11 July 2003, Volume 6, Number 30
INSIDE IRAQU.S. TROOPS ATTACKED IN FOUR IRAQI TOWNS... U.S. forces came under attack in four Iraqi towns in the early morning hours of 10 July, international media reported. Militants fired rocket-propelled grenades at soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division in Tikrit, located approximately 150 kilometers northwest of Baghdad, Reuters reported. According to CNN, one soldier was killed and another injured in the incident.
Militants also attacked U.S. troops in three separate mortar attacks in Al-Ramadi, located 100 kilometers west of Baghdad, including the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's base, AP reported. South of Tikrit in Balad, a mortar was fired at a U.S. logistics base. Militants also fired rocket-propelled grenades at an Iraqi police station and a municipality building in Al-Fallujah, 50 kilometers west of Baghdad. Tikrit, Balad, and Al-Ramadi form what U.S. forces have nicknamed the "Sunni Triangle" -- an area of land that spans the Tigris and Euphrates rivers north and west of Baghdad known to be a stronghold of support for deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
...AS IRAQI POLICE IN AL-FALLUJAH ASK U.S. TROOPS TO LEAVE. Iraqi police trained by U.S. forces have asked coalition troops to pull out of Al-Fallujah following the string of attacks by militants, Reuters reported on 10 July. Some 100 members of the police force have launched a protest against U.S. forces after the overnight attack on their police station and municipality building. "We have the ability to protect these sites," local police chief Riad Abd al-Latif told Reuters. "The presence of Americans endangers us. We asked the Americans more than a month and a half ago to leave Al-Fallujah."
Protesters reportedly handed a petition to the town's mayor and the local U.S. commander in which police officers threatened to resign in 48 hours if U.S. forces do not leave. Al-Fallujah remains a hotbed for anti-U.S. militants since the declared end to major combat activities in Operation Iraqi Freedom. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
SCIRI HEAD OPPOSES ATTACKS ON COALITION TROOPS. Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), told Al-Jazeera in an interview broadcast on 4 July that he does not advocate any kind of resistance against the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq at this time. "The religious position on armed resistance is that the Muslims must first exhaust all peaceful means in achieving their objectives," he said.
Al-Hakim stressed that he did not approve of recent terrorist acts against coalition forces in Iraq, saying, "These operations endanger the safety of the citizens more than the safety of the occupying forces. I said [in the 4 July Friday prayer sermon] that such military operations are rejected." He observed that some operations are carried out as a reaction to acts of violence by coalition troops, saying, "These operations are undisciplined but are predominantly spontaneous and come as reactions, because the violations of sanctities lead to reactions and incite angry feelings among the people." He noted that Iraqi political groups -- including the Islamic groups -- are engaged in an ongoing dialogue with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA).
Asked about statements issued by groups claiming a religious justification for terrorist acts against coalition forces, al-Hakim said, "I have not at all read these statements. I read one of them and it did not have [a] religious spirit, nor did it address the religious state of affairs. It however, confuses between a number of concepts which indicates that the person who wrote that statement is either ignorant or has other reasons for confusing these concepts."
Though he acknowledged that some political and religious groups in the Arab and Muslim world pursue military programs to attain their political goals, he claimed that he did not know of any religious group in Iraq pursuing such a policy. "The accusation that Muslims adopt the method of violence as the basis for the way in which they deal with events and issues is false and entails a great deal of injustice," al-Hakim added. As for the Badr Brigades, the armed wing of his group, he said, "There is no doubt that the Badr Brigades is an institution that must stay and continue," but added, "With regard to the work of this institution, we believe that there is no need for military operations at this stage" since the Hussein regime has been deposed. Al-Hakim maintained however, that the Badr Brigades -- and all Iraqis -- should be allowed to retain their weapons for self-defense against militants and criminals.
Regarding his position in SCIRI, al-Hakim said that he was committed to supporting SCIRI but conceded that the leadership of the organization "depends on the administrative state of affairs," adding, "This administration of the political process necessitates that other persons take over this administration either because they are more competent or because their circumstances allow them flexibility and mobility in their work."
