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Iraq Report: November 7, 2003

7 November 2003, Volume 6, Number 46
U.S. ADMINISTRATOR SETS CONDITIONS FOR RETURN OF FORMER IRAQI SECURITY PERSONNEL. Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) head L. Paul Bremer has reportedly set conditions for former Iraqi security personnel and members of political party militias seeking to join an Iraqi paramilitary force that will help counter militants in Iraq, reported on 5 November.

The establishment of a force is supported by the Iraqi Governing Council, which appealed to U.S. President George W. Bush this week to transfer more responsibility for security to Iraqis. The new force will reportedly include a domestic intelligence-gathering unit and will be authorized to conduct special raids and interrogations of suspects. According to the news report, governing council members want the force to be staffed by former Iraqi military and police personnel, as well as the intelligence and security wings of the five opposition-turned political groups now dominating Iraq. These groups are the Iraqi National Accord, Iraqi National Congress, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. "We have very well-established intelligence networks," an Iraqi National Congress official told the daily, adding, "If we can act on that information right away with a strike force, instead of waiting for the Americans to receive our reports and act on it, we can catch a lot more people than the Americans are now." The INC had a paramilitary force working alongside coalition forces after the downfall of the Hussein regime. That force, the 700-strong Free Iraqi Forces, was dismantled by the coalition in May after reports of improper conduct by its members (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 30 May 2003).

The United States has long opposed the idea of allowing security personnel from the regime of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to return to their jobs, but have conceded in recent days that Iraqis might be better equipped than coalition forces to root out militants. However, U.S. officials have cautioned that they do not want the new force to become a veiled base for militias. Officials are concerned that the force would give the militias of the five political groups too much power in Iraq's internal security apparatus, the website reported.

Bremer's conditions relate to the vetting, training, and supervision of the personnel. The new force would reportedly be the most powerful domestic security force in Iraq. Bremer highlighted the advantages of getting Iraqis more involved in security during a 1 November press conference in Baghdad ( "Iraqis will be better able to tell who the bad guys are. They're going to be out on the streets. They will recognize the strangers. They will hear different accents, see different customs, different ways of dressing, and be able to help us identify the strangers, and particularly the foreign fighters and the terrorists," he said. He did not, however, address the possibility of a new force. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

GOVERNING COUNCIL PRESIDENT DISCUSSES COUNCIL'S PROGRESS. The Iraqi Governing Council president for November, Jalal Talabani, told the Saudi daily "Al-Watan" in an interview published on 2 November that the governing council continues to make progress, and said he intends to draw up an extensive work plan for the council during his presidency.

Talabani added that the council has reached agreement on how to try former regime members for crimes against the Iraqi people. "We have asked jurists to conduct a legal study and form a judicial body," he said, adding, "The Americans have agreed to hand over to us all the leaders of the former regime." Talabani said that Iraq invites Kuwaitis and other victims of the Hussein regime "to present their cases and lodge complaints" with the Iraqi authorities.

Talabani dismissed the possibility of foreign forces being stationed on Iraqi soil, telling "Al-Watan" that, "Foreign forces will not achieve stability and we reject forces from neighboring or other countries. Neighboring countries have their own agendas, followers, and ideas. If the Syrian army comes, it will side with the [Iraqi] Ba'athists. The same applies to the Iranian army. We want these armies to stay in their countries." Talabani did not mention the possible deployment of Turkish troops to Iraq, but he has rejected the idea in the past. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

TWO IRAQI JUDGES ASSASSINATED. Two Iraqi judges were murdered in two days, international media reported on 4 November. Judge Ismail Yusif, deputy head of the Ninawah Province Appeals Court, was shot dead outside his home in Mosul on 4 November, AP reported. Family members said they have no idea why Yusif was targeted in the attack. "He had no enemies. He wasn't responsible for a criminal court or anything," local police officer Sa'd Hamid said.

