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Iraq Report: December 18, 2003

18 December 2003, Volume 6, Number 53

The next "RFE/RL Iraq Report" will be published on 8 January 2004. For more news on Iraq, go to RFE/RL's "Post-Saddam Iraq" page (
U.S. OFFICIALS CONTEMPLATE HUSSEIN TRIAL. U.S. President George W. Bush told a 15 December news conference that the United States and Iraq will organize former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's trial but Iraqis will decide whether he should face possible execution, Reuters reported. The United Kingdom has said it will not take part in any trial that could lead to the death penalty (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 15 December 2003). Iran and some human rights groups have said Hussein should be tried by an international court, rather than by Iraqis under a U.S.-led occupation.

Leading members of the Iraqi Governing Council have said they expect an "international presence" at any tribunal, according to Dara Nur al-Din, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council and the chairman of its legal committee. However, an unnamed senior U.S. official has made it clear that the former Iraqi leader is not likely to be handed over for trial in the near future, and has said that any trial would have to await the conclusion of Hussein's extensive questioning by occupation forces. The International Committee of the Red Cross says it hopes the U.S. military allows it to visit Hussein so that it can check on his condition under the protocols of the Geneva Conventions.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for a fair and open trial for Hussein and said the UN remains opposed to the death penalty, the UN News Service reported on 15 December. Annan expressed his concern that any court set up to try Hussein must meet basic international standards, including respect for international humanitarian law. He said he hopes the capture and coming trial of Hussein will help Iraq move ahead with the transition period and also accelerate the process of reconciliation and attempts to establish a provisional Iraqi government that is inclusive and transparent.

Annan emphasized that "all those responsible for these crimes should be brought to account." When asked about the possible return of the UN to Iraq, the secretary-general replied, according to the UN News Service, "The only thing that will hasten the UN's return is the establishment of a secure environment; and if the capture of Saddam Hussein leads to that development, it will be helpful." (Meagan Hassan)

INTELLIGENCE FROM HUSSEIN SAID TO BE LEADING TO MORE ARRESTS. The U.S. military immediately began exploiting Hussein's arrest by using new information to capture several top figures of his old government and uncover rebel cells in the capital, AP reported on 15 December, citing U.S. Army Brigadier General Mark Hertling. By using a cache of new intelligence found in Hussein's hiding place, AP reported, teams have already captured one unidentified high-ranking former regime figure who has reportedly provided information on the location of others.

Hertling said the new intelligence has also given the military a more comprehensive picture of the anti-occupation network in Baghdad, and has confirmed the existence of suspected cells of militants. The news agency reported that more raids are expected as the United States gains more information from Hussein himself. He added that U.S. interrogators have concluded that Hussein was still playing a role in leading anti-U.S. attacks, although the degree of his involvement remains uncertain. U.S. military officials said they found no communications equipment, maps, or other evidence of a makeshift command center in Hussein's hiding place. (Meagan Hassan)

PRO-HUSSEIN DEMONSTRATIONS ERUPT IN SUNNI TRIANGLE TOWNS. Iraqis have demonstrated against the arrest of Hussein in the Sunni Triangle towns of Al-Fallujah and Al-Ramadi, and in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, international media reported this week. According to Reuters, U.S. forces killed two Iraqis during a pro-Hussein demonstration in Al-Ramadi on 15 December when a gunman shot a U.S. soldier from within a crowd of 500 protestors outside a government building in the city. Two other civilians were wounded in the incident, Reuters reported.

Al-Jazeera reported that two Iraqi policemen and several civilians were wounded in a random shooting in the town on the same day. U.S. forces killed another Iraqi in a separate incident in the city, when approximately 30 Iraqis fired at a patrol. Iraqis also protested in the city of Al-Fallujah on 15 December, overrunning the mayor's office there. Meanwhile, Al-Arabiyah television reported on 16 December that "thousands" of civilians and students from Mosul University protested in the city on that day. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

