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Iraq Report: June 25, 2004

25 June 2004, Volume 7, Number 23

RFE/RL has updated its web page on "The New Iraq." For reports on emerging Iraqi political parties, armed groups, and a list of the interim Iraqi government, see:
FIVE IRAQI CITIES ROCKED BY VIOLENCE. Militants launched attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces in five Iraqi cities on 24 June, international media reported. The attacks took place in Baghdad, Ba'qubah, Al-Fallujah, Mosul, and Al-Ramadi. Al-Arabiyah reported that a U.S. helicopter was downed in Al-Fallujah early on 24 June, just two days after U.S. forces killed 20 foreign fighters in the city in a raid that targeted a group reportedly affiliated with fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi.

Al-Jazeera reported that two helicopters were downed in the 24 June fighting, while U.S. Marines confirmed one helicopter crash with no casualties. Al-Jazeera reported that two Iraqis were killed and five wounded during heavy fighting. U.S. forces have closed the Baghdad-Amman road due to the clashes in Al-Fallujah, Al-Arabiyah reported.

In Ba'qubah, at least 19 Iraqi policemen were killed in fighting with gunmen who are reportedly members of the Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad group affiliated with al-Zarqawi, Al-Jazeera reported. Gunmen seized four government buildings, including a police station in the city center, and raised black flags over them. Al-Jazeera also reported that two U.S. military vehicles were set alight before U.S. troops withdrew from the city and sent in helicopter gunships to fight the militants, many of whom had positioned themselves atop buildings in the city.

In addition to the fighting in Ba'qubah and Al-Fallujah, what appear to be coordinated attacks on police and civilian targets also took place in three other cities. In Al-Ramadi, at least five Iraqi policemen and one civilian were killed and 14 wounded in the city in numerous attacks. Gunmen bombed the Al-Qattanah police station in the city, destroying much of the building, Al-Jazeera reported. A booby-trapped car also exploded near an industrial zone in Al-Ramadi. The explosion reportedly targeted a U.S. convoy, but no casualties were reported.

As many as six explosions rocked the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on 24 June, according to international media reports. Three of the explosions were from booby-trapped cars. An Iraqi police officer told Al-Jazeera that as many as seven police officers were killed and more than 20 Iraqis wounded in one of the attacks. One car bomb detonated near the Customs Department in Wadi Hijir (southern Mosul), causing unknown casualties and damaging several nearby vehicles, Al-Jazeera reported.

RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported that the first in a series of attacks in Mosul occurred on the west bank of the Tigris River when militants fired Katyusha rockets at the police academy, inflicting numerous casualties. While police and civilians worked to tend to the injured, an automobile broke through the crowd and detonated. Initial reports estimated that 25 policemen were killed and 56 injured. The car bomb ignited fires in adjacent cars, burning a family of four to death. At the scene, the mayor of Mosul declared a state of emergency in the city that includes a 9 p.m.-7 a.m. curfew.

Just minutes after the attack, an explosion at the medical faculty of Mosul University inflicted numerous casualties. A car bomb also detonated near the Yarmuk bank in the Shaykh Fathi area of the city, killing two policemen. Police engaged militants attempting to break into the bank building, killing two fighters and capturing two others, RFI reported. Meanwhile, unidentified militants called in a bomb threat to the Mosul Municipality, prompting the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps to secure the area. Militants also attacked another bank in the city, but were unable to break into the building. A bombshell also fell near the local Department of Awqaf and Religious Affairs.

Four Iraqi security officers were killed when a booby-trapped car exploded near a U.S.-Iraqi checkpoint south of Baghdad, Al-Jazeera reported. No details on that incident are available. The Health Ministry said at least 66 people were killed and 268 injured in the incidents that took place in the morning of 24 June, AP reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ARMED GROUP WARNS IRAQI PRIME MINISTER NOT TO IMPOSE MARTIAL LAW. An unnamed armed group sent a videotape to Al-Arabiyah television warning Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi against imposing martial law in Iraq, the satellite news channel reported on 23 June. The speaker in the tape says that "the factions of jihad and resistance in Iraq" came to a decision after hearing that martial law might be imposed.