Muhan Jabir al-Shuayli, a senior judge in the city of Al-Najaf, was kidnapped and killed on 3 November, said his deputy, Arif Aziz. Aziz said he was kidnapped together with al-Shuayli, but was released after the judge was murdered, Reuters reported on 4 November. The perpetrators reportedly told Aziz they were acting on the orders of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Al-Shuayli was investigating a number of Al-Najaf officials who served under the former regime. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI COURT SENTENCES FORMER U.S.-APPOINTED GOVERNOR TO 14 YEARS. An Iraqi court has sentenced a former U.S.-appointed regional governor to 14 years in prison for crimes including the abduction of the children of a political rival, Reuters reported on 4 November.

Coalition forces removed Abu Haydar Abd al-Mun'im from office in Al-Najaf on 30 June and charged him with kidnapping and holding hostages, pressuring government employees to commit financial crimes, attacking a bank official, and stealing funds (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 4 July 2003).

The court reportedly heard testimony that Mun'im illegally detained three children of a political rival, shredded an official document barring him from withdrawing money from government accounts, and kept money belonging to a man who had been released from detention, Reuters cited U.S. officials as saying. Mun'im, a former Iraqi army colonel, was found guilty of illegal arrest, misuse of office, and destruction of a government document. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

FORMER IRAQI PREMIER SAYS HUSSEIN BELIEVED U.S. WOULD NOT INVADE. Deposed Iraqi President Hussein reportedly believed that the United States would not invade Iraq, according to former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, reported on 3 November.

Aziz, now in coalition custody, told U.S. interrogators that French and Russian intermediaries assured Hussein that he could avoid a war with the United States. Aziz said Hussein did not order a counterattack when U.S. ground forces entered Iraq because he believed the ground attack was a ruse.

Aziz's account has not been corroborated by other detained members of the regime, but Aziz and regime officials in custody all claim that Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction (WMD) at the time of the U.S. invasion. Detained regime members reportedly also said Hussein chose not to defend himself against U.S. accusations of possessing WMD prior to the war because he was afraid of losing face with Iraq's neighbors, which they said deferred to Hussein because they feared he possessed such weapons.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Herve Ladsous denied on 4 November that his country gave Hussein "any kind of assurance," AFP reported the same day. "There was no French envoy commissioned to go to Iraq to meet Saddam Hussein carrying any kind of assurance," Ladsous told reporters during a daily press briefing. Ladsous called "The Washington Post" report "insinuations" and said they were "totally without foundation." He said rumors that support "The Washington Post" article were circulating as far back as late 2002, but that "On each occasion we firmly and systematically denied all these rumors." "Throughout this period, France continually issued firm calls to the Iraqi authorities to fulfill their responsibilities in line with [UN Security Council] Resolution 1441 because this was the only peaceful way to resolve the crisis," he added. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

TWO IRAQI CLERICS BACK U.S. FORCES. London's "Al-Hayat" reported on 3 November that two Iraqi clerics have recently issued statements in support of U.S. forces in Iraq. Shi'ite cleric Muhammad Taqi al-Mudarissi issued a statement through his office that said: "We have to work with the Americans to realize the mechanism that they have put in place for their departure from Iraq." Al-Mudarissi called on Iraqis to work toward establishing a new constitution, government institutions, and free elections "in order to establish security and stability" in Iraq.

Meanwhile, anti-U.S. Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has said that the United States and Iraqis should try to reach unity "between the two peoples and religions." Addressing the United States, al-Sadr said, "If you agree to this, then allow me to attend your meetings, seminars, camps, and churches. I am looking forward to this, and I have amicable feelings toward you. The Iraqis only want good for the Americans. Iraq's only enemy is destructive Saddam and his followers," he added. In recent months, al-Sadr has called on Iraqis peacefully to resist the U.S. presence in Iraq, has formed his own fighting force called the Imam Al-Mahdi Army, and has declared his own Iraqi government. He has received little indigenous support for his efforts. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI MINISTRY STARTS JOBS PROGRAM IN NORTHERN IRAQ. The Iraqi Municipalities and Public Works Ministry has expanded its job-creation program to the northern governorates of Al-Sulaymaniyah, Irbil, and Dahuk, according to a press release posted on the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) website on 25 October.

