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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

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20 January 2003, Volume  6, Number  2

NOTE TO READERS: RFE/RL announces the launch of the "Tracking Inspections" website, which provides a comprehensive look at daily inspections in Iraq as reported by the Iraqi Foreign Ministry and UNMOVIC and the IAEA. See it at: Tracking Inspections.


'BABIL' NEWSPAPER ACKNOWLEDGES U.S. E-MAIL CAMPAIGN.

Iraq's "Babil" newspaper, run by President Saddam Hussein's son Uday Saddam Hussein, has published an article on its website (http://www.iraq2000.com/babil) acknowledging the U.S. e-mail campaign aimed at encouraging Iraqi soldiers and civilian officials to not involve themselves should war break out between U.S.-led forces and Iraq. "Babil" reported that the e-mail messages were in Arabic, adding, "A number of Iraqis, especially government employees, senior officials, academics, and scientists, use e-mail." "Visitors to the Iraqi capital...have confirmed the e-mail campaign, which is within the context of the psychological warfare launched by the U.S. Special Operations Command," the website reported.

The South African "Independent Online" (http://www.iol.co.za) reported on 12 January that Internet access was temporarily cut off in Iraq. An Internet-cafe worker told "Independent Online" that "there has been a problem for two days but it will work again tomorrow morning [13 January]." One of the e-mails reportedly stated, "If you provide information on weapons of mass destruction or you take steps to hamper their use, we will do what is necessary to protect you and protect your families.... Failing to do that will lead to grave personal consequences," "Independent Online" reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQ REPORTS SIX CITIZENS WOUNDED BY U.S.-U.K. AIR RAIDS.

A spokesman from the Iraqi Air Defense Command stated on 13 January that six citizens were wounded in a U.S.-U.K. attack on service and civilian installations in the Basra Governorate that day, Iraq Radio reported. "U.S. and British 'ravens of evil' violated our airspace coming from the land of Kuwait," the spokesman said, adding that the U.S.-U.K. planes conducted approximately 60 combat sorties with the support of AWACS aircraft operating inside Saudi airspace. "This brings the number of combat air sorties carried out by the ravens from the land of Kuwait since the Day of Conquest on 17 December 1998 to date to a total of 19,637," the spokesman said. He added that 14 sorties were also carried out from military bases in Turkey, backed by an AWACS aircraft inside Turkish airspace, bringing the total number of sorties from Turkish territory "since the day of conquest" to 9,986. He said the total number of sorties carried out from military bases in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait since 17 December 1998 is 47,135. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI OPPOSITION DELAYS IRAQI CONGRESS.

A Reuters dispatch of 15 January notes that the Iraqi opposition cancelled what would have been its first congress on Iraqi soil because the United States could not guarantee security for the meeting. A 65-member grouping of the opponents of President Hussein was due to meet in Salah al-Din on 22 January. Now the meeting will not take place until early February. U.S. presidential envoy Almay Khalilizad told the opposition that extra protection might be possible in early February. The Kurds, who have a long border with Baghdad-controlled Iraq, fear a confrontation with Iraqi troops. They have been betrayed by Britain and the United States several times in the last century. (David Nissman)

SCIRI OFFICIAL CRITICIZES U.S. INVOLVEMENT IN OPPOSITION MEETING.

Hamid al-Bayati, the London representative for the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) told Al-Jazeera on 15 January that his organization declined to attend a 14 January meeting with officials in Washington to discuss the now-cancelled 22 January meeting of the Iraqi opposition's Follow-Up and Coordination Committee in Salah al-Din. Al-Bayati complained that the invitation from U.S. officials came only one day before the 14 January meeting. "We do not consider it necessary to have discussions with U.S. officials about a meeting to be held by the Follow-up and Coordination Committee, which emanated from the opposition conference in Kurdistan, north of Iraq. This is an Iraqi issue and an Iraqi affair that has to do with the Iraqi opposition," Al-Bayati said. "We do not accept any country interfering in or imposing anything on the Iraqi opposition or the Follow-up and Coordination Committee meeting in Kurdistan," he added. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

SCIRI REPRESENTATIVE SAYS IRAQ STORING WEAPONS IN CIVILIAN AREAS.

