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RFE/RL Iraq Report
A Weekly Review of Developments in and Pertaining to Iraq
SUICIDE CAR BOMBS RIP THROUGH BAGHDAD. A suicide car bomb detonated outside an army recruitment center in the Iraqi capital on 17 June, killing some 35 Iraqis and wounding 138, according to Reuters. CNN reported that many of the victims had just exited a city bus when the bomb went off. The recruitment center is located at the Al-Muthanna airport, which is a base for U.S. troops. A car bomb detonated at the same location on 11 February, killing 47 Iraqis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February 2004).
Meanwhile, a second car bomb detonated at the entrance to an Iraqi power plant in Al-Musayyib on 17 June, dpa reported. Two Iraqis were killed and five injured in the blast. The plant came under mortar fire before the car detonated, plant manager Tahsin al-Jiburi said. The attack was the fourth on the power plant in the past three weeks, he added. An Iraqi translator working for the coalition was also shot and killed on 17 June as he approached a military base located between Al-Hillah and Baghdad, a local doctor told dpa.
A car bomb detonated on 16 June in the Iraqi city of Al-Ramadi, located 110 kilometers west of Baghdad, killing at least three individuals, international media reported. Al-Jazeera television said that three foreigners were killed in the explosion, while Reuters reported that the attack killed four Iraqis. Reuters quoted witnesses who said that several foreigners were also believed to be among the casualties. The attack destroyed an Iraqi police car and a civilian four-wheel-drive vehicle, Reuters reported. Iraqi police and U.S. forces cordoned off the area following the explosion. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
FUTURE OF IMAM AL-MAHDI ARMY UNCLEAR. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI)'s Voice of the Mujahidin Radio reported on 13 June that negotiations with radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr included the stipulation that al-Sadr's Imam Al-Mahdi Army, which has been battling coalition forces since April, would be turned into a political party. The party would be eligible to participate in upcoming national elections, slated to be held in January. The report notes that the Shi'ite religious authority based in Al-Najaf made an announcement about the agreement.
Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) spokesman Dan Senor told reporters at a 15 June press briefing (http://www.cpa-iraq.org) that a law on political parties expected to be announced in the next two weeks would disqualify al-Sadr from participating in the political process. The cleric is wanted on an Iraqi arrest warrant for the 10 April 2003 killing of Shi'ite Ayatollah Abd al-Majid al-Khoi. Senor said that early drafts of the law state that political parties affiliated with illegal militias would not be allowed to participate in the political process. "The exact language I have seen is: No political entity may have or be associated with an armed force, militia or residual element, as defined by CPA Order Number 91...so unless those issues are resolved, I just don't see how Muqtada al-Sadr can plan for a political life," Senor said. Al-Sadr agreed to disband his Al-Mahdi Army weeks ago. On 16 June, he finally issued a plea to his militiamen to lay down their arms and return to their homes. Sporadic fighting with coalition forces continues however.
An aide to al-Sadr told London's "Al-Hayat" that there are no plans under way to convert the Al-Mahdi Army into a political party, the daily reported on 16 June. Sheikh Qays al-Khazali refuted reports that "we intend to turn the Al-Mahdi Army into a political current or party," saying, "We have repeatedly said that the Al-Mahdi Army is not an armed militia that will be transformed into anything else." Al-Khazali claimed that the "army" did not constitute an armed militia because its members do not receive salaries "or have military equipment." Those who are armed took their weapons from their homes, he contended. "It is possible for some figures [affiliated with al-Sadr] known for their honesty and patriotism to occupy [political] positions," in Iraq, Al-Khazali added.
