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Iraq Report: December 3, 1999

3 December 1999, Volume 2, Number 44

REFUGEES EXPELLED FROM BAGHDAD. ore than 4,000 refugee families from the north and south of Iraq who had sought refuge in Baghdad after the 1991 Gulf War have been expelled to their provinces, Iraqi Interior Minister Muhammad Zamam Abdu'l-Razzak announced on 28 November. He told the Iraqi parliament that their presence was negatively affecting the "economic and social situation in Baghdad." More deportations may happen in the future: the minister said that "the interior ministry has set up a committee to crisscross Baghdad to make a list of families and send them back to their original provinces." The expellees are primarily Shiites from the south and Kurds from the north. It is not clear from the reports whether this move is linked to the "nationality correction campaign" (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 17 November 1999), the confiscation of minority-owned properties, or some other aspect of the Arabization campaign (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 11 December 1998, 22 January 1999, and 5 November 1999). (David Nissman)

AZIZ TO DISCUSS UN SANCTIONS IN MOSCOW. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz has announced he will go to Moscow for talks on a draft UN Security Council resolution that would ease sanctions on Iraq in return for Baghdad's agreement to allow for new weapons inspections. The Security Council remains divided on the resolution. France, which had been hesitating on the so-called Anglo-Dutch resolution, appears likely to follow the lead of the United States and Great Britain. Aziz has said that "if France backs this proposal, it is abandoning its earlier stance."

Baghdad reiterated Iraq's position in an article in the Ba'th Party newspaper "Al-Thawra," saying on 26 November: "We prefer sanctions to continue with all their the return of spies to our country." The article is referring to the current debate in the UN Security Council about the Anglo-Dutch draft resolution that would ease sanctions in return for having weapons inspectors back at their task in Iraq.

"Al-Thawra" added: "We say we cannot tolerate the impact of the sanctions and the spies at the same time, but the unjust sanctions...are much easier to accept than the presence of spies and their recurrent and concocted crises aiming to prolong sanctions." (David Nissman)

IVANOV: NO ACCORD ON CHECHNYA, IRAQ. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Ivan Ivanov told a Tehran press conference that there had not been any deal between Moscow and Washington linking their respective approaches to events in Iraq and Chechnya. Such an arrangement, he said on 28 November, would be "out of the question." Repeating Moscow's insistence that Chechnya is "an internal affair" of the Russian Federation, Ivanov noted that "the UN Security Council is working hard to draft a resolution for ensuring the reliable monitoring of mass destruction armaments in Iraq and paving ways towards the lift[ing] of international sanctions." (David Nissman)

GCC SUMMIT FOCUSES ON IRAQ. The Gulf Cooperation Council summit began on 27 November in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. A column in the Egyptian newspaper "Al-Ahram" on 27 November noted that this meeting will bring Arab summit conferences in the 20th century to an end. "This means we will enter the 21st century burdened with heavy problems and unsolved issues." Among those problems is the GCC's position on Iraq. This requires a "speedy solution," the Egyptian paper said, but there is no common ground.

Iraq's response to the opening speech at the summit, delivered by Saudi Arabia's King Fahd, was harsh and unequivocal. King Fahd had said that "the Iraqi regime still insists on its old stands and is still incapable of learning a single lesson from the painful past." A spokesman for Iraq's Information and Culture Ministry responded over the Iraq Television Network on 29 November that "the Saudi regime still insists on its old treacherous stands and policies and still affirms -- in tangible words and deeds -- that it is still unable to learn a single lesson from the painful past."

At the conclusion of the summit, the participants were able to strike "a key compromise on uniform customs tariffs." It was agreed to set up a customs union in 2005, delaying the deal by four years in order to allow a compromise between the UAE and Saudi Arabia over the level of tariffs. The UAE wants lower tariffs and Saudi Arabia is more protectionist. This is a key step in establishing a Gulf common market worth $80 billion in imports.