Al-Hakim was vague when asked whether he advocated an Islamic state in Iraq, saying, "The thing at which [all] the political forces have arrived [at] in their dialogue and have unanimously approved is that there should be a system of government that respects Islam and Islamic values, and also respects the Islamic Shari'a [law]." (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IRAQI TRIBES PREPARE FOR POLITICAL ROLE. The Iraqi Tribes Democratic Grouping gathered in Baghdad on 7 July to address prospects for a future political role for Iraq's tribes, Al-Jazeera reported the same day. The tribes are currently divided into nine groupings, the satellite channel reported. "We call on the Iraqi national movement's parties and factions to quickly form specialized committees and to craft an ambitious Iraqi constitution, which must include the constitutional and legal structure of the system, and to ensure the rights of all Iraqis, regardless of their ethnic or religious affiliations," member Wa'il al-Rikabi told the conferees. The tribes called on political parties to hold an expanded conference in the near future and urged Iraqi citizens to not resort to violence when seeking their rights, Al-Jazeera reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
FORMER IRAQI SPY BOSS ANNOUNCES PERSONAL HUNT FOR HUSSEIN. The former head of Iraq's Military Intelligence has launched a personal hunt for deposed Iraqi President Hussein, AFP reported on 1 July. Major General Wafiq al-Samarra'i, who defected in 1994 and joined the Iraqi opposition movement, told reporters on 29 June that he decided to embark on the hunt after an overnight attack on his home by what he identified as Hussein loyalists. "My house was attacked at 1:45 a.m. with an antitank rocket. There was only material damage," al-Samarra'i told reporters in his hometown of Samarra, located 125 kilometers north of Baghdad. Al-Samarra'i was surrounded by a number of local tribal chiefs when he made the announcement. "We have various pieces of information saying [Hussein is] present in the region, even if no one's seen him," Samarra'i said. "I'm leaving today to search for Saddam and his partisans.... We will share information we'll gather with the Americans." Al-Samarra'i is the founder and secretary-general of the National Salvation Movement. According to AFP, he has no military forces under his control except some personal security guards. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
'ENTREPRENEURS' BENEFITING FROM LIFTING OF IMPORT DUTIES. Many Iraqi businessmen and "freelancers" are benefiting from the CPA's lifting of import tariffs, according to international press reports. The tariffs were lifted by CPA administrator L. Paul Bremer in June through the end of the year. The decision has spurred hundreds of Iraqis to apply for import licenses, Bloomberg reported on 4 July. Officials at the Baghdad Chamber of Commerce have said that they issue about 400 cross-border import licenses per day, a 50 percent increase from the prewar figure. The licenses cost up to $8. Chamber General Manager Abd al-Malik Husayn cited the lifting of tariffs as the "principal reason" for the surge. "Before, it wasn't easy to trade," trademark manager Sohad Ahmad told Bloomberg, adding, "This is a golden opportunity for merchants."
For those Iraqis willing to lug items ranging from cars to televisions across Iraq's borders, the work remains dangerous, however. One Iraqi, who transports car parts and clothing from Jordan, reported narrowly escaping a hooded gang armed with Kalashnikov rifles that tried to commandeer his vehicle. Storeowners have also reported that they remain under threat from robbers.
But along with the surge of entrepreneurship come complaints of too much competition and a lack of regulation. A Baghdad appliance storeowner complained that he has had to lower the prices of his televisions to compete with newly licensed businesses. "I'd prefer laws," Nabil Abu Rivan said, adding, "At the moment, anybody can sell, import or buy." Most product prices have seen substantial increases, however. A 12-pound block of ice that once sold for around 40 cents now commands about $3. Power generators have increased from a prewar price of $500 to $1,100. According to a 3 July AP report, some Baghdadis are transporting large generators around neighborhoods, selling amps of electricity door-to-door. These "entrepreneurs" park their truck-sized generators on a block and run lines to each customer, charging each customer individually for usage, effectively creating temporary minipower stations, AP noted.
Meanwhile, in other parts of Baghdad, bootleggers sell fuel -- despite a ban by the CPA -- on the side of the road at triple the price of gas stations, to Iraqis unwilling to wait in half-mile-long lines at the pumps. According to AP, if there is a shortage of something in Iraq, there is someone aiming to make a profit from it. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IRAQI HEALTH MINISTRY LAUNCHES RADIATION SURVEY IN AL-TUWAYTHAH. The Iraqi Health Ministry launched a two-month study on some 5,000 residents near the Iraqi town of Al-Tuwaythah on 10 July to gauge possible effects from the looting of the Al-Tuwaythah Nuclear Research Center during the waning days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, "The Christian Science Monitor" website (http://www.csmonitor.com) reported the same day. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) sought reentry into Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 23 May 2003) after reports of widespread looting in which barrels containing radioactive "yellow cake" uranium power were emptied and sold to local residents by looters, according to international media reports. Residents used the barrels for washing and water storage, csmonitor.com and international news agencies reported.