Meanwhile, U.S. forces arrested a spokesman for al-Sadr in an overnight raid in Karbala, Al-Jazeera reported on 15 June. Ahmad Rida al-Hasani was taken from his home during the raid. U.S. officials have not said why the spokesman was arrested, but al-Sadr loyalists told Reuters that the arrest was part of a U.S. plan to exert pressure on al-Sadr. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
BAGHDAD CITY COUNCIL WANTS MARTIAL LAW IMPOSED. The Baghdad City Council has said that it wants martial law imposed in the Iraqi capital for six months beginning on 30 June, the date that the United States is to transfer power to the Iraqi interim government, Baghdad's "Al-Ta'akhi" reported on 15 June. The council said in a statement that the proposal would be submitted to the Council of Ministers, adding that the imposition of martial law would help address the security concerns in Baghdad. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
PRIME MINISTER, U.S. DIFFER ON HUSSEIN HANDOVER. Iyad Allawi told Al-Jazeera television on 14 June that he expects former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and other officials from the deposed regime to be handed over to the interim Iraqi government when power is transferred on 30 June. "All the current detainees, without exception, will be handed over to the Iraqi authority," Allawi said. "The handover will take place within the next two weeks."
Senior U.S. officials, however, have reportedly said that Hussein, as well as thousands of other detainees in Iraq, will remain in coalition custody indefinitely, international media reported on 15 June. "The issue of Saddam is something we are discussing," Al-Jazeera quoted an unidentified State Department official as saying. "If the Iraqis want him, we're receptive to ideas to transfer him. But I am not aware of any plan that's been worked out on this." A tribunal established to try former regime members is set to begin proceedings by year's end, court administrator Salem Chalabi said last week. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
CHALABI SAYS HUSSEIN COULD FACE DEATH PENALTY. Salem Chalabi, court administrator for the Iraqi war crimes tribunal, told France's La Chaine television in a 16 June interview that deposed President Saddam Hussein could be subject to the death penalty when he is tried for war crimes by the tribunal. Asked if Hussein could be sentenced to death if found guilty, Chalabi replied: "Yes, but it's a bit complicated legally, in particular in terms of the status of the tribunal. But in any case, any person convicted of murder in Iraq must be subjected to the same law, that is to say the death penalty. [U.S.] Ambassador [L. Paul] Bremer abolished the death penalty when he arrived, and the Iraqi government thus has to lift this suspension." The Baghdad City Council called for the reinstatement of the death penalty during a weekly meeting this week, "Al-Ta'akhi" reported on 15 June. Karim Jaff, deputy chairman of the council, said that the reinstatement of the death penalty would help to deal with security lapses, which he said might increase after the 30 June transfer of power. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IRAQI OIL OFFICIAL ASSASSINATED IN KIRKUK... Ghazi Talabani, the security chief for Iraq's Northern Oil Company, was assassinated outside his home in Kirkuk on 16 June, KUNA reported. Talabani was the cousin of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) head Jalal Talabani. KUNA reported that the PUK has blamed the terrorist group Al-Qaeda for the attack. Meanwhile, AP quoted Iraqi Civil Defense Corps General Anwar Amin as saying that three gunmen attacked Talabani's car after his bodyguard briefly exited the vehicle in a crowded marketplace. The bodyguard was wounded in the attack. Talabani is the third Iraqi official to be assassinated in Iraq this month. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
...AS ATTACKS ON OIL FIELDS HALT DISTRIBUTION. Iraqi Oil Minister Thamir al-Ghadban confirmed on 15 June that two attacks on an Iraqi pipeline that feeds storage tanks in the southern Iraqi port city of Al-Basrah have halted deliveries to the port, Al-Jazeera reported the same day. One unidentified local shipping agent told the satellite news channel that the targeted line was "seriously damaged," while a second trunk line was intact but closed. Repairs on the pipeline could take up to 10 days at a cost of $60 million per day, international media reported. The 15 June attack was the fourth on Iraqi pipelines in nine days. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IRAQ PURCHASES RECONNAISSANCE PLANES, HELICOPTERS. Iraq this week purchased a number of reconnaissance planes and helicopters from Jordan for its air force, Baghdad's "Al-Sabah" reported on 15 June. Lieutenant General Amir al-Hashimi said that the fleet would be deployed to air bases throughout the country and serve as the core of the Iraqi air force. Iraqi pilots have been sent to Jordan and other countries to receive training on the new planes.
U.S. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt confirmed the purchase in a 15 June Baghdad press briefing, saying that the aircraft were purchased from Jordan "as part of a plan to provide surveillance capability to the growing Iraqi security forces." The first two reconnaissance aircraft purchased "represent the initial acquisition of a tentative force of 16 aerial-observation and surveillance aircraft intended to assist in the protection of electrical and oil assets as well as border and coastal security," Kimmitt said. Delivery of the fleet is expected to be completed by mid-July, he added.
