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Iraq Report: May 2, 2003


2 May 2003, Volume 6, Number 20
INSIDE IRAQ
SADDAM HUSSEIN ISSUES LETTER, HINTS AT COMEBACK. The London-based Arabic-language "Al-Quds al-Arabi" on 30 April published the text of a letter reportedly written by deposed President Saddam Hussein to the Iraqi people. The daily had announced on 29 April that the Iraqi Resistance and Liberation Command, of which little is known, had informed the paper that Hussein would issue a statement within 72 hours. In the letter, dated on Hussein's birthday, 28 April, the deposed president called on the Iraqi people to "rise against the occupier," adding, "They have not triumphed over you...who have Arabism and Islam in your hearts, except with treachery." Hussein assailed coalition forces in the letter, stating, "Remember that they are seeking to bring in those fighting each other [for power] so that your Iraq will remain weak and they can loot it as they wish."

Hussein also denied in the letter that he had reaped the wealth of the state, stating, "Saddam did not have any possessions in his name. I challenge anyone to prove that the palaces were in the name of anyone other than the Iraqi State. I left them a long time ago to live in a small house." He added, "Iraq, the sons of the nation, and the honorable ones will triumph and we will retrieve the antiquities and rebuild Iraq, which they [U.S.] want to split into parts." Hussein called on Iraqis to boycott the presence of U.S. forces and implied that he would return to lead Iraq, claiming, "The day of liberation and victory will come to us, the nation, and Islam before anything else. Right will triumph this time, like it does every time, and the coming days are going to be more beautiful." "Al-Quds al-Arabi" reported that "sources close to Saddam" confirmed that it was his handwriting and signature on the letter. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

SELF-APPOINTED 'MAYOR' DETAINED BY COALITION FORCES... Muhammad Muhsin al-Zubaydi, the Iraqi exile who declared himself the appointed head of a Baghdad Administration Executive Council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April 2003) has been removed from Baghdad by coalition forces, CENTCOM announced in a 27 April press release on the CENTCOM website (http://www.centcom.mil). "Al-Zubaydi was detained and then removed from Baghdad to prevent his continued misrepresentation of his authority as the mayor of Baghdad in the aftermath of the regime's defeat," the press release stated, adding, "Specifically, al-Zubaydi sent letters to individuals and organizations telling them not to go back to work at utility plants (power, water, sewage) and banks, unless he approved it."

The release also stated that al-Zubaydi "purported to fire" power company employees and attempted to place his top aide, General Jawdat al-Ubaydi, as head of the power authority. The CENTCOM statement added that the two men obstructed the "normal means of governance for their own self-interests." Al-Zubaydi and seven members of his organization were taken into custody by coalition forces. Five were later released. Al-Zubaydi declared himself the mayor of Baghdad to the Iraqi public and international press on 17 April and ignored several warnings by U.S. officials to desist his activities, CENTCOM noted. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

AS MONARCHY MOVEMENT HEAD CONDEMNS DETENTION. Sharif Ali bin al-Husayn, head of the opposition group Constitutional Monarchy Movement (CMM), condemned the arrest of al-Zubaydi, Al-Jazeera reported on 28 April. Husayn reportedly called the detention "arbitrary" and accused the U.S. of not wanting independent Iraqis to take part in the rebuilding of their country. Al-Zubaydi was a strong supporter of the CMM (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April 2003). The group calls for the return of the monarchy to power in Iraq. Al-Husayn is the cousin of the late King Faysal II, who was assassinated during the 1958 "Free Officers" coup in Iraq. He said that the removal of al-Zubaydi from Baghdad would not prevent his group from participating in the 28 April Baghdad meeting between U.S. administrator Jay Garner (see End Note below) and Iraqi individuals and groups. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

MORE HUSSEIN-REGIME MEMBERS SURRENDER. Iraqi Lieutenant General Husam Muhammad Amin al-Yasin, who headed the Hussein regime's National Monitoring Directorate (NMD), surrendered to U.S. forces on 27 April, AP reported the next day. Amin was responsible for liaising with UN weapons inspectors and has been labeled a "key figure" in the Hussein regime's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program by coalition forces. Amin, should he talk, may be instrumental in locating the whereabouts of proscribed weapons. He was numbered 49 on CENTCOM's list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis from the Hussein regime.

