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Iraq Report: June 27, 2003


27 June 2003, Volume 6, Number 28
INSIDE IRAQ
BANI HAJIM TRIBES REJECT CALLS TO ATTACK U.S. FORCES. An unnamed chieftain for the Bani Hajim tribes told the Iraqi National Congress newspaper "Al-Mu'tamar" in a report published on 21 June that the tribes have rejected a call by another unnamed tribe, once supported by the deposed Saddam Hussein regime based in Al-Ramadi, to attack U.S. forces. The chieftain said that a group of eight tribal chiefs from the rebel tribe met with Bani Hajim chieftains on 13 June in Al-Samawah and urged the chieftains to join a rebellion against U.S. forces. The group of eight reportedly argued that the tribes should repeat the 1920 revolution against the British occupation in which Iraqi tribes rebelled. The chieftain added that the Bani Hajim tribal chiefs encouraged the group of eight to "abandon the calls made by the tyrant Saddam to defend him, foment sedition, and wreak havoc on our country." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

CLERIC SAYS RESISTANCE TO CONTINUE, BACKS PACHACHI. Iraqi Sunni cleric and head of the Unified Iraqi National Movement Ahmad al-Kubaysi told London-based "Al-Hayat" in an interview published on 22 June that resistance against the U.S.-led administration in Iraq is solidifying. "Actual resistance in Iraq at present is much bigger and wider than what is published in the media," al-Kubaysi said. He added that the resistance is not due to Ba'athist elements, but rather it "is carried out by the real owners of the land who suffered from Saddam [Hussein] and who are stunned by the suffering from the Americans who have, by their behavior, compelled the Iraqi people to resist." He said that should international peacekeepers enter Iraq, the Iraqis would have to adjust their "methods of resistance," but did not elaborate on how they might change.

Al-Kubaysi told "Al-Hayat" that his party is not a strictly Sunni movement, and said it was open to all Iraqis. "It is a Sunni movement, but we are on the same line as the Kurds and Shi'ites and there are no differences among us," he said, adding that his group had no sectarian, ethnic, or religious "sensitivities." The Sunni cleric said that his party would support former Iraqi Foreign Minister Adnan Pachachi to head the future provisional Iraqi government, "because he does not have any ideology that discriminates among various Iraqis."

Asked about the formation of a provisional Iraqi government, al-Kubaysi said that should one be formed, it would not have real power. "This is a promise very similar if not identical to Israel's promise to set up an independent Palestinian state," he said, adding, "Neither will materialize."

Al-Kubaysi further claimed that Iraqis were deluded in their belief that the U.S. would actually establish an Iraqi government, saying the U.S. "does not want anybody to intervene, whether Iraqi or non-Iraqi because it wants this juicy prey for itself." He also claimed that the U.S. has threatened Iran and Syria in order to dissuade the two states from "even listening in or looking at what is going on in Iraq." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

SCIRI MEMBER VOWS HIS GROUP WILL RESIST PEACEFULLY. Nuri al-Safi, a member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq's (SCIRI) Central Shura (consultative) Council in Baghdad told Al-Jazeera via a telephone interview on 21 June that his group favors peaceful resistance to the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq. Al-Safi did not give a direct answer when asked about recent reports of U.S. forces storming SCIRI offices, detaining members, and confiscating equipment. Instead, he answered: "We carried weapons for a long period of time to fight oppressor Saddam [Hussein] and [to] finish off his defunct regime. Now that our people have gotten rid of this oppressor, who burdened Iraq for a long period of time, we will resist peacefully and will have a major role in supporting the Iraqi people and building Iraq."

He added that SCIRI hopes to have a key role in establishing the Iraqi army and rebuilding the infrastructure, adding, "We will continue to resist peacefully and the whole world will see the injustices that SCIRI and its supporters and the Shi'ites of Iraq are suffering...." Asked how long his group might support "peaceful opposition," al-Safi said, "We cannot say that there is a time limit or a special strategy regarding this peaceful resistance." He added that SCIRI takes a "neutral stand" regarding attacks that target U.S. forces.