Reuters reported on 16 June that the U.S. military would begin handing over control of Baghdad International Airport to the Iraqi authorities this month. The U.S. would reportedly pull completely out of the airport sometime in mid-August, after which the Iraqi Transport Ministry will hire a private contractor and a new Iraqi airport police force to manage security there. The U.S. military will continue to use Camp Victory, located on the edge of the airport compound, but will cease all military flights into the airport, except those in support of the new American Embassy, Reuters reported. Some 500 planes land at the airport each day, 90 percent of which are military flights. The airport remains closed to commercial flights due to the security risk. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
U.S.-SPONSORED POLL SHOWS WIDESPREAD ANTI-AMERICAN SENTIMENT. An opinion poll of Iraqis sponsored by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and carried out in mid-May has found that 92 percent of Iraqis surveyed consider the United States an occupying force and 54 percent of those surveyed said they believe all Americans behave in a manner similar to the behavior of U.S. soldiers depicted in the Abu Ghurayb prisoner-abuse photos, AP reported on 16 June. AP obtained a copy of a multimedia presentation on the poll, which has not been released to the public.
Some 55 percent of Iraqis surveyed said that they would feel safer if U.S. troops departed immediately; 28 percent of those surveyed responded the same way in January. Respondents gave the coalition an 11 percent confidence rating; it stood at 47 percent in November. Eighty-one percent of Iraqis said that their opinion of radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr had improved in May from three months earlier, while 64 percent of respondents said that the activities of al-Sadr loyalists had strengthened the unity of Iraq, AP reported. However, only 2 percent said they would support al-Sadr for president; 3 percent said they would support deposed dictator Saddam Hussein.
Exactly 1,093 Iraqis were randomly surveyed in six cities: Baghdad, Ba'qubah, Al-Basrah, Al-Diwaniyah, Al-Hillah, and Mosul. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
PURPORTED AL-ZARQAWI LETTER CLAIMS U.S. CLOSING IN ON MILITANTS. A letter purportedly written to Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi and posted to several jihadist websites claims that anticoalition fighters are being hemmed in by U.S. forces in Iraq, AP reported on 14 June.
"The space of movement [inside Iraq] is starting to get smaller," the unauthenticated letter reads. "The grip is starting to be tightened on the holy warriors' necks and, with the spread of soldiers and police, the future is becoming frightening." The letter further claims that the militants are racing against time to gain control over Iraq before a permanent government is installed, probably in January 2005. The nine-page letter also says that Iraqi police and security forces will be increasingly targeted as part of the militants' plans to establish control in Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
FIVE KURDISH ARMY RECRUITS KILLED AND BURNED. Five Kurdish recruits to the Iraqi Army were killed and their bodies burned after their car broke down in a Sunni stronghold this week, AFP reported on 14 June. The five were returning to their homes in Kirkuk after completing military training in Al-Taji when their car broke down between Samarra and Berjil. Jalah Jawhar, an official from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) said that the men went to a garage for help, where they were ambushed and apparently killed. Their bodies were taken back to their car and set afire. "We will not cease in our hunt for terrorists or our opposition to terrorist acts," Jawhar said of the incident.
