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RFE/RL Iraq Report
A Weekly Review of Developments in and Pertaining to Iraq
COALITION TRANSFERS SOVEREIGNTY TO IRAQ AHEAD OF SCHEDULE. The U.S.-led coalition formally transferred sovereignty to Iraq on 28 June, two days ahead of schedule, international media reported. Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) head L. Paul Bremer handed a letter to Iraqi officials, including Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and President Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir, at the ceremony, which was held within the coalition-controlled "green zone." "This is a historic day, a happy day, a day that all Iraqis have been looking forward to," Yawir told those in attendance, Reuters reported. Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters in Istanbul, where he was attending the NATO summit: "I believe that we will challenge those terrorists, criminals, Saddamists, and antidemocratic forces by bringing even the date of the handover forward."
Iraqi Vice President Ibrahim al-Ja'fari told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq in a 28 June interview: "I hope that this day will not only be a mechanical transfer of power through a United Nations Security Council resolution and I hope that it will be the beginning of a mechanism that will create Iraqi power and sovereignty. This will require that all [Iraqis] should take the first step on the road to sovereignty and a new democracy, and this will require the help of all parties. That's why I hope that in the future the Iraqi presence will be tangible on all levels: political, security, economic, and reconstruction. In this case, we will give sovereignty a real sense and a real spirit." (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IRAQ'S NEIGHBORS WELCOME TRANSFER OF POWER. Iraq's neighbors issued statements of congratulations after Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's interim government was granted sovereign status on 28 June, international media reported. The Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry announced that it would resume diplomatic ties with Iraq, severed since Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of its southern neighbor, KUNA reported. Syrian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Bushra Kanafani said that Syria is ready to offer support and backing to the interim Iraqi government. Jordan's King Abdallah II sent a cable to Iraqi President Ghazi Ajil Yawir saying that Jordan is keen to help Iraq restore its position as an independent and democratic state, according to the Jordanian news agency Petra. In Turkey, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said that "it is everyone's duty to support this [Iraqi] government," TRT2 television reported. Gul said he will support sending Turkish troops to Iraq under the NATO umbrella. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
TEHRAN COMMENTS ON IRAQI HANDOVER. Government spokesman Ramezanzadeh commented on 28 June on that day's transfer of sovereignty in Baghdad, ISNA reported. He said that the Iranian government welcomes any development that leads to the majority of Iraqi people running their country's affairs. Ramezanzadeh hoped that this will lead to the end of the occupation and to the establishment of a system based on the popular vote.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on 28 June, "The transfer of power to the Iraqi government and end of occupation, which is taking place on the basis of the [UN] Security Council Resolution 1546, is a positive step," IRNA reported. Alaedin Borujerdi, who heads the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said one of the biggest problems facing the new Iraqi government is establishing security, ISNA reported. Borujerdi said the withdrawal of occupation forces would help the security situation, but he does not foresee this happening.
Iranian presidential adviser Mohammad Shariati said on 28 June that the transfer of power was "too late," Al-Arabiyah television reported. He said the current Iraqi government is not legitimized by elections so these should be held soon. (Bill Samii)
IRAQ OBTAINS LEGAL CUSTODY OF HUSSEIN, 11 HIGH-LEVEL DETAINEES. The Multinational Force-Iraq on 30 June transferred legal custody of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and 11 other detainees to the interim Iraqi government, international media reported. Hussein and the other detainees were later charged before an Iraqi investigative judge on 1 July for crimes related to atrocities the regime is accused of committing against the Iraqi people.
A press release posted on the Multinational Force-Iraq website (http://www.cjtf7.com) on 30 June stated that the proceedings would not be open to the media, but that pool video, photos, and narrative will be made available. Among the other detainees to be charged on 1 July are former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan; former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz; former Hussein adviser Ali Hassan al-Majid; former Defense Minister Sultan Hashim; and Hussein's half-brothers, Barzan Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti and Sabawi Ibrahim. The men are not expected to be formally indicted for several months.