Asked about the level of contact between SCIRI and the U.S.-led administration, he said: "We are participating effectively and we have continuous meetings in the leadership body.... There are talks and coordination on a very high level to carry out the demands that our people in Iraq are asking for." Al-Safi said that the demands included the formation of an interim council, and a national government and army. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

AL-DA'WAH PARTY CALLS FOR 'EXPANDED MEETING'... The Islamic Al-Da'wah Party has issued a statement calling for an expanded meeting inclusive of Iraqi political "forces and factions" to address the need for a national government, according to a statement released in the group's newspaper "Al-Da'wah" on 22 June.

In the statement, the party claims that the U.S. decision to appoint an interim advisory council rather than allow Iraqis to elect an interim government has "embarrassed the parties that laid a wager on the promises of the United States," adding that the U.S. has lost its credibility among Iraqi factions. "The two months that passed since the old regime was overthrown should have been enough to delegate power to a national Iraqi government that would be able to deal with the current situation and daily problems. Therefore, the insistence on disregarding this fact created a state of frustration," the statement read. "We believe the various Iraqi parties should carry out their responsibilities to alleviate the frustration by means of a working plan that embodies the hopes and will of the Iraqi people who strive for the supremacy of law and order and the reconstruction of their country...." The party called on Iraqi political groups to work to "create a positive environment" towards achieving a practical solution to the current political quagmire. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...DENOUNCES ACTS THAT DEFAME ISLAMIC MOVEMENTS. An official from the Islamic Al-Da'wah Party issued a statement condemning the actions of individuals "who either seek to slander the Islamic movement or at least to use it as a cover," the party's "Al-Dawah" newspaper reported on 22 June. According to the source, some gangs claiming to belong to various Islamic parties have established checkpoints throughout Iraq where they "insulted and robbed" citizens. The gangs have also distributed threatening leaflets that "warned the people of impending vengeance or aggression." According to the source, the leaflets carried the false signatures of "some respectable Islamic movements and parties." The source added that it is "impossible for any well-meaning Islamic movement to issue such threats to distribute such leaflets." He called on Iraqis to "confront those persons who make such allegations that contradict the spirit of the tolerant Islamic faith."

Meanwhile, a member of the party's political bureau, Khudayr Ja'far, told London's "Al-Hayat" in a report published on 24 June that his party does not "see any interest in a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq at the moment," since "the interim stage during which the United States is supposed to help in building Iraqi institutions has not been finalized yet." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

CLERIC CALLS FOR ESTABLISHING 'CONTEMPORARY IRAQ.' Iraqi cleric Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum called for the establishment of a "contemporary Iraq" in an address to a political seminar aimed at examining the role of the Iraqi people in forming a new government, "Al-Zaman" reported on 24 June. Al-Ulum told the attendees -- Iraqi political, social, and legal figures -- that the new "Iraqi awakening" will allow them to take a unified stance on basic issues. He added that they could achieve their goals through a rational attitude, taking care to avoid confrontations that might lead to failure. "We say very clearly that our basic aim is to achieve political participation for the people," Al-Ulum told the audience. "If the procedure requires some time, [then] we are prepared to give time to achieve our sacred aim. There is no alternative but to give the authority back to the people through the ballot boxes." He called on Iraqis to "build a new Iraq [based] on constitutional, pluralistic, and democratic bases; representing all the Iraqi groups without ignoring any group as long as it is from Iraq; [and] to build a country that has all the components of a contemporary country while maintaining the Iraqi character." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI COMMUNIST PARTY LEADER WANTS COUNCIL TO ADMINISTER BAGHDAD. The secretary of the Iraqi Communist Party's Central Committee, Humayd Majid Musa, told "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" in an interview published on 23 June that his party is pushing for the establishment of a coalition council to administer the city of Baghdad. Musa said the Iraqi Communist Party has been meeting with "many forces" to "develop a formula of coordination among the parties first so that this formula can be an introduction to deal with the [U.S.-led] administration on other issues." He said the move to accelerate the local administration of Baghdad goes hand in hand with the political parties' calls for the establishment of an interim Iraqi national administration.

