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Iraq Report: April 7, 2003

7 April 2003, Volume 6, Number 16

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COALITION FORCES ENTER BAGHDAD, PREPARED TO STAY? U.S.-led forces have entered central Baghdad, securing one presidential palace and entering at least one other, according to 7 April international press agencies reported. "We have seized the main presidential palace in downtown Baghdad.... There are two palaces down there and we are in both of them," U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Pete Bayer told Reuters. At U.S. Central Command in Doha, Qatar, U.S. Captain Frank Thorp told reporters, "The goal of this [incursion] is not to take ground. This is an armored raid through the city," adding, "We're expecting to see continuing fighting with Republican Guard and Special Republican Guard as military movements continue," Reuters reported. "We should stay calm. There's a lot of tough battles ahead," Thorp noted. Meanwhile, coalition forces sustained casualties on 7 April when Iraqi forces attacked a U.S. communications center on the southern outskirts of Baghdad, international press agencies reported. Other reports indicate that Iraqi forces are blocking many Tigris bridges and defending key ministries with rocket-propelled grenades. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI INFORMATION MINISTER CONTINUES TO DENY LARGE INCURSION. Al-Jazeera broadcast a press conference with Muhammad Sa'id al-Sahhaf in which the minister continued to downplay the coalition incursion, telling reporters on 7 April that coalition forces "have pushed a small number of their armored vehicles and tanks [into Baghdad but] we besieged them and...we will get rid of them soon." Asked about reports that coalition forces have seized control over strategic sites in the city, al-Sahhaf said, "They are not controlling [even] not believe them. He added that Baghdad was a heavily armed city and promised reporters he would take them on a tour of the city "as soon as possible." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

'CHEMICAL ALI' FOUND DEAD. Iraqi General Ali Hassan al-Majid, cousin of President Saddam Hussein and director-general of the National Secretariat of the Revolutionary Command Council, has reportedly been found dead following a coalition bombing of his home in Al-Basrah on 5-6 April, AP reported on 7 April. Al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali" because of his leading role in the regime's poison gas attack on Kurds in 1988, was charged with defending the regime in southern Iraq against coalition forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom. British Major Andrew Jackson of the 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment has said that U.K. commanders will confirm the death during a briefing on 7 April. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

'FRIENDLY FIRE' INCIDENT IN NORTHERN IRAQ. U.S. warplanes on 6 April accidentally bombed a joint convoy of U.S. Special Forces and Kurdish fighters about 50 kilometers southeast of Mosul in northern Iraq, RFE/RL reported. Radio Free Iraq correspondent Sami Shoresh was nearby and reported just minutes later, "The attack by U.S. planes a few minutes ago resulted in the death of several Kurdish fighters, including commanders, here in the heights of Jilga Jlao. Right now, there is confusion and further fighting plans [are] disrupted. People are busy moving the dead and wounded." The incident is estimated to have caused 12 deaths and 45 other casualties. Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) official Hoshiar Zebari said that Wajeeh Barzani, a brother of KDP leader Masud Barzani, was traveling in the convoy and is in critical condition. U.S. Central Command said an investigation is under way. (Bill Samii)

