29 August 2003, Volume
CAR BOMB KILLS SCIRI HEAD AL-HAKIM IN AL-NAJAF.
A car bomb reportedly went off in the holy city of Al-Najaf on 29 August, killing Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq
(SCIRI), international press reported. Al-Hakim's nephew, Muhsin al-Hakim, confirmed the ayatollah's death to Reuters. He did not give any details on the incident, but Reuters cited a source close to SCIRI as saying that al-Hakim was killed when his car exploded as he left the mosque. What is known is that the bomb was detonated outside the Imam Ali Mosque as worshippers left after the Friday prayer service. The mosque is the holiest shrine for Shi'ite Muslims in Iraq. Initial press reports indicate as many as 20 dead and more than a dozen wounded. Shop windows were reportedly blown out as a result of the explosion. The explosion marks the second in Al-Najaf in a week, after the office of Ayatollah Muhammad Sa'id al-Hakim was bombed on 22 August (see this issue). (Kathleen Ridolfo)PUK, TURKOMAN FRONT REACH AGREEMENT AFTER UNREST IN NORTHERN IRAQ.
The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) sent a joint delegation to the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk to meet with local leaders in an effort to ease tensions there after three days of clashes between Kurds and Turkomans on 22-24 August that left at least 12 people dead, London's "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported on 25 August. Eight Turkomans were killed on 22 August in a neighboring city of Tuz Kharmato after Kurds reportedly damaged a newly reopened Turkoman Muslim shrine, AP reported on 26 August. Thirteen people were wounded in that incident. At least three people were killed in the ensuing violence in Kirkuk on 23-24 August.
A bitter power struggle erupted between Kurds and Turkomans in oil-rich Kirkuk following the downfall of the Hussein regime, and speculation over who might be responsible for the weekend clashes has compounded tensions. A SCIRI source reportedly told "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" that a foreign element -- possibly Turkey -- was to blame, while a PUK source told the daily that "terrorists" sparked the clashes. Meanwhile, a Kirkuk City Council source blamed the radical group Ansar Al-Islam. Reuters reported on 25 August that the Iraqi Turkoman Front accused the U.S. of failing to protect the Turkomans in Iraq, and the group called on Turkey to send troops to do so. The news agency also reported that thousands of Shi'ites marched in Baghdad on 25 August in support of Turkomans, who are also Shi'ites.
The PUK and the Iraqi Turkoman Front finally reached a settlement agreeing to establish a joint committee to investigate the incidents and to prosecute those responsible for the clashes, KurdSat reported on 26 August. The families of those killed in the clashes will receive material and moral support, and a joint committee will be established to prevent such incidents in the future. Both sides also agreed to meet regularly to discuss political, economic, and social issues, and to instruct their members to work toward peaceful coexistence in the city, Istanbul's NTV reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL MEMBER COMMENTS ON ARAB TOUR, CONSTITUTION.
Iraqi Governing Council member Raja Habib al-Khaza'i told Cairo's Voice of the Arabs radio on 26 August that a Governing Council delegation currently touring the Arab states is making progress in its meetings with regional leaders, adding that the council is "keen on establishing contacts with all Arab countries.... We are relieved at the outcome of this tour and the reception accorded to the members of the Governing Council." Asked about the work of the constitutional committee, she said that the committee of 25 members began their work on 25 August and will have 30 days to "complete their task." The committee will meet daily and will send delegations to each of the 18 governorates to consult with local officials. (Kathleen Ridolfo)TWO IRAQI POLICEMEN, TWO CIVILIANS KILLED IN BAGHDAD ROBBERY.
Two Iraqi policemen and two civilians were killed during a gunfight in Baghdad on 27 August after thieves tried to rob a moneychanger, Reuters reported. The gun battle broke out near the Sheraton and Palestine hotels, an area much frequented by foreign journalists and businesspeople. The thieves reportedly escaped capture. (Kathleen Ridolfo)AL-NAJAF BOMBING WOUNDS SENIOR CLERIC.
