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News, 13-20/8/03 (1) PROBLEMS OF THE PRETEXT * Iraq's nuclear file: Depiction of Threat Outgrew Supporting Evidence * 'Key British claim on Iraq weapons was hearsay' PROBLEMS OF THE OCCUPATION * Attack near Tikrit kills a U.S. soldier * Iraq draws a new tide of Islamic militants * British Soldier Killed, Two Wounded in Iraq * US apologises for sparking Baghdad protest * Oil flows from northern Iraq * Iraq-Turkey Oil Pipe Repairs May Take Week Once Fire Out * Paying Iraq's Jews back, and the Palestinians less * Wave of sabotage hits Iraq * Massive military contractor's media mess * UN Bombed in Baghdad PROBLEMS OF THE PRETEXT http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A39500-2003Aug9.html * IRAQ'S NUCLEAR FILE: DEPICTION OF THREAT OUTGREW SUPPORTING EVIDENCE by Barton Gellman and Walter Pincus Washington Post, 10th August His name was Joe, from the U.S. government. He carried 40 classified slides and a message from the Bush administration. An engineer-turned-CIA analyst, Joe had helped build the U.S. government case that Iraq posed a nuclear threat. He landed in Vienna on Jan. 22 and drove to the U.S. diplomatic mission downtown. In a conference room 32 floors above the Danube River, he told United Nations nuclear inspectors they were making a serious mistake. At issue was Iraq's efforts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes. The U.S. government said those tubes were for centrifuges to enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb. But the IAEA, the world's nuclear watchdog, had uncovered strong evidence that Iraq was using them for conventional rockets. Joe described the rocket story as a transparent Iraqi lie. According to people familiar with his presentation, which circulated before and afterward among government and outside specialists, Joe said the specialized aluminum in the tubes was "overspecified," "inappropriate" and "excessively strong." No one, he told the inspectors, would waste the costly alloy on a rocket. In fact, there was just such a rocket. According to knowledgeable U.S. and overseas sources, experts from U.S. national laboratories reported in December to the Energy Department and U.S. intelligence analysts that Iraq was manufacturing copies of the Italian-made Medusa 81. Not only the Medusa's alloy, but also its dimensions, to the fraction of a millimeter, matched the disputed aluminum tubes. A CIA spokesman asked that Joe's last name be withheld for his safety, and said he would not be made available for an interview. The spokesman said the tubes in question "are not the same as the Medusa 81" but would not identify what distinguishes them. In an interview, CIA Director George J. Tenet said several different U.S. intelligence agencies believed the tubes could be used to build gas centrifuges for a uranium enrichment program. [.....] Systematic coordination began in August, when Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. formed the White House Iraq Group, or WHIG, to set strategy for each stage of the confrontation with Baghdad. A senior official who participated in its work called it "an internal working group, like many formed for priority issues, to make sure each part of the White House was fulfilling its responsibilities." In an interview with the New York Times published Sept. 6, Card did not mention the WHIG but hinted at its mission. "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August," he said. The group met weekly in the Situation Room. Among the regular participants were Karl Rove, the president's senior political adviser; communications strategists Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin and James R. Wilkinson; legislative liaison Nicholas E. Calio; and policy advisers led by Rice and her deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, along with I. Lewis Libby, Cheney's chief of staff. The first days of September would bring some of the most important decisions of the prewar period: what to demand of the United Nations in the president's Sept. 12 address to the General Assembly, when to take the issue to Congress, and how to frame the conflict with Iraq in the midterm election campaign that began in earnest after Labor Day. A "strategic communications" task force under the WHIG began to plan speeches and white papers. There were many themes in the coming weeks, but Iraq's nuclear menace was among the most prominent. 'A Mushroom Cloud' The day after publication of Card's marketing remark, Bush and nearly all his top advisers began to talk about the dangers of an Iraqi nuclear bomb. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair conferred at Camp David that Saturday, Sept. 7, and they each described alarming new evidence. Blair said proof that the threat is real came in "the report from the International Atomic Energy Agency this morning, showing what has been going on at the former nuclear weapon sites." Bush said "a report came out of the . . . IAEA, that they [Iraqis] were six months away from developing a weapon. I don't know what more evidence we need." There was no new IAEA report. Blair appeared to be referring to news reports describing curiosity at the nuclear agency about repairs at sites of Iraq's former nuclear program. Bush cast as present evidence the contents of a report from 1996, updated in 1998 and 1999. In those accounts, the IAEA described the history of an Iraqi nuclear weapons program that arms inspectors had systematically destroyed. A White House spokesman later acknowledged that Bush "was imprecise" on his source but stood by the crux of his charge. The spokesman said U.S. intelligence, not the IAEA, had given Bush his information. That, too, was garbled at best. U.S. intelligence reports had only one scenario for an Iraqi bomb in six months to a year, premised on Iraq's immediate acquisition of enough plutonium or enriched uranium from a foreign source. "That is just about the same thing as saying that if Iraq gets a bomb, it will have a bomb," said a U.S. intelligence analyst who covers the subject. "We had no evidence for it." Two debuts took place on Sept. 8: the aluminum tubes and the image of "a mushroom cloud." A Sunday New York Times story quoted anonymous officials as saying the "diameter, thickness and other technical specifications" of the tubes -- precisely the grounds for skepticism among nuclear enrichment experts -- showed that they were "intended as components of centrifuges." No one knows when Iraq will have its weapon, the story said, but "the first sign of a 'smoking gun,' they argue, may be a mushroom cloud." [.....] In its initial meetings, Card's Iraq task force ordered a series of white papers. After a general survey of Iraqi arms violations, the first of the single-subject papers -- never published -- was "A Grave and Gathering Danger: Saddam Hussein's Quest for Nuclear Weapons." Wilkinson, at the time White House deputy director of communications for planning, gathered a yard-high stack of intelligence reports and press clippings. Wilkinson said he conferred with experts from the National Security Council and Cheney's office. Other officials said Will Tobey and Susan Cook, working under senior director for counterproliferation Robert Joseph, made revisions and circulated some of the drafts. Under the standard NSC review process, they checked the facts. In its later stages, the draft white paper coincided with production of a National Intelligence Estimate and its unclassified summary. But the WHIG, according to three officials who followed the white paper's progress, wanted gripping images and stories not available in the hedged and austere language of intelligence. [.....] Hussein was known to have met with some weapons physicists, and praised them as "nuclear mujaheddin." But the CIA had "reasonably good intelligence in terms of the general activities and whereabouts" of those scientists, said another analyst with the relevant clearances, and knew they had generally not reassembled into working groups. In a report to Congress in 2001, the agency could conclude only that some of the scientists "probably" had "continued at least low-level theoretical R&D [research and development] associated with its nuclear program." Analysts knew Iraq had tried recently to buy magnets, high-speed balancing machines, machine tools and other equipment that had some potential for use in uranium enrichment, though no less for conventional industry. Even assuming the intention, the parts could not all be made to fit a coherent centrifuge model. The estimate acknowledged that "we lack specific information on many key aspects" of the program, and analysts presumed they were seeing only the tip of the iceberg. 