The "Towards a Cleaner and Brighter Iraq" program reportedly employs "tens of thousands" of Iraqis to clear their neighborhoods of trash, rubble, and sewage. The program is now operating in 14 of Iraq's 18 governorates. Workers earn 4,000 Iraqi dinars (approximately $2.60) per day and are paid every other week. Supervisors manage 10 to 15 workers and receive 5,000 dinars per day in salary. The program will be operative in the remaining governorates by the end of November. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. FORCES SEAL FORMER PRESIDENT'S VILLAGE IN IRAQ. U.S. soldiers sealed off deposed President Hussein's native village on 31 October and ordered all adults living there to register for identification cards, AP reported. Soldiers entered the village of Uja, located some 16 kilometers from Tikrit, in the early morning hours, established checkpoints, and strung concertina wire around the perimeter of the village.

"This is an effort to protect the majority of the population, the people who want to get on with their lives," U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Steve Russell said. U.S. military officials have said they believe the deposed president is directing attacks against coalition troops, reported on 31 October. Russell said he does not know if Hussein is directing such attacks, but added that "there are ties leading to this village, to the funding and planning of attacks against U.S. soldiers," AP reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

AIDE TO IRAQI GRAND AYATOLLAH ATTACKED IN KARBALA. An aide to Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani was attacked in Karbala on 30 October, Al-Jazeera television reported the same day. Shaykh Abd al-Mahdi al-Karbala'i sustained head wounds when militants launched a grenade attack against him and five of his guards near the Imam al-Husayn Shrine in Karbala.

Al-Karbala'i declined to accuse any person or group in connection with the attack, but said that those bent on destabilizing the holy Shi'ite city are responsible. A power struggle has reportedly emerged in Karbala in recent weeks between al-Sistani and anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Al-Sistani has also blamed recent violence on the lack of "a successful central power" in Iraq, AP reported on 30 October. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

BARZANI DISCUSSES TENSIONS WITH TURKEY, KADEK REBELS. Iraqi Governing Council member and head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Mas'ud Barzani told that the Kurds have sacrificed thousands of their peshmerga fighters' lives for Turkey in the fight against Turkish-Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq and that the Iraqi Kurds should no longer need to prove their sincerity and good intentions toward their northern neighbor, the website reported on 5 November.

Barzani said that Turkey does not want to understand the goodwill of Iraqi Kurds. "I wanted to solidify Turkish-Kurdish friendship and brotherhood. I repeatedly said we have to cooperate with [Turkey]. But past administrations in Turkey did not want to understand our sincerity. They only wanted to use us for military purposes and then discard us," he said. "If, after sacrificing 3,000 martyrs in the fight against the PKK [Kurdistan Workers Party, now known as the Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress, or KADEK], some people in Turkey still think we are enemies, this is catastrophic," Barzani added. The KDP head said that the tense relations stem from the mentality of some individuals in Turkey towards the Iraqi Kurds. "They look down upon us as if we are inferior. This cannot be accepted in this day and age," Barzani noted.

Regarding the KDP's relations with PKK/KADEK rebels, Barzani said, "They attacked our villages and hurt our people. They were very bad. Now they are holed up in the mountains beyond the reach of anyone." He contended that the issue between Turkey and the rebels must be resolved, but said that Turkey's August offer of amnesty (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 25 September 2003) did not go far enough to convince the rebels to lay down their arms. "The Americans do not think the Turkish offer is sufficient or else they would have clamped down on the PKK with an iron fist," he added. "If a new law was passed and a real amnesty was issued, many of the militants would come down from the mountains leaving their leaders behind," he said. Until that happens, Barzani stressed, there is a risk that PKK/KADEK rebels might link up with Al-Qaeda and Ansar Al-Islam elements in attacks in the region. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI WEEKLY CITES AL-SISTANI ON CONSTITUTION. The Iraqi weekly "Al-Yawm al-Akhar" reportedly submitted a number of questions to Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani regarding issues of dress and demeanor for Iraqis, the presence of coalition forces in Iraq, and the Iraqi Governing Council. Al-Sistani's responses were printed in the 27 October edition of the weekly.

