16 May 2003, Volume 6, Number 22
INSIDE IRAQNEW SECURITY MEASURES IN IRAQ MEAN LOOTERS MAY BE SHOT. New security measures are being implemented in Iraq under the direction of U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer, "The New York Times" website (http://www.nytimes.com/) reported on 14 May. One U.S. official told the daily that Bremer "made it very clear that he is now in charge," adding, "I think you are going to see a change in the rules of engagement within a few days to get the situation under control" in Iraq. The official said the new measures include a policy of shooting looters to send a message that looting, theft, and violent crime will not be tolerated under Bremer's administration of Iraq.
Another goal of the U.S. administrator is to have a visible police presence on the streets of Baghdad, officials told the daily. In addition, U.S. officials told "The New York Times" that the new U.S. decree on de-Ba'athification will prohibit Ba'ath Party members from serving in senior government positions. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
REPORTS CONTINUE OF ROBBERY AND DISORDER IN BAGHDAD. Kurdishmedia.com issued a report on 13 May discussing the current state of disorder in some areas of Baghdad. The report describes some neighborhoods in the Iraqi capital -- specifically, Al-Dura, Al-Kazimiyah, Al-Thawra, Bab Al-Shaykh, and Al-Taji -- as "extremely dangerous," witnessing incidents of violent theft.
"The main streets of Baghdad, in particular those areas that the U.S. Army does not patrol, such as Al-Nahjah, Al-Kifah, Al-Thawra, Al-Mada'in, Bab Al-Shaykh, Bab Al-Sharqi, Baghdad Al-Jadidah, Al-Ma'mum, and Shari Al-Jamhuriah, from around 4:00 p.m. are controlled by armed gangs...ready to confiscate cars, cash, expensive goods and valuables from people." The report also recounts the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a 25-year-old female journalist, and said that journalists are often the target of the gangs.
In related news, the Kurdistan Democratic Party's website (http://www.kdp.info/) reported on 9 May that the Kurdistan Regional Government's Interior Ministry has said that 54 stolen cars have been returned to the city of Mosul "to be handed over to their rightful owners and in some cases to civilian offices in the city." An unnamed U.S. Army general reportedly oversaw the return of the stolen vehicles, which were transported in a convoy (the report did not say from where) to the northern city's governorate office. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IRAQI COURTS RESUME WORK. Iraq's judicial system came creaking back to life under the watchful eye of U.S. armed forces on 8 May with criminal proceedings against a small group of defendants in Baghdad, Reuters reported the same day. Meanwhile, Clint Williamson, senior U.S. adviser to Iraq's reemerging Justice Ministry, told reporters that "special arrangements" will be required to try members of the deposed Ba'ath Party leadership, the BBC reported on 8 May. Williamson said that Iraq's 1969 criminal law will be pressed into service for now, albeit without Saddam Hussein-era legal innovations -- such as the beheading of prostitutes and the criminal prosecution of persons deemed to have insulted the president -- that violate international conventions.
In a 9 May report, London's "The Times" wrote that the previous day's "experiment in justice mainly produced chaotic scenes." Still, with Ba'ath Party political courts a thing of the past, U.S. officials were optimistic about the future of the country's judiciary. Colonel Marc Warren, a U.S. adviser and lawyer, told "The Times" that the criminal division "could be rehabilitated." (Daniel Kimmage)
THOUSANDS OF BODIES UNCOVERED IN MASS GRAVE IN IRAQ. More than 3,000 bodies have been uncovered at the site of a mass grave in the area of Al-Mahawil (near Al-Hillah) approximately 90 kilometers south of Baghdad, international media reported on 14 May. The bodies, half of which have already been identified, appear to be victims killed by President Saddam Hussein's regime following a Shi'ite uprising at the end of the 1991 Gulf War, Human Rights Watch spokesman Peter Bouckaert told CNN.
Local residents told "The New York Times" that they witnessed the regime busing Shi'ites to a marsh area in Al-Mahawil in February and March 1991, sometimes twice a day, where the victims were shot and buried by bulldozers, according to a 14 May report on the daily's website. The site extends over several acres, and excavations are expected to yield several thousand more victims.