Mohammad Hariri, representative for SCIRI's Lebanon office, has said General Ali Hassan al-Majid is leading an Iraqi government initiative to divide Iraq into four security zones, designating potentially unstable areas where uprisings might occur as "black" areas, according to an 11 January report in Beirut's "The Daily Star." "If there is any uprising [Iraqi troops] are going to completely raze the black areas," Hariri said. In addition, he said radar centers and rocket launchers have been installed in civilian areas such as Najaf and Amarah. They are typically placed near schools and mosques, the daily reported. In addition, chemical and biological weapons as well as "large containers of fuel oil" have also been stored in civilian areas and will be blown up if Iraq is invaded. "Most of the preparations being taken by the regime are against the people rather than against an American invasion," Hariri said, adding that the regime fears an uprising. He claimed the first line of defense would be Al-Kut, south of Baghdad. His information reportedly came from Sunni tribes and some Iraqi Army officers. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

TALABANI ON IRAN, OPPOSITION, OIL.

Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), was interviewed by the Tehran newspaper "Iran" on 12 January. He predicted the future of Iraq to be "democratic, parliamentarian, and federal." He was asked about his claim that in the event of an American attack on Iraq, Iran would not be endangered, and whether America had given any guarantees that could be implemented. He replied: "America has asked us to discuss this issue with our Iranian brothers. They said they are prepared to provide the necessary guarantee to Iran." However, he added that the U.S. did not say what kind of guarantee it were willing to provide.

On 9 January Talabani met with Iranian Minister of Information Ali Yunesi, who praised the London opposition conference and its political statement, according to a report in "Kurdistani Nuwe" of 11 January. Talabani, for his part, expressed the wish that the friendly relations between the Kurds and Iran would grow stronger. On the subject of Iraq, he explained that the Kurdish interest was the establishment of a "united federal parliamentary Iraq."

In connection with the alleged claims of Turkey to the oil of Kirkuk and Mosul, he said, "I don't think Turkey covets the oil resources of Kirkuk and Mosul." He claimed, in addition, that Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis had not expressed such views.

As far as the London opposition meeting to be held in Irbil is concerned, he noted that it may be delayed because many delegates have not yet arrived. He also claimed that parties which had not attended the London meeting "made a mistake,... but the majority of Iraqi parties attended the conference." With regard to the 65-member committee named at the conference, Talabani responded to criticism that it lacked an Arab identity, claiming: "We have 30 Sunnis, three Christians, and 32 Shi'i. Those who say that the makeup of the committee is not right are either ignorant or they are agents of the Iraqi regime."

The interviewer asked him when the Kurdish forces and those of SCIRI would make a move against Saddam Hussein. He answered, "The day we know for sure that the use of our forces will result in the overthrow of Saddam." (David Nissman)

AL-SULAYMANIYAH GOVERNORATE HEAD SAYS ARAB LEADERS TOOK WRONG APPROACH.

Barham Salih, prime minister of PUK-controlled territory of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Al-Sulaymaniyah, criticized Arab League Secretary-General Amr Musa and other Arab leaders in an interview he gave to Al-Jazeera television from Washington on 16 January. Those leaders "should have led the campaign for defending the Iraqi people and their democratic aspirations," he said. "These countries and these Arab institutions should have led the campaign for change in Iraq, and not leave it for the Americans and other foreign forces," Salih added. He also said that some Arab states believe they can maintain the "status quo," keep the regime of President Hussein, and maintain the oppression of the Iraqi people. Salih met with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney while in Washington, D.C. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. TO BEGIN TRAINING IRAQIS IN HUNGARY...

The Pentagon has informed Iraqi opposition members who have volunteered to serve with U.S. forces that they are to check in at marshaling centers in the coming days, AP reported on 15 January. The trainees are to be screened at the marshaling centers before being flown to Taszar, Hungary, located 195 kilometers southeast of Budapest, where they will be trained to serve as support staff, the news agency reported, citing three unidentified sources. "Up to 3,000 Iraqis are expected to be trained eventually to serve in such jobs as translators, guides, military police, and liaisons between coalition combat forces and the Iraqi population," according to AP. Hungary's Radio Kossuth reported on 13 January that Iraqis will begin training sometime after 26 January. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AS IRAQIS CONTINUE TO ARRIVE AT BORDERS.

Eight Iraqis have recently been found along the Serbian-Hungarian border. Hungarian border police on 11 January picked up seven Iraqis traveling with Afghan and Iranian refugees near Tompa, Budapest's Duna TV reported on 12 January. The Iraqi men told border police they fled Iraq two weeks earlier in an effort to "save their lives" after being called up to report for military duty, according to the television station. The men apparently paid a Kurdish smuggler $1,000 to get to Istanbul, where another smuggler took them to Hungary for $2,500. On 13 January, an Iraqi Army officer was arrested when he attempted to illegally cross the Serbian-Hungarian border near Tompa, BETA news agency reported on 14 January. A spokesman for the Hungarian border police confirmed the man's identity, but an official from the Prime Minister's Office declined to comment on the man's arrest. The officer reportedly told border police he had fled Iraq, BETA reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

HUNGARIAN SECRET SERVICE LAUNCHES PROBE INTO LEAK OF FALSE INFORMATION...