Asked about the formation of a constitutional drafting committee, al-Sistani reportedly said: "These [occupation] forces do not have any authority to appoint members of a constitutional commission. There is no guarantee that this commission will write a constitution that matches the higher interests of the Iraqi people and expresses their national identity. That identity rests on pure Islamic faith and noble social values. The project you mention is fundamentally unacceptable. We must first hold general elections so that each eligible Iraqi can elect representatives to a constituent assembly to write a constitution. A general referendum will follow on the constitution that the assembly approves. All of the believers must request this and do their best to see that it happens. May God lead all of us toward what is good and sound." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQI POLICE, COALITION FORCES INTERCEPT SMUGGLERS. Iraqi police and coalition forces in southern Iraq have intercepted 47 ships that were smuggling oil, KUNA reported on 30 October. Coalition spokesman Lieutenant Colonel George Krivo said the same day that coalition forces and Iraqi police arrested more than 80 individuals aboard the 47 ships. Iraqi police announced that they have intercepted smugglers attempting to transport 5 tons of gas outside the country. The activities of police and coalition forces reportedly took place in the Al-Faw Peninsula area. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

BOMB EXPLODES OUTSIDE HOTEL IN KARBALA. A bomb exploded outside a hotel in the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala on 3 November, Reuters reported. The bomb was reportedly planted in a nearby car and destroyed the hotel's facade, killing three Iraqis. A spokesman for the Polish-led contingent responsible for security in Karbala said there were no coalition casualties. Karbala is located some 90 kilometers south of Baghdad.

Fighting broke out at least twice in Karbala in October when individuals loyal to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr attacked supporters of moderate Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2003), and when U.S. forces exchanged fire with the followers of cleric Mahmud al-Hassani, an al-Sadr supporter. That incident left three U.S. military police officers and two Iraqi police officers dead (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2003). (Kathleen Ridolfo)

MILITANTS ATTACK FREIGHT TRAIN IN IRAQ. An improvised explosive device placed on railroad tracks west of Al-Fallujah exploded as a freight train that was reportedly transporting supplies for U.S. troops passed over it, setting fire to four shipping containers, international media reported on 30 October. The attack occurred on a rail line 6.5 kilometers west of Al-Fallujah that runs from the city to Hadithah, located about 135 kilometers to the northwest. Looters subsequently took computers, bottled water, tents, and other supplies from the stranded train, AP reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

FIFTEEN U.S. SOLDIERS KILLED WHEN HELICOPTER DOWNED. Fifteen U.S. soldiers were killed and 25 injured when their helicopter was shot down southwest of Al-Fallujah on 2 November, international media reported. The troops were en route to Baghdad International Airport, where they were to pick up another flight for leave outside Iraq. reported that the Chinook helicopter was struck near its rear rotor blade and exploded in midair, crashing in a nearby field, some 48 kilometers west of Baghdad. Two other soldiers were injured aboard another helicopter that participated in the rescue effort, reported on 5 November.

The 2 November crash reportedly set off a larger explosion that shattered the helicopter, witnesses said. Other witnesses reported seeing surface-to-air missiles hit the helicopter. The incident remains under investigation. Also on 2 November, two American contractors working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were killed and a third wounded in Al-Fallujah when the vehicle they were traveling in hit a roadside bomb. Al-Fallujah is located within the so-called Sunni triangle where coalition forces have seen the most resistance since the downfall of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

London's "Guardian" reported on 3 November that a U.S. military officer has said that militants in Al-Fallujah are being paid $700 for attacks on coalition tanks, $200-$300 for attacks on Humvees, and $1,000 for attacks on coalition helicopters. The officer said that coalition troops have not succeeded in forging relations with local tribes, which appear to have a hold on power in Al-Fallujah. Still, it is unknown who is responsible for the majority of attacks on coalition troops there. Most likely it is a mix of Hussein loyalists and foreign fighters. Nevertheless, locals told the "Guardian" that the number of foreign fighters in Al-Fallujah is limited. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQ'S NEIGHBORS CONFER IN DAMASCUS. The foreign ministers of Iraq's six neighboring states and Egypt met on 1-2 November in Damascus to address developments in Iraq, international media reported.

Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shar'a on 2 November read the ministers' final eight-point statement, which stressed solidarity and support for the territorial integrity of Iraq, Al-Jazeera reported. The ministers also called on the United Nations to enhance its role in Iraq, and lent their support to the Iraqi Governing Council. The ministers rejected accusations that their countries are interfering in internal Iraqi affairs and called on the Iraqi authorities to secure Iraq's borders.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari declined to attend the meeting, citing Syria's late and ambiguous invitation, which reportedly arrived late on the evening of 31 October and requested that Zebari travel to Damascus and not attend the first day of meetings, but rather wait for the ministers to decide whether to meet with him on 2 November. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

JORDAN SEIZES IRAQI ARTIFACTS AT BORDER. Jordanian border authorities uncovered some 15 items suspected of being Iraqi relics hidden in a secret compartment in a vehicle at the Turaybil-al-Karamah border crossing, the "Jordan Times" reported on 5 November.

Mahmud Qteishat, director-general for the Jordanian Customs Department, told the daily that officials arrested an Iraqi national transporting the goods. The items were being sent to the Jordanian Antiquities Department to determine whether they are antiques, he said. The items seized include coins, ancient statuettes, precious gemstones, and stone jars, reportedly dating back hundreds of years, "Jordan Times" reported. Qteishat said that Jordanian customs officials have seen some 100 smuggling cases since Operation Iraqi Freedom began in March. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

TURKEY SAYS TROOP-DEPLOYMENT ISSUE 'CLOSED,' BUT CONTINUES TO CRITICIZE U.S. Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer said on 29 October that he considers the issue of deploying Turkish troops to Iraq a "closed" matter, AFP reported, citing Anatolia news agency. "For me, this question is closed," Sezer was quoted as saying. "It is very difficult to reconcile the necessary conditions."

Sezer was just one of a number of Turkish officials last week who expressed frustration with the United States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2003) over its hesitancy to accept Turkey's offer to deploy some 10,000 troops to Iraq. The Governing Council, leading Kurdish political parties, and Iraqi tribes have all rejected the presence of Turkish troops on Iraqi soil.

The U.S. State Department continues to contend, however that the issue remains under discussion. Deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters during a 4 November press briefing, "We are in discussions and working with other parties to find a mutually agreeable way" to settle the troop issue.

Meanwhile, Turkish Ambassador to the United States Osman Faruk Logoglu claimed on 4 November that the United States is giving excessive favors to Kurdish groups in Iraq, a policy which he said might lead to Kurdish attempts to secede in the future, Reuters reported.

"The Kurdish representation is much in excess of their real standing in the society," Logoglu contended. "We think there is too much favoritism...being given to specifically the Kurdish groups...[over] who runs [Iraq] and how the future of the country is going to be structured." Logoglu cited the composition of the Iraqi Governing Council and the interim cabinet as an example (see He also criticized the United States for what he termed that government's failure to convince the Iraqi Governing Council to accept the deployment of some 10,000 Turkish troops to Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

TURKISH DAILY REPORTS THAT U.S. WILL ASK FOR TURKISH WITHDRAWAL FROM IRAQ. The Turkish daily newspaper "Yeni Safak" reported on 29 October that the United States intends to request the withdrawal of Turkish forces from northern Iraq, reported. U.S. sources reportedly told "Yeni Safak" that the United States will seek to strengthen the Iraqi Governing Council in the coming months, and will point to the council as the point of reference for any negotiations. Turkey has maintained a troop presence in northern Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War under the pretense that it is fighting Turkish-Kurdish resistance groups based along the Iraq-Turkey border.

Asked about claims by the Turkish Foreign Ministry that Turkey reserves the right to send additional troops to northern Iraq to fight the resistance groups, State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters on 4 November that the United States has "made clear that the PKK [Kurdistan Workers Party] and KADEK [Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress] are terrorist organizations and that we are undertaking every step to ensure that their activities are constrained, or are not allowed, and that appropriate steps to move against them are taken. And we continue to consult and work with...the government of Turkey towards a goal." Ereli was not asked whether the U.S. has requested the withdrawal of Turkish troops from northern Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

TWO UN SECURITY OFFICIALS PUT ON LEAVE AFTER REPORT. Two United Nations security officials were put on leave on 4 November after an independent panel investigating the 19 August bombing of the United Nations' Baghdad headquarters (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 31 October 2003) blamed the UN security apparatus in New York and in the field for security lapses that contributed to the attack, Reuters reported on 4 November. That blast left 23 dead, including UN Special Representative to Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello.