IRAQI PRESIDENT ISSUES STATEMENTS. Al-Sahhaf read a statement purportedly from Saddam Hussein on Al-Jazeera television on 5 April in which the Iraqi president claimed that coalition forces have weakened their capabilities "on the other axes" in their attempts to secure Baghdad. "This is why your duty now is to exhaust it, deepen its wounds, and deprive it of the gains it obtained on the ground in your area," the statement read. A second statement by Hussein that signaled the general disarray of Iraqi forces was read on Iraq Television on 6 April. "When any fighter is unable to join his unit for any reason, he should join any unit that is similar to that in his formation and be deployed within this unit until further notice," Hussein told Iraqi forces. Iraq Television also reported that Hussein held a meeting that was attended by his two sons, Uday and Qusay, as well as by Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan and Defense Minister Staff General Sultan Hashim Ahmad, among others. Iraq Television also reported on 6 April that Hussein awarded several medals and 50 million dinars to the families of two female suicide bombers who blew themselves up northwest of Baghdad on 4 April, killing three U.S. soldiers. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI MINISTER WARNS OF RUMORS, TACTICS. Iraqi Information Minister Muhammad Sa'id al-Sahhaf read a statement by an "official source" to the press on 5 April warning Iraqis to keep their "eyes and minds" open so that they might distinguish between rumors and "reality." The statement appeared to target Iraqi forces in particular, claiming that coalition forces "try to disseminate rumors through which [they think they] can confuse our rank and file." The statement warns Iraqi fighters to take precautions until they can verify news reports and information received. The statement also criticizes fighters for using light weapons to take one or two shots at a time instead of confronting coalition forces. "This practice must stop," the statement read, adding, "Those who fire these arms are irresponsible. If they want to test their weapons, let them test these weapons against the enemy, now that the enemy is in the suburbs of Baghdad." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI MINISTER CLAIMS IT DROVE COALITION FROM AIRPORT... Al-Sahhaf told a Baghdad press briefing broadcast on Al-Jazeera television on 6 April that the regime's fighters repelled coalition forces and forced them to retreat from Saddam International Airport (renamed Baghdad International Airport on 4 April by coalition forces). Al-Sahhaf called video footage of coalition troops at the airport "propaganda," saying that it was propagated by the U.S. Army. He also claimed that Iraqi forces left the corridor to the airport open to coalition troops in order to "exhaust" them. "When we pound them they retreat.... And when we stop pounding them, they push some of their units toward Saddam International Airport," he insisted. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...ASSERTING IRAQ WILL ACHIEVE VICTORY. Al-Sahhaf told reporters at the 6 April press briefing that coalition forces will not be able to crush the Ba'ath Party system set up by Hussein, saying, "After the destruction of the U.S.-British aggression and invasion, there would only be Iraq under leader President Saddam Hussein, with its cultural and political heritage, deep-rooted national political system, and all its institutions." Asked about coalition bombings over Baghdad, al-Sahhaf acknowledged that Baghdad is under fire from coalition forces, but added, "I don't know if you can distinguish our missiles and artillery from theirs." He reiterated earlier claims that coalition forces are killing Iraqi civilians or taking them as prisoners of war. Asked about the remains of 50 U.S. soldiers that al-Sahhaf claimed Iraqi forces killed on 5-6 April, he replied, "I don't know." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

PUK SAYS IRAQI DESERTIONS CONTINUE. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has said in a press statement that Iraqi forces continue to desert their posts in large numbers, "Kurdistani Nuwe" reported on 5 April. The statement reports the desertion of high-ranking officers and soldiers, particularly from the Commandos Battalion of Division 34, which the PUK claims has only 25 Iraqi soldiers left in that division following the desertion of the assistant battalion commander and six other officers. Other soldiers reportedly followed suit. There is no independent confirmation of that information. Meanwhile, Kurdistan Satellite Television (KurdSat) reported on 5 April that four Iraqi officers, nine noncommissioned officers (NCOs), and 129 soldiers have surrendered to Kurdish peshmerga forces in Irbil since 27 March. A source at the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs in the Kurdistan Regional Government reportedly told KurdSat that Iraqi forces who have surrendered are given a medical examination as well as food and clothing before they are transferred to prisoner of war camps. The source also reportedly said that the Iraqis felt safe in Iraqi Kurdistan from execution squads reportedly set up by the Iraqi regime to kill deserters. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