The National Security Office is launching an extensive investigation to determine who leaked false information to the media that an Iraqi refugee captured by border guards late last week admitted to being a former colonel in Saddam Hussein's army, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 16 January, quoting sources close to the government. The report was made public before security services could verify the man's identity or the veracity of his statements. The mix-up allegedly turned out to be the result of a translating error at the man's debriefing, at which he was misinterpreted as saying he served as a colonel in the Iraqi Army. Government authorities say leaking reports on refugees is dangerous, as Iraqi authorities could search out, imprison, or even kill the next of kin of refugees who "betray" their country. In addition, it might also represent a national-security threat for Hungary, according to the same sources in "Nepszabadsag," as Iraqi authorities will thus be well-informed as to what kind of people are seeking refugee status in Hungary. (Matyas Szabo)

...AS HUNGARIAN OFFICIAL CLARIFIES TASZAR ACTIVITIES.

Arabic-speaking personnel who could serve as liaisons between U.S. troops and Iraqi citizens in a potential military conflict in Iraq will be trained at the Taszar military air base "for keeping law and order and being involved in a temporary public administration in Iraq," State Secretary for the secret services Andras Toth told "Magyar Hirlap" on 15 January. He said Iraqis and Kurds who are in "contractual relationships" with the U.S. Army will take part in the training. Meanwhile, Hungarian Defense Ministry Office chief Janos Gombos assured attendees at a recent conference of county mayors and defense-committee leaders that the Taszar training will constitute no danger to Hungary. (Matyas Szabo)

GERMANS ON TRIAL FOR ATTEMPTED WMD SALE.

Two Germans went on trial in Mannheim for attempting to sell the Iraqis a giant cannon which was "capable of firing not only conventional, but also nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons," according to a story in "The Guardian" on 15 January. Iraq has dismissed the charges as part of a "plot inspired by Israel and the U.S." The two Germans are alleged to have acted as intermediaries in purchasing drills to bore the huge barrels needed for Iraq's Al-Fao project, which is designed to fire 100-kilogram projectiles over 50 kilometers.

On a similar note, a Finnish fugitive was extradited from Johannesburg, South Africa, to Finland for his involvement in a gunrunning operation to Iraq, according to SAPA on 13 January. Details of the types of weapons he was running were not supplied. (David Nissman)

CZECH MILITARY REPORTS SAY IRAQ HAS SMALLPOX VIRUS IN WEAPONS STOCKPILE.

High-ranking Czech officers cited by dpa on 15 January said President Hussein "very likely" possesses a dangerous strain of the smallpox virus as part of his biological-weapons stockpile. Military health-service chief Jan Petras said Iraq has a strain called Aralsk 1970, originally developed in the former Soviet Union. Petras also said it is "almost certain" that Iraq's stockpile includes a weapon-modified form of an animal disease called camelpox. He also said former Soviet biological scientists might currently be working in Iraq. (Michael Shafir)

BELARUS DENIES HAVING SENT MILITARY CARGO TO IRAQ.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement on 15 January that Belarus cooperates with Iraq in strict compliance with UN Security Council's sanctions, which excludes any deliveries of dual-purpose equipment to Iraq, Belapan reported. The statement followed media reports that authorities at Beirut International Airport confiscated a shipment containing tank helmets, uniforms, and communications gear brought from Belarus to be smuggled into Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January 2003). The ministry linked the reports to the planned visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Minsk on 20 January, saying they were aimed at "creating a negative background" and "diminishing the importance of the issues to be discussed." Lebanese State Prosecutor Adnan Addum confirmed in an interview with RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 15 January that the seized cargo came from Belarus. (Jan Maksymiuk)

ANSAR AL-ISLAM LEADER VOWS TO USE CHEMICAL WEAPONS IF U.S. TROOPS INVADE IRAQ.

The new leader of Ansar Al-Islam, Mullah Muhammad Hasan, has said, "If America invades Iraq, we will attack its troops," London's "The Sunday Telegraph" reported on 12 January. Hasan's comments were made to Turkish journalist Namik Durukan in the town of Biyare (northern Iraq). Ansar apparently has stores of chemical agents, including cyanide gas, ricin, and aflatoxin. A former Iraqi Mukhabarat agent named Abu Wa'il is reportedly responsible for smuggling the chemical agents into northern Iraq. "Ansar has taken chemical weapons left over from the Iran-Iraq war," according to Kurdish official Muhammad Aziz. "We feel the pressure of waiting in fear that [Ansar] will throw chemicals on us again and hell will return," Aziz added.