The Al-Tuwaythah residents will be transported daily to a local hospital in groups of 75-100 to undergo a battery of tests. Doctors told "The Christian Science Monitor" that the study also seeks to raise awareness and allay popular fears about radiation poisoning. "Iraqi families are very afraid...but the people are ignorant and don't believe it is harmful," Sayyid Mutar al-Musawi, a local religious leader, said. "Having water is much more important than [the dangers of] something that doesn't touch them. Some people have drunk from [the] barrels and washed with them." U.S. forces bought back many of the 500 or so "yellow-cake" barrels that were looted, but at least 150 are thought to remain in circulation, according to Greenpeace. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
BRITISH TROOPS SEIZE MONEY, SUSPECTED DRUGS IN IRAQI RAID. British forces stationed in southern Iraq seized cash and "significant quantities" of suspected drugs in a 4 July raid in Khur Al-Zubayr, located in the Al-Basrah Governorate, according to a press release posted on the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) website (http://www.centcom.mil). The soldiers were reportedly acting on information from a "local source" when they raided the house, arresting three suspected drug dealers and confiscating 33 million Iraqi dinars and $11,000. Unspecified forgery equipment, two bags of pills, and "some suspected cannabis resin" were also found in the house, according to CENTCOM. CENTCOM stated that the three men -- all brothers -- were handed over to Iraqi police. "This operation shows the commitment of the coalition forces to work with the Iraqi people to stamp out criminality and lawlessness," the press release quoted Lieutenant Colonel Richard Nugee, who led the raid, as saying. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
AUDIO MESSAGES BY HUSSEIN SURFACE. An audiotape purported to carry a message recorded on 14 June from deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was broadcast on Al-Jazeera Television on 4 July. In the message, the voice claims that "cells and brigades of jihad, sacrifice, and their organizations have indeed been formed on a large scale" by both men and women fighters. It calls on Iraqis "to provide cover for the heroic mujahedin and not to give the infidel invaders and their collaborators any information about them or their activities. My comrades and brother members of the command are actually in Iraq now," the voice adds. The speaker urges Iraqis to stop identifying those fighting against coalition forces or providing the coalition with "any factual information" about Iraqi militants. "We also urge you to inform on each and every accursed spy or deviant who does not hesitate" to work with coalition forces.
The speaker purporting to be deposed President Hussein in the audiotape broadcast by Al-Jazeera on 4 July says that if Iraqis accepted the U.S. presence in Iraq, "they would have closed the doors of the future in return for maintaining our rule under their infidel, colonial control; thus we would be like others." The speaker insists, "We have sacrificed our rule, but did not break our promise to God. We did not stab the people, the nation...and history in the back, neither through surrender nor through defeatism." The voice "salutes the mujahedin" held by the occupation and those "engaged in the combat arenas." The speaker then claims that the U.S.-led coalition seeks to destroy the "spiritual and moral pillars of Iraq," saying, "The so-called weapons of mass destruction were only a cover" to carry out the occupation of Iraq.
Jamal Kamil al-Majid, whose two brothers were married to Hussein's daughters, told London's "The Sunday Telegraph" that he believes the audiotape is authentic, saying, "The phrases and the accent are Saddam's," the paper reported on 6 July. In addition, the former head of Iraqi intelligence, Major General Wafiq al-Samarra'i, told Al-Jazeera on 4 July that, "Based on this audio message, I can also confirm that the voice, tones, and phrases" are Hussein's. The CIA later announced on 7 July that the message appears to be authentic.
A second audiotape purporting to carry the voice Hussein aired on two Arabic-language satellite channels -- Lebanese broadcaster LBC and Qatar-based Al-Jazeera -- on 8 July. The speaker says he has made several appeals to the Iraqi people, but alleges that some have not reached the international press due to a U.S.-controlled media blackout. "Therefore we have sent several letters to the Iraqis in some governorates and districts as alternatives to audio messages through external media agencies," the voice says.
The speaker addresses Iraqi ethnic and religious groups, saying, "It is your duty to expel the invaders" from Iraq. He also instructs Iraqis to "unify your ranks and act as one hand," adding, "[You should also] boycott them by not selling or buying from them and carry out peaceful demonstrations and civil disobedience in addition to opening fire on the occupation forces with rifles, artillery, and [rocket] launchers." The voice on the tape has not yet been confirmed to belong to Hussein. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
COALITION OFFERS REWARD FOR INFORMATION ON ATTACKS, HUSSEIN FAMILY. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) has announced rewards for information leading to the capture of individuals responsible for attacking coalition forces and for information leading to the capture or confirmation of death of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein or either of his two sons, Uday and Qusay, according to the CPA website (http://www.cpa-iraq.org/).