Meanwhile, U.S. Marines were criticized for refusing to seal off the site so that a methodical investigation could be conducted. Such an investigation could uncover evidence that might later be used in prosecuting war crimes of the Hussein regime. In a statement posted on the organization's website, Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized the U.S. for failing to protect the site. "The U.S. government has known since 3 May about the existence of a mass grave in Al-Hillah (Al-Mahawil) but has not taken action to protect the site," the organization charged.
According to HRW: "On 3 May, the mayor of Al-Hillah requested assistance from U.S. Marines to guard the site. On 5 May, investigators for the Pentagon's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Aid (ORHA) reported to authorities in Washington that the grave had been inadequately protected, and recommended the creation of mobile forensic teams that could visit the site. On 7 May, ORHA reported to Washington that the mass grave might contain several thousand bodies." The failure of U.S. forces to protect the site has resulted in "desperate families trying to dig up the site themselves -- disturbing the evidence for forensic experts who could professionally establish the identities of the victims," Peter Bouckaert, HRW's senior emergencies researcher, said. The organization also reported the discovery of a "secret burial ground containing the numbered graves of more than 1,000 prisoners executed by the Iraqi government." The site is located approximately 40 kilometers north of Baghdad in the village of Muhammad Sakran, HRW reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
SIX IRAQI CHILDREN DIE WHILE PLAYING WITH BOMB. Six Iraqi children were killed and 10 others injured while they attempted to dismantle a bomb in the southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah on 12 May, Reuters reported on 14 May. "It seems the children were trying to get the copper out of an Iraqi munition when it exploded," the news agency quoted a British military spokeswoman as saying from London. Christian Aid emergency officer Dominic Nutt told Reuters in a telephone interview that Iraqi children are desperate for copper to sell. "This is happening every day; it doesn't always get reported officially," he said, adding, "There are arms dumps all over the country, and add to that the collapse of the economy and industry and people are desperate for things to sell." U.S. and British forces are reportedly in the process of collecting unexploded ammunition strewn across Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
CHOLERA CONFIRMED IN SOUTHERN CITY OF AL-BASRAH. The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed a cholera outbreak in the city of Al-Basrah, according to the organization's website (http://www.who.int/). The WHO reported four confirmed cases on 13 May and another 18 cases on 14 May. "Another 18 cases have been clinically and laboratory-confirmed from three hospitals in Al-Basrah. [The] WHO warned the national and international health community as soon as cholera was first identified by hospital staff in Al-Basrah last week in order to put in place immediate containment measures," according to the announcement. The WHO stated that a task force has been set up to minimize the outbreak. It added that cases have been present in the city since 1989, with 257 cases in 2002. The organization expressed concern over reports of diarrheal disease throughout Iraq, and said a lack of clean, safe water might lead to the appearance of other diarrheal diseases in addition to cholera. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
U.S. RAIDS VILLAGE, DETAINS 200. U.S. Army forces raided an Iraqi village near the city of Tikrit in the early morning hours of 15 May and detained more than 200 people, including a man on U.S. Central Command's (CENTCOM) list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis from the ousted Hussein regime, AP reported the same day. More than 500 soldiers, aided by 18 Bradley fighting vehicles, 12 howitzers, and 35 armored Humvees, sealed off a nine-block perimeter in the town and conducted house-to-house searches in a raid that lasted some five hours, ending at around 7 a.m. According to AP, in addition to the unnamed most-wanted prisoner, two Iraqi Army generals and one general from Hussein's security forces were also arrested. It is unclear whether any of those detainees are on the most-wanted list. Seventeen bricks of plastic explosives were also found in the raid, as well as "a large stack of brand-new Iraqi currency." (Kathleen Ridolfo)
MORE REGIME MEMBERS IN CUSTODY. Coalition forces apprehended another former Iraqi official on CENTCOM's list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis from the deposed Hussein regime, Reuters reported on 13 May. Fadil Mahmud Gharib, Ba'ath Party chairman and commander of the Ba'ath Party militia for the Babil and Karbala governorates and 28th on the most-wanted list, was taken into coalition custody, according to an unnamed U.S. Defense Department official, speaking to Reuters, which also reported that Gharib is also known as Gharib Muhammad Faysal al-Mashaykh.
