpart, in that the Europeans acknowledge the fact that the two regions are not at the same level of economic development. The West has an advanced industry while the East and the South lag far behind and, therefore, competition on equal footings would not be fair. They thus earmarked seven billion euros to compensate the weak party of the equation. Such financial compensations do not exist in the American offer. Jordan's entering an agreement of free trade area with the United States, which came into effect in December 2001, was a failure. No more than $10 million worth of Jordanian industrial and agricultural goods were exported to the United States market under the agreement in the past year and a half, which is a negligible amount. The bulk of Jordanian exports to America was confined to products from the Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZs) which are the result of a temporary arrangement derived from the US-Israel free trade agreement. The political purpose of the QIZ is to encourage a sort of industrial integration between Jordan and Israel through making it a condition that at least 8 per cent of the value added should originate in Israel for the products to benefit from the exemptions of US customs and quota. Irrespective of the underlying intentions, the QIZs were a success. They gave positive, tangible result. They attracted direct foreign investments and generated tens of thousands of badly needed jobs, and produced national exports. As a matter of fact, the QIZs were the engine of growth in exports which made it possible for the Jordanian economy to grow at 5 per cent a year over the last two years. By contrast, the free trade agreement did not make any difference, because the Jordanian industry is not yet ready to compete with the more advanced American industry in its market. It is quite certain that Arab industry is not in a better condition, or expected to succeed where Jordanian industry did not. If anything, the implementation of a free trade arrangement between America and the Arab world will work to the benefit of the American industries, which will be favoured in Arab markets over their European and Japanese counterparts. As far as Jordan is concerned, the American offer does not mean anything because Jordan already has such agreement. Ditto for Israel. If the American president is interested in giving something to the Arab world, he should do something tangible to help the Palestinian people get rid of the ugly Israeli occupation, and have their own independent viable state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The American open trade offer may be seen and understood from a political point of view. It is sometimes thought to be an attempt to revive the idea of the Israeli ex-prime minister Shimon Peres calling for a "New Middle East" under Israeli leadership. However, it turned out that the Israeli establishment is not interested in a New Middle East or, for that matter, in any economic and trade arrangement with Arab countries. It still prefers to maintain Israel as a closed fortress. It wants to avoid melting in the Arab sea. It thinks of itself as part of the West. We, Arabs, don't mind this position, but the world should know who is rejecting cooperation and normalisation of relations beyond exchange of ambassadors. _______________________________________________ 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