The two security officials are UN global security coordinator Tun Myat of Myanmar and Ramiro Lopes da Silva of Portugal, who was once responsible for security and personnel in Iraq. Da Silva was appointed the acting head of mission in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 5 September 2003) following the 19 August bombing.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric de la Riviere told reporters that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan granted the two men leave until mid-January while a UN-appointed, four-member panel investigates "accountability at all managerial levels at the headquarters and in the field" for security failures, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, Catherine Bertini, the UN undersecretary-general for management, will temporarily head the Office of the UN Security Coordinator.

Annan appointed the four-member panel on 4 November. Gerald Walzer, the former deputy UN high commissioner for refugees, will head the panel. The other members are former Director of the General Legal Division of the UN office of Legal Affairs Srinath Basnayaki, Assistant Commissioner of the Irish National Police Kevin Carty, and Senior Security Manager of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva Stuart Groves. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IAEA CHIEF CALLS ON U.S. TO RELEASE CLASSIFIED WMD REPORT. Muhammad el-Baradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has reiterated his call on the United States to release to the IAEA a classified report on the CIA-headed Iraq Survey Group's search for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, reported on 4 November.

El-Baradei told "The Washington Post" in an interview in New York that the U.S. has yet to respond to an IAEA request for a copy of the document, which reports on the group's first three-months in Iraq. The report was released to three Congressional committees in early October (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 9 October 2003). El-Baradei contended that the U.S. is obligated under UN Security Council resolutions to keep his agency abreast of any developments in its hunt for WMD.

The IAEA chief also called for the return of UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and IAEA inspectors to Iraq when he addressed the UN General Assembly on 3 November, the UN News Service reported ( An IAEA report to the UN Security Council dated 10 October but only made public on 17 October contends that the IAEA has found no evidence that Iraq revived its nuclear-weapons program. The IAEA noted in the report that despite the war and occupation, the agency was able "with the support of [UN] member states, to continue with some of its investigations outside of Iraq," and follow up on earlier inspections with subsequent analysis, the UN News Center reported on 17 October. In addition, the IAEA reported that the agency's brief return to Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 6 June 2003) in June "revealed no evidence" of a revived program by Hussein. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

UNFPA SAYS PERINATAL DEATHS HAVE TRIPLED IN IRAQ SINCE 1990. A study by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has found that the number of Iraqi women dying during pregnancy or in childbirth has nearly tripled since 1990, according to a 4 November press release posted on the UNFPA website (

The study found that bleeding, ectopic pregnancies, and extended labor are some of the primary causes of the rise in maternity deaths, which were estimated to have risen from 117 per every 100,000 live births in 1990 to 310 per 100,000 in 2002. Miscarriages have also risen, as a result of stress and exposure to chemical contaminants, the study claims.

UNFPA also reported that some 65 percent of Iraqi women gave birth at home over the last decade, without any professional assistance. The study determined that many women did not have access to proper medical facilities, many of which were damaged or looted. "Between 50-70 percent of all pregnant women in Iraq suffer from iron-deficiency anemia, as well as malaria and other problems. Yet, only 60 percent of women receive some form of prenatal care, down from 78 percent in 1996," UNFPA reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

SPAIN WITHDRAWS DIPLOMATS FROM IRAQ. Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio announced on 4 November that Spain is temporarily withdrawing its diplomatic staff from Iraq, citing the "very complicated" situation in the country, AFP reported on the same day.

Palacio added that the embassy in Baghdad will remain open, with only four or five of its 29 employees remaining on staff, including the embassy's charge d'affaires, Eduardo de Quesada, and First Secretary Pablo Ruperez, EFE news agency reported on 4 November. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said that Spanish officials will meet with the Iraq-based staff to evaluate the situation. The Spanish Defense Ministry noted that Spaniards working for the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq will remain in Baghdad, AP reported on 4 November.