'He Made a Name' According to outside scientists and intelligence officials, the most important factor in the CIA's nuclear judgment was Iraq's attempt to buy high-strength aluminum tubes. The tubes were the core evidence for a centrifuge program tied to building a nuclear bomb. Even circumstantially, the CIA reported no indication of uranium enrichment using anything but centrifuges. That interpretation of the tubes was a victory for the man named Joe, who made the issue his personal crusade. He worked in the gas centrifuge program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the early 1980s. He is not, associates said, a nuclear physicist, but an engineer whose work involved the platform upon which centrifuges were mounted. At some point he joined the CIA. By the end of the 1990s, according to people who know him casually, he worked in export controls. Joe played an important role in discovering Iraq's plans to buy aluminum tubes from China in 2000, with an Australian intermediary. U.N. sanctions forbade Iraq to buy anything with potential military applications, and members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a voluntary alliance, include some forms of aluminum tubing on their list of equipment that could be used for uranium enrichment. Joe saw the tubes as centrifuge rotors that could be used to process uranium into weapons grade material. In a gas centrifuge, the rotor is a thin-walled cylinder, open at both ends, that spins at high speed under a magnet. The device extracts the material used in a weapon from a gaseous form of uranium. In July 2001, about 3,000 tubes were intercepted in Jordan on their way to Iraq, a big step forward in the agency's efforts to understand what Iraq was trying to do. The CIA gave Joe an award for exceptional performance, throwing its early support to an analysis that helped change the agency's mind about Iraq's pursuit of nuclear ambitions. "He grabbed that information early on, and he made a name for himself," a career U.S. government nuclear expert said. 'Stretches the Imagination' Doubts about Joe's theory emerged quickly among the government's centrifuge physicists. The intercepted tubes were too narrow, long and thick-walled to fit a known centrifuge design. Aluminum had not been used for rotors since the 1950s. Iraq had two centrifuge blueprints, stolen in Europe, that were far more efficient and already known to work. One used maraging steel, a hard steel alloy, for the rotors, the other carbon fiber. Joe and his supporters said the apparent drawbacks were part of Iraq's concealment plan. Hussein's history of covert weapons development, Tenet said in his written statement, included "built-in cover stories." "This is a case where different people had honorable and different interpretations of intentions," said an Energy Department analyst who has reviewed the raw data. "If you go to a nuclear [counterproliferation official] and say I've got these aluminum tubes, and it's about Iraq, his first inclination is to say it's for nuclear use." But the government's centrifuge scientists -- at the Energy Department's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and its sister institutions -- unanimously regarded this possibility as implausible. In late 2001, experts at Oak Ridge asked an alumnus, Houston G. Wood III, to review the controversy. Wood, founder of the Oak Ridge centrifuge physics department, is widely acknowledged to be among the most eminent living experts. Speaking publicly for the first time, Wood said in an interview that "it would have been extremely difficult to make these tubes into centrifuges. It stretches the imagination to come up with a way. I do not know any real centrifuge experts that feel differently." As an academic, Wood said, he would not describe "anything that you absolutely could not do." But he said he would "like to see, if they're going to make that claim, that they have some explanation of how you do that. Because I don't see how you do it." A CIA spokesman said the agency does have support for its view from centrifuge experts. He declined to elaborate. In the last week of September, the development of the NIE required a resolution of the running disagreement over the significance of the tubes. The Energy Department had one vote. Four agencies -- with specialties including eavesdropping, maps and foreign military forces -- judged that the tubes were part of a centrifuge program that could be used for nuclear weapons. Only the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research joined the judgment of the Energy Department. The estimate, as published, said that "most analysts" believed the tubes were suitable and intended for a centrifuge cascade. Majority votes make poor science, said Peter D. Zimmerman, a former chief scientist at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. "In this case, the experts were at Z Division at Livermore [Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory] and in DOE intelligence here in town, and they were convinced that no way in hell were these likely to be centrifuge tubes," he said. Tenet said the Department of Energy was not the only agency with experts on the issue; the CIA consulted military battlefield rocket experts, as well as its own centrifuge experts. Unravelings On Feb. 5, two weeks after Joe's Vienna briefing, Powell gave what remains the government's most extensive account of the aluminum tubes, in an address to the U.N. Security Council. He did not mention the existence of the Medusa rocket or its Iraqi equivalent, though he acknowledged disagreement among U.S. intelligence analysts about the use of the tubes. Powell's CIA briefers, using data originating with Joe, told him that Iraq had "overspecified" requirements for the tubes, increasing expense without making them more useful to rockets. That helped persuade Powell, a confidant said, that Iraq had some other purpose for the tubes. "Maybe Iraqis just manufacture their conventional weapons to a higher standard than we do, but I don't think so," Powell said in his speech. He said different batches "seized clandestinely before they reached Iraq" showed a "progression to higher and higher levels of specification, including in the latest batch an anodized coating on extremely smooth inner and outer surfaces. . . . Why would they continue refining the specification, go to all that trouble for something that, if it was a rocket, would soon be blown into shrapnel when it went off?" An anodized coating is actually a strong argument for use in rockets, according to several scientists