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Iraq Report: September 6, 2002

6 September 2002, Volume 5, Number 28

AZIZ SAYS IT IS RIDICULOUS FOR INSPECTORS TO REENTER IRAQ. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said that his country is willing to cooperate with the UN, but that the return of weapons inspectors would only serve U.S. interests in collecting information on Iraq's defense systems. He told Al-Jazeera satellite TV on 3 September: "If there is a U.S. intention and decision to attack Iraq and to commit aggression on Iraq, then it is ridiculous for the inspectors to come. This is so the inspectors will come, update their data on Iraq, and on Iraq's defenses. Iraq's defenses are legitimate for Iraq expects an aggression.... Therefore it takes measures to defend and protect itself against the aggression. The inspectors would come and after this they would fabricate an excuse, as they did in December [1990] and the Americans would come and attack us."

Aziz spoke from South Africa, where he was attending the World Summit on Sustainable Development. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

RAMADAN TOURS ARAB STATES, SAYS U.S. THREATENS ALL... Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said that dialogue over the issue of inspectors has floundered due to U.S. pressure. The vice president spoke during a two-day trip to Syria on 29 August. Ramadan likened an attack on Iraq to an attack on the entire Arab nation. He said: "I think that there is full conviction on the part of all Arab governments that the threats against Iraq are threats against all Arab countries.... I think these threats are very clear to our masses," Iraq Television reported.

Ramadan later told reporters in Beirut on 30 August that a U.S. operation in Iraq would not be comparable to Afghanistan. "America did not achieve victory in Afghanistan. What happened was [the introduction of] a puppet government staying in one of the capital's hotels with guards who are all American. The U.S. strikes are continuing. Nevertheless, we say that Iraq is not Afghanistan," Beirut-based Al-Manar television reported. Ramadan added, "I believe that the issue now has nothing to do with the inspectors. Rather, it has to do with a U.S. aggression declared after 11 September against the Arab and Islamic nation."

Asked whether Iraq possesses enough technology to confront the U.S., Ramadan said that Baghdad "will confront this sinful strike with all available resources and resist any direct or indirect aggression," Beirut Tele-Liban reported. He added: "We are not fighting with technology only. In fact, we are defending a fair position and our country's freedom. We reject hegemony and interference in our internal affairs. We are fighting with everything available to us. As for the issue of technology, we are in good shape." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AND COMMENTS ON THE ISSUE OF INSPECTORS. Speaking from Beirut on 30 August, Ramadan told Al-Jazeera satellite television: "Does the UN Security Council resolution stipulate that inspectors should remain in Iraq forever or for just a specific mission? If this mission is over then there is no reason for their return. But if it is proved through dialogue that there is something that has any connection with weapons of mass destruction, we will look for it, see what remains to be done, how much time does it need, and the method to implement the UN Security Council resolution. We are committed to working in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions although they are unjust and unfair and in spite of the fact that Iraq did not take part in their issuance." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

RAMADAN CALLS HANS BLIX A SPY. Iraq continued its call for dialogue with the UN over the issue of weapons inspectors, but labeled chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix a spy. Iraqi Vice President Ramadan told "Al-Raifdain" newspaper on 28 August that Blix's response to Iraq's offer to the UN (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 9 August 2002) was "without tact or manners." Ramadan said, "He [Blix] has no right to answer because he is a bureaucrat appointed by the UN secretary-general, and Iraq's letter was addressed to the latter and not to a new spy." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQ INCREASES CALLS FOR ARAB SOLIDARITY. Official Iraqi media issued calls for Arab solidarity against a U.S. military strike on 29 August. "Babil," the newspaper run by Saddam's son, Uday, accused the U.S. of being a colonialist state and called on the UN Security Council to guarantee the peace and security of the world. "This is not a message addressed to Arabs and Muslims but a warning to all the countries in the world who will, one day or another, come under threat of the organization of sabotage and terrorism that is America," "Babil" said.

