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Iraq Report: August 7, 2003


7 August 2003, Volume 6, Number 34
INSIDE IRAQ
DAUGHTER OF DEPOSED IRAQI LEADER SAYS HUSSEIN'S CONFIDANTS BETRAYED HIM. Deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's eldest daughter told Al-Arabiyah Television in an interview broadcast on 1 August that Baghdad fell because Iraqis betrayed the regime. "The people in whom [Saddam Hussein] placed his full trust and whom he considered his right-hand men were the main sources of treason," Raghad Hussein said. She also accused Saddam Hussein's half-brothers -- Sab'awi, Watban, and Barzan -- of "overburdening" the family by "hatching plots" against her brothers Uday and Qusay Hussein, and even herself. "The factor of deadly jealousy was the source of the [Al-Bayjat] tribe's tragedy," she said. "It is as if God distributed jealousy among humanity in two parts; he gave half to the world and the other half to the Al-Bayjat" tribe. The Al-Bayjat is actually a clan of the Al-Bu Nasir tribe, to which the Hussein family belongs.

Raghad said that Shaykh Jamal Kamil al-Majid, the brother of her dead husband, Husayn, facilitated her asylum to Jordan. She and her younger sister Rana arrived in Jordan with their nine children on 31 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2003). Raghad Hussein also described to Al-Arabiyah how she fled Iraq amid the bombing of Baghdad and met with her mother, sisters, and Qusay Hussein's wife outside the capital, before her mother advised them all to disperse.

Asked about Saddam's second marriage to Samira al-Shahbandar, which produced a son, Ali, Raghad first replied that she did not know, but then said: "He is free with his personal life. I cannot ask him why he married another woman." Regarding Ali, she added, "I, like you, heard from people that my father has a son called Ali." Raghad said she had never seen him, and questioned his existence, saying: "It could also be a legend...coincidence might have played a role. When my son Ali was born in 1984, there was a strong rumor that Saddam Hussein had a new son." She also denied that Hussein had body doubles. Asked why her father had not planned ahead for his family members to seek refuge outside Iraq, she said that Saddam believed that his family should live as Iraqis, whatever their fate.

Asked by Al-Arabiyah Television in the 1 August interview about the 1996 assassination of her husband Husayn Kamil al-Majid and his brother Saddam, who was married to Rana, Raghad Hussein blamed her father's cousin Ali Hasan al-Majid. She said her father had pardoned the men after they fled Iraq, but al-Majid insisted that the tribe would not pardon the men and had them killed along with several other family members.

She did not address the details of Husayn and Saddam Kamil al-Majid's defections, but maintained that the men were loyal to Saddam Hussein until their deaths. "I can swear by God that these two people were, to the last minute, totally loyal to my father, and they loved him so much," Raghad said. Coalition forces initially reported that they believed they killed Ali Hasan al-Majid when his Al-Basrah home was bombed in early April, but officials later withdrew that claim (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April and 6 June 2003).

Meanwhile, Jamal Kamil al-Majid called on the U.S. military and Iraqi Red Crescent Society to help locate the graves of his brothers Husayn and Saddam, dpa reported on 3 August. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI ARMY RECRUITS BEGIN TRAINING. Some 400 volunteers for the New Iraqi Army began a two-month basic-training program in the northern city of Kirkuk on 4 August, AP reported the same day. U.S. forces transported the recruits to a base in the city under heavy guard for fear of attacks by militants, the agency added. The recruits comprise around half of the first group of soldiers to undergo training by U.S. forces this month, according to AP. The United States will train more than 12,000 Iraqi soldiers by year-end, and another 40,000 by the end of 2004. Upon completion of training, they are expected to serve at least 26 months.