Other Kurdish officials have reported that the group is carrying out chemical-weapons testing on animals and humans, and has dispatched suicide bombers targeting Kurdish leaders on at least one occasion, according to the newspaper report. The 2,000-strong group claims to have killed 1,000 Kurdish peshmerga since last year. Durukan reported that he observed hundreds of foreign fighters in the region, many of them believed to be Taliban, walking the streets with their families in tow. In addition, Western intelligence officials observed members of the Iraqi Republican Guard in two Ansar-run villages last year, "The Sunday Telegraph" reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

AL-QAEDA DOCUMENT FOUND IN KABUL HIGHLIGHTS ANSAR AL-ISLAM STRUGGLE IN KURDISTAN.

A memorandum found in an Al-Qaeda guesthouse in Kabul highlighted the struggle for Kurdistan by Islamic militants. The memorandum, dated 11 August 2001 and from a group called the Iraqi Kurdistan Islamic Brigade, points out that the "Islamic Brigade [ketibe] has already succeeded around Halabja and will try to establish an Islamic order [Shariah]" according to a translation of the document appearing in "The New York Times" on 13 January.

The "Islamic Brigade", known as the Jund al-Islam but later changed its name to the Ansar al-Islam, has been fighting for control of an area around Halabja along the Iranian border with Iraq for two years (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 13 September 2001) against PUK forces. The memorandum asks the Islamic Unity Movement of Kurdistan to cut its links to the PUK and apply the Shari'a in areas which it controls.

Also, "Yekgirtu" of Irbil on 10 January carried an interview with Umar Abd-al-Aziz, a member of the Kurdistan Islamic Union Political Bureau, with regard to the anticipated changes in Iraq. While conceding the necessity of changing the regime, he stated: "We are not for foreign interference and the imposition of a military governor. We believe that such procedures will further complicate the political conditions in Iraq."

A recent article in "The New York Times" on 12 January highlights the fighting around Shinirwe Mountain which overlooks Halabja. The basic issue is not that the Ansar al-Islam has so many troops (the article assumes some 600), but that they would endanger U.S. troops if there is, in fact, an armed confrontation with Saddam Hussein. A U.S. official has confirmed that Ansar al-Islam is linked with Al-Qaeda. (David Nissman)

IRAQI PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER SAYS INSPECTORS SEEK INTELLIGENCE THROUGH QUESTIONS.

Iraqi presidential adviser Amir al-Sa'di has said UN inspectors are asking questions that are unrelated to the production of arms and UN monitoring, calling them instead "intelligence questions." In an undated interview with the Amman-based "Al-Arab Al-Yawm" of 13 January, al-Sa'di added that Iraq has been forthright in its declaration of weapons of mass destruction. "From our viewpoint, there aren't any gaps in the Iraqi declarations," he said. "The things we heard about the so-called gaps are a legacy of the UN Commission, UNSCOM, which lost its credibility, gave up work, and left behind a bad report, which Iraq did not accept as a realistic one or having anything to do with weapons of mass destruction." Al-Sa'di said in response to comments by UNMOVIC head Blix and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohammad el-Baradei that Iraq must show more cooperation that, "We have taken note of that and seen it in their report to the Security Council." "This matter will be the subject of discussion," he said in reference to the upcoming meeting of the UN and International Atomic Energy Agency heads and Iraqi officials. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQ TV REPORTS ON 12TH VISIT TO AL-QA'QA STATE COMPANY.

Iraq Satellite TV reported on the 12th visit of inspectors to the Al-Qa'qa State Company on 14 January. Company representative Umar Ahmad al-Khaujah told the television station that IAEA inspectors "inquired about the substance that is under their monitoring, which is oxygen." "We have no substances associated with weapons of mass destruction," he added. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

NATIONAL MONITORING DIRECTORATE HEAD GIVES BRIEFING ON INSPECTIONS.

National Monitoring Directorate (NMD) head General Husam Muhammad Amin updated reporters on where UN inspections in Iraq stand during his weekly briefing on 16 January, and carried on Al-Jazeera. Amin said that inspectors have thus far visited 380 sites, "including 62 sites not listed under the monitoring regime or visited for the first time." The numbers Amin provided do not add up, but according to him the number of missile sites visited is 57, the number of chemical sites inspected is 27, biological inspections stand at 96, and nuclear inspections total 176. The number of sites mentioned in the 7 December 2002 Iraqi declaration total 456, according to Amin. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

UN INSPECTORS UNCOVER EMPTY WARHEADS.