A 22 August explosion in Al-Najaf wounded Ayatollah Muhammad Sa'id al-Hakim, who is described by IRNA as an uncle of Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) leader Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim. The explosion of a booby-trapped gas cylinder killed three people and wounded 10 others. Muhsin al-Hakim, who is Iraqi Interim Governing Council member Abd-al-Aziz al-Hakim's political adviser, said, "we suspect that [the perpetrators are] members of the former Ba'ath regime and Saddam supporters who wish to ignite a war between the Sunnis and the Shi'as," SCIRI's Voice of the Mujahedin radio reported. (Bill Samii)SHI'ITES MARCH IN AL-NAJAF TO PROTEST ATTACK ON SCIRI.
Thousands of Shi'ites protested in the holy city of Al-Najaf on 25 August following the funerals of three bodyguards of SCIRI member Ayatollah Muhammad Sa'id al-Hakim, Reuters reported on 25 August. The bodyguards were killed in a bomb attack on al-Hakim's office on 24 August. According to Reuters, protesters reportedly blamed Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr for the attack on al-Hakim's office. Al-Sadr's followers have denied any involvement in the attack, but they have been linked to another high profile attack in Al-Najaf -- the 10 April killing of Ayatollah Abd al-Majid al-Khoi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April 2003). SCIRI has reportedly blamed Ba'athist loyalists for the 24 August attack. (Kathleen Ridolfo)UNKNOWN GROUP CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR BAGHDAD UN BLAST.
A previously unknown group calling itself the Armed Vanguards of Muhammad's Second Army has claimed responsibility for the 19 August attack on UN headquarters in Baghdad. The Dubai-based satellite news channel Al-Arabiyah reported on 21 August that it received a statement from the group taking credit for the blast. Excerpts from the statement reported by AFP in an English translation spoke of a jihad, or holy war, to drive all foreigners and "infidels" out of Iraq. Threatening further such attacks, the statement stressed that "[j]ihadi operations and retribution must continue against the infidel Americans and all those who help them, even if they are Arabs or Muslims." Meanwhile, U.S. General and CENTCOM head John Abizaid said on 21 August that terrorism-oriented cooperation between Islamic extremists and Hussein loyalists poses a serious threat to rebuilding efforts in Iraq. In a reference to the Second Army claim, Abizaid told reporters that he knew of a group "with a similar name," but provided no further details, AP reported. (Daniel Kimmage)AS ANSAR AL-ISLAM DENIES ANY ROLE IN BOMBING.
Mullah Krekar, the leader of the radical group Ansar Al-Islam told Rome's "La Repubblica" in an interview published on 24 August that his group was not involved in the 19 August bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad, saying, "I believe that it was an operation which sprang from inside the country, and which was carried out by Saddam's diehard supporters." Krekar also denied any links to Osama bin Laden, saying, "I have never met with him, nor do I have any contacts [with him]." "Bin Laden is the jewel in the crown of Islam," he later added. In the interview, Krekar addressed the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. saying that "the killing of civilians is a wrong thing," but cautioned that such an event could happen again. "If the United States does not leave the space which belongs to Islam, this will backfire against it. Muslim countries demand the role and the laws which they have provided themselves with." Krekar claimed that the U.S. is vulnerable to another attack, saying, "The recent blackout in New York cost hundreds of millions of dollars every second. Many martyrs are ready to blow themselves up." He said that the U.K. should also expect a terrorist attack, but that the rest of Europe is safe. Asked where the members of Ansar Al-Islam are today (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 15 August 2003), Krekar replied, "I am here [he has political asylum in Norway], but the leadership is alive. We straddled the border with Iran, now we are all over the place in Iraq." (Kathleen Ridolfo)KURD SELECTED TO HEAD CONSTITUTIONAL PREPARATORY COMMITTEE.
Fu'ad Ma'sum of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has been selected to head the 25-member Constitutional Preparatory Committee in Iraq, Muhannad Abdul Jabbar, a spokesman for the Iraqi Governing Council told AFP on 21 August. Ma'sum was elected on 20 August during the committee's third meeting. He is a university professor and a co-founder of the PUK. He also served in 1992 as the first prime minister in the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan. Arabicnews.com reported on 22 August that the committee also elected Muhammad al-Haj Hamud as its first deputy and Muhammad Rida al-Ghareiqi as its second deputy. The preparatory committee was formed to guide the process of drafting an Iraqi constitution (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 15 August 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. FORCES RELEASE LEADER OF ISLAMIC KURDISH MOVEMENT.