The deputy commanding general of the Coalition Military Advisory and Training Team, Brigadier General Jonathon Riley, was quoted in a 19 July press release posted on the U.S. Central Command website (http://www.centcom.mil) as saying that each enlistee will initially be paid $60 per month. "At the conclusion of training, individuals will be appointed to ranks and assigned to positions of leadership according to their abilities and performance in training. Their pay will be increased according to their duties and responsibilities," Riley added (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 24 July 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI CENTRAL BANK HEAD REQUESTS TRANSFER OF FROZEN FUNDS. Iraqi Central Bank acting Governor Faleh Dawud Salman asked UN members on 4 August to release all frozen assets of the former Iraqi government held in their states to a development fund set up at the New York Federal Reserve, Reuters reported the same day. The UN authorized the establishment of the development fund in Security Council Resolution 1483. Under that resolution, the fund was to be established at the Iraqi Central Bank and monitored by an international advisory board. A U.S. official told Reuters that the New York Federal Reserve bank account was an interim agreement. In a letter to the Security Council, Salman wrote, "I respectfully ask that you urge all member states to transfer Iraqi assets in their jurisdictions to this account without delay," Reuters reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRANIAN DELEGATION MEETS WITH GOVERNING COUNCIL. An Iranian Foreign Ministry delegation led by Hoseyn Sadeqi, head of the ministry's Persian Gulf desk, met with the members of the Iraqi Governing Council in Baghdad on 4 August, Al-Jazeera Television reported the same day. Governing Council member Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i told the satellite channel that the visit was politically and strategically significant. "We in the Governing Council...look [forward] to a new era in Iraqi-Iranian relations," al Rubay'i said. He added that the Iranian delegation expressed its support for the Governing Council, and said, "We believe that the new regime in Iraq after the [Saddam Hussein] era...will open up on the Islamic Republic of Iran. We aspire to developed strategic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran." The two sides reportedly agreed to work to promote better relations, and to do more to prevent infiltrators and smugglers from crossing their mutual border. They also addressed ways in which the two sides might facilitate pilgrimages to holy sites in both countries. Council members also called on Iran to release Iraqi prisoners. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ANTI-U.S. GROUPS CONTINUE THREATS AGAINST COALITION FORCES IN IRAQ. A number of groups have continued to threaten coalition forces and Iraqi "collaborators" in recent days, according to international media reports. The Al-Jihad Brigades reportedly circulated a statement in Baghdad on 3 August threatening Iraqis who work with coalition officials, according to a 4 August report in "Al-Hayat." The statement refers to such Iraqis as "agents who have cheaply sold their religion, land, and honor, and have chosen to deviate from the right path." The statement adds that those who "do not conform" with the statement's demands to cease cooperation with the coalition "are liable to be killed by the mujahedin."

The "Al-Hayat" report also noted that a group known as the Sons of Iraq Grouping claimed, "Many parties are taking part in a plan that aims to make the Iraqis kneel and accept anything." The same group labeled the Iraqi Governing Council illegitimate and demanded that each Iraqi ministry elect its own minister and deputy. Meanwhile, Baghdad's "Al-Fadilah" carried a statement on 31 July from the Islamic Virtue Party praising anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and calling on the coalition to withdraw its forces or "face bloodshed." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

KURDISTAN ISLAMIC MOVEMENT THREATENS U.S. FORCES AFTER LEADER ARRESTED. The Islamic Movement of Iraqi Kurdistan has threatened to take action against U.S. forces after the weekend arrest of their leader, Shaykh Ali Abd al-Aziz in Halabjah. The movement's foreign relations representative, Ihsan Abd al-Aziz, told Al-Jazeera in a 3 August interview that he held the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) responsible for the safety of the shaykh and his escorts.

"We, the Islamic Movement, have thousands of youths...[in] Al-Fallujah, Samarra, and all [of] Iraqi Kurdistan," Abd al-Aziz said, adding, "If this issue is not resolved peacefully and an apology is not made to Shaykh Ali, the Islamic Movement, and all Muslims in Iraq, then we in the Islamic Movement will use another way of dealing with [U.S. forces]." He said that the PUK, and its leader, Jalal Talabani, would also be held responsible, since they are in charge of security in the Al-Sulaymaniyah Governorate, and because "some of [Talabani's] forces guided these U.S. forces into the city of Halabjah." If the situation remains unresolved, he threatened, "The crisis will continue and escalate in the Sunni areas from Al-Fallujah to Al-Ramadi and all Kurdistan." There is no word from U.S. forces as to why the shaykh was arrested.

