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Iraq Report: October 4, 2002


4 October 2002, Volume 5, Number 32

IRAQI NEWSPAPER REBUTS IRAQ-AL-QAEDA LINK. The Baghdad newspaper "Babil," published by Uday Saddam Husseyn, Saddam's eldest son, printed an article by Dr. Abd-al-Razzaq Muhammad al-Dulaymi, who asserts that the U.S. claim that there is a link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda are absurd on a number of grounds. First, the U.S. administration itself has denied that there is any Iraq-Al-Qaeda link; second, Iraq's "ideology, goals, and course do not meet in any way with this organization"; third, the Americans know that the Al-Qaeda networks exist in several states, including Arab states. "These states, not Iraq, should be the target for a U.S. aggression." His fourth point is that Al-Qaeda was heavily supported by the U.S. in the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan. From this, the author concludes that "it is the U.S. administration which must be disciplined and punished because it is behind all that has happened and will happen and because it is the prime sponsor of terrorism in the world."

He also points out that "our vigilant leadership met [Patriotic Union of Kurdistan leader] Jalal Talabani's request for arms (despite his known stands) to confront the Al-Qaeda groups operating in some regions in northern Iraq." (David Nissman)

ELEVEN ANSAR AL-ISLAM MEMBERS SURRENDER TO PUK. Eleven members of Ansar al-Islam (Supporters of Islam), an extremist Kurdish group allegedly linked with Al-Qaeda, have surrendered to Kurdish forces in northern Iraq, AP reported on 26 September. Adel Murad, a Damascus-based official with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), said two of the members had surrendered on 21 September and the others on 24 September in Sulaymaniyah.

Ansar al-Islam is an offshoot of the Jund al-Islam (Army of Islam), and took its present name in December 2001. It is formed primarily of Kurds, but also an Arabic element. Since September 2001 they have been engaged in fighting with the PUK.

Its military commander (emir), Mala Krekar, was recently arrested on a Jordanian warrant in the Netherlands (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 20 and 27 September 2002) and is awaiting an extradition hearing. (David Nissman)

IRAQI DELEGATION IN BELARUS. An Iraqi delegation headed by Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Abd-al-Tawwab Abdallah al-Mullah Huwaysh, arrived in Minsk on 29 September and will remain until 4 October, reported Belapan on 29 September. According to the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, the delegation comprises representatives of the ministries of Health, Industry, and Transport. The Iraqi visit was at the invitation of the Belarusian co-chairman of the Belarusian-Iraqi Commission for Trade and Economic Cooperation, Leanid Kozik.

The delegation is to meet with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, at which time Huwaysh will inform him about the situation in Iraq and the region, and explain the position of the Iraqi government regarding collaboration with the UN Security Council in view of Iraq's recent consent for UN weapons inspections. Also on the agenda are visits to the Altymed Company, which specializes in orthopedic articles, the Belarusian Railway Company, and the clinic of the Scientific and Research Institute of Radiation Medicine and Endocrinology near Minsk.

The press service of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry notes that special emphasis will be placed on humanitarian cooperation between the two countries. They will also discuss boosting trade and economic cooperation within the framework of the UN oil-for-food program, and also the progress in implementation of agreements reached during the previous session of the joint council in March 2002.

The Belapan report fails to mention that Huwaysh is also the Iraqi minister of military industrialization. (David Nissman)

URANIUM SEIZED IN TURKEY BY U.S., RUSSIAN STING. On 28 September, it was revealed that Turkish police had seized 15.7 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium that had been smuggled into Turkey in Sanliurfa, some 250 kilometers from Iraq. According to a report from the Israeli special services, the seizure was a result of a special operation by the U.S. and Russian intelligence services, reported "Kommersant" on 30 September.

According to "Kommersant," the presumed value of the uranium on resale is $5 million. While it is known that the origin of the uranium was in a still-unidentified East European country, its end destination was unknown. "Kommersant" cites the Israeli source "Debka," which claimed that three five-men units of Iraqi agents were combing Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan in search of uranium. Whether they found it is unknown. (David Nissman)

WMD FILTERS SMUGGLED TO IRAQ. Israel television channel 1 reported on 1 October that 5,000 active carbon filters were smuggled to Iraq "out of an Eastern-bloc country by land through a third country to Iraq" in late September. The report claims that the filters are adapted for Iraq's French and German-made chemical-biological warfare protective suits. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

UN REACHES AGREEMENT WITH IRAQ... Iraq reached an agreement with the UN for the return of weapons inspectors following two days of talks in Vienna on 1 October, Western news agencies reported. Hans Blix, chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), told reporters after the meeting, "The Iraqi representatives declared that Iraq accepts all rights of inspection provided for in all the relevant Security Council resolutions."