In a 31 August op-ed by Dr. Abd al-Razzaq al-Dulaymi and published in "Babil," al-Dulaymi argued: "International relations have suffered a big crack as a result of U.S. arrogance. The worst to suffer is the United Nations, which has been divested of its role, something which endangers world peace and security and which pushes many of those harmed into searching for methods that they consider very legitimate in the absence of the United Nations."

The official newspaper of the Ba'th Party, "Al-Thawra," called on the Arab states to reconsider relations with the U.S. administration. "America is not a terrifying bogeyman, and even [if] it did possess the military power to terrorize the peoples of the world, it could not conquer a people that believes in its rights, riches, and capabilities." "Al-Thawra" concluded that the "United States consider Arabs as enemies who don't deserve the riches [petroleum] that God bestowed on them." Meanwhile, the Iraqi government daily "Al-Jumhuriya" accused the U.S. of pressuring countries that were formerly its allies. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

SABRI COMMENTS ON RELATIONS WITH SAUDI ARABIA AND RUSSIA. Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri told the Saudi "Okaz" daily on 28 August, "Whenever the officials in Saudi Arabia decide to restore ties between the two brotherly states, Iraq will welcome that because differences of opinions between brothers should not continue." Sabri also called on Arab states to stand together against the United States. Sabri was scheduled to meet with Russian officials in Moscow on 2 September to discuss Iraq's relations with the UN, according to a 29 August report by ITAR-TASS news agency. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

RAMADAN CRITICIZES IRAN. In a 1 September interview with Al-Jazeera satellite TV, Iraqi Vice President Ramadan criticized Iranian allusions to remaining neutral should the U.S. strike Iraq. In recent press reports, Iran has stated that it would remain neutral but extend assistance to those who seek shelter. In response, Ramadan said: "They [the Iranians] think that Iraq will be destroyed, that there will be an influx of refugees here and there, and threaten they will offer assistance [to these refugees]. As a matter of fact, we hoped for different statements from Iranian officials. The least that they could have done is to reject and condemn the aggression and the threat of aggression by the U.S. administration." Ramadan added, "If its rhetoric regarding fighting colonialism and U.S. tyranny is to be believed, and if it believes that liberating Palestine and aiding the Palestinian people is both a religious and humanitarian duty, then Iran is required to behave differently." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTRY REJECTS CHENEY'S ALLEGATIONS. Responding to accusations by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction, an Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman charged the U.S. with making false accusations without providing hard evidence, Republic of Iraq TV reported on 1 September. According to the report, "The spokesman stressed that Iraq fulfilled its commitments as prescribed by the UN Security Council resolutions. He noted that the inspection teams of the Special Committee and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which worked in Iraq from 1991 to 1998, failed to prove the U.S. allegations on the presence of prohibited materials or activities although they conducted 13,648 inspection tours all over Iraq." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

JORDAN TO BACK U.S. STRIKE? London-based "Al-Quds Al-Arabi" reported on 31 August that Jordanian officials have said that Jordan would have no choice but to join a U.S. campaign against Iraq. According to the report, an anonymous top Jordanian official said, "We paid a high price for our position in 1991; we will not let history repeat itself, the situation has now changed." He added, "It is a very deceptive situation and it is necessary for the action to be a precise surgical one that would not go on for months and mobilize opposition." King Abdullah II has insisted in recent weeks that Jordan does not intend to participate in a U.S. strike, nor will it provide the U.S. with access to its military bases (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 16 August 2002). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

MUBARAK SAYS U.S. ACTION WILL LEAD TO REGIONAL CHAOS. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said that if the U.S. government strikes Iraq, no Arab ruler would be able to curb popular sentiments. "There might be repercussions and we fear a state of disorder and chaos," he said. Speaking to a group of Egyptian university students in Alexandria on 27 August, he added, "I told the American government that if you strike at the Iraqi people because of one or two individuals and leave the Palestinian issue [unresolved], not a single [Arab] ruler will be able to curb the [rise of] popular sentiments," AP reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