GCC rhetoric on Iran was not as sharp as in the past concerning Tehran's occupation of three islands in the southern Gulf which are also claimed by the UAE. Abu Dhabi's crown prince, Shaykh Khalifa bin Zayad Al-Nahayan, called for a "firm stand" by the GCC "to reduce Iran's opposition to peaceful initiatives." According to the "Mideast Mirror" of 30 November, the softer line taken by the GCC towards Iran was the result of Saudi Arabia's improving relations with Iran. The GCC has a committee which is supposed to negotiate with Iran over the islands, but its work so far has borne no fruit.

Iraq, however, was condemned. The participants said that "the Iraqi regime continues to delay the implementation." And they added that "Baghdad persists in its refusal of international and particularly Arab initiatives intended to find a way out for Iraq and to lift the international embargo imposed on it." (David Nissman)

IRAQI OIL MINISTRY DELEGATION VISITS BELGRADE. An Iraqi oil delegation visited Belgrade in November at the invitation of Yugoslav Trade Minister Milan Beko, "Borba" reported on 23 November. The two sides discussed cooperation between the two on the basis of the UN oil-for-food program. They also discussed possibilities for long-term cooperation in the area of oil prospecting and exploitation. And they declared themselves ready to cooperate in the oil-for-food program, since Iraq has oil and Yugoslavia has agricultural food products, medicines, and spare parts that Iraq needs. (David Nissman)

SOUTH AFRICA SEEKS TIES WITH BAGHDAD. During a visit to Baghdad, South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad was quoted by the Iraq News Agency as saying that his country is very interested in developing relations with Iraq. Pahad made these comments when speaking to Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Sa'id Al-Sahhaf.

The South African diplomat also met Iraqi Trade Minister Muhammad Mahdi Salih. Al-Sahhaf had represented Iraq at the inauguration of South African President Thabo Mbeki. (David Nissman)

NECHIRVAN BARZANI NEW PREMIER OF KRG. The Kurdish parliament of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) named Nechirvan Barzani the head of the Council of Ministers of the Iraqi Kurdistan region as of 27 November. The decree was signed by the speaker of the National Assembly of Iraqi Kurdistan, Jawhar Namiq Salim, and was published in the Irbil Sorani Kurdish newspaper "Brayati" ["Brotherhood"]. The first task of the new government is to prepare to hold elections as soon as possible. To do this, a complete reconciliation between the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) and the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) is needed but, according to the "Turkish Daily News" (TDN) of 30 November, this is "still lacking." (David Nissman)

INTRA-KURDISH STRUGGLES CONTINUE. "Ozgur Politika," a journal of Kurdish affairs which many believe is linked to the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party), reported on 23 November that the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) closed the newspaper "Welat," a cultural center, and a hospital in Suleymaniyah because "they had a close relationship to the PKK."

The reason for these closures, "Ozgur Politika" says, is that is that the PUK had accepted $80 million from the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) to close these institutions. The "Welat" newspaper issued a statement saying that the closure of the newspaper is "undemocratic and is a sign of obeying Turkish requests." The "Ozgur Politika" headlined the article "PUK is under KDP's Control."

Jalal Talabani, interviewed by Radio Monte Carlo on 23 November, was asked "how much cooperation is there between the PUK and KDP in Iraqi Kurdistan?" He noted that the two sides had agreed on the importance of stability and establishing peace in the area, cooperation in the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 986, the exchange of prisoners, and the return of internally displaced people to their homes.

Talabani further noted that under the terms of the Washington Agreement of 1998, the KDP and PUK are committed to the uniting of the two Kurdish administrations in northern Iraq, and that both sides have agreed to the establishment of a "transitional council," and a high council for negotiations, which will be in charge of following up on the agreed-upon process, is now on the way to being established.

But he indicated that there were many problems yet to be resolved, including the withdrawal of armed militia from the cities, the granting of fully democratic rights to the citizens, and the creation of a unified regional government as a prelude to free and fair elections.

The PUK's relationship to Baghdad is "frozen" as a result, among other things, of Baghdad's policy of ethnic cleansing, which has displaced and dispossessed more than one million Kurds since 1991. Relations with Iran, Talabani said, are "good and normal." Iran is the PUK's "only avenue for imports and exports," and for contacts with the outside world.