In addition, CENTCOM announced in a 12 May press release that Rihab Rashid Taha al-Azzawi al-Tikriti, the former director of the Iraqi Bacterial and Biological Program was in custody. Although not on CENTCOM's list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis from the Hussein regime, Taha, a microbiologist also known as "Dr. Germ," could likely provide valuable information on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs. Taha holds a doctorate from Britain's University of East Anglia, Reuters reported on 12 May. She is the wife of former Iraqi oil minister, Amir Rashid Muhammad al-Ubaydi, who surrendered to coalition forces in late April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 April 2003).
According to the same report, coalition forces have also captured Ibrahim Ahmad Abd al-Sattar Muhammad al-Tikriti, who served as the Iraqi Armed Forces Chief of Staff under the Hussein regime. He was 11th on CENTCOM's list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis from the Hussein regime. He is best known for his role in regaining Iraqi control over the Al-Faw Peninsula during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, Reuters reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
BA'ATH PARTY BANNED. U.S. General Tommy Franks, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, announced on 11 May that the Ba'ath Party of deposed Iraqi President Hussein has been banned in Iraq, "The Washington Post" reported on 12 May. Franks ordered the party to cease operating immediately, in a statement read on U.S.-controlled radio. The party, which held control over Iraqi politics under Hussein's regime, had been decapitated in essence when coalition forces defeated the regime.
Under Hussein, Iraqis seeking to rise through government administrative, political, and military ranks were required to subscribe to Ba'athist ideology (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 10 April 2003). The Ba'ath Party infiltrated and controlled every aspect of Iraqi life, with headquarters located in the neighborhoods of every major city. All other political parties were banned.
In the 11 May announcement, Franks said, "The apparatus of Iraqi security, intelligence, and military intelligence belonging to Saddam Hussein are deprived of their authority and power."
The banning of the party also means that government military and civilian employees must recant their allegiance to the ideology, as it would be difficult and even counterproductive to ban all Ba'ath Party members from their former jobs, as many of them are needed in the reconstruction effort. Franks recognizes this, and, according to international press reports, has devised a remedy. Workers returning to their civilian and military jobs are being asked to sign a document renouncing the Ba'ath Party before they may return to work. According to "The Washington Post," the only Ba'ath Party members that are banned from participating in the post-Hussein government are senior figures from the dictator's regime. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
U.S. FORCES STORM ISLAMIC PARTY OF IRAQ HEADQUARTERS. U.S. forces reportedly stormed the headquarters of the Islamic Party of Iraq in Al-Fallujah, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 May. The news agency said some 50 U.S. commandos removed all documents and computer equipment from the building. The report noted that the United States suspects the party of planning to establish an armed group. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
COALITION CONTINUES TO DISARM IRAQI-BASED MKO. CENTCOM announced in a 13 May press release that coalition forces are continuing their work to disarm the Iraqi-based Iranian opposition group Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO). According to the release, the MKO forces "have left their border checkpoints and they are complying fully with coalition instructions and directives." The press release added that the MKO forces will be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention. The forces are "consolidating their weapons and personnel to separate holding areas under close control of coalition forces," the press release noted.
Meanwhile, the London-based daily "Al-Hayat" reported on 12 May that U.S. and MKO forces have imposed a press blackout at the Al-Ashraf Camp where the MKO is disarming. "The orders we have since the morning is to ban correspondents from entering," an MKO official told the daily. "Al-Hayat" reported that it was also banned from photographing the camp, located near Al-Khalis, north of Baghdad. According to the report, The U.S. 2nd Armored Division entered the Al-Ashraf Camp on 9 May to seize the group's armored vehicles and heavy weapons. Al-Ashraf was the main base of three MKO camps in Iraq. The MKO entered Iraq in 1985 and supported the Hussein regime. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
MOBILE LAB FOUND? U.S. forces have found a trailer in northern Iraq that may be a mobile biological-weapons laboratory, AP quoted unnamed Pentagon officials as stating on 12 May. The trailer, discovered outside Mosul, is similar to one discovered in April and may have been used as a germ-weapons workshop, AP reported the officials as saying. The trailer is being examined in Mosul and will eventually be transported to Baghdad International Airport, where the first trailer is being held.
According to AP, the first trailer was painted in camouflage and mounted on a transporter that is normally used for tanks. It contained fermentation equipment and a system to capture exhaust gases that result from the fermentation process, AP reported U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone as saying.