TURKEY CALLS FOR PEACEFUL SOLUTION. Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ugur Ziyal lobbied for a peaceful solution to the Iraq issue at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on 28 August. Ziyal said that Turkey is "committed to work with our allies and our friends and give them advice and expertise on all the possibilities to ensure that what is done in Iraq will not lead to further complications in the region," AFP reported. Ziyal met with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and spoke with Vice President Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice during his two-day visit to Washington.

Turkey has been resistant to U.S. action against Iraq, fearing it would lead to instability in the region and the emergence of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq. Commenting on this fear, Ziyal said: "Turkey thinks that Iraq could be divided as a result of such a military operation. We cannot accept it. Protection of territorial integrity of Iraq is of vital importance for Turkey. If Iraq is divided, it will cause some serious results for the region."

Turkish officials also denied allegations by Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), that the U.S. assured Iraqi Kurds that Turkey would not intervene in Iraq during a possible U.S. military operation. A Turkish official stated, "The United States did not tell Turkey not to enter Iraq, and Turkey did not say that it would enter Iraq," Anatolia news agency reported on 30 August.

In a related development, an antiwar rally was staged in Ankara on 1 September to protest a possible U.S. attack on Iraq, Ankara's TRT 2 television reported.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Sukru Sina Gurel said that both Turkey and Iran are sensitive to Iraq's territorial integrity. Gurel spoke to Anatolia news agency on 1 September in Iran following meetings with Iranian President Khatami and Vice President Muhammad Reza Aref-Yazdi. He urged Iraq to abide by UN resolutions and allow inspectors to return to Iraq, adding, "On the other side, we are in consensus of opinion that any international disagreement should not be solved with a method apart from peaceful methods." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ARMY CHIEF ACKNOWLEDGES TURKISH PRESENCE IN NORTHERN IRAQ. Turkish General Hilmi Ozkok, the new chief of the Turkish military, acknowledged on 1 September that Turkey has military units in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, the Anatolia news agency reported. "We have some military elements in northern Iraq to serve a specific purpose, but it would not be right for me to explain the reason for their presence."

Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Mas'ud Barzani told Anatolia news on 31 August that the Turkish Army had recently reinforced its presence in northern Iraq. "In the area around Bamerni, there are around two dozen Turkish tanks, troops, and helicopters that are from time to time making sorties," he said.

In a related development, KDP representative Hoshyar Zebari was asked about Turkey's reaction to the KDP's draft constitution. He told CNN Turk on 29 August: "Naturally, Turkey did not receive it well. We told it [Turkey] that it is a draft, that it does not reflect a hidden agenda." Zebari added that the KDP seeks a federation based on administrative and geographical foundations, not on ethnic foundations. "It is not easy to accept new ideas and concepts, but our neighbors, our friends, Turkey, must not be afraid." Zebari concluded that Turkey and the KDP should strive to understand each other in the future. Zebari's comments came after a three-day meeting between KDP, U.S., and Turkish officials in the Salah al-Din resort outside Arbil, Iraqi Kurdistan.

The meeting focused on reducing tensions between the KDP and Ankara, according to a 28 August report by London-based "Al-Zaman" newspaper. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. WOULD NOT SUPPORT IRAQI GOVERNMENT IN EXILE. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the U.S. was not prepared to back an Iraqi government in exile at this time. Boucher, speaking to reporters during a daily press briefing on 29 August, said: "The Future of Iraq project is not designed to do that. It's not designed to select, either by us or by others, some government in exile. It's designed to give free Iraqis a voice in their future, to talk about their future organize their future. We certainly look forward to a day that Iraq has a new government that can live in peace with its neighbors and respect its own people. There are a large number of Iraqis outside Iraq and they need to discuss these issues. But I think just that's what we're doing now.... I wouldn't go farther than that right now." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