The Multinational Force-Iraq on 15 May formally replaced the Coalition Joint Task Force-7, and U.S. forces officially began reporting to the commander of MNF-Iraq on 30 June, according to globalsecurity.org.
Saddam Hussein reportedly appeared dazed and confused when an Iraqi judge formally informed him that he is no longer being held under prisoner-of-war status and would be brought before an Iraqi judge on 1 July, CNN reported on 30 June. Hussein and the 11 other detainees were informed that they have a right to counsel. Hussein reportedly indicated that he had questions regarding the process, but the judge declined to entertain his questions, CNN reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
HUSSEIN ARRAIGNED IN IRAQI COURT. Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was arraigned in an Iraqi courtroom on 1 July on seven preliminary charges under an arrest warrant related to suspected crimes against humanity committed during his Ba'ath Party's 35-year rule over Iraq, according to CNN, which had reporters present at the proceedings. The charges against Hussein are reportedly related to the 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the 1988 chemical attacks on Iraqi Kurds in Halabja. Hussein was not represented by lawyers at the proceedings.
Asked his name, Hussein twice identified himself as "Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq." Regarding Kuwait, Hussein denied that he occupied the country, claiming his invasion was done to protect the Iraqi people and seemingly referring to Kuwaitis as "dogs." On the chemical attacks in Halabja, Hussein said that he had "heard" that such things were reported to have happened while he was president.
Al-Jazeera broadcast "pool tape" of the proceedings on 1 July showing Hussein dressed in civilian clothes and with a short beard. Eleven senior members of Hussein's former Ba'athist regime were expected to be arraigned the same day, although no information was immediately available on those proceedings.
The preliminary charges against Hussein are likely to be expanded in the months ahead as investigators gather evidence of other alleged crimes by the former dictator, international media reports. During the 1 July proceedings, Hussein was also charged with the 1974 intentional killing of Iraqi religious figures; the 1983 killing of Barzani clan members; the 1987-88 Anfal campaign against the Kurds; and the suppression of the Kurdish and Shi'a uprisings in 1991.
Hussein reportedly refused to sign a statement acknowledging that he understood his rights without the presence of his lawyers. The Iraqi judge presiding over the court session instead noted in the court record that Hussein was read and understood his rights. Reuters reported that the courtroom is located on Hussein's former hunting grounds in southwest Baghdad, now under U.S. military control and referred to as "Camp Victory." (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IRAQI PRESIDENT SAYS DEATH PENALTY TO BE REINSTATED. Iraqi interim President Ghazi al-Yawir said on 29 June that Iraq will reinstate the death penalty, international media reported on 29 June. Al-Yawir said that the punishment will be reinstated, "but with rules which comply with the norms in most countries of the world," Reuters reported on 30 June. The punishment would be applied to crimes of murder, terrorism, rape, and kidnapping.
Former Coalition Provisional Authority head L. Paul Bremer suspended the punishment last year. Al-Yawir also said that amnesty will be offered "to all whose hands are not stained with the blood of Iraqi people and who did not carry out terrorist acts and did not take part in the massacres in which the Iraqi people were victims." He added that the Iraqi interim government will also reinstate a national-security law that dates to the 1960s. The law was "less severe than emergency laws, but includes resolute measures against terrorist acts and breaches of the law," he said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