in and out of government. It resists corrosion of the sort that ruined Iraq's previous rocket supply. To use the tubes in a centrifuge, experts told the government, Iraq would have to remove the anodized coating. Iraq did change some specifications from order to order, the procurement records show, but there is not a clear progression to higher precision. One tube sample was rejected because its interior was unfinished, too uneven to be used in a rocket body. After one of Iraq's old tubes got stuck in a launcher and exploded, Baghdad's subsequent orders asked for more precision in roundness. U.S. and European analysts said they had obtained records showing that Italy's Medusa rocket has had its specifications improved 10 times since 1978. Centrifuge experts said in interviews that the variations had little or no significance for uranium enrichment, especially because the CIA's theory supposes Iraq would do extensive machining to adapt the tubes as rotors. For rockets, however, the tubes fit perfectly. Experts from U.S. national labs, working temporarily with U.N. inspectors in Iraq, observed production lines for the rockets at the Nasser factory north of Baghdad. Iraq had run out of body casings at about the time it ordered the aluminum tubes, according to officials familiar with the experts' reports. Thousands of warheads, motors and fins were crated at the assembly lines, awaiting the arrival of tubes. "Most U.S. experts," Powell asserted, "think they are intended to serve as rotors in centrifuges used to enrich uranium." He said "other experts, and the Iraqis themselves," said the tubes were really for rockets. Wood, the centrifuge physicist, said "that was a personal slam at everybody in DOE," the Energy Department. "I've been grouped with the Iraqis, is what it amounts to. I just felt that the wording of that was probably intentional, but it was also not very kind. It did not recognize that dissent can exist." Staff writers Glenn Kessler, Dana Priest and Richard Morin and staff researchers Lucy Shackelford, Madonna Lebling and Robert Thomason contributed to this report. http://www.jordantimes.com/Sun/news/news7.htm * 'KEY BRITISH CLAIM ON IRAQ WEAPONS WAS HEARSAY' Jordan Times, 17th August LONDON (AFP) ‹ Britain's headline-grabbing claim before the Iraq war that Baghdad could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes was based on second-hand information, the Guardian reported Saturday. The left-wing daily said the revelation that the 45-minute assertion was hearsay was contained in an internal Foreign Office document released to a judicial inquiry probing the suspected suicide of a government arms expert at the centre of a row of how Britain went to war. Senior Judge Lord Hutton is leading an investigation probing the circumstances leading up to the death of scientist David Kelly, a former UN weapons inspector in Iraq. Hotly denied claims from the BBC that London "sexed up" an official dossier last September on Iraq's weapons arsenal to bolster the case for war in March, together with the suspected suicide of Kelly ‹ the likely source of the report ‹ have triggered a major political crisis for Prime Minister Tony Blair. BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan reported that Blair's office was responsible for inserting in the Iraq dossier the claim that Saddam Hussein could launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes. That assertion "came from a reliable and established source, quoting a well placed senior officer" in the Iraqi army, the Foreign Office document was cited by the Guardian as saying. The paper added that the government has never before admitted that such key information was based on hearsay. Menzies Campbell, foreign affairs spokesman for the opposition Liberal Democrats, told the Guardian that the revelation damaged the government's credibility, adding: "It provides an even thinner justification to go to war." Hutton's inquiry in London heard earlier this week that Kelly had told a BBC journalist the government had overplayed the claim that it had evidence Iraq could deploy chemical or biological weapons in as little as 45 minutes. "It was a statement that was made and it just got out of all proportion. They were desperate for information which could be used," Kelly told Susan Watts, the science editor of BBC Television's Newsnight programme. Hutton will next week hear from Blair's official spokesmen and senior advisers as he tries to fathom the circumstances leading up to the death of Kelly, who was found dead with a slit wrist on July 18, a day after he went missing after leaving his home in southern England for a countryside walk. Blair, currently on holiday in Barbados, and the man who is in charge of Kelly's department, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, are expected to be summoned to give evidence at some stage before the inquiry closes. PROBLEMS OF THE OCCUPATION http://www.iht.com/articles/106185.html * ATTACK NEAR TIKRIT KILLS A U.S. SOLDIER International Herald Tribune, from Reuters, 13th August TIKRIT, IraqGuerrillas killed a U.S. soldier and wounded another in a bomb attack on a convoy near Saddam Hussein's hometown on Wednesday, after U.S. troops said they had caught one of the deposed Iraqi dictator's bodyguards. U.S. officers based in one of Saddam's former palaces in Tikrit said two soldiers, both in the 4th Infantry Division, had been evacuated to a hospital after the attack southeast of the town, but one had later died of his wounds. The soldier was the 58th killed in attacks since Washington declared major combat over on May 1. Officers said 4th Infantry Division troops killed two guerrillas overnight in separate firefights. In Rashidiya, just north of Baghdad, a man was shot and killed after he fired on U.S. troops from a van. Further north near Balad, attackers fired on a U.S. reconnaissance team. The U.S. army said one assailant was killed and the rest fled. On Tuesday, three synchronized bombs exploded in the tense Sunni Muslim town of Ramadi as a U.S. convoy drove past. One soldier from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment was killed and two were wounded. Lieutenant Colonel Steve Russell, commander of the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, which is leading the hunt for Saddam loyalists and guerrillas around Tikrit, said one of the fugitive former president's bodyguards and a general in his army had been captured on Monday and were being questioned. Russell said the captured general was a senior figure. "He is at least a chief of staff of the Republican Guard," Russell said. He said the general and bodyguard were among 14 members of the same family detained in the same raid. Ten were later released. An AK-47 assault rifle, a rocket-propelled grenade, a computer, a telephone and a safe were also confiscated. [.....] http://www.iht.com/articles/106186.html * IRAQ DRAWS A NEW TIDE OF ISLAMIC MILITANTS by Neil MacFarquhar International Herald Tribune, from New York Times, 13th August SULAIMANIYAH, IraqIn much the same way as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan stirred an earlier generation of young Muslims determined to fight the infidel, the U.S. presence in Iraq is prompting a rising tide of Muslim militants to slip into the country to fight the foreign occupier, Iraqi officials and others say. "Iraq is the nexus where many issues are coming together - Islam versus democracy, the West versus the axis of evil, Arab nationalism versus some different types of political culture," said Barham Saleh, the prime minister of a Kurdish-controlled part of northern Iraq. "If the Americans succeed