DOWNING STREET REMAINS UNDECIDED. Peter Mandelson, former Northern Ireland secretary and confidant of Prime Minister Tony Blair, warned that unilateral action by the U.S. would be a "recipe for chaos." Mandelson spoke in Jakarta on 30 August during a tour of East Asia, Britain's "The Guardian" reported. "We cannot have a system in which one state feels it has the right to change the political system of another or foment subversion or seize pieces of territory it claims. Any nation doing that would be a recipe for chaos," Mandelson said. Mandelson's remarks reflected the current debate in Britain over how and under what circumstances the state should support a U.S. effort to overthrow Saddam Husseyn.

Meanwhile, Blair is reportedly studying ways to secure a fresh UN resolution to support a military strike against Iraq. An official close to the prime minister told the "Financial Times" on 30 August, "The question being asked is whether this [a fresh UN resolution] could help build the coalition against Saddam Husseyn." Analysts speculate that a new UN resolution would allow for Britain to back the U.S. and pacify the disquiet among Labour Party members. Blair said on 31 August that although no decision had been taken about how Britain should proceed, "doing nothing about Iraq's breach of these UN resolutions is not an option," according to a Press Association report. In a related development, Blair vowed on 3 September to publish a dossier of evidence against Saddam Husseyn "in the next few weeks," the BBC reported.

British Secretary of State for Defense Geoffrey Hoon will meet with U.S. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld next week for a six-day "war summit" to discuss military plans to topple Saddam Husseyn's regime, London's "the Observer" reported on 1 September. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

JACK STRAW DISCUSSES U.K. POSITION. U.K. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told BBC Radio on 31 August that Britain must consider the nature of Saddam Husseyn's regime in Iraq when deciding on how to proceed. "Why do they [Iraq] pose an unusually high threat to the security of the region and to the security of the international community? That is because of the nature of the regime, the fact that they have had weapons of mass destruction, including the capability to develop nuclear weapons, and they have shown too that they are ready and have used those weapons as they did to gas many of the Iranians during the Iraq/Iran war and also Saddam Husseyn actually gassed his own people. You have a regime, which poses a severe risk. We believe it still has weapons of mass destruction. What we know for certain is that there are nine outstanding UN Security Council resolutions on Iraq, 24 as-yet-unfulfilled ignored obligations on Iraq and the key to those is the readmission of weapons inspectors."

Straw added that if Saddam were to allow weapons inspectors complete access to Iraq, the case for military action would recede. Asked whether Britain would ultimately be dragged into a U.S.-led assault on Iraq, Straw rejected the idea, saying it would not happen, "Because we are a party and a government and a country which is profoundly committed to ensuring that any actions we take are consistent with international law." He concluded that Britain must support international law by pressuring Iraq to abide by its commitments regarding inspectors. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

LABOUR PARTY POLL SHOWS CHAIRMEN AGAINST WAR. "The Times" of London surveyed 100 Labour constituency chairmen and found that 60 were strongly opposed to a war against Iraq. Five chairmen said they would support Blair today if he decided to commit British troops and 10 were undecided. "The Times" reported on 30 August, "While a significant minority were against a preemptive strike under any circumstances, a majority said that they might support such action if there was clear and independent evidence that President Saddam Husseyn had stockpiled nuclear weapons." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