Amir Rashid Muhammad al-Ubaydi, the former Iraqi Oil Minister, surrendered to coalition forces according to a 28 April statement by CENTCOM. Rashid is the husband of Rihab Taha, also known as "Dr. Germ." Taha, a microbiologist, is suspected of heading Iraq's program to weaponize anthrax. Rashid is a specialist in weapons delivery systems. He was numbered 47 on CENTCOM's list.

The governor of Al-Basrah, Walid Hamid Tawfiq al-Tikriti, reportedly surrendered to Iraqi National Congress (INC) officials and U.S. forces, according to a statement by an INC spokesman, Al-Jazeera reported on 29 April. The surrender took place at INC headquarters in Baghdad. According to Al-Jazeera, his father also surrendered. Al-Tikriti was 44th on CENTCOM's list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis from the Hussein regime. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

AMMUNITION CACHE EXPLODES IN BAGHDAD NEIGHBORHOOD. Members of the U.S. Third Infantry Division were attacked while guarding a cache of captured Iraqi ammunition outside Baghdad on 26 April, CENTCOM reported in a press release on its website (http://www.centcom.mil/). The unknown assailants fired an incendiary device into the cache, causing it to explode, resulting in four civilian deaths and six injuries, according to a CENTCOM statement. One U.S. soldier was injured. Meanwhile, Al-Jazeera reported on 26 April that over 40 civilians had been killed in the incident, which it said occurred in the Al-Za'faraniyah neighborhood of Baghdad. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI OPPOSITION LEADER SAYS NO TO CLERIC-LED GOVERNMENT IN IRAQ. Akram al-Hakim, a founding member of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), told the Spanish daily "El Pais" that Iraqis will not support a central government in the hands of clerics, similar to that in Iran, the Madrid-based daily reported on 27 April. "What the Americans don't know is that there are many differences between the [Shi'ites] in the two places," al-Hakim said, adding, "Neither the [Iraqi] opposition nor the people accept an Iranian model whereby the state is led by a religious leader who holds a monopoly on power. This is not an option in the Iraqi scenario." Al-Hakim said that Iraqis are against a theocratic government, but they do support a government that "respects religion, which allows worship and rites, and which respects Islamic doctrine with regard to licentiousness, obscenity, and those kinds of things." Al-Hakim was in Madrid to attend the 25-27 April meeting of Iraqi opposition groups (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. SOLDIERS REPORTEDLY CLASH WITH CIVILIANS IN AL-FALLUJAH. Al-Jazeera reported on 29 April that U.S. troops reportedly opened fire on Iraqi demonstrators in Al-Fallujah on 28 April. The incident occurred when protestors approached U.S. troops, who were stationed at the Al-Qa'id Elementary School in a residential area of Al-Fallujah. Al-Jazeera reported that the troops fired on protestors when they got too close. An unnamed U.S. soldier reportedly told Al-Jazeera that demonstrators fired on U.S. troops from adjacent rooftops. The soldier said that U.S. forces first used smoke grenades against the crowds but later fired live bullets. At least 13 Iraqis were killed in the incident, and several wounded, AP reported on 29 April. Reuters reported on 29 April that the protesters were unarmed. "They opened fire on the protesters because they went out to demonstrate," Kamal Shakir Mahmud, a Sunni cleric, told Reuters. U.S. soldiers killed an unarmed Iraqi citizen in Al-Tahrir Square in Baghdad on 28 April, Al-Jazeera reported on the same day. The soldiers reportedly thought the man was concealing a weapon.

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) issued a statement on 29 April in response to the 28 April incident in which U.S. forces reportedly killed 13 Iraqis. The statement, posted on CENTCOM's website (http://www.centcom.mil/), reported that paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division were fired on by around 25 armed civilians from within a crowd of around 200 protestors outside the U.S. compound in Al-Fallujah. "The paratroopers, who received fire from elements mixed within the crowd and positioned atop neighboring buildings, returned fire, wounding at least seven of the armed individuals," the statement read. The statement denied press reports that soldiers "fired on the crowd without cause," and noted "incorrect" reports of numerous casualties on civilians, including women and children. "This allegation cannot be confirmed by coalition forces, as the crowd retrieved the wounded and dispersed after the exchange. Given this fact, it is extremely unlikely that the coalition will ever be able to confirm casualties, or determine the extent to which any unarmed civilians were injured or killed," the statement noted.