here, this will be a monumental blow to everything the terrorists stand for." Recent intelligence suggests that the militants are well organized. One returning group of fighters from the radical Ansar al-Islam organization captured in the Kurdish region two weeks ago consisted of five Iraqis, a Palestinian and a Tunisian. Among their possessions were five forged Italian passports for a different group of militants they were apparently supposed to join, said Dana Ahmed Majid, the director of general security for the region. Long gone are the men with beards and the short robes believed worn by the Prophet Muhammad that the Arabs who went to Afghanistan favored. Instead, the same practices that allowed the Sept. 11 attackers to blend into U.S. society are evident. The fighters steal over Iraq's largely unpoliced borders in small groups, bearing instructions to go to a safe house where they can whisper one password to gain admittance and then lie low awaiting further instructions, according to Iraqi security officials both in northern Iraq and in Baghdad. "They come across as civilians, they shave their beards and have clean-cut hair," said a senior security official in the region. Iraqi officials say they expect a broad spectrum of Muslim militants to flood Iraq. They believe that Ansar al-Islam, a small fundamentalist group believed to have links with Al Qaeda, forms the backbone of the underground network. The group was forced out of northern Iraq by a huge attack during the war. Mullah Mustapha Kreikar, the founding spiritual leader of Ansar al-Islam, said in an interview Sunday with LBC, the Lebanese satellite channel, that the fight in Iraq would be the culmination of all Muslim efforts since the Islamic caliphate collapsed in the early 20th century with the demise of the Ottoman Empire. "There is no difference between this occupation and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979," he said from Norway, where he has political asylum. "The resistance is not only a reaction to the American invasion, it is part of the continuous Islamic struggle since the collapse of the caliphate," he said. "All Islamic struggles since then are part of one organized effort to bring back the caliphate." Such appeals appear to be attracting a wide range of radicals. The fight against Al Qaeda and its numerous offshoots worldwide over the last two years has severely disrupted their coordination, but details emerging from either suspects captured in the last few weeks or recent surveillance indicates that Qaeda training methods in everything from forgery to establishing sleeper cells are being applied here. Al Qaeda Web sites bear long treatises on the need for jihad and argue that the effort should not be dissipated in meaningless activities like peaceful demonstrations. Chat room discussions occasionally focus on how to sneak across borders. Once established in Baghdad or in the Sunni triangle north of the capital, where much of the armed resistance unrolls, the Islamic radicals often make common cause with members of the former Baathist government who are also determined to fight Americans. At least one Saudi and one Egyptian formerly linked to Al Qaeda helped establish an initial training camp three weeks ago where new recruits are lectured on the theological underpinnings of jihad, one security official in Baghdad said. "All previous experiences with the activities of the underground organizations proved that they flourish in countries with a chaotic security situation, unchecked borders and the lack of a central government - Iraq is all that," said Muhammad Salah, an expert on militant groups and the Cairo bureau chief of the newspaper Al Hayat. "It is the perfect environment for fundamentalist groups to operate and grow." U.S. troops have arrested two clerics from Islamic Kurdish groups - once all part of one big organization - suspected of providing logistics help to Ansar fighters, Iraqi officials said. More than 150 members of Ansar al-Islam are believed to have slipped into the country in recent weeks, said a security official in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Smugglers are believed to be bringing them over daily. In addition, there are an estimated 100,000 former members of the Iraqi security services without gainful employment and all concentrated in the Sunni triangle north of Baghdad. Perhaps 2,000 of them, especially those with no source of income and no hopes of gaining any kind of amnesty, would be likely recruits for the fundamentalists, the official said. Although attacks like the deadly car bombing outside the Jordanian Embassy that killed 17 people last Thursday are most likely the work of militants, security officials say, some attacks are carried out either for money or by Iraqis who just do not want Americans here. But the officials anticipate that more attacks will be the work of militant organizations. The training around Baghdad so far has been in three stages, a security official said. Some sort of initial contact is made - usually after prayers in a mosque - and then a second meeting is arranged. Some recruits are weeded out then, but the third round of likely candidates are the ones who make it to the training camp, the official said. They are told to move away from their families and not communicate with anyone. Some candidates are believed to be the men who worked for Muhammad Khtair al-Dulaimi in the Special Operations Directorate, the branch of the Iraqi secret service that specialized in remote control bombings, poisoning and other operations. The former chief is still at large and is suspected of putting his employees to work against the Americans, the source said. But the main group organizing an underground route of safe houses and coordinating the various efforts is believed to be Ansar al-Islam, or the Islamic Partisans in English, whose suspected link to Al Qaeda was among the reasons the Bush administration used to justify the war against Iraq. Although initially a strictly Kurdish organization, its ranks swelled with Arab fighters after the United States attacked Afghanistan in October 2001. Before the Iraqi war the group was believed to have some 850 members, but up to 200 were killed in the attack against them by Kurdish and U.S. Special Forces troops in March. Several hundred more were either captured or turned themselves in, leaving an estimated 300 to 350 who fled to Iran. http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=564&ncid=564&e=7&u=/nm/20030 814/ts_nm/iraq_britain_blast_dc_2 * BRITISH SOLDIER KILLED, TWO WOUNDED IN IRAQ Yahoo, 14th August BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A British soldier was killed and two were wounded when a roadside bomb hit a military ambulance in the southern city of Basra on Thursday, a British military spokesman said. "A British military ambulance was targeted by an improvised explosive device in the outskirts of Basra's city center this morning," the spokesman told Reuters by telephone from Basra. "One serviceman was killed and two suffered non-life threatening wounds." It was the first British fatality in a hostile incident since June 25 when six soldiers were killed in the southern village of Majjar. The spokesman said the roadside bomb was hidden in a pile of earth next to a lamp post. He said the ambulance, which was clearly marked, supported British soldiers and Iraqi civilians. He said it was too early to speculate on who was behind the attack. Major Charlie Mayo said such attacks would not deter coalition forces from helping the Iraqi people and achieve peace in the country. Thursday's death raised to 15 the number of British