Meanwhile, U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice told Reuters on 12 May that a new team of weapons inspectors from the U.S., U.K., and Australia will try to follow the paper trail left behind by the Hussein regime in an effort to uncover Iraq's WMD program. "The team that will be going in will be larger [and] will have people who are more expert in document exploitation and intelligence and all of the pieces that we need," Rice said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
COALITION RELEASES BAGHDAD'S SELF-STYLED MAYOR. Coalition forces have released Muhammad Muhsin al-Zubaydi from custody, CENTCOM announced in an 11 May press release. Al-Zubaydi purported to be the coalition-appointed mayor of Baghdad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 April 2003) before being arrested by coalition troops on 27 April. According to the press release, al-Zubaydi admitted "that he had overstepped his authority and that his actions were contrary to coalition efforts to secure and stabilize Baghdad." Al-Zubaydi has issued a public statement vowing to work within the coalition authority, according to CENTCOM, which quoted him as stating: "I now realize that a number of my statements and actions have actually served to hinder the progress in the very areas in which I was working to improve. I am not the mayor of Baghdad, nor am I interested in working independently of the coalition to achieve...peace and prosperity for all Iraqis." (Kathleen Ridolfo)
EXILED SCIRI LEADER RETURNS TO IRAQ. Supreme Council for the Islamic Resistance in Iraq's (SCIRI) leader Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim returned to Iraq on 10 May after a 23-year exile in Iran. He promptly gave a speech in Al-Basrah in which he demanded that foreigners leave Iraq, called for unity among Iraqis, and appeared to praise a theocratic system of government, according to Iranian state television. "We should speak with one voice. The marjaiyat [sources of emulation] is one of the institutions that unifies our people and we shall be serving it." According to London's "The Times" on 10 May, al-Hakim's supporters compare his return to Iraq to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's return to Iran in 1979. His opponents, on the other hand, see him as old news and criticize his alliance with Iran during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War. These opponents consider Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Hojatoleslam Muqtada al-Sadr, Iraqis who stayed in Iraq, more representative. (Bill Samii)
INFORMAL COUNCIL INCHES TOWARD INTERIM GOVERNMENT. Representatives of five Iraqi political organizations met with U.S. officials on 8 May and agreed to include two more groups in the ad hoc council that some view as a new government in the making, AP reported the same day.
Participants in the meeting with Jay Garner, head of the ORHA, were: Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress; Mas'ud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party; Jalal Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan; Iyad Allawi, head of Iraqi National Accord; and Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, brother of Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, who heads the SCIRI. They will now be joined by Al-Da'wah, an Iran-based Shi'a group, and Nasir al-Jadirji, the son of a pre-1968 Iraqi democratic leader.
The groups agreed to step up efforts to hold a national conference with the aim of putting together an interim government by late May, Reuters reported on 8 May. (Daniel Kimmage)
INC HEAD TALKS ABOUT POST-HUSSEIN IRAQ. Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), spoke with London-based "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" about the future Iraqi military and political structure in an interview published on 12 May. Chalabi told the daily that the INC continues to work with coalition forces to track down wanted members of the Hussein regime, and said that Saddam Hussein and his sons are alive and moving around Iraq "under special protection."
Asked whether the INC's "Free Iraqi Forces" constitute a militia, he said "no," adding that they are "an Iraqi military force within the coalition forces." Chalabi told "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" that there would not be an opportunity for armed opposition groups to develop into militias that might one day spur ethnic conflict. "This will not happen," he said, "because we will unite these opposition forces in a new Iraqi army. Private military forces and party militias will not be formed because they will all be part of the new army's forces." Commenting on the SCIRI's Badr Brigades, an armed force numbering over 10,000, Chalabi said: "They have been in Iraq and [they] fought Saddam. I believe they are now trying to become part of the Iraqi armed forces in the future."
Chalabi also addressed the issue of an interim Iraqi authority that has been proposed to administer the country following the withdrawal of the U.S. civilian administration and national Iraqi elections. Asked about the composition of such an authority, Chalabi said that the authority would be democratically chosen, adding that "relevant Iraqi parties" were discussing the issue. When asked how this might be accomplished when there is no founding council or other institutions for people's participation, Chalabi responded: "There do exist organizations within the society and the people can be reached through tribal representatives and others. I admit that the situation is neither model nor permanent, but the purpose is to consult political and social leaders, tribal heads, engineers, and lawyers."
