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Iraq Report: July 22, 2004


22 July 2004, Volume 7, Number 27
INSIDE IRAQ
FOREIGN MINISTERS GATHER IN CAIRO FOR MEETING ON IRAQ. The foreign ministers of Iraq's neighboring countries gathered in Cairo on 21 July for the sixth meeting on Iraq, MENA reports. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar al-Zebari said on 20 July that he hopes the meeting will help establish security and stability in Iraq. The meeting is the first since the coalition transferred power to the Iraqi interim government on 28 June.

"We expect some of our neighbors to stand by the Iraqi people, to help us in deeds and not words, and to support the effort of the new Iraqi sovereign government to establish a peaceful, responsible Iraq friendly to its neighbors," AP quoted al-Zebari as saying on 21 July.

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told reporters on 21 July that he will press for a resolution on the issue of Kirkuk during the meeting, Anatolia news agency reported. Gul called for the issue to be resolved within the framework of the new constitutional process in Iraq. Arabs, Kurds, and Turkomans -- ethnic Turks -- claim a right to the city. Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Muhammad Sabah al-Salam al-Sabah said before his 21 July departure from Kuwait that the chaos in Iraq is like a virus that should be contained, KUNA reported on the same day. He also expressed optimism about the meeting, saying he hoped it would be beneficial to all.

UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and EU foreign- and security-policy chief Javier Solana are attending the meeting, in addition to representatives from Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI ISLAMIC PARTY MEMBER ASSASSINATED IN BAGHDAD. A member of the Iraqi Islamic Party was assassinated outside his home in the Iraqi capital on 17 July, Al-Jazeera reported. Sheikh Abd al-Samad Isma'il al-A'zami was the preacher and prayer leader at the Abu Ubaydah Mosque in Baghdad. Meanwhile, the Iraqi Islamic Party issued a statement on 17 July broadcast on its Dar al-Salam radio station criticizing the multinational forces in Iraq. The statement said those forces are planning a large-scale operation aimed at combating militants in Samarra, and warned the multinational forces to leave the situation to the Iraqi Army and police. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI PRIME MINISTER ANNOUNCES CREATION OF SECURITY ORGAN. Iyad Allawi announced on 15 July the creation of a new domestic security branch that will work to combat militant activities in Iraq, international media reported. The General Security Directorate will "annihilate these groups" Allawi said, washingtonpost.com reported on 16 July. He added that he will call upon neighboring states to help secure Iraq's borders and help bolster Iraqi security forces through the provision of military equipment and other aid during his tour of Arab states next week. Asked whether the directorate will employ former intelligence officers who served under former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Allawi said "no," adding: "We will seek the help of professional people who have expertise and...are present in all parts of Iraq and we will employ them in this new unit," Al-Jazeera reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

PRESIDENT SAYS PLANS UNDER WAY FOR FEDERAL SUPREME COURT. Iraqi Interim President Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir has said that plans are under way to establish a new high court that would mediate any disputes that erupt between the central government and autonomous regions, specifically Kurdistan, AP reported on 14 July.

The Federal Supreme Court would "control the relationship between the central government and the governments of the regions of Iraq, as related to taxes, administration, resources and other" such issues, al-Yawir said. "When these regions enact a law, these laws must not contradict [the laws] of the central government," he said. Al-Yawir spoke alongside 19 newly appointed members of Iraq's highest appellate court, the Court of Cassation. Three of the 19 appointees are women. Al-Yawir said of the women: "They have reached their present positions by climbing the stairs of the judiciary." "We do not want women in Iraq to be decor in the judicial system." It is unclear when the Federal Supreme Court will be established. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI DEFENSE MINISTER VOWS TO HIT STATES THAT SUPPORT TERRORISM. Hazim Sha'lan al-Khuza'i said on 20 July that Iraq would take action against neighboring states that sponsor terrorism, Reuters reported. Al-Khuza'i did not point to any specific state but did accuse Iran of "blatant interference" in Iraqi affairs. "We are prepared to move the arena of the attacks on Iraq's honor and its rights to those countries," Reuters quoted Al-Khuza'i as telling "Al-Sharq al-Awsat."

