21 June 2003, Volume
IRAQI 'GROUP OF SEVEN' APPROVES EXPANSION.
The seven-member Iraqi leadership council met on 15 June and approved an expansion of the council in order to enable more representatives of diverse political, social, and cultural parties to join it, the London-based "Al-Hayat" reported on 17 June. According to the report, 21 individuals were nominated as members of the council, but it was unclear whether that figure included or was in addition to the seven original members. The leadership council was to hold a broad-based conference to elect an interim Iraqi government in May, but U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer quashed that plan (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 6 June 2003), instead opting to appoint his own "advisory council." Some from the group of seven said Bremer's decision was the result of the seven-member group's inability to move quickly and amicably to form a conference. The seven-member group includes the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the Iraqi National Congress (INC), the Iraqi National Accord (INA), the Islamic Al-Da'wah Party, and the National Democratic Party. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the seventh member, did not attend the 15 June meeting. (Kathleen Ridolfo)SHI'ITE CLERIC SAYS HE WILL NOT JOIN IRAQI ADVISORY COUNCIL.
Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said he was unaware that he had been named a member of the Iraqi advisory council and will not participate in the forum, London-based "Al-Zaman" reported on 16 June. Al-Sadr reportedly told a group of his followers at the Al-Kufa Mosque that he would not join the council, since it was formed as a result of the U.S. cancellation of an Iraqi conference that would have established an interim government. He also called on the Iraqi people to demonstrate peacefully against the U.S. plan. Al-Sadr, son of the assassinated Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, recently returned from Iran, where he participated in events commemorating the anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)SHARIF ALI SAYS U.S.-APPOINTED GOVERNMENT WOULD BE ILLEGITIMATE.
Sharif Ali bin al-Husayn, leader of the Constitutional Monarchy Movement, told Al-Jazeera Television on 16 June that only the Iraqi people can form a legitimate government in Iraq, and called for preparations to begin toward general elections. "I believe that the Iraqi people must be the only source of legitimacy," al-Husayn said, adding, "We do not consider any institution or body appointed by Iraqi politicians, the coalition forces, or the United Nations to have sufficient legitimacy."
Al-Husayn, cousin of deposed Iraqi King Faysal al-Husayn, told Al-Jazeera that the escalation of resistance inside Iraq could be attributed to militants allied with the deposed regime of Saddam Hussein. "All Iraqis know that the acts against the coalition forces and other acts of vandalism against the state facilities...are carried out by the remnants of the criminal [Hussein] regime. Members of Arab terrorist organizations that came to Iraq...and are afraid to confront the Americans in other countries carry out such acts, and so do Islamic extremists," al-Husayn said. "They have nothing to do with Iraqi society," he added. Sharif Ali bin al-Husayn returned to Iraq on 10 June after 45 years in exile (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 12 June 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)CHRISTIAN SECTS UNITE TO FORM REPRESENTATIVE FEDERATION.
The representatives of various Christian sects gathered on 21 May to discuss issues concerning Iraqi Christians. The participants agreed to establish a federation, the Democratic Brotherhood Union, to represent them politically. The union will work to secure the rights of Christians in Iraq and lobby for their rights to be recognized in the future Iraqi constitution, according to a 16 June report in the Kurdistan Democratic Party's (KDP) daily, "Al-Ta'akhi." The preparatory committee of the Democratic Brotherhood Union has called on all Christian sects to attend a meeting on 22 June in Baghdad, where the election of the federation's constituent committee will be discussed. (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQI NATIONAL ACCORD HEAD CITES PROGRESS.
Iraqi National Accord (INA) head Iyad Allawi told Amman-based daily "Al-Ra'y" in an interview published on 18 June that progress is being made at the political level in Iraq. Allawi, who left Iraq in 1972 and returned after the fall of Baghdad, told "Al-Ra'y" that Iraqi political groups "have covered important steps in the formation of a political council, which will assume the responsibility of naming administration officials in Iraqi ministries as counterparts for the supervisors from the coalition forces."