Chalabi reiterated that he will not seek a political role in Iraq, but said he would not rule out such a role down the road. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IRAQI OPPOSITION FIGURE EXPRESSES DOUBT OVER INTERIM ADMINISTRATION. Iraqi opposition figure Sa'dun al-Dulaymi, a former brigadier general in the Iraqi Army, told London-based "Al-Hayat" in an interview published on 10 May that he fears that a post-Hussein administration of Iraq might spiral into chaos, leading eventually to a civil war in the country.
Al-Dulaymi, who left Iraq in 1991, is not tied to any political group and considers himself an independent. He reportedly has worked as an adviser to the U.S. Department of Defense, and according to "Al-Hayat," his name was submitted for a position in the Iraqi Interior Ministry. He told the daily that he is one of 150 Iraqis that were "summoned to Washington two days after the start of [the] war to form the administration that would assume the task of managing the situation in Iraq." He said that his colleagues are still in Washington, and were not yet dispatched to the region out of security concerns. "I preferred to leave the group," he said, adding, "How can I address the security problems if I cannot work under difficult security conditions?"
Al-Dulaymi said that some opposition groups were stockpiling light, medium, and heavy weapons in warehouses around Iraq. "Parties that have come from abroad and others that have militias in Iraq are stockpiling weapons." He theorized that the groups were preparing to use the weapons against "internal parties," since there is no need for them to have weapons, as they are no longer fighting the defunct regime.
He also expressed concern over the U.S. decision to divide Iraq into four administrative areas, saying, "I am afraid that the governorates will be divided among themselves, particularly under the encouragement given to primitive tribal elements." Al-Dulaymi added that he had expressed this concern to U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, telling him that "encouraging the tribes will turn Iraq into another Afghanistan." "Al-Hayat" reported that al-Dulaymi is now considered the representative of the Al-Dulaymi tribe, which comprises some 2 million people. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
PACHACHI DISCUSSES LEADERSHIP COUNCIL, POSTWAR PLANNING. Iraqi leader Adnan Pachachi, the 80-year-old former Iraqi foreign minister who now heads the "Independent Iraqis for Democracy," told London-based "Al-Hayat" in an interview published on 13 May that he is not in favor of an interim Iraqi government comprised "of groups from the external opposition and some figures, and set up along sectarian and ethnic lines with political justifications." He called for a broadened opposition conference that would ensure wide participation by all Iraqis.
Asked about an Iraqi leadership council, Pachachi said that one proposed formula would be that "the conference would elect a leadership council comprising three, five, or seven members who would assume the presidency in turn. The elected president will be the head of state and prime minister. As prime minister he will appoint the ministers and will represent Iraq in international gatherings."
Pachachi said that the Iraqi people are becoming less tolerant due to instability in the country. He called on the U.S. administrators to prevent the emergence of a political and security vacuum. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
SCIRI ISSUES MEMO ON CHOOSING INTERIM NATIONAL COUNCIL. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) has issued a memorandum to the members of the interim higher leadership team (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 7 May 2003) recommending a mechanism for choosing members for an interim national council, Bahrain-based "Akhbar al-Khalij" reported on 11 May. The national council would be responsible for electing an interim government and new Iraqi prime minister.
The memorandum recommends that the 65 members of the "Follow-up and Coordination Committee," along with a group of nominees from inside Iraq, "based on a numerical ceiling that takes into account the selection of one delegate for every 100,000 citizens, based on the number of governorates," and minority delegates all participate in the council meeting.
In addition, the leadership board would appoint a committee for each of Iraq's 18 governorates, and select delegates from the tribes and dignitaries of each governorate based on the allotted number. The Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Industries, as well as judges and prominent educational or professional figures, and senior religious figures would also submit representatives.
The memorandum, which excludes senior members and branch members of the Ba'ath Party from participating in the council, calls for a meeting of the interim national council by the end of May, and states, "The most senior member [of the leadership board] will chair the meeting." It also calls for the establishment of parliamentary blocs based on member affiliations, in an effort to "activate the political life."
