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Iraq Report: December 22, 2000

22 December 2000, Volume 3, Number 43

EUROPEANS SAID TO URGE IRAQ TO LAUNCH PR CAMPAIGN IN US. London's pro-Libyan Arabic language newspaper "Al-Arab Al-Alamiyah" reported on 20 December "European diplomats say that Iraq needs an active, effective, and influential 'public relations campaign' inside the United States if it wants to see an end to the sanctions imposed on it for the last ten years." The paper adds that these same diplomats have urged Iraq to temper its official statements. (David Nissman)

IS BAGHDAD BEING FORCED TO JUSTIFY MILITARY BURDEN? Baghdad's "Al-'Iraq" on 12 December featured interviews with Minister of Military Industrialization 'Abd-Al-Tawwab Al-Mullah Huwaysh and Minister of Industry and Minerals Adnan 'Abd-Al-Majid concerning the contribution their ministries make to the country's agricultural sector.

Huwaysh said that his ministry has been manufacturing equipment, tools and spare parts for seeds purification plants as well as for corn processing plants. It has also been producing fertilizers and insecticides. And the Tariq Public Company has been manufacturing similar products for the use of households and hospitals.

As for the Ministry of Industry and Minerals, 'Abd-Al-Majid pointed out that they have been manufacturing water pumps of various sizes, plow tools, excavators, dump trucks and tractors. They have also been concentrating on irrigation systems, primarily dripping irrigation systems and other forms of systems. Progress has been made in the manufacture of axial irrigation systems, which increase the area irrigated significantly. Installation is followed up by technical teams.

Such reports may reflect regime concerns that the Iraqi population is increasingly unhappy with the military burden Saddam Husseyn's policies impose on them. (David Nissman)

TURKISH INCURSION INTO IRAQ WORSENS PKK, PUK FEUD. Turkey launched a major incursion into Iraqi Kurdish on 3 December in order to back the PUK against the PKK, according to the 19 December "Ozgur Politika", a pro-PKK journal. This outlet also claimed the invasion force involves hundreds of troops as well as heavy weapons and has passed through the Habur Gate. And it says that the Turkish army has more units in reserve at Silopi.

PKK leaders say that 43 of their fighters have already fallen, putting PUK losses in the "hundreds." But PUK sources suggested that the PKK was making outrageous claims which "distort realities and mislead Kurdish public opinion," according to KurdSat from Al-Sulaymaniyah on 17 December.

A PKK spokesman meanwhile asserted on MEDYA-TV that Turkey's move was part of a broader move against the Kurds: "All the powers in the region," he said, "have made military preparations and are waiting for an opportunity. The international conspiracy against our party will thus be united by the intervention aimed at the region. While aiming on the one hand to clash with Iraq and remake it, there are attempts on the other hand to liquidate our party. Now, these two aims are being united," according to the "Kurdish Observer" of 20 December. (David Nissman)

SYRIA, IRAQ REPORTEDLY AT ODDS OVER PIPELINE. An "informed Syria source" told London's "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" on 14 December that there are disagreements between Syria and Iraq on how the oil pipeline between the two countries should operate. This source said that the pipeline remains at the experimental stage and denied reports that Syria was being supplied with Iraqi crude oil through the pipeline. But the "Middle East Economic Survey" reported that as of 20 November, Syria had been receiving 150.000 barrels a day through the pipeline (see RFERL Iraq Report, 15 December 2000). (David Nissman)

RUSSIA, IRAQ DISCUSS MARITIME COOPERATION. Russia's Bonokov Company director Sergei Isakov met with Iraqi transport minister Ahmad Murtada Ahmad on 13 December to discuss expanding maritime ties between the two countries, Baghdad radio reported on 13 December. Ahmad noted the increasing contribution of Russian companies in fulfilling the needs of the transport and communications sector, especially in maritime transport. And Isakov expressed his company's interest in providing the technical foundation for such ties.