On the composition of a future Iraqi government, he said: "Most likely there will be a political council, made up of politicians, and a ministerial council made up of technocrats. This is in addition to a constitutional entity, which will work for the unity of the country and the human rights of the citizen." Allawi said the INA is working to maintain a good dialogue with all Iraqi groups. "In our common endeavor, we meet with Shi'ite, Sunni, Christian, and leaders from different Iraqi cultural backgrounds while firmly emphasizing Iraqi identity as the guarantee for our existence as a country and a people," he added. (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQ'S DEEPWATER PORT OPENS.
Iraq's only deepwater port, located at Umm Qasr, reopened to commercial shipping traffic on 17 June. It had been closed since war broke out in Iraq on 20 March, as coalition forces swept the surrounding areas in search of mines. Iain Pickard, spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), told Reuters on 17 June that the port had reopened a day earlier. The first ship to arrive carried power generators. Wohlers Olsen, the CPA's head in southern Iraq issued a statement calling the reopening of the port, "a highly significant event in the postwar regeneration of southern Iraq," adding, "This is a clear signal that we are open for business."
According to Reuters, the port is being operated by Stevedoring Services of America, while Bechtel Corporation has a U.S. contract to rebuild port buildings, install lighting, and rebuild grain elevators. (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQI OIL OFFICIAL SAYS OIL IS NOT SMUGGLED.
An official from the Iraqi Southern Oil Company told the PUK-daily "Al-Ittihad" in an interview published on 14 June that despite rumors to the contrary, oil is not being smuggled by those who control the commercial channels and Gulf oil traders. The unnamed official said that diesel is being smuggled, however. In addition, diesel is also officially "exchanged" for other oil by-products in order to meet local market needs. He said that the exchange was common under the deposed regime of Saddam Hussein. The official told "Al-Ittihad" that the company was working to raise the oil production to two million barrels per day.
In related news, Reuters reported on 17 June that Iraqi output has remained at around 750,000 barrels per day (bpd) since May, and is expected to reach only 1-1.2 million bpd by mid-July, far below the initial target set by oil officials. The slow start was attributed to looting and technical difficulties. Iraq was expected to be pumping 1.5 million bpd by the end of June, leaving some Iraqi oil officials doubtful that the goal can be reached. Thamir Ghadhban, the top oil official, is reportedly still working toward the goal. (Kathleen Ridolfo)KURDS BAN WEAPONS IN NORTHERN IRAQ.
Kurdish government officials have agreed to implement Decree 16 of 1993, issued by the Kurdistan National Assembly, which calls for the disarmament of the Kurdish region. The decision was announced following a meeting between the U.S. Army civil administration official in the Kurdistan region and in Mosul, Colonel Harry Schute, and the interior ministers of the Kurdistan Regional Government for Irbil -- Faraydun Abd al-Qadir -- and in Sulaymaniyah, Karim Sinjari.
Abd al-Qadir told a press conference that the implementation was in line with Decree 3 of 2003, issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which calls for the disarmament of Iraq. Sinjari said that since the fall of the Hussein regime, there is no longer a need for citizens to remain armed. Citizens have been given 15 days to turn in their light and heavy weapons.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces and internal security forces are permitted to retain firearms in their possession that were issued by the regional government and registered. However, they may only carry the firearms while in uniform. Nonetheless, a statement read by Abd al-Qadir emphasized that the Interior Ministry must license anyone wishing to carry a firearm. (Kathleen Ridolfo)MILITANT FIRES AT U.S. CONVOY, REPORTEDLY HITS IRAQI CIVILIAN BUS.
An unidentified assailant fired a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) at 4th Infantry Division soldiers on 15 June near the town of Al-Mushahidah, instead hitting a civilian bus that was passing the U.S. convoy, according to a 16 June press release on CENTCOM's website. Task Force Ironhorse units returned fire to protect the convoy and bus, it said. "Supporting units from Task Force Ironhorse responded to assist the people on the bus; however, the bus was moved while the soldiers were traveling to its location. The soldiers searched the ambush location but did not find the bus," CENTCOM reported. The number of casualties on the bus remained unknown, according to CENTCOM. U.S. forces also came under attack by Iraqi militants firing RPGs at a military convoy near Al-Dujayl, located some 60 kilometers northwest of Baghdad, CENTCOM noted in the same statement. (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQIS PROTEST IN AL-HILLAH.