The agreement between Iraq and the UN would provide access to the once closed-off Iraqi Ministry of Defense, but would not provide a change of access for weapons inspectors to the Iraqi presidential palaces. Blix said: "On the question of access, it was clarified that all sites are subject to immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access. However, the Memorandum of Understanding of 1998 establishes special procedures for access to eight presidential sites." Blix noted that an advance team of inspectors would be ready to enter Iraq as early as mid-October. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) website (http://www.iaea.org), "The Iraqi delegation handed over four CD-ROMs containing the backlog of semi-annual monitoring declarations for the sites and items covered by the ongoing monitoring and verification plans for the period June 1998 to July 2002." Blix is scheduled to present a full report to the UN Security Council on 3 October. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...BUT U.S. AND BRITISH REACTION UNFAVORABLE... It is unlikely that the inspection team will enter Iraq, however, until the UN Security Council approves the agreement. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell commented on the Vienna agreement by reiterating the U.S. desire for a tough, new Security Council resolution on Iraq before the inspectors begin their work. In a State Department briefing on 1 October, Powell said, "We do not believe the inspection regime that existed previously is adequate to the demands of the day and adequate to the challenge we're facing right now with continued Iraqi intransigence." Powell added: "We can even see today that there were still places that were off limits, that were not talked about, that were not dealt with. There are still issues in debate. And so we don't want to get into a negotiating situation with the Iraqis under these old terms."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted that the UN should continue to press Iraq, or risk losing its legitimacy in the international arena. In a speech to the Labour Party conference in Blackpool on 1 October, Blair said, "If at this moment having found the collective will to recognize the danger, we lose our collective will to deal with it, then we will destroy not the authority of America or Britain, but of the United Nations itself," the BBC reported. The U.S. and Britain planned on introducing a draft resolution to the Security Council on 1 October, but held off due to reservations by member states. The draft resolution would give Baghdad seven days to declare all weapons of mass destruction or face military action, and another 23 days to cooperate fully with UN inspection teams, the BBC reported on 1 October. According to a 2 October report in "The New York Times," the draft resolution would have made the inspectors' mandate far more intrusive, including the creation of no-flight and no-drive zones protected by the UN or U.S. security forces along the routes that the inspectors would travel. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...WHILE U.S. REJECTS FRENCH PLAN ON IRAQ. The U.S. reacted to France's refusal to support the joint British-U.S. draft resolution by rejecting the proposal put forth by the French on 1 October, the BBC reported. France had proposed a two-stage process containing a resolution on the dispatch of UN inspectors, and a second resolution on the use of force, should inspectors be prevented from carrying out their work. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQ PREPARES FOR RETURN OF WEAPONS INSPECTORS. An article by the political editor, Dr. Ahmad Abd-al-Majid, of the Baghdad newspaper "Al-Rafidayn" (one of a group of Baghdad newspapers published by Uday Saddam Husseyn) of 1-7 October reports on a meeting between an Iraqi technical team in Vienna and Hans Blix on the subject of the UNMOVIC team returning to Iraq.

The Iraqi delegation was composed of 30 experts from the Iraqi weapons industry, and held two-day talks with UNMOVIC chief Hans Blix and Muhammad al-Baradi'i, head of the IAEA in Vienna. "Al-Rafidayn" announced that "the inspectors will respect Iraq's security and sovereign concerns" and "would avoid any provocation of sensitivities as they carry out their tasks."

Despite the atmosphere of general agreement on the carrying out of the UNMOVIC mission, Dr. Abd-al-Majid asks: "Is Blix like his predecessors in the disarmament commission? In other words, will he be the 'tool' of the U.S. administration?" and other similar questions. (David Nissman)

SADDAM ADDRESSES U.S. POLICY. Iraqi President Saddam Husseyn addressed the 43rd session of the Iraqi cabinet on 1 October. He attacked the "evil intentions" of U.S. policy in Iraq and accused the U.S. of "trying to act on behalf of Zionism," Iraqi Satellite TV reported. Regarding the current crisis, Husseyn added: "After Iraq agreed to their [inspectors] return, why do you [U.S.] continue to beat the drums of war and continue with the campaign of falsification, distortion, lies, fabrication, and pushing the UN Security Council to adopt new resolutions? This would be in opposition to international law, the essence of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, and the agreement reached between Iraq and the UN secretary-general." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI SHIITE LEADER RULES NO COOPERATION WITH U.S. Shaykh Muhammad Sa'id al-Hakim, an Iraqi religious personage, has issued a fatwa (religious decree) urging Muslims to collectively confront U.S. tyranny and the campaign against Iraq. He issued the fatwa from al-Najaf, a Shiite holy city in Iraq.