A CPA press release dated 3 July offered up to $25 million for information leading to Hussein's capture or information that he is already dead. Rewards of up to $15 million each are offered for information leading to the capture or confirmation of the death of either son. The press release states that informants may contact the office of the Administrator of the CPA or any U.S. military commander in Iraq, as well as any U.S. embassy or consulate, the U.S. Department of State, or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). A toll free number is also listed.
The CPA announced on 8 July a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest of anyone connected with attacks on coalition troops or Iraqi policemen, according to a 9 July AP report. "I urge the Iraqi people to come forward to take these people off the streets of the country," former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik, who is now a CPA adviser to the Iraqi Interior Ministry, said when announcing the reward. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
TWO FORMER IRAQI REGIME MEMBERS IN CUSTODY. Two more former members of the deposed regime of Saddam Hussein have been taken into coalition custody, CENTCOM announced in a 9 July statement posted on the its website (http://www.centcom.mil). Mizban Khadr al-Hadi, identified as a high-ranking member of the Ba'ath Party's regional command and the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), was 23rd on CENTCOM's list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis. He reportedly turned himself in to coalition forces in Baghdad. Coalition forces reportedly also captured Former Iraqi Interior Minister Mahmud Dhiyab al-Ahmad, although CENTCOM did not offer details of his detention. He was 29th on the CENTCOM list. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
U.S. REPORTEDLY HOLDING IRAQI WHO MET WITH 11 SEPTEMBER HIJACKER. The U.S. military has reportedly detained an Iraqi intelligence officer who allegedly met with the lead 11 September hijacker months before the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, an unnamed U.S. official told Reuters on 8 July. The official reportedly said that Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani was taken into custody at an undisclosed location in early July. Some officials in the Czech Republic had alleged that al-Ani met with suspected hijacker Muhammad Atta in Prague in April 2001, but those allegations have been disputed by other Czech sources and were never confirmed by the FBI or CIA. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
U.S. ADMINISTRATOR ANNOUNCES IRAQ'S 2003 BUDGET... Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) administrator in Iraq L. Paul Bremer announced on 7 July the key spending priorities for the Iraqi national budget over the next six months, the U.S. State Department's "Washington File" reported the same day (http://usinfo.state.gov).
Bremer said coalition and Iraqi officials designed the budget, which allocates over 9 trillion dinars ($6 billion) to key projects such as security, judicial reform, and infrastructure projects, including electricity, telecommunications, construction, water and sewage, and public health. He added that Iraq's oil revenues would fund slightly more than half the budget. The United States will contribute an additional 4.5 trillion dinars ($3 billion) toward Iraqi reconstruction.
"Together these programs will have an enormous impact on your lives. But some will take time to come into affect, so you and we, working together, will have to be patient," Bremer told Iraqis.
The "Washington File" noted that one U.S. dollar is equal to about 1,500 Iraqi dinars. Prior to the outbreak of Operation Iraqi Freedom, one dollar equaled roughly 2,000 dinars in areas controlled by President Hussein. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
...AND A NEW DINAR. In his 7 July address to the Iraqi people, CPA head Bremer announced that the coalition will print and distribute new banknotes to replace the two forms now in circulation -- the "print dinars" circulating in most of the country and the "Swiss" dinars widely used in the northern Kurdish areas. "'Print dinars' are of poor quality, and in practice circulate widely in only two denominations -- the 250-dinar note and the 10,000-dinar note. This makes them very inconvenient to use. [The new notes will be printed in denominations of 50s; 250s; 1,000s; 5,000s; 10,000; and 25,000s.] The 'Swiss' dinars, while of higher quality, are so old that they are literally falling apart in people's hands," Bremer said.
After consulting with Iraqi political, economic, and business leaders, Bremer said that it was decided that new banknotes would be issued on 15 October and would replace and carry the same value as the "print" dinar. The dinar will replace the "Swiss" dinar at the rate of 150 new dinars for one "Swiss" dinar. "These different rates reflect the different prices expressed in local currency in different parts of the country," Bremer said. The prewar value of the "Swiss" dinar was approximately 7 dinars to one U.S. dollar. The dinars will carry the same design as the former national "Swiss" dinar but with different colors and denominations, and will be very difficult to counterfeit, Bremer said.