EU PRESIDENT CALLS ON IRAQ TO ALLOW INSPECTORS IN... The European Union called on Iraq to "immediately" allow UN weapons inspectors to reenter the country on 31 August. Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller, whose country currently holds the EU Presidency, called the Iraqi refusal to abide by international obligations "totally unacceptable," AFP reported. "The Iraqi regime must allow the weapons inspectors in and it must do it immediately to ascertain whether there are weapons of mass destruction or not." Moeller's comments followed a two-day meeting of EU foreign ministers in Denmark. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...BUT EU CAN'T DECIDE ON HOW TO PROCEED. The EU foreign ministers did not reach a consensus on how to proceed should Iraq fail to let weapons inspectors reenter Iraq. The German Deutschlandfunk radio reported on 31 August: "At the informal meeting in Helsingor in Denmark, German Foreign Minister [Joschka] Fischer warned against the risks of a war. According to him, there is no agreement on the question of military action if Baghdad still refused to let UN weapons inspectors into the country. France wants to leave the decision on an attack to the UN Security Council. The British government has affirmed its support for President Bush's course." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

FRANCE STEPS UP CRITICISM OF U.S. French President Jacques Chirac warned the U.S. on 30 August that any unilateral and preemptive strike on Iraq would be in defiance of international law, London's "The Independent" reported. Chirac told a conference of French ambassadors that he was "concerned" by U.S. suggestions that it may launch a preemptive strike against Iraq unilaterally. "This goes counter to the French notion of collective security, a notion based on cooperation between states, the respect of law and the authority of the UN Security Council," he said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

GERMANY WILL WITHDRAW TANKS FROM KUWAIT IF U.S. STRIKES IRAQ. German Defense Minister Peter Struck said on 29 August that Germany will withdraw the six German Fuchs armored detection vehicles from Kuwait, should the U.S. unilaterally strike Iraq.

Edmund Stoiber, Christian Democratic/Social Union candidate for chancellor, echoed the government in a statement on 30 August in Berlin. Stoiber said that in the event that he were chancellor and the U.S. attacked Iraq without a UN agreement, he would first seek a common European position. However, regarding the Fuchs armored vehicles, he would remove them from Kuwait, "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" reported.

Stoiber took his first public position on Iraq on 28 August when he said: "The monopoly on the decision and the action concerning this issue is in the hands of the United Nations. A country cannot go it alone, without consultation, a decision or mandate from the international community," AFP reported. Stoiber is the frontrunner for the position of German chancellor in the upcoming 22 September elections. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

BULGARIA WOULD SUPPORT U.S. ACTION AGAINST IRAQ. Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolai Svinarov said that Bulgaria would support the U.S. if it attacks Iraq, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) reported on 30 August. Svinarov said he would propose that Bulgaria offer three of its military airports to the U.S. in its war effort. Bulgaria lies on the direct path between U.S. bases in Germany and the Middle East. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

RUSSIA STILL FAVORS A POLITICAL SOLUTION... Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that Moscow supports a political solution to the Iraq problem on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions. Ivanov spoke at the start of talks with Iraqi Foreign Minister Sabri on 2 September, Interfax reported. Ivanov said that Russia, "welcomes the continuation of dialogue between Iraq and UN Secretary-General [Kofi Annan], and considers that such dialogue will lead to a resumption of the work of international weapons inspectors in Iraq, and, accordingly, to the subsequent removal of international sanctions against Baghdad." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...CONFIRMS RELATIONS WITH THE OPPOSITION. Russia has not denied that it has contacts with various Iraqi groups, including the opposition, according to a 30 August Interfax report. Commenting on reports that a Russian Embassy representative met with a member of the Iraqi National Congress (INC) in Washington last month, a Russian diplomatic official said: "The matter does not imply official talks, but precisely routine working contacts. Such contacts on no occasion imply a change in Russia's policy towards the incumbent Iraqi leadership." He added, "Our position regarding Iraq has been clearly defined and remains unchanged." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

RAMADAN COMMENTS ON EUROPEAN OPPOSITION TO U.S. POLICIES. Iraqi Vice President Ramadan acknowledged growing European opposition to U.S. policies concerning Iraq in a 31 August statement to reporters, Iraq TV reported. "We feel that there is a growing awareness and delineation in the European stand vis-a-vis the U.S. arrogance. This stand [by Europe] was not taken to defend Iraq, which is facing threats, but rather to defend itself. This is because the U.S. arrogance is apparently aimed at dominating the entire world without exception headed by or including the European bloc. Hence, we trust that this awareness has initially begun to surface from among the ranks of the European peoples." Addressing U.S. plans to topple Saddam Husseyn, Ramadan said: "For the United States to say that it is planning to launch an aggression against Iraq because it seeks to effect regime change is a novelty that could be applied to any other world state. Whenever it feels that a certain regime is not to its liking, the United States may choose to change this regime through aggression. That is why we are opposed to this argument."