Meanwhile, the Higher Council for the Liberation of Iraq issued a demand for the immediate release of Abu Jihad al-Nawawi, the deputy leader of the council, who was arrested by U.S. forces last week, Al-Jazeera reported on 2 August. The group held a demonstration outside Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) headquarters in Baghdad to protest the arrest, and issued a statement threatening to escalate "the situation against the coalition forces," according to Al-Jazeera. The statement also claimed that al-Nawawi was subjected to inhuman and illegal methods during interrogation. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

GOLD BARS TURN OUT TO BE COPPER. Gold-colored bars confiscated by coalition forces during raids in Iraq have proven to be copper, according to a White House report cited by Reuters on 1 August. The bars reportedly came from truckloads of gold-colored bars confiscated by coalition forces in May. According to Reuters, one truckload carried an estimated value of $500 million, while another was valued at $100 million -- the driver of that truck had told coalition forces at the time of the confiscation that he was transporting copper.

The discovery was revealed in a White House report to Congress outlining U.S. reconstruction efforts in Iraq that said some 1,100 gold-covered bars were tested in Kuwait. "Analysis of the initial sampling of ingots revealed they were comprised of approximately 64 percent copper and 34 percent zinc. Consultation with metallurgists indicates the bars analyzed to date are most likely melted-down shell casings," the report indicated. The White House also reported that $800 million in currency has been found in Iraq. More than $7 million has not been authenticated, according to the report, because the notes were wet and damaged. In addition to the above-mentioned bars, some 1,071 bars were seized in coalition raids under the code name Operation Desert Scorpion, which ran from 15-29 June (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 4 July 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

TRIBAL LEADER REPORTEDLY ASSASSINATED IN MOSUL. A tribal leader from one of Iraq's largest tribes, the Shammar, was reportedly assassinated in Mosul, Voice of Mujahedin radio reported on 3 August. Shaykh Sha'lan Munif al-Faysal, also known as Sha'lan al-Jarbah, was killed when assailants opened fire on the car he was traveling in. The shaykh reportedly exchanged fire with his attackers, killing one. He was killed along with his driver. According to the radio report, there are conflicting explanations for his killing. Some Iraqis speculated that the assassination was a crime, while others linked him to the unidentified informant who provided U.S. forces with the location of Uday and Qusay Hussein. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI POLICE REPORTEDLY TEAMING UP WITH HAWZAH STUDENTS IN KARBALA... The Voice of the Mujahedin radio issued a report on 3 August that claimed that Iraqi police officers joined students from the Al-Hawzah al-Ilmiyah in a joint operation against weapon and CD smugglers in the holy city of Karbala. A policeman reportedly told the radio that vendors have begun to sell weapons, ammunition, pornographic videotapes, drugs, and alcoholic beverages in the city center. The report has not been independently verified. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AND CONTINUE TO BREAK KIDNAPPING RINGS. Iraqi police have dismantled four kidnapping rings in the past three weeks, Interior Minister General Ibrahim Ahmad said on 5 August, dpa reported. The number of kidnappings in Baghdad has been on the rise in recent weeks, with highly organized kidnapping gangs seeking up to $75,000 ransom for their hostages, according to a 6 August report on the "Los Angeles Times" website (http://www.latimes.com). One family was able to bargain kidnappers down from an initial demand of $50,000 to $15,000 for the return of their 6-year-old son. The kidnappers had threatened to return the boy dead if the ransom was not paid.

According to the "Los Angeles Times," the criminals often target Christian families, where no tribal networks exist to retaliate against the gangs.

Bernard Kerik, the Coalition Provisional Authority's (CPA) adviser to the Iraqi Interior Ministry, told reporters at the same 5 August press conference that a previous day's raid resulted in the release of several hostages and the capture of a gang of nine kidnappers. Police uniforms were found in the home that was raided, Kerik said, suggesting that abductors are posing as police officers. He urged citizens to report abductions to the police.