"We've spoken to them and confronted them with facts and evidence, but none of them have taken any action to stop supporting terrorism in Iraq," he said. "They [Iranians] confess to the presence of their spies in Iraq who have a mission to shake up the social and political situation." Prime Minister Allawi has also reportedly accused Lebanon of harboring groups that are targeting the interim government, London's "Al-Hayat" reported on 19 July.

U.S. troops reportedly stormed the Iranian liaison office in Klar, north of Al-Sulaymaniyah on 18 July, MENA reported. At least one staffer was arrested in the raid, and computers and files were seized. An unnamed Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) official told MENA that the PUK was not informed ahead of time about the raid, and PUK security forces did not participate in the action. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

NEW AMBASSADORS ANNOUNCED. Iraqi Foreign Minister al-Zebari announced on 19 July the appointment of 43 Iraqi ambassadors to represent Iraq overseas. "RFE/RL Iraq Report" has not been able to obtain the full list of appointments. The Elaph website (http://64.27.100.63/elaphweb) published the following appointments on 19 July:

Bahrain: Ghassan Muhsin Husayn; Belgium: Husayn Ma'la; China: Muhammad Sabir; Egypt: Safiya al-Suhail; France: Muwaffaq Mahdi; Greece: Hatim al-Khawam; Italy: Muhammad al-Amaly; Jordan: Ata Abd al-Wahab; Romania: Adil Murad; Sweden: Ahmad Bamarni; Syria: Hasan Allawi; Qatar: Rasul A'lwash; Turkey: Sabah Jamil Umran; United Arab Emirates: Faris al-Yawir; United Kingdom: Salah al-Shaykhali; United States: Ali Allawi. The Iraqi Representative to the United Nations will be Samir al-Sumaydi'i; the representative to the UN in Geneva will be Baha Shabib. The representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris will be Muhi al-Khatib. The Iraqi representative to the Arab League in Cairo will be Jawad al-Ha'iri. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

OIL MINISTRY PLANS TO BOOST PRODUCTION IN 2005. The Iraqi Oil Ministry intends to boost exports in 2005 to about 3 million barrels a day, iraqpress.org reported on 14 July. The ministry plans include the drilling of 2,000 new wells and construction of a 3,000 kilometer-long domestic gas pipeline, the website reports.

The pipeline would supply local power plants with natural gas from fields in the north and south and produce more than 100,000 barrels of fuel for export currently used to generate electricity. The plan also envisions infrastructure repairs on export terminals in Al-Basrah. The planned infrastructure repairs in the south -- on Mina al-Bakr and Khor Ammaya -- will boost the terminals' capacity to handle up to 3 million barrels a day. The terminals now export about 1.8 million barrels a day. Iraq's northern export gate through Turkey has been riddled by terrorist attacks, forcing the ministry to rely on its southern outlets for exports.

Reuters reported on 15 July that the interim government would spend $1.4 billion to repair the oil industry. It will not, however, conclude any long-term upstream deals. "The government, at least the leadership, knows that its role should be temporary. They made it clear that they will not enter into partnerships or pursue projects that have no funding," an unidentified Arab oil executive said. The interim government is due to be dissolved in January following elections. Some $500 million will be spent in the next six months to supply refineries with equipment, spare parts, and chemicals. Another $900 million will go to oil wells and pipelines, Reuters reported. For more information on the Iraqi oil industry, visit the ministry's website (http://www.uruklink.net/oil). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQ ISSUES TREASURY BILLS... The Iraqi government raised 150 billion dinars on 18 July ($104 million) through the sale of three-month treasury bills carrying an interest rate of 5.5 percent. The demand for the treasury bills, auctioned off by the central bank, was said to have been healthy, central bank chief economist Mudhir Kasim told Reuters, the news agency reported on 18 July.

Kasim called the sale "an attempt to explore the market." "The plan is to issue six-month and one-year maturities too." Local banks purchased most of the treasury bills. The central bank did not purchase bills since it is prohibited to do so under a new law. "A secondary treasury-bill market is being developed and the central bank could enter as a buyer then," Kasim said. Reuters reports that the Iraqi government is planning to issue treasury bills every two weeks. The news agency reports that the Iraqi dinar has been holding stable at about 1,400 dinars to the dollar in recent months. The exchange rate at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom was about 3,500 dinars to the dollar. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AS IRAQ STOCK EXCHANGE PROFILED. The Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX) opened its doors to the press for the first time on 18 July, international media reported. The ISX was launched in June and replaces the now defunct Baghdad Stock Exchange, which was dissolved by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) last year.