CIA REPORTEDLY INTERROGATING HUSSEIN. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is heading the interrogation of Hussein, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on 16 December, according to RFE/RL. "I have asked [CIA Director] George Tenet to be responsible for the handling of the interrogation of Saddam Hussein." Rumsfeld told reporters at a Pentagon press briefing. He added that the CIA is better equipped to interrogate Hussein than the U.S. military. "[Tenet] and his people will be the regulator over the interrogations -- who will do it, the questions that will get posed, the management of the information that flows from those interrogations," Reuters quoted Rumsfeld as saying. He also told reporters that he would not comment on whether Hussein is being cooperative or defiant, as some U.S. military officers have done in recent days in both Washington and the Middle East. "I think that characterizing his general relationship with his captors would probably be -- the best word would be -- 'resigned,'" he said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL MEMBER DESCRIBES MEETING WITH HUSSEIN, FUTURE. Iraqi Governing Council member Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i told Cairo's Voice of the Arabs radio in a 15 December interview from Baghdad that deposed President Hussein refused to explain acts committed by his regime in a meeting with Iraqi Governing Council members on 14 December (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 15 December 2003). "I asked him about a number of crimes in his war against Iran, in his invasion of Kuwait, and the killing of more than 300,000 Iraqis after the uprising of 1991, but he did not reply and did not give any explanation of these criminal acts but started to use obscene words, abuse, and insults," al-Rubay'i said.

"When I said to him: 'What is your justification for entering and usurping Kuwait?' he began to speak about the Iraqi historical right in the state of Kuwait and began to lecture us. The man has no apology for the Iraqi people. I did not feel that he has a shred of remorse for his acts and crimes against the Iraqi people and against humanity," he added.

Asked about Hussein's state of mind, the governing council member said, "He was psychologically broken and psychologically defeated. He spoke in an unreasonable way, and seemed as if he was making one of his arrogant unreasonable speeches." I said to him, 'When you stand before God Almighty on Judgment Day, what will you say to him about the crimes which you committed against the Iraqi people?' When I said that to him, he broke out shouting with a bunch of abuses and obscene words...[Hussein's] true self came to light."

Al-Rubay'i said that Hussein, when tried, would be given all rights to defend himself, and that the Iraqi tribunal will "abide by all international legal and judicial standards" in his trial. "The trial will be totally Iraqi. The lawyer, the judge, and the public prosecutor will be Iraqis. It will be in Iraq and will be shown on TV screens to be displayed to the Iraqi people with all its aspects day-by-day," he said.

Al-Rubay'i also said that it is a time for national reconciliation in Iraq. "We open our arms to all the sons of our people to return to Iraq.... Let us start anew to build the new Iraq, build democracy, and to establish public freedoms in God's will," he said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

HEAD OF IRAQI TURKOMAN FRONT INTERVIEWED. Faruq Abdallah Abd al-Rahman, the chairman of the Iraqi Turkoman Front, told London's "Al-Hayat" in an interview from Ankara published on 15 December that Turkomans in Iraq are facing the same challenges they did 80 years ago. "Throughout their history, the Turkomans did not do anything threatening Iraq's unity or territorial integrity. Therefore, any marginalization of the Turkomans' role in the political map of Iraq will mean that Iraq will undergo continuous difficulties and problems because it has not acted justly toward a segment of the population that constitutes the third largest community, whose number exceeds 3 million people," Abd al-Rahman contended.

He justified this figure by saying: "Two censuses were held in Iraq, one in 1947 and another in 1957. The percentage of Turkomans in these two censuses at the time of the monarchy was over 10 percent. During the republican regime, the word Turkoman in the civil registration card was canceled and the Turkomans were robbed of their role as a nationality in the Iraqi homeland. Consequently, the Turkoman nationality was canceled and replaced by either Kurdish or Arab.... When the U.S. forces came and seized power, together with the [Iraqi] Governing Council, they used the same old percentages for the Turkomans. These percentages became 3 to 4 percent as earlier claimed by Saddam Hussein. They are aimed at canceling our people and the challenge begins by confronting this cancellation process."

Abd al-Rahman said that his party's "first and last principle" is the unity of Iraq. 'Therefore, the front says it wants a united and democratic Iraq because a united Iraq means power." Asked about claims by Turkomans of a "Kurdish danger" in the region, he said: "The problem lies in the Kirkuk area or the adjacent areas between the Arabs and Kurds...[after the 1991 Gulf War] the Turkoman areas were kept under the former regime while Al-Sulaymaniyah became part of the safe haven. Here lies the paradox: 15 years of [air] protection versus 15 years of injustice and oppression. Accordingly, the Turkomans lived under Saddam's pressure. Scores and even hundreds of them were killed or wounded."