A convoy of U.S. forces opened fire on a crowd in Al-Fallujah again on 30 April, killing at least two Iraqi civilians, Reuters reported. Soldiers told reporters that they had been fired at first. "The number killed was two. They were hit in the head," a local hospital spokesman told Reuters. Eight others were reportedly injured. The crowd had gathered at the Al-Fallujah U.S. command post to protest the killing of their reported 13 Iraqis in the 28 April incident. U.S. Major Michael Marti told Reuters that some in the crowd threw stones at the convoy, adding, "Then fire came from the crowd, directed at the convoy. It was at that point that they returned fire...It was well-aimed fire." Marti could not confirm the civilian deaths, saying that soldiers estimated "potentially" two injured Iraqis. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ANTIQUITIES RECOVERED... Over 100 items looted from Iraqi museums, included priceless manuscripts, a 7,000 year-old vase, and one of the oldest recorded bronze bas-relief bulls have been recovered, according to a 28 April press release posted on CENTCOM's website (http://www.centcom.mil). The release stated that Iraqis began returning items at the request of coalition forces. "One man returned a chest filled with priceless manuscripts and parchments to a nearby mosque; a local pianist returned 10 pieces including a broken statue of an Assyrian king dated to the 9th century B.C. and one of the oldest recorded bronze bas-relief bulls. And after some negotiation, a man arrived with 46 stolen antiquities, then with eight more pieces, and finally with a 7,000 year-old vase," the statement noted. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AS MESOPOTAMIA ART EXPERTS MEET. A group of experts in Mesopotamian antiquities were scheduled to hold their second meeting in London on 29 April to discuss ways to save Iraq's cultural heritage, The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced on 28 April. UNESCO and the British Museum jointly sponsored the meeting. "I would like this meeting to study all possible means of ensuring the restitution of artifacts stolen from Iraqi museums. The treasures of Iraq's cultural heritage, which bear witness to a particularly fertile history, are irreplaceable for the world scientific community, but even more so for the Iraqi people, for the conservation of their cultural identity and their confidence in the future," said UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura in a statement quoted on the UNESCO website (http://portal.unesco.org/). Curators from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Berlin's Middle East Museum, the Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the British Museum will attend the meeting. The museums represented hold the largest collections of Mesopotamian antiquities outside Iraq, UNESCO noted.

In related news, the U.S. State Department announced on 29 April that it would contribute $2 million to help protect and restore Iraqi museums and archaeological sites. State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said in a statement on that day that the American people respect and value the cultural heritage of Iraq, adding, "The funds will support specific cultural preservation needs to be identified in consultation with Iraqi cultural officials." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

SADRIYUN ADMINISTERING EASTERN BAGHDAD. Shaykh Muhammad al-Fartusi, whose detention on 21-22 April led to demonstrations in Baghdad, has been identified as the cleric tasked by Qom-based Iraqi-born cleric Kazim al-Ha'iri with the administration of eastern Baghdad, according to "The New York Times" on 26 April. Al-Ha'iri reportedly issued a religious edict that was distributed among Shi'a clerics in Iraq that calls on them "to seize the first possible opportunity to fill the power vacuum in the administration of Iraqi cities." "We hereby inform you that Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr is our deputy and representative in all fatwa affairs," al-Ha'iri's decree adds. "His position is my position." Al-Sadr's followers, who are known as Sadriyun, are believed to be responsible for the 10 April slaying of Washington-backed cleric Abd al-Majid al-Khoi when he visited Al-Najaf. Thousands of people chanted their support for Al-Sadr as they went to hear him at the Friday prayers at an Al-Najaf mosque, Reuters reported on 26 April. (Bill Samii)

POSSIBLE LINKAGES BETWEEN SADRIYUN AND TEHRAN. Al-Ha'iri had a close relationship with the Shi'a Al-Da'wah al-Islamiyah party, but later there was a split because al-Ha'iri was excessively pro-Iranian and called for the party to respect the guidance of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Beirut's "Al-Mustaqbal" reported on 24 April. Al-Ha'iri is an advocate of Velayat-i Faqih (Guardianship of the Supreme Jurisconsult), upon which Iran's theocracy is based.