The ISX is open two days a week for two hours a day, AP reported on 18 July. Workers man the floor with markers -- the big board is actually a dry-erase board. Officials from the ISX say that an electronic trading system will be installed in the future. The exchange took about a year to set up. It is owned by 12 brokerage houses and banks, which worked with the CPA to establish a legal and regulatory framework. Talib al-Tabatabi is the ISX's chairman; Ahmed Taha is the chief executive officer.

The ISX staff is overwhelmingly female -- some 50 out of the 55 staff members are women, www.theage.com reported on 5 July. Trading manager Jammy Afham told the website that the reason is that women typically worked in the finance industry under the Saddam Hussein regime while Iraqi men were off fighting wars. Fifteen companies are now listed on the exchange, with about 100 more due to be introduced in the coming months, the website reported. The tourism and hospitality sector are expected to be the markets new blue chips, AP reported -- that is, once the bullets stop flying. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI OFFICIAL ASSASSINATED IN AL-BASRAH. Militants disguised as police shot and killed the coordinator for Al-Basrah's provincial council, Hazim Tawfiq al-Aynishi, on 20 July, Al-Jazeera television reported. Al-Aynishi previously served as the deputy governor of the province under the Coalition Provisional Authority.

A council spokesman told Reuters that two of al-Aynishi's bodyguards were also killed in the attack, which occurred at a makeshift checkpoint. "At the checkpoint there were some people wearing police uniforms who asked the driver to stop. Then they opened fire," the spokesman said. Another passenger in the vehicle was injured in the attack. Militants killed Ninawah Governor Usama Yousif Kashmula on 14 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 2004).

Three unidentified armed men also gunned down Isam Jasim Qasim, director-general of the Defense Ministry, near his home in Baghdad on 18 July, Al-Arabiyah reported. Al-Khuza'i, the defense minister in the interim Iraqi government, told Al-Arabiyah television on 19 July that Qasim had refused more security protection. Sha'lan added that plans are under way to force high-level government officials to accept bodyguards and increased security for their homes. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

SUICIDE BOMBER STRIKES IRAQI POLICE STATION. A suicide bomber detonated his vehicle outside a Baghdad police station on 19 July, killing at least 10 individuals and wounding more than 40 others, international media reported. Al-Arabiyah television said that the attack occurred in the Al-I'lam neighborhood in the Al-Saydiyah area of the capital. U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Bill Salter told Reuters that the bomber most likely used a fuel truck to carry out the bombing. CNN reported that at least three policemen were killed in the attack. A suicide car bomber attacked the Iraqi National Guard headquarters in Al-Mahmudiyah on 17 July, killing one National Guard soldier and injuring some 50 people, Al-Jazeera reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

DAILY REPORTS IRAQI PRESIDENT, U.S. AMBASSADOR AT ODDS OVER AMNESTY. Amman's "Al-Arab al-Yawm" reported on 19 July that interim Iraqi President al-Yawir and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte are at odds over the Iraqi government's plan to offer amnesty to militants in Iraq. Sources close to al-Yawir said that Negroponte has objected to the plan, thus delaying a formal announcement of the amnesty offer. The source also accused Negroponte of trying to interfere in the work of the president. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI PRIME MINISTER ALLOWS 'AL-HAWZAH' TO RESUME PRINTING. Iyad Allawi has reportedly issued a statement giving the green light for the "Al-Hawzah" newspaper to resume publication following a three-month closure for incitement to violence, Al-Jazeera television reported on 18 July.

The Coalition Provisional Authority ordered the newspaper, distributed by radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, closed on 28 March for a period of two months (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 2 April 2004). However, in an 18 July interview with Al-Jazeera, the newspaper's managing editor, Ali al-Yasiri, said that he reopened the daily's offices without the permission of the interim government. "It seems that the government has taken note of this and then the prime minister's office issued that statement," he said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

KURDISH DELEGATION ASKS GRAND AYATOLLAH TO INTERVENE IN KIRKUK. A delegation from the Kurdistan Islamic Ulama Union visited Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Al-Najaf on 12 July to seek his assistance in returning seized land to the Kurds in Kirkuk, the Al-Najaf News Network reported on 14 July. The delegation presented the ayatollah with a petition signed by 1,292 people who had their land taken from them and asks al-Sistani to issue a fatwa calling for the return of these lands. The land was given away to Arabs during President Saddam Hussein's Arabization project in the 1980s. Al-Sistani reportedly told the delegation that they should seek to resolve the issue through the courts. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