Regarding Turkoman claims to the city of Kirkuk and the corresponding conflicts between Turkomans and Kurds, Abd al-Rahman said that more than 70 percent of the city's inhabitants are Turkomans. "The defunct [Hussein] regime Arabized the region, but unfortunately the process that was called "Arabization" is now taking place in the same way but under another name [by the Kurds] in order to impose a fait accompli on the region. How can we then talk about democracy when those [Kurds] who were oppressed in the past turn into oppressors today?" Moreover, he said that the role of the Turkomans was marginalized following the fall of the Hussein regime this year. "They [Kurds] are sidelining us on the pretext that the Turkomans are part of Turkey," he said. Abd al-Rahman suggested that Kurds should rather see Turkomans as a "bridge of friendship" with Turkey and other Turkish-speaking republics.

Asked whether Turkomans pose an obstacle to Kurdish ambitions in northern Iraq, he replied, "We are defending ourselves. What makes you think there are Kurdish ambitions and not Turkoman ambitions?" "We do not want anyone to rob us of our rights because we do not deny others their rights." He later added, "We will not agree to an ethnic federation [in Iraq] because we know that this will help divide the country." Abd al-Rahman criticized the U.S. appointment of Turkoman Sungul Chabuk to the Iraqi Governing Council, saying, "She has no political background. She does not belong to any political party. She does not represent a large part of the Turkomans. The Turkoman Front represents 85 to 90 percent of the Turkomans." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

CPA TRANSFERS AUTHORITY FOR DONOR COOPERATION TO IRAQIS. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) announced the establishment of an Iraqi-led development coordination mechanism on 10 December, according to a press release posted on the CPA website ( The mechanism will be responsible for all donor activities in the country, including the prioritization of needs and approval of project proposals, the announcement states.

The mechanism consists of a five member Strategic Review Board, which "will provide overall policy guidance and approval for reconstruction activities"; a new Ministry of Planning and Development Cooperation (MOPDC) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2003), which will follow up on donor pledges and recommend allocations and funding sources to the board among other responsibilities; and the Council for International Coordination (CIC), which will be overseen by the Chairmanship of the Minister for Planning and Development Cooperation Mehdi Hafedh, and which will serve as the "main forum for dialogue amongst donors and between donors and the Iraqi authorities." The United Nations, World Bank, and major donor countries have supported the establishment of the mechanism, the CPA reports. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

KURDISTAN REGIONAL GOVERNMENT DECLARES THREE-DAY HOLIDAY TO MARK HUSSEIN CAPTURE. The Kurdistan Regional Government headed by Barham Salih declared a three-day holiday on 15 December to mark the capture of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 15 December 2003) and remember those Kurds killed by the Hussein regime. "With the capture of the blood thirsty Saddam Hussein, the era of the worst dictatorship in the region has ended," Baghdad's "Al-Ittihad" quoted Salih as saying. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

CELEBRATIONS LEAVE FOUR DEAD, TENS WOUNDED. Celebrations marking the capture of Saddam Hussein in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk left four civilians dead and more than 60 wounded, Voice of the Mujahidin reported on 15 December. The casualties were the result of individuals firing guns into the air in celebration, a common Arab ritual. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

CPA TIP HOTLINE PAYING OFF. The Coalition Provisional Authority's confidential tip hotline appears to be paying off -- and paying out rewards for information -- according the CPA website ( The tip hotline and email address is staffed by trained and vetted investigators and interpreters, the website notes.

"Callers will be assigned a pseudonym and reference number in order to protect their identity and make further consultation and payment possible where appropriate," the website states. "Information is then recorded and corroborated where possible, before being passed to the relevant authority for action." The CPA said it has made three payouts in recent days, and the hotline has proved a source for valuable contacts. "It can be used to pass on various types of information about the whereabouts of wanted people, attacks on the Coalition and Iraqi security forces, terrorism, illegal arms caches, sabotage and straightforward criminal activity."

The coalition issues cash rewards on a sliding scale "depending on the importance of the information" ranging from a few hundred dollars to the $25 million that was offered for information leading to the capture of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The website lists an email address and local and international telephone numbers for those wishing to provide information to coalition authorities. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. FORCES REPORT REPELLING AMBUSH, KILLING 11 IRAQI ATTACKERS. U.S. forces killed 11 Iraqi militants who were attempting to ambush U.S. troops in the town of Samarra, approximately 100 kilometers north of Baghdad, on 15 December, according to a 16 December statement posted on the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) website ( "Task Force Ironhorse soldiers traveling through the city of Samarra repelled a complex ambush...and killed 11 attackers without suffering any coalition casualties," the statement said.