But, according to the "Los Angeles Times" report, many families complained that they approached the police and U.S. military for assistance in kidnapping cases and received no help. Adib Yunan, the uncle of the above-mentioned kidnapped 6-year-old, said: "We went to the police and saw the Americans. An American told us, 'What can we do?'" He added that he provided photographs and information of his nephew to U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police, who promised to keep in touch but never followed through. His family then negotiated the ransom and got the boy back.

Another Iraqi, Adnan Issa, told the daily that when he asked U.S. soldiers for help after his son's kidnapping, they replied, "'It's not our business,' adding, 'We're here to search for Saddam Hussein.'" Yunan blamed the kidnappings on common criminals released by the deposed Hussein regime before the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, adding: "This is the aftermath of two or three wars. There are so many men who have no job, so they resort to the simplest way to get money." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

HUSSEIN'S SONS BURIED NEAR TIKRIT. The bodies of Uday and Qusay Hussein were buried near Tikrit on 2 August, international media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 2003). Tribesmen buried the brothers, along with Qusay's son Mustafa, in Saddam Hussein's birthplace of Al-Awjah, AP reported on 2 August. Some 40 tribesmen attended the service. Tribal leaders had requested permission to bury the men, as had Izz al-Din Hasan al-Majid, a cousin of the deposed leader (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 1 August 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

CENTCOM POSTS RETOUCHED PICTURES OF DEPOSED PRESIDENT. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has issued retouched pictures of deposed President Hussein, according to a 1 August announcement on the CENTCOM website (http://www.centcom.mil). The photographs were issued to coalition forces in an effort to help soldiers identify Hussein, who is the object of a massive U.S.-led manhunt and may have changed his appearance in recent months. The five altered photographs can be viewed on the CENTCOM website. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. OUTLINES RULES FOR IRAQI CLAIMS. U.S. military officials in Baghdad laid down rules on 3 August that will determine whether Iraqis may seek compensation for death or destruction of property caused by the occupying powers in Iraq, guardian.co.uk reported the next day. A U.S. military spokesman said that under the Foreign Claims Act, Iraqis will only be entitled to compensation if it can be proven that soldiers acted wrongfully or negligently during "noncombat activities." The unidentified spokesman added that claims made against the United States for acts occurring before 1 May -- the date when U.S. President George W. Bush declared major combat operations over in Iraq -- are unlikely to be considered. The spokesman said that the United States has received 2,400 claims and paid out $262,000 in compensation so far. According to guardian.co.uk, the spokesman was unable to say whether any payments have been made for loss of life, but said that such claims will be paid at a local rate. "I hate to say it, but the value of a life in Iraq is probably less than a life in the U.S. or U.K.," he reportedly said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. FORCES SEIZE MILITANT. U.S. forces reportedly captured a militant accused of organizing attacks against coalition troops in Iraq, Reuters reported on 2 August. The unidentified man was captured during a nighttime raid on a house in Tikrit. Soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division, 1st Brigade, were assisted by helicopters in the raid; the man reportedly did not resist. "The individual that we were targeting tonight we believe is involved in organizing attacks on U.S. forces, in moving arms for these attacks and also providing security for members of the regime," Lieutenant Colonel Steve Russell told reporters at the scene. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ABU GHURAYB PRISON GETS FACE LIFT AND NEW NAME. The Abu Ghurayb Prison has been renovated and renamed by the U.S.-led administration in Iraq, Reuters reported on 4 August. The prison, located approximately 32 kilometers west of Baghdad, was notorious under the Hussein regime for the torture and execution of its prisoners. According to Reuters, between 20,000 and 40,000 prisoners were housed at the facility, which has been renamed the Baghdad Central Penitentiary by the coalition authority. It reopened on 4 August.

"We've had to start from scratch, with the prisons completely unserviceable and all the prisoners on the run," Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, who is in charge of Iraq's prisons, told reporters during a tour of the facility. The prison currently houses 500 prisoners, 400 of them common criminals, the news agency reported. They are reportedly kept outside in razor-wire pens under 50 degree Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) heat, awaiting a court date.