"First, we warn you against committing such an ugly and disgraceful crime, which you are carrying out on behalf of your masters, the occupiers.... We will relentlessly strike against all those who attempt to take part in this sedition," the speaker says. "The criminals [Iraqi interim government] will bear responsibility for all consequences in front of the Iraqi people. After this, we should not be blamed. The one who warns others is excused."

Allawi said during a 20 June press conference broadcast on Al-Jazeera that he has no intention of imposing martial law after the 30 June transfer of power, but might declare a state of emergency in some areas. The Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad terrorist group vowed earlier this week to assassinate Allawi (see below). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.K. DAILY SAYS 30,000 IRAQI POLICEMEN TO BE DISMISSED. The British daily "The Guardian" on 24 June cited U.K. military sources as saying that as many as 30,000 Iraqi policemen might be relieved of their duties due to incompetence and corruption.

The officers would reportedly be paid off -- at a cost of some $60 million -- to leave their jobs before the 30 June transfer of power. The Iraqi police force has been plagued with incompetence from the beginning, with officers often adopting behavior acceptable under the Saddam Hussein regime but contrary to protocol set by the coalition, according to recent media reports. Moreover, reports have further said that officers have sometimes refused to partake in fighting against militants, most recently in Al-Fallujah.

"The Guardian" reported that there are currently 120,000 policemen on the payroll, but only 89,000 actually turn up for work -- and more than half of those employed have not been trained. The daily added that those who don't work are either ghost employees on the books from the time of the Hussein regime, or are just continuously absent employees. Some 30,000 officers who are to be terminated from their positions will each receive between $1,000 and $2,000 in severance pay. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI MILITANTS BEHEAD SOUTH KOREAN HOSTAGE. Iraqi militants followed through with their threat to behead a South Korean hostage on 22 June, international media reported. Kim Sun-il's body was found on a roadside west of Baghdad, according to the South Korean Foreign Ministry.

Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad (Monotheism and Jihad), the militant group linked to fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, said in a videotape broadcast on Al-Jazeera that they killed Kim because his country refused to withdraw its 660 troops currently in Iraq nor renege on a pledge to send an additional 3,600 troops to Iraq later this summer. The videotape message said in part: "You insisted on remaining subservient to the tyrant of the age [the United States]...this is the fruit of your actions...your army is here [in Iraq] not for the sake of the Iraqis, but for the sake of damned America."

Kim was seen in a videotaped message released by the group on 20 June begging for his life and asking his government to reverse a decision to send additional troops to Iraq, Yonhap news agency reported. Militants gave South Korea 24 hours on 20 June to cancel the planned deployment (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 19 June 2004), but South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Choi Young-jin told reporters in Seoul on 21 June that his country would not change its position on the deployment, RFE/RL reported. "I am telling you that there will be no change of our government's basic spirit and position -- our plan to send troops to Iraq is for the support and reconstruction of Iraq," Choi said.

Seoul, however, did send a team of negotiators to Iraq on 21 June to try to secure Kim's release. Yonhap News Agency said that an Iraqi negotiator who met with the militants requested more time for talks, and the South Korean government was optimistic up to the discovery of Kim's body that he would be returned safely. The news of the beheading shocked both the government and the South Korean people and may jeopardize the upcoming troop commitment, which would have made South Korea's the third-largest contingent in Iraq behind the United States and the United Kingdom. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

