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Iraq news

  • Iraq government crackdown on begging (Associated Press)
  • Iraqis Urged to Fight U.S. 'Enemy (Associated Press)
  • Butler says U.N. left no explosives at UNSCOM headquarters in Iraq (CNN)
  • US Suspects Iraq, Russia and North Korea of Smallpox Weapon (Associated Press)
  • Sailors stranded in the Gulf (The Economist)
  • Forgotten (The Economist)
(Thanks to Colin Rowat for Economist Articles) 


Crackdown on Iraqi Begging Business

By Waiel Faleh, Associated Press Writer, Sunday, June 13, 1999; 8:22 p.m. EDT

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- People caught begging in public places will be imprisoned for one to three months under a new decree issued by President Saddam Hussein, the state-run newspaper reported Sunday. The decree, published in Al-Jumhuriya, states that ``a punishment of one to three months in prison will be applied if the person, over 18 years of age, is caught soliciting in public places.'' Saddam's decree calls for punishment to be increased to one year in prison in cases where ``the solicitor made up a defect or a handicap or any means of cheating to make his job easier.'' Prior to the 1991 Gulf War, begging was a rare sight in Iraq. But U.N. sanctions imposed on Iraq have resulted in fewer jobs, lower salaries and a higher cost of living, forcing some citizens turn to the streets to earn their living.

In Baghdad -- and even in the smallest country town -- young and old alike solicit money or food from passers-by. Some display disfiguring handicaps or open wounds; others reach with dirty hands for money from houses or cars stopped at red lights. ``We cannot beg in (our hometown) because we may meet some of the people we know,'' said a 58-year-old man soliciting money at an intersection. ``So I came to Baghdad with my family and took this busy square with red lights as place of business.''

The man, who asked not to be identified, said his wife and six children, ranging from 6 to 15 years old, sleep in the garden near the square and use a water faucet in a nearby garden for drinking and washing.

U.N. sanctions against Iraq, imposed after Baghdad's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, cannot be lifted until U.N. inspectors determine that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction.


Butler says U.N. left no explosives at UNSCOM headquarters in Iraq

June 11, 1999, Web posted at: 10:21 PM EDT (0221 GMT)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The chief U.N. weapons inspector said Friday that U.N. officials left behind no explosives when they left U.N. headquarters in Iraq, clarifying an issue raised in the Security Council by Russia's ambassador. Ambassador Sergey Lavrov had briefly mentioned the explosives on Tuesday when he inquired about the status of plans to send a team to Baghdad to remove some chemical and biological agents that were left in the U.N. laboratory when inspectors withdrew from Iraq in December, ahead of U.S. and British airstrikes. Lavrov had told the council that Iraqi officials were now saying explosives were left behind as well, diplomats reported at the time. In a letter to the Security Council, chief inspector Richard Butler said U.N. personnel left behind no explosives. He said inspectors did indeed use the devices in July 1998 to render safe some proscribed Iraqi missile turbopumps, but that all explosives were used up. He noted that Iraq had used its own explosives to destroy its weapons of mass destruction, which is required by U.N. resolutions that ended the Gulf War.


Iraqis Urged to Fight U.S. 'Enemy

By Waiel Faleh, Associated Press Writer, Sunday, June 13, 1999; 10:24 a.m. EDT

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- President Saddam Hussein has urged Iraqis to start military training and be ready to combat the American ``enemy,'' the official media reported Sunday. Addressing his top military commanders, Saddam also rebuked his Arab neighbors for providing U.S. troops in the Gulf with military bases and facilities. ``We have no other option but to train the men and to continue training,'' Saddam was quoted by the ruling Baath Party newspaper Al-Thawra. ``This is not only to prepare people for combat to defend their country, but also to give them impetus to face difficulties,'' the newspaper quoted Saddam as saying.

Al-Thawra said Saddam predicted that the Americans would be defeated in a confrontation with Iraq.

``We are nearing the day in which the enemy will announce by itself that it has no alternative but to leave'' the region, Saddam said. Iraq's official media reported last week that Saddam had a series of meetings with senior army and Baath party officials, apparently in reaction to recent reports of unrest in several parts of Iraq.

The Clinton administration has said it wants a new government in Iraq and promised material and training, but no military help, for the Iraqi opposition. Last year, the U.S. Congress endorsed a plan to provide $95 million to Iraqi opposition groups and $2 million to beam anti-Saddam radio broadcasts into Iraq. Saddam said without help from some of Iraq's Arab neighbors, the United States could not continue its ``aggression against Iraq.''


US Suspects Some of Smallpox Weapon

Saturday, June 12, 1999; 9:51 p.m. EDT


NEW YORK (AP) -- Government officials say Russia, Iraq and North Korea are probably concealing the deadly smallpox virus for military use, The New York Times reports in Sunday editions. A secret federal intelligence assessment was completed late last year. It was based on evidence that includes disclosures by a senior Soviet defector, blood samples from the North Korean soldiers that show smallpox vaccinations and the fairly recent manufacture of smallpox vaccine by Iraq, according to the report. Officials told the Times that the assessment was an important factor in President Clinton's recent decision to reverse course and forgo destruction of American stockpiles of the virus. Besides the United States, only Russia retains openly declared stocks of the virus. The intelligence assessment concludes that Russia is most likely hiding additional stocks of the virus at military sites, the Times said. Although the United States has about 56,000 troops stationed near Iraq and North Korea and is periodically bombing Iraq, the officials told the newspaper there are appears to be no imminent military threat involving the virus.