Part of the fatwa reads: "U.S. tyranny these days is embodied by the unjust campaign against dear Iraq, the land of holy places and the cradle of heavenly messages. The United States and its supporters want to renew the crusader wars, revive their rancorous aims, and impose their control over the land of Islam and Muslims, loot their resources, and violate their dignity, holy places and sanctities. Denouncing this unjust and unjustified aggression, we call on all Muslims to unite their positions, close their ranks, and to collectively confront this malicious enemy, so that the Almighty God will support them and make the plots of the aggressors backfire against them, leaving them accursed and defeated."

The fatwa is dated 10 September, and was carried over Iraqi Satellite TV on 30 September. (David Nissman)

IRAN, IRAQ DISCUSS BILATERAL TIES IN TEHRAN. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi held a discussion with Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri al-Hadithi in Tehran on 29 September in which they discussed bilateral and regional issues, reported the Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network on 29 September. They also touched on outstanding issues of the Iran-Iraq War.

Kharrazi said that Iran is interested in resolving the outstanding issues of the war and removing the obstacles against the philanthropic issue of Iranian pilgrims visiting Shia holy places in Iraq, trade, and commercial transactions.

He also alluded to regional developments and the chances of war. He pointed out in this context that "it is up to Iraq to prevent escalation of tension and crisis in the region by offering the necessary cooperation to the United Nations."

Sabri said that "Iraq is in favor of boosting ties, removing any tension in the relations and ending the no-war, no-peace state."

Kharrazi called for "firm Iraqi cooperation" to promote coexistence between the two neighbors and reiterated implementation of the 1975 agreement "as the basis to guarantee security" in their borders.

Sabri summed up his visit and said, "We hope such visits will reduce misunderstandings and problems between the two countries," according to an IRNA report on 29 September. (David Nissman)

DEBATE ON FUTURE OF IRAQ IN TURKEY CONFERENCE. Sadi Ahmed Pire, who is responsible for the PUK's foreign relations, spoke at a meeting of the Iraqi opposition at Nevsehir in Turkey, reported the "Turkish Daily News" on 28 September. The meeting was also attended by counselor Bernard Gainer of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara as well as German, Russian, and Japanese representatives.

Pire, in his speech, stressed that Iraqi Turkmens and Kurds "have no problem since they fought together against Saddam and spent time in the same jails." At the "Iraq and Democracy" conference, Pire also talked to a "Turkish Daily News" correspondent about the discussions between the PUK and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) about the constitution and denied claims that the two parties had signed an agreement on it.

Mustafa Ziya, the Ankara representative of the Iraq Turkmen Front, told reporters about steering committee meetings of the Iraqi opposition in London and said that the three aims of the meetings are: to state a common reason for the future of Iraq, to create a common vision for the future in Iraq, and to determine how the opposition will participate in a military operation in Iraq. He also mentioned that there are now 73 opposition groups, but that the meeting committee is only in touch with 52 of them. Only 12 of these, he said, will attend an October meeting in Amsterdam.

At the meeting Tome Hoshabe spoke in the name of the Iraqi Assyrian community, and stressed that the current Iraqi regime assimilated minorities. He also defended Assyrian and Turkmen rights.

Professor Hasan Koni also spoke, noting that the economy of a future Iraq needs security, and focused on Kirkuk. He pointed out that: "If you are going to establish a federation, you need funds. Kirkuk is the only source for these funds with its rich oil reserves. In this light, without Kirkuk, nothing would work out."

Koni also stressed that U.S. involvement is questionable because it may lead to a disintegration of the region due to the lack of democracy. He says that "the U.S. can only succeed if it promises Arab dictatorships that it will not bring democracy to them." (David Nissman)

TURKISH PREMIER ACCUSES U.S. OF ENCOURAGING KURDISH INDEPENDENCE. Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has accused the United States of encouraging Kurdish independence in northern Iraq, AFP reported on 1 October. According to the newspaper "Hurriyet" of 1 October, Ecevit said: "The Kurdish groups in northern Iraq are constantly moving forward, taking encouragement from some western states and the United States. This is annoying us."