AL-ZARQAWI THREATENS TO KILL IRAQI PRIME MINISTER. A 16-minute audiotape posted to the Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad website ( titled "The Shari'a Position on the Government of Iraq's Karzai" and purportedly recorded by wanted terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi threatens to assassinate interim Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi. "As for you, don't know that you have already survived traps we made for you. We promise you that we will continue the game with you until the end," AP quoted the audiotape as saying. "We will not get bored until we make you drink from the same glass that Izz al-Din Salim tasted." Izz al-Din Salim, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, was assassinated outside coalition headquarters on 17 May (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 21 May 2004). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ASSASSINATIONS, ATTACKS CONTINUE IN IRAQ. Layla Abdallah Sa'id, the dean of the Mosul University College of Law, was killed in the night of 21-22 June along with her husband, Munir al-Khayru, in their home, Al-Jazeera television reported on 22 June. Both Sa'id and her husband were shot and killed by the assailants, and Sa'id's throat was slit. Police said there were no signs of a burglary at the home, and a motive was not immediately clear.

Family members told Al-Jazeera that Sa'id received death threats three days prior to the killings, as well as two months earlier, but had brushed them off as mere intimidation. The attack is just one of dozens of assassinations on Iraqi academics that have been assassinated since the fall of the Hussein regime. Militants also continue to target civilians, political and religious leaders, and security forces in their effort to destabilize the country.

Five security officers working with U.S. troops in Iraq were killed and two were wounded when an explosive charge went off in Al-Qayyarah, located some 50 kilometers south of Mosul, Al-Arabiyah television reported on 22 June. Ala al-Din Abd al-Sahib al-Alwan escaped an assassination attempt on 19 June when a roadside bomb detonated near his vehicle in central Baghdad, Al-Jazeera television reported on 20 June. Police arriving at the scene to investigate the incident were fired on by unidentified assailants. Seven policemen were wounded in the incident, as well as 10 civilians.

Meanwhile, Sheikh Majid Hamid al-Yusuf, the head of the central Baghdad Municipal Council, was shot and killed by gunmen in Baghdad on 20 June, the television network reported. Three Iraqis were killed and seven wounded when a bomb detonated outside the Iraqi Central Bank in Baghdad on 20 June, Al-Arabiyah television reported, while six policemen were killed and five wounded when a bomb detonated at their police station in Samarra on 20 June, Al-Jazeera reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

BAGHDAD DAILY CLAIMS CHALABI PAYING TRIBES TO ATTACK GOVERNMENT. Unidentified Iraqi security sources have claimed that Iraqi National Congress (INC) head Ahmad Chalabi has paid large sums of money to notables and tribal chiefs in central Iraq to carry out attacks against government buildings, "Al-Nahdah" reported on 21 June. The Baghdad daily, which is affiliated with former Foreign Minister and Governing Council member Adnan Pachachi, has issued a series of articles in recent days attacking Chalabi. Other Iraqi dailies report that there is bad blood between Pachachi and Chalabi due to a number of contentious issues that arose between the men while they both served on the Governing Council.

The 21 June "Al-Nahdah" report said that the INC head has paid off a few thousand people to carry out the attacks. "Al-Nahdah" reported on 20 June that the coalition has obtained an arrest warrant for Chalabi on unspecified charges. The daily also cited AFP as reporting that U.S. forces are investigating allegations that Chalabi's offices took money from former Ba'athists in exchange for removing their names from lists that would preclude them from assuming positions in the new Iraqi government.

Chalabi and the INC have been criticized in recent months for reportedly feeding inaccurate intelligence information to the United States in the months leading up to the war in Iraq. He has also been accused of providing Iran with information on U.S. intelligence-gathering capabilities. Chalabi was not afforded a ministerial position in the interim Iraqi government but continues to work with the interim government in other capacities. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

PRIME MINISTER OUTLINES NEW SECURITY STRUCTURE. Iyad Allawi announced on 20 June that he has restructured the Iraqi military in order to confront terrorism and security lapses in Iraq, according to the transcript of his announcement, issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority the same day.

"Our strategy is simple. We will use all our forces and resources with high resolve to ensure that the Iraqi people enjoy security, stability, prosperity, and democracy," Allawi said. "The Iraqi security forces, the police forces, and the army units will participate in the battles to confront the enemies of God and the people. The heroic Iraqi police forces will be in the front line in this battle."