According to the Lebanese newspaper, al-Ha'iri was a schoolmate of Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, the father of Muqtada al-Sadr, and of Iranian judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi and one-time Lebanese Hizballah spiritual leader Ayatollah Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah. Al-Ha'iri's involvement in Iraqi politics could have a profound impact. According to "Al-Mustaqbal," he is the point at which the Sadriyun, SCIRI, and Da'wah converge. (Bill Samii)

IRAQI FARMER RECANTS CLAIM OF SHOOTING DOWN APACHE. The Iraqi farmer who told the international media that he shot down an Apache helicopter at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom has recanted his story, Abu Dhabi's "Al-Ittihad" reported on its website on 26 April (http://www.alittihad.co.ae). "My friend, I did not shoot down the Apache or anything else," Ali Ubayd Minqash told "Al-Ittihad," adding, "They [Hussein regime] asked me to say so and I did." Iraqi officials on 24 March claimed that Minqash shot down an U.S. Apache helicopter using his Czech-made Brno rifle (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 25 March 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

REGIONAL NEWS
IRAQ'S NEIGHBORS SENDING AID. Iraq's neighbors are contributing to the aid effort to restore stability to the war-damaged country. Jordanian Health Minister Walid Ma'ani said that his ministry will send a Jordanian medical team to Iraq to vaccinate some 10,000 children against common diseases, Jordan News Agency reported on 29 April. Ma'ani's comments came during a ceremonial send-off of a convoy of 13 trucks laden with 500 tons of food and medical supplies. The Jordanian government has also committed to providing medical treatment to some Iraqis injured during the conflict.

Meanwhile, a fundraising campaign instigated by King Fahd bin Abd al-Aziz al-Sa'ud of Saudi Arabia has raised in excess of 45 million Saudi riyals (approximately $12 million) in donations, Saudi Arabia TV1 reported on 29 April. Kuwait sent 10 tons of aid to Iraq on 27 April, donated by the Kuwait Red Crescent Society for the people of Iraq. A team of Red Crescent volunteers accompanied the aid shipment, AFP reported. Kuwait has also opened its hospitals to Iraqi victims of the conflict. In addition, a convoy carrying 150 tons of food supplies and medical aid donated by the United Arab Emirates' Charitable Works Commission in coordination with the Jordanian Hashemite Charitable Commission, Jordan News Agency reported on 29 April. U.A.E.'s ambassador to Jordan, Rhmah Zu'abi, told reporters that the convoy was one of a series of convoys that will be presented by the U.A.E. to the people of Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAN CURBS PILGRIMAGES TO SHRINES IN IRAQ. The head of Iran's Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, Mohammad Hussein Rezai, and Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi both announced on 28 April that Iran will not dispatch any pilgrims to the Shi'a holy sites in Iraq until an Iraqi government is established, IRNA reported. AFP added that Asefi warned that any travel agencies will be punished if they conduct private tours to Iraq, including popular trips to Shi'a shrines at Al-Najaf and Karbala. Asefi also told reporters that it is up to Iraqi groups, not Tehran, to decide on who participates in the conference of Iraqi opposition groups that opened in Baghdad on 28 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 April 2003). "The Islamic Republic does not interfere in Iraqi domestic affairs," Asefi said. (Steve Fairbanks)

GREAT BRITAIN SAYS IRAN NOT MEDDLING IN IRAQ. Air Marshall Brian Burridge, commander of British forces in the Persian Gulf, apparently agrees with Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Asefi, and said in an interview with AP on 28 April that he sees no sign the Iranian government is meddling in Iraqi affairs. He said that although "some Iranian factions may be trying to influence political developments in Iraq," he believes that "the Iranian government has heeded the warnings of both the U.S. and the U.K." Iranians, he said, "recognize that it is not in their interest to be destabilizing at the moment." Burridge's remarks appeared to be in reference to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's allegations that Tehran has been stirring up trouble among Iraqi Shi'a. Burridge cautioned against jumping to conclusions and pointed out that Great Britain, unlike the United States, has diplomatic relations with Tehran and therefore is in a better position to know "what is local, what is internally generated, and what may or may not be externally generated" in Iraq. Burridge's remarks echoed statements by British Prime Minister Tony Blair on 28 April stressing that London is not accusing Iran of destabilizing Iraq. (Steve Fairbanks)

THE UN AND IRAQ
UN REPORTS ON ASSISTANCE TO IRAQI PEOPLE. UN agencies have confirmed that shipments containing tens of thousands of tons of food are arriving in Iraq, the UN News Center reported on 28 April (http://www.un.org/). "The WFP [World Food Program] logistical machine continues to build up steam as we race to ensure that 27 million Iraqis can again head to the food agents in their neighborhoods and receive their regular monthly rations in May," WFP spokesman Khaled Mansour said.