Iraqi civil servants in the Babil Governorate reportedly protested on 16 June against a U.S. demand that they sign a form stating they will obey U.S. troops or face dismissal, Al-Jazeera reported the same day. Hundreds of citizens took to the streets in a peaceful demonstration to protest the U.S. demand, the broadcaster reported. The report has not been independently confirmed. (Kathleen Ridolfo)CAR BOMBS EXPLODE IN BAGHDAD.
A civilian vehicle exploded in a neighborhood in northwest Baghdad on 16 June, killing one woman and a young girl, Reuters reported the same day. The cause of the explosion was not clear, but it reportedly occurred at an intersection where U.S. troops had dismantled a checkpoint just 30 minutes earlier. Another civilian vehicle was blown up in a tunnel in Baghdad on 16 June, the news agency reported. Early reports indicated that the likely cause of the latter blast was a land mine. Two Iraqis were wounded in that incident. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. TROOPS OPEN FIRE AS IRAQI MILITARY PROTESTS TURN VIOLENT.
U.S. forces opened fire on former Iraqi soldiers after their protest turned violent outside U.S. headquarters in Baghdad on 18 June, Reuters reported. The former Iraqi soldiers have regularly gathered to protest their dismissal by U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer and to demand three months of back pay (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 6 June and 30 May 2003). U.S. Army Captain Scott Nauman told CNN that violence erupted when protesters attacked a U.S. convoy outside the compound, smashing windows and shaking the vehicle. U.S. troops outside the compound reportedly fired two warning shots into the air before a soldier from within the convoy fired directly into the crowd of protesters. Two Iraqis were subsequently reported to have been killed. U.S. forces reportedly provided medical attention to the injured Iraqis inside the U.S. compound. Meanwhile, Reuters reported that protesters threw rocks at two Iraqi cameramen working for that news agency outside the U.S. compound during the demonstration. UN and television-crew vehicles passing by the demonstration were also attacked.
The administration in southern Iraq is being run along very different lines, however. Dismissed Iraqi soldiers living in the British-administered areas of southern Iraq continue to receive paychecks despite a U.S. decision to dissolve the Iraqi Army, the London "Daily Telegraph" website reported on 18 June (http://www.telegraph.co.uk). The payments are part of Britain's "hearts and minds" campaign, aimed at forging good relations with Iraqis rather than stirring up resentment, according to the report. Brigadier Adrian Bradshaw, commander of the 7th Armored Brigade, told the daily that approximately 8,000 of the 10,000 demobilized soldiers in the Al-Basrah Governorate are being paid as "civil servants."
Bradshaw said the soldiers are no different from the estimated 70,000 other civil servants currently on the payroll who receive checks but do not report to work. The payments, according to the "Telegraph," amount to a form of unemployment benefits. "At least they have something to tide them over until the employment situation improves," Bradshaw said. In the meantime, the British are actively recruiting former soldiers as security guards for food-storage facilities, and as many as 2,000 might be recruited to serve in the soon-to-be-launched "Basrah River Service" -- policing waterways in search of smugglers. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. ADMINISTRATOR UNVEILS NEW CRIMINAL COURT IN IRAQ.
L. Paul Bremer announced the creation of a new criminal court in Iraq on 17 June, AP reported the same day. The changes are seen as a first step toward upgrading the judicial system in Iraq. Two new divisions have been created: the Judicial Review Committee and the Central Criminal Court. "The Review Committee's task is to clean up Iraq's judiciary," Bremer said. "If the committee finds any judge or prosecutor who violates these standards, the committee will dismiss him or her from office." The committee will be comprised of three Iraqis and three members from the coalition and will finish its initial task in three to four months, Bremer said. Meanwhile, the Central Criminal Court will preside over criminal cases relating to attacks on Iraq's security and reconstruction. "One of the main reasons for my establishing this court is so that we can try people, in particular senior Ba'athists, who may have committed crimes against the coalition, who are trying to destabilize the situation here, and so we can do it rather quickly," Reuters quoted Bremer as saying on 17 June.