Meanwhile, 18 Iraqi workers were electrocuted while trying to clear plants from a river in Al-Latifiyah, located 30 kilometers south of Baghdad on 16 June, dpa reported. Dr. Ali Abd al-Hussein told dpa that a saboteur put an electrical current in the river while the men were working. Local residents reportedly speculated that the men were targeted because of their suspected employment by the Coalition Provisional Authority, which funds similar reconstruction projects in Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
DEAL UNDERWAY TO LINK MOBILE NETWORKS. Egypt's Orascom Telecom has concluded an agreement with Asia Cell to link mobile telephone lines between central and northern Iraq, MENA reported on 10 June. Asia Cell Chairman Faruk Mullah Mustafa said that his company is also testing a project that would allow mobile-phone users in northern Iraq to call Dubai, Jordan, Kuwait, and Turkey. Asia Cell users will also be able to telephone to landline numbers in southern Iraq, Mustafa added. The CPA awarded mobile-phone licenses to three firms to operate in northern, central, and southern Iraq, in October (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 9 October 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)
The resolution said that the OIC would "actively assist" the Iraqi government as it transitions to sovereignty, AP reported. While delegates affirmed their commitment to the interim government, many also said that there is little support among member states to send peacekeepers to assist coalition forces in Iraq. The 57-member organization -- the world's largest Muslim organization -- includes all of Iraq's neighbors. AP reported that Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey met with regional neighbor Egypt on the sidelines of the conference and issued a separate statement supporting the interim government.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar al-Zebari met with Turkish Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Gul and UN special adviser Lakhdar Brahimi on the sidelines of the conference, Anatolia news agency reported. Al-Zebari reportedly told the Turkish news agency that a "brilliant future awaits" Iraqi-Turkish relations. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IRAN DENIES MOVING TROOPS TO IRAQI BORDER. An anonymous "reliable political source" in Iran denied on 15 June that the Islamic republic has deployed four military divisions along its southwestern border, ISNA reported. The source was reacting to a report in that day's "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" daily from London, which said that the four divisions are stationed "near the Iraqi border in the Al-Amarah and Al-Basrah sector and in the vicinity of Dezful in the Maysan sector and Shalamcheh in the Al-Basrah sector." "Al-Sharq al-Awsat," which cited anonymous "reliable Iraqi sources," also reported that Iranian military intelligence personnel have infiltrated Iraqi territory. These sources suggested that Iranian forces might enter Iraq upon the withdrawal of U.S. forces. ISNA's anonymous source contended that such allegations reflect the alleged U.S. desire to continue occupying Iraq. Iranian Deputy Interior Minister Ali Asqar Ahmadi said on 12 June that plans are being drafted to have the police take over security duties along the border with Iraq, Fars News Agency reported. Ahmadi said that the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps is responsible for the northwestern border and the army handles the southwest. The law handing over responsibilities to the police has been approved, and the plan will be implemented after organization charts are prepared and a budget is allocated. (Bill Samii)
AS KUWAIT DENIES THE BORDER IS A MEETING POINT FOR TERRORISTS. The head of the northern areas in the Border Department of the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry has denied that the Kuwait-Iraq border is a meeting point for would-be terrorists seeking to infiltrate Iraq, Kuwait's "Arab Times" reported on 15 June. Lieutenant Colonel Ziyad Abd al-Salam said that Kuwaiti border security officers are in constant contact with their Saudi counterparts to "prevent any infiltration" into Iraq. "Security men are in total control of the borders in spite of the Kuwait-Iraq border being 217 kilometers long from Umm Al-Qasr in Iraq to the Kuwait-Saudi border," he said. "Only a person possessing legal identification documents is allowed to pass through." Abd al-Salam added that repairs have been made to an electrical fence along the border area that was opened during the U.S. invasion last year. "Only the gate used by coalition forces remains open under tight security," he noted. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS HIS COUNTRY WILL NOT ALLOW PKK TO ATTACK TURKEY. Hoshyar al-Zebari told Istanbul's NTV that his country will not allow the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Turkish-Kurdish resistance group, to continue to launch attacks on Turkey from northern Iraq, the television channel reported on 15 June. The PKK had an active presence in northern Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion.
"These groups may be present there for now, but our new policy will be to prevent Iraq from becoming a secure place for such groups to take shelter in," he said. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on 11 June that the PKK's continued presence in northern Iraq was "high on the agenda" of his meeting with President George W. Bush in Washington, adding, "We expect the United States to take some concrete steps to this end." Turkey has been pressuring the U.S. for several months to adhere to an agreement to crackdown on the PKK (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 8 December 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)
Elections would succeed "as long as Iraqis start to trust that this is a serious process, that it's going to be a secret process, that the possibilities of retaliation against them are going to be minimized [and] that the electoral authority is going to play a fair game," Perelli said. "There is a silent majority that is more eager to express their opinion if only they had a channel, and they are certain there is not going to be retribution or retaliation because of that," she added.