According to a CPA "fact sheet" on the new Iraqi currency, Iraqis are advised to continue using existing banknotes. A three-month exchange period will begin on 15 October allowing Iraqis to exchange old notes for new dinars.
The existing banknotes and the newly printed ones will both be considered valid currency from 15 October 2003 through 15 January 2004. Designated exchange sites will include the branches of the Rafidain and Rashid banks. After the changeover period, neither the normal "print" dinars nor the former national "Swiss" dinars will be considered valid currency. Money deposited in banks will be automatically converted, according to the fact sheet.
In Washington, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) welcomed the plan for the introduction of new notes, dpa reported on 3 July. IMF Acting Director Anne Krueger said that the new Iraqi currency would "represent an important step toward the restoration of economic activity and of a working payments system." According to dpa, Bremer has appointed Faleh Salman as the interim central bank governor. He will work under the CPA in a position that is independent of the Iraqi Finance Ministry, dpa quoted "The Washington Post" as reporting. The new bills are likely to be printed by a British firm, according to the report. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
BREMER CALLS FOR FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN OIL INDUSTRY. U.S. Administrator in Iraq L. Paul Bremer has reportedly said Iraqi state-owned sectors should be privatized and that the Iraqi oil industry should be opened to foreign investors even before a permanent government takes over, Reuters reported on 8 July.
Bremer told reporters that he would advise the soon-to-be-appointed interim advisory council of the need. "Privatization is obviously something we have been giving a lot of thought to," he told reporters, adding, "When we sit down with the governing council...it is going to be on the table." He noted that while he has the power to change Iraq's legal code, investors would need to be reassured that changes would not be made once a permanent government is elected. "The governing council will be able to make statements that could be seen as more binding and the trick will be to figure out how we do this," Bremer said. "Everybody knows we cannot wait until there is an elected government here to start economic reform," he added.
According to Reuters, Bremer said that Iraqis should consider developing their oil industry quickly through foreign investment. He did not say, however, if he believed the industry should be privatized. "We the coalition would not undertake anything like that without the governing council agreeing, because you are effectively mortgaging the future income that belongs to the Iraqi people," he noted. He added that it was unlikely that Iraq will generate enough revenue to balance its budget for the next 18 months without foreign investment. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
REGIONAL NEWSU.S. RETURNS TURKISH SOLDIERS AFTER ARRESTS IN NORTHERN IRAQ. U.S. forces have released 11 Turkish soldiers arrested along with 13 civilians on 4 July in the northern Iraqi city of Al-Sulaymaniyah, Reuters reported on 7 July. The soldiers were briefly held in Kirkuk, and later in Baghdad. U.S. officials have not publicly commented on the arrests, but diplomatic sources told Reuters that one of the soldiers arrested was a Turkish colonel expelled from Iraq by coalition forces on two previous occasions for "suspicious activities." Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul denied that his soldiers were arrested on allegations of plans to assassinate the governor of Kirkuk, telling reporters on 5 July that such allegations are "nonsense," "Ankara Anatolia" reported the same day. "Turkey has been expending efforts for...stability in Iraq. Members of the Turkish armed forces, our teams in the region, do not attempt to do such a thing. It is out of the question," Gul said. He reminded reporters that Turkish troops entered Iraq seven years ago to maintain peace between the battling Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party. Turkey has rebuffed recent requests by Kurdish leaders that it withdraw its forces from northern Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
TURKEY TO OPEN DIPLOMATIC MISSIONS IN NORTHERN IRAQ? Al-Sulaymaniyah based "Kurdistani Nuwe" cited Turkish Foreign Ministry sources as saying that the Turkish government has decided to open three diplomatic missions in the northern Iraqi cities of Mosul, Kirkuk, and Irbil, the daily reported on 5 July. U.S. officials have reportedly objected to the decision. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