JORDAN, BAHRAIN TO UPGRADE RELATIONS WITH IRAQ. Jordan and Bahrain both announced on 30 June that they will upgrade their relations with Iraq by sending ambassadors to Baghdad, Arab media reported. Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher said in a statement to the Jordanian news agency Petra that Jordan is keen to assist Iraq in the building of a new state. He added that Amman and Baghdad will discuss security measures that need to be taken to protect the Jordanian embassy before staff can return. The embassy was bombed in August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2003). The Bahrain news agency reported on 30 June that Foreign Undersecretary Yousif Muhammad Mahmud has announced that the kingdom has informed the Iraqi Foreign Ministry of its intention to send an ambassador to Iraq. The embassy is currently run by a charge d'affaires. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
BRITISH CONSULATE OPENS IN KIRKUK. The United Kingdom opened a new consulate in Kirkuk on 30 June, KurdSat reported. Paul Harvey, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) head in Kirkuk, announced the end of the CPA's authority in the city at the opening of the consulate, adding that the British and American consulates will work to provide support and cooperation needed for governors and local councils in the surrounding areas, according to KurdSat. Meanwhile, Edward Chaplin assumes his duties on 1 July as the new U.K. ambassador to Iraq. Chaplin has spent most of his 30-year foreign service career working in the Middle East, according to a press release posted on the British Embassy in Cairo's website (http://www.britishembassy.gov.uk). (Kathleen Ridolfo)
U.S. EMBASSY WEBSITE GOES ON LINE. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad's website is up and running, according to an announcement posted to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) website on 29 June. The CPA officially ceased to exist on 28 June when CPA Bremer transferred authority to the Iraqi interim government. The U.S. Embassy website (http://iraq.usembassy.gov) will now serve as the source for information regarding U.S. relations with Iraq. The CPA website notes that it will no longer be updated, but will be available for "historical purposes" until 30 June 2005. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
JORDANIAN KING ORDERS BORDER GUARDS TO FACILITATE IRAQI TRAVEL. Jordan's King Abdallah II announced on 29 June that immediate and practical steps are to be taken to facilitate the passage of Iraqi civilians through Jordanian checkpoints, the Jordanian news agency Petra reported. Abdallah reportedly issued directives to provide services to those civilians and businessmen crossing the Jordan-Iraq border. To this end, the kingdom has begun to construct a number of temporary structures to house travelers' facilities, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported on 30 June. Those structures will reportedly eventually be replaced by permanent buildings. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IRAN IMPORTANT TO NEW IRAQI GOVERNMENT. Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi discussed Iran in the context of relations with neighboring states in a speech after his 28 June swearing-in ceremony, Al-Arabiyah television reported. He thanked Iran and other countries who "opened their doors" to exiled Iraqis as they struggled against the regime of Saddam Hussein. He added, "I extend a hand of peace and brotherhood to Iran and Turkey, the two Muslim neighbors." These two countries and Iraq's Arab neighbors must work together to address regional problems and to bring security and prosperity to its people, he said. Hamid al-Kafai, who heads the Iraqi interim cabinet's public-relations unit, referred to Allawi's speech and said Iran "enjoys a special status" among Iraq's neighbors, IRNA reported, citing Iraqi television. He noted that Iran recognized the legitimacy of the interim Iraqi government, and that the former regime's eight-year war against Iran harmed relations between the two countries. (Bill Samii)
NATO TO TRAIN IRAQI TROOPS. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer confirmed on 26 June that the military alliance has agreed to meet an Iraqi request to train Iraqi security forces, according to a press release posted on the NATO website (http://www.nato.int).
