Accessibility links

Breaking News

Iraq Report: January 16, 2004

16 January 2004, Volume 7, Number 2
IRAQI OIL MINISTER DISCUSSES OIL DISTRIBUTION, SHORTAGES. Iraqi Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum told London's "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" in an interview published on 12 January that the Oil Ministry's new Control Commission began work on 25 December to ensure the smooth delivery of fuel from storage depots to gasoline stations. "For every tanker truck there is a security inspector who ensures that the tanker truck arrives at the station," al-Ulum said of the new process. "At the station, there are also those from the Control Commission watching to verify the product's arrival at the station. And at the station itself, there is an inspection staff to ensure that the product gets from the station to the citizen." The new system is aimed at helping thwart attempts by tanker drivers to smuggle fuel across Iraq's borders and alleviate long lines at the gas pumps. The control mechanism has also been implemented in Karbala, Al-Hillah, and Al-Najaf, and a similar system will be set up to monitor the distribution of kerosene. Al-Ulum said acts of sabotage and dilapidated infrastructure at refineries have caused setbacks for oil production, but productivity is on the rise in terms of barrels per day. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

GOVERNING COUNCIL MEMBER SAYS TENTATIVE AGREEMENT ON KIRKUK. Iraqi Governing Council member Nasir Kamil Chadirchi told Beirut's "Al-Mustaqbal" newspaper in an interview published on 12 January that a Governing Council delegation has reached an agreement with the Kurdish parties in northern Iraq regarding Kurdish autonomy and the status of the highly contested city of Kirkuk.

The agreement calls for the postponement of Kirkuk's inclusion within any Kurdish federation until a population census can be held to determine the composition of the city's inhabitants. Iraqi Kurds, Arabs, and Turkomans all claim rights in the city, and the two latter groups have fought recent attempts by Kurds to claim the city as part of a possible future autonomous Kurdish territory. "The Kurds are prepared to have the population census act as the decisive arbiter whether the city of Kirkuk should join the Kurdish federation or not," Chadirchi said. "If the population census showed that the Kurds constitute a majority in Kirkuk, then it should be merged. The opposite is also true."

The Governing Council also said that "several conditions" would have to be met for the census, including that the census "should go back to 1968 and 1970 and refer to all the documents regarding the residents of Kirkuk." In addition, those citizens moved to Kirkuk under Saddam Hussein's Arabization policy should be returned to their original towns of residence inside Iraq, and those displaced from Kirkuk under the same policy, should be returned to their homes in the city, the daily reported. Iraqi Judge Dara Nur al-Din confirmed to AFP on 9 January that the issue of Kirkuk would not be decided until the new census is held, probably in 2005 or 2006. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

NEW MINISTRY ESTABLISHED. Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) administrator L. Paul Bremer signed CPA Order Number 50 on 10 January formally establishing the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration. Muhammad al-Atib will serve as interim minister. The ministry's establishment was announced on 30 August, according to the CPA website (

The ministry "shall be responsible for all matters pertaining to Iraqi refugees and displaced persons, including but not limited to matters associated with their repatriation, relocation, resettlement, and reintegration," the order states. It will reportedly work closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration.

The ministry will also be responsible for policies and programs relating to all non-Iraqi refugees residing in Iraq, including Palestinian refugees. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs was formally responsible for Palestinian refugees through its Palestinian Affairs Office, according to the order. For more information on the ministry, visit the U.S. State Department website ( (Kathleen Ridolfo)

TRADE MINISTRY OFFICIAL COMMENTS ON FORMER REGIME'S CORRUPTION. An unnamed official at the Iraqi Trade Ministry told London's "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" that the ministry plans on suing companies and prosecuting former regime officials for corrupt practices, the daily reported on 13 January. According to the source, documents and trade contracts by the former regime reveal large-scale embezzlement by senior Hussein regime officials, including one case in the amount of $40 million.