Bremer also told reporters on 17 June that he envisages that the court "could evolve into a tribunal to try people for crimes against humanity," but he cautioned, "That is a decision that the [future] Iraqi government should make," Reuters reported. The court will be based on the Iraqi legal code, which is a civil-law system, the "Los Angeles Times" reported on 18 June. Three amendments have been made, however: defendants will be allowed legal representation throughout the process; they will have the right to remain silent; and the use of torture will be prohibited. But some Iraqi judges and lawyers have expressed dismay over what they say is U.S. interference in their court system. "The Americans are an occupation force, and we are the source of one of the oldest codes of law -- Hammurabi's Code," Iraqi Judge Qassem Ayyash told AP. "It's like teaching a driver how to drive." (Kathleen Ridolfo)WEEKLY COLUMN ON FATWAS INTRODUCED BY BAGHDAD NEWSPAPER.
The Baghdad-based newspaper "Sawt al-Tali'ah" has introduced a weekly column on the religious rulings (fatwas) of Ayatollah Al-Sayyid Muhammad Taqi al-Mudarrisi. The column will also publish fatwas issued by other "high religious authorities."
The 15 June issue carried the rulings of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Asked if it is permissible to punish those former regime members that played a role in the killing of Iraqis, he said: "Punishment is the right of the family of the victim after the crime has been proven in a Shari'a court. It is impermissible for others to mete out a punishment. Moreover, there must not be any punishment before a Shari'a judge has announced the sentence." Al-Sistani added that action may not be taken against former regime members or suspected collaborators until the cases have been ruled on in Shari'a courts.
Asked about reports of Shi'ites expelling Sunni clerics from their mosques, he said: "This is completely rejected and must be stopped. The imam must be protected and returned to his mosque in a dignified and honorable manner."
As for mixing politics and religion, al-Sistani said: "It is not right to involve men of religion in administrative and executive affairs. Their role must be confined to that of guidance and supervision of the committees formed to run the affairs of the town and insure security and public services for the people." Asked whether it is permissible for Iraqis to purchase weapons for self-defense, he ruled: "Weapons stolen from prisons and other centers remain the property of the state. It is impermissible to deal with them. They must be collected and kept under the supervision of a committee formed by the people of the area so that they will then be returned to the competent authorities." He added that only official security personnel have the right to carry arms. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. ISSUES RFP TO GSM PROVIDERS.
The U.S.-led administration in Iraq has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for a nationwide Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) cell phone network in Iraq, Reuters reported on 16 June. An unnamed senior telecommunications official told the news agency that the Iraqi airwaves would be divided among 124 bands -- leading the way for several companies to operate in Iraq, which will be one of the largest markets in the Arab world.
Four separate networks currently serve an estimated 100,000 customers in Iraq: two in Iraqi Kurdistan, one in Baghdad, and another in the southern city of Al-Basrah. Karim Qader, who works for Asia Cell, which operates in Iraqi Kurdistan, said that a national network would take six months to build and would attract two million subscribers in the first year, Reuters reported. "Iraq has been without modern communications," Qader said, adding, "It will be a huge market. The land network was not up to scratch even in the best of days." RCR Wireless News reported on 17 June that U.S. Administrator L. Paul Bremer established the Ministry of Transportation and Communications on 9 June. The ministry will oversee licensing of commercial wireless and wireline telecom systems in Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. REPORTEDLY CLOSES LOCAL TELEVISION AND NEWSPAPER.
The U.S.-led administration has reportedly closed a newly established television station and a newspaper in Al-Najaf, Voice of the Mujahedin radio reported on 17 June. The radio reported that both the newspaper and television channel are operated by a new Islamic organization, the Supreme Council for the Liberation of Iraq (a.k.a. Supreme Council for a Free Iraq), headed by Iraqi exile Mahdi al-Awadi. Al-Najaf is a city considered holy to Shi'a Muslims.
The Voice of the Mujahedin reported that U.S. forces stormed the television and newspaper offices and arrested the staff of both facilities on charges of promoting incitement against occupation troops. U.S. Administrator L. Paul Bremer issued a ban on incitement in late May (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 12 June 2003).
It remains unclear whether the Supreme Council for the Liberation of Iraq is linked to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which reportedly operates the clandestine Voice of the Mujahedin Radio.