U.S. forces have reportedly released the leader of the Islamic Movement of Iraqi Kurdistan who was arrested in early August, AFP reported on 19 August (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 7 August 2003). "Shaykh Ali Abd al-Aziz was freed [17 August] after two weeks in detention," Shwan Qaladizaze told AFP, adding, "The Americans have apologized to the spiritual leader of the Islamic Kurdish Movement." The shaykh's son Ihsan Abd al-Aziz, who serves as the movement's spokesman in London, reportedly lobbied through his office there and in the U.S. for his father's release. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. FORCES REPORTEDLY ARREST IRAQI GENERAL
The U.S. military has arrested Al-Quds Army Brigades commander Major General Subhi Kamal al-Ruzayq, Al-Jazeera satellite television reported on 24 August. The arrest reportedly occurred in the Hit area west of Baghdad, where al-Ruzayq was hiding in a friend's house. Al-Ruzayq's arrest has not been confirmed by other sources. (Bill Samii)'CHEMICAL ALI' IN COALITION CUSTODY.
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed in a 21 August press release that General Ali Hassan al-Majid is in the custody of coalition forces. Al-Majid, number five on CENTCOM's 55 most-wanted list, gained notoriety for his prominent role in the 1988-90 anti-Kurdish "Anfal" campaign and his ruthless suppression of the 1991 Shi'a revolt in southern Iraq. He acquired the nickname "Chemical Ali" for use of chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds at that time. He occupied numerous senior positions in the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein, including military governor of "Kuwait Province" during the Iraqi occupation in 1990-91. Al-Majid's death was announced early in the war after a bomb leveled his villa in Al-Basrah, but subsequent reports indicated that he survived the strike. Coalition officials did not provide further details of al-Majid's capture, AP reported on 21 August. The capture of "Chemical Ali" leaves Hussein as the only one of the "top five" regime figures still at large. (Daniel Kimmage)RAMADAN APPREHENDED IN IRAQ.
Representatives of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) told CNN on 19 August that their forces captured former Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan in Mosul on 18 August and delivered him into U.S. custody. Pentagon officials confirmed the information to the network. Although he was only 20th on the U.S. list of the 55 most-wanted figures from the former Iraqi regime, Ramadan was seen as a member of Hussein's inner circle. Ramadan, who joined the then-clandestine Ba'ath Party in 1956, was infamous for his ruthlessness. He held several ministerial posts and is said to have supervised numerous purges. Laith Kubba, senior program officer for the Middle East at the U.S.-based nonprofit National Endowment for Democracy, told Al-Jazeera on 19 August that Ramadan's capture provides an opportunity to put him on trial for war crimes. According to AP, 36 of the 55 wanted regime figures have been captured, 15 are at large, two have been killed, and two have been reported killed. (Daniel Kimmage)VERBAL SPARRING OVER IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL MEMBER'S PAST
Plans by a group of Jordanian parliamentarians to request the extradition of Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmad Chalabi have sparked an escalating war of words. Twenty-one Jordanian representatives are working to put together a formal request to Interpol to return Chalabi to Jordan, AFP reported on 18 August. A Jordanian court in 1992 sentenced Chalabi in absentia to 22 years in prison for embezzling $228 million from Petra Bank, which he founded in Amman in 1978. Chalabi, who left Jordan in 1989, has dismissed the proceedings as politically motivated. As head of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), Chalabi was the public face of the "Iraqi opposition" in the prewar period, although he has not emerged to play a major role in domestic politics since returning to Iraq. "We will demand the extradition of the criminal [Chalabi]," Jordanian parliamentarian Mahmud Kharabshah told Reuters on 17 August. The INC's "Al-Mu'tamar" newspaper earlier this week wrote that "the fierce campaign Jordan is pursuing against the INC and its leader...has been organized by the Jordanian intelligence services to cover up the criminal activities of successive [Jordanian] governments and their theft of the Iraqi people's money," Britain's "Al-Hayat" reported on 20 August. (Daniel Kimmage)ALLEGED IRANIAN AGENTS ARRESTED IN IRAQ.