UN weapons inspectors uncovered "11 empty 122-millimeter chemical warheads and one warhead that requires further evaluation," according to a daily statement released by UNMOVIC/IAEA spokesman Hiro Ueki on 16 January. Inspectors found the warheads at the Ukhaidar Ammunition Stores, located 70 kilometers south of Karbala. The site was last visited by a joint team of inspectors on 7 January. "The warheads were in excellent condition and were similar to ones imported by Iraq during the late 1980s," Ueki said. "The team used portable X-ray equipment to conduct a preliminary analysis of one of the warheads and collected samples for chemical testing." An unidentified UN arms expert on 16 January said the discovery "was not a significant issue by itself," AFP reported.

In response to the UNMOVIC/IAEA announcement, National Monitoring Directorate (NMD) head General Husam Muhammad Amin on 16 January said: "It is neither chemical, neither biological. It is empty warheads. It is small artillery rockets. It is expired rockets, and they were forgotten without any intention to use them," AFP reported. Amin said that inspectors found some sealed boxes during their inspection at the Ukhaidar Ammunition Stores and requested that they be opened. "When they opened it, it appeared that they are [122-millimeter] artillery rockets. They are not weapons of mass destruction," he said. The NMD head added that the warheads of this kind were declared in the 7 December 2002 Iraqi declaration to the UN Security Council. The warheads in question were imported by Iraq in 1986 and have expired, he said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

INSPECTORS SEARCH SITE BELONGING TO MUJAHEDIN KHALQ ORGANIZATION.

A joint UNMOVIC inspection team on 14 January searched a site belonging to the Iranian terrorist opposition group Mujahedin Khalq Organization, according to a statement by the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. A team of 33 inspectors searched the site, while "two cars from the team" went to the Al-Azim Munitions Depot where inspectors checked a number of warehouses. Reuters reported on 16 January that a team flew helicopters over the site during the ground inspection. UNMOVIC did not provide any details on the inspection. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

UN INSPECTORS CHECK SCIENTISTS' HOMES.

UN weapons inspectors on 16 January went to the homes of two Iraqi scientists, Faleh Hassan Hamza and Shaker al-Jabouri, Reuters reported. Both live in the Al-Ghazaliyah neighborhood of Baghdad. Hamza heads the Al-Razi State Company, which was inspected by the IAEA on 23 December. The company is declared as a site involved in laser-development and military projects, according to the IAEA. There was no immediate information available on al-Jabouri. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI SCIENTIST SAYS INSPECTORS SEARCH OF HIS HOME WAS 'PROVOCATIVE.'

Scientist Shaker al-Jabouri, in an interview with Iraq Satellite Television, called the 16 January inspection of his home by UN weapons inspectors "provocative." "This is a provocative act and is intended to pressure and harm the Iraqis," he said. "Pressuring our families and harming them and entering houses are illegal acts." The scientist said inspectors searched the house completely, including "personal things, furniture, and beds." Asked whether inspectors confiscated documents from the house, he answered, "no." "They turned papers and personal documents, such as pictures and others, in order to find any document that can harm Iraq," al-Jabouri claimed. He also said his personal office, a storage room and refrigerator and freezer were also inspected. "Although they tried to harm us, we cooperated with them," he said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

UNMOVIC HEAD SAYS IRAQ MUST COME CLEAN...

UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Hans Blix told AP that Iraq must provide further evidence to UN weapons inspectors about its chemical-, biological-, and nuclear-weapons programs if it wants to avert war. "We need to have more evidence supplied to us. There are a great many open questions as to [Iraq's] possession of weapons of mass destruction [WMD] and the Security Council and the world would like to be assured that these questions [are being] sorted out," Blix said in an interview with AP published on 14 January. "We think they have more evidence," the UN chief said, adding, "In the situation in which they find themselves, I think they should make a very strong effort to produce this." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AND INSPECTORS ARE TAKING ADVANTAGE OF INTELLIGENCE INFORMATION...

Referring to U.S. and British claims of evidence regarding Iraq's WMD programs, Blix stated, "We are getting much more information from several sources, and...that increases our credibility and the number of places [inspectors] can go to," AP reported. Blix later told ITV Television on 14 January that the United States and Britain "have given us a lot of information about how they calculate their programs and what size they are and so forth." However, he added that "we need actionable evidence. That is, indications of where we can go, places we can inspect." On the subject of interviewing Iraqi scientists abroad, he added, "We don't think we should be a mechanism for defection." He hinted that there are no immediate plans for interviewing scientists outside Iraq, AP reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AND THAT SECURITY COUNCIL WILL DECIDE ON CONTINUING INSPECTIONS.