News agencies then confirmed on 28 June during the first day of the Istanbul summit that NATO heads of state and government approved the agreement. "Allies are united in their full support for the independence, sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity of the Republic of Iraq and for strengthening of freedom, democracy, human rights, rule of law, and security for all the Iraqi people," the 26 June statement read.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari told reporters in Istanbul on 27 June that he "would be pleased to see Turkish troops in Iraq, as long as this is within the framework of training," Anatolia news agency reported the same day. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS MOSCOW WILL NOT HELP REBUILD IRAQI ARMY. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists on 29 June in Istanbul, where he was attending a NATO summit, that Russia has no plans to provide assistance to help rebuild the Iraqi Army, ITAR-TASS reported. He called, however, for the restoration of former military structures in the country, saying that the decision by the U.S.-led coalition to disband them had contributed to destabilization in the country. He also criticized the coalition's former policy of banning the employment of former members of the Ba'ath Party. (Rob Coalson)
FRENCH PRESIDENT SIGNALS POSSIBLE NATO SPLIT OVER IRAQ. Jacques Chirac told reporters at the NATO summit in Istanbul on 28 June that he will not support deploying NATO personnel in Iraq, French LCI television reported. NATO issued a statement that day offering assistance to the Iraqi interim government for the training of Iraqi security forces, although it has yet to be decided where that training would take place. "I do not think that it is part of NATO's mission to intervene in Iraq," LCI quoted Chirac as saying. "And moreover, I'm convinced that if NATO were to intervene in Iraq, the negative consequences would without any doubt be much greater, in particular on the psychological and the political level, than the positive consequences." He said France would be willing to participate in the training of Iraqi security forces -- but not on Iraqi soil. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
ATTACKS BY INSURGENTS CONTINUE IN IRAQ. Iraqi insurgents continued to attack civilian and security forces in two days of violence on 26-27 June, according to international media. A car bomb detonated in the Iraqi city of Al-Hillah on 26 June, killing 23 people and injuring 22, while militants loyal to Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr clashed with U.S. troops in the nearby city of Al-Najaf, Al-Jazeera reported. Militants also detonated a car bomb near the Industry and Minerals Ministry in Irbil on 26 June, Kurdistan Satellite television reported. Kurdish Culture Minister Mahmud Muhammad was wounded and his bodyguard killed on the same day in Irbil when a booby-trapped car exploded. In Mosul, an apparent roadside bomb wounded five Kurdish peshmerga fighters on 27 June, Al-Arabiyah reported. Six Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) personnel were killed in fighting with militants on 27 June outside Ba'qubah, Al-Jazeera reported. One day earlier, militants attacked the Ba'qubah offices of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), killing three people and wounding two, Al-Jazeera said. One of the attackers was killed as he entered the SCIRI building with explosives strapped to his body. Militants in the city attacked the offices of the Iraqi National Accord one day earlier. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
U.S. MARINE REPORTEDLY HELD HOSTAGE IN IRAQ. Militants are holding a U.S. Marine hostage in Iraq and threatening to behead him on 30 June if U.S. forces do not release prisoners in Iraq, Arab media reported on 27 June. Al-Jazeera reported that a group calling itself the Movement of Islamic Retribution, the Security Wing of the National Islamic Resistance, which is an offshoot of the Brigades of the 1920 Revolution, has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. The soldier, Hassoun Wassef Ali, is reportedly of Lebanese origin. In a videotaped message broadcast on Al-Arabiyah, the group said: "We forced our way into the Balad base and took him from there after making the Americans deeply suffer. They must release the prisoners from the surrounding areas -- from the U.S. base in Balad, from Al-Dujayl, Yathrib, Samarra, and the areas surrounding Abu Ghurayb prison" in Baghdad. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
THREE TURKISH HOSTAGES HELD IN IRAQ RELEASED. Three Turkish hostages being held in Iraq by the Monotheism and Jihad group associated with fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi have been released, the group announced in a video recording aired by Al-Jazeera on 29 June. The group said that it released the men "for the sake of Muslims in Turkey and [due to] their demonstrations against [U.S. President George W.] Bush." Two other Turkish nationals remain captive in Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IRAQI POLICE REPORT FINDING TWO HEADLESS BODIES IN KIRKUK. Iraqi police said they found two headless bodies in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, Al-Arabiyah television reported on 25 June. One body was found along the highway leading to Al-Sulaymaniyah; the other was found in the Al-Askari neighborhood of Kirkuk. Police said the bodies belong to two individuals who acted as "collaborators" with U.S. forces. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
POLICE DEFUSE 50-KILOGRAM BOMB IN BAGHDAD. Iraqi police defused a 50-kilogram bomb planted in the Al-Jihad neighborhood of Baghdad on 27 June, Al-Arabiyah television reported. It is unclear who planted the bomb or how it was discovered. Meanwhile, police said they wounded one attacker and arrested two others during a 26 June attack on a Baghdad police station, Al-Sharqiyah television reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
CURFEW IMPOSED IN AL-NAJAF AFTER BOMB-LADEN CAR FOUND. The commander of the Al-Najaf police, Brigadier General Ghalib al-Jaza'iri told Al-Jazeera television on 30 June that a 9:30 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. curfew was to be imposed in the city that day after police seized a car filled with 50 kilograms of TNT and 20 explosive charges equipped with detonators. Twelve automatic rifles were also found in the car.