Musa also condemned Arab and international satellite channels for their coverage of the internal situation in Iraq, saying they "only showed the negative aspect of looting and burglary, operations that had international organizations and gangs, the remnants of the Ba'ath Party, and some mobs behind them." He added, "These satellite channels did not show the solidarity, cooperation, and cohesion of [Iraqi] people despite the deliberate security disorder" in Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. MILITARY VEHICLE HIT DURING PATROL. A military vehicle was hit in an explosion that targeted a U.S. military patrol on 26 June, inflicting U.S. and Iraqi casualties, Reuters reported. The patrol was traveling on the road leading to Baghdad International Airport when the Humvee military vehicle was rocked by an explosion. An Iraqi civilian car transporting electricity workers was also damaged in the attack. One occupant in that vehicle was killed and another seriously injured. Reuters reported that three passersby were also wounded. U.S. Captain Sean McWilliams told reporters of an unspecified number of U.S. casualties. He said the attack is under investigation. "It was some explosive device," McWilliams said. "We don't know what type. We have no reports of bullets, just shrapnel." AP reported that the attack left one U.S. soldier dead and another seriously wounded. U.S. soldiers on the scene told AP that a device placed on the road appeared to have been detonated either by remote control or by a trip wire as the military vehicle passed. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

FORMER IRAQI SCIENTIST HANDS OVER NUCLEAR PLANS. A former Iraqi nuclear scientist has given U.S. intelligence officials blueprints and parts related to the construction of a nuclear weapon, international media reported on 26 June. Mahdi Shukur Ubaydi, who headed Iraq's uranium-enrichment program in the late 1980s and early 1990s, reportedly hid the documents in his garden near his home in 1991 and voluntarily turned over the documents to U.S. officials in Baghdad. According to "The Washington Post," Ubaydi also supplied U.S. officials with several components of a gas centrifuge, which is used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons, as well as design plans for the machines. Ubaydi reportedly told U.S. officials that he buried the materials on the orders of Qusay Hussein, son of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. He said he was told to wait for an order to restart the program, but the order never came. "I have very important things at my disposal that I have been ordered to have, to keep, and I've kept them," "The Washington Post" quoted Ubaydi as telling CNN on 25 June. "I don't want this to proliferate, because of the potential consequences, if it falls in the hands of tyrants, in the hands of dictators or of terrorists," he added. Ubaydi also reportedly expressed his desire that other Iraqi scientists come forward with information on Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD) programs. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

RESIDENTS PROTEST ARREST OF POLICE CHIEF. Residents took to the streets in the Diyala Governorate, located northwest of Baghdad on 24 June, protesting the arrest of Major General Sa'dun al-Hamdani, arrested by U.S. troops more than one month ago, Al-Jazeera reported the same day. Al-Hamdani had been elected to head the Diyala police force after returning to Iraq following 23 years in exile. According to Al-Jazeera, al-Hamdani's relatives said he worked with U.S. forces to establish security in the governorate. Relatives claimed he was summoned to a meeting with a U.S. general named "Rogers" and was arrested at that meeting. Many of the protesters are from the Bani Hamdan tribes, the satellite channel reported. Shaykh Jabbar Jassam al-Mitlab, chief of the Bani Hamdan tribes, told Al-Jazeera: "We are now using diplomatic methods to secure his release. If these methods prove useless, then we will use our special methods for addressing them." He did not elaborate on what the "special methods" were. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

TERRORIST GROUP SENDS VIDEOTAPE THREATENING U.S. FORCES. A terrorist group identifying itself as the Iraqi National Front of Fedayeen sent a videotape to Beirut-based LBC Television, addressed to "Bush and his criminal henchmen," the satellite channel reported on 21 June. An unidentified man in the video says the group has "taken it upon ourselves" to attack U.S. soldiers, adding, "Before God, we are committed to deliver to them one strike after another, which will be even harder and more cruel than the previous strikes we dealt to them." The spokesman added that the Fedayeen would achieve its goal "with the help of God." He also claimed that the group "has not had any contact, link, or relationship with the former regime."

The spokesman proceeded to threaten U.S. forces, saying: "We tell them that if they want their soldiers to be safe, they must leave our pure land. Otherwise, we will avenge every Iraqi they killed, humiliated, or had his house looted." The spokesman did not claim responsibility for any of the recent attacks on coalition troops. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

SIX BRITISH TROOPS KILLED IN SEPARATE ATTACKS. British troops on duty in southern Iraq were attacked in two separate incidents on 24 June, leaving six soldiers dead and eight wounded, British Defense Minister Geoff Hoon announced in a statement to Parliament the same day that was subsequently posted on the Defense Ministry website (http://www.mod.uk).