In his interview with AP, Blix said inspections could continue for months but the decision to do so will lay with the UN Security Council. "We can see a lot of work ahead of us beyond that date [27 January] if we are allowed to do so." Blix said. He added that he does not know if the United States would be willing to wait for inspectors to complete their activities. "It could be that one day they will say, 'Move aside boys, we are coming in,'" AP quoted Blix as telling the BBC on 13 January. The UN chief said inspectors will identify key disarmament tasks that Iraq must fulfill in order for sanctions to be lifted by March, AP reported. Blix also told AP that inspections are a far less costly endeavor than war. "We are perhaps 250 or 300 people on the inspection side. We cost about $80 million a year," he said. "If you take the armed path, you are talking about $100 billion. You're talking about 250,000 men. You're talking about a lot of people killed and injured, a lot of damage." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

UNMOVIC OFFICIALS HINT THAT UNDECLARED SITES IN IRAQ WILL BE CHECKED.

UN officials have been hinting in recent days that inspectors will soon make more use of Western intelligence on Iraq's placement of weapons of mass destruction and begin focusing on locations not included in Iraq's declaration to the UN Security Council. "I don't want to go into operational things, but certainly we have already visited sites which have not been visited before, and there will be more of them coming," the BBC quoted Hans Blix as saying on 14 January. "We have widened our net, as it were," Blix said. "Whether the quality of work improves depends upon how good the intelligence turns out to have been." Meanwhile, the BBC reported on 14 January that Dimitris Perricos, the head of UNMOVIC inspections inside Iraq, told the Greek daily "Ta Nea" on 13 January that "it's true the Iraqis are opening doors, but they are opening installations they know we are aware of. The real test will be when we start going to facilities where they will be surprised."

In addition, Blix told the BBC on 14 January that inspectors have a clear idea of how inspections should proceed in the coming months. "I certainly have a sense of what we want to inspect further, and how we are going to build up the operation and be able to cover more and more places...[and to] make use of any intelligence of sites that are given to us," Blix said. Inspectors are helped by the use of helicopters and satellites, but "whether one can find any hidden cave of stores or a mobile laboratory, for instance, that is more doubtful and that will depend very much upon the evidence," he said. "But I don't think they can give an assurance that the last pieces will be found." Blix concluded that inspectors will never be completely sure about Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction. "You will not get 100 percent assurance with the inspection, but you can get very far in terms of assurance," he said. "The question for the politicians is to decide [whether] that kind of assurance [is] sufficient for them." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IAEA OFFICIAL SAYS ONE YEAR NEEDED FOR INSPECTIONS.

IAEA official Mark Gwozdecky has said that one year is needed to complete inspections in Iraq, the BBC reported on 13 January. "For a credible inspection process we believe we do need in the vicinity of a year," Gwozdecky told the BBC's "Talking Point" program. "It's a very large country, there is a lot of terrain to cover, a lot of facilities to inspect," he added. "Given the fairly good access we've been given to date, [weapons inspectors] can -- the longer we're there -- have a real role to play in terms of detecting anything illegal," Gwozdecky said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IAEA CHIEF DISCUSSES IRAQ IN MOSCOW.

Speaking to journalists following a meeting in Moscow on 15 January with IAEA Director-General Mohammad el-Baradei, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Russia supports proposals to prolong the mission of UN weapons inspectors in Iraq, Russian news agencies reported. Ivanov said that although inspectors so far had uncovered no banned weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, they have not yet made any final determinations. "Russia believes that any unilateral military operation against Baghdad without UN authorization would only exacerbate the already complicated situation in the region and undermine international stability...and the global fight against international terrorism," Ivanov said. He added that he has sent Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Saltanov to Baghdad within the framework of regular bilateral contacts. Saltanov will seek out Iraqi opinions about the upcoming 27 January UN Security Council meeting, at which the weapons inspectors will make an initial report. In response to a question about how Russia would vote if the United States calls for the authorization of military strikes against Iraq, Ivanov refused to answer, saying only that he does not anticipate any vote on that question. (Victor Yasmann)

BRITISH PREMIER SAYS IRAQ MUST COOPERATE OR BE 'DISARMED BY FORCE.'