The prime minister also said that the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps will now be known as the Iraqi National Guard, and will be expanded to include a minimum of six new local divisions, as well as 18 brigades and 50 regiments. "The army would focus on defending the borders and security of the homeland," Allawi said. "The reserve forces of the army will also assist in dealing with the domestic threats to our national security."

Allawi told reporters that there are no plans under way to impose martial law in Baghdad following the 30 June transfer of power (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 19 June 2004). He said that many options are under consideration, including the declaration of a state of emergency, adding that there are differences between the two, and that martial law has not been considered. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

AL-SADR TO PARTICIPATE IN NATIONAL CONFERENCE? Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has reportedly been invited to attend a national conference that will form a provisional national council comprising 100 members, Beirut's Al-Manar television reported on 21 June. The national conference will be held in July and will be attended by some 1,000 leading political figures.

Fu'ad Ma'sum, a political-bureau member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and head of the preparatory committee for the drafting of the Iraqi constitution, reportedly confirmed the invitation to Al-Manar. Ma'sum said that al-Sadr's decision to transform his militia into a political organization (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 19 June 2004) is "a positive step." However, Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor told a 21 June Baghdad press briefing that al-Sadr was not invited to participate in the national conference.

Senor added that U.S. officials would not have a say on al-Sadr's participation, since the conference will be held after the 30 June transfer of power. "As far as Muqtada al-Sadr's broader role in Iraq's political process, please understand that, under Iraqi law, Muqtada al-Sadr is still being pursued for an arrest warrant that has been issued against him related to a brutal murder," Senor told reporters. "I don't see how he would have a role in pursuing public office before that matter is resolved. He is the head of an illegal militia, and again I don't know how he could pursue public office before that matter is resolved." Meanwhile, al-Sadr aide Sheikh Ahmad al-Shibani told Al-Manar in a 22 June interview that al-Sadr has no intention of participating in the conference. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI MINISTER SAYS TERRORISM WILL END WITH HANDOVER. Iraqi Finance Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi told the Munich weekly "Focus" in an interview published on 21 June that he believes militant attacks would end when the coalition transfers power to the Iraqi interim government on 30 June.

Asked about the security problem in Iraq, Abd al-Mahdi said: "Of course, we have a security problem in Iraq. However, this problem is a result of the occupation. This situation will change now: we will terminate the occupation and therefore it will no longer be worthwhile to support these actions. Now we have a government that is recognized by all parties and neighboring countries."

Asked about the composition of militants, he said they were mainly Sunni Hussein loyalists and foreign fighters. "There are also a few Shi'ites and Kurds among creating chaos, they want to prevent the peaceful co-existence of Shi'ites, Sunnis, as well as Kurds and Arabs." Abd al-Mahdi noted that the militants are well armed, having had access to cash as well as arms depots after the fall of the regime. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

BARZANI INTERVIEWED ON KURDISH STANCE. Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) head Mas'ud Barzani told Al-Jazeera television in an interview aired on 18 June that the Kurdish parties welcomed UN Security Council Resolution 1546, despite the resolution's failure to recognize the Transitional Administration Law. The law serves as Iraq's interim constitution (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 13 May 2004) and is the sole post-Hussein document to expressly recognize Kurdish rights.

Barzani said that the UN resolution had two positive points. "One point is its reference to the identity of Iraq. It said Iraq will be a federal, democratic, and pluralist country. The second that Paragraph 3 of Article 7 said the permanent constitution must be adopted with a consensus."

These points, Barzani said, helped ease the anxiety felt among Kurds because they met the two most important Kurdish needs outlined in the Transitional Administration Law. U.S. officials also gave assurances about their support for the Transitional Administration Law in subsequent meetings with Barzani and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leader Jalal Talabani. Barzani warned, however, that should the interim or future Iraqi government attempt to repeal the law, the Kurds would "certainly take a completely different stand."