FILIPINO, EGYPTIAN HOSTAGES RELEASED. Arab media reported on 20 July that Filipino hostage Angelo de la Cruz has been released by militants in Iraq following the withdrawal of Filipino troops from the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 2004). A spokesman for the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Baghdad later confirmed the release. De la Cruz was later flown to Jordan to join his wife. The U.A.E. has offered to fly him to the Emirates for a medical exam.

Egyptian hostage Muhammad al-Gharbawi was freed from captivity on 19 July. He told MENA that his abductors delivered him to the Egyptian consulate in Baghdad. Al-Gharbawi said that he was moved from place to place every few days but that he was treated well by his captors. The National Islamic Resistance-1920 Revolution Brigades released him after his employer, a Saudi transport company, vowed not to do business in Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

BODY OF BULGARIAN HOSTAGE RECOVERED IN BAGHDAD. Iraqi police on 15 July found the decapitated body of a Bulgarian hostage killed in Iraq earlier this week, Al-Jazeera reported. The hostage's remains were discovered in Mosul. Major General Salim al-Hajj Isa, the head of security in the Ninawah governorate, said that the U.S. Army verified that the body was that of the Bulgarian hostage. Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi said on 15 July that there was no credible information available on the fate of a second Bulgarian hostage, BGNES reported. Deputy Foreign Minister Gergana Gruncharova also confirmed that no new information is available on the second hostage, BGNES news agency reported on 18 July.

Meanwhile, a videotape received by Al-Jazeera carrying a two and a half minute-long recording of the supposed execution was viewed by Bulgarian officials this week. Deputy Foreign Minister Gruncharova told Bulgarian National Radio that "the cassette is not a source that would allow us to confirm or deny 100 percent the identity of the hostage." Bulgaria has said that it will keep its 470 troops in Iraq rather than withdraw under pressure from the militants, Reuters reported on 21 July. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

RUMORS CLAIM ALLAWI SHOT DEAD SIX DETAINEES. Among the myriad of rumors circulating around the Iraqi capital is one that contends that Prime Minister Allawi shot dead six handcuffed detainees. The rumor has garnered international attention this week, with several western newspapers reporting the rumor. U.S.-based "Newsweek" magazine published a feature on the rumor, positing that perhaps such rumors portraying Allawi as a strong man in Iraq are helpful to his image and gives his cabinet more credibility.

The "Sydney Morning Herald" website (http://www.smh.com.au) reported on 17 July that it had interviewed two witnesses to the killings who said that the prisoners, handcuffed and blindfolded, were lined up against a wall in a courtyard at the Al-Amiriyah detention center, where Allawi told onlookers that the detainees had each killed up to 50 Iraqis and they "deserved worse than death." The witnesses claimed that Allawi then shot each prisoner in the head. Six died and one was wounded in the incident. A dozen Iraqi policemen reportedly witnessed the execution, as well as four Americans who work the security detail for the prime minister.

Allawi's office has denied the claims and said that the prime minister never carries a gun and has never visited the detention center. The witnesses could not give a date for the alleged incident, saying it happened around the third week in June. Allawi was named prime minister in early June. The daily stands by its report, claiming that the two witnesses interviewed were "independently and separately found" by its reporter. "Neither approached the newspaper. They were interviewed on different days in a private home in Baghdad, without being told [what] the other had spoken," the report stated, adding that the witnesses were not paid for their interviews. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

MILITANTS THREATEN TO KILL IRAQI PRIME MINISTER... The Khalid bin al-Walid Brigade, which identifies itself as the military wing of fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad group, posted a communique on the Al-Ansar website (http://www.ansarnet.ws/vb/) on 18 July threatening to kill Iraqi Interim Prime Minister Allawi, interim President al-Yawir, as well as other leaders of the interim government.