The first incident occurred when two vehicles on a routine patrol in the Shi'ite town of Al-Majar al-Kabir, located some 25 kilometers south of Al-Amarah and 290 kilometers southeast of Baghdad, were attacked with rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine guns, and rifle fire "from a large number of Iraqi gunmen." A Chinook CH-47 helicopter that was dispatched to provide backup also came under fire. One soldier on the ground and seven on board the helicopter sustained serious injuries.

A second incident reportedly occurred a few hours later at the local police station in the same town, in which six Royal Military Police officers were killed, Hoon stated.

According to a 25 June report by Reuters, the six Royal Military Police officers were killed by residents of Al-Majar al-Kabir following a demonstration by "thousands" of Iraqis protesting house-to-house weapons searches by British troops, aided by dogs. Muslims consider dogs unclean, and residents considered the entry of dogs into their homes extremely offensive. "These British soldiers came with their dogs and pointed weapons at women and children. As Muslims, we can't accept dogs at our homes," Rabee al-Malki is quoted as saying. Residents said the searches began on 21 June. Local residents protested and British troops agreed to halt the searches after locals promised to hand over their weapons within two months, unidentified residents said. But the U.K. police officers returned two days later. Local resident Faleh Saleem told the news agency that during one search, "a British soldier held the underwear of a woman and stretched it. How can we accept this as Muslims and as Shi'ites?" he asked.

Meanwhile, AP reported on 25 June that British troops shot and killed four Iraqi civilians at the Al-Majar al-Kabir demonstration, leading townspeople to chase down the police officers and kill them. Two U.K. soldiers were killed at the scene of the demonstration, while the other four were chased to a police station and killed after a two-hour gun battle, local policeman Abbas Faddhel told AP. Some two dozen Iraqi policemen holed up inside the police station fled through a window during the gun battle, according to Faddhel. The British troops refused to flee with their counterparts.

Local vendor Abu Zahraa said the British had formally agreed just one day earlier to let Iraqi police patrol the city. British military spokesman Captain Adam Marchant-Wincott conceded that it was possible that British forces had made such an agreement. "It's normally very quiet down here," British Army Lieutenant Colonel Ronnie McCourt told reporters in Al-Basrah, adding, "We've been here nearly two months now and this is the first time people have been deliberately, consciously shooting at us." One day later, McCourt told reporters: "This attack was unprovoked. It was murder," Reuters reported on 25 June.

British troops have been recognized for their nonconventional approach towards administering southern Iraq. Soon after major hostilities ceased, U.K. soldiers took to the streets of southern Iraq, dropping their helmets and flak jackets, as part of a campaign to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis through their nonconfrontational stance. The tactic appeared to contribute to the relative calm in southern Iraq, as U.S. forces manning the north faced increasing hostility. The U.S. military reported on 24 June that 25 attacks against coalition forces had occurred in the previous 24 hours. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. ANNOUNCES PLANS FOR NEW IRAQI ARMY... U.S. administrators in Iraq unveiled plans in Baghdad on 23 June for a new Iraqi army and said recruitment will begin in one week, Reuters reported the same day. Walter Slocumb of the U.S. administration announced that the new army will comprise light infantry forces and suggested that additional military units might be added later. He said Washington plans to have a 12,000-strong division functioning within a year, while two other divisions will be added in the second year. A U.S. general will be responsible for training the army, which will be significantly smaller than the force that functioned under deposed President Hussein.

"This country was grotesquely over-militarized," Slocumb told reporters. "It is the fact that most people who were in the old army will not be able to continue military careers," he added, alluding to a U.S. decision not to allow senior members of the Ba'ath Party to hold positions in the new army. Slocumb said the new army will protect key government installations and man borders. U.S. Major General Paul Eaton, who most recently served as head of the United States Infantry School, will oversee the new training program, according to Reuters. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AND AGREES TO PAY DISMISSED IRAQI ARMY PERSONNEL. U.S. officials also agreed to pay military personnel who were dismissed when the Iraqi Army was disbanded on 23 May, Reuters reported the same day. The situation escalated after continuing protests by army personnel turned violent last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 2003), leaving two protesters dead. The army officers had been protesting their dismissal and U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer's decision not to pay them despite pledges to compensate other dismissed government employees.