The source also told "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" that the ministry's director of economic relations, Fakhr al-Din Rayshan was dismissed from his position, while a former supervisor, Yusuf al-Ani, has been put on a two-month leave because of their connection to the above-mentioned embezzlement scheme. The source mentioned other embezzlement schemes within the ministry, but declined to disclose details.

The same article also noted that investigators from the Department of Financial Auditing and the Iraqi Central Bank traveled to Washington to continue an investigation for missing Iraqi assets that were deposited abroad by prominent former regime officials. One discovery made during the course of the investigation has revealed that some $495 million in Iraqi funds belonging to four bodies including an oil company and a bank were deposited in 30 banks across Lebanon. The Department of Financial Auditing also said that some $800 million in Iraqi funds were deposited in Jordanian banks. An official also told the daily that $3.3 billion was transferred outside Iraq since 2000. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

REPORT SAYS HUSSEIN WARNED AGAINST CLOSE LINKS WITH ARAB FIGHTERS. A 14 January report on said that a document found with deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein when he was captured reveals warnings by Hussein to pro-Hussein fighters against working too closely with Arab foreign fighters and Islamists.

Officials familiar with the document told that the document appears to be a directive written after the leader was deposed. They said that Hussein apparently believed that the Ba'athist agenda did not coincide with that of the foreign fighters, who seek jihad against the coalition. The document also weakens the argument made by some U.S. officials that a relationship existed between the Hussein regime and Al-Qaeda. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI KURDISH PARTIES AGREE TO UNIFIED ADMINISTRATION. Iraq's two main Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), have reportedly reached an agreement to merge the administrations of their two regional governments in northern Iraq, international media reported on 13 January.

The parties will now run the three northern provinces of Irbil, Dahuk, and Al-Sulaymaniyah under a unified regional administration. Officials said that a few details still need to be worked out, including the assignment of ministerial posts and the establishment of a unified judiciary, KurdSat television reported. The plan calls for a rotating Kurdish presidency, which will first be chaired by the PUK.

The new cabinet will consist of 14 ministries, six run by KDP officials, four by PUK officials, and four by officials from the Kurdistan Communist Party, the Islamic Union, the Turkomans, and the Assyrians, "Al-Sabah" reported. While plans for a unified administration have been under way for years, the Kurdish parties in northern Iraq see the move as part of a larger drive for autonomy. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. REACTS TO AYATOLLAH'S ELECTION DEMANDS. CPA head L. Paul Bremer told reporters on 12 January that the Iraqi Governing Council and the coalition will stick to an agreement reached last November over the timetable for a transfer of power in Iraq, despite continued calls by Iraqi Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for early national elections, RFE/RL reported.

"We think it is important to implement the 15 November agreement which was agreed by the Governing Council and has been submitted to the United Nations as the best way forward before the return of sovereignty to the Iraqi people and to provide for elections," Bremer said in Baghdad. Under the November plan, a transitional national assembly would be elected no later than 31 May, and the new transitional administration would receive full sovereign powers by 30 June ( However, direct government elections are not expected until the end of 2005.

Regarding al-Sistani's demands, he added, "The Governing Council is in discussions with the grand ayatollah, for whom we have the greatest respect, and I think it's probably best if I leave those discussions between the Governing Council and the ayatollah."

Meanwhile, State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli told a 13 January press briefing that discussions are under way in Washington regarding aspects of the 15 November agreement. "There can be discussions with different parties in Iraq about the modalities or the technicalities, if you will, of how caucuses are conducted, how indirect elections are conducted, and to ensure that it meets the needs of both transparency and openness, and at the same time, an accelerated timetable, which is what the Iraqis want.

Asked specifically why direct elections could not be carried out in the near future, Ereli replied: "There are basically technical limitations to having full-blown, direct elections. There is no electoral law. There are no political party laws. There is no census. There is no voter registration. There are no electoral constituencies." The absence of these basic requirements would thus prevent "transparent and fair" elections, he said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

FIVE IRAQIS KILLED WHEN PROTEST TURNS VIOLENT IN AL-AMARAH. At least five Iraqis were killed in clashes that broke out on 10 January when Iraqi police and British forces opened fire on protesters demanding jobs in the southern Iraqi town of Al-Amarah, international media reported. Police said they opened fire only after protestors began hurling stones at the headquarters for the Maysan Governorate, breaking several windows.