Over 28,000 tons of wheat has been unloaded in Mersin, Turkey, and another 37,000 tons of wheat from Russia that was purchased under the UN oil-for-food program was slated to be unloaded at the Turkish port of Toros, according to the UN. At the Jordanian port of Aqaba, 32,500 tons of food, also purchased under the oil-for-food program as well as 50,000 tons of wheat grain from Australia was being unloaded.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it was expanding its work program throughout Iraq. "WHO's national staff -- 327 -- have been working flat out to support the reestablishment of the health situation in Iraq," WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib told a daily briefing in Amman, Jordan on 28 April. The WHO is also coordinating the delivery of equipment and supplies to Iraqi hospitals, monitoring hospital security, and monitoring the flow of essential services such as electricity and water, Chaib said.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq (UNOHCI) told the press briefing that water lines have been restored in Baghdad, but that residents needed to boil it before drinking, as water-treatment chemicals were still in short supply. UNOHCI spokesperson Veronique Taveau said that the situation in Al-Basrah has not completely stabilized, noting water shortages and a lack of garbage collection in the southern Iraqi city.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) reported that some southern Iraqi schools had reopened but noted that out of 124 schools in the south, five were destroyed during the conflict and more than 40 were looted. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

EUROPE, THE U.S., AND IRAQ
RUMSFELD ADDRESSES IRAQI PEOPLE FROM BAGHDAD. U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld addressed the Iraqi people from Baghdad on 30 April, "The Guardian" reported on its website (http://www.guardian.co.uk/). In an address recorded from a palace once occupied by deposed president Saddam Hussein, Rumsfeld assured the Iraqi people that the U.S. has no intention of staying in Iraq. "We share a common objective in the removal of Saddam Hussein and we share common objectives for a new Iraq: a free country where Iraq's leaders answer to the Iraqi people instead of murdering the Iraqi people; where the country's wealth is used to benefit the people...[and] where Iraqi children can play and study and learn and grow..." he said.

The Secretary of Defense reiterated the U.S. commitment to help rebuild Iraq, saying, "Let me be clear: Iraq belongs to you. We do not want to run it. Our coalition came to Iraq for a purpose -- to remove a regime that oppressed your people and threatened ours." Rumsfeld said the U.S. goal is to restore stability "so that [Iraqis] can form an interim government and eventually a free Iraqi government -- a government of your choosing, a government that is of Iraqi design and Iraqi choice." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

PUTIN AGAIN CRITICIZES THE U.S.-LED COALITION OVER IRAQ... President Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister Tony Blair held a two-hour meeting on 29 April at the presidential residence outside of Moscow, Russian and international media reported. While the meeting was widely seen as an attempt to mend fences, Putin continued to be critical of U.S.-U.K. policy toward Iraq and the world at large. During a joint press conference, Putin iterated that sanctions against Iraq should not be lifted "until clarity is achieved over whether weapons of mass destruction exist" there, "The Guardian" reported on 30 April. "Where is Saddam?" he added. "Where are those arsenals of weapons of mass destruction, if indeed they ever existed?" Putin also said he will oppose a status quo in which global-security decisions are made "by just one member of the international community." Like their Western counterparts, Russian media stressed the tension at the Putin-Blair meeting. The two leaders "did not manage to agree on a single key issue -- neither on Iraq's postwar settlement nor Iraq's debts to Russia nor the issue of...[lifting UN] sanctions," gazeta.ru wrote on 29 April. (Jonas Bernstein)

...WHILE CALLING FOR A RETURN OF UN WEAPONS INSPECTORS. During his joint press conference with Prime Minister Blair, President Vladimir Putin said the UN Security Council has the exclusive right to determine whether Iraq possesses WMD and that UN weapons inspectors should return to Iraq, Russian and Western media reported. The UN's role in postwar Iraq, Putin argued, should not simply be reestablished, but strengthened. Rather than lifting international economic sanctions against Iraq, Putin said, the UN's oil-for-food program should be resumed. He also said the issue of Iraq's $8 billion debt to Russia can only be resolved after "careful study," ITAR-TASS reported on 29 November. "We are on the whole not against discussion, but in any case [the debt] must be discussed within the framework of the Paris Club" of creditor nations, Putin said. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said Iraq should honor its debt to Russia, given that deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime was "recognized by the international community," Interfax reported on 29 April. The nearly 300 prominent Iraqis who attended a U.S.-sponsored postwar-planning meeting in Baghdad on 28 April insisted that the Hussein regime's foreign debts be forgiven, "Izvestiya" reported on 29 April. (Jonas Bernstein)