The U.S. administration had offered Iraqi soldiers a one-off compensation payment equivalent to about one month's salary. Slocumb told reporters on 23 May that career soldiers will now be entitled to monthly payments of slightly less than their former salaries. He said the payments will be based on the salary scale for civil servants, which is between $50 and $150 per month. The payments will be subject to review by a future Iraqi government, and Iraqi money will be used to fund the payments. Former conscripts will be entitled to a single compensation payment, and army pensions will continue to be paid, Reuters reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

DETAILS EMERGING ON IRAQI-SYRIAN BORDER CHASE. New details are emerging about the 18 June incident in which U.S. forces reportedly chased down and ultimately destroyed an Iraqi convoy believed to be transporting senior members of the deposed Hussein regime across the Syrian border (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 2003). On 24 June, CNN cited unnamed U.S. government sources as saying that a U.S. unmanned Predator drone armed with Hellfire missiles attacked the convoy, splitting it into two groups. A special operations AC-130 gunship joined the Predator, and both opened fire on the convoy, according to CNN.

Meanwhile, a Task Force 20 commando team reportedly pursued the convoy from the ground. An individual presumed to be part of the convoy was then seen fleeing toward the Syrian border on foot; U.S. forces pursued that individual as Syrian border troops arrived at the scene, according to CNN. CNN added that Pentagon officials conceded that U.S. troops might have crossed the Syrian border at that point. U.S. troops reportedly engaged in a firefight, injuring three Syrians whom the U.S. later evacuated for medical treatment.

Local villagers claimed that those killed in the attack were sheep smugglers. Unidentified Pentagon officials acknowledged that might be true, but insisted that their cargo was human, not animal. Most of the 20 individuals captured in the attack have been released, Pentagon officials said. DNA reports were reportedly being conducted in an attempt to identify the bodies of those killed in the attack. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

FOUR POLITICAL PARTIES MERGE. Four Iraqi political parties have announced their intention to merge, the London-based "Al-Zaman" reported on 23 June. The Iraqi Socialist Party, the Vanguard Socialist Nasirite Party, the Unity Socialist Party, and a fourth unnamed party have merged into one political organization called the Socialist Nasirite Party. A statement released by the parties announced that Mubdir al-Wayyis will head the new party, "Al-Zaman" reported.

The statement reportedly said it is in the public interest to unify pan-Arab nationalist groups into one political organization in order to confront new developments in Iraq. The parties decided to meet this need by unifying the nationalist pan-Arab tendency in two stages, it added. The second stage was not identified. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

OPERATION DESERT SCORPION CONTINUES. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) reported on 20-21 June that Operation Desert Scorpion continues to "isolate and defeat noncompliant forces" in Iraq, according to the CENTCOM website (http://www.centcom.mil). Nine raids led to the detention of five Iraqis and the seizure of several weapons, a 20 June release reported. Six raids carried out in Baghdad led to the detention of 22 individuals and the confiscation of various light weapons, as well as two boxes of grenades, one bomb, and three 127-millimeter rounds, a 21 June press release added. Meanwhile, three raids were conducted between Kirkuk and Al-Taji, resulting in the detention of three individuals and the confiscation of three AK-47 assault rifles and other military equipment, CENTCOM reported. U.S. forces have continued their focus on humanitarian efforts as part of Operation Desert Scorpion as well, rebuilding schools and administrative offices and coordinating waste-collection operations, CENTCOM reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. TROOPS STORM SCIRI OFFICES IN BAGHDAD. U.S. forces raided the offices of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) on 20 June, the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported the following day. U.S. forces searched the premises and confiscated computers, photocopiers, and several videotapes, Al-Jazeera reported. At least three individuals were detained and transferred to "an unknown location," SCIRI officials said in a statement. According to Al-Jazeera, the three known individuals worked as guards. One Kalashnikov rifle, used for guarding purposes, was confiscated. ISNA claimed that U.S. troops damaged the building, as well as a vehicle parked outside, during the raid. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQ TELEVISION BACK ON THE AIR... A revamped Republic of Iraq Television channel, renamed Iraqi Media Network TV by coalition forces, was back on the air on 20 June after roughly three months off the air as a result of coalition bombing, the BBC reported the same day. Carrying a caption reading, "Iraqi Media Network welcomes you in its test transmission," the channel carried entertainment programs such as songs from the Egyptian Dream TV network as it tried, unsuccessfully, to cover the Dream TV logo, BBC reported. It also carried a news bulletin read by two announcers. The headlines included the shooting of two demonstrators in Baghdad on 19 June, a report on the lack of security in Baghdad, a report on Iraqis demonstrating for jobs and the formation of a national government, and a report on the port activities under way at Umm Qasr.