SCIRI representative Hamid al-Bayati told Al-Jazeera television in a 2 June interview that SCIRI would be reassessing its organizational structure in light of the downfall of the Hussein regime (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 6 June 2003). SCIRI offices have been subjected to raids by U.S. forces in recent weeks in the cities of Al-Basrah, Mosul, and Baghdad. The organization's armed wing, the Badr Brigades, were disarmed by U.S. forces in late May. SCIRI has declined to participate in a U.S.-appointed interim political council in Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. STEPPING UP APPEALS TO IRAQI SCIENTISTS.
U.S. Army Psychological Operations personnel are stepping up attempts to persuade Iraqi scientists to come forward with information about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs, or in some cases to turn themselves in, AP reported on 15 June. The news agency reported that Baghdad-based Information Radio, an AM radio station the news agency says is operated by army personnel, is broadcasting the appeal, in which a female announcer says: "It's time to leave your hideouts.... If you come voluntarily and give information about weapons of mass destruction and their launch vehicles, the United States will do its best to give you a just trial in accordance with the law." Information Radio operates from a portable radio transmitter that was carried into Iraq by U.S. forces during the invasion of Baghdad. According to AP, the station has made similar appeals over the past two and a half months. Another frequently broadcast message calls on Iraqis to turn in people that they know were involved in Iraq's alleged WMD programs. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. FORCES ANNOUNCE CAPTURE OF MOST SENIOR HUSSEIN-ERA LEADER TO DATE.
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) announced the capture of Iraqi General Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti, fourth on CENTCOM's list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis from the deposed regime of Saddam Hussein, in an 18 June press release posted on the CENTCOM website.
Mahmud served as Hussein's personal secretary and senior bodyguard. He was also the president's national security adviser and cousin. U.S. military officials believe Mahmud might be one of the few people who know the current whereabouts of Hussein, and he was in a position to have extensive knowledge of Iraq's alleged weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD) programs.
"The Washington Post" reported on 19 June that a British dossier on senior Iraqi officials states that Mahmud "is regarded by some as the real number-two figure in the Iraqi leadership." Mahmud was captured near Tikrit, according to U.S. military officials.
Former Iraqi Major General Wafiq al-Samarra'i told Al-Jazeera on 18 June that Mahmud was not a personal secretary to Hussein, "but rather a secretary of the president of the republic. This means he had access to all political, economic, military, security, and intelligence activities," as well as to alleged WMD programs. "I can say that arresting this person will enable the coalition forces to arrest Saddam Hussein," al-Samarra'i added. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. TROOPS LAUNCH OPERATION DESERT SCORPION...
U.S. forces launched Operation Desert Scorpion on 15 June "in order to isolate and defeat remaining pockets of resistance seeking to delay the transition to a peaceful and stable Iraq," U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) announced in a press release posted on its website the same day (http://www.centcom.mil). The operation follows Operation Peninsula Strike, launched on 9 June (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 12 June 2003), and is "designed to identify and defeat selected Ba'ath Party loyalists, terrorist organizations, and criminal elements while delivering humanitarian aid simultaneously," the press release states. "Combat operations will be followed by synchronized stability and humanitarian operations designed to assist a transition to Iraqi self-rule. These include engineer and civil affairs initiatives to repair damaged infrastructure, support the growth of police forces and local government, and improve the lives of Iraq's citizens," according to CENTCOM.
Two days later, CENTCOM reported that Operation Desert Scorpion had led to scores of detentions. "In the central region near Tikrit and Kirkuk, coalition forces conducted 36 raids and detained 215 individuals," a statement posted on the CENTCOM website read. While in the region, coalition troops escorted humanitarian fuel deliveries as well. In Baghdad, 11 raids led to the detention of 156 individuals, according to CENTCOM. "Coalition forces also collected 121 rifles, two submachine guns, 19 pistols, 18 rocket-propelled grenades, four machine guns, 31 pounds of explosives, and some chemical protective masks," CENTCOM added. (Kathleen Ridolfo)...AS CENTCOM ANNOUNCES CONCLUSION OF OPERATION PENINSULA STRIKE.