The militants released a flock of pigeons to signal approaching U.S. forces, who were then attacked by two men on a motorcycle firing automatic weapons near schoolchildren, according to CENTCOM. "Soldiers, in consideration of the children and a nearby mosque, employed snipers to target the attackers and successfully suppressed the enemy's ability to inflict damage," causing the attackers to flee, CENTCOM reported.

A short distance further, militants hiding in an overgrown field fired automatic weapons at U.S. forces and simultaneously detonated an improvised explosive device to the south of the patrol. "The patrol was then inundated by fire," including rocket-propelled grenades from the west, and mortar fire from the north," according to CENTCOM. Additional U.S. forces reportedly responded with backup support and fought through the ambush.

U.S. military officials said on 16 December that U.S. forces have subsequently stepped up efforts to capture anti-coalition militants in the town. U.S. troops raided a home in the town on 16 December, detaining many suspected militants, including an individual thought to be a cell leader responsible for funding operations. The operation was stepped up overnight on 16 December with the launch of Operation Ivy Blizzard. "The operation is a combined effort [by U.S. and Iraqi security forces] to isolate and eliminate former regime elements and other anti-coalition cells that continue to try to destabilize Iraq," a 17 December press release posted on the CENTCOM website stated. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

BOMB KILLS AT LEAST 10 IN BAGHDAD. A fuel truck exploded in Baghdad during morning rush hour on 17 December, killing at least 10 civilians, international media reported. Those killed in the explosion, in the Bayya district of Baghdad, included passengers in civilian cars and one minibus. According to CNN, the bomb-laden truck exploded as it passed through an intersection. Iraqi police told the news channel that they suspected the truck was heading to a nearby Iraqi police station when it prematurely exploded. Later in the day, U.S. officials said that the explosion was caused by a traffic accident. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

GOVERNING COUNCIL MEMBER SAYS IRAQ'S NEIGHBORS SHOULD BRING SUIT AGAINST HUSSEIN. Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmad al-Barak reportedly called on Iraq's neighbors to file suit against deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, IRNA reported on 15 December. Citing an interview given by al-Barak and aired on Iraqi television, the news agency said al-Barak encouraged neighboring states, particularly Iran to pursue legal recourse against Hussein through diplomatic channels. Hussein stands accused of unleashing chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers during the 1980-88 Gulf War between the two states.

Meanwhile, the Charges d'Affairs of Kuwait's permanent delegation to the United Nations Mansur al-Utaibi said in a statement to KUNA that Kuwait is "looking forward to a just trial of Saddam Hussein and other officials of the former regime for the war crimes and crimes against humanity they had perpetrated against the Iraqis and the Kuwaitis and other peoples of the region," the news agency reported on 16 December. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ISRAEL TO SEND EVIDENCE IF HUSSEIN TRIED. Israeli Justice Minister Yosef Lapid said on 15 December that his country will send evidence and witnesses to testify about the destruction caused by Scud missiles fired by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein at Israel during the 1991 Gulf War, the "Jerusalem Post" website ( reported on the same day. "The firing of missiles, without any provocation, at a country that had nothing to do with the war, is a war crime in every legal sense," Lapid said. Iraq fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel during the war, causing one death and substantial damage. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

COALITION FORCES RELEASE FIVE JORDANIANS HELD AT UMM QASR. Jordanian news agency Petra reported on 13 December that coalition forces in Iraq have released five Jordanian nationals held at the Umm Qasr camp in southern Iraq on suspicion that they were Arab fighters. Citing a Foreign Ministry source, the news agency said the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) flew the five individuals to Amman. The five were among 37 Jordanian detainees whom the Jordanian Foreign Ministry asked be released. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER ADDRESSES UN... Iraqi interim Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari addressed the UN Security Council on 16 December and called on members to expand the UN's role in Iraq, UN News Center reported the same day ( Zebari said the capture of deposed Iraqi President Hussein marks "the beginning of a new era" for Iraq. "Iraq must not live any longer in the past but look forward to the future, and the United Nations is the key forum for collective international action to help us achieve our goals of reconstructing and democratizing our country."