The Iraqi Media Network radio has been operating since April using a number of frequencies used by the former regime's Republic of Iraq Main Service, the BBC noted. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AND GOVERNMENT WEBSITES EXPECTED ONLINE IN COMING DAYS. "Wired News" reported on 20 June that Iraq's Uruklink website was expected to return to the Internet within a week. Uruklink hosted all government Internet sites during the regime of deposed President Saddam Hussein. The site will now be "scrubbed clean" of all references to the fallen dictator, according to Iraq's State Company for Internet Services (SCIS). However, Ala'a Hassan Harif, lead system administrator and research-and-development manager for SCIS, told "Wired News" that the Internet service provider (ISP) has faced problems in trying to purge Hussein loyalists from the government-controlled provider.

Harif said that the general manager of SCIS, Shakir Abdullah, has removed from his office a once-prominently displayed photograph of himself and Hussein. "In Iraq, you can't be a general manager for 16 years continuously unless the regime is completely sure of you and you are serving the regime," Harif said, adding, "Your attitude, action, beliefs, and thoughts must be absolutely compatible with the regime." Abdullah declined to be interviewed, and according to "Wired News," the issue goes much deeper. Harif and other engineers said that Abdullah was appointed to head SCIS after Osama Khalid, the founder, was "mysteriously fired" by the Iraqi minister of transport and communications. Harif said that soon after, Saddam Hussein ordered two officers from the Ministry of Defense to monitor SCIS. When asked about rumors that the Iraqi government spied on SCIS customers, Harif reportedly declined to answer. "It is not very safe here today to say all the information," he noted, adding, "We still have people who support the old regime."

The two defense officers were hired on as employees of SCIS when the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) abolished the Defense Ministry in May. Harif said that the men remain on the SCIS payroll. CPA and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) did not respond to requests for comment on SCIS's management, "Wired News" reported. Harif said that he has voiced his concerns with CPA officials, but was rebuffed. He added that the CPA recently promoted Abdullah to the position of consultant to the Ministry of Transport and Communications, which oversees SCIS. "Wired News" reported that Harif might have a personal axe to grind with Abdullah, who stripped him of his title at the outset of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and appointed Harif's colleague to the position.

SCIS had restored Internet connectivity and e-mail service to its 20,000 registered users by the end of May, Harif said. He said that the delay in bringing the Uruklink website back online was related to security concerns. The site's content was revamped weeks ago, but reportedly held up due to security concerns. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI OIL FLOWS TO TURKEY. A ceremony attended by Iraqi and Turkish oil officials marked the resumption of oil sales between the two states on 22 June, "Anatolia" reported the same day. Iraqi State Oil Marketing Organization Director-General Muhammad Al-Jiburi opened the valve through a computerized system as pumping resumed. Iraqi Oil Ministry Executive Committee Chairman James Carroll told a crowd at the Pipeline Transportation Corporation's (BOTAS) Ceyhan-Yumurtalik facilities in Turkey that the oil sales will benefit the Iraqi people, adding that important progress continues to be made by Iraq in dealing with foreign firms. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

REGIONAL NEWS
REPRESENTATIVES AT WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM DISCUSS FREE-TRADE AREA. Jordan's King Abdullah II hosted a working breakfast on a proposed U.S.-Middle East free-trade area with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Musa, and Arab foreign and trade ministers on the final day of the World Economic Forum's (WEF) three-day extraordinary session, "Jordan Times" reported on 24 June. The trade zone is slated to be established by 2010.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher told a press conference that the participants discussed ways of "advancing the process" of a U.S.-Middle East free-trade area. He noted that "substantive discussions" were held on trade liberalization, enhanced cooperation, and the U.S.-Middle East free-trade initiative.