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on 13 January that Iraq has been given a chance by the UN Security Council to disarm peacefully, adding that should Iraqi President Hussein fail to do so, "he will be disarmed by force." Blair's comments came during his opening statement at the Downing Street monthly press conference in London. The statement can be viewed in its entirety at the 10 Downing Street website (http://www.number-10.gov.uk). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQ OIL-FOR-FOOD EXPORTS AT $174 MILLION FOR BEGINNING OF JANUARY.

The UN Office handling the oil-for-food programs for Iraq announced that Iraq exported 6.7 million barrels of oil for the week of 4-10 January, according to a press release on 14 January. This generated an income of some $174 million at current prices. In addition, the Office of the Iraq Program approved 3,459 humanitarian contracts under Security Council Resolution 1409 for 2002 worth about $4.6 billion. These contracts were reviewed by UNMOVIC.

Since the establishment of the oil-for-food program on 14 April 1995, 3.3 billion barrels of Iraqi oil valued at $61.1 billion have been exported since December 1996. During this period about $41 billion worth of humanitarian supplies, including $3.6 billion worth of oil-industry spare parts have been approved by the 661 Sanctions Committee and the Office of the Iraq Program. (David Nissman)

IRAQI PRESIDENT MEETS WITH TURKISH MINISTER.

Saddam Hussein on 12 January met with Turkish Treasury Minister and trade envoy Kursat Tuzmen during the minister's trade visit to Iraq, Iraq Satellite TV reported. Tuzmen delivered a message from Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul that discussed the Turkish government's desire for increased trade and economic cooperation with Iraq. It also reportedly commented on Turkey's stand on the unity of Iraq. Tuzmen reportedly told Hussein that Iraq's development is tantamount to Turkey's development, Iraq Satellite TV reported. Last week, Gul declined to comment on statements made by Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis that Turkey would investigate its "legitimate and strategic interests" in northern Iraq. For his part, Hussein said, "With clarity, serious ideas, and a fraternal dialogue, we can achieve the best solutions for joint cooperation, and thus make numerous achievements and achieve a reasonable measure of regional stability." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

TARIQ AZIZ LEAVES ALGERIA, PROCEEDS TO TUNISIA.

Tariq Aziz, Saddam Hussein's personal envoy to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has concluded a two-day visit to Algeria, INA reported on 11 January. The purpose of the visit was to brief the Algerian leadership on Iraq's position vis-a-vis the U.S.-British threats, which he claimed were not only a danger to Iraq, but to the Arab world in general. He claimed that any American aggression was aimed at controlling Arab oil and then to "weaken Iraq as a regional power to give the Zionist entity the opportunity to implement its expansionist and criminal policies in Palestine."

An Algerian commentator, Hassane Zerrouky, noted in the Algerian daily "Le Matin" on 14 January that the Algerian side made no comments on the Aziz visit, and added that "Tariq Aziz's visit embarrassed the authorities." (David Nissman)

JORDANIAN CHIEFTAINS MEET WITH IRAQI PRESIDENT DURING SOLIDARITY VISIT.

A delegation of Jordanian tribal chiefs who have volunteered to act as human shields in Iraq are currently visiting Iraq in a show of solidarity. According to Iraq Radio on 10 January, Sheikh Ayman Muhammad al-Khaza'ilah praised Iraq's jihadist positions against U.S. threats. Sheikh Hasan al-Surur, head of the Al-Surur tribe, said, "Our hearts, souls, and blood are with fraternal Iraq and its wise leadership against the U.S. and Zionist [Israel] schemes, which target Iraq's sovereignty and security." In a meeting with the chieftains, President Hussein spoke fervently about Arab solidarity, according to Iraq Satellite Television on 15 January. "Foreigners do not like any Arab to say that if foreigners attack anyone in our nation, we will stand by his side, or go before him in order to defend him," Hussein said.

Hussein went on to criticize Arab leaders for their apparent lack of pan-Arab support, Iraq Satellite Television reported on 15 January. "You cannot imagine how upset I feel inside when I hear an Arab ruler saying that...aggression would bring about a catastrophe for the region," he said. "Are they only taking into account how the sparks would spread from Iraq to others? This is shameful, disgraceful. It would be better for any ruler, whoever he is, not to say this," the president added. Hussein told the chieftains that the West's goal is to "tame the Arabs and tell them that each Arab should care for himself only." He concluded by claiming that Arab awareness and determination is growing despite such developments, and he told the chieftains that Iraqis do not need military volunteers -- they would prefer Arab solidarity with Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

JORDANIAN KING SAYS CHANCES TO AVOID WAR IN IRAQ 'SLIM.'