Zebari added that Security Council members should set aside their differences about going to war in Iraq and work to help Iraqis rebuild their country. "Squabbling over political differences takes a backseat to the daily struggle [of the Iraqi people] for security, jobs, basic freedoms, and all the rights that the UN is chartered to uphold," he said.

The interim foreign minister also criticized the UN, saying, "The United Nations as an organization failed to help rescue the Iraqi people from a murderous tyranny that lasted over 35 years. Today we are unearthing thousands of victims in horrifying testament to that failure.... The UN must not fail the Iraqi people again," AP reported on 17 December. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AS ANNAN ASKS FOR CLARIFICATION FROM SECURITY COUNCIL ON UN ROLE IN IRAQ. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan reportedly asked the UN Security Council for clear guidance on what role the world body is to fulfill in Iraq, in a 16 December address to council members on his plans for reconstituting the UN's role in Iraq.

"The United Nations is ready to play its full part in helping Iraqis resume control of their destiny and build a better future," Annan said, adding that council members acknowledged in Security Council Resolution 1511 of October that persistent security concerns prevented international UN staff to remain inside Iraq "for the time being." "As my report makes clear, despite the temporary relocation of international staff outside the country, the UN has not disengaged from Iraq. Far from it. Nor does it mean that we will not return in full force when circumstances permit," he said. "Meanwhile, however, our on-the-ground engagement in important political and human rights work has suffered tremendously as a result of the 19 August bombing [of the UN's Baghdad Headquarters], which decimated the Office of the Special Representative, the core part of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI)."

Annan said that UN Acting Special Representative to Iraq Ross Mountain would head efforts to establish a UNAMI mission outside Iraq for the time being and plan for the mission's "eventual and incremental" return to the country. But, he cautioned, "We need much greater clarity on what is expected of the United Nations by Iraqis and by the coalition in terms of assistance to the political transition. This is not, as some have concluded, a formula for the United Nations to stand aloof from the process. The stakes are too high for the international community just to watch from the sidelines." Annan told Security Council members, "In taking the difficult decisions that lie ahead, I need to weigh the degree of risk that the United Nations is being asked to accept against the substance of the role we are being asked to fulfill." Annan's full remarks to the Security Council members can be viewed on the UN website ( (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ANNAN SAYS KUWAITI POWS LIKELY KILLED BY HUSSEIN REGIME. UN Secretary-General Annan said in a 16 December report to the Security Council that new evidence suggests that most Kuwaiti prisoners of war (POWs) from the 1991 Gulf War were killed by the deposed Hussein regime, the UN News Center reported on the same day. The report, required under UN Security Council Resolution 1284 of 1999, is the 14th report to the council on "the repatriation and return of all Kuwaiti and third-country nationals, or their remains, and on the return of Kuwait property -- including archives -- seized by Iraq." Six hundred and five Kuwaitis remain missing from the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and subsequent war. "After many years of maneuvering and denial by the previous Government of Iraq, a grim truth is unveiling itself," Annan wrote in the report. "The discovery of mass graves in Iraq containing the mortal remains of Kuwaitis is a gruesome and devastating development."

The UN News Center noted that the report is likely the last by Annan on the subject. It describes the work of UN coordinator Yulii Vorontsov to uncover information on missing Kuwaitis persons and property. "More and more Kuwaitis are now resigned to the belief that all the Kuwaitis who were listed as missing are probably dead," Annan said, calling for the issue to be resolved in a just way. "The removal from Kuwait of civilians -- men and women -- their execution in cold blood in remote sites in Iraq, and a decade-long cover-up of the truth constitute a grave violation of human rights and international humanitarian law." "Those responsible for these horrendous crimes, particularly those who ordered the executions, must be brought to justice," he said. Annan's report can be viewed on the UN website. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

