26 April 2003, Volume
MORE FORMER IRAQI OFFICIALS IN COALITION CUSTODY.
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) announced in a 24 April press release that Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz is in coalition custody. Aziz had reportedly negotiated his surrender over the last several days, CNN reported on 25 April. Aziz, age 67, was the only Christian to hold a seat in the upper echelon of the regime of Saddam Hussein. Should he cooperate, Aziz could provide coalition forces with information as to the whereabouts of deposed President Saddam Hussein, and give information about weapons of mass destruction (WMD). An unnamed U.S. official said, "he many not know precisely where the WMD is hidden, but he probably knows generally about [Iraq's] WMD program," Reuters reported on 25 April. Aziz served as Iraqi Foreign Minister during the 1991 Gulf War. He was number 43 on CENTCOM's list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis.
Coalition forces have placed more members of the deposed Iraqi regime in custody, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) announced in a 23 April press release (http://www.centcom.mil). Muzahim Sa'b Hassan al-Tikriti, the former Iraqi Air Defense Force Commander is the most high-ranking official to be taken into coalition custody -- number 10 on CENTCOM's list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis. The press release also reported the surrender of Zuhayr Talib Abd al-Sattar al-Naqib, who served as director of military intelligence. He was number 21 on the list. Iraq's minister of trade under Hussein, Muhammad Mahdi al-Salih, was also captured. He was number 48 on the list. CENTCOM also announced in a 23 April press release that coalition Special Operations Forces captured Salim Sa'id Khalaf al-Jumayli, the former chief of the Iraqi Intelligence Service American Desk. "He is suspected of having knowledge of Iraqi Intelligence Service activities in the United States, including names of persons spying for Iraq," the press release noted. Al-Jumayli was not listed on CENTCOM's 55 most-wanted list.
Meanwhile, the U.S.-trained Free Iraqi Forces of the Iraqi National Congress reportedly captured Muhammad Hamzah al-Zubaydi, a former member of the Iraq Command of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party (ASBP) and a member of the Revolutionary Command Council under Hussein, Abu Dhabi Television reported on 21 April. Al-Zubaydi was found in the area of Al-Hillah in central Iraq, according to ITAR-TASS. He served as Iraqi prime minister and deputy prime minister and was the Central Euphrates regional commander from 1998-2000. Al-Zubaydi was relieved of his duties and expelled from the Ba'ath Party in 2001. Al-Zubaydi, a Shi'ite, is allegedly responsible for the brutal suppression of Iraqi Shi'ites during a 1991 uprising. He was 18th on the coalition's list of 55 most-wanted senior officials.
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) also confirmed in recent days the arrests of Humam Abd al-Khaliq Abd al-Ghafur, the former Iraqi minister of higher education and scientific research (54th on the coalition list), and Jamal Mustafa Abdallah Sultan al-Takriti, the son-in-law of the deposed president and the deputy chief of tribal affairs (40th). Former Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Hikmat al-Azzawi was arrested in Baghdad on 19 April. Al-Azzawi was 45th on the list. (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQI OIL OFFICIALS UNDERTAKE PLANNING, OIL FLOWING.
A number of senior Iraqi oil officials have been meeting regularly with U.S. military officials to discuss the reactivation of Iraq's oil refineries, "The Wall Street Journal" reported on 22 April. The officials are expected to later meet with senior U.S. officials, including retired U.S. oil executive Phillip J. Carroll, who has been appointed to lead a U.S. team of advisers that will facilitate the reactivation of Iraq's oil industry. According to "The Wall Street Journal," the Iraqi group includes eight ministry officials and top oil company executives and is reportedly being coordinated by Thamir Abbas Ghadhban, an Oil Ministry official from the Hussein regime. Ghadhban has said that the Daura refinery has been reactivated and is producing about half of its normal capacity of 100,000 barrels a day.
Meanwhile, U.S. Colonel Michael Morrow, adviser to General Tommy Franks at CENTCOM, has said that oil coming from four wells in the Rumaylah oil field will be used for power generation and domestic consumption, Reuters reported on 23 April. "We're pumping much quicker than our six-week target," Morrow said, referring to an initial plan to reactivate the wells six to nine weeks from 6 April. "We had [a] first pumping of 50,000 barrels yesterday and repairs will continue until we hit our target of 800,000 [barrels per day]," Morrow said. In addition, output from wells in northern Iraq is expected to hit 800,000 barrels per day in two to six weeks from 21 April, according to Morrow. He added that the 140,000-barrel per day Basra refinery could be running in one week. He noted that many Iraqis had returned to work, including 400 employees of the South Oil Company. (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQI POWS HELD IN NORTH RELEASED.