British Army spokesman Captain Hisham Halawi said British troops assisting the police opened fire on two protesters suspected of being armed with grenades. Iraqis gathered again in the city on 11 January to protest the previous days' killings. Similar demonstrations also took place in the city of Al-Kut in the nearby Wasit Governorate, Al-Jazeera television reported on 10 January. Talks are reportedly under way between British and Iraqi forces and protestors to resolve the tense situation. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

COALITION UNVEILS HUSSEIN-FREE POSTAGE STAMPS. The CPA has unveiled new Iraqi postage stamps in the theme of ancient transport -- boats, camel caravans, and horse-drawn carriages -- to replace those bearing the likeness of Saddam Hussein, whose image dominated Iraqi stamps for the past quarter-century, international media reported on 10 January.

Representatives of the Iraqi Governing Council chose the designs. Five million stamps of various denominations have been printed, CPA spokesman Dan Senor said. The smallest denomination available is 50 dinars (about $.03), the new flat domestic postage rate that is reportedly about twice the previous rate. Senor said the Iraqi mail system is now working at about 80 percent of its former capacity. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

CAR BOMB EXPLODES IN CENTRAL IRAQ. Three people were killed and more than 20 were injured on 14 January when a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb outside a police station in the Iraqi town of Ba'qubah, approximately 65 kilometers northeast of Baghdad, international media reported. Iraqi police Colonel Salam Omar told AP that the driver of the explosives-laden vehicle attempted to enter the police-station parking lot, but detonated the vehicle when police guards opened fire. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. FORCES CAPTURE AL-DURI'S NEPHEWS. U.S. forces captured four nephews of former vice chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, sixth on the coalition's list of the 55 most-wanted former regime officials, international media reported.

The arrests came during a 14 January early morning raid on two houses in Samarra. Two of the nephews are suspected of being in close contact with al-Duri, having helped hide the former leader in safe houses. "They are his enablers and his movers," Lieutenant Colonel David J. Poirier told AP. "They have information they can provide us...that would be extremely important." Al-Duri's wife and daughter were arrested on 26 November and reportedly remain in coalition custody. The coalition is offering a $10 million reward ( for information leading to the capture of al-Duri, or confirmation that he is dead.

Meanwhile, U.S. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt told reporters at a 14 January press conference in Baghdad broadcast on CNN that coalition forces captured Khamis Sirhan al-Muhammad, 54th on the most-wanted list. Al-Muhammad, former Ba'ath Party chairman and Ba'ath Party militia commander for the Karbala Governorate, was captured on 11 January in Al-Ramadi. Kimmitt declined to provide further details on the capture. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. REPORTS BA'ATH PARTY RENUNCIATIONS, WEAPONS HANDOVERS IN IRAQ. An unspecified number of high-ranking members of the Ba'ath Party that formerly ruled Iraq renounced their affiliation to the party in front of "fellow Iraqis and leaders of the 101st Airborne Division" in the northwestern Iraqi town of Tal Afar on 12 January, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) announced in a press release posted on its website ( the same day.

CENTCOM reported that the same officials turned over more than 120 AK-47 assault rifles and three machine guns. The 3rd Brigade combat team has so far collected 719 AK-47s and various other weapons in Iraq, which they will turn over to Iraqi police and military. The Iraqi Governing Council took control of implementation of a new policy on 11 December whereby the council's so-called de-Ba'athification committee will determine whether former party members dismissed under a new policy may appeal for reinstatement to their former government posts. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

DANISH TESTS SHOW NO CHEMICAL WARFARE AGENTS IN IRAQI SHELLS. Further testing by Danish and U.S. experts has concluded that there are no traces of chemical warfare agents on mortar shells recently unearthed in southern Iraq, international media reported on 14 January. Initial tests on the shells found traces of blister gas (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 2003).