soldiers killed in attacks since U.S. and British forces invaded Iraq (news - web sites) on March 20 to oust Saddam Hussein (news - web sites). [.....] http://www.jordantimes.com/Fri/news/news3.htm * US APOLOGISES FOR SPARKING BAGHDAD PROTEST Jordan Times, 15th August BAGHDAD (AP) ‹ The US military issued a public apology to the people of a Shiite Muslim neighbourhood in Baghdad on Thursday for an incident inwhich a man was killed and four others wounded after a US Black Hawk helicopter blew down an Islamic banner with its rotor wash. [.....] In Baghdad, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of coalition forces in Iraq, promised the military would "take into consideration the Iraqi culture and sensitivities." "Our intent is not to alienate the Shiite people," he said. "Apparently, the helicopter blew down the flag or somehow the flag was taken down, and we are taking steps to ensure that doesn't happen again," he said, answering a barrage of questions about why the Black Hawk was hovering above the communications tower in Baghdad's Sadr City in a first place. "There is no policy on our part to fly helicopters to communication towers to take down flags," Sanchez told reporters, insisting that the banner was mistakenly blown down by the force of the helicopter blades and was not removed from the tower deliberately. Sanchez said an American unit came under fire from the angry crowd of about 3,000 Shiites on Wednesday after the helicopter and banner incident. The unit returned fire after one man in the crowd fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the soldiers. The shooter was killed but four bystanders were wounded. The neighbourhood seemed quiet Thursday after the American apology. A new banner on the wall of a building near Wednesday's incident read: "The Americans should not be allowed to enter the city again because of the blood shed in their aggression yesterday." Residents seemed calmed by the American apology. "I think that this minor incident and misunderstanding is over now. Most of the people are accepting the apology. We will not forget that it was the US soldiers who liberated us from Saddam (Hussein)," said Abid Ali, 45, an auto repair shop owner. Most Iraqi Shiites had welcomed the ouster of the former dictator who brutally put down a Shiite uprising after the 1991 Gulf War. Saddam's minority Sunni Muslim Baath Party oppressed the Shiite majority brutally throughout his regime. No US soldiers or helicopters were seen patrolling the neighbourhood Thursday. One of Sanchez's subordinates had already written to the people of the Sadr City neighbourhood. "What occurred was a mistake and was not directed against the people of Sadr City," said a statement signed by Lt. Col. Christopher K. Hoffman of the 2nd Squadron, 2nd Armoured Cavalry Regiment. The document, in English, was distributed in the sprawling slum Thursday. "I am personally investigating this incident and will punish those that are responsible," the Hoffman statement said. It promised the number of US helicopters flying over Sadr City and the number of patrols in the eastern Baghdad neighbourhood, formerly known as Saddam City, would be reduced. Sanchez sought in his weekly news conference to emphasise that American forces were changing tactics while not changing US goals of wiping out the guerrilla resistance. "The conduct of our operations is to take into consideration the Iraqi culture and sensitivities, and we want to be precise in our application of combat power. We are going to continue to be aggressive, we have to be aggressive. We're fighting a low intensity conflict here," Sanchez said. Asked about calls for the withdrawal of US troops from Sadr City, Sanchez said: "What I will tell you is, we've got a mission that we've got to accomplish here in the country." Sanchez also said that US forces will improve markings on hastily set-up checkpoints throughout the country, after a recent incident in which troops killed two women and wounded two men after their car failed to stop. He announced the seizure of three major ammunition caches in the previous 24 hours, including anti-aircraft guns taken by the 4th Infantry Division operating in the Tikrit area 200 kilometres north of Baghdad. He said forces found more than 800 rocket-propelled grenades, 920 120mm mortar shells and other weapons that "could've been source for improvised explosive devices." He also complained of increased oil smuggling, with oil worth about $200,000 illegally shipped from the country daily across the southern border. He said some of the 15 breaches of oil pipelines since late May had been conducted by smugglers trying to tap into the flow. The US military, meanwhile, told commanders throughout Iraq that reporters, photographers and television crews would be prohibited from accompanying the military on some operations. That appeared to be a major shift in the military's relations with the news media. Within hours of the directive being reported by the Associated Press, US military headquarters in Baghdad rescinded the order. When asked why, military spokesman Maj. William Thurmond responded, "I don't know." News of the directive was first provided by Maj. Josslyn Aberle, spokeswoman for the 4th Infantry Division at Tikrit, 200 kilometres north of Baghdad. She said it had been issued by the Coalition Joint Task Force in the capital. http://www.detnews.com/2003/nation/0308/14/a05-244768.htm * OIL FLOWS FROM NORTHERN IRAQ by Selcan Hacaoglu and Bruce Stanley Detroit News, 14th August ANKARA, Turkey (AP): Iraq began pumping crude oil from its northern oil fields Wednesday for the first time since the war -- a milestone in the restoration of the country's oil production that augurs well for thirsty world markets. Iraq sits atop the world's second-largest proven crude reserves, and oil exports are vital to its postwar reconstruction and the success of U.S. efforts to implant democracy in the country. Before the war halted Iraq's oil production, the country pumped around 2.1 million barrels a day, most of it for export. Analysts said it was unclear how reliable the flow of oil from fields near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk might prove to be, but the reopening of the pipeline to Turkey's Mediterranean coast is a key step in rebuilding Iraq's oil industry. Saboteurs and looters have dogged efforts to rehabilitate the 600-mile pipeline from Kirkuk to the Turkish city of Ceyhan. The lack of storage and export facilities forced the Iraqis to reinject much of the northern crude left over after refining for domestic use back into natural underground reservoirs. "The export program has been stymied by unfortunate but continuing acts of sabotage. This is still the issue," said Michael Rothman, chief energy strategist at Merrill Lynch in New York. He said Iraqi oil exports were a paltry 300,000 barrels a day in July. Iraq began exporting from its giant southern oil fields last month, sending fresh crude to ships waiting offshore in the Persian Gulf at the export terminal of Mina el-Bakr. These southern exports have been intermittent, however, because of power failures at the terminal and other interruptions. Although Iraq's big northern fields also resumed production after the U.S.