The communique called Allawi "the agent of the Americans" and referred to al-Yawir as "the traitor." Addressing Allawi, the communique said: "There will be no end to the line of booby-trapped cars. Step down [from power] and leave Iraq, you have no place among our Muslim nation. The Lions of Islam are coming to shake off the dust of dishonor and disgrace, and to crush the unbelievers and tyranny." The group offered a bounty of 200,000 Jordanian dinars ($282,000) to whoever kills Allawi, adding, "If we are unable to deliver the award, it will be found in Paradise, where, God willing, the Almighty will hand it out."

The group also threatened Italy in its "Statement No. 1" posted on anbbar.net on 17 July. The statement reads in part: "This letter from Khalid bin al-Walid Brigade in Europe, belonging to the Al-Qaeda organization, is addressed to the Italians and the Italian government in particular. We did send letters before, but the Italian government refused to understand them, because the only language this government understands is the language of blood and jihad... O people of Italy...we ask you for the last time to urge your country to peacefully withdraw from Iraq. But if you do not answer our demands, I think that convoys of car bombs will be the solution..." The letter advises Italy to import body bags to Iraq and begin making coffins for the dead, should Rome refuse to withdraw from Iraq.

The Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad group claimed responsibility for the 17 July attack on the Iraqi National Guard headquarters in Al-Mahmudiyah "Communique Number 20," posted on the same day on the Ansar website. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

�AS TERRORIST GROUP DENIES THREATENING JAPAN, ARAB AND MUSLIM STATES. The Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad terrorist group posted a statement on the Al-Anbar website (http://www.anbaar.net) on 20 July denying any connection to an earlier statement posted by the Khalid bin al-Walid Brigade, which claimed to be the military wing of the former group.

The Khalid bin al-Walid Brigade statement threatened Japanese troops and told them to withdraw from Iraq as the Philippines did. Addressing Pakistan, Jordan, Turkey, Iran, the Arab states, Indonesia, Malaysia, and "all" Islamic nations, the statement said: "This is our last warning. We will hit with an iron fist all those who support [Prime Minister Iyad] Allawi and his gang." In response, Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad said in its 20 July statement that it was "surprised and amazed" by the Khalid bin al-Walid Brigade's statement. "We would like our brothers to verify and seek the truth everywhere and distance themselves from lies," the statement said. The group said it will launch its own website soon to educate all Muslims on the group's doctrine and mission. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

DAILY REPORTS AL-SADR MILITIA REGROUPING WITH HELP FROM IRAN. The U.S.-based daily "Christian Science Monitor" (CSM) reported on 15 July that Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Al-Mahdi Army is regrouping in the holy city of Al-Najaf with help from Iranian intelligence agents. The militia has reportedly stored weapons in two so-called "exclusion zones," the vast Al-Najaf cemetery, and the Imam Ali Shrine. The "exclusion zones" are not patrolled by U.S. forces due to public sensitivity over both religious sites. Iraqi police rarely patrol the areas, the daily reported.

Some 80 agents are working with an estimated 500 Al-Mahdi militiamen, providing training and nine 57-millimeter Russian-made antiaircraft guns, in addition to stockpiles of antitank weapons, mortars, and other armaments, the daily reported, citing U.S. and Iraqi intelligence reports. "They are preparing for something, gathering weapons; people are coming in on buses from other parts of Iraq," Michael al-Zurufi, the Iraqi security adviser for the Al-Najaf governorate said. The daily also reported that al-Sadr militiamen continue to terrorize the local population, kidnapping police officials and their family members, arbitrarily "arresting" citizens, and occupying buildings in the city.

Al-Najaf Governor Adnan al-Zurufi told the daily that U.S. and Iraqi commanders are preparing their forces to combat any activities by the outlawed militia. Iraqi police and National Guard units have been equipped with rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) and machine guns. "Last week we bought $6,000 worth of heavy machine guns, RPG-7 rounds, AK-47s and ammunition," al-Zurufi said. The governorate currently has about 2,500 police officers on duty, as well as 800 National Guard troops, which may not be enough to fight the militia, should it come to that. Iraqi National Guard commander Akyl Khalil Bruhan told the daily that 500 of his 800 men are stationed at different checkpoints throughout the governorate, leaving only 300 to operate as a fighting force. A number of security forces fled their posts in late April and early May rather than fight the militia. Others switched sides and fought alongside al-Sadr loyalists. The situation has been compounded by the militia's repeated attacks on police stations in Al-Najaf (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 2 July 2004).