Iraqi prisoners of war (POWs) that surrendered to Kurdish "peshmerga" forces at the outset of Operation Iraqi Freedom were released on 19 April, KurdSat reported the same day. A reported 769 prisoners were released in three convoys that took them to Mosul, Kirkuk, and Baghdad. They had been held at a camp in Soran, according to KurdSat. Several prisoners were quoted as expressing their gratitude to Kurdistan Democratic Party head Mas'ud Barzani's forces for the humane treatment afforded prisoners during their detention. (Kathleen Ridolfo)KURDISH GROUPS CALL FOR JOINT OPPOSITION MEETING.
A 20 April meeting in Salah Al-Din of the Higher Joint Leadership of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) resulted in a call for the Iraqi opposition to meet in Baghdad to prepare for a "national general conference," the KDP daily "Brayati" reported on 21 April. "The joint leadership believes that the Coordination and Follow-Up Committee must think about calling Iraqi national movements which were not present at the London conference [in December 2002] and representatives of internal national forces to hold a general Iraqi conference with the participation of all parties," a statement issued by the Higher Joint Leadership read. PUK head Jalal Talabani told Al-Jazeera television on 19 April that a Baghdad conference "will represent all the active forces inside Iraq alongside other opposition forces." (Kathleen Ridolfo)PUK HEAD PLEDGES TO INTERCEDE ON BEHALF OF MKO MEMBERS.
PUK leader Talabani has reportedly responded to a plea by some 30 former members of the Iraqi-based Iranian opposition group Mujahedin-e Khalq (MKO) to help prevent attacks against MKO members in northern Iraq, "Kurdistani Nuwe" reported on 22 April. The MKO has been targeted in U.S. air raids in the past few weeks, due to its link to the deposed Iraqi regime, most notably during the 1991 Kurdish uprising (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 19 April 2003). "The Kurdish people have no intention to avenge the past crimes of the leadership clique of the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization on those innocent and deceived young people of today who have been brought to their current sad fate by the wrong policy of their leadership," the daily quoted Talabani as saying. Talabani reportedly also said that he would make serious efforts to save the lives of the MKO militia members. (Kathleen Ridolfo)KIRKUK RESIDENTS OPPOSE FORMER BA'ATHISTS RETURN TO WORK.
"Brayati" reported on 22 April that Kirkuk residents have opposed the return to work of Kirkuk city officials and employees that were members of Hussein's Ba'ath Party. The KDP-led Kurdistan Regional Government had reportedly granted a general amnesty for city workers, allowing those formerly associated with the regime to return to work, but some officials were said to have been pelted with stones during a public meeting held on 20 April by Kirkuk students and other unnamed officials, the daily "Brayati" reported. Kurdish forces have been present in the city since Hussein's forces withdrew in early April, but are expected to withdraw.
Retired General Bruce Moore told reporters on 20 April that the United States would deploy up to 50,000 troops in the cities of Kirkuk and Mosul to ensure security there, AFP reported on the same day. Retired U.S. General Jay Garner appointed Moore to run northern Iraq in the interim U.S. administration. (Kathleen Ridolfo)KURDISH AND ARAB TRIBAL LEADERS MEET.
Arab tribal leaders have reportedly responded favorably to a 14 April call by KDP head Barzani for Arabs and Kurds to live together peacefully, "Brayati" reported on 22 April. According to the daily, the Hamdani tribe in the Dubz district, as well as leaders from the Al-Afshana, Dibs, Harda'ya, Kubayba, Al-Sabunchi, and Uzeri tribes have expressed their support for Barzani's call for coexistence. The call came among widespread reports of violence by Kurds against the Arab inhabitants of Kirkuk in recent weeks (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 19 April 2003).
Meanwhile, "Kurdistani Nuwe" reported on 23 April that PUK head Talabani has held a series of meetings with the heads and shaykhs of Arab tribes on 21 April. Shaykh Muhammad Shaykhali, and leaders from Arab tribes including, the Azza, Albumu Faraj, and the Rabi, Bani Tamimi, Janabiyin, Dilemi, Ubed, Jibur, and Al-Azzawi tribes met with Talabani. According to the Kurdish daily, the participants thanked the PUK and the KPF (Kurdistan Peshmerga Force) for their role in protecting the liberated Iraqi citizens and towns.