Haytham Sulayman, security patrols director for Al-Salihiyah, said in an interview that appeared in the 21 August issue of "Al-Ahd al-Jadid" that 12 Iranian intelligence agents have been arrested at the offices of Al-Mashriq Money Exchange Company in Al-Salihiyah. Majid Athab interrogated them and it was determined that they allegedly intended to perpetrate bombings in Baghdad. The 12 agents reportedly possessed counterfeit U.S. dollars. (Bill Samii)'IRANIANS' IN IRAQI GOVERNMENT POSTS WARNED TO LEAVE.
Muqtada al-Sadr said in his 22 August Friday Prayer sermon in Al-Kufah that Iran has placed its security officials in some major Iraqi government posts, the Baztab website reported on 23 August. Al-Sadr warned the Iranians to leave Iraq promptly. Al-Sadr reportedly said that the 19 August bombing of the UN compound in Baghdad resulted either from the absence of a security apparatus or because the security organizations are under the control of Iranians and other foreigners. (Bill Samii)CPA ISSUES ANNOUNCEMENT CONCERNING IRAQI TRAVEL DOCUMENTS.
The Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq (CPA) issued a statement on 19 August clarifying local newspaper reports concerning travel documents for Iraqi citizens. According to the statement, the CPA Interior Ministry is working to restore Iraq's ability to issue passports. "As part of this process, an Interim Travel Document will be issued [to Iraqis] in lieu of a passport." The travel document is currently under development and is expected to be released in the near future, although the CPA did not give a specific date. The statement added that the CPA has identified locations for issuing the documents, but that those buildings remain under repair."
Contrary to published reports, there are no plans to use the Baghdad Convention Center for passport purposes now or at any time in the future," the statement noted. The CPA statement added that it is possible for some Iraqis to travel outside the country without a passport, adding that travelers should contact the country of destination for information regarding entry. Some countries require a visa for entry. The United Arab Emirates reportedly invited Iraqis to live and work in the country without conditions, dpa reported on 26 August, citing a Middle East News Agency report of the same day. Iraqis would need a valid passport and visa, however, to enter. Individuals seeking medical treatment or on an official visit to the emirates would be exempt from the visa requirement. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.S. FORCES LAUNCH RAID IN SEARCH OF GANG MEMBERS IN IRAQ.
U.S. forces launched Operation Ivy Needle with a 26 August raid aimed at bringing down a gang of organized criminals suspected of attacking coalition forces in the Iraqi town of Khalis, some 70 kilometers north of Baghdad, AP reported. U.S. Colonel David Hogg, commander of the 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, told AP that the raid resulted in the capture of 24 suspected gang members. The gang's alleged leader, Latif Hamid al-Kubayshat -- identified by U.S. forces as "Latif" -- remains at large. The gang's "primary focus is probably criminal activity, but they have attacked coalition forces through direct and indirect means," Hogg told AP. "As long as [al-Kubayshat] is in place, we will not be able to establish the conditions for the Iraqi police to establish law and order in the area."
Al-Kubayshat's gang reportedly claimed responsibility for a bomb explosion outside the Baquba police station on 10 August that killed one U.S. soldier. Al-Kubayshat is also suspected of burning down the Baquba courthouse, selling illegal weapons, and of killing a prostitute he said had serviced U.S. soldiers. "We know he's setting up illegal checkpoints to attack, rob, and kill Iraqis," Hogg said. Al-Kubayshat was serving multiple life sentences for murder, but was released under a general amnesty granted by deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in October 2002 (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 25 October 2002), AP reported on 26 August. Operation Ivy Needle is expected to last for several days, Reuters reported on 27 August. (Kathleen Ridolfo)BRITISH TROOPS KILLED IN AL-BASRAH.
Three British soldiers were killed and one was wounded in a 23 August attack on their vehicle in Al-Basrah, "The Guardian" reported the next day. The soldiers were members of the 19th Mechanized Brigade. Details of the attack are sketchy. Anonymous "army sources" mentioned local activism by groups calling themselves Hizballah. British forces spokesman Captain Hisham Halawi said in a 23 August interview with Al-Arabiyah satellite television: "We, members of the Iraqi police and several Al-Basrah officials, are carrying out an investigation to clarify the implications of the incident and find out who is behind such operations. Therefore, it is difficult to predict who is behind these operations." Asked about future plans, Halawi said: "We are mounting special patrols in some areas which we find suspicious. We will carry out an intelligence investigation to track down the remnants [of the former regime] and to find out who stands behind these attacks. We are mounting intelligence operations and patrols which are making some progress on the ground to help the people stand on their own feet and stop these attacks and restore peace." (Bill Samii)U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT LISTS TROOP COMMITMENT TO IRAQ.