HUNDREDS OF IRAQI REFUGEES RETURNING FROM IRAN. The UN has facilitated the return of some 500 Iraqi refugees to Iraq from Iran this week, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Spokesman Kris Janowski said, UN News Center reported on 16 December ( "Most were going home to Al-Basrah, while others were headed for Karbala and Al-Najaf," Janowski said. According to UN News Center, Iran has sheltered approximately 200,000 Iraqi refugees who fled their country during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War. Most of the refugees had lived in Iranian host communities, while 48,000 lived in camps, the UN said. In addition, a convoy of 254 Iraqi refugees from the 1991 Gulf War left Saudi Arabia this week for Iraq. The UN stated that over 4,000 Iraqis have been repatriated to date, while around 1,000 remain in Saudi Arabia. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. ENVOY TRAVELS TO EUROPE FOR TALKS ON IRAQI DEBT. U.S. special envoy James Baker met with Iraqi officials including Iraqi Central Bank Governor Sinan Muhammad Rida al-Shibibi and Finance Minister Kamil al-Kaylani in Paris on 16 December before a scheduled meeting with French President Jacques Chirac to discuss debt relief for Iraq, Reuters reported the same day. Baker also traveled to Berlin on 16 December to meet with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and was also expected to meet with British, Italian, and Russian leaders during his European tour.

Baker reportedly made progress in his 16 December meetings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 December 2003) with Chirac and Schroeder. A joint statement issued by the two European leaders and U.S. President George W. Bush following the meetings in Paris and Berlin said, "Debt reduction is critical if the Iraqi people are to have any chance to build a free and prosperous Iraq," Reuters reported on 17 December. "Therefore France, Germany, and the United States agree that there should be substantial debt reduction for Iraq in the Paris Club in 2004, and will work closely with each other and with other countries to achieve this objective." According to AP, the statement noted, "The exact percentage of debt reduction that would constitute 'substantial' debt reduction is subject to future agreement between the parties."

The International Monetary Fund estimates Iraq's debt to be around $120 billion, some $40 billion of which is owed to the 19 member states of the Paris Club of creditor states, according to Reuters. Iraq reportedly owes between $2 billion and $8 billion to Germany, $8 to 12 billion to Russia, and between $3 and $8 billion to France (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 24 October 2003).

German officials, while apparently accommodating on the issue of debt relief, reiterated their concerns that Washington has excluded German companies from bidding on prime reconstruction contracts in Iraq, AP reported. "Germany's position on the awarding of reconstruction contracts in Iraq was clearly expressed in the talks," with Baker, Schroeder's spokesman Bela Anda said on 16 December.

Meanwhile, White House Spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters ( on 16 December that the U.S. position remains unchanged. "I think we've made it very clear that when it comes to the U.S. taxpayer dollars that we believe that those tax dollars should be going to the countries that have been involved in helping to liberate the Iraqi people and help them build a free, peaceful, and prosperous future. And also [to] Iraq, as well.... As I said last week, and this position still stands, if additional countries want to join the efforts of some 60 countries and the Iraqi people in the overall reconstruction, then circumstances can change. We will discuss that with those countries. I'm not prepared to discuss that with those countries from this podium, though," McClellan said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

FORMER UN CHIEF WEAPONS INSPECTOR TO HEAD INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION ON WMD. The former head of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) Hans Blix will now head the recently established independent commission on weapons of mass destruction, international media reported this week. The commission, based in Stockholm, will work to provide a new impetus for international efforts to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction, AP reported on 17 December.

Blix is uniquely qualified for the position, having headed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from 1981-1997. He retired from his position with UNMOVIC, which oversaw inspections in Iraq from November 2002 until March, in June (see "My ambition for this commission is that we will be able to provide realistic and constructive ideas and proposals aimed at the greatest possible reduction of the dangers of weapons of mass destruction," AP quoted Blix as saying.

The former weapons inspector added that the commission would analyze the amount of nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological weapons, and the means to deliver them, meeting two or three times a year to discuss its findings. The commission would present a final report on its findings and proposals for preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction at the end of 2005, AP reported. The commission's first report will be presented to the United Nations at the end of 2004, Blix said.

Blix told Swedish newswire TT on 15 December that the capture of Hussein would probably not lead to the discovery of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, international media reported on the same day. "Partly because Saddam [Hussein] himself has denied their existence, and partly because the country has already been inspected fairly closely," Blix said. He suggested, however, that former Iraqis involved in the country's WMD programs might be more forthcoming with information now that Hussein is in coalition custody. "It's possible that people have been afraid to speak out [since] they didn't know if Saddam Hussein might come back one day," Blix said. "Now that risk is gone."

Likewise, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said, "I'm not holding my breath for any confession statement," by Hussein on weapons of mass destruction, BBC reported on 15 December. "I would be surprised if any questioning of Saddam Hussein produces any useful information, but that remains to be seen," he added. (Kathleen Ridolfo)