Governor al-Zurufi reportedly has no intention now of arresting al-Sadr, who is wanted on an Iraqi arrest warrant for the 10 April 2003 killing of Shi'ite Ayatollah Abd al-Majid al-Khoi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April 2003). "I haven't received any order from Baghdad about arresting him, and I think it's a bad idea," al-Zurufi said. "Muqtada is a very simple person. He's not a leader who can control a million people, but we are making him a big shot." Meanwhile, locals remain disturbed by the militia's presence in the city, the CSM reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

JUSTICE MINISTER DISCUSSES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT, AL-ZARQAWI. Iraqi Justice Minister Malik Duhan al-Hasan told Al-Arabiyah television in an 18 July interview that he does not believe that fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi is behind the 17 July attempt on his life. Al-Zarqawi's associates reportedly claimed responsibility for the assassination attempt on al-Hasan.

"I do not object to the idea of getting the occupation out of Iraq if that is what Abu Mus'ab wants. I do not know if Abu Mus'ab has any other goals, and I am not sure that he carried out the attempt on my life," al-Hasan said. "As yet, I believe al-Zarqawi is similar to the so-called phoenix; that is, a name with no existence," he added, suggesting that al-Zarqawi is a fictitious character. "Otherwise, what is it that al-Zarqawi wants in Iraq?"

Al-Hasan told Al-Arabiyah that it is not logical for al-Zarqawi to be behind the attack, which occurred on the anniversary of the Ba'athist revolution. "Was al-Zarqawi a 17 July revolutionary? I do not think so," al-Hasan said. Rather, he contended, it was more likely that "Saddam's henchmen" were behind the attack. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI SHEIKH CRITICIZES IRAN FOR MEDDLING IN IRAQI AFFAIRS. Iraqi Sheikh Aws al-Khafaji accused Tehran of meddling in Iraqi affairs during his Friday prayer sermon on 16 July, Al-Jazeera television reported. "Do not interfere," al-Khafaji warned Iran, adding, "Try to prevent your people from wreaking havoc in Iraq, particularly in [the Shi'ite holy cities of] Karbala and Al-Najaf."

Al-Khafaji also criticized the infiltration of Iranian intelligence agents into Iraq, as well as the cross-border hashish trade. Al-Khafaji is close to Shi'ite cleric al-Sadr. The latter cleric's aides denied that al-Khafaji's remarks represented the opinions of al-Sadr and his followers, and said that al-Khafaji's opinions were solely his own.

Al-Sadr spokesman Sheikh Abd al-Hadi al-Darraji told Al-Jazeera on 17 July: "I have said time and again that the Iranian Islamic Republic has had a great role in the matters of the Iraqi people and has had clear demands. These issues...should not be discussed on the Friday pulpit, but perhaps with the Iranian embassy." Al-Darraji added that, although there might be some interference, it did not necessarily come from the "Iranian political side." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

REGIONAL NEWS
IRAQI PRIME MINISTER MEETS WITH JORDANIAN KING. Iyad Allawi met with Jordan's King Abdullah II on 19 July, Jordanian television reported. Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher said that the talks laid the foundation for strong ties between the two states, citing Jordan's training of Iraqi security forces and contribution of military equipment to Iraq.

An unnamed senior Jordanian security official told gulf-daily-news.com that Allawi would seek further assistance in the field of security. "Allawi's priority is to get Jordan's long expertise in battling extremists in the war against the terrorists in Iraq. We are more than ready to help. We face a common enemy," he said.

Allawi told Jordan's television channel 1 on 20 July that an agreement was reached that transcends the initial needs of Iraq and aims to meet future needs. Asked what he expected from Jordan, Allawi replied: "There is large Jordanian expertise in the fields of technology, human development, and human resources. It is well known, for example, that Iraqi army and police commanders are currently being trained in Jordan. We are happy about this and the results are thus far excellent." Allawi added that Iraq would welcome Jordan's "human development technologies" and Jordanian national capital to help rebuild the country.