The U.S. State Department's International Information Programs website (http://usinfo.state.gov) posted an official answer to a reporter's question at the 20 August press briefing regarding international troop commitments to Iraq. According to the State Department, 27 countries have contributed 21,700 troops to "ongoing stability operations" in Iraq. The countries are: Albania, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Georgia, El Salvador, Estonia, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. "In addition to the 27 countries with forces already on the ground in Iraq, four others (Moldova, the Philippines, Portugal, and Thailand) have committed to providing troops." Fourteen other countries are still considering the U.S. request for troops. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
ISRAELI NEWSPAPER REPORTS THAT U.S., ISRAEL MIGHT PUSH FOR KIRKUK-HAIFA PIPELINE.
The Israeli daily "Ha'aretz" reported on 25 August that a senior Pentagon official sent an official cable to the Israeli Foreign Ministry regarding the possible construction of a pipeline from the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk to a refinery in Haifa, Israel. The cable reportedly requested a cost estimate for rebuilding the Mosul-Haifa pipeline, which was originally constructed by the British and closed in 1948. Oil would be transported from Kirkuk via Mosul and through Jordan, "Ha'aretz" reported. Israeli National Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritzky said that he would raise the issue in meetings with U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham in Washington next month. Rumors about the possible pipeline have circulated for months, and the issue is expected to be highly contentious, both inside Iraq and among antiwar pundits who claimed the primary U.S. objective in Iraq was to gain access to the country's oil. Turkey is also likely to oppose the pipeline, since northern Iraqi oil currently flows to ports in that country. (Kathleen Ridolfo)SAUDI ARABIA RESPONDS TO U.S. ASSERTIONS OF FIGHTERS CROSSING IRAQ BORDER.
Saudi Arabia's Foreign Policy Advisor Adel al-Jubeir rejected recent allegations by U.S. officials that Saudi nationals are infiltrating Iraq to fight the U.S.-led occupation there in an interview with AP, the news agency reported on 26 August. Al-Jubeir said that the kingdom is "very concerned" about the issue, but added, "We have no evidence of Saudis crossing into Iraq and we have received no evidence from the U.S. government." Al-Jubeir said that the Saudi government has offered to send a team of investigators to assist the U.S. in identifying possible Saudi nationals in Iraq, adding, "Saudi Arabia is determined to fight terrorism and to prosecute terrorists regardless of where they are."
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage recently told Al-Jazeera Satellite Television that "The ways [foreign fighters] are getting into [Iraq] is from Iran and from Syria and from Saudi Arabia," adding, "I'm not in a position to assert that the governments of Iran or Syria and Saudi Arabia are in any way responsible. But as a minimum I can state that...these fighters are not being stopped at the borders." Al-Jubeir told AP that Saudi guards are on full patrol along the Iraqi border, but that U.S. troops have not taken up border posts on the Iraqi side that were abandoned by Iraqi soldiers at the outset of Operation Iraqi Freedom. "We have raised this issue with the U.S. on a number of times, both before the war and after the hostilities ended," al-Jubeir said. "We have raised the importance of sealing the Iraqi border with the U.S. government because of concerns there might be smuggling of weapons from Iraq into Saudi Arabia." (Kathleen Ridolfo)GOVERNING COUNCIL WELCOMED IN JORDAN, BUT WON'T GET RECOGNITION.
Jordanian Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb and Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher met with Iraqi Governing Council President Ibrahim al-Ja'fari and other members of the council on 25 August, Jordan News Agency reported on the same day. Ragheb called the formation of the governing council a positive step toward electing a representative Iraqi government. Muasher said that the meeting was extremely positive in a press statement after the meeting, and that Jordan was willing to offer every possible assistance to the Iraqi people. However, when asked about Jordan's recognition of the council, Muasher replied that such recognition would be "premature," adding, "There are positive dealings, but there must be provisional plans. These are steps agreed upon. The council is only a step toward a government and a constitution." A delegation from the governing council is currently meeting with Iraq's neighbors and Egypt. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
UN SECURITY COUNCIL ADOPTS RESOLUTION FOR PROTECTION OF INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN WORKERS.