A four-day raid by U.S. forces from the 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and the 3rd Infantry Division's 3rd Squadron, 7th Calvary Regiment, was concluded on 12 June, according to a CENTCOM press release. Operation Peninsula Strike resulted in the capture of some 400 detainees and the seizure of "numerous weapons systems and ammunition," CENTCOM added. All but 30 of the detainees were subsequently released. In addition, two former Iraqi generals turned themselves in to coalition forces during those raids: Major General Abul Ali Jasmin, secretary of the Defense Ministry; and Brigadier General Abdullah Ali Jasmin, head of the Iraqi Military Academy. Both remain in coalition custody and are being questioned. CENTCOM also announced the capture of an Iraqi on CENTCOM's 55 most-wanted list: Hamid Raja Shalah al-Tikriti served as commander of the Iraqi Air Force and was 17th on the list. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. FORCES RAID FARMHOUSES IN TIKRIT, DETAINING MANY AND SEIZING CASH.
U.S. forces raided two farmhouses outside Tikrit on 18 June, detaining more than a dozen people and seizing $8 million and millions of Iraqi dinars, as well as "a large sum" of British pounds and euros, CENTCOM announced in a 19 June statement posted on its website. "Other items seized in the raid were expensive jewels and gems with an estimated value of more than $1 million; late-model, Russian-made night-vision goggles; a sniper rifle; and uniforms and equipment of [Saddam Hussein's] personal guard," the press release stated. U.S. forces detained 15-20 "individuals associated with Saddam's Special Security Forces" in the raid. The raids were conducted as part of Operation Desert Scorpion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 17 June 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQI DETAINEE KILLED IN ESCAPE ATTEMPT.
An Iraqi detained at the Abu Ghurayb prison complex was killed when he and seven others sought to escape on 13 June, CENTCOM announced in a 14 June press release on its website. All seven of the other escapees were injured in the incident, two critically. According to CENTCOM, coalition military-police guards fired several shots "in self-defense" and in an effort to prevent the escape attempt. "Detainees throwing rocks and brandishing shanks [sic] rushed the guards," the press release states. One guard was slightly injured. The escape attempt was the second in as many days. Two prisoners attempted to escape detention at Baghdad International Airport on 12 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2003). Abu Ghurayb is located in western Baghdad, just north of the city's major airport. (Kathleen Ridolfo)DEPOSED IRAQI LEADER'S DAUGHTER SAYS FATHER 'SURVIVED THE WAR.'
The eldest daughter of deposed President Hussein told London's "The Sunday Times" in an interview published on 15 June "I know he survived the war." Raghad Hussein said the last time she spoke with her father was five days prior to the outbreak of Operation Iraqi Freedom on 20 February. "He was in good spirits. I know he survived the war," she is quoted as saying. "But once Baghdad fell it was all so quick, all the family went our own ways." Regarding Hussein and his two sons, Uday and Qusay, she said, "I am not in touch with any of them." Raghad is the wife of the late Husayn Kamil al-Majid, who was assassinated by the Hussein regime after he and his brother and their families defected to Jordan in 1995, only to be lured back to Iraq by Hussein on promises of amnesty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2003). Raghad denied recent press reports that indicated she and her sister Rana and their children are seeking asylum in the United Kingdom, saying, "Politically, it is impossible." According to "The Sunday Times," the two daughters might be seeking asylum in the United Arab Emirates. "All I want is to be able to live peacefully with no fear and nobody asking us any awkward questions. We have been through a lot and now we just want peace," she said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTRY RECRUITING.
The Iraqi Foreign Service Institute has been tasked with organizing courses for Iraqis seeking to join the diplomatic corps, Baghdad's "Al-Sa'ah" reported on 14 June. The institute is a branch of the Iraqi Foreign Ministry.
The daily also reported that Ambassador Ghassan Muhsin, head of the Guidance Committee at the Foreign Ministry, said the ministry's main building has repaired damage from looting and burning. Muhsin added that the Al-Rashid Company, an affiliate of the Iraqi Housing and Reconstruction Ministry, will rehabilitate the Foreign Ministry building. The Japanese government has pledged $1.6 million to the rehabilitation project. Muhsin said the UN Development Program will also help fund the project. (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTRY SOURCE SAYS FEMALE DIPLOMAT TO GO TO UN.
London-based "Al-Hayat" reported on 18 June that a source at the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said a female diplomat might be named the next Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations. The source named Aqilah al-Hashimi, director of the Research and Studies Department at the Foreign Ministry, as a possible candidate. Hashimi, who would replace former Ambassador Muhammad al-Duri, is fluent in English, French, and Spanish, in addition to her native Arabic. She holds a doctorate in international law. The appointment would make her the first Iraqi female diplomat to hold such a senior position, "Al-Hayat" reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
KUWAIT CONFIRMS REMAINS OF SECOND POW.