The U.S.-led Iraq Survey Group tested five of the 36 shells, and each came up negative for chemical warfare agents, AP reported, citing a Danish Army statement. Danish troops discovered the shells, dating to the 1980s, outside a village near Qurnah, some 400 kilometers southeast of Baghdad. Danish Army spokesman Captain Kim Vibe Michelsen told AP that the shells were stashed at the site. "They were stacked and ordered and wrapped in plastic. They weren't just lying on the ground." He added that the shells had been buried at least 10 years ago. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

GOVERNING COUNCIL APPROVES SHARIA LAW FOR FAMILY COURTS. The Iraqi Governing Council has approved a family law that would make it possible to apply Islamic, or sharia, law instead of civil law to issues such as divorce and inheritance, reported on 15 January. Iraqi women's groups have reportedly opposed the law, claming that the law is a concession to Islamic clerics.

Governing Council spokesman Hamid Kifa'i denied that the text is part of a political deal with Iraqi clerics. "It is not a concession to fundamentalists, we don't have fundamentalists in Iraq," quoted him as saying. Kifa'i added that U.S. civilian administrator Bremer must still approve the measure, which according to places the coalition in a sensitive position between Iraqi clerics and secular groups.

Women's groups claim that the new law will abolish the 1959 civil law on families, and devolve family law to sectarian religious courts. Kifa'i said civil law will, in fact, remain in effect, adding that the new law simply gives Iraqis the option of using religious courts. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

CURRENCY-EXCHANGE PROGRAM IN IRAQ DEEMED SUCCESSFUL. The three-month exchange period for Iraqis to trade in their old Iraqi dinars for new banknotes without the image of deposed President Saddam Hussein ended on 15 January, with Iraqi Deputy Central Bank Governor Ahmad Salman Jaburi calling the program a success, according to a 15 January press release posted on the CPA website. "It's thanks to the thousands of people who have worked with the Central Bank of Iraq -- bank managers and their staff nationwide, coalition planners and economists, and Iraqi and coalition security forces -- that the exchange has been a success," Jaburi said.

U.S. civilian administrator Bremer said, "Less than a year into reconstruction, Iraq has completed what it took three years to begin in post-World War II Germany." Coalition officials announced the new currency in early July, and new banknotes were printed and distributed to Iraqi banks by mid-September. The currency exchange was launched on 15 October. For more information on Iraq's new currency, visit the CPA website ( (Kathleen Ridolfo)

BUSINESSMEN GATHER IN AMMAN FOR IRAQ TRADE FAIR. More than 300 international companies and 500 individuals -- 200 of whom were Iraqi businessmen -- attended the "Outreach 2004" expo in Amman, Jordan, on 11-13 January to explore investment opportunities in Iraq. Companies from 21 countries participated in the conference, which was billed as a U.S. government-endorsed multinational exhibition and workshop.

The conference and workshop targeted industries including airports and port equipment, agriculture and food, computers and IT, construction, education environmental systems, healthcare, lifestyle products, oil and gas recovery, and power generation, according to the official website ( Conference workshops focused on long-term development opportunities, telecommunications and infrastructure, financing opportunities, and other related topics. Meanwhile, Iraqi Business Council Chairman Mu'ayad Hassan told Dubai's "Gulf News" on 13 January that a "Rebuild Iraq Exhibition" will be held in Kuwait on 19-23 January. More than 1,350 firms from 248 countries are expected to participate in the exhibition, "Gulf News" reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ROYAL JORDANIAN RESUMES FLIGHTS TO BAGHDAD. Jordan's Royal Jordanian Airlines resumed operations of its charter flights to Baghdad on 11 January after a nearly two-month suspension due to security risks in the capital, reported on 13 January. The coalition suspended all civilian flights into Baghdad after a DHL cargo plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile on 22 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 November 2003). Royal Jordanian Deputy President Ghassan Ali told the website that the "nonscheduled" chartered services were restarted "to facilitate travel for businesspeople and humanitarian staff." The flights are now operating according to passenger demand. The chartered flights have a 40-seat passenger capacity, reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