Talabani also announced that Iraq will set up a commission to resolve disputes between Kurds and Arabs to resolve issues related to the forced displacement of thousands of citizens under the Hussein regime's "Arabization" policy (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 19 April 2003). The decision for a commission came following separate meetings on 22 April between U.S. administrator Jay Garner, Talabani, and Barzani. "There will be a committee later representing all sides under the guidance of the United States to arrange how people must go back home in a regular way, not in chaos," Reuters quoted Talabani as telling reporters in Sulaymaniyah on 23 April. Talabani added that the committee had first been proposed by U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Ankara in March. (Kathleen Ridolfo)THOUSANDS OF SHI'A CONGREGATE IN KARBALA.
Shi'a Muslims have been making their way to Karbala to participate in Arba'in, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Iraqi city. Arba'in marks the 40th day after the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Husayn and his brother Abbas in a battle over Islamic leadership in the year 680. Many of the pilgrims walk hundreds of kilometers to reach Karbala, and an unidentified young man told RFE/RL why they do so: "Husayn was the first leader against dictatorship, a man who resisted dictatorship. He is noble and the most honest man on the planet after the Prophet Muhammad." Events in Karbala could turn into anti-American demonstrations, as was the case in Baghdad after the 18 April Friday prayers.
The sentiments expressed by one of the pilgrims might underline such concerns. He told RFE/RL: "We want an Islamic leader to rule Iraq. We don't welcome Americans. We want neither Saddam [Hussein] nor Americans [to rule us], because they both are infidels." Moreover, Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq leader Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim on 18 April said, "I call on Iraqis to converge in Karbala to oppose any sort of foreign domination," AP reported, citing Iranian state television. (Bill Samii)KARBALA IMAM ADDRESSES U.S. PRESENCE, IRAQI ASPIRATIONS.
Karbala Imam Abd al-Mahi al-Karbalai told "Le Figaro" in an interview published on 23 April that this year's pilgrimage to the holy city is significant because Iraqis "are anxious to be able to show that they are peaceful and oppose oppression and injustice." He also expressed concern over the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq saying that some fear the U.S. might try to impose an administration on the Iraqi people. Karbalai said Iraqis in Karbala and elsewhere would organize a new Iraqi government. "We will try to organize with Hawzah [religious Shi'ite seminary], as we have already done in order to manage disorganized cities following the collapse of the Ba'ath Party," he said. He added that if the U.S. intends to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq, "the best thing to do is for them to leave and allow us to take our future into our own hands."
Karbalai called for a new Iraqi government "that will respect the ideas of the Iraqi people, in their various components and all groups of society. This government will represent the entire people," he said, adding, "in order to achieve this we will do our best to establish it and to ensure that it respects Islam, which is the country's religion."
Asked who should lead Iraq, Karbalai said, "I have no particular name to offer you." Asked about a possible role for recently returned exile, Iraqi National Congress (INC) head Ahmad Chalabi, Karbalai responded, "He is the same as Saddam Hussein, and moreover he is a thief." According to a 22 April AFP report, Chalabi was found guilty in 1992 after being tried in absentia in Jordan for the disappearance of $60 million from the Petra Bank, which he set up in 1977 and which crashed in 1989. "How can he be regarded as a credible figure if he does not know the country that he presumes to govern?" Karbalai asked of Chalabi, who left Iraq with his family in 1958 (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 19 April 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)AL-SADR SUPPORTERS OFFER LEADERSHIP TO CLERIC.
The supporters of deceased cleric Muhammad al-Sadr II are reportedly in discussions with Ayatollah Kazim al-Ha'iri, a prominent Iraqi Shi'ite cleric currently based in Qom, Iran, for al-Ha'iri to assume the movement's leadership, according to a 24 April report on the "Al-Mustaqbal" website (http://www.almustaqbal.com.lb). According to the report, Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr, son of the murdered leader Muhammad, had assumed the management of the Al-Hawzah Shi'ite seminary and schools but is not prepared to assume "the work of a religious authority," while al-Ha'iri, known as "the jurisprudent of the Al-Da'wah," might be a better candidate for the leadership role. "Al-Mustaqbal" noted that al-Ha'iri represents "the point of convergence" between the al-Sadr current, the Al-Da'wah, and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). He reportedly also has strong relations with the religious authorities in Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon. (Kathleen Ridolfo)SCIRI OFFICIAL DESCRIBES 'SECURITY COMMITTEES.'