Regarding Kurdish aspirations, Barzani told Al-Jazeera that a Kurdish state remains the dream of all Kurds, adding: "Wishes are something and reality is something else. It is difficult to achieve this now, but I do not think it will be impossible to achieve one day." The KDP chief also reiterated earlier statements, saying that the Kurds remain committed to the Iraqi state. "We consider the interim government our government and we are part of this government, starting with the prime minister down to all the brother ministers." He did admit however, that the Kurds felt slighted over the awarding of posts in the interim government named on 1 June (see, saying that one of the top two posts should have gone to a Kurd. "The important question is: are the Kurds partners in the central decision [-making apparatus] or not? The answer is yes, the Kurds are now partners. This is the basic issue and this is what concerns us more than the position we occupy," Barzani contended.

On the question of Kirkuk, Barzani said, "This issue is very important and must be solved as agreed," but did not elaborate further. The issue appears to have been placed on the back burner by all parties involved in recent weeks, but remains a hotly debated issue in the Iraqi media, with Iraqi Arab media contending that Kurds are buying up land in the city and forcing Arabs to leave the city. One website operated by supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr alleged on 21 June that Arabs were being forced into refugee camps by Kurds in the city. The report further claimed that Kurdish returnees to Kirkuk threatened the Arab residents with death if they refused to leave. Thousands of Kurds were forced out of Kirkuk by the Hussein regime's Arabization program in the 1980s (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 19 April 2003).

Meanwhile, Kurdistan Satellite Television reported on 22 June that Coalition Provisional Authority adviser Lianne Saunders told Kurdish political and social figures in a recent briefing that the United States supports the return of displaced people to Kirkuk. Saunders reportedly also said that the U.S. Embassy intends to open missions in Kirkuk, as well as in Mosul. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

TURKOMAN ISLAMIC MOVEMENT ISSUES STATEMENT ON INTERIM GOVERNMENT. The Turkoman Islamic Movement issued a statement last week criticizing the Iraqi interim government for excluding Turkomans from playing a political role in the country, the weekly "Turkomaneli" reported on 19 June. "The forged caretaker government suffers a conspicuous shortcoming namely denying the Turkomans their rights and not allowing them the chance to play a political role as the citizens in one homeland," the statement read.

The group contended that a democratic Iraqi government would have provided Turkomans with one of the vice-presidential seats as well as three portfolios. The group said that the Turkomans are prepared to take up arms if they must to obtain their rights, but added that they prefer dialogue. "We demand that the new interim government address this and solve the problem and the situation by making certain amendments and offering the political role to the Turkomans so that we can feel that we have terminated injustice as well as dictatorship in Iraq," the statement said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

TRIBAL LEADERS VOW TO FIGHT CRIME, PROTECT TRANSPORT ROUTES. Thamir al-Dulaymi, secretary-general of the Iraqi National League of Tribal Chiefs, has issued a statement stating the league's intention to work to reduce incidents of crime and robbery -- particularly along transportation routes -- and to prevent hostage taking, Baghdad's "Al-Ta'akhi" reported on 17 June. Al-Dulaymi said that the force, to be manned by the member tribes, has been welcomed by the U.S.-led coalition forces. Al-Dulaymi reportedly denied, however, that U.S. forces would fund the force. The Iraqi National League of Tribal Chiefs is a 16,000-member organization comprising tribal elders and dignitaries, according to "Al-Ta'akhi." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

AL-FALLUJAH CLERIC DENIES ORDERING KILLING OF SIX SHI'ITES. Iraqi imam Sheikh Abdallah al-Janabi has denied reports by AFP that he ordered the execution of six Shi'ites in Al-Fallujah, Al-Arabiyah television reported on 15 June. The men were arrested by militants and police forces in the city for unknown reasons on 5 June.

Al-Janabi denied in a 15 June interview with the satellite news channel that he was involved in the incident. "There was an arrest and murder. I do not know who the sides that carried out the arrest and murder were," he said. The imam then claimed that the men may have participated with the coalition in battling militants in Al-Fallujah in April and implied that they deserved to be killed.