Ramadan said on 1 September that Iraq will send delegations to the EU states to "explain the dimensions of U.S. threats against the Iraqi people and the dangers against international security and stability," according to a report on the Iraqi News Agency (INA) website. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

KHATAMI: BUSH POLICY AGAINST U.S. INTERESTS. Iranian President Mohammad Khatami told reporters on 28 August that the Bush administration's current policy on Iraq "is against the national interests of the Americans," Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. "Contrary to the interests of the United States and that of the modern day, some extremist members of the U.S. administration are contemplating dangerous practices to which the world nations are opposed.... We [Iran] have incurred the highest losses from Iraq compared with other nations...but we believe that interference in the affairs of other countries and resorting to force and bullying are more dangerous than the rogue states." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

MUSHARRAF SAYS U.S. STRIKE WOULD ALIENATE ISLAMIC WORLD. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said that a U.S. military strike against Iraq would have negative repercussions in the Muslim world and lead to further alienation. Musharraf told the BBC on 30 August, "We've got too much on our hands here in this region to get involved in anything else, especially when one is very conscious that this [a U.S. attack on Iraq] will have really negative repercussions around the Islamic world." He added: "I think it will alienate the Islamic world more. It's already dangerous that all political disputes at the moment all around the world are, unfortunately, involving Muslims, and Muslims are feeling that they are on the receiving end everywhere." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

FADLALLAH COMMENTS ON IRAQ. Lebanese Shiite cleric Seyyed Mohammed Husayn Fadlallah told Bahrain-based "Al-Ayyam" newspaper that the U.S. is seeking to redraw the political map of the Middle East to meet its economic needs, namely oil, beginning with Iraq and extending to Iran and the Caspian Sea. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

KUWAITI MINISTER DENIES U.K. REPORT THAT KUWAIT WILL BACK U.S. STRIKE. Kuwait Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sheikh Muhammad Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah denied reports that Kuwait would back a U.S. strike on Iraq. Al-Sabah called a report by "The Guardian" as baseless on 3 September. "What has been published is groundless and the stand of the state of Kuwait is similar to that of the other Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] states," Kuwait news agency KUNA quoted him as saying. His statement followed the first meeting of the 84th session of the Gulf Ministerial Council. The GCC states are opposed to a U.S. strike on Iraq. The minister renewed calls for Iraq to abide by UN Security Council resolutions. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. BRIEFS ISRAELI AND JORDANIAN OFFICIALS. The Israeli-based daily "Ma'ariv" reported that the U.S. plans to strike Iraq by 31 November. U.S. officers "with the rank of general" briefed senior Israeli and Jordanian officers on 29 August of U.S. plans to strike Iraq. The report stated that the U.S. offensive is scheduled to last several weeks and will include aerial and naval operations, as well as ground forces. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. SEEKS KAZAKHSTAN'S BACKING. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was to meet with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev in Johannesburg, South Africa, this week to discuss a U.S. strike against Iraq, Kazakh Commercial Television reported on 3 September. According to the report, Powell called Kazakhstan the United States' main strategic partner in Central Asia. The meeting would be the first attempt by the U.S. to enlist Kazakhstan's support in its possible operation against Saddam Husseyn's regime. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ON THE ASIAN FRONT... Chinese Vice Prime Minister Qian Qichen vowed on 29 August that China is prepared to exert efforts toward a "just and rational" settlement of the Iraq issue. Qian's statement followed meetings with Iraqi Foreign Minister Sabri, the Xinhua News Agency reported. Qian said, "China does not agree with the practice of using force or threatening to use force to resolve this issue." One day earlier, Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan asserted, "The Iraq question should be resolved within the framework of the UN by diplomatic and political means," according to a state-run Chinese Television report. Tang called on Iraq to work within the UN system and reiterated China's commitment to ending sanctions against Iraq.