-British invasion, crude from the north was unavailable for export. Delays in Iraqi exports have helped lift U.S. oil prices to well above $30 per barrel. Despite historically low inventories of crude in major importing countries, members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed July 31 to keep output steady -- a decision that provided no comfort to consumers. Iraq was expected to pump 300,000 to 400,000 barrels a day to Ceyhan. No oil tankers are booked to load there, and oil was expected to flow for about 10 days before any vessels would be sent for loading. Ceyhan already holds about 500,000 barrels of Iraqi crude in storage and has room for around 7.5 million more barrels. Turkish energy officials said Iraq previously stopped pumping crude to Ceyhan on March 23. Iraq's oil exports resumed after the U.N. Security Council lifted sanctions on Iraq in May and recognized the U.S.-led coalition's authority over the country and its oil revenue. http://biz.yahoo.com/djus/030816/1634000010_1.html * IRAQ-TURKEY OIL PIPE REPAIRS MAY TAKE WEEK ONCE FIRE OUT by Selina Williams Yahoo, 16th August BAGHDAD -(Dow Jones)- Iraq's main crude-oil export pipeline to Turkey, which was sabotaged in the early hours Friday, will take up to a week to repair once the oil fire is extinguished, the country's acting oil minister Thamer al- Ghadban said Saturday. "It depends on the fire and the damage...but taking into consideration that it's a large pipeline buried one meter underground, it will take five days to one week to repair," he told a news conference. The explosion on the 46-inch crude-export pipeline came only two days after pumping resumed from the northern oil fields of Kirkuk and is a major blow to Iraq's plans to boost oil exports up to 1 million barrels a day this month. Iraq also desperately needs the oil revenue to fund the reconstruction of the war- shattered country. Incidents of sabotage of the northern pipeline network in the past three months has delayed the speedy resumption of exports from the oil fields. "This leads to a loss in capacity supplying oil to refineries and for exports, " al-Ghadban said. In the most recent incident, saboteurs blew up the pipeline around 20 kilometers north of the main pumping and storage depot IT-1a, not far from the region's main refinery at Baiji, around 2300 GMT Thursday, he said. Workers are closing nearby valves and have the fire under control, al-Ghadban said. Typically, a crude-oil fire can take several days to extinguish. Al-Ghadban said it wasn't yet clear what the extent of the damage was. "Once the fire is extinguished, we will have to evaluate the damage and then find the right remedy and, depending on the fire and the damage, we will see whether we need to patch, clamp or remove (and replace) the pipeline," he said. Iraq is currently exporting 600,000 barrels a day to 700,000 b/d through a southern oil pipeline to the Mina al-Bakr oil terminal in the Persian Gulf - or about 30% of prewar volumes, oil ministry officials have said. Iraq's total production is currently around 1.5 million b/d - down from around 2.5 million b/ d before the war. But production and export in Iraq's giant southern oil region around Basra also is looking vulnerable, as looting and sabotage of power lines has cut electricity supplies and already delayed loadings of supertankers in the Persian Gulf. Ahmed Ibrahim, deputy to the Interior Ministry and the most senior Iraqi at the ministry, called on local tribes living near the pipeline to help provide some of the security in the area, which is mostly unguarded. "We're asking heads of tribes near where the pipeline passes to protect and guard the pipes because damage to the lines damages Iraq," he said at the news conference. The tribes will spearhead a much larger security force numbering several thousand and including elements as diverse as a contingent of Sufis, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, local Iraqi policemen and U.S. soldiers, oil officials have said. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/opinion/16_08_03_d.asp * PAYING IRAQ'S JEWS BACK, AND THE PALESTINIANS LESS by Michael R. Fischbach Lebanon Daily Star, 16th August The American occupation of Iraq has already opened up various legal and historical files, including issues such as war crimes tribunals and what to do about the country's Kurdish minority. A less well-known development is that former Iraqi Jews are seeking compensation for property frozen by the Iraqi government in the 1950s, when the emigrants left the country. Moves have already been made in this direction now that the US controls Iraq, affecting not only Iraqi reconstruction but also the future of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The Jewish property claims date back over half a century. As a result of inter-communal tensions stemming from the conflict between Zionism and the Arabs of Palestine, a majority in Iraq's ancient Jewish community emigrated under duress after 1948, especially in 1950-51. Most of them settled in Israel. The Iraqi Parliament passed a law in 1951 freezing the property of Jews who had renounced their Iraqi citizenship, which was a condition for emigration. The issue became enmeshed in the wider Arab-Israeli conflict when Israel announced in 1951 that it would deduct the value of the frozen property from any compensation it paid for the property of Palestinian refugees it had confiscated. The Israeli government undertook several campaigns to persuade Iraqi Jewish immigrants to register their property claims, most notably in 1955 when a special semi-governmental commission was established. To the government's disappointment, only 3,000-4,000 of the 37,000 Iraqi Jews in Israel bothered to register claims in the last campaign. The defeat of the Baath regime in Iraq resurrected such claims. As far back as the 1991 Gulf War, some Jews, including Yoram Dinstein, the president of Tel Aviv University, called for the defeated Iraqi government to compensate its former Jewish citizens as part of its international obligations to pay reparations for victims of its occupation of Kuwait. The recent Iraqi defeat led to a resumption of talk of compensation, especially among Iraqi Jews in the US. Several of them began contacting the World Jewish Congress (WJC) offices in New York on the matter. In San Francisco, Semha Alwaya, a prominent Jewish-Iraqi lawyer who is co-founder of a group called Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, has spoken publicly of filing a class action lawsuit in American courts. The object of such suits is to draw on Iraqi funds under US control. UN Security Council Resolution 1483, which ended the sanctions regime against Iraq, declared future Iraqi oil profits immune from lawsuits until 2007. However, the US controls other Iraqi funds. In March 2003, US President George W. Bush seized $1.74 billion in Iraqi assets placed in 18 US banks - assets that had been frozen since 1990. He also requested that foreign banks transfer some $600 million in Iraqi funds to a US account at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, pointing out that the funds would be used for the Iraqi people. However, at least $300 million of Iraqi assets frozen in the US were previously set aside by American courts for potential use in paying out claims raised by US citizens. The Bush administration has said it would honor such claims. Congress has also been looking into the matter of Iraqi Jews. In April 2003, a House member called for congressional hearings on Jewish emigrants from the Arab world. This past June, the House subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia held a briefing titled The Forgotten Refugees: The Jewish Exodus from Arab Lands. At least one other representative is contemplating submitting legislation for congressional approval dealing specifically with Jewish property in Iraq. In addition, Britain's House of Lords recently heard testimony on the fate of Jews from Arab countries. Jewish groups have also been working to secure property