The Economist, 5 June, 1999

Sailors stranded in the Gulf

K A L B A , F U J A I R A H: IN A remote fishing harbour on the Indian Ocean coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a dishevelled Iranian sailor casts his line into the water. Although the feeble tug in response means he might get a meal today, it brings the poor fellow small cheer. Like 41 other sailors from three cargo ships anchored at the port of Kalba, in the tiny Fujairah emirate, he was left to his own devices months ago by his employers, a Dubai-based shipping company. Since December, the crewmen, who come from Iran, Iraq, India and Bangladesh, say they have received no food, water, fuel or pay. The ships have been impounded by customs while their case goes through the law courts. The men have no money either to go home, or to support their families. To raise money for food, some have tried, but failed, to sell their blood to Kalba's health clinic.

This sad little story is being mirrored all over the Gulf: hapless crews find themselves having to beg for rations while their impounded vessels lie idle in port. Shipping sources say that although the problem is not unique to the Gulf, it is particularly prevalent here. With the shipping industry going through hard times, anyone can pick up a second-hand freighter at bargain-basement prices. Asian sailors are only too happy to sign on as crew. But then, all too often, the owners vanish when the company runs into debt.

A seafarers' welfare officer says the situation is complicated by smuggling. Until March last year, rusting barges did a prosperous trade smuggling Iraqi fuel oil into UAE ports. But after a series of disastrous oil spills, a recent law has banned the practice. Since then, much of the trans-shipment business in smuggled Iraqi oil has moved off-shore of Fujairah, just outside the Gulf but still in UAE waters. In this fast-moving criminal underworld crews and captains play for high stakes. When business is good, everyone makes huge profits. But when ships are caught by coastguards, the crew ends up penniless, possibly in jail or deported.

Almost invariably, the owners get away with it. Often, they are from countries outside the Gulf and impossible to trace. But sometimes discreet inquiries reveal that the owner is a local sheikh with some powerful friends in government.


The Economist, 12 June, 1999


THE more paranoid Arab commentators insist that NATO's war with Yugoslavia is designed to distract attention from America's war with Iraq. Kosovo may have pushed Iraq out of the headlines but, for policymakers in Washington, diplomats at the United Nations and American and British pilots patrolling the skies over northern and southern Iraq, the battle continues, as fiercely and inconclusively as ever. And the plight of ordinary Iraqis worsens by the day.

Since a four-day bombing blitz last December, the UN Security Council has been split over Iraq. Inspectors from UNSCOM, the UN body charged with disarming Iraq, decamped to Bahrain to sit out the bombardment, and have not been allowed back. All the veto-wielding members of the council agree that some sort of arms-control regime must resume to winkle out Iraq's remaining biological and chemical weapons. But they disagree over what concessions to make to Iraq in return. Russia, China and France argue that the oil embargo should be suspended when Iraq allows inspectors to return. A British and Dutch proposal, backed by America, stipulates a four-month waiting period to ensure compliance with a new inspection regime. The Iraqis say they have no more banned weapons, and demand an unconditional end to sanctions.

A special UN panel was convened in March to find a way out of this deadlock, but it failed. A recent French proposal supposedly blended the Anglo-Dutch and Russian schemes, but ended up pleasing no one—least of all the Iraqis. Even the relatively simple matter of sending a team to dismantle UNSCOM's abandoned laboratory in Baghdad caused a kerfuffle in the Security Council. With Kosovo taking centre-stage, there is little diplomatic capital to expend on Iraq. Even if there were, the American view (no let-up in the pressure on Saddam Hussein) and the Russian, Chinese and French line (that the crippling nine-year embargo must be eased) seem irreconcilable.

Indeed, America wants to tighten the screws. Its planes have bombed Iraq on average every three days since January, ostensibly because of Iraqi infractions of the two "no-fly zones" that America and Britain have declared in the north and south of the country. In practice, the Americans welcome any chance to weaken Mr Hussein's army. They still hope, Iraqi opposition groups say, that eight years and five bombing campaigns after the Gulf war, the Iraqi armed forces will turn on their master.

The Americans insist that internal dissent—as evidenced by the bomb attack that killed several members of a Baghdad-based Iranian militia on June 9th—shows that Mr Hussein's police state is weaker than outsiders imagine. Congress has long wanted to arm and train Iraqi opposition groups to help them topple Mr Hussein, and last year authorised the administration to do that.

But the administration has dragged its feet, arguing that the opposition is weak and divided, and none of Iraq's neighbours is willing to support it. In late May it agreed to hand out some fax machines and photocopiers for the war effort—but no guns. The main opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress (INC), has smartened itself up, dropped its unpopular president, Ahmad Chalabi, and recruited representatives from the most powerful Kurdish, Shia and Sunni factions. This revamped INC plans to hold a much-hyped meeting next month, hoping to turn decision-makers' heads.

In the meantime, an exceptionally hot, dry summer has withered nearly three-quarters of this year's crops. TheTigris in Baghdad is reduced to a third of its normal level, disease-ridden livestock are dying of hunger, and worse is still to come. The oil-for-food programme, whereby Iraq is allowed to sell some oil to pay for humanitarian imports, has been hit by low oil prices and run-down Iraqi infrastructure; in the past six months, it raised $3 billion, $2.2 billion less than projected. In the two years that the scheme has run, Iraq's rates of malnutrition and disease have stabilised, but education, agriculture and electricity-generation have deteriorated. The Security Council has allowed Iraq to pump more oil but America and Britain veto many contracts for new oil equipment. And appeals for extra aid for Iraq's 20m people have fallen on deaf ears.


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