Regarding security, Allawi said that he has proposed that the interior ministers of Iraq and its neighboring countries meet to discuss mechanisms to thwart the infiltration of Iraq's border by smugglers and terrorists. Allawi departed Jordan on 21 July to attend a meeting of Iraq's neighbors in Cairo (see this report). He will head to Syria following his trip to Cairo as part of his Arab state tour. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS IRAQ WILL SIGN PACT OF GUARANTEES WITH KUWAIT. Hoshyar al-Zebari said that his country is ready to sign a pact of assurances with neighboring Kuwait that would ensure security and recognize the territorial integrity of Kuwait and its borders, KUNA reported on 19 July. Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein claimed a legal right to Kuwait as justification for Iraq's 1990 invasion and occupation of its southern neighbor. "We are ready to sign a pact of assurances with neighboring Kuwait thrashing out the question of the border and the independence of Kuwait and the file of the prisoners and the compensations as well as all issues that concern the brothers in Kuwait," KUNA quoted al-Zebari as saying. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

TURKISH EXPORTS TOP $880 MILLION IN FIRST HALF OF YEAR. Turkish exports to Iraq topped $880 million in the first six months of 2004, Istanbul's "Sabah" reported on 16 July. The chairman of the Turkish-Iraqi Business Council, Ercument Aksoy, released the figures, claiming that exports for the year could reach between $1.3 and $1.5 billion.

"We had closed this record level in 2001 with exports in the region of $1 billion. For there to be $880 million in exports in the first six months despite all manner of adverse conditions shows both Iraq's interest in Turkey as well as the desire of Turkish businessmen to conduct business in Iraq even under such bad conditions," Aksoy said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

THE UN AND IRAQ
IRAQ REQUESTS RETURN OF IAEA INSPECTORS. Iraqi Foreign Minister al-Zebari has asked the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to send its weapons inspectors back to Iraq to verify the status of Iraq's nuclear materials, international media reported on 20 July.

IAEA Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei has said that he will meet the request, noting that inspectors will work on preparing the final report on the absence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq, which would pave the way for the lifting of sanctions. Inspectors were forced to withdraw from Iraq on the eve of the March 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom. An IAEA spokesman said on 20 July that inspectors would head to Iraq in a matter of days, AP reported on 21 July. Meanwhile, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that the new inspection is unrelated to the 2002-2003 inspections, and instead is a routine requirement for countries that have safeguard agreements with the IAEA, AP reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

EUROPE, THE U.S., AND IRAQ
ARMITAGE MEETS AL-ZEBARI IN BAGHDAD. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage met with Iraqi Foreign Minister al-Zebari in Baghdad on 18 July to discuss the political and security situation in Iraq, according to a transcript of the press conference held by the two men following their talks, issued by the State Department (http://usinfo.state.gov).

Al-Zebari told reporters that the meeting addressed Iraq's relations with neighboring states and the need for these states to help support stability in Iraq. The leaders also addressed the role of the United Nations in the political process in Iraq and the need for Iraq to normalize relations with the international community. Armitage said that the goal of the United States is to support the sovereign Iraqi government.

Asked about the position of the United States regarding Iraq's offer of amnesty to militants, Armitage said: "This is an Iraqi decision that will be made by Iraqis. However, it is a generally held view in the United States that people with blood on their hands who have killed Iraqis or Americans are probably not good candidates for amnesty. Addressing the same question, al-Zebari said: "The amnesty law in fact has exempted those who are involved in killing Iraqis and Coalition [forces] at the same time and those who have committed serious crimes or serious violations. So in that, there really haven't been any differences in opinion between the Iraqi Government and U.S. Embassy."

Regarding the upcoming national conference that will pick an interim assembly to oversee the interim government, al-Zebari told reporters that the conference will aim to make participation in government more inclusive. "We are working to organize that [conference] within the time limit that we have agreed; but we all also need to be realistic and conscious of the security situation." He added that the conference's preparatory committee is in constant contact with the Prime Minister's Office as it tries to organize the event. Al-Zebari hinted that the conference may be delayed for "a few days" but did not elaborate. The conference plans have been under wraps, which is likely due to the security situation. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

RUSSIAN MILITARY WILL NOT SEND TROOPS TO IRAQ. The Russian military will not send troops to Iraq or Afghanistan, according to the head of the Russian Defense Ministry press service, Colonel Vyacheslav Sedov, RIA-Novosti reported on 20 July. "Russia's position is unchanged; we are not going to send Russian troops to conflict zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, not for free, not in return for some sort of economic perks," Sedov said. Media reports this week contended that Russia might send some 40,000 troops to Iraq in exchange for economic concessions by the United States. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

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