Meanwhile, the ASEAN People's Assembly issued a joint communique condemning a possible U.S. attack on Iraq following an assembly meeting in Bali, Indonesia, from 30 August to 2 September. The communique also called for a new international definition of terrorism. According to a report by Jakarta-based Metro TV, the participants equated a possible U.S. attack on Iraq to a new form of terror. The participants agreed that the U.S. had no clear grounds to launch a strike against Iraq. Some 250 participants from the ASEAN member states attended the assembly. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...MOST ASIANS OPPOSED TO WAR, POLL SHOWS. Most Asians in government and business oppose a possible U.S. military strike on Iraq, according to a poll by the daily "Straits Times" published on 1 September. The poll surveyed 97 officials, lawmakers, diplomats, and businessmen over a two-week period. Sixty-nine percent of respondents opposed a U.S. plan to launch a war in order to topple Saddam Husseyn's regime, and 73 percent of respondents said a war would negatively affect Asian economies. "Almost half said anti-American sentiments are on the rise in Asia because of Washington's unilateral moves, including its insistence on attacking Iraq. The views indicate sentiments in Asia largely reflect those in Europe and the Middle East," the report noted. The poll was conducted through the daily's bureaus in Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, New Delhi, Taipei, and Tokyo. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI INKS AGREEMENTS WITH SYRIA, EGYPT, UKRAINE, TURKEY. The joint Syrian-Iraqi Supreme Committee concluded three days of talks in Damascus on 29 August, and announced eight agreements in the cultural, industrial, investment and transportation sectors, dpa reported. Iraqi Vice President Ramadan and Syrian Prime Minister Muhammad Mustafa Miru chaired the talks. The two states agreed to establish three companies, including a holding company, a $300 million fertilizer plant in the Iraqi city of Al-Qaem and a $100 million glass company in Aleppo, Syria. The volume of trade between Iraq and Syria is currently estimated at $4 billion.

Syrian Prime Minister Miru criticized U.S. policy at the outset of talks, according to a 28 August report on the SANA news agency website. "Those who want to solve international problems and affairs through hostile measures really seek to put this area and the world in a position of permanent siege, continued threats and pressure. They are indifferent to UN charters and international values, which call for justice and denounce the use of force, violence, and terrorism in international relations."

Meanwhile, Iraq and Egypt agreed to establish a joint road-transportation company, according to the weekly "Al-Iqtissadiya." Khedr Yahya al-Ani, an official from the Iraqi Transport Ministry, said the Egyptian-Iraqi Road Transport Company would transport passengers and goods between the two countries.

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma announced plans to further develop economic, scientific, and technical cooperation between his country and Iraq, according to a 29 August Interfax report. A Ukrainian parliamentary member accused the government of selling arms to Iraq earlier this year. Likewise, the "Financial Times" reported in August that Iraq was seeking to purchase military technology from Ukraine.

Dpa reported on 28 August that Iraq is offering Turkey contracts worth billions of dollars in the hope of dissuading it from providing the U.S. with access to its military bases to launch an attack on Iraq. "Trade Minister Muhammad Mahdi Saleh is currently seeking deals with Turkish businessmen in projects involving agriculture, oil, and natural gas, as well as transport links and health." Meanwhile, Saudi businessmen are scheduled to exhibit at the 9 September trade fair in Baghdad for the first time since the 1991 Gulf War. (Kathleen Ridolfo)