While in Iran, Talabani met with 16 diplomats on 28 November, "Kurdistani Niwe," the organ of the PUK, reported. "Kurdish Media" of 29 November added that the meeting was organized by the Austrian ambassador, "who showed his support for federal Kurdistan and the Kurdish question." Among the diplomats taking part were representatives from China and South Africa, a first essay into Kurdish affairs for both.

In his interview, Talabani did not suggest that the KDP was putting the PUK under any pressure at all. In fact, on 18 November, "Kurdistan Newsline" announced that municipal elections will be held throughout Iraqi Kurdistan on 3 February 2000. This announcement was made from Suleymaniyah, part of PUK-controlled territory, after a meeting between Kurdistan Regional Government (controlled by the KDP) Prime Minister Kosart Rasul Ali with governors, directors, commissioners of municipalities, and others. Nushirwan Mustafa, of the PUK, claimed the precedent for this move is the PUK's organization of village councils during the revolution, and that these elections were a natural prelude to national elections. (David Nissman)

BAGHDAD OPPOSES MINORITY LANGUAGE SCHOOLS. The Iraqi government has warned the education administration in the Kurdish region against any effort to establish schools for Turkmen, Assyrians, or Yazidis. According to the "Kurdistan Observer" of 25 November, Baghdad said that the plan to open what it called "phony" minority schools is "part of a scheme by enemies of the Iraqi people to break up the country." Under the Iraqi Constitution the only language of education permitted in Iraq, aside from Arabic, is Kurdish. The three million Turkmen have been deprived of the right to an education in their own language since the rise of Saddam Husseyn, as have the Assyrians. The Yazidis, predominantly Kurds, practice the Yazidi religion, which has been often suppressed in Iraq.

The general-secretary of the Iraqi Assyrian National Party (ANP), Namrud Baytu, told London's "Al-Zaman" on 15 November that the ANP is committed to the existence of "an unbreakable link between the ethnic (Assyrian) and the national (Iraqi)." Noting that Iraq is the homeland also for "Arab, Kurdish, Assyrian, and Armenian sons, and it has to struggle with all nationalist forces to build the future pluralistic Iraq." He further pointed out that the most important cause of Iraq's social and political instability was the fact that "successive governments overlooked the racial and cultural multiplicity of the Iraqi people, and failed to respect and endure this multiplicity in the constitution." (David Nissman)

OSMAN OCALAN ON WAR BETWEEN KDP AND PKK. Osman Ocalan, the brother of Abdullah Ocalan, told MEDYA-TV, a Kurdish satellite television channel, that "even though Turkey supports the assaults against our party, the real enemy of our organization in this campaign is the KDP [Kurdistan Democratic Party], and they paid the PUK [Patriotic Union of Kurdistan] the sum of $80 million to fight against the PKK." If so, this represents a breakthrough in relations between the KDP and PUK, as in the past the KDP often accused the PUK of harboring PKK guerrillas.

A major reason for this rapprochement appears to be Turkey's attacks. Istanbul's "Cumhuriyet" reported on 27 November that the 20,000 Turkish troops who had crossed into Iraqi Kurdistan were successfully preventing the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) from making preparations for winter. The Turkish Army is supported by some 2,000 peshmerga of the KDP.

In response to these attacks, Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Sa'id Al-Sahhaf has called on the UN to withdraw its troops from northern Iraq. The Iraq News Agency on 25 November notes that in his letter, Al-Sahhaf stressed Iraq's right to compensation for the damage caused by the aggression. (David Nissman)

PKK MARKS ANNIVERSARY IN MOSCOW. According to the Anatolia news agency, Russian officials in Moscow allowed the PKK to celebrate that organization's 27th anniversary. According to the "Turkish Daily News" of 29 November, the festivities, which attracted some 300 people, took place in a Moscow movie theater. Turkey and Russia earlier signed a joint declaration on the fight against terrorism during Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's recent visit to Russia. But Russia continues to provide a safe haven for pro-PKK activists since their founding. (David Nissman)