According to globalsecurity.org, the prison facility "occupies 280 acres with over 4 kilometers of security perimeter and 24 guard towers. The prison is composed of five distinct compounds each surrounded by guard towers and high wall." The website noted that satellite imagery suggested new construction at the site in mid-November. "Four new prison compounds appear to be in the early stages of construction. The foundation and footings are either being dug or concrete has been poured." The website also noted widespread reports of mass graves either within the perimeter or near the prison, "but this is not apparent from imagery alone." It is unclear how much of the facility was damaged during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

According to Reuters, prisoners chanted "Freedom, freedom" at U.S. soldiers as reporters toured the facility. A U.S. soldier has reportedly written "Death Row" under an Arabic sign in one part of the prison, the news agency reported. The penal code used by the U.S. in Iraq does not allow for the death penalty. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

CPA HEAD URGES IRAQIS TO HELP FIND FORMER LEADER. The head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, encouraged Iraqis on 2 August to help coalition forces find Saddam Hussein, Reuters reported the same day. "Someone told us where to find his sons Uday and Qusay, and less than two weeks later we have paid him $30 million and relocated him and his family safely outside Iraq," Bremer told a Baghdad press conference (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2003). "We're going to get Saddam too. The only question is who is going to get the $25 million and move to another country." The informant in the case of Uday and Qusay was also granted asylum in an undisclosed country. Bremer said that locating Saddam Hussein will help Iraqis put the past behind them. "It seems to me that bringing [Hussein] to justice either by death or by capturing him will really draw down a curtain on this terrible period," he told reporters. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

REGIONAL COORDINATOR FOR SOUTH PRAISES AL-BASRAH COUNCIL. The new regional coordinator for the CPA Southern Region, Ambassador Sir Hilary Synnott, met with the governor of Al-Basrah Province, Judge Wa'il Abd al-Latif, on 1 August and praised the work of the city's interim council, a press release posted on the CENTCOM website (http://www.centcom.mil) reported. "The formation of the Al-Basrah Province Interim Council is a major part of the process towards Iraqi self-governance that we all want to see," Synnott said, adding, "I am delighted to learn of the diligence and dedication of the council as it serves the people of Al-Basrah Province, representing for the first time in many years the true views and aspirations of the Iraqi people." Synnott replaced Danish Ambassador Ole Wohlers Olsen, who resigned as regional coordinator on 28 July (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 1 August 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

REGIONAL NEWS
ARAB LEAGUE CHIEF SAYS HE WOULD MEET WITH GOVERNING COUNCIL. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Musa has reportedly said that he is willing to meet with members of Iraq's Governing Council, Al-Arabiyah Television reported on 4 August. Musa appeared to half-heartedly welcome the formation of the Governing Council in mid-July, calling it "a step towards restoring Iraq's sovereignty," but adding, "forming this council through elections would have given it more force and credibility," AFP reported on 15 July. Musa indicated on 4 August that should council members request a meeting, he would attend. (Kathleen Ridolfo).

U.S. WILL REPORTEDLY ALLOW GOVERNMENT-OWNED FIRMS TO PARTICIPATE IN BIDS. An official with the Bahrain-based mobile-phone operator Batelco has said that the U.S. has reversed a near-decision that would have banned companies partially owned by governments from participating in Iraqi reconstruction efforts, "Gulf Daily News" reported on 3 August. CPA officials reportedly told a conference on 31 July that they were considering the ban on companies that are at least 5 percent government-owned, but reneged on the possibility after they learned that the ban would make many Arab companies ineligible to bid for one of three mobile-phone contracts, Batelco's Regional Operations Manager Rashid al-Snan told "Gulf Daily News."

The CPA banned Bahrain-based Batelco from selling mobile phones in Iraq in late July because the company did not have permission (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 1 August 2003). The U.S. plans to award three regional mobile-phone licenses, in north, central, and southern Iraq, after bids are filed on 21 August. "The CPA realized that by having this condition in the tender, they will bar most of the mobile companies in the Middle East -- who almost all have more than 5 percent government ownership," al-Snan claimed, adding, "For this reason, the CPA decided to reconsider this particular clause and has decided to change it to allow these companies to bid." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

MISSING BAHRAINI STUDENTS DECLARED DEAD. Bahraini students missing in Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War were officially declared dead by their government following an investigation, the "Bahrain Tribune" reported on 4 August. "It is such a shame and breaks our heart to confirm the death of 10 innocent students. They are martyrs of knowledge, religion, and the country," Shaykh Abdullah al-A'ali told a press conference at the Bahrain Society for Human Rights on 3 August. Al-A'ali was part of a six-member delegation to Iraq that investigated the students' fate between 20-28 July.

