25 October 2002, Volume 5, Number 35
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HUSSEYN ASKS OPPOSITION TO RETURN, JOIN GOVERNMENT. Iraqi President Saddam Husseyn extended an invitation to several opposition figures to return to Iraq and join in the formation of a new "national coalition" government, according to a 23 October report in the Jordanian newspaper "Al-Arab al-Yawm."
A leftist Iraqi writer and politician, Abd-al-Amir al-Rikabi told the newspaper that Iraqi officials contacted him and a number of other opposition figures before the 15 October referendum in which Iraqis unanimously voted to keep Husseyn in office for another seven years. The interview came amid reports that Iraqi officials Nizar Hamdun and Abd-al-Razzaq al-Hashimi asked al-Rikabi to head a national coalition government. Al-Rikabi told "Al-Arab al-Yawm" that negotiations are under way "within the framework of attempts to reach a coalition formula, which will rebuild the Iraqi nationalist forces' alliance in the face of U.S. threats against Iraq. These negotiations also aim at forming national unity government, the basic function of which will be moving towards democracy in Iraq." Al-Rikabi currently lives in France.
"Al-Arab al-Yawm" reported that among those contacted by the Iraqi government were the former leader of the Syrian branch of the Ba'ath Party, Abd-al-Jabbar al-Kubaysi; Baqir Ibrahim, former member of the political bureau of the Iraqi Communist Party; Salah Umar al-Ali, former member of the Regional Command of the Ba'ath Party and head of the opposition Democratic Accord Group; and Awni al-Qalamji, a Nasirite leader.
A commentary by Republic of Iraq Television on 23 October said the prisoner amnesty of 20 October (see below, "Prisons Emptied; Iraqis Search For Missing Loved Ones" ) marked a new stage in the life of all Iraqis, especially those living abroad. It added: "The homeland is opening its arms to whoever took the wrong path or lost his way, thus closing the chapter of the past with all its pains. The Iraqis would thus start a new march and turn over a new leaf of love, tolerance, and happiness." (Kathleen Ridolfo)
CHILDREN OF IRAQI DIPLOMATS CALLED HOME. President Saddam Husseyn has ordered the return of all children of Iraqi diplomats residing abroad, according to a 24 October report by "The Washington Times." U.S. intelligence officials told the daily that a notice was given this week to Iraqi envoys and intelligence personnel around the world, apparently as a "security measure." U.S. officials who read the notice told "The Washington Times" that spouses of the diplomats are not required to return with the children and that no Iraqi dependents have returned thus far to Iraq. The recall is seen as an attempt by the regime to prevent widespread defections in coming months from Iraqi officials stationed abroad. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IRAQ PREPARES MOBILE BROADCASTING UNITS. Radio Netherlands' "Media Network" website (http://www.rnw.nl) reported on 21 October that Iraqi authorities plan to maintain radio broadcasts from mobile installations in the event of a U.S.-led attack on Iraq. According to the report, residents of the northern city of Irbil reported seeing at least five trucks in the area that were transporting broadcast equipment. Similar accounts have been relayed from other Iraqi cities. "Media Network" reported unnamed Iraqi "insiders" as saying that Iraqi President Saddam Husseyn has prerecorded two speeches to be broadcast once an attack begins. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
JORDAN DENIES MILITARY EXERCISES LINKED TO IRAQ. A senior Jordanian official denied that the joint military exercises currently under way between U.S. Special Forces and the Jordanian military are related to a possible U.S. military strike on Iraq. The official responded to a report by CNN on 19 October that stated, "about 1,500 U.S. Special Forces were training in Jordan to infiltrate Western Iraq in the opening hours of an anticipated military action to seize Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and destroy the stockpile of dozens of Scud missiles, which the United States believes Baghdad was hiding."
An unnamed Jordanian official told London-based "Al-Hayat" on 20 October that, "The military agreements signed with the United States--under which we receive more than $150 million in annual aid--do not stipulate that U.S. troops are allowed to use the Jordanian territories to carry out operations against other countries." He added that U.S. Special Forces have not performed any private training in isolation from Jordanian and Arab units to launch missions inside the Iraqi territories.
The official also denied allegations made on 18 October in a report published by the Iraqi National Congress (INC) that the United States and Israel have devised a plan to change the political map of the Middle East by annexing Iraq to Jordan.