The memorandum also recommends that the council choose a temporary interim government and a sovereign council, stating, "The leadership board shall present to the interim council the names of the temporary government members. The council shall vote on each name separately." The council would then choose a prime minister, who would nominate a cabinet, which the interim national council would approve by a "vote of confidence." It also calls for the number of former ministries to be maintained in order "to avoid confusion." (Kathleen Ridolfo)
KURDISTAN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATES ROLE OF PEACE MONITORING FORCE. The Iraqi Kurdistan National Assembly unanimously approved a resolution calling for the withdrawal of Turkish peacekeepers from Iraqi Kurdistan, Reuters reported on 13 May. The assembly had convened on 6 May to address this and other issues related to post-Hussein Iraq, according to kurdishmedia.com. The Peace Monitoring Force (PMF), a Turkish-dominated 800-member military force, which entered Iraq to monitor the peace between the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the mid-1990s. Iraqi Turkomans also serve in the force.
During the initial debate on 6 May, parliament members argued that the presence of the PMF was no longer necessary, citing the strong relations between the PUK and KDP -- the region has remained stable since 1997, according to the kurdishmedia.com report -- as well as the success of the parliament, comprised of PUK and KDP members, which has functioned since reconvening in October 2002 (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 12 October 2002). Istanbul's NTV reported on 14 May that Ankara has dispatched a Foreign Ministry delegation to northern Iraq to discuss the parliament's decision. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
REGIONAL NEWSSYRIAN-IRAQI BORDER CROSSING REOPENED. U.S. forces assisted in the reopening of a Syrian-Iraqi border crossing in northern Iraq on 13 May, Reuters reported the same day. "Today we helped reopen the Iraqi border with Syria to trade in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions that govern such trade," U.S. Major General David Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, told reporters in Washington via a satellite link from Mosul. He said some 18,000 troops from his division are now stationed in the Mosul region. The troops are performing a variety of functions, from jointly patrolling the streets with Iraqi police to delivering fuel and dispersing municipal-salary payments. Patraeus added that water and electricity has been restored to 90 percent of Mosul. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
JORDAN SENDS PUBLIC WORKS TEAM TO ASSESS IRAQI BRIDGES. Jordan has sent a team of engineers to assess a number of bridges destroyed or damaged during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the "Jordan Times" website (http://www.jordantimes.com/) reported on 14 May. The Jordanian Ministry of Public Works and Housing's Secretary-General Abd al-Majid Kabariti told the daily that the Jordanian Armed Forces Crisis Management Center issued the request. "Several main bridges in Iraq were damaged during the war and are not safe to use," Kabariti said.
He added that a team has already assessed a bridge located about 175 kilometers from the Al-Karamah border crossing. "We have been working on a six-lane road of which only one lane is operational at Al-Rutbah and we have made the necessary calculations to ensure safe traffic movement," he added. According to the report, the ministry is working with the UN and Iraqi authorities on the project. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
U.A.E. RED CRESCENT COMPLETES WATER PURIFICATION PROJECTS IN SOUTH... The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) Red Crescent Society has completed several "Shaykh Zayed Water Purification Projects" in Iraq, the Emirates News Agency, WAM, reported on its website on 12 May (http://www.wam.org.ae/). Citing a statement by the U.A.E. Red Crescent Society, WAM reported that work on water-desalination plants was completed in Al-Basrah, Umm Al-Khasib, and Umm Qasr. As a result, 1 million gallons of drinking water is now available per day in the three cities. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
...AS DRINKING WATER FROM IRAN ARRIVES IN AL-BASRAH. Six tankers transporting 100,000 liters of drinking water arrived in the southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah on 11 May, IRNA reported the next day. The shipment is part of an Iranian program to ship 105,000 liters of water per day from Khorramshahr to Al-Basrah, which is located 30 kilometers away. The Iranian government and humanitarian organizations have sent other kinds of aid to Iraq in recent weeks, including sugar, blankets, cooking oil, cereals, detergents, and rice. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