The missing students were studying in Al-Najaf and Karbala at the outbreak of the war. "The last contact of anybody with the missing Bahrainis was before the air strike on Iraq began in the Gulf war -- before 17 January 1991," he said, adding, "After that, there was no contact with the missing." Iraqis that spoke with the team said that Hussein's military forces had detained the students. "The witnesses confirmed to us that they were executed a day or two later and then buried in mass graves in Al-Najaf," al-A'ali added.

The investigative team also found no evidence that the students were held in Iraqi prisons, saying, "When the Iraqi prisons were searched, nothing was found, no trace of any Bahraini survivor." The team concluded that the students must have died. He said that the team will attempt to locate the bodies of the missing students through DNA testing, adding, "This process can take years to accomplish." The families of the 10 missing students have asked King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa for financial support to ease their burden, the "Bahrain Tribune" reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

KHOMEINI'S GRANDSON MOVES TO AL-NAJAF. The grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini has moved from the Qom-based Hawzah Al-Ilmiyah in Iran to the Al-Najaf Hawzah Al-Ilmiyah, where he will study and teach, according to international press reports. Hossein Khomeini, the 46-year-old son of Mustafa Khomeini, who died of a heart attack in Al-Najaf one year before the 1979 Iranian revolution, has taken up residence in his family's home, but there are conflicting reports surrounding his sudden move to Iraq.

In a 29 July report, London-based "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" claimed that the move reflected a growing division in Iran between some Qom-based clerics and the Iranian religious authorities. The clerics reportedly claim that Qom has lost its independence in recent years after Iranian security authorities closed all the means by which the independent clerics could receive khoms -- a tithe amounting to one-fifth of the donor's income -- and other contributions, leaving the clerics unable to cover their costs and pay monthly stipends to their students. Clerics wishing to receive khoms were forced to declare their loyalty to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The daily later reported on 4 August that Khomeini's rift with the ruling clerics stem from his support for his uncle Ahmad Khomeini, who was killed in 1995, reportedly by the Iranian regime. Ahmad openly criticized the regime's policies, as well as Khamenei and Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani before his death. According to "Al-Sharq al-Awsat," "Tension between Hossein Khomeini and the religious leadership reached its peak recently after the Iranian revolution leader's grandson adopted a public stand supportive of the students and reformists and his statements about the illegality of the judiciary's [statements] against the students, intellectuals, and writers," making him a symbol for the opposition. "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" claimed that Hossein Khomeini said in an interview with the daily that "Iran needs a democratic system that does not use religion as a tool to repress the people and suffocate society." He reportedly also called for the need to "separate religion from the state and to end the despotic theocracy" in Iran. The daily also claimed that Hossein said his grandfather's successors were "exploiting his name, Islam, and theocracy to continue their unjust rule." Hossein also reportedly told the daily that Iran is on the verge of a popular revolution, adding: "Freedom is more important than bread. If the Americans can provide it, then let them come."

Meanwhile, the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported on 4 August that an unidentified source close to the Khomeini family denied the veracity of an interview given by Hossein to a Dutch daily in which he reportedly made similar remarks, including statements that the Iranian people no longer trust reformists and calling on the U.S. to overthrow the Iranian regime. The source told ISNA: "In a telephone conversation, Mr. Sayyid Hossein Khomeini expressed his extreme dissatisfaction with the distortion of the remarks he made during the interview. We hope that after his imminent return to [Iran], he would provide the full and undistorted text of the interview to the people." The source denied that Hossein Khomeini called for the overthrow of the Iranian regime in the interview, adding, "He has vehemently denied the veracity of any account or text which attributes such remarks to him in order to taint his reputation." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

THE UN AND IRAQ
UNICEF WON'T WORK WITH CLERICS IN SADR CITY. The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is reportedly no longer working with an orphanage in Sadr City, Baghdad, after clerics running the orphanage imposed strict control over girls in its care, marrying off some as young as 13 years old, timesonline.co.uk reported on 4 August.