In a 23 April interview published on the website of Beirut-based "Al-Mustaqbal," Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), said that security committees formed by the Hawzah Shi'ite seminary are supervising the security situation in Karbala. According to the website, al-Hakim did not say whether the Hawzah in Al-Najaf had actually supervised the formation of these committees, but he reportedly emphasized that all hawzahs were qualified to play such a role. Regarding the activities of the security committees, al-Hakim said, "Security groups are deployed on various roads and at road intersections and at the entrances to the holy shrine and are monitoring all activities."
Asked whether he coordinates with the "four sources of authority" -- Imam al-Sistani, Ayatollah al-Sayyid al-Hakim, Ayatollah Bashir, and Ayatollah Ishaq Fayyad -- "Al-Mustaqbal" reported that al-Hakim did not confirm nor deny coordination, but expressed "special respect for the four sources of authority," adding, "It is natural for us to respect their feelings, desires, and tendencies."
Al-Hakim said that coalition forces remained far outside Karbala and told the daily that he did not hear any anti-American slogans in the city during the pilgrimage. The interview can be found at (http://www.almustaqbal.com.lb/). (Kathleen Ridolfo)...AND SAYS BADR BRIGADES EVERYWHERE.
Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, who heads the SCIRI's jihad bureau, said in a 23 April interview with Al-Jazeera television that elements from the Badr Brigades, SCIRI's armed wing, are present throughout Iraq. "They are in most villages and areas," he said, "Nobody can drive them out." Al-Hakim referred to the coalition that liberated his country in three weeks as "the occupation forces" and said that Iraqis oppose occupation. Nevertheless, resistance to the occupation would be peaceful, he said. Al-Hakim described SCIRI's first aim as the return of stability and security in the cities, the provision of essential services, and the establishment of an administration. The second aim is the formation of an independent national government that includes all sectors of Iraqi society. (Bill Samii)COALITION FORCES REPORTEDLY DETAIN SHI'A CLERICS IN IRAQ.
U.S. military personnel allegedly detained a Shi'a cleric, Shaykh Muhammad al-Fartusi, a representative of the office of Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, and several companions on 20 April as they headed home from Al-Najaf, Hizballah's Al-Manar television reported on 21 April. An Al-Jazeera television correspondent reported that 4,000-5,000 people on 21 April demonstrated against the detentions near Baghdad's Palestine Hotel. One of the demonstrators told the Al-Jazeera correspondent, "We are trying to...control the security situation, [but] the Americans do not want this. They want chaos and looting to prevail." Another demonstration took place on 22 April. The United States has not confirmed the alleged detentions.
Al-Fartusi was released the next day and described his detention in a 22 April interview with Abu Dhabi television. "We were manhandled and beaten," he claimed, and added that he and his companions spent the entire night with their hands tied behind their backs. Fartusi claimed that one of his captors kicked his turban and the commander apologized for this, but "I am wearing my friend's turban now." He added, "We let it go this time," warning, "But next time, only God knows what will happen if the masses are aroused." (Bill Samii)...AS ANOTHER SHI'A CLERIC IS DETAINED.
U.S. military personnel briefly detained Islamic Action Organization in Iraq leaders Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi al-Mudarissi and Ibrahim al-Mutairi on 22 April, according to news agencies, a press release at www. almodarresi.com, and Al-Jazeera satellite television. Others who were detained at the time are Ayatollah Izz-al-Din Muhammad al-Shirazi, Ayatollah Husayn al-Rabadi, and Ibrahim Shubbar. Mudarissi, who has lived in Iran for 32 years, and his companions were in a four-vehicle convoy that was heading for Karbala. (Bill Samii)TEHRAN'S INVOLVEMENT IN IRAQ GETS SOME ATTENTION.
Ten trucks carrying the second shipment of Iranian humanitarian assistance was sent to Karbala on 22 April, Iranian state radio reported. During the mid-1990s Iran hid weapons and other lethal goods in its humanitarian shipments to Bosnian Muslims. Moreover, Iranian-trained operatives are actively promoting friendly Shi'a clerics and advancing Tehran's interests in Al-Najaf, Karbala, and Al-Basrah, "The New York Times" reported on 23 April, citing anonymous U.S. government officials.
Some of these operatives reportedly are members of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq's military wing, the Badr Brigade. Others are described as "irregular members of a special unit" of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC). This would probably be the same unit, the special operations-capable Quds Force, which U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said in January 2002 had joined Afghan fighters in Herat (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 11 February 2002). The government officials told "The New York Times" that the current pilgrimage to Karbala could provide cover for the operatives' activities. (Bill Samii)MUJAHEDIN TERRORISTS FACE UNCERTAIN FUTURE.