MILITARY OFFICERS ASSEMBLE IN LONDON TO DISCUSS SECURITY FORCE FOR IRAQ. The British Defense Ministry announced that approximately a dozen countries have agreed to participate in an international security force for Iraq and have sent military officers to a 30 April meeting in London, Reuters reported. "We've got about a dozen nations sending military officers to attend. The aim is to discuss the continuing requirement for security in Iraq," Reuters quoted an unnamed military spokesman as saying. The spokesman refused to name the participant countries. However Polish Deputy Defense Minister Janusz Zemke told public radio that the U.S. had requested 4,000 Polish troops to participate. Zemke added that Poland would request that the U.S. finance the operation before committing its troops, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, Spain's military representative to NATO, General Luis Feliu, will become a deputy "defense minister" in charge of rebuilding the Iraqi army, according to a 30 April dpa report. Some 20-30 Spanish officials are expected to participate in the interim civilian administration of Iraq headed by Jay Garner, dpa cited the Spanish daily "El Pais" as reporting on 30 April. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.K. PAPER CLAIMS DOCUMENTS LINK HUSSEIN REGIME TO BIN LADEN. London's "The Sunday Telegraph" published three documents on its website on 27 April, which it claimed prove a link between Osama bin Laden and the deposed Hussein regime (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/). One document dated 19 February 1998 and marked "top secret and urgent," was purportedly signed by the director of an unidentified Iraqi Mukhabarat intelligence section. It requested "official permission to call Khartoum station to facilitate the travel arrangements for the above-mentioned [not named] person to Iraq. And that our body carry all the travel and hotel expenses inside Iraq to gain the knowledge of the message from Bin Laden and to convey to his envoy an oral message from us to Bin Laden...about the future of our relationship with him and to achieve a direct meeting with him." The document goes on to note, "We [Iraq] may find in this envoy a way to maintain contacts with Bin Laden." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

MISSING U.S. SOLDIER'S REMAINS IDENTIFIED. The body of a U.S. soldier that was found one day after his convoy was attacked has been identified, AP reported on 29 April. Edward John Anguiano was a member of the 3rd Infantry Combat Support Battalion. He was traveling with the 507th Maintenance Company when it was ambushed in southern Iraq on 23 March. Nine soldiers were killed and six were taken prisoner, including Jessica Lynch, who was rescued by coalition forces on 1 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April 2003). He was the last missing U.S. soldier from Operation Iraqi Freedom. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

CENTCOM ADDS UP FOUND MONEY. Some $100 million and nearly 90 million Euros have been recovered in Baghdad, according to a 29 April announcement on the CENTCOM website (http://www.centcom.mil/). The money was discovered between 23 and 26 April in an area under the control of the 4th Battalion, 64th Armored Division, 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April 2003). According to the statement, 31 containers of money were found and flown to an undisclosed location where soldiers from the unit counted and secured the funds. The statement added that more than $650 million had earlier been found in the same area, noting, "Funds will remain secure until a stable government is established in Iraq and will ultimately be returned to the Iraqis to assist in the re-building of their nation." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

END NOTE
U.S. SPONSORS BAGHDAD MEETING TO DISCUSS POST-HUSSEIN IRAQ BUT NOT EVERYONE HAPPY

By Kathleen Ridolfo and Bill Samii

Jay Garner, head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), facilitated a meeting of more than 250 Iraqis from across the political spectrum in Baghdad on 28 April to address the formation of a post-Hussein government in Iraq. The meeting also marked the 66th birthday of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Garner told participants, "Today on the birthday of Saddam Hussein, let us start the democratic process for the children of Iraq," Reuters reported. Shi'ite and Sunni clerics, Kurds, businessmen, and Arab tribal leaders attended the meeting.