Jordan's King Abdullah II told reporters on 16 January that he had seen "no information on an initiative to settle the Iraqi question through peaceful means," AP reported. King Abdullah II added that Jordan "has exerted tenacious efforts with various international powers to prevent the war against Iraq, but the chances of averting it had become slim in view of the reality we're facing in this area and the world." A war in Iraq would cost Jordan an estimated $1 billion a year in lost trade, according to the news agency. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ARE IRAQ'S NEIGHBORS ORCHESTRATING COUP?

Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, are orchestrating a coup to overthrow Iraqi President Hussein's regime, AFP reported on 16 January, citing an article posted on "Time" magazine's website (http://www.time.com). "Riyadh fears that war in Iraq could lead to chaos, civil war among ethnic factions, and military incursions by neighbors like Turkey and Iran," AFP quoted from the "Time" article. The article reportedly posits that Arab leaders fear the United States will not remain in Iraq long enough to reestablish stability after a war and that a coup in Iraq might offer more stability by preserving state institutions. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

BARZANI HOLDS TALKS IN TURKEY, SYRIA.

Mas'ud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), held talks with Turkish Prime Minister Gul on 10 January. In the 30-minute meeting, he expressed optimism over future developments in Iraq, according to the Anadolu News Agency on 10 January. Barzani said after the meeting that "we saw we had a common understanding in the issues we evaluated." He held a similar meeting also with Deniz Baykal, leader of the Republican People's Party, and stated that exchanging views on developments in the region would help the two sides to better understand each other.

Barzani, elaborating on his talks in Turkey, said that Ankara had found a "new language" that would help solve pending problems between the two sides, according to the London-based Arabic newspaper "Al-Hayat" on 12 January. Prior to his departure for Damascus, he said that the Turkish government's "new language" was different from that of the previous regime which was aimed at "creating problems."

On 11 January he held talks with Syrian leaders in Damascus, including Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam and the No. 2 man in the ruling Ba'th Party, Abdullah al-Ahmar, according to AFP on 11 January. The Syrian News Agency reported after the meetings that they had agreed on the "importance of preserving the integrity and independence of Iraq, and working to save it from the dangers which threaten" the country. Syria fears that the emergence of a Kurdish state in Iraq would stimulate the some 2 million Kurds who live in Syria to move towards an independent state of their own. (David Nissman)

TURKEY STUDIES PAST TREATIES TO JUSTIFY CLAIMS TO OIL FIELDS IN NORTHERN IRAQ.

According to a report by James Dorsey in the "Agenda" on 12 January, Turkey is studying past international treaties in a bid to justify Turkish claims to oil fields in northern Iraq. He writes that Western and Arab diplomats have warned that claims to oil fields near Mosul and Kirkuk could undermine efforts to include the Iraqi Kurds in a U.S.-led anti-Saddam coalition and would increase Arab fears that a U.S. confrontation with Iraq is designed to control Iraq's oil wealth.

The Arabs have long believed that Turkey never relinquished its claims to those areas which they were forced to give up after World War I. Also, Turkey has said that it would intervene militarily in northern Iraq if the Kurds attempt to establish a state of their own, nor would they accept Kurdish control of the northern Iraqi oil fields. In addition, they would oppose a British military presence in northern Iraq because Britain replaced the Ottoman Empire as the colonial power in Iraq after World War I.

Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis, explaining the possible claims to the Iraq oil fields, said, "If we do have rights...we have to explain that to the international community and our partners and secure those rights" (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 1 November 2002).

Dorsey notes that it is not clear how Turkey would eventually exercise its claims to the oil fields. Officials have said that they would not seek direct control but would want to use their rights in order to be a player in northern Iraq.

A member of the Kurdish faction in the Iranian parliament, Jalil Jalilzadeh of Sanandaj, told the "Tehran Times" on 12 January that he has written a letter to the Iranian foreign minister urging him to protest against Turkish claims to Mosul and Kirkuk.

Eighteen months ago, the UN Security Council granted the Turkish state oil company permission to drill some 20 oil wells north of Kirkuk. (David Nissman)

TURKISH-U.S. DEAL ON IRAQ?

The Turkish daily "Vatan" reported on 11 January that Turkey has reached a $22 billion agreement with the United States in exchange for Turkish assistance should the United States launch a military campaign against Iraq. The deal includes an aid package that would erase Turkey's $4.7 billion defense debt to the United States, as well as provide aircraft, ships, and weapons and a "donation" of $4 billion. "The United States will provide...an $8 billion loan from the IMF" and "loans will be opened through the Eximbank for U.S. companies" to invest in southeastern Turkey, the daily reported. Textile quotas for Turkish products will also be increased by 50 percent, according to "Vatan." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

Copyright (c) 2003. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org



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