Ecevit said further: "Many steps have been taken toward the establishment of a separate [Kurdish] state. Turkey cannot accept this to be taken further." He also noted that this "encouragement" to the Kurds worked against Washington's efforts to win Turkey's support for any military moves against Iraq.

Ecevit expressed the hope that there would be no military operation against Iraq by the United States. Further, he claimed that such an operation "will inflict a big harm on Turkey."

Tariq Aziz, an Iraqi deputy prime minister, was recently in Turkey having talks with Ecevit. When asked if Iraq would continue to see Turkey as a friend if it allowed the U.S. to use its air bases, Aziz answered, "Absolutely not." (David Nissman)

KURDISH CONSTITUTIONAL DISCUSSIONS ALARM TURKEY. Bahruz Gellali, the Ankara representative of the PUK, told the "Turkish Daily News" of 27 September that discussions between the PUK and the KDP on a proposed constitution are continuing in northern Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 13 September 2002). Gellali stressed the draft constitution also embraces Iraq as well as the Kurdish areas.

He pointed out that the issue of setting up Iraq as a federal state is at the center of attention in the talks between the PUK and the KDP. The document will be debated at the opening of the Kurdish parliament on 5 October.

The discussions have caused tensions between the Kurdish groups and Turkey over Turkish fears that the Kurds will seek to establish an independent Kurdistan on the border with Turkey. The leaders of the two main Kurdish parties, Mas'ud Barzani of the KDP and Jalal Talabani of the PUK, have sought to ease Ankara's fears, insisting that they are for Iraq's territorial integrity and future as a federal, united state if the Americans topple Saddam. (David Nissman)

TURKISH MILITARY FOLLOWING KURDISH CONSTITUTIONAL DEBATE. The Anadolu Agency on 30 September noted that the Turkish military has started to follow developments in the constitutional debate in Iraqi Kurdistan. More precisely, the General Staff has started to cover developments in the region following the agreement of the Kurdish leaders, KDP head Mas'ud Barzani and PUK leader Jalal Talabani, on a federal state in Iraq.

Hoshyar Zebari, the KDP member responsible for international affairs, said that a military delegation from the Turkish General Staff arrived in Irbil and met with Kurdish administrators.

It was also reported that KDP leader Barzani would soon send a high-ranking delegation to Ankara to settle relations between the Kurds and Turks. Relations have been uneasy since the Kurds posted a proposed draft constitution on their website (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 13 September 2002). The Turks feel that it could spark a move toward Kurdish independence. (David Nissman)

AZIZ DISCUSSES TURKEY, KURDISH INDEPENDENCE. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told CNN-Turk on 2 October that the United States and Israel are working to establish a Kurdish state in northern Iraq. Aziz said that if Turkey were to aid a U.S. military strike against Iraq, a Kurdish state will be established and Turkey will also be divided. "The interests of the United States dictate a weak Kurdish state instead of a strong Iraq in the region. If a Kurdish state is established, not only the United States, but Israel will also benefit. We issued these warnings to the Turkish government as well. We said to them: 'If you support the United States, you will be the ones to suffer the biggest damage.'"

Addressing the constitution drafted by the PUK and KDP, Aziz said: "I view this work as child's play. It should not even be taken seriously. Kirkuk, which they designate as the capital, is an Iraqi city. It does not belong to any ethnic group. Moreover, there is no Kurdish majority in Kirkuk. If they [the Kurds] attempt to seize Kirkuk, they will have to fight for it." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

KDP, PUK LEADERS MEET ON NORMALIZATION OF RELATIONS. The leaders of the two major factions in northern Iraq, KDP leader Mas'ud Barzani and PUK Secretary-General Jalal Talabani, met in Irbil and agreed to press ahead to normalize ties before the first meeting of the regional parliament this week, AFP reported on 1 October. The two leaders are to meet again on 2 October in Sulaymaniyah, in the PUK-held region.

It will be Barzani's first visit to Sulaymaniyah in several years, and he will be accompanied by a high-level KDP delegation.

During their meetings which precede the reopening of parliament, the two sides agreed that each party could reopen offices in the other's areas within a week of the reconvening of parliament. They also agreed to restore property seized in the fighting between the two factions, facilitate the movement of civilians in the region, and release those still in detention from the civil war between the KDP and PUK.

Plans are still to push for the draft constitution, envisioning a federal Iraq with a Kurdish part mainly centered around the protected enclave in northern Iraq. No mention was made about Kirkuk, which was mentioned in the draft posted on the KDP website (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 13 September 2002).

After the parliament is revived, a date for new elections is expected in some five months. What the threatened U.S. military action will have on these plans is unclear. (David Nissman)

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