REPORT ALLEGES THAT IRAQI AGENTS INFILTRATED AL-JAZEERA. Britain's "Sunday Times" reported on 11 May that documents from Baghdad prove that Iraqi intelligence agents infiltrated Qatar-based satellite-television network Al-Jazeera. According to the documents, allegedly obtained by the Iraqi National Congress (INC) and subsequently made available to the "Sunday Times," Iraqi intelligence controlled three agents within Al-Jazeera and referred to the network as an "instrument" the regime used to "foil" U.S. aggression. There was no independent confirmation of the allegations. For its part, Al-Jazeera promised to investigate the matter, CNN reported on 11 May. Network spokesman Jihad Ballout commented, "We were told that there were documents, we were presented with documents, but we have not ascertained their authenticity." Ballout told Reuters on 11 May that the network did not know of "any member of Al-Jazeera who is working for any foreign intelligence" group. Some observers saw a pro-Hussein bias in the network's war coverage, which focused heavily on Iraqi civilian casualties. An Al-Jazeera crew was harassed by a crowd of Iraqis in Al-Basrah on 10 May, AP reported the next day. According to the Al-Jazeera newscaster, "Angry locals accused the station of complicity with the previous regime." No one was hurt in the incident. (Daniel Kimmage)
MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD CALLS FOR JIHAD IN IRAQ. The leader of Egypt's outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, an influential Islamist group with a violent past, told Reuters in a 7 May interview that Muslims should wage a jihad, or holy war, to oust foreign troops from Iraq. "When a Muslim country is invaded, jihad becomes a holy duty for every Muslim," 81-year-old Ma'mun al-Hudaybi told Reuters. Al-Hudaybi cautioned would-be holy warriors, however, that "jihad must be organized by the authorities.... It's not a matter of giving volunteers tickets to go and fight." (Daniel Kimmage)
THE UN AND IRAQU.S. PUSHING FOR QUICK IRAQ RESOLUTION IN SECURITY COUNCIL... U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte says it is vital that a UN Security Council resolution currently being debated, which would lift sanctions on Iraq, be voted on in the next few days, according to a 14 May report by the U.S. State Department's "Washington File," (http://usinfo.state.gov/). "The sanctions need to be lifted as soon as possible, and we need to move on with many of the pressing questions which relate to restoring economic activity to the hands of the people of Iraq," Negroponte said.
The U.S. ambassador said Iraqi "oil tanks are almost full" of oil needed to be exported from Iraqi "as soon as possible." "If it isn't exported, that has repercussions and reverberations right down throughout the system including, as I understand it, impacting [Iraq's] ability to manufacture products that can be used in the Iraqi market itself," he said. The Security Council is expected to vote on the draft resolution within a week. The U.S. lifted economic sanctions on Iraq on 7 May. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
...AS DISCUSSIONS AMONG COUNCIL MEMBERS CONTINUE. UN Security Council members continue to discuss the draft resolution on sanctions, which was submitted by the United States, United Kingdom, and Spain on 9 May, according to reports by the UN News Center (http://www.un.org/News/). The Security Council president for the month of May, Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan, told reporters on 14 May, "The process is engaged and substantive discussions are under way," adding, "I think we are still in the phase of clarification, actual negotiations may come later." He did not elaborate on the points of clarification but said, "There are questions with regard to the future of Iraq, what the powers of the authority would be, what the powers of the UN would be, what the process of moving towards representative government would be, [and] how the funds would be administered."
U.S. Ambassador Negroponte told reporters at the UN that the U.S. expects the world body to play an important role in Iraq. "The UN, as far as we're concerned, will have a vital role that's going to be in several different areas -- humanitarian is certainly one where the UN already has the coordinating role," the U.S. State Department's "Washington File" quoted Negroponte as saying. Negroponte also told reporters that the draft resolution highlights seven or eight different areas in which the UN coordinator for Iraq "could have a very, very important role," the UN News Center reported.
Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgii Mamedov told a news conference in Moscow on 15 May that the draft resolution would not automatically be approved by council members, Interfax reported on the same day. Mamedov said that a new variant of the draft would be presented on 15 May. His comments came as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told Ekho Moskvy radio that he believed that a new Iraqi government would take into account the debt incurred by the former Iraqi regime, Interfax reported. Iraq's debt to Russia is estimated at between $7 billion and $12 billion (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 12 October 2002). (Kathleen Ridolfo)
EUROPE, THE U.S. AND IRAQU.S. SHAKES UP IRAQ ADMINISTRATION. U.S. Army Major John Cornelio announced on 11 May that Barbara Bodine, U.S. coordinator for central Iraq, will be vacating her position immediately, AP reported the same day. Bodine, whose position made her the effective mayor of Baghdad, told "The Washington Post" on 11 May that she will be reassigned to Washington to be deputy director of the State Department's political-military division. The move marks the continuation of an administrative shake-up in which counterterrorism expert L. Paul Bremer replaces retired Major General Jay Garner at the helm of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) for Postwar Iraq. The "Los Angeles Times" reported on 11 May that, as Bremer takes control, two more senior officials will follow in Bodine's footsteps. An anonymous State Department source told the paper that Bodine will be replaced by a "retired foreign-service officer." The shake-up comes amid reports of mounting Iraqi frustration at continuing disorder and a vacuum of authority. The departing Bodine told "The Washington Post," "I'm not leaving with a sense that we've done everything we could have done, but I'm also not leaving with the sense that it's been a failure." (Daniel Kimmage)
BRITISH HAND OVER IRAQI PORT TO LOCAL AUTHORITIES. British authorities have handed over control of the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr to a 12-member temporary town council, the BBC reported on 15 May. The handover was marked by a short ceremony. Umm Qasr was the first Iraqi town to fall to coalition forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March 2003). The port, under the control of the British, has been a crucial part of the humanitarian-aid supply line. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY SAYS PROGRESS SLOW. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw indicated on 12 May that progress has been slow in restoring Iraq's civil administration, Reuters reported the same day. "Increasing numbers of Iraqi public servants are now returning to their jobs," Straw told Parliament, adding, "However, results in the early weeks have not been as good as we hoped." Straw also called the security situation in Baghdad unsatisfactory and said, "We [the U.K.] fully understand our responsibility, as does the United States, to ensure it becomes satisfactory very quickly," Reuters reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER COMMENTS ON REBUILDING EFFORT. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin told France's RTL Radio on 12 May that the international community must take swift action to restore a sense of normality to Iraq. "The whole international community most be mobilized, and there is a know-how on the United Nations' part, there is a legitimacy on the United Nation's part which are essential for reconstruction," Villepin said. He added that the UN experience in Kosovo and Afghanistan might be put to "good use" in Iraq, "whereas in the phase of establishing security...the coalition forces present on the ground have particular prerogatives -- it can be seen moreover, in the draft [UN Security Council] resolution -- because they assume and claim the status of an occupying power." Villepin also said that the international community must be mobilized vis-a-vis Iraq on a financial level, in addition to a political level. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
U.S. TREASURY OFFICIAL TESTIFIES ON RECOVERY OF IRAQI FUNDS. A senior U.S. official told a hearing of the House of Representatives' Financial Services Subcommittee on 14 May that Lebanese banks have reportedly found and "secured" around $495 million from the deposed regime of Saddam Hussein, Reuters reported the same day. Meanwhile, the "Los Angeles Times" website (http://www.latimes.com/) reported that General Counsel for the U.S. Treasury Department David Aufhauser also testified that "upward of $2.3 billion" has been found in bank accounts. He did not say where the accounts are located.
According to the "Los Angeles Times," Aufhauser told the subcommittee on 14 May that it is likely that the nearly $650 million found in sealed cottages and over $100 million found in animal kennels and sheds around Baghdad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April 2003) were part of the $1 billion taken by Qusay Hussein from the Iraqi Central Bank on 18 March -- the eve of U.S.-led Operation Iraqi Freedom (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 May 2003). "Some 236 boxes of cash, either euros or U.S. dollars, were packaged that night by central-bank personnel, but they were very meticulous in the records they kept. They put certificates in the boxes indicating how much money had been placed in them," Aufhauser testified, adding, "Out of 236 boxes, we may well have found 191, constituting $850 million, give or take, and 100 million of euros." (Kathleen Ridolfo)
COALITION RELEASES 7,000 IRAQI PRISONERS. Coalition forces released some 7,000 prisoners detained at an internment facility in the Iraqi port town of Umm Qasr, the U.S. State Department announced on 8 May (http://www.state.gov/). Many of those held were low-ranking Republican Guard or regular army soldiers, U.S. Army Colonel John Della Jacono, deputy chief of staff for the Coalition Forces Land Component Commander, said.
"We are releasing those that we feel will be of a benefit to the Iraqi nation," Della Jacono said, adding, "some of these guys could be future soldiers in the Iraqi Army that we plan to stand up in the near future." Approximately 200 foreign nationals, including some from Jordan and Iran, are still being held at Umm Qasr. Many are reportedly common criminals and members of the Saddam Fedayeen militia. The State Department noted that those released were provided with food, clothing, and some money to take public transportation home. Some were taken to "one of five locations in Iraq deemed to be closest to their hometown or point of capture." (Kathleen Ridolfo)