Zoellick addressed the WEF on 23 June, saying that the Bush administration's plan for the free-trade agreement takes into account the different levels of each participant nation's development, the U.S. State Department reported on the same day (http://www.state.gov/). "One by one, then with groups, working with willing partners to build for opportunity...we will work toward full economic partnership," Zoellick said. He added that the U.S. would use its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) to increase trade ties with Middle East states. GSP allows for duty-free access to the U.S. market for approximately 3,500 goods from 140 developing states, including the West Bank and six Middle East states, the State Department noted.

The U.S. will also reportedly offer to negotiate new Trade and Investment Framework Agreements, "which establish a work program to expand trade and resolve outstanding disputes, and deepen those already in place with Bahrain, Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria," the report stated. In addition, the U.S. may negotiate Bilateral Investment Treaties (BIT) with partner states. BITs establish common rules for investment in each state. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

SYRIA-U.S. TALKS UNDER WAY FOR RETURN OF BORDER GUARDS. Syria and the United States are negotiating the return of five Syrian border guards that were reportedly taken by U.S. forces for treatment after they were shot by U.S. troops pursuing an Iraqi convoy on 18 June, ft.com reported on 25 June. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld confirmed that talks were under way during a 24 June press briefing at the Pentagon. "[The return of the guards] will happen.... It will undoubtedly be worked through by the appropriate people in the U.S. government and the Syrian government," Rumsfeld said. A U.S. State Department official told ft.com that a U.S. diplomat met with Syrian officials on 23 June in Damascus to "arrange an expeditious repatriation," of the border guards. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

THE UN AND IRAQ
UN APPEALS TO DONOR COUNTRIES TO MAKE UP SHORTFALL. The United Nations launched a $259 million appeal to donor countries, asking them to help close a gap in humanitarian funding for relief operations in Iraq this year, a UN press release stated on 23 June (http://www.un.org/news). The amount includes the remainder of the $2.2 billion flash appeal launched in March.

According to the UN, donor support and some $1.1 billion from the oil-for-food program have accounted for 88 percent of the total amount needed. The remaining $259 million will cover key sectors including health, land-mine removal, water and sewage repair, and the resettlement of refugees and internally displaced persons. "As the Coalition Provisional [Authority] had the primary responsibility for providing services to the Iraqi people, UN activities would complement its efforts until the end of the year, when most, if not all, of UN humanitarian activities were expected to be phased out," the press release stated. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

EUROPEAN DONORS PROPOSE INTERNATIONAL FUND FOR IRAQ. European donors meeting at the United Nations on 24 June proposed the establishment of an international fund for Iraqi reconstruction, Reuters reported the same day. UN representatives, Iraqi delegates, and international aid-agency representatives attended the 52-nation, UN-sponsored conference on Iraqi reconstruction.

UN Development Program (UNDP) Administrator Mark Malloch Brown said that while there is "strong support" for the new fund, which would be parallel to the coalition's Development Fund for Iraq and would be outside of U.S. control, he added: "Not every donor will necessarily use it. But we were asked to go away and develop the options so at the time of the full conference, donors could decide how they wanted such a fund structured." The World Bank, the UN, the EU, Japan, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates plan to hold a major donor conference in October. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

EUROPE, THE U.S., AND IRAQ
DOWNING STREET PRESS CHIEF DENIES 'SEXING UP' DOSSIER ON IRAQI WMD. U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair's press chief, Alastair Campbell, has denied "sexing up" evidence in a dossier about Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction programs, published in February, during testimony to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee on 25 June, BBC reported the same day. Commons Committee Chairman Donald Anderson opened the hearing by saying that Campbell was accused of exaggerating evidence that misled the House of Commons and the British public in his "zeal" to make the case for war in Iraq, BBC reported. A BBC defense correspondent, Andrew Gilligan, has claimed that a senior British official told him that the government's first dossier on Iraq's WMD program was "sexed up" at the request of Blair's office. According to BBC, it was alleged that Blair's office requested that the report focus on a claim that Iraq could launch a chemical or biological strike within 45 minutes. "It is completely and totally untrue that I in any way...sought to exaggerate that intelligence, sought to use it in any way that the intelligence agencies weren't 100 percent content with," Campbell said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. COMMITTED TO EMPLOYING IRAQIS IN RECONSTRUCTION EFFORT. U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Andrew Natsios has said that the U.S. is committed to employing Iraqis in the reconstruction effort in Iraq. His comments were made at the World Economic Forum in Jordan on 22 June, the U.S. State Department's "Washington File" reported on 23 June. "We need to employ as many Iraqis as possible in the reconstruction of their country," Natsios said, adding that he expected contractors funded by USAID to draw on the skills of the local population.