REPORT: SENIOR REGIME OFFICIALS THREATENING MEMBERS WITH DEATH... London's "The Sunday Telegraph" on 6 April reported that coalition intelligence indicates senior members of the Hussein regime have threatened people with death in an attempt to prevent the regime from collapsing. U.S. intelligence reports reportedly cite members of Hussein's family threatening to shoot anyone prepared to surrender to coalition forces. "We have been totally taken aback by the ineptness of the regime. I think people have now given up, but there is nobody in authority to authorize the surrender," "The Sunday Telegraph" quoted a U.K. cabinet minister as saying. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AND BAGHDAD REGIME'S 'SECURITY' PREVENTS DEFECTIONS. The Iraqi regime of President Saddam Hussein has ordered special security forces into certain Baghdad neighborhoods where senior army and intelligence officers reside, Kuwait news agency (KUNA) reported on 3 April. The report asserts that security forces are monitoring the movements of the senior officers in an effort to prevent them from fleeing Baghdad or from contacting coalition forces. KUNA reported that a number of senior officers have already been arrested for attempting to leave Baghdad for neighboring countries. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

CENTCOM CHARGES IRAQI REGIME PUTTING CIVILIANS IN DANGER. A statement by U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) on 6 April charged that the Iraqi regime has been placing civilians in danger by using mosques and hospitals as bases to conduct military operations. CENTCOM referred to specific sites being occupied by Iraqi forces, including the Mother of All Battles Mosque located in northwest Baghdad and the Saddam Hospital, also in Baghdad. CENTCOM noted that these sites remain on the coalition's "no-strike list." "As the Iraqi regime continues to jeopardize Iraq's treasures, the coalition will continue its efforts to protect innocent Iraqi civilians and sensitive sites from harm," the statement read. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQ ACCUSES COALITION OF DROPPING BOOBY-TRAPPED PENCILS. Iraqi Information Minister Muhammad Sa'id al-Sahhaf told reporters on 2 April that coalition forces are dropping booby traps into Iraqi villages, according to a daily briefing broadcast on Al-Jazeera television. "These booby traps resemble pencils," he said, adding that the objects were collected by the regime "and warnings were issued to citizens not to take any of these pencils because they [contain] explosives." He charged that the pencils were aimed at killing children. Asked whether coalition aerial bombings have lessened, al-Sahhaf said they have not. He added that the Iraqi people might have noticed fewer bombings because the regime continues to shoot down coalition missiles before impact. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI PRESIDENT REPORTEDLY CHAIRS MEETING. Iraq Television carried footage on 3 April of a meeting between President Hussein and his advisers. An announcer reported that Hussein advised his commanders to act as leaders, adding that those who were not able to do so should step aside and allow others to lead. Hussein called on all Iraqis, in particular Ba'ath Party members, to fight, saying, "This is the day to test the principles" of the nation. The Iraqi leader also urged Iraqis to hold the defense lines outside the cities. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI PRESIDENT RALLIES AL-NASIRIYAH FORCES, WARNS AGAINST INSUBORDINATION. A statement attributed to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and read on Iraq Television on 1 April urged "comrades, the jihad and resistance command" of Al-Nasiriyah to "fight the enemy and be tough with them." Hussein praised the "valiant 11th Division" fighters in that city, adding, "Those who fall in this aggression are considered martyrs." Hussein also advised his fighters in the area to press Iraqi officials in Al-Nasiriyah to remain loyal to the regime, signaling that his regime might be facing difficulties in maintaining control. "Remind those officials who do not act as their command post dictates of their duties. If they do not respond, any of their subordinates has the right and duty to assume the higher post himself, whether as a result of a decision or even without a decision," Hussein said. He also claimed that Iraq has used only one-third of its army to fight coalition forces since the start of hostilities on 20 March. The Center for Defense Information (CDI) reported last June that the Iraqi Army numbers around 425,000 men, including the 70,000-strong Republican Guard and the 30,000 strong Special Republican Guard. In addition, Iraq has some 650,000 reservists ( (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI VICE PRESIDENT CALLS SAUDI FOREIGN MINISTER 'A PETTY AGENT.' Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan on 1 April criticized Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Sa'ud al-Faysal bin Abd al-Aziz al-Sa'ud following a report by Al-Jazeera that the foreign minister called on President Hussein to step down during an interview with ABC Television. Ramadan called Sa'ud al-Faysal a "petty agent" and ridiculed him for taking a stand against the Iraqi regime. He also criticized Saudi Arabia and other Arab states allied with the United States for allowing U.S. troops to be based on their territory. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI GENERAL REPORTS ON CONFLICT. Iraqi Military spokesman Staff General Hazim al-Rawi issued a statement on the status of the conflict, Iraq Television reported on 3 April. Al-Rawi repeated earlier Iraqi assertions that the military has not employed all of its units, nor has it called up reservists. "As for beloved and guarded Baghdad, we assure you that its walls are huge and are filled with men, weapons, and chivalry," al-Rawi said, declaring that Iraqi forces will "swallow up" coalition forces in Baghdad. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQ CHARGES COALITION WITH BOMBING HISTORICAL, RELIGIOUS SITES. Al-Sahhaf also told the Baghdad press conference on 2 April that coalition forces bombed a historic location dating to the Sumerian period, but the Iraqi information minister failed to name a specific site. He further charged that coalition planes are flying at low altitudes "so that their vibrations might affect these archaeological sites and [Shi'a] shrines," adding, "They [coalition forces] are trying to rock these sites by flying near them." Al-Sahhaf said sites in Babylon, Hetra, and Ur, as well as Assyrian sites in Ninevah and Shi'a holy sites in Al-Najaf and Karbala are all at risk. According to al-Sahhaf, the Iraqi Culture Ministry has lodged a complaint with UNESCO. British Prime Minister Tony Blair told the British Parliament on 2 April that intelligence reports indicate the Iraqi regime is prepared to attack religious sites and blame the destruction on coalition forces, as happened in the 1991 Gulf War, BBC News reported the same day. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI REGIME ASKS CITIZENS TO TURN IN MOBILE PHONES. The Iraqi regime issued a statement on 2 April offering an award of 5 million dinars (approximately $2,500 at black-market rates), to citizens who provide information on individuals using mobile telephones to "collaborate" with coalition forces, Iraq Television reported the same day. The statement also asked Iraqi citizens to turn in their mobile phones to the Iraqi authorities in order to prevent the phones from falling into coalition hands. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI OFFICIAL DECLINES TO COMMENT ON HEALTH OF HUSSEIN'S SONS. Uday al-Ta'i, director-general of the Iraqi Information Ministry, told France 2 television on 2 April that Iraqi President Hussein "is still alive," adding, "He is in our hearts, and he is our president." Asked about the health of the Iraqi president's sons, Uday and Qusay, al-Ta'i answered, "Look, there's no point in answering this kind of question. We are in a state of war. We are fighting for our dignity, to protect our country, to protect our independence, and the war is savage." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI INFORMATION MINISTER BRIEFS REPORTERS... Al-Jazeera television carried a live broadcast of Iraqi Information Minister al-Sahhaf's 1 April briefing in Baghdad. Al-Sahhaf reviewed coalition strikes on Iraqi targets, listing casualties in each governorate, and charged that coalition forces have targeted civilian quarters in Baghdad, Babil, Al-Qadisiyah, Salah Al-Din, and Al-Anbar. Telecommunication buildings and telephone exchanges, as well as radio and television transmitters, were also targeted. Al-Sahhaf spoke of Iraqi "successes" in Al-Ba'aj (near Mosul) against British forces and declared: "We have decided to keep [coalition forces] constantly on the move. We have decided that they must not have any rest." Asked why Iraqi troops are carrying gas masks, al-Sahhaf contested the implication that Iraqi troops' standard gear equates to those troops possessing proscribed weapons agents, remarking, "One main reason for the mask is to anticipate what these rascals [presumably coalition forces] might do. Masks are part of the standard equipment supplied to our soldiers." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AND CLAIMS COALITION HOLDING CIVILIANS, NOT IRAQI POWS. When al-Sahhaf was asked at the 1 April briefing how soon the Iraqi regime might allow the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit coalition prisoners of war (POWs), he countered that the coalition is obliged to provide the Iraqi regime with the names of Iraqi civilians being held. "They kidnap civilians from villages and on the roads and [those who are] not killed are kidnapped simply to say that they have Iraqi POWs," he said. "These are civilians, and the Red Cross and all other organizations must protect them." Al-Sahhaf said, however, that Iraq will abide by the Geneva Convention in its treatment of coalition prisoners. The information minister was also asked about Iraqi sites visited by UN inspectors that were later bombed by coalition forces. He responded that he has no information regarding UN inspectors, adding, "But, I do not rule out that some individuals must have permeated the [UN and International Atomic Energy Agency] inspection teams in order to serve the aims of the U.S. and British." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