Perelli added that an agreement has been reached on how to conduct elections. Given that Iraq has not had a reliable census, and that there is no time to carry out a much-needed redistricting of the country, the entire country will be treated as one national district. This will help to counter two expected problems. First, an imbalance in the number of votes needed to gain a seat in the National Assembly, and second, the need to define and register voters and candidates in the northern Iraqi cities of Mosul and Kirkuk. The status of candidates in those two cities is to be determined in the Iraqi constitution.
Moreover, the plan provides for greater representation, Perelli argued. The Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission would certify each candidate list, which should be signed by 500 eligible voters. The lists can comprise between 12 and 275 candidates for the 275-seat parliament. Under the plan, candidates must disclose all financial contributions received. Any political party affiliated with an armed militia would not be allowed to participate in elections. Any individual able to provide documentation identifying him or her as an Iraqi would be eligible to vote in the January elections, including those stripped of their citizenship by the former Hussein regime, Perelli said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
WHO SPONSORS TRAINING FOR IRAQI HEALTH CARE WORKERS. The World Health Organization (WHO) has sponsored training for 25 Iraqi health care workers in the nursing sector at the Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST), the "Jordan Times" reported on 10 June. The training is part of a four-month series of training workshops offered under an agreement between the university and the WHO that allows for participants to be trained on updated academic capabilities and reforms for the nursing and midwifery education system in Iraq, the newspaper noted.
Participants from the Iraqi ministries of heath and higher education, as well as state universities and educational institutions, took an active part in designing a curriculum for nursing education in Iraq during the workshop. Linda Haddad, the dean of the nursing faculty at JUST, said that the four-month series needed to be extended "because [we] think the development process in the nursing system still requires more time and effort." The training team at JUST has already developed a "self-learning" package that will act as a guide for the development of university-level education, "Jordan Times" reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
Casey, if confirmed, will serve at the head of a revised command structure (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 9 January 2004) in Iraq, working alongside recently appointed U.S. Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte and U.S. Deputy Commander Lieutenant General Thomas Metz. Casey formerly served as the Army's V Corps chief of staff and operations officer in Germany, and as director of the Joint Staff. He has had limited experience in the Middle East, having served as a UN military observer in Egypt, and has reportedly never commanded troops in combat. Casey's biography can be accessed on the Army's website (http://www.army.mil/leaders/leaders/vcsa/biography.html). (Kathleen Ridolfo)
COMMISSION FINDS NO LINKS BETWEEN IRAQ, AL-QAEDA IN 9-11 ATTACKS. The independent commission investigating the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington issued a report on 16 June stating that there is no credible evidence to show that the deposed Iraqi regime collaborated with Al-Qaeda in its attacks on the U.S., RFE/RL reported.
The report said that while Iraqi officials met with an Al-Qaeda representative 10 years ago and had other contacts, President Saddam Hussein rebuffed his calls for cooperation. "At that time , [Osama] bin Laden is said to have requested space for training camps, assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded," former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Deputy Director Douglas MacEachin testified to the commission. "There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and Al-Qaeda also occurred after bin Laden returned to Afghanistan, but they do not appear to [have] resulted in a collaborative relationship."
Commission Chairman Thomas H. Kean said the 9-11 panel does not dispute that contacts between Hussein's government and Al-Qaeda existed. But Kean said the panel's staff found "that there is no credible evidence that we can discover, after a long investigation, that Iraq and Saddam Hussein were in any way part of the attack on the United States," the washingtonpost.com reported 17 June.