compensation for Jews from Iraq and other Arab countries. The WJC has held several conferences in recent months on the issue. Most such efforts predate Baghdad's fall, starting in the 1990s as a result of Israeli Palestinian negotiations. The World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries was formed in 1975, and has championed the cause of compensation, largely to support the Israeli government's linking the question to that of Palestinian refugee property compensation. The International Committee of Jews from Arab Lands (ICJAL) was formed in 1999 by the WJC and the American Sephardi Federation, and began gathering statistics on lost property. In May 2002, the Israeli Justice Ministry announced it was going to work with the ICJAL to establish a database on property, called the Jewish Refugees from Arab Lands Project. Another group, Justice for Jews in Arab Countries, was established in September 2002, although its focus thus far has been on securing "refugee" status for Jewish emigrants from the Arab world. Finally, the World Sephardi Federation approved a decision in June 2002 to sue the Arab League for restitution of Jewish property, although it has not yet done so. These claims will not only affect the future of Iraqi reconstruction, they will also have an impact on Israeli-Palestinian talks and on compensation for Palestinian refugees. For this reason, the Israeli government and some Jewish activists hesitate to raise compensation claims against Iraq now, preferring to use the issue as a bargaining tool with the Palestinians. Inter-organizational rivalries have also affected such efforts. It remains to be seen what the outcome will be. Michael R. Fischbach is a professor of history at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia. His book Records of Dispossession: Palestinian Refugee Property and the Arab-Israeli Conflict will be published in October. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR http://www.jordantimes.com/Mon/news/news1.htm * WAVE OF SABOTAGE HITS IRAQ Jordan Times, 18th August [.....] In southern Iraq, where rampant looting of copper electricity cables has caused widespread blackouts and slashed oil output, a Danish soldier was killed on Saturday evening in a gunbattle with thieves who had been stealing power lines. He was the first foreign soldier not from the US or British military to be killed in Iraq since the launch of the invasion that toppled Saddam in April. A military spokesman said the incident happened west of Basra after a routine Danish patrol tried to arrest eight Iraqi looters. Major Ian Poole, spokesman for the British military in Basra, said two of the Iraqis were also killed in the battle and the remaining six were arrested. [.....] http://jang.com.pk/thenews/aug2003-daily/18-08-2003/main/main6.htm * PIPELINE SABOTAGE SUBMERGES BAGHDAD News International, 18th August BAGHDAD: Sabotage of a water pipeline on Sunday caused huge floods in parts of Baghdad and deprived 300,000 people of running water, the International Committee of the Red Cross said. ICRC spokeswoman Nada Dumani said a rocket-propelled grenade hit an open-air section of a 5.3-ft diameter pipeline linking the Sabah Missan pumping station with the eastern Baghdad district of Rasafa. Technicians from Baghdad's water company have isolated the damaged part of the pipe and were to continue repairs on Monday and Tuesday, Dumani told AFP. "We heard an explosion at 0330 GMT and when we arrived on the scene we found a 40 centimetre wide hole in the pipe and water flowing out on to the road and around," police officer Majid Hamid told AFP. According to Hamid, the cause of the blast was an "explosive placed under the pipe" and not an RPG. "This explosion has cut the supply of drinking water to most parts of Rasafa and we opened a second pipe to provide water for people who came looking for water with jerry cans," the policeman said. Local residents, sweltering in scorching summer temperatures made worse by power outages cutting air conditioning, were quick to take advantage of the sabotage, merrily swimming in the improvised pool. Moreover six Iraqi prisoners were killed and 59 others wounded on late Saturday in a mortar attack on Abu Gharib prison on the outskirts of Baghdad, the US army said Sunday. Three mortar rounds hit the notorious prison, the army said in a press release. Three detainees died on the spot and another three died later from their wounds, it said. The other wounded detainees were evacuated to a US military hospital. Abu Gharib, 25 kilometres outside central Baghdad, has become a focus of anger at the US led occupation, with accusations that many of the 500 inmates are being held in horrid conditions. Abu Gharib's notoriety predates its present controversies: it was the jail from which deposed tyrant Saddam Hussein released thousands of violent inmates in the run up to the war. Many of the prisoners were in the prison yard when the mortars struck. Eighteen of the wounded were evacuated to a US military hospital at Yusufiah, 80 kilometres south of Baghdad. A member of Iraq's interim Governing Council, Samir Mahmud Sumaidy, went to the hospital to meet the wounded. [.....] In another incident, an Iraqi was killed and two US soldiers wounded in fresh attacks on coalition forces by suspected Saddam Hussein loyalists north of Baghdad, the army said. The Iraqi was killed when a US patrol came under rocket-propelled grenade fire in Taji, 15 kilometres north of Baghdad, and returned fire, Lieutenant Colonel Bill MacDonald said. The American soldiers, meanwhile, were wounded near Balad, 80 kilometres north of Baghdad, when their vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device, MacDonald said, adding that the soldiers were in a stable condition. Five more US soldiers were wounded when their convoy hit three landmines on a road near the hotspot western town of Ramadi, an Iraqi witness told AFP. An armoured vehicle in the convoy was destroyed in the blasts which occurred at about 1030 GMT, Tareq Torgan, 41, told AFP. He could not provide details on the condition of the wounded soldiers. [.....] Further north in Mosul, the police chief survived an assassination attempt, taking two bullets to the leg, the US military reported. Two people, apparently bodyguards, were killed and 14 were wounded, said spokesman Sgt. Danny Martin. "It was an ambush at an intersection," Martin said. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/EH16Ak02.html * MASSIVE MILITARY CONTRACTOR'S MEDIA MESS by Katrin Dauenhauer and Jim Lobe Asia Times, 16th August [.....] [SAIC] has been running the Iraqi Reconstruction and Development Council (IRDC) since the body was established by the Pentagon in February. According to press accounts, the 150 mostly-expatriate Iraqis employed in the program, most of whom have been in Baghdad since May, are to serve as the "Iraqi face" of the occupation authority. Senior members of the IRDC, many of who have been closely associated with the INC, hold posts at each of Iraq's 23 ministries with a mandate to rebuild them. Perhaps not coincidentally, SAIC's corporate vice president for strategic assessment and development, Christopher Ryan Henry, joined the Pentagon as deputy undersecretary of defense for policy at the same time as the IRDC got underway, serving with Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, who was in overall charge of preparing for post-war Iraq. SAIC is also a subcontractor under Vinnell Corporation, another big defense contractor that has long been in charge of training for the Saudi National Guard, hired to reconstitute and train a new Iraqi army. Not much is known