GRAND AYATOLLAH'S OFFICE DENIES ISSUING FATWA... The office of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who is a Shi'a source of emulation based in Al-Najaf, has issued a statement denying that the cleric has issued a fatwa calling on Iraqis not to resist coalition forces, Al-Jazeera television reported on 3 April. Lebanese Hizballah's Al-Manar television also reported on 3 April that it could not confirm "the truth about the aforementioned [fatwa]," citing "parties [contacted] through our own channels." The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) deputy director of operations, Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, said during a 3 April press briefing in Qatar that al-Sistani has issued a fatwa "instructing the population to remain calm and to not interfere with coalition actions," according to the U.S. State Department's Office of International Information Programs ( (Bill Samii)

...AS CONFUSION REIGNS IN AL-NAJAF. Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum, a spokesman for the London-based Al-Khoi Foundation, said in a 3 April interview with Al-Jazeera that "our sources say that complete confusion prevails in Najaf.... We have no one who could go to Ayatollah Sistani to ask him for a religious ruling." Al-Ulum added that "what we have heard" is that the ayatollah wants the Iraqi people not to resist coalition forces. If anyone is inclined to believe Iraqi state media, then it too contributed to the confusion. Iraq Television on 3 April reported: "The religious scholars in Al-Najaf al-Ashraf represented by Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Ayatollah Muhammad Sa'id al-Hakim, Ayatollah Shaykh Bashir al-Najafi, and Ayatollah Shaykh Muhammad Ishaq al-Fayyad, and the religious scholar in Al-Kazimiyah, Ayatollah Seyyed Husayn Seyyed Isma'il al-Sadr, have issued a fatwa in which they appealed to the Islamic nation everywhere to unite and support the Muslim and mujahedin Iraq with all their might. They also called upon the Iraqi people to defend their homeland, honor, religion, and holy shrines and expel the infidel invaders from the land of Islam." (Bill Samii)

SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS DISUNITY THREATENS ARAB LEAGUE'S EXISTENCE... Arab League Secretary-General Amr Musa told the London-based "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" in an interview published on 1 April that war might have been avoided if Arab League member states had adopted a unified stance on Iraq. Musa said that disunity among Arab states affects the Arab League's ability to act effectively. "The Arabs are really in a state of weakness at a historical time," he added. He charged that some "Arab forces" are against a strong Arab League, saying, "The issue is whether the Arab League will continue to represent the Arabs after this serious division." Asked whether the Arab League might be dissolved and replaced by another regional grouping, Musa said, "This is possible. We are now thinking of the future of the Arab world after the two big shakes that have jolted the system. By this I mean Palestine and the failure there, and Iraq and the tragic events there."

Musa stressed in the 1 April "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" interview that despite differences between Arab states and Iraq, Iraq holds symbolic importance to the Arab world, saying, "[The] Baghdad of ancient history is engraved in the minds and hearts of the Arabs." He added that he recognizes that Kuwait was bitter over Iraq's 1990 invasion, but said, "I do not think [the Kuwaitis] should go so far as to help in the invasion of Iraq." Kuwaiti National Assembly speaker Jassem al-Khorafi responded to Musa's statements on 2 April, telling Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) that Musa's stand is biased and suggesting that the Arab League head follow the example of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has successfully worked to narrow the gap of various viewpoints among UN Security Council members. "The people of Kuwait carry no grudges against the league secretary-general," al-Khorafi added. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