Six days later, Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan received Russian special tasks envoy Nikolay Kartuzov to discuss many of the same issues, INA reported on 19 December. Ramadan noted the Russian Federation's effective role in the UN Security Council and its efforts to lift the embargo imposed on Iraq. And Kartuzov said his country attaches great importance in maintaining cooperation with Iraq under the circumstances of the sanctions, as well as under normal circumstances. (David Nissman)

IRAQ, UKRAINE MOVE TO EXPAND TIES. Ukraine has responded to Baghdad's indication of interest in opening embassies in some of the former Soviet republics by sending several delegations to the Iraqi capital to explore this possibility. Kyiv's "Den" of 6 December reaffirmed Ukrainian interest in opening a mission in Baghdad. It quoted a senior Ukrainian foreign ministry official as saying that Kyiv "regards Iraq as one of the most promising partners in the Near East area" because of the size of its domestic market, its oil reserves, and its past experience -- in Soviet times -- of working with Iraqis. One indication that Iraq may move quickly in response is that the newly named Iraqi ambassador to Russia has not been jointly accredited to Kyiv as was his predecessor. (David Nissman)

TRANSFORMING PLAY STATIONS INTO SUPERCOMPUTERS? According to "Ananova", a new Leeds-based (UK)"virtual newscaster" on 19 December, U.S. defense experts believe that Saddam Husseyn may be building a weapons supercomputer using parts from Sony PlayStation 2s, "Ananova" reported on 19 December. They suggest that individual units from the game consoles can be linked and their power boosted to the level needed for long-range missiles or even nuclear devices. The paper says that a leaked U.S. Defense Department report confirms that up to 4,000 of the consoles have been shipped to Iraq in the last three months. Reportedly, the Japanese government had warned of the potential danger from PlayStation 2 eight months ago. But an unidentified source told "WorldNet Daily" that "one expert I spoke with estimated that an integrated bundle of 12-15 PlayStations could provide enough power to control an unmanned aerial vehicle." (David Nissman)

JORDANIAN TRADE WITH IRAQ JUMPS 60 PERCENT. During the first ten months of this year, two-way trade between Jordan and Iraq increased by 194 million Jordanian dinars, according to a report in the "Jordan Times" of 19 December. Preliminary figures show that bilateral trade moved to JD 482 million for the January-October period in the year 2000 as opposed to JD 288 million a year earlier. Iraq-bound goods rose by more than JD 26.2 million while Jordan's imports from Iraq increased by JD 167.6 million. The sharp increase in imports is explained by the fact that 153.9 million tons of petroleum were imported over the 1999 amount.

The primary beneficiary of the trade was Jordan's drug industry. According to the DOS, medications topped Jordan's exports list with a 30 percent jump to JD 38 million this year from JD 21 million last year. Officials also forecast a 10-15 percent increase of pharmaceutical exports to Iraq next year.

Meanwhile, a group of Jordanian pharmaceutical manufacturers visited Baghdad and met with Iraqi Minister of Health Dr. Umid Midhat Mubarak, Baghdad Radio reported on 12 December. The Jordanians pledged to provide the financing for holding an Iraqi-Jordanian medical week as well as pharmaceutical fairs in Iraq early in 2001.

Meanwhile, a Jordanian Agricultural Associations Council said on 16 December that Jordan and Iraq are likely to sign an agricultural trade protocol that falls outside the UN oil-for-food deal. Prospects for agricultural trade were not covered by the trade protocol signed between the two countries last month. AAC member Abdul Rahman Ghaith said that "the Iraqi side welcomed Jordan's initiative to work out a mutual agricultural exchange protocol, as it will be the first such deal", according to a report by the "Jordan Times" of 17 December. Ghaith added that "our deal, if materialized, will fall outside and will differ from the UN oil-for-food deal, as it will be an agricultural-products-for-agricultural-products deal." (David Nissman)

FIRST ARMENIAN PLANE LANDS IN BAGHDAD. For the first time, an Armenian plane landed at Saddam International airport on 18 December, AFP reported. It carried both businessmen and politicians, including former prime minister Aram Sarkissian. Last February, Iraq and Armenian agreed in February to raise their diplomatic relations to the ambassadorial level.