The Muslim Ulama Council condemned the killings, placing the blame on Hussein loyalists, London's "Al-Hayat" reported on 22 June. An unnamed official from the council said that the council undertook efforts to ease tension with the Shi'ite Al-Da'wah Party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and its Badr Corps following the killings. Meanwhile, Sunni clerics in the city maintained they had no part in the killings. Sheikh Jamal Shakir, imam of the Al-Kabir Mosque in Al-Fallujah, said, "The people, youths, and all sectors of Al-Fallujah are innocent of these falsehoods and of the blood of every Muslim," "Al-Hayat" reported. Just one day earlier, Muslim Ulama Council spokesman Abd al-Salam al-Kubaysi told Al-Jazeera that the men were killed in a traffic accident. "The incident was nothing but an accident, regardless of who did it and how it was done," al-Kubaysi said.

Iraqi President Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir has condemned the murders, calling the killings a desperate attempt to distort the image of the citizens of Al-Fallujah, Al-Jazeera reported on 17 June. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

RAGHAD HUSSEIN TO RUN FOR PRESIDENCY? The eldest daughter of deposed President Saddam Hussein has reportedly said that she intends to run for the presidency in Iraq, Iraqi and Arab media reported this week. Baghdad daily "Al-Manar" reported on 20 June that Raghad Hussein has been telling visitors to her Amman home that she intends to participate in the elections slated for January. Hussein reportedly said that she intends to meet with the ambassadors of the five permanent UN Security Council member states as well as Arab ambassadors to inform them of her decision to run.

Hussein told "Sayidaty" magazine in an interview published on 11 June that she would return to Iraq if allowed. "Yes, if I have a chance, I'll go back faster than you would imagine," she said. Raghad's claims will likely rouse concern among the Jordanian royal family. King Abdullah II granted her and her sister Rana asylum in Jordan last year on the stipulation that they would not engage in politics while in the kingdom. "Al-Manar" also reported on 20 June that rumors have been circulating in Amman this week that Iraqi men are joining the Iraqi Army at the orders of former high-ranking officers from the Republican Guard in preparation for a coup. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

EGYPT TO MAINTAIN LIMITED DIPLOMATIC MISSION IN IRAQ. London's "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported on 20 June that Egypt plans to operate its mission in Iraq on a limited capacity until Iraq assumes full sovereignty. Citing unidentified senior Egyptian officials, the daily reported that full relations would not be established with Iraq until a plan is in place for the withdrawal of U.S.-led occupation forces. Iraqi President al-Yawir is expected to travel to Cairo this summer to discuss Iraqi-Egyptian relations with Egyptian President Husni Mubarak. Egyptian sources told "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" that Mubarak would also address economic cooperation and trade with al-Yawir. Egypt has already pledged to train some 2,000 Iraqi security and police forces. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

GUL MEETS TALABANI, ISSUES WARNING ON KIRKUK. Turkish Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Gul reportedly issued a warning to Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leader Jalal Talabani during meetings in Ankara this week, Anatolia news agency reported on 22 June.

Diplomatic sources told Anatolia that Gul warned Talabani about Kurdish attempts to change the demographic composition of Kirkuk, in which many Turkomans reside. Gul reportedly told the PUK head that such attempts would lead to tension and violence and yield "unfavorable results," Anatolia reported.

Regarding the presence of the Turkish-Kurdish opposition group Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), now known as Kongra-Gel, Gul reiterated earlier demands that the Kurds take action to expel the group from northern Iraq. Gul said that if Talabani is truly responsible for his region, then he should take prompt action, Anatolia reported. Talabani reportedly assured Gul that the PUK would not tolerate any action by the PKK against Turkey, and stressed his belief that the PKK is in a process of disintegration and might no longer pose a threat to Turkey. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