Natsios said that the U.S. reconstruction and humanitarian-assistance budget is the largest since the Marshall Plan, which funded the rebuilding of Europe after World War II. The budget is currently set at $2.4 billion. Natsios detailed the cooperation efforts between the U.S. and international organizations, saying that the U.S. has contributed $40 million to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), $10 million to the UN Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and $10 million to the World Health Organization. Some $70 million in grants have been committed to nongovernmental organizations for community-development projects.

The USAID head said that a number of town councils have been formed in Iraq in recent months, allowing local leaders to decide -- and prioritize -- projects in their towns. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. ADMINISTRATOR DETAILS PLAN FOR IRAQ. The head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, outlined the coalition's plan for the rebuilding of Iraq in a 22 June address to the World Economic Forum's extraordinary session in Jordan. Bremer highlighted the progress made in Iraq thus far, citing the doubling of the police force to 30,000 officers -- a 200 percent increase in 30 days -- and the participation of Iraqis in neighborhood watch groups and district advisory councils, according to the CENTCOM website (http://www.centcom.mil). He added that coalition forces are focusing on three key areas that will facilitate Iraq's transition to a stable, economically viable, democratic state.

Bremer said that the first focus area is that of providing security and establishing law and order. Iraqis are working together with coalition forces to help realize this goal. He noted that some 2,000 Iraqi police officers patrolled the streets of Baghdad alongside coalition troops, and added that the coalition would begin recruitment for the new Iraqi army in two weeks. The army will work to secure Iraq's borders, Bremer said. Addressing the current challenges to security from regime loyalists, the CPA head said that the coalition "will not let the last vestiges of Saddam's regime turn the clock back for the Iraqi people, whose best days are yet to come."

Bremer told the World Economic Forum that the second focus of the CPA is a political transformation of Iraq. He said that a political council would be announced in the next month to assist in the management of Iraq. Promising that the council will be representative of all Iraqis, Bremer added: "It will have real authority from its first day. It will nominate ministry heads and form commissions to recommend policies concerning issues significant to Iraq's future from reform of the educational curriculum, to plans for a telecommunications infrastructure, to proposals [for] stimulating the private sector."

A constitutional conference will also be convened and "run entirely by Iraqis" to draft a new constitution. He said that the constitution would "provide the foundation for national elections for a free and sovereign Iraqi government."

The third focus and "most immediate priority" is a free and vibrant economy, according to Bremer. Iraq faces an economy devastated by mismanagement under the Hussein regime, where 50 percent of Iraqis were unemployed prior to the war. Hussein spent one-third of Iraq's GDP on the military while 60 percent of the nation remained dependent on government food rations. Bremer added that Iraq's vast state-owned enterprise system destroyed the market. "Our strategic goal in the months ahead is to set in motion policies which will have the effect of reallocating people and resources from state enterprises to the more-productive private firms. A fundamental component of this process will be to force state enterprises to face hard budget constraints by reducing subsidies and special deals," he said.

Lower subsidies will result in lower taxes and a level playing field that private firms need in order to compete, according to Bremer. Reduced subsidies will also ward off the "temptation to print money with the attendant risks to inflation and interest rates." These policies should also contribute to competition, low inflation and interest rates, and fiscal discipline.

The U.S. administrator recognized Iraq's need for a "humane social safety net" and suggested that all Iraqis could benefit from their country's oil wealth through the establishment of a dividend program similar to the one in the U.S. state of Alaska or through the establishment of a national trust fund that would finance public pensions and other "social safety net" programs.

Bremer also said that small and medium-sized enterprises could help create jobs quickly, aiding in a shorter economic recovery time. New technology, coupled with a clear commercial code, low tariffs, and transparent corporate governance would also facilitate a quick transition. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

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