Tehran is pressuring Amman to hand over members and leaders of the armed opposition Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) who have fled Iraq, Abu Dhabi television reported on 22 April, while Jordanian Information Minister Muhammad al-Adwan said that Jordan would not allow any new refugees from Iraq, including MKO members, to enter the country. CENTCOM's deputy director of operations, Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, said during a 22 April briefing in Qatar that a cease-fire is in effect with the MKO and its personnel are waiting in "assembly areas.... They do have combat equipment, but in a noncombat formation. That's unfolding at this time, and we still have some work to do to bring that all to a closure."
Brooks acknowledged that the MKO is a terrorist organization and said that there is an ongoing discussion on how to handle its members, according to the U.S. State Department's Office of International Information Programs (http://usinfo.state.gov). One day earlier, the commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, Brigadier General Yahya Rahim-Safavi, said that the U.S. should extradite MKO members to Iran in order to prove its sincerity in fighting terrorism, IRNA reported. (Bill Samii)TERRORIST GROUP CLAIMS IT CARRIED OUT ATTACKS IN IRAQ.
The "Resistance and Liberation Command in the Republic of Iraq" sent a copy of its "Military Communique no. 2" to the Jordanian daily "Al-Arab al-Yawm" on 22 April, claiming responsibility for two attacks against U.S. forces, the paper reported on 23 April. The communique said a suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint manned by U.S. troops on a road between the Mosul Governorate and the city of Rabi'ah, destroying a U.S. military vehicle and killing or wounding more than 21 soldiers. It also claimed another bomber blew himself up at a U.S. military checkpoint on a road connecting the cities of Hayt and Al-Ramadi, killing or wounding about seven individuals. "We warn and warn again all those who collaborate with the criminal invading enemy that they will be punished in accordance with the teachings of our true religion," the communique stated.
The 22 April communique also claimed that some foreign journalists in Iraq are Israeli spies and alleged collusion between Israeli intelligence and the INC opposition group. "We wish to warn the sons of our great Iraqi people of the consequences of dealing with foreign journalists claiming to be of different nationalities when in fact they are Zionists working for the Israeli intelligence. A number of those accompanied by the traitors from the 'not National Congress' have terrorized our Palestinian brethren who have been residing [in Iraq] for more than 40 years," the communique claimed. The Israeli daily "Ha'aretz" reported a link between the INC and the American-Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC), a Washington-based lobby, on 6 April (see http://www.haaretzdaily.com). (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. ADMINISTRATOR HOLDS MEETING IN BAGHDAD.
The U.S. postwar administrator in Iraq, Jay Garner, held a town-hall meeting in Baghdad on 24 April with 60 prominent Iraqi academics and leaders, Reuters reported. The meeting brought together "selected Iraqis" who have shown leadership ability, British General Tim Cross told Reuters. He declined to name the meeting's participants. The meeting came one day after Baghdad's self-appointed mayor, Muhammad al-Zubaydi, held his own town-hall meeting with government workers, promising that they will be paid on 30 April and will receive tenfold salary increases, AP reported on 23 April. "We ordered the finance committee to raise wages after hearing about the reserves we have," al-Zubaydi told workers. "We are raising salaries 10 times, both civilian and military." His top aide, General Jawdat al-Obeidi, told AP that the general manager of the Iraqi National Bank -- and other banks -- are giving the "local committee" headed by al-Zubaydi access to funds from the deposed regime's accounts. Al-Zubaydi and al-Obeidi both continue to claim they are operating with the consent of coalition forces. The U.S. coordinator for central Iraq, Ambassador Barbara Bodine, has said the United States does not recognize al-Zubaydi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2003). Neither al-Zubaydi nor Iraqi National Congress (INC) head Ahmad Chalabi attended Garner's meeting. (Kathleen Ridolfo)BAGHDAD 'COUNCIL HEAD' GIVES INTERVIEW, ADMITS NO RELATIONSHIP WITH U.S.