THREAT OF 'ARAB AFGHANS' REVIVED. "Arab Afghans," the volunteers who flocked from North Africa and the Arab world to Afghanistan in the 1980s to participate in the anti-Soviet jihad, are heading to Iraq to fight against American and British forces, former Pakistani army chief General Aslam Beg said on 1 April, according to Japan's Kyodo news agency. Beg claimed that "busloads of mujahedin" have left Pakistan for Iraq in response to a fatwa from leaders of religious groups. Meanwhile, Maulana Mohammad Zaman, a religious leader of the Shakot tribal region bordering Afghanistan, told a crowd of some 500 people that the government should arrange for 10,000 local volunteers to participate in "jihad against U.S. forces in Iraq," AFP reported on 1 April. The Pakistani government reportedly has refused to fulfill this request. The Jamiat Ahl-Sunnat party said it will organize a convoy of protesters to travel from Rawalpindi to Karachi, and 3,000 people participated in a rally in Peshawar organized by the Awami National Party (ANP). (Bill Samii)

'VOLUNTEERS' HEADING FOR IRAQ. Khaled Jaafar Shoueish, Iraq's deputy ambassador to Lebanon, said on 1 April that dozens of Arabs, including women, are registering daily at the Iraqi Embassy in Hazmieh as volunteers to fight in Iraq, "The Daily Star" reported on 2 April. "We take their names and contact numbers, and we call them when a group of the right size is ready," Shoueish said. Thirty-six volunteers -- Lebanese, Palestinians, Egyptians, and a Sudanese -- on 31 March boarded a bus in front of the Iraqi Embassy in Lebanon and headed for Iraq, "The Daily Star" reported on 1 April. Some of them reportedly said they want to engage in "homicide bombings" against coalition personnel. Iraqi Ambassador to Egypt Muhsin Khalil urged the Egyptian people to organize "convoys of volunteers," Cairo's "Al-Wafd" newspaper reported on 1 April. About 2,500 Somali teenagers have registered at mosques and other locations in Mogadishu to indicate their willingness to fight alongside Iraqi forces, Mogadishu's "Ayaamaha" newspaper reported on 1 April. Most of the volunteers who go to Iraq to combat coalition forces are arriving in Mosul and Kirkuk in the northern part of the country via routes that are relatively free of U.S. air activity, Tel Aviv's "Ha'aretz" newspaper reported on 1 April. (Bill Samii)

ARAB NEWS CHANNEL PULLS CORRESPONDENTS FROM IRAQ. Al-Jazeera television has voluntarily withdrawn its correspondents from Iraq, the satellite news channel reported on 2 April. The decision came after the Iraqi Information Ministry expelled one Al-Jazeera correspondent and placed restrictions on a Baghdad-based correspondent. Al-Jazeera said it will "continue to broadcast the live and recorded pictures coming from Al-Jazeera offices in Baghdad, Al-Basrah, and Mosul." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

UNMOVIC CHIEF SAYS IRAQIS MAY HELP UNCOVER WMD. The executive chairman for the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), Hans Blix, told UN Radio on 1 April that if weapons of mass destruction (WMD) do exist in Iraq, coalition forces may receive help from liberated Iraqi citizens in locating those weapons and agents, the UN News Center reported on 2 April. "The 64 billion question -- that's what the war is costing at the moment I'm told -- that question is: are there any weapons of mass destruction?" Blix said, adding, "There is one factor that makes it less difficult for the U.S. to find them than it was for [UN inspectors]. And that is that as the country becomes liberated from the secret police, people may not fear speaking." The UNMOVIC chief hinted that it was unlikely that Iraq would use such weapons, even if it possessed them, because it would reveal that the Iraqi regime had lied and give further justification to the war. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ANNAN RECOMMENDS UNIKOM RETURNS AFTER WAR. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for the return of UN Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission (UNIKOM) personnel for at least three months at the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the UN News Center reported on 1 April. In a regular report on UNIKOM activities to the UN Security Council, Annan noted, "The small headquarters at the UNIKOM logistics base in Kuwait City will undertake liaison duties and provide valuable support to other United Nations activities as the need arises." Annan also recommended that a small peacekeeping presence be maintained for three months, or until 6 July 2003, "subject to any further decisions the council may take regarding the UNIKOM mandate."