"After seizing the car, we arrested a Libyan person called Muhammad Hasan Turki. He confessed that he is a member of Al-Qaeda and that he came to resist the occupation and carry out a bombing operation," al-Jaza'iri said. Turki entered Iraq illegally from Syria, al-Jaza'iri said, noting that extra security measures are not being implemented in the city. Baghdad's Al-Sharqiyah television cited al-Jaza'iri as saying that the curfew was also related to ongoing clashes between coalition forces and militiamen loyal to Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
ROADSIDE BOMB TARGETS KIRKUK POLICE OFFICIAL. A roadside bomb exploded in Kirkuk on 29 June as a Kurdish police official was driving by, AP reported. Major Ahmad al-Hamawandi, who heads the police in the Azadi district of the city, was injured in the blast. One of his bodyguards was killed. Al-Jazeera reported on 28 June that the director of the Al-Awja police station was killed that day when a bomb detonated at his home. The television network cited police sources as saying that the explosion took place one hour after Captain Ahmad Hamzah returned home from work. Gunfire was also reportedly heard inside the house following the blast. Al-Awja is located near Tikrit. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
U.S. BOMBS AL-FALLUJAH. U.S. warplanes bombed the restive city of Al-Fallujah on 30 June, killing 10 Iraqis and wounding several others, Al-Jazeera reported. Reuters reported on 1 July that the bombing targeted a safe house used by militants loyal to Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, who is reportedly linked to Al-Qaeda. Reuters reported that the bombing killed four people.
The United States has more than doubled its reward for information leading to the killing or capture of al-Zarqawi to $25 million, Reuters reported on 1 July. The same bounty is on the head of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (http://www.rewardsforjustice.net/). A senior Iraqi Finance Ministry official was injured in an attack on his convoy on 30 June, Reuters reported on 1 July. Militants attached a bomb to a vehicle in Ihsan Karim's convoy, which later detonated as the convoy drove through Baghdad. Two of Karim's staff members were killed in the attack, an Interior Ministry spokesman said. A U.S. soldier at the scene told Reuters that a roadside bomb caused the explosion. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
AL-SADR LOYALISTS REPORTEDLY TAKE IRAQI POLICE CAPTIVE. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI)'s Voice of the Mujahedin Radio reported on 29 June that militants loyal to Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr the same day seized an Iraqi police car and took two policemen captive in Al-Najaf. A correspondent said that the appearance of armed militiamen on the street caused panic among civilians, prompting shop owners to close their businesses and forcing residents off the street.
The radio station also reported that rumors have spread through Al-Najaf that al-Sadr's Al-Mahdi Army arrested more than 20 Iraqi policemen on 29 June and are offering to release them in exchange for the release of Al-Mahdi militants in custody. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
GROUP CLAIMS TO HAVE EXECUTED U.S. SOLDIER IN IRAQ. Al-Jazeera reported on 29 June that it has received a videotaped statement from a group identifying itself as the Unsheathed Sword Against the Enemy of God and the Prophet that said the group has executed U.S. Army Private Keith Maupin, who was taken hostage in Iraq on 9 April. The statement said that the group killed Maupin because the United States has not changed its policy in Iraq, and in an attempt to avenge "martyrs" in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria.
The videotape shows Maupin speaking followed by what appears to be a man being executed outside in the dark. It is unclear whether the man, who is shown with his back to the camera, is in fact Maupin. The Pentagon has issued a statement saying it was unable to immediately confirm whether the man shown being shot was Maupin, AP reported on 29 June. Meanwhile, a roadside bomb killed an unknown number of U.S. Marines in the Iraqi capital on 29 June, international media reported. "I don't know how many died here, [they] killed some Marines," one Marine at the scene told Reuters. Al-Arabiyah reported that an unidentified Marine at the scene said "several" of his comrades were killed or wounded in the blast. (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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