Hundreds of Iraqis, mostly Shi'ite Muslims, reportedly protested outside the meeting, Reuters reported. Protesters said that Shi'ite clerics from the shrine city of Al-Najaf were not properly represented at the meeting. Specifically, the Al-Hawzah Shi'ite seminary was reportedly not represented. "The Shi'ite parties do not represent the Al-Hawzah at Al-Najaf," a cleric told Reuters, while a banner stated, "The Al-Hawzah in Al-Najaf must participate in the conference because it represents the people's opinions," Reuters reported.

The Iranian-backed Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) reportedly attended the 28 April meeting of Iraqi political leaders in Baghdad, according to a CENTCOM news release (http://www.centcom.mil). SCIRI, which has made contradictory statements regarding its willingness to participate in U.S.-led efforts at facilitating a post-Hussein government, was not present at an earlier opposition meeting near Al-Nasiriyah in mid-April. SCIRI spokesman Muhammad Asadi had said on 25 April that SCIRI leaders were meeting in Tehran to consider the invitation, AP reported on 26 April. "If they [the United States] are going to respect our rights according to our last campaign in London, we will participate surely," he said.

On the day of the meeting, SCIRI's London-based spokesman, Hamid al-Bayati, told Al-Jazeera television that none of the organization's political figures attended that day's U.S.-sponsored meeting of Iraqi political leaders in Baghdad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 April 2003). "However," al-Bayati said, "some Iraq-based engineers and technocrats who are supportive of SCIRI attended the meeting." Their attendance should be seen in the context of cooperation with retired U.S. Major General Garner's ORHA, al-Bayati said. Expressing SCIRI's stand on the issue of working with the U.S.-led initiative, al-Bayati stressed that SCIRI believes that political issues should be left to Iraqis alone. "We have called for boycotting any political measures, or any meeting aimed at forming an interim Iraqi administration under General Garner," he said. Al-Bayati told Al-Jazeera that the six factions of the Iraqi opposition leadership -- including the SCIRI, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), and others -- would meet in Baghdad on 30 April.

Meanwhile, Abu Bilal al-Adib, who heads the political bureau of Al-Da'wah Al-Islamiyah's Tehran branch, said in a 27 April interview with ISNA that his party has been invited to the Baghdad meeting of Iraqi political figures but, "We have not made any decisions on participating in the Baghdad conference yet." Al-Adib echoed the statement's of SCIRI's representatives, saying that the U.S. Defense Department organized the event, but Al-Da'wah believed that Iraqis should have organized it. He did not think the event would be successful under current circumstances. Al-Adib also said he believed that several such meetings would take place until there are approximately 1,000 participants, and said this would become analogous to Afghanistan's Loya Jirga and would elect a government.

The Iraqi participants agreed at the close of the meeting to convene a general congress in one month to set the foundation for the formation of a transitional government, Al-Jazeera reported on the same day. "We hope we can form a unified government, one that reflects the entire spectrum of Iraq," Ahmad Jaber al-Awadi, a representative of the newly-established Iraqi Independent Democrats Movement, told AP on 28 April. Meanwhile, Sa'd al-Bazzaz, a leading exile, said, "I'm not expecting one person as president," adding that many delegates want to see a transitional council of three to six members. There are some indications however, that not all participants were pleased with the level of progress. "If it goes like this, it will take months to get a government," Serdar Jaf, a Kurdish clan leader told AP, adding, "People are only speaking out what they want to speak about. Everyone has his own ideas. There's no program, no agenda."

For his part, Garner stressed to participants that security remained a top concern across the country. He called for a town hall meeting that will be held on 29 April in Baghdad to discuss the issue.

It is still unclear whether decisions made amongst opposition members regarding the formation of a post-Hussein government will fit with the desires of the indigenous Iraqi population. For example, participants at the 300-delegate strong December 2002 London meeting of the opposition formed a "Follow-up and Coordination Committee" of 65 opposition leaders to "liaise between the various groups and represent them in talks with world and regional leaders." Some reports of the committee's membership indicate that about 35 percent of the 65-member committee would be individuals or groups that represent an Islamist stance, while 25 percent would be parties or individuals with a secular leaning. Another 25 percent of the members represent minority/autonomy interests, and 15 percent represent military groups, minority organizations, or are independents. While the committee could form the basis for a more broad-based leadership council, it remains to be seen whether or not local Iraqis will join, and more importantly, whether the structure of the committee will be truly representative of the Iraqi population.

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