JORDANIAN EXPORTS DROPPED DUE TO WAR. Jordanian exports from Al-Zarqa, located northeast of the capital of Amman, dropped sharply during the first six months of 2003, the "Jordan Times" reported on 9 July. "Al-Zarqa exports totaled JD 49.910 million [$70.894 million] in the first six months compared to JD 66.947 million last year," Muhammad Tell, president of the Al-Zarqa Chamber of Commerce, told the daily. The drop signaled about a 25 percent decline. Exports from Al-Zarqa account for more than 50 percent of the industries in the country. "The small and medium industries in this area depend solely on trade with Iraq," Tell said, adding, "The war next door left no choice for the factories but to lay off employees." Other factories that did not implement layoffs are reportedly on the verge of incurring huge losses, he said. Tell called on the Jordanian government to initiate a program to save the factories from bankruptcy. "Manufacturers have responsibilities towards banks and they are already paying a lot of money to store their products in warehouses in addition to paying salaries to their employees," he said, adding, "And without any business, they cannot honor their obligations." (Kathleen Ridolfo)
THE UN AND IRAQUNHCR SAYS REFUGEE RETURN UNFEASIBLE FOR SOME TIME. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) special envoy, Dennis McNamara, told journalists on 9 July that a lack of security, essential services, and functioning civil administration in some parts of the country will probably delay large-scale refugee returns to Iraq until next year, UNHCR reported on 9 July (http://www.unhcr.ch/). "Iraq is not ready to receive large numbers of refugees, it is just economically not viable at this time," McNamara said. He returned from his second trip to Iraq in one month on 7 July. "The security situation in Iraq and in Baghdad in particular has deteriorated. It was noticeably worse during this latest visit to Baghdad than it was at the start of June," he added. UNHCR temporarily withdrew from northern Iraq last week after the offices of the UN World Food Program and the International Organization of Migration were attacked in Mosul.
The UNHCR estimates that some 500,000 refugees living primarily in Iran and Jordan may seek assistance to return to Iraq in the coming months. McNamara said that he and CPA head L. Paul Bremer have agreed that limited numbers of refugees will soon be allowed to cross into Iraq from neighboring states. "Of more than 5,200 mainly male refugees at Saudi Arabia's Rafha camp, up to 2,000 say they want to return" to Iraq, UNHCR reported. For those refugees, the repatriation process will begin later this month. After that, UNHCR will focus on helping the "most vulnerable" of the more than 200,000 Iraqi refugees in Iran. The first would include special cases such as families headed by women who have sought help to return to their communities in southern Iraq. UNHCR will also help some of the one million internally displaced Iraqis return to their homes.
In related news, UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told a 4 July press briefing that UNHCR has asked that governments extend a deportation moratorium on forcible returns of rejected Iraqi exile asylum seekers for at least one month. The moratorium was set in March for a provisional three-month period. "We are also requesting states to maintain the provision of temporary protection for Iraqis, as well as the suspension of decisions of asylum claims," Redmond told the press. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
ASHUR ADDED TO WORLD HERITAGE LIST. The cultural landscape and archaeological remains of the ancient city of Ashur has been added to both the World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger, according to a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) press release dated 2 July. The decision was made at the 27th session of UNESCO's World Heritage Committee meeting.
Ashur, founded in the third millennium B.C., served as the capital of the Assyrian Empire from the 14th to the 9th centuries, B.C. Located along the Tigris River in the northern Iraqi Salah Al-Din Province and now known as Qal'at Sherqat, Ashur was a major international trading town. Ashur was also the religious capital of the Assyrians, associated with the god Ashur. Kings were crowned and buried in this city-state. The city was destroyed by the Babylonians, but revived during the Parthian period in the 1st and 2nd century A.D., according to UNESCO. "The excavated remains of the public and residential buildings of Ashur provide an outstanding record of the evolution of building practices from the Sumerian and Akkadian period through the Assyrian empire, as well as including the short revival during the Parthian period," UNESCO stated as part of its justification for naming Ashur to the World Heritage List.
"When the property was nominated before the conflict, a large dam project threatened the site, which would have been partially flooded by a reservoir. While the dam project has been suspended by the current administration, the committee considered that its possible future construction, as well as the present lack of adequate protection, justified the inscription of the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger," UNESCO noted. To view the World Heritage Committee's findings, visit UNESCO's Iraq page at (http://whc.unesco.org/sites/1130.htm). (Kathleen Ridolfo)
EUROPE, THE U.S., AND IRAQEU COUNCIL LIFTS SANCTIONS ON IRAQ. The Council of the European Union voted on 7 July to lift "most of the [EU] sanctions on Iraq," according to a press release posted on the Italian EU Presidency's website (http://www.ueitalia2003.it). The remaining sanctions are in accordance with restrictions still placed on Iraq by UN Security Council Resolution 1483, which relates to the lifting of sanctions.