KUWAIT TO SERVE AS BASE FOR UN. Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Khalid Sulayman al-Jarallah has announced that his country has concluded an agreement with United Nation's envoy Ross Mountain that allows the UN to base its operations in Kuwait until the security situation in Iraq stabilizes, reported on 14 June. "In principle, Kuwait agrees to have the United Nations launch its operations to serve the people of Iraq from its territories. But this will not happen before the beginning of next month, i.e. after sovereignty and power are transferred to the Iraqis," al-Jarallah said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

FIJIAN SOLDIERS TO PROTECT UN STAFF IN IRAQ. Fifty-one Fijian soldiers will be stationed in Iraq to provide security for United Nations staff working there, AFP reported on 21 June. An unidentified Fijian military official told the news agency that the "personal protection officers" would be deployed to Iraq in early July. "We have made a selection and the men have undergone training specific for these PPO positions," the officer said. Fijian soldiers have served in a peacekeeping capacity in the Middle East for nearly 30 years. Their last mission was in Lebanon. AFP reported that several hundred former soldiers are now working for private security firms in Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

UNHCR HELPS FACILITATE REPATRIATION OF IRAQI KURDS. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced on 23 June the opening of a new border crossing between Iran and Iraq at Haj Omran that will help facilitate the repatriation of Iraqi refugees to northern Iraq (see Eighty such refugees from the Ziveh camp, located in Iran's West Azerbaijan province, passed through the new border crossing on 23 June. The camp houses about 3,300 Iraqi refugees, many of whom fled Iraq 15 years ago during the Anfal campaign, when the Hussein military used chemical weapons on Iraqi civilian Kurds (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 17 July 2003).

"With the opening today of the northern Haj Omran border crossing, these Kurdish refugees have finally been given an opportunity to return home via a more convenient northern route," said UNHCR representative Philippe Lavanchy. "We are very pleased that UNHCR can help ease returns for those people who really wish to go back to Iraq's three northern governorates." Kurds wishing to return home previously had to cross into Iraq through the Shalamcheh border into Al-Basrah, and then make their way back to northern Iraq.

Iraqi and International Rescue Committee representatives received the refugees at the border and processed them at a reception center in Dyana, where the returnees were given food, medical treatment, and mine-awareness training. Fifty-six of the refugees were then transported to Irbil, while 24 went to Dahuk. Some 11,500 Iraqis have been repatriated to Iraq from Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon since the fall of the Hussein regime, UNHCR reported. Some 25 percent of Iraqi refugees living in Iran when the Hussein regime was deposed were Iraqi Kurds. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

AUDITORS SLAM CPA MANAGEMENT OF IRAQI FUNDS. KPMG, the UN-appointed auditing firm hired to oversee the U.S. spending of Iraqi revenues, has criticized the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) for its spending of some $11 billion in Iraqi oil revenues, reported on 21 June.

KPMG said in an interim report obtained by that the U.S.-managed Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) is "open to fraudulent acts." The report also criticized the CPA's accounting methods, stating: "The CPA does not have effective controls over the ministries' spending of their individually allocated budgets, whether the funds are [directly disbursed] from the CPA or via the ministry of finance."

KPMG also criticized the State Organization for Marketing Oil, which oversees the country's sale of oil. KPMG was hired by the International Advisory and Monitoring Board for Iraq, which was established by the UN to act as the audit oversight body for the DFI (see (Kathleen Ridolfo)

JUDGE RULES THAT U.S. GENERALS CAN BE QUESTIONED ABOUT ABU GHURAYB. A U.S. military judge ruled on 21 June that U.S. Central Command commander John Abizaid and other top commanders can be questioned by attorneys representing soldiers accused of prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghurayb prison in Baghdad, international media reported.

Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of Multinational Force-Iraq, and his deputy, Lieutenant General Thomas Metz, and Major General Geoffrey Miller "and anybody below them including lawyers who have relevant testimony," can also be questioned by the defense. Miller heads detention operations in Iraq. The judge, Colonel James Pohl, also said that statements given to Major General Antonio Taguba, who investigated the abuse for the military (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 7 May 2004), could be declassified in some cases, AFP reported on 21 June.