The report follows two girls, Ashwarq and Zaman, first met by reporters from "The Times" after the former was thrown out by her mother and the latter fled the Dar Al-Rahma (House of Mercy) orphanage when U.S. troops mistakenly threw open its doors in early April. Living on the streets of Baghdad for weeks and sleeping in the open, often near the U.S. compound, both girls survived by begging, and were suspected of glue sniffing and prostitution before being "rescued" by Dar Al-Rahma clerics and taken to the orphanage. Of the 135 children housed in the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs-run orphanage before the war, 60 have yet to be recovered. Shi'ite clerics now run the establishment, imposing strict Islamic law on its occupants, which are aged between six and 18. Clerics have also established their authority at schools, hospitals, and other social institutions in Sadr City, according to international press reports.

In May, Zaman told the daily that she feared going back to the orphanage, saying, "They hit us, beat us, and tied our hands every day." "The Times" visited the girls at the orphanage two months later, where care worker Hamid Maayeh told the daily that the two girls, "have been badly damaged," adding: "We have other girls the same age, but we can't mix them together. We have to separate them because we are afraid they will teach the others bad things." Maayeh reportedly boasted that in the past four months, the orphanage has married off 10 girls aged 13 to 19, and hopes to find husbands for Ashwarq, Zaman, and a third girl also. "Only these three were raped because we took control of the situation quicker than others," he said, adding, "We think we can marry these as well, if they let us work with them."

"The Times" reported that UNICEF withdrew its support from Dar Al-Rahma more than one month ago, taking with it any child who wanted to leave. Raghad Abd al-Aziz, a social worker that left Dar Al-Rahma, told the daily that marriage and social control seemed to be the priorities of the clerics at the orphanage. "In the month I was there, they married five girls. The shaykh in charge of the orphanage told me that the shaykh of the local mosque was encouraging people to come and meet the young, beautiful virgins there," she said. The UNICEF chief of mission in Baghdad, Carol de Rooy, told "The Times" that abandoned children in Iraq are vulnerable because the Juvenile Code, which dates to 1983, "criminalized poverty" by defining child beggars and workers as vagrants. Children found on the streets were often jailed with adults. "I do not think it is necessarily the right model to empower militias and groups who rightly or wrongly spontaneously take over government institutions," de Rooy reportedly said of the orphanage's new management.

Sadr City, once known as Saddam City, was renamed after Operation Iraqi Freedom in honor of a prominent Shi'ite Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, killed by the Hussein regime in 1999. The neighborhood is also where his son, anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, draws his support. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

UNESCO HOLDS THIRD MEETING ON IRAQ'S CULTURAL HERITAGE. The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) held its third meeting since April on 1 August in Tokyo to address the preservation of Iraq's cultural heritage, UN News Center reported on the same day (http://www.un.org/news). The meeting brought together international museum and archaeological experts, and Iraqi cultural officials to discuss short- and long-term action to preserve the Baghdad Museum. Participants agreed on the need to open and equip laboratories at the museum, and to begin the restoration of artifacts damaged during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Museum employees would also receive training under the plan. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

EUROPE, THE U.S., AND IRAQ
U.S. AND U.K. OFFICIALS MAKE CONTRADICTORY STATEMENTS ON POSSIBLE UN RESOLUTION. U.S. and U.K. officials have made somewhat contradictory statements regarding whether a new UN resolution on Iraq is necessary, according to international press reports. Former British Special Representative to Iraq John Sawers, who now serves as the Foreign Office's political director, told London's "Financial Times" that the U.K. is "exploring with the Americans what the pros and cons [of a new UN resolution] might be," ft.com reported on 3 August. Sawers said that the Indian, Pakistani, and Turkish governments would find it easier to commit troops to the peacekeeping effort in Iraq under a new resolution.