"These measures repeal all sanctions established by Security Council Resolution 661 (1990) and subsequent resolutions, with the exception of those related to the sale or supply to Iraq of arms and related material other than that required by the occupying powers, the United States and the United Kingdom," the press release stated. "The sanctions are replaced with specific restrictive measures relating to the proceeds from all export sales of petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas from Iraq, and to trade in goods that are part of Iraq's cultural heritage." In addition, funds and "economic resources" belonging to deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein or senior members of his regime will be frozen, the statement noted. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
U.K. COMMONS COMMITTEE RELEASES REPORT ON IRAQI WMD DOSSIER. The British House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee announced its findings on 7 July following an investigation into whether Prime Minister Tony Blair's office improperly embellished a report on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to mislead parliament and the British public in the effort to make a case for war (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2003), the BBC reported the same day. The committee concluded that ministers did not mislead parliament and that the prime minister's communications chief, Alastair Campbell, was not involved in "sexing up" the dossier, as a BBC report now famously charged. According to the BBC, six of the committee's 12 members said there is ample evidence to exonerate Campbell. The 107-page report can be viewed on the House of Commons website (http://www.parliament.uk). The committee included seven Labour deputies, three Conservatives, and one Liberal Democrat. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY MEETS WITH COALITION, IRAQI LEADERS IN BAGHDAD. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw met with Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) administrator L. Paul Bremer and several Iraqi political leaders in Baghdad on 2 July, international news agencies reported.
According to ft.com, Bremer told Straw, the most senior coalition official to visit Baghdad since the fall of the Hussein regime, that the coalition's planning for the postwar period had fallen short. Straw said that the United Kingdom would consider an appeal for more resources to train local police. "Overall, the security situation across Iraq is better than it was two months ago, but there's obviously a long way to go," Straw said. "July is a bad month because it gets hotter and hotter," telegraph.co.uk quoted the foreign minister as saying. "I believe that we will be able to tell next month whether the security situation is going to get worse or better," he added.
Straw also visited the U.K.-controlled southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah. His visit to Iraq followed a three-day visit to Tehran, and an unannounced one-day visit to Kandahar, Afghanistan. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
U.S. ARRESTS IRAQI NEWSPAPER EDITOR IN CHICAGO. U.S. authorities arrested a Chicago-area newspaper editor on 9 July on charges that he worked as an unregistered agent of the Iraqi government under deposed President Hussein, "The Washington Post" reported on 10 July. Prosecutors said that Khalid Abd al-Latif Dumaysi, 60, produced bogus press passes for Iraqi intelligence agents and reported to Hussein's government on the activities of Iraqi opposition leaders in the United States. He also reportedly traveled to Iraq to attend birthday celebrations for the now deposed leader and received thousands of dollars for his assistance. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said that while Dumaysi's actions did not constitute espionage against the United States, "Those who gather information in the United States about people living in America for the purpose of providing the information to hostile governments should understand that the FBI will pursue them vigorously. We cannot tolerate people doing that." Court documents related to a citizenship application filed by Dumaysi in December 2001 indicate that he holds Jordanian citizenship, according to "The Washington Post." His application for U.S. citizenship was denied due to a lack of proper documentation, the daily reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
CPA LAUNCHES WEBSITE. The U.S.-led CPA that is administering postwar Iraq has launched a website (http://www.cpa-iraq.org). The website carries transcripts of speeches by CPA administrator Bremer and other officials, fact sheets on Iraqi ministries, public-service announcements, press releases, and official documents such as regulations and orders issued by the CPA. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
VIKINGS IN IRAQ. More and more international military contingents are arriving in Iraq, including some Scandinavian ones. Some 104 soldiers from the Norwegian Army's Telemark Battalion are on their way to Al-Basrah, "Aftenposten" reported on 9 July. Their stated mission includes mine-clearance, road-building, and humanitarian activities. The first batch of 15 Norwegians left for Iraq on 26 June, according to "Aftenposten" the same day, and at that time the Norwegian Defense Ministry acknowledged that their duties would be military as well as humanitarian in nature. State Secretary Gunnar Heloe said it is important that Norway does not appear to be part of the occupation forces.