about the progress that is being made in either of those projects, but a third has become, by all accounts, a major disaster. The Iraqi (sometimes referred to as "Indigenous") Media Network (IMN) project, valued initially at a minimum of US$25 million, was formally launched in mid-April as a successor to a psychological warfare program that beamed radio broadcasts before and during the war into Iraq from a C130 cargo plane called "Commando Solo". But the IMN was considerably more ambitious in scope, since its aim, as an outgrowth of the IRDC operation, was to put together a new information ministry, complete with television, radio and a newspaper, and the content that would make all three attractive to average Iraqis. To oversee the job, SAIC hired away the director of Voice of America (VOA), Robert Reilly, an outspoken right-wing ideologue who began his public career in the 1980s as a propagandist in the White House for the Nicaraguan contras. Reilly tangled immediately with his deputy, Mike Furlong, a Pentagon contractor who worked on media issues in Kosovo. Both men were out of the project by the end of June, according to knowledgeable sources. "SAIC didn't have any suitable qualification to run a media network," according to Rohan Jayasekera, who has kept an eye on media developments in Iraq for London-based Index on Censorship. "The whole thing was so incredibly badly planned by them that no one could make sense of what they were doing," he said. Jayasekera noted, for example, that SAIC ordered equipment that was incompatible with existing systems in Iraq and that it had made no plans for TV programming. When it asked for help from VOA, which considers itself a professional news organization, it was forced to rely on hastily patched together and dubbed network news programs, much of which would appeal only to a domestic audience. "Increasingly, the newscasts became irrelevant for Iraqis," one source told The Washington Post in May. "They're not really interested in the Laci Peterson [murder] case." A page reserved for the project on the website of the US provisional authority in Iraq said Wednesday, "There is no information available at this time." Three months into the project, Ahmad Rikabi, a highly-regarded Iraqi expatriate brought in to help manage the operation, abruptly quit, apparently frustrated at the lack of planning, resources and investment that SAIC put in the project and the hemorrhaging of his professional staff, some of whom had not been paid for weeks. "Saddam Hussein is doing better at marketing himself, through al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya Gulf channels," Rikabi told reporters. One of the project's principal trainers, Don North, who had worked with media in Afghanistan, has also quit, complaining to the New York Times that the Pentagon was not interested in professional journalism. "Its role was envisioned to be an information conduit," he said, "and not just rubberstamp flacking for the CPA", the initials of the occupation authority run by L Paul Bremer. The Pentagon itself has kept the project stumbling along on short-term contracts with SAIC, but, according to Jayasekera, is actively looking for an alternative. The fact that that SAIC was hired in the first place, however, "appears to have been a serious mistake". (Inter Press Service) http://www.aljazeerah.info/20%20n/UN%20Bombed%20in%20Baghdad.htm * UN BOMBED IN BAGHDAD by Naseer Al-Nahr Asharq Al-Awsat, Arab News, 20th August BAGHDAD, 20 August 2003 ‹ A suicide attacker set off a truck bomb yesterday at the hotel housing UN headquarters here. At least 20 UN workers and Iraqis were killed, including the chief UN representative in Iraq, and 100 were wounded. Sergio Vieira de Mello, a 55-year-old veteran Brazilian diplomat, was in his office when the explosion ripped through the building about 4:30 p.m. and was trapped in the rubble. Rescue workers battled into the night to save those trapped in the rubble as US President George W. Bush vowed not to be intimidated by "terrorists" and diehard supporters of fugitive dictator Saddam Hussein. The explosion came hours after the United States said Saddam' vice president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, No. 20 on a US list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis, had been captured in Mosul. Al-Jazeera satellite television said Ramadan was captured by Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) troops. He was wearing peasant clothing as a disguise. "He was hiding among his relatives or colleagues," PUK spokesman Latif Rashid said. Vieira de Mello's death was announced by UN spokesman Fred Eckhard in New York. All the national flags that ring the UN headquarters' entrance in New York were removed from their poles. The blue and white UN flag was lowered to half staff. Vieira de Mello survived for several hours in the wreckage of his office. It took the full force of the blast and may have been targeted. Speaking before he confirmed the envoy's death, chief UN spokesman Fred Eckhard stressed that the US occupying force was responsible for providing security in Iraq. Some of the UN's 300 or so staffers were still trapped, officials at the scene said. "I can't move. I can't feel my legs and arms. Dozens of people I know are still under the ruins," Majid Al-Hamaidi, 43, a driver for the World Bank, cried out. "Such terrorist incidents cannot break the will of the international community to further intensify its efforts to help the people of Iraq," the Security Council said in a statement. There was no claim of responsibility, just as there was none two weeks ago when a truck bomb shattered the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad, killing 17 people. Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner who is rebuilding the Iraqi police force, told reporters that evidence suggested the attack was a suicide bombing. "There was an enormous amount of explosives in what we believed to be a large truck," Kerik added. According to witnesses, a cement truck exploded at a concrete wall outside the hotel, but there were conflicting reports about whether the truck was parked or trying to drive through the security barrier. Among the dead was a Canadian who died at Wasiti Hospital, Dr. Safa Jamil said. The Canadian was not identified. A senior UNICEF official also was seriously wounded, UN officials said. Clouds of black smoke ruffled the sky blue UN flag in the hot Baghdad evening as dazed and bleeding workers were led from the rubble by US soldiers, some of them ferried off on stretchers to hospitals by US military helicopters. "I saw legs and arms, charred remains," said journalist Grant Hodgson, who was at a UN news conference when the blast struck. Last week, the Security Council set aside bitter differences over the US invasion that toppled Saddam and set up a mission to coordinate its mainly humanitarian effort in Iraq. Washington has rejected transferring power to the United Nations. After splits with allies like France, Russia and Germany over the war, Washington has shown little haste in seeking a bigger part for the United Nations in Iraq, although it would like more countries to share the burden of running the country. The UN complex houses numerous UN agencies and was the base for inspectors during the hunt for Saddam's banned weapons. Television pictures from inside the three-story building showed a man addressing reporters when it went dark at the sound of a huge explosion, around 4:30 p.m. (1230 GMT). ‹ Additional input from agencies _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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