Muhammad Muhsin al-Zubaydi, who claims to be the appointed head of the Baghdad Administration Executive Council, told Al-Jazeera television in a 24 April interview that the legitimacy of his leadership comes from the people of Baghdad. Al-Zubaydi said he is an independent opposition figure who has worked behind the scenes for years and is thus not well known to the press. He claims to have conducted clandestine activities against the Hussein regime for years under the codenames "wolf" and "Abu Haydar al-Karradi." Al-Zubaydi told Al-Jazeera that his group, which comprises 85 followers, came to Baghdad from northern Iraq, Jordan, and Syria. He said that after entering the capital on 8 April his group assumed a leadership role by extinguishing fires, burying the dead, and preventing looting. "So, we gained legitimacy to run the affairs of our city," he said, adding, "We were able to open hospitals and form a police command in coordination with U.S. troops."
Al-Zubaydi also admitted to Al-Jazeera, despite his earlier contradictory statements (see above), that he was not appointed by U.S. troops, saying, "I do not have a relationship with the United States." He said that he still intends to increase the wages of government workers and pensioners (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April 2003), and said that pensions have already been increased. Al-Zubaydi also told the satellite channel that his people arrested a "gang" belonging to a "certain party" that attempted to steal a vehicle carrying $260 million. He added that he encouraged the party to return the money to the central bank, adding that he would reveal the name of the party if the money is not returned. He also said that the opposition group The Constitutional Monarchy Movement (CMM), headed by Sharif Ali bin al-Husayn, is growing in popularity in Baghdad. "It seems there is a great support for this movement," al-Zubaydi said, adding, "I do not want to be biased in favor of one movement, but this is what I heard from the clergymen and the tribal chiefs who expressed this to us." (Kathleen Ridolfo)MONEY TURNING UP ALL OVER IRAQ...
A team of U.S. soldiers has uncovered $112 million in U.S. currency in an affluent Baghdad neighborhood, AP reported on 23 April. The loot was stashed in seven dog kennels. The find came just days after soldiers discovered an estimated $650 million in four barricaded cottages in the same neighborhood on 18 April. AP cited a "Los Angeles Times" report on 22 April that said the locks on the kennels were signed by Republican Guard General Muhammad Ibrahim and dated 20 March. Twenty-eight boxes held the cash. A note inside one box reportedly reads in Arabic, "Contents 40,000 one-hundred-dollar bills. By order of Saddam Saddam [sic], this currency is sealed on 16 March in the presence of the following five people." Five Ba'ath Party ministers signed the note, AP reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)...AS U.S. SOLDIERS REPORTED TO BE HELPING THEMSELVES.
Six U.S. soldiers are reportedly being investigated for helping themselves to cash discovered on 18 April, "The Times" of London website (http://www.timesonline.co.uk) reported on 24 April. Three soldiers are alleged to have hidden $600,000 in a tree, while another soldier who was tasked with driving the found money to Baghdad International Airport reportedly helped himself to $300,000, hiding it in a cooler and the glove compartment of his vehicle. "The Times" also cited a "New York Post" report that said investigators also found three aluminum boxes hidden near the site that contained $4 million each. The original suspects, along with two addition soldiers, were being questioned about the three boxes. All six soldiers were assigned to the same battalion of the 3rd Infantry Division. (Kathleen Ridolfo)ICRC UPDATES SITUATION IN IRAQ.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) issued a press release on 22 April detailing the current humanitarian situation in Iraq (http://www.icrc.org/). The ICRC reported that electricity has been partially restored to Baghdad, but noted that the situation in the city's suburbs remained poor, with "pools of sewage and heaps of uncollected refuse polluting the streets." Most of the capital's hospitals are operating, but at a reduced capacity due to missing or damaged equipment and the absence of medical staff, which, the ICRC noted, have not been paid since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Municipal workers have also not been paid for two months, although many have returned to work and have restored some of the water and sanitation system in Baghdad. The organization noted that it continues to liaise between U.S. forces and former civil authorities in an effort to speed up the restoration of electricity, water, sanitation, sewage, and refuse collection -- particularly in the eastern and northern parts of the city. In addition, a website has been established for Iraqis wishing to locate relatives in Iraq: http://www.familylinks.icrc.org/. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
KUWAITI NORTHERN REGION STILL CLOSED.
Kuwaiti Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Yousif al-Mulla told KUNA on 21 April that Kuwaiti territory along the border with Iraq remains closed. Civilian visits to the area were prohibited under Ministerial Resolution 141, which was issued on 4 February and established a closed military zone along the northern border. The resolution bans citizens from entering the area, which was widely used for hunting, grazing, and camping activities. Al-Mulla said those wishing to enter the area still needed authorization from the Defense Ministry. (Kathleen Ridolfo)THURAYA TELECOM TO INCREASE SERVICES IN IRAQ.
Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications Company announced plans to increase its services through Iraqi providers, according to a 21 April report on the Dubai Gulf News website (http://www.gulf-news.co-ae). Citing "an urgent need for basic telecom services" in Iraq, Thuraya representatives said the company will set up a network of distributors in Iraq. The company has already signed two agreements with service providers for telecom services inside the country and is planning to set up call centers and pay phones inside Iraq. U.S.-led coalition forces banned the use of Thuraya satellite phones on 3 April, stating that they posed a security risk to coalition troops, since they might have been used to guide Iraqi missiles or help Iraqis locate coalition forces. The ban was lifted on 17 April. (Kathleen Ridolfo)TEHRAN, AMMAN COMMUNICATE ABOUT MUJAHEDIN KHALQ ORGANIZATION.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Sadr on 23 April met with Jordan's King Abdullah II and delivered a message from President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami that dealt with ways to improve bilateral relations, Petra-JNA news agency and IRNA reported. Details on the letter were not available, but a possible subject could be the hundreds of Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) members who are seeking asylum in Jordan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2003). Jordan pledged on 22 April not to allow any new refugees from Iraq, including MKO members, to enter the country. Despite this claim, the Jordanian authorities have permitted the octogenarian singer Marzieh, who is an MKO associate, to pass through Jordan en route to France for medical treatment, dpa reported on 23 April. The German news agency added that other MKO members are not being allowed into Jordan. There are approximately 20,000 MKO associates in Iraq, London's "Al-Hayat" newspaper reported on 23 April. (Bill Samii)RETURNING ARAB VOLUNTEERS FACE RESTRICTIONS.
Arab volunteers who went to fight in Iraq fear that they will receive the same harsh treatment meted out to Arab Afghans and those who fought in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Chechnya, the Saudi "Al-Watan" newspaper reported on 22 April. Returning Jordanians' passports reportedly have been confiscated and they have been invited to visit the security services. A Jordanian official confirmed this, "Al-Watan" reported, but said the objective is to learn the fate of Jordanians who went to Iraq and from whom nothing has been heard since. Amman rules out the phenomenon of "Iraqi Arabs" because, unlike their Afghan counterparts, the volunteers for Iraq were "a motley group of Islamists, Ba'athists, Arab Nationalists, and ordinary citizens who had one thing in common -- fighting the Americans." Nor did the volunteers for Iraq have the same financial and logistical support that the Arab Afghans had, according to the Saudi newspaper. (Bill Samii)
UNMOVIC CHIEF ADDRESSES SECURITY COUNCIL ON IRAQ.
Hans Blix, executive chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), met with UN Security Council members on 22 April in a closed-door session that addressed the issue of weapons inspections in Iraq. In his briefing notes, available on the UN website (http://www.un.org), Blix reminded the council that "Both UNMOVIC and the IAEA receive their mandates from the Council and act independently of individual states," adding, "The inspecting authorities would need to remain independent...to retain international credibility in their work for the Council." Blix noted that should inspectors return to Iraq, they would need the cooperation of new Iraqi authorities and coalition forces in order to complete their tasks. Blix said that 85 inspectors remained on contract until mid-June, and another 315 inspectors on a roster that might serve in Iraq. He added that both the return of inspectors and the rehabilitation of the looted Baghdad office would take two weeks.
Speaking to reporters after the 22 April meeting, Blix said, "My overall impression is that the Council is sort of groping for some way in which the process of enquiries that are now being pursued on the ground [by coalition forces] can be converged with the process that we were pursuing on behalf of the Security Council," UN News Center reported the same day (http://www.un.org/).
Meanwhile, White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer told a 22 April press briefing (http://www.whitehouse.gov) that the U.S. did not support a return of UN inspectors, saying that coalition forces are searching for weapons of mass destruction. "I think that there will be no question in the eyes of the world, including the reporters who remain in Iraq, at the end of the day when the analysis is complete, that the process has been one of integrity, one of reliability and one of accuracy. Who has been more cautious than anybody in confirming some of the preliminary reports about findings of WMD? It's been the United States and the United States military," Fleischer added.