TURKEY TO CONTRIBUTE TO IRAQI CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told reporters in Ankara on 13 January that his country would facilitate the constitutional process in Iraq by hosting a series of meetings on the subject, NTV reported on 14 January. Gul's comments came following a meeting with Iraqi Governing Council member Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim. Gul said Turkey's desire is to "come up with a constitution that will be acceptable to all the Iraqi people." He said the meetings would bring together Iraqi officials and unspecified foreign "dignitaries," adding that the Governing Council has welcomed Turkey's contribution to the constitutional process. The report noted that the meetings would be of an academic nature. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

KUWAIT TO CONSTRUCT NEW SECURITY BARRIER. The Kuwaiti cabinet has approved a plan to construct a new security barrier along the country's 217-kilometer land border with Iraq, dpa reported on 12 January. The barrier, which will run from the port of Umm Qasr southwest to the Saudi-Iraq-Kuwait border triangle, should help prevent infiltrators from entering the country and add further protection to oil facilities owned by the Kuwait Oil Company. The cost of the barrier is estimated at 9 million dinars ($30.5 million).

Dpa also reported that Kuwaiti security forces have arrested two Iraqis in Kuwait, one of whom was apprehended entering the country with printed material urging Muslims to fight a holy war against U.S. forces in Iraq and Kuwait. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

UN TO SEND TEAM TO IRAQ TO REVIEW SECURITY SITUATION. The United Nations will send a team of four military and security experts to Baghdad sometime in the next two weeks to prepare for the UN's possible return to Iraq, officials from the world body told, the website reported on 14 January.

The UN is under mounting pressure from Iraqi and U.S. officials to return to Iraq and help facilitate the country's transition to self-rule (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 9 January 2004). The UN withdrew from Iraq on 30 October.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council held a closed-door meeting on Iraq on 14 January. Council President for the month of January Chilean Ambassador Heraldo Munoz told reporters on 12 January that the council meeting was requested by the Iraqi minister of planning and development cooperation, the UN News Center reported on 13 January ( A meeting between UN, Iraqi, and coalition officials to discuss the future UN role in Iraq is also planned for 19 January. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

BRAHIMI TO BE UN ADVISER ON IRAQ. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has picked former Algerian Foreign Minister and former head of the UN mission to Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi as his senior adviser to the UN on Iraq's transition to self-rule, reported on 12 January. Diplomats said the appointment signifies a willingness by the UN to step up planning for a return to Iraq following the withdrawal of UN forces last fall (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 14 November 2003). Annan has come under increasing pressure from U.S. and Iraqi officials to take a more prominent role in Iraq. The three parties are scheduled to hold talks next week on the future role of the UN in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 9 January 2004). UN officials told that it is unlikely that Brahimi will actually replace former UN envoy to Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was killed in the August bombing of the UN's Baghdad headquarters. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. SAYS CANADA CAN BID ON IRAQ CONTRACTS. U.S. President George W. Bush on 13 January said that Canada could now bid on reconstruction projects in Iraq despite an earlier ban on countries that did not join the U.S. coalition in Iraq, international media reported. Bush announced the decision in his first meeting with new Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin. "It actually does show that working together, you can arrive at a reasonable solution," Martin said of the decision, reported. Canada pledged some $225 million in aid to Iraq last year. It will now be eligible to bid on this spring's $6 billion installment of contracts in Iraq. U.S. officials said on 13 January that other countries, including those that have agreed to forgive some of Iraq's debt, might also be eligible to bid on the contracts, AP reported. France, Germany, and Russia, which were banned from bidding on the contracts under Bush's previous decision, could possibly then be eligible to bid on the $18.6 billion in prime reconstruction contracts, the news agency reported, citing White House spokesman Scott McClellan. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