The vice chairman of the committee, Lee H. Hamilton, said that the commission's position is that "we don't have any evidence of a cooperative...relationship between Saddam Hussein's government and these al Qaeda operatives with regard to the attacks on the United States," washingtonpost.com reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY REPORTEDLY ORDERED MILITARY TO KEEP DETAINEE OFF PRISON ROLLS. Donald Rumsfeld ordered the U.S. military not to list the name of an Iraqi detainee on the prisoner rolls at Camp Cropper in Baghdad, the nytimes.com reported on 17 June. Rumsfeld issued the order at the request of former CIA Director George Tenet, according to the newspaper. The unidentified prisoner is said to be a senior officer in the Ansar Al-Islam terrorist group that was based in Iraqi Kurdistan prior to the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
The justification used by the CIA for not listing the detainee as well as many other suspected "ghost detainees" held in Iraq was that the Geneva Conventions allow for a delay in the identification of detainees in order to avoid letting the enemy know those detainees' whereabouts, the newspaper reported. The detainee in question was initially transferred outside Iraq for interrogation following his July arrest. An unidentified U.S. official told the daily that the man "possessed significant information about Ansar Al-Islam's leadership structure, training, and locations." Upon his transfer back to Iraq, the detainee was interviewed by intelligence only once, and then subsequently "lost" in the system because of his nonregistration, according to the newspaper. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
NORWAY DROPS CASE AGAINST MULLAH KREKAR. The Norwegian government has dropped its case against Ansar Al-Islam leader Mullah Krekar, who was accused of inciting murder and funding terrorism, AFP reported. Krekar, also known as Najm al-Din Faraj Ahmad, has lived in Norway since 1991, when he sought political asylum there. "The decision to shut the case means that the crown prosecutor found no basis on which to charge Krekar with any crime and he [Krekar] therefore has the right, from a legal standpoint, to be considered innocent of the accusations brought against him," the crown prosecutor's office said in a statement.
The U.S. State Department commented on the case in a 15 June press release (http://usinfo.state.gov), saying: "The U.S. remains seriously concerned about Mullah Krekar's links to terrorism." Ansar Al-Islam is designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
U.K. TO COURT MARTIAL SOLDIERS ON PRISONER ABUSE CHARGES. Attorney General Lord Goldsmith has announced that the United Kingdom will court martial four soldiers accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners in their custody, London's "Daily Telegraph" reported on 15 June. The abuse was uncovered after a soldier took film of the purported abuse to a London photo shop to be developed. One photograph reportedly depicted a man stripped to the waist and suspended in the air by a rope attached to a forklift vehicle, the newspaper said. Other photographs depicted Iraqi males forced into sexual positions by their captors. Goldsmith told the British Parliament in a written statement that one of the charges of indecent assault "apparently involves making the victims engage in sexual activity between themselves." That specific case involves conduct "alleged to have occurred while the civilians were being temporarily detained but not in a prison or detention facility."
Some 74 cases of civilian deaths, injuries, and reports of maltreatment are currently under investigation, according to the British government. Thirty-one of those cases have already been deemed unfit for prosecution, the "Daily Telegraph" reported. London's "Daily Mirror" published photographs alleging prisoner abuse by U.K. forces in early May that were later deemed forgeries (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 7 and 13 May 2004). A trial date for the current courts martial has not been set. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
NATO CHIEF SAYS ORGANIZATION CANNOT 'SLAM THE DOOR' ON IRAQ. North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told Germany's "Der Spiegel" in an interview published on 14 June that NATO must seriously consider any UN or Iraqi request for engagement in Iraq. "If either the Iraqi government or the United Nations, or else both together, were to ask NATO to take on a role there, then I would say we cannot slam the door in the Iraqi government's face," he said. De Hoop Scheffer had earlier said that NATO would not consider participating in Iraq without a new UN resolution detailing the transfer of power. UN Security Council Resolution 1546, which calls for a multinational force to continue to work to provide stability in Iraq, was passed on 8 June. Asked about previous statements by French and German leaders that indicated the two NATO member states would be opposed to sending troops to Iraq, the secretary general said: "Neither of them said at the G-8 meeting at Sea Island [held 8-10 June in the U.S. state of Georgia] that they would be opposed to a debate on this."
Asked how NATO might contribute to the stability of Iraq, de Hoop Scheffer responded, "I wish to keep the right priorities. First, I intend to hear what the Iraqi government wishes of NATO. Up to now, we have seen a coalition that has been making the decisions for the Iraqis. We are now moving into a phase where the Iraqis will be deciding things for themselves. Then NATO will have to discuss the options, for example in those areas in which the German government is already offering cooperation now, over training the police and the armed forces." Asked if he has ruled out assisting in other areas, de Hoop Scheffer said, "I am not ruling anything out." (Kathleen Ridolfo)
Compiled by Kathleen Ridolfo.
Copyright (c) 2004. 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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