Asked to comment about the staff withdrawal, the U.S. State Department issued a statement on 4 November saying, "We understand that the Spaniards' decision reflects their assessment of the security situation" in Iraq. "We look forward to them returning to full strength and full operations," the statement added. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

YUKOS OFFICIAL SAYS COMPANY STILL INTERESTED IN IRAQ. Russian oil company Yukos' Moscow Chief Executive Officer Semen Kukes told reporters on 4 November that he believes the company's situation will stabilize soon, Interfax news agency reported. He said that the resignation of Yukos President Mikhail Khodorkovskii (see "RFE/RL Russian Foreign Policy and Security Watch," 30 October 2003) will not cause any serious problems with management.

Asked about rumors that shares in YukosSibneft were sold to a foreign investor, Kukes said: "I heard about ChevronTexaco being involved in some negotiations, but I honestly do not know anything about it. I can say as a manager that yes we are interested in projects with foreign companies, especially [for] joint projects in Iraq." Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS on 4 November cited "well-informed sources" as saying that Russia and Iraq are working to set a date for Iraqi Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum to visit Russia. The oil minister has reportedly accepted an invitation from Russian Energy Minister Igor Yusufov.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yurii Fedotov told reporters at last month's donor conference in Madrid (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 24 October 2003) that Russia is eager to participate in the rebuilding of Iraq. "We are ready to share our decades-long experience of fruitful cooperation in oil production, power generating, land amelioration, and infrastructure build-up," Fedotov said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

ROMANIA LIQUIDATES ALLEGED IRAQI TERRORIST NETWORK. Prosecutor-General Ilie Botos announced on 3 November that Romanian authorities have liquidated a network allegedly engaged in mobilizing funds used to finance terrorist activities, the private Antena 1 television channel reported.

Botos said most of the network's members are Iraqi citizens and, before being detained, 14 of them had succeeded in illegally smuggling $40 million out of Romania via phantom companies. Botos said there is no evidence to suggest the members of the network were direct participants in terrorist activities.

Ion Stan, chairman of the parliamentary commission supervising the activities of the Romanian Intelligence Service, said the commission has no information to indicate that any groups are actively involved on Romanian territory in financing international terrorism, Romanian Radio reported. (Michael Shafir)

IRAQI INTELLIGENCE FILES REVEAL REGIME CONTACTS. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Pentagon intelligence officials are using extensive intelligence files seized from the former regime to trace an international network that reportedly fed Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program, reported on 3 November.

The files reportedly contain the names of nearly every Iraqi intelligence officer, as well as those officers' foreign agents, written agent reports, evaluations of agents, and documents recording payments aimed at buying influence in the Arab world and elsewhere, U.S. officials told The officials declined to reveal the identities of those paid off, but said prominent personalities and political figures are among those paid to defend the Hussein regime.

The CIA's Iraq Survey Group is using information obtained from the files to trace fugitive Iraqi security officers who may have information on WMD. According to a 3 November "Wall Street Journal" report, the intelligence documents show Hussein's attempts to procure North Korean missiles with ranges longer than the permitted UN-imposed limit of 150 kilometers. The missile purchase, if transacted, would have violated UN sanctions on Iraq. Records also show that two teams of Yugoslav missile experts traveled to Iraq in 2001 to help develop plans for extending the 290-kilometer range of the Iraqi Scud missile by strapping several rocket motors together, a senior U.S. official said. According to "The Wall Street Journal," the Yugoslav experts worked with experts from another unnamed country in Iraq on the project into 2003. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. CONGRESS APPROVES $87.5 BILLION FOR IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN. The U.S. Congress on 3 November approved an $87.5 billion appropriations bill for reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan over the next year, international media reported. The emergency funds were approved by a voice vote, rather than roll-call vote. It provides about $20 billion for Iraq in the form of a grant, despite earlier calls by members of Congress that the funds be given to Iraq in the form of a loan. (Kathleen Ridolfo).