FRENCH CALL FOR INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON IRAQ. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin called on 12 January for an international conference on Iraq to aid the country's transition to sovereignty, AFP reported the same day. "A conference on Iraq would help to legitimize the transition and establish full reintegration of Iraq in its regional and international environment," Villepin said at a press conference in Abu Dhabi, where he is in the middle of a tour of Persian Gulf states. "Helping Iraq to reintegrate its regional environment implies in particular thinking about a new security structure in this region of the world," Villepin added. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ARMS MANUFACTURER DENIES IT SUPPLIED FORMER IRAQI REGIME... Officials at one of Russia's leading arms manufacturers, the Tula Instrument-Making Design Bureau (KBP-Tula), categorically denied renewed allegations in the U.S. and British press that the company supplied Kornet-3 antitank missile systems to Iraq before former President Saddam Hussein's ouster, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 January. The "Los Angeles Times" on 10 January quoted a senior U.S. State Department official as saying that the United States has found proof that Russian firms exported night-vision goggles and radar-jamming equipment to Iraq and that the evidence included "the equipment itself and proof that it was used during the war." The newspaper referred to these and other alleged Russian military transfers to Iraq and named Aviakonversiya, which manufactures radar-jamming equipment, and KBP-Tula. KBP-Tula Deputy Director Leonid Roshal said in an interview late last year that the company earlier sold about 1,000 Kornets to Syria, but the sales were "absolutely legitimate" and none of the missile systems had been found in Iraq, The "Los Angeles Times" reported. (Jonas Bernstein)

...ECHOING A DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER... On 12 January, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Aleshin denied the latest U.S. allegations of arms shipments to Iraq, telling Interfax that the government's commission for monitoring exports closely follows international standards and that "it is impossible for any action to take place on a large scale without the government knowing about it." Aleshin said that if the United States has such information, "then it would not be a bad thing if they shared it with us." Deputy U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli on 12 January said the latest allegations repeated U.S. claims made last March "that sensitive Russian-made military equipment had been sold to Iraq before the war and posed a threat to U.S. forces there." The United States "gave Russia a lot of data to establish the veracity of our contentions, and we will continue our dialogue with Russia on this," the State Department's website ( quoted Ereli as saying. (Jonas Bernstein)

...WHILE OTHERS ACCUSE THE U.S. OF PLAYING DIRTY. A spokesman for the Russian Conventional Weapons Agency, of which KBP-Tula is a member, dismissed the U.S. allegations of arms transfers to Iraq as "nothing but unscrupulous competition," Interfax reported on 12 January. An unnamed Russian government source called the charges "a worn-out record" and a "canard" that could have been prompted by "the difficult military-terrorist situation" and "the continuing significant losses of coalition forces" in Iraq, Interfax reported. Politika foundation head Vyacheslav Nikonov told Ekho Moskvy on 12 January that the allegations are linked to the U.S. presidential campaign and might be used either by the Democrats to accuse U.S. President George W. Bush "of not taking a sufficiently hard line against Russia" or by the Bush administration "to act harshly against critics of its Iraq policy, including Russia." (Jonas Bernstein)

JAPAN OFFERS 500-600 POLICE CARS TO IRAQ. The government of Japan announced on 11 January that it would donate between 500 and 600 police cars to Iraq in an effort to help boost stability there, The "Daily Yomiuri" reported on 12 January. The government is reportedly in talks with Iraqi officials to discuss modifications that need to be made to the vehicles to bring them in line with Iraqi specifications. The donation will be finalized by month-end. Japanese Foreign Minister Yuriko Kawaguchi spoke of the donation on 11 January, saying, "Police officers, on some unbelievable occasions, have had to rush to crime sites in taxis because of the shortage of police cars in Iraq." The donation is valued at 3 billion yen or $28 million. (Kathleen Ridolfo)