The remains of a second Kuwaiti prisoner of war (POW) have been verified through DNA testing, KUNA reported on 14 June. Ahmad Abdullah Abderasoul al-Qallaf's remains were found in a mass grave in Al-Samawah, located in southeast Iraq along the Euphrates River. Al-Qallaf, a Defense Ministry officer, was captured on 4 November 1990, according to KUNA. The remains of Kuwaiti POW Sa'd Mishal Aswad Al-Enizi, found in the same grave, were confirmed on 8 June. Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Shaykh Muhammad al-Khalid al-Sabah told reporters in early June that evidence indicates that Kuwaiti POWs were buried in the mass grave. He added that leads also suggest Kuwaitis were buried in Al-Habbaniyah, located west of Baghdad, but cautioned that the matter is under investigation, KUNA reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)GCC ISSUES COMMUNIQUE URGING SECURITY IN IRAQ.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has issued a communique calling on the international community to work to restore security and stability in Iraq, MENA reported on 16 June. The document, drafted by the GCC Ministerial Council in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, calls for a wider UN role in the country's reconstruction. The communique also called on the United States, United Kingdom, United Nations, and International Committee of the Red Cross to intensify the search for Kuwaiti prisoners of war missing since the 1991 Gulf War. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
UN ENVOY MEETS WITH LEADING IRAQI FIGURES.
UN Special Representative to Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello is in a second week of talks with leading Iraqi political figures and journalists, the UN News Center reported on 16 June (http://www.un.org/news). Vieira de Mello met with a group of Iraqi jurists who expressed an urgent need for ensuring security and justice in the country. They told the UN envoy that the U.S.-led administration initiated the current plan without consulting Iraqi legal experts. Vieira de Mello told the jurists that the UN would raise their concerns with the Coalition Provisional Authority. He also pledged UN support for rebuilding the Iraqi justice system.
Vieira de Mello met with local political, tribal, and religious leaders in Al-Basrah on 14 June. There, he said that the UN was committed to Iraqi self-determination. (Kathleen Ridolfo)JAPAN NAMED TOP UNICEF DONOR FOR IRAQ.
Japan has been recognized as the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) top donor for relief efforts in Iraq after presenting UNICEF with a $10.2 million contribution to support the reopening of schools across the country, the UN News Center reported on 2 June. Japan's total contribution to UNICEF exceeds $15 million. "We are delighted that Japan has responded so quickly and so generously to the urgent needs of Iraqi children," UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said in a statement. "The needs are very urgent and we are grateful for this strong and early support," she added.
According to the UN News Center, most of Iraq's 8,500 schools require cleaning or repair. In addition, 5,000 schools need to be constructed to accommodate all of Iraq's 12 million school-age children. There is also a shortage of trained teachers. In addition, less than half of all the primary schools in Iraq have access to potable water, raising hygiene and sanitation concerns.
Japan's contribution will help some one million children in three cities. Some $3.5 million will help rehabilitate 70 schools -- 30 in Baghdad and 40 in southern Iraq, while some $6.2 million will go to pay for teaching and learning supplies. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
U.K. PROBE CONTRADICTS U.S. ACCUSATIONS OVER IRAQ'S MOBILE LABS.
A British investigation into mobile laboratories found in northern Iraq has concluded that the laboratories were not used to produce germ warfare, as U.S. officials have suggested, "The Observer" of London reported on 15 June. Biological-weapons experts working for the British government say the labs were apparently used to produce hydrogen to fill artillery balloons, as the Iraqi government had long claimed. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has used the discovery of the alleged mobile labs to support his argument -- including in recent weeks -- that President Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and that the war in Iraq was justified on that basis. (Kathleen Ridolfo)AS CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE QUESTIONS INTELLIGENCE REPORTS.
The U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence began closed-door hearings on intelligence related to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to examine whether U.S. officials overstated Iraq's WMD threat before the war, Reuters reported on 18 June.