He said that Russia and France -- which has openly called for a new resolution -- are expected to voice demands regarding the UN role in Iraq in the near future. "We are all conscious of tensions in the UN Security Council," Sawers said, adding: "The [tensions] have not gone away. But before we go down the road of seeking a new UN resolution, we would want to be confident it was achievable in a way that would support the coalition's present efforts." According to ft.com, officials in Washington and London are concerned that France will call for a far bigger role than even the UN secretariat wants.

Meanwhile, White House spokesman Scott McClennan told reporters on 2 August that the Bush administration believes that UN Security Council Resolution 1483 is sufficient, Reuters reported on the same day. "Resolution 1483 we believe provides sufficient authority for countries to participate and help with reconstruction and stabilization in Iraq," he said. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week that he would welcome a UN role in Iraq, but said, "Speed is of the essence here, and the UN isn't always speedy."

French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told RTL radio on 3 August that France was not likely to participate in reconstruction efforts without a new UN resolution, AP reported. Alliot-Marie added that France would also need a specific request "notably from the United States and Britain" before Paris would commit to working in Iraq. The French government has already refused to send troops to Iraq without a UN mandate. "We have always said that we are available to help with the reconstruction of Iraq," Reuters quoted Alliot-Marie as telling RTL. "We are ready to participate in an operation," she noted, adding: "This assumes two things...first of all a new UN resolution. This also assumes that we receive a request [for help]. For the moment, these two conditions are not fulfilled." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

SPAIN TO HOST DONORS' MEETING IN FALL. Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced on 1 August that Spain would host the international donors conference for Iraq this autumn, according to a Reuters report. Rajoy told reporters that the date of the conference had not been set, but said that a preparatory meeting would be held in September to build on a preliminary meeting held in June (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 27 June 2003).

It was earlier announced that the World Bank, the UN, the EU, Japan, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates would hold the donor conference in October. Spain, which allied itself with the U.S. and Britain in the war against Iraq, has sought a leading role in the reconstruction process, and has committed its troops to assist in peacekeeping efforts there. The first group of some 1,300 soldiers departed Spain for Iraq on 23 July (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 24 July 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. ARMY TO DEPLOY NEW SECURITY FORCE TO IRAQ. The U.S. Army will deploy an experimental new security force to Iraq that combines infantry soldiers, elite special forces, military police, and civil-affairs officers into a single unit for more effective peacekeeping, Reuters reported on 5 August. Army Vice Chief of Staff General John Keane told reporters that the task force was designed to meet the Pentagon's call for a more flexible military. "I think it's going to be a combination of forces we are taking [into Iraq] plus forces that are [already] on the ground."

Keane did not say how large the force will be or where it will be stationed in Iraq. He told reporters that one of the lessons learned from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq has been the need for more joint operations among the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. "Some of the more traditional and historical associations that we've sort of put together under a task force, they have to change," Keane said. "These cases are cultural, some of them, but we're willing to cross these line. And I think you're just going to see a lot more of them." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

TWO-MONTH STANDOFF AT CHINESE EMBASSY ENDS. A two-month standoff at the Iraqi Embassy in Beijing between Iraq's former ambassador and his staff ended on 31 July, Reuters reported on 4 August. Muwaffaq al-Ani and his wife had holed up in the embassy on 7 June, refusing to vacate the premises. Al-Ani had been appointed by former Iraqi President Hussein and ordered back to Iraq by the U.S. postwar administration in June. It is not known whether al-Ani will return to Iraq, but an unidentified Western diplomat told Reuters, "The U.S. has requested that the Iraqi ambassador be made PNG [persona non grata]."

Meanwhile, the de facto Iraqi ambassador in Beijing, Talal al-Khudayri, told the news agency in a telephone interview that al-Ani is wanted in Iraq for "armed assault" on the embassy and for preventing staff from working. "It was approximately 55 days," al-Khudayri said, adding: "We now have control of the embassy and the ambassador's residence. Things are back to normal." According to Reuters, al-Ani was expelled from the Philippines in 1991, where he served as first secretary, after he was linked to an attempted bombing of a U.S. library in Manila. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

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