Observers in Oslo are concerned about the imprecise nature of the mission. Vegard Hansen of the Norwegian Foreign Policy Institute (NUPI) said in the 9 July "Aftenposten" that "Norwegian soldiers in Iraq risk being exposed to popular unrest and protest, and to planned attacks by remaining resistance groups." Henrik Thune of NUPI added that "this is intended as a peacekeeping mission, but it could easily turn into a peacemaking assignment." The newly-arrived Norwegians may have more to fear than hostile fire, based on the experience of the Danish detachment that preceded theirs. The approximately 50 Danish soldiers at Camp Niebuhr near Al-Basrah are facing malnourishment, "Jyllands-Posten" reported on 6 July. This is because the Danes were forced to eat prepackaged rations for almost a month after their kitchen ovens, refrigerators, and freezers broke down, and they had limited access to fresh fruit and vegetables.
Camp doctor Knud Thomsen is hoping that providing the troops with better access to fruits high in potassium -- such as bananas -- and by giving them orange juice, will alleviate the problem. The first Danes suffering from dehydration to be sent to the British field hospital in Al-Basrah were found to have dangerously low levels of potassium, which is rare in Denmark for anybody other than alcoholics, according to "Jyllands-Posten."
Camp commander Major Kent Gjedsoe said the general situation has improved recently, and that new air conditioners purchased in Kuwait are better able to operate in the extreme heat. "It's just wonderful," he added. (Bill Samii)
END NOTECPA AND GROUP OF SEVEN AGREE ON FORMATION OF 'GOVERNING COUNCIL'
By Kathleen Ridolfo
The Coalition Provisional Authority's U.S. Administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, and the group of seven former exile groups turned political parties, have agreed on the formation of a U.S.-appointed "governing council" to assist the CPA in the administration of Iraq, international press reported on 8 July.
Representatives from the seven major political groups -- considered a leadership council by the U.S. -- said they would accept the new plan after meeting in the northern Iraqi city of Salah Al-Din on 7 July. The leadership council was to hold a broad-based conference to elect an interim Iraqi government in May, but Bremer quashed that plan on 1 June (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 6 June 2003), instead opting to appoint his own "advisory council." Bremer's decision sparked mounting tension in recent weeks, with officials on both sides charging incompetence.
Former Iraqi Foreign Minister Adnan Pachachi told Reuters on 8 July that the "governing council" will have executive authority -- more power than the previously proposed advisory council. "The council will appoint ministers and enact laws whether those related to currency, education, economy, and all other fields," Pachachi said. "All of the seven Iraqi parties will participate in a meeting to elect members of the governing council," he claimed.
The heads of six of the group of seven will sit on the council, as well as a senior member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). SCIRI head Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim has said that he would not participate. In addition to SCIRI, the seven-member group includes the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the Iraqi National Congress (INC), the Iraqi National Accord (INA), the Islamic Al-Da'wah Party, and the National Democratic Party. An unnamed source at the CPA confirmed that the council would have executive powers and said that its membership, estimated to be 25-30 Iraqis, would be announced in the next two weeks. Three women are also expected to serve on the council, which, once in place, will elect a council president.
UN Special Envoy to Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello told AFP on 7 July that Bremer would retain veto power over the body, adding that Bremer made the decision after heeding advice from many sources, including the UN. "He has made some concessions and gradually turned this council, which at the outset was only consultative, into a council which he is prepared to delegate a certain number of powers," Vieira de Mello said.
Shi'ites are expected to dominate the broad-based governing council, reflecting the nation's majority. The group, which is estimated to comprise 60 percent of the population, was oppressed under the regime of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Bremer had come under harsh criticism in recent weeks -- including by Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani -- for his plan to appoint a council that would compose a new Iraqi constitution. Others have accused Bremer of trying to prevent certain Shi'ite clerics from coming to power in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 4 July 2003).
The governing council will reportedly be granted the power to appoint ministers and diplomats to represent Iraq internationally in negotiations related to oil sales, financing loans, and in representative positions on world bodies, according to an unnamed "global affairs expert" that took part in the negotiations between Bremer and the group of seven. As for the council president, his or her position "will be like that of a moderator and not a true president, someone who knows how to lead debates in a collegial manner for an interim period of 12 to 18 months," AFP quoted the "expert" as saying in the 7 July report. The presidency might also rotate among three or four council members, AFP reported.
The U.S.-led administration also has plans for a seven to 10-member constitutional commission, which would be given two to three months to present plans for a constitution to the governing council. The council might then choose to elect a constitutional assembly to draft a constitution, which would then be submitted to a referendum, Vieira de Mello said. Once a constitution is in place, national elections would be expected to follow soon after. The entire process is expected to take up to 24 months, AFP reported. Bremer had earlier indicated that a national census would need to be taken as well before local and national elections could occur (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 4 July 2003).