The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 1502 on 26 August, urging member states to treat violence against humanitarian workers as a war crime, according to international press reports. The Mexican-drafted resolution was first proposed in April, and resurfaced following the 19 August bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20, 21, and 22 August 2003), which killed 23 people and injured many others, Reuters reported on 26 August. Bulgaria, France, Germany, Russia, and Syria co-sponsored the draft. The U.S. supported the resolution after a reference to the International Criminal Court, which the U.S. opposes, was dropped. At the UN, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told Security Council members, "Impunity for those who commit such unpardonable crimes cannot stand...there must be action." The text of the resolution is posted on the UN website (http://www.un.org). (Kathleen Ridolfo)UNODC RELEASES CONCLUSIONS OF FACT- FINDING MISSION.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has submitted a report to the UN following a two-week fact-finding mission to Iraq to assess the extent of organized crime and drug trafficking there, and areas for possible intervention, a 27 August UN Information Service press release noted (http://www.unis.unvienna.org). The mission was carried out at the request of the late UN envoy to Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was killed in the 19 August bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad.
The four-member team concluded that while the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq (CPA) has made progress toward rebuilding the Iraqi police infrastructure, more work needs to be done, "particularly in developing specialized capabilities to tackle organized crime and drug trafficking." The mission also determined that "The evolving nature of organized crime in Iraq is based on sophisticated smuggling networks, many established under the previous regime to circumvent UN sanctions." The mission noted the increase in violent crime in recent months, including kidnappings and murders, and also cited the trafficking of oil and copper as a problem.
The mission noted that while drug trafficking has not become a "serious problem" as yet, Iraq's proximity to a major drug route for opiate smuggling from Afghanistan, coupled with an "established tradition" of smuggling in Iraq, makes the likelihood for drug trafficking high. The mission further concluded that Iraq's criminal justice system must be reformed to allow the government to effectively respond to organized crime and drug trafficking. (Kathleen Ridolfo)U.K. AMBASSADOR BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL ON COALITION EFFORTS IN IRAQ.
Emyr Jones Parry, U.K. ambassador to the United Nations, told the Security Council in a 21 August briefing that coalition progress inside Iraq is really the result of the coalition and the UN working together. Jones Parry said that while the coalition is working toward the establishment of a free and sovereign Iraq, "We have to recognize the difficulties which any state faces in moving from conflict to a stable, peaceful, law-abiding democracy." The ambassador addressed the Coalition Provisional Authority's (CPA) humanitarian activities, and activities to support the establishment of local institutions for representative government, as well as legal and judicial reform issues, and the need to establish respect for human rights in Iraq in his presentation. He said that food distribution systems inside the country are fully restored, adding that poverty and vulnerability surveys are currently underway to identify areas where continued support will be needed after the phasing out of the oil-for-food program, slated to end in November. Jones Parry added that all 240 hospitals in Iraq are now functioning, and enough vaccines have been provided to vaccinate 4.2 million Iraqi children.
Regarding education, Jones Parry said that 1.2 million student kits and 3,900 school kits have been distributed nationwide and that most schools had been reopened by the end of June. In addition, some 70 million revised schoolbooks will be printed by the end of December.
The Iraqi infrastructure continues to be a focus, with the water sector a high priority. Jones Parry said that some 130 "critical breaks" have been repaired, "But as we have seen spectacularly, the network has been badly hit by highly organized sabotage, exacerbated by shortages of parts and chemicals."
Jones Parry told the Security Council that the Iraqi Governing Council "is [the coalition's] partner in many decisions concerning the administration of Iraq." He listed the activities of the Constitutional Preparatory Committee and said that the coalition is also working to promote local governance. "Every major Iraqi city now has a local government," he said, adding, "We are in the process of deploying teams to help build up Iraqi provincial governments."