Meanwhile, however, the management of Royal Jordanian Airlines decided on 16 December to end its regular flights to Baghdad. The flights began last month with one regular flight every Thursday. reported the Amman's "Al-Majd" on 18 December. The paper said that Royal Jordanian had decided to operate occasional, humanitarian, and irregular flights instead. The management took this decision in response to the UN Sanctions Committee's objection to regular weekly flights between Amman and Baghdad.

In a related development, on 17 December Iraq informed Jordanian, Egyptian, Yemeni, UAE, and Russian aviation companies that it had accepted their requests to conduct regular flights to Baghdad. Iraqi Airways Director General Iyad 'Abd-Al-Karim Hamam explained that Iraqi Airways does not charge planes for landing at Saddam International Airport, and it supplies them with fuel free of charge, according to a report from INA of 17 December. (David Nissman)

IRAQI TRADE MINISTER IN MALAYSIA, VIETNAM. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed received Iraqi Trade Minister Muhammad Mahdi Salih, Saddam Husseyn's envoy, in Kuala Lumpur on 15 December to discuss expanding ties between their two countries, Baghdad television reported on 15 December. Salih indicated that Iraq is interested in acquiring the Malaysian car Proton under the next phase of the oil-for-food program and that it also wants to purchase food supplies, medicine and medical equipment, as well as timber and steel for its construction needs from Malaysia. According AFP on 14 December, bilateral trade reached $16.2 million in the first ten months of this year.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai told Iraqi Trade Minister Muhammed Mahdi Salih on 16 December that Hanoi looks forward to expanded ties, according to VNA on 16 December. Salih replied that the implementation of the oil-for food program be the two countries was satisfactory and that their long-term strategic relations would be further developed. (David Nissman)

'AZIZ RECEIVES SPANISH DELEGATION. Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq 'Aziz received visiting Ogostavo Iristigi, deputy chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Spanish Parliament, on 16 December. Aziz used the occasion to complain about what he called "the Zionized U.S. hegemonic policy, which does not harm Iraq's interests only, but also all the world states, including Spain.

Iristigi, for his part, expressed support by the Spanish Parliament and political parties for lifting the unjust blockade. Responding to queries from his Spanish guest, 'Aziz said that Kurdish citizens in Iraq have an equal footing with all other citizens of his country. (David Nissman)

TURKISH PARLIAMENT EXTENDS 'NORTHERN WATCH'. Turkish Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu said on 18 December that Operation Northern Watch which has been working under the control of Turkish officers must have its term extended for the sake of Turkey's national interest, according the "Turkish Daily News."

Operation Northern Watch was established in 1991 to prevent Baghdad from extending its hold over the north of Iraq. It is subject to renewal by the Turkish Parliament every six months. Cakmakoglu pointed out that Northern Watch was a useful and necessary task at the moment since uncertainty was ongoing in Iraq. The previous week Iraq had urged Turkey not to extend Northern Watch for the sake of improving good bilateral relations.

On the same occasion, Turkish officials welcomed the nomination of retired general Colin Powell as the U.S. Secretary of State. The "Turkish Daily News" on 18 December, quoted an anonymous Turkish official who said: "General Powell is a good friend of Turkey. The Turkish government and Turkish Armed Forces worked closely and harmoniously with him during the Gulf War. And the paper noted that Powell's first statement following his selection was that he would work closely with American allies to breathe new life into sanctions against Iraq. (David Nissman)

UDAY REELECTED OLYMPIC COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN. The General Secretariat of the National Iraqi Olympic Committee has renewed its "absolute confidence" in 'Uday Saddam Husseyn as chairman of the National Olympics committee, according to INA of 13 December. (David Nissman)