Muhammad al-Baradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), wrote an opinion piece in "The Washington Post" on 23 April, calling for "the UN collective system of security [to] be reinvigorated and modernized to match [the] realities" of an international system that consists of nuclear states, nonnuclear states, and states "in the middle" that either seek weapons of mass destruction or remain outside the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, and others. Al-Baradei stressed that a reinvigorated system should allow for "agreed limitations on the use of veto power and [provide] readily available UN forces that possess the flexibility to respond to a variety of situations. The new vision of international security must work toward eliminating this asymmetry by delegitimizing weapons of mass destruction, and it must be inclusive in nature, guaranteeing that every nation that subscribes to the new system will be covered by the security 'umbrella,'" he noted. The IAEA head concluded that "only by eliminating the motivation to acquire weapons of mass destruction can we hope to significantly improve global security." (Kathleen Ridolfo)SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS OIL-FOR-FOOD.
The UN Security Council has approved a request to extend the oil-for-food program as requested by Benon Sevan, the executive director of the UN Office of the Iraq Program (OIP), the body that oversees the oil-for-food program, according to the UN website.
Sevan requested a three-week extension of the UN oil-for-food program during a closed meeting of UN Security Council members on 22 April, UN News Center reported the same day (http://www.un.org/). "In order to enable us to fully utilize the extended period, it is essential that the Council take that decision most urgently," the UN News Center quoted Sevan as stating.
The extension would facilitate the delivery of humanitarian goods that are already en route to Iraq. The oil-for-food program was temporarily suspended on 17 March when UN staff withdrew prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom. According to a 28 March resolution, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was given the authority to oversee the operation for a period of 45 days, ending 12 May. Sevan told council members on 22 April that 11 of the 45 days had been lost due to procedural issues. As a result, only $454.6 million in contracts were processed out of an estimated $10 billion. Sevan said that the 11 days would help get the process back on track. Council members voted unanimously to extend the program until 3 June. (Kathleen Ridolfo)UN STAFFERS ENTER IRAQ.
Five officials from the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and a representative of the World Food Program (WFP) entered northern Iraq from Turkey on 23 April, Reuters reported. Another team of nearly 30 UN officers is scheduled to enter Iraq on 24 April from a UN base in Larnaca, Cyprus. The workers had been poised to enter Iraq for more than one week but were delayed due to coalition security concerns. "The return of this first wave of international staff paves the way for all staff to eventually return and resume previous functions in northern Iraq," a UN official in Ankara told Reuters. "A senior mission should follow in the second wave." Approximately 700 UN staff members were evacuated from Iraq prior to the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom on 20 March. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IRAQI EXILES MEET IN SPAIN.
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar opens a meeting on 25 April that will bring together representatives of all Iraqi political organizations, EFE news agency reported on 24 April. The three-day meeting is hosted by the NGO Humanism and Democracy Foundation and the Popular Party's Foundation for Analysis and Social Studies, and is being held at the Spanish International Cooperation Agency headquarters. The Iraqi participants will include representatives from the Islamic Da'wah Party and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Iraqi Communist Party, the Iraqi National Congress, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. EFE reports that over 100 Iraqis from across Europe and the U.S. are also participating in the meeting. (Kathleen Ridolfo)RUSSIA, FRANCE AT ODDS OVER SANCTIONS.
Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Sergei Lavrov, told reporters following the 22 April UN Security Council meeting that his country supports the lifting of UN sanctions on Iraq, but only after UN weapons inspectors determine that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction. "We all want to be sure that Iraq has no mass destruction weapons and the only way to verify this is to return the inspectors to Iraq so that they could make sure of it themselves and then deliver a report to the Security Council," Lavrov said, adding, "The sanctions must be lifted right after they deliver such a report."
Meanwhile, France signaled it might support a more immediate lifting of sanctions. French Ambassador Jean Marc de la Sabliere said, "The lifting of the sanctions, which is, I think, the objective of all of us, is linked to the certification of the disarmament of Iraq," adding, "meanwhile we could suspend the sanctions and adjust the oil-for-food program with the idea of phasing it out," Reuters reported on 22 April. U.S. President George W. Bush called for a lifting of UN sanctions on Iraq on 16 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. HAS NO PLANS FOR PERMANENT IRAQI STAY.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in a 21 April press conference that any suggestion that the United States is planning a permanent military presence in Iraq is "inaccurate and unfortunate," according to the U.S. State Department's Office of International Information Programs (http://usinfo.state.gov). Rumsfeld was responding to a 20 April report in "The New York Times" that asserted that "the U.S. is planning a long-term military relationship with the emerging government of Iraq, one that would grant the Pentagon access to military bases and project American influence into the heart of the unsettled region." The report, citing anonymous sources, referred to one base at Baghdad's international airport, another near Al-Nasiriyah in the south, the third at the H-1 airstrip in the western desert, and the fourth at Bashur in the north. (Bill Samii)