One of the key issues being examined is whether intelligence analysts were pressured, or perceived they were being pressured, to produce analyses that would support the case for war in Iraq. Analysts will be questioned specifically about the factors that went into assembling the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) reports on Iraq's WMD programs, Reuters reported. The last NIE report was issued in October. Reuters reports that the U.S. Senate is also conducting a similar investigation regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program. (Kathleen Ridolfo)BLAIR APPOINTS UN AMBASSADOR AS SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair named the U.K. ambassador to the United Nations, Jeremy Greenstock, as Britain's Special Representative on Iraq. According to Reuters, Greenstock's position is equivalent to that of U.S. Administrator L. Paul Bremer. He will be taking over from John Sawers, who has been filling the role since May. "He will be the prime minister's man in Iraq, working with the Americans but also trying to bring them to accept a greater UN role in Iraqi reconstruction," a British diplomat in New York told Reuters. He will be playing as an intermediary between the United States and United Nations, just as he did here [at the UN]," the diplomat said. Greenstock had planned on retiring from his UN post this month, when he reaches 60, which is the British Foreign Office's mandatory retirement age.
Greenstock commented on the appointment in New York, telling reporters, "I am very pleased that the prime minister has asked me to spend some time in Iraq later this year and into next year, to try and help bring Iraq back under the control of the Iraqi people and to improve the circumstances on the ground." Reuters also reported on 16 June that British Ambassador to the European Union David Richmond would travel to Iraq in July to temporarily relieve Sawers. Richmond will become Greenstock's deputy in September. Emyr Jones Parry, who currently serves as the U.K. ambassador to NATO, will succeed Greenstock at the United Nations. (Kathleen Ridolfo)SENIOR BRITISH OFFICIAL SAYS U.S.-LED ADMINISTRATION IS IN CHAOS.
London's "Daily Telegraph" interviewed an unnamed senior British administration official in Baghdad on 17 June who complained that the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) is in a state of chaos. The official claimed that the CPA has "fewer than 600" employees trying to run a country the size of France, with a civil infrastructure on the verge of collapse, according to the daily. "This is the single most chaotic organization I have ever worked for," the official said, adding, "The operation is chronically under-resourced and suffers from an almost complete absence of strategic direction."
Similar complaints have been privately voiced in London, with officials reportedly saying that Washington's interdepartmental fighting has been transferred to Baghdad. Among the incidents cited in the "Daily Telegraph," the dispersal of salaries was slowed by Washington's indecision over which currency to use in Iraq to pay civil servants' salaries -- the Iraqi dinar used by the Hussein regime, the "Swiss" dinar -- the pre-1991 dinar used in Kurdish areas, or the U.S. dollar.
The official also said that the situation is seriously affecting the coalition's ability to deliver critical services such as electricity and security to the Iraqi people. "We are facing an almost complete inability to engage with what needs to be done and to bring to bear sufficient resources to make a difference," he said. He added that Iraqi civil servants have not fully adjusted to Western-style administration. "They demand written authority to do the tiniest thing, as a consequence of living under Saddam," he noted. Apparently all is not lost, however. The official conceded that the current phase of transition is "difficult," but warned, "It could be that we are currently sowing the seeds of a better Iraq, but if we don't have anything to harvest by the autumn, we could face the consequences." (Kathleen Ridolfo)BUSH NAMES SUCCESSOR TO GENERAL FRANKS.
U.S. President George W. Bush has nominated Army Lieutenant General John Abizaid for a fourth star and the position of commander, U.S. Central Command, based at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, the Pentagon announced in a press release dated 18 June (http://www.defenselink.mil/). The nomination, if confirmed by the U.S. Senate, would make Abizaid the successor to General Tommy Franks, who retires later this summer. Since February 2002, Abizaid has served as deputy commander of CENTCOM. As commander, Abizaid will oversee an area of operations that stretches from Afghanistan to the Horn of Africa. Prior to his current appointment, he served as director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon.
General Abizaid is of Lebanese descent and is fluent in Arabic. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. and holds a Master of Arts degree in Area Studies (Middle East) from Harvard University. Abizaid was commissioned into the Army in 1973, and has commanded U.S. forces in Grenada, Iraqi Kurdistan (1991), and Bosnia-Herzegovina. (Kathleen Ridolfo)