Pohl also ordered the Abu Ghurayb prison to remain standing throughout the trials, although he would have no legal jurisdiction over the prison after the 30 June transfer of power. Regardless, the Iraqi interim administration is not likely to demolish the prison in the near future. Defense attorneys representing two of the soldiers, Staff Sergeant Javal Davis and Specialist Charles Graner, have argued that the men were only following orders in Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. SOLDIERS TO TAKE LOWER PROFILE AFTER 30 JUNE. U.S. soldiers in Iraq will take a lower profile in the country following the 30 June transfer of power, reported on 21 June. The new stance, dubbed Operation New Dawn, calls for U.S. soldiers to operate on joint patrols only in tandem with Iraqi soldiers. Military helicopters will also switch to flying "friendly approaches" rather than threatening ones, the website reported.

Major General John Batiste said this week that he expects Iraqi security forces to assume full control of combat operations and policing in the 1st Infantry Division's area of command by September. Batiste, who briefed U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, said that Iraqis should be completely responsible for policing polling stations when national elections are held in January. Another unnamed commander told Wolfowitz, "this is the theme of this briefing: Glass is half-full, things are headed in the right direction," reported.

Commanders warned that challenges lay ahead, however. They said that the number of militants present in Baghdad's Al-Sadr City has remained largely unchanged, despite the fact that large numbers of militants were killed in fighting in April. It appears, according to the commanders, that new fighters, many of whom are teenagers, have replaced those who were killed. Baghdad's "Al-Furat" reported on 6 June that militants from the Imam Al-Mahdi Army loyal to Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have moved their resistance operations from Al-Najaf to Baghdad following the cessation of fighting in the former, which is a holy city. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

LUKOIL TO TRAIN IRAQI OIL WORKERS. The Russian oil company LUKoil has announced that it will train several hundred Iraqi oil workers in Russia for the next several years, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 June. "The first group of 100 specialists selected by the Iraqi Oil Ministry will arrive in Russia later this summer for on-the-job training at the LUKoil-West Siberia company," Grigorii Volchek, the press secretary of LUKoil Overseas, said.

The first group of trainees will be engineers and technicians. In all, the company intends to train around 150 Iraqis each year, and in September, it will pay for several dozen Iraqi students to study at the Gubkin Oil and Gas University in Moscow. It has also committed itself to rebuilding the Iraqi oil industry through a $5 million contribution for 2004-05. LUKoil is hoping that the Iraqi government will honor a preexisting contract between the company and the deposed Hussein regime for the development of the West Qurna-2 oil field in southwestern Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 6 June 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

JAPAN TO JOIN MULTINATIONAL FORCE IN IRAQ. The Japanese government has approved a plan for the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to join the multinational force in Iraq, international media reported on 18 June. The decision to join the U.S.-led mission was a much-debated topic in Japan, as many feared that such participation might draw Japanese troops into combat situations, Reuters reported. Soldiers are banned from participating in combat on foreign soil under the Japanese Constitution. Japanese troops stationed in Iraq have been acting in a strictly humanitarian capacity.

Japanese leaders say that the mission of SDF troops won't change under the multinational force. "It is extremely important for the Self-Defense Forces to continue with their mission as part of our country's support for the reconstruction of Iraq," Reuters quoted Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda as saying. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said that "even though we are to operate within a multinational force, nothing substantial will change" regarding the soldiers' mission, Kyodo World Service reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ITALIAN MILITARY TO STAY IN IRAQ UNTIL END OF YEAR. Italy's Council of Ministers passed a bill in Rome on 22 June extending Italy's military commitment to Iraqi through 31 December, Rome's "La Repubblica" reported on 23 June. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has reiterated his country's commitment to Iraq several times in recent months. Italy makes up the third-largest foreign troop contingent in Iraq, behind the United States and United Kingdom. Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said on 21 June that Italy will not increase its troop presence in Iraq, however, adding that some soldiers may join a UN security force, Bloomberg reported on 22 June. (Kathleen Ridolfo)