As for human rights, Jones Parry said that the coalition is working to "support the creation of a culture where human rights are respected" but did not elaborate. He also discussed the coalition's work regarding the establishment of a National Iraqi Bureau of Missing Persons. He added that the coalition has repaired over 450 court buildings and "scores" of prison facilities. In addition, "A Judicial Review Committee, comprising equal numbers of coalition and Iraqi members, is in the process of screening judges and prosecutors. A Central Criminal Court, with some of the most highly regarded jurists in Iraq, has been established as a model of judicial integrity and fairness to handle cases of special importance or with national significance."
The transcript of Ambassador Jones Parry's report to the Security Council can be viewed on the U.S. State Department's International Information Programs website (http://usinfo.state.gov). U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte also addressed the Security Council at the 21 August meeting. His presentation focused on security and economic progress in Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IRAQI ASSETS SEIZED BY U.S. NEARLY DEPLETED.
U.S. administrators in Iraq have nearly depleted the confiscated Iraqi assets they used to pay Iraqi civil servants and will need more cash quickly, Reuters reported on 26 August. U.S. Treasury Department Spokesman Tony Fratto has said that a cash shipment of $419 million will be made in the next week from a New York Federal Reserve account that once held $1.7 billion, adding that the shipment will "nearly exhaust the available vested funds." According to Reuters, the White House may seek some $2-3 billion in extra funding for Iraq to meet short-term needs before the 24 October international donors conference in Madrid. The White House had not been expected to seek additional funding for Iraq until at least November. A senior congressional aide told the news agency that the situation is "a mess," adding, "Seized assets are down to almost nothing. Oil money is a mirage in the near term." But U.S. Representative James Kolbe, chair of the House of Representatives Foreign Aid Subcommittee, told Reuters, "Yes, the seized assets are nearly exhausted, but there are some other sources of funds to pay salaries to Iraqis." (Kathleen Ridolfo)IRAQIS TO GET POLICE TRAINING IN HUNGARY.
Washington is planning to send up to 28,000 Iraqis to Eastern Europe for a police-training course, according to "The New York Times" on 25 August. Bernard Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner who is now in charge of the Iraqi Interior Ministry, said Budapest has given permission for the use of an old Soviet military base for the police academy. "The New York Times" reported that this is the same facility in Taszar at which Iraqi volunteers were trained earlier in the year (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 2 February 2003). Kerik said that the eight-week training course for the first group of 1,500 Iraqis will start in about four months, and they will undergo additional training when they return to Iraq. (Bill Samii)U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE LOOKS TO BROADEN COALITION.
Colin Powell met with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York on 21 August to discuss a draft UN resolution to internationalize the effort to rebuild Iraq, Reuters reported. Countries that opposed the war, such as France, were quick to state that they would prefer to see the world body enjoy expanded authority in Iraq as well, AP reported on 21 August. Powell was careful to stress, however, that political and military control will remain in U.S. hands. "The Washington Post" commented the same day that "the diplomatic bid...has resurrected the divisions within the Security Council that existed before the...administration [of U.S. President George W. Bush] invaded Iraq...." For his part, Annan tried to occupy the middle ground. Reuters quoted the secretary-general as saying, "I think the issue of Iraq is of great concern to everybody, regardless of the divisions that existed before the war." The discussion comes on the heels of the unprecedented 19 August truck-bomb attack on the UN's Baghdad headquarters. The blast killed at least 23 people and moved security concerns to the top of the Iraq agenda. (Daniel Kimmage)U.S. TROOPS TO CONTROL PART OF POLISH STABILIZATION ZONE IN IRAQ.
Washington has decided to retain military control over the northern area of Iraq's Babil Province, a part of the Polish stabilization zone, PAP reported on 19 August, quoting unidentified Polish commanders in Iraq. PAP's source stressed that the boundaries of the Polish stabilization zone will remain unchanged. Earlier the same day, Polish Defense Ministry spokesman Eugeniusz Mleczak and Deputy Defense Minister Janusz Zemke told Polish media that part of Babil Province, south of Baghdad, will be transferred out of the Polish stabilization zone, since U.S. forces are reportedly interested in keeping it under their direct control. "This is part of one of the five provinces where Americans have their large logistical base, and this is also where, according to their reconnaissance, some terrorist groups operating in Baghdad get particularly strong support," Zemke told Polish Radio. (Jan Maksymiuk)