UNIKOM observers and staff withdrew from the Iraqi-Kuwait border at the outset of Operation Iraqi Freedom (see RFE/RL "Iraq Report," 20 March 2003). According to the UN News Center, a residual staff including 12 military officers, 20 civilian staff and some local personnel remained in Kuwait City. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S., TURKEY AGREE ON TRANSPORTS, POSTWAR COOPERATION. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell held a joint press conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul following their 2 April meeting in Ankara, TRT 2 Television reported. Powell told reporters that the United States and Turkey have agreed that the United States will be able to transport supplies through Turkey to coalition forces operating in northern Iraq. The officials also agreed on the transport of humanitarian supplies and postwar construction aid "as the beginning of what I hope will be a very productive relationship between Turkey and Iraq."

Powell stressed that Turkey will play a crucial postwar role in any reconstruction effort in neighboring Iraq and as "a Muslim democracy living in peace with its friends and neighbors." Powell added that a proposed $1 billion aid package (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April 2003) shows "America's take any of the economic shock that might come [to Turkey] from this current situation."

Gul told reporters that Turkey continues to cooperate with the United States, noting that it has allowed damaged U.S. planes to land in Turkey and has assisted in the transfer of wounded coalition soldiers. Gul added that agreements made during his meeting with Powell will not require parliamentary approval. Ankara's refusal to allow U.S.-led forces to stage for a northern front in Iraq, along with reports that Turkish troops crossed the border into Iraq, have cast a pall over bilateral relations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. TO HOST ROUNDTABLE OF IRAQI LEADERS. Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Polish daily "Rzeczpospolita" in a 3 April interview that the United States will host a roundtable to bring together Iraqi dissidents and leaders to plan a postwar administration in Iraq, AFP reported on 4 April. "We want to include in the power structures the emigre community and the anti-Saddam opposition, which have had so much difficulty in abolishing the dictatorship of Hussein," Powell said, adding that leading Iraqi figures from inside Iraq will be invited to participate in order to ensure a representative power structure in the post-Hussein era. Powell said the roundtable will be similar to the one hosted by the United States in Afghanistan and noted that Washington seeks to turn power over to a new Iraqi government in a timely manner. "As soon as possible, we will try to hand over the responsibilities to the civilian ministers who have been reformed with our support, so that the Iraqi authorities can function without fearing the supporters of Saddam Hussein," Powell said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. RANGERS RESCUE PRISONER OF WAR IN IRAQ. "Coalition forces have conducted a successful rescue mission of a U.S. Army prisoner of war held captive in Iraq," Central Command (CENTCOM) Deputy Operations Chief Brooks said early on 1 April at the CENTCOM briefing center in Qatar, RFE/RL reported. "The soldier has been returned to a coalition-controlled area," Brooks said. A Defense Department press release identified her as Private Jessica Lynch, who is assigned to the 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company ( Iraqi forces captured Lynch on 23 March. U.S. Army Rangers conducted the rescue operation, assisted by U.S. Navy SEALs and U.S. Marines. The bodies of other American soldiers were found during the rescue operation. (Bill Samii)

RIGHTS GROUP ACCUSES IRAQ OF HIDING LAND MINES IN MOSQUE. Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Iraq in a 2 April press release of storing land mines in a mosque and laying them on the mosque grounds. "Iraq has violated international humanitarian law by storing antipersonnel land mines inside a mosque in Kadir Karam in northern Iraq, and placing them around the mosque before abandoning the area on March 27th," the release read. According to HRW, more than 150 mines were dismantled by the British organization Mines Advisory Group on 2 April. HRW also reported that the Iraqi regime has laid land mines in and around Al-Najaf, Kirkuk, Al-Basrah, and in other areas in southern Iraq. A BBC cameraman was killed on 2 April when he stepped out of his car onto a land mine. In addition, HRW reported that three U.S. marines have been injured by antipersonnel mines in Iraq since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The HRW press release can be viewed at ( (Kathleen Ridolfo)