Meanwhile, "Frankfurter Allgemeine" carried an interview with Jordan's King Abdullah on 21 October in which the king said Jordan's policy on Iraq has not changed since the 1991 Gulf War. "Jordan has not altered its policy; it has consistently...maintained the principle of noninterference. We aim never to interfere in other countries' internal disputes," King Abdullah said. "We are not in agreement with some of the things Iraq does. But neither do we agree with a military conflict on the part of the West against Iraq." (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IRAQ ASKS REFERENDUM CELEBRANTS TO STOP SHOOTING. The presidential office in Baghdad has issued a ban on the firing of weapons by Iraqi citizens in the streets. Iraq TV broadcast an announcement of the ban on 22 October by Ahmad Husseyn Khudayir, chief of the presidential office in Baghdad. It appears that Iraqis have continued to fire their weapons in celebration of President Saddam Husseyn's win in the presidential referendum on 15 October. While Khudayir acknowledged that it was natural for people to fire their weapons following Husseyn's victory, he insisted that it must not continue. "Everyone should save their guns to terrorize the enemy of God -- and their enemy -- should the evildoers entertain the idea of trespassing on Iraq, its sovereignty, security, and independence. We send best wishes to everyone," Khudayir said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
RAMADAN CRITICIZES UN SECRETARY-GENERAL'S CALL FOR NEW RESOLUTION. Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan told Abu Dhabi TV on 22 October that he was surprised that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan requested a new UN Security Council resolution on Iraq. Ramadan said that, in the past, Annan insisted there would be no need for a new resolution if Iraq were to allow the return of weapons inspectors. Ramadan added, "Issuing a resolution would be in response to the U.S. [demands] and would be an obstacle to the work of inspectors. Iraq believes that what was agreed upon needs no resolution. If the evil [U.S.] administration's intention is indeed to make sure there are no weapons of mass destruction -- and it has doubts that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction -- it, before others, should push for the return of inspectors. Any kind of resolution would be harmful." (Kathleen Ridolfo)
MILITARY PARTS FROM BOSNIAN SERB ARMS PLANT REPORTEDLY REACHED IRAQ. Equipment manufactured by a Bosnian Serb arms plant has made its way to Iraq, Fena news agency reported on 22 October. The Stabilization Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina (SFOR) is currently investigating the Orao Aviation Institute in Bijeljina, where the equipment reportedly originated. Principal Deputy High Representative in Bosnia Donald Hays, a U.S. diplomat, said preliminary results of the inspection indicate that deliveries were made to an unnamed "third" party, after which arms components ended up in Iraq. Hays could not say whether the "third party" was Yugoslavia, according to the report. He said that he does not know whether the manufacturer of the materiel intended to send it to Iraq, adding that he is also unsure whether the deliveries have anything to do with the Yugoslav government. The Belgrade daily "Blic" reported on 22 October that SFOR members discovered substantial documentation at the Orao and Obarska companies in Bijeljina that suggests a significant amount of military equipment was exported to Iraq through the Belgrade-based company Yugoimport. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
PRISONS EMPTIED; IRAQIS SEARCH FOR MISSING LOVED ONES. Iraqi Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Mundhir al-Naqshabandi announced on 21 October that all Iraqi prisons are completely empty, Iraq Satellite TV reported, following a general amnesty granted by President Husseyn on 20 October. The amnesty provided that all prisoners in Iraq were to be released except those charged with spying for the United States or Israel.
But hundreds of Iraqi citizens protested in front of the Information Ministry in Baghdad on 22 October, seeking information on relatives who failed to return from prison following the release of prisoners. According to a 22 October report in the "Washington Post," several protesters, most of whom were Iraqi Shi'ites, gathered at noon in front of the ministry and chanted support for President Husseyn before requesting information about their missing relatives. Protesters said their relatives were arrested on charges of participating in political-opposition movements, which are illegal in Iraq. A second protest gathered two hours later. Human rights groups have accused the Iraqi regime of executing many prisoners over the years, including Shi'ite political dissidents. Iraqi police broke up the rare protests, and Information Minister Mohammed Sa'id al-Sahhaf announced on 23 October that he would look into the issue of missing detainees, according to ft.com.
The Egyptian charge d'affaires in Baghdad confirmed to MENA news agency on 21 October that all Egyptian prisoners in Iraq were released. The Egyptian Embassy in Baghdad was to facilitate the return of the Egyptian nationals to Egypt. And Jordan's ambassador to Baghdad, Fakhri Abu Talib, told the "Jordan Times" on 21 October, "All Jordanian prisoners have been released, except for two." The ambassador said he expected all of the Jordanian prisoners to be repatriated to Jordan by 22 October. The two unreleased Jordanian prisoners are accused of spying for Israel.
Meanwhile, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa has asked Iraqi authorities whether the general amnesty granted by President Husseyn covers Kuwaiti nationals, MENA news agency reported on 22 October. Kuwaiti prisoners of war have been held in Iraqi prisons since the 1991 Gulf War.
In a related event, KurdishMedia.com reported on 22 October that the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's (PUK) Office of Human Rights called upon the families of missing Kurds to participate in a general census. The statement asked that families missing loved ones register details of their relatives. The list of disappeared Kurds will then be presented to the UN in an effort to pressure the Iraqi regime to provide details about their whereabouts. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
RUSSIA, FRANCE SAY MORE WORK HAS TO BE DONE ON UN RESOLUTION. UN Security Council permanent members France and Russia said on 22 October that more work needs to be done before the Security Council will approve a resolution on Iraq. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said "a lot of work remains to be done" before an agreement can be reached in the council regarding the revised draft resolution presented by the United States, AFP reported.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the U.S. proposal does not meet the requirements put forward by Russia, RIA-Novosti news agency reported. Ivanov stressed the need for a return of weapons inspectors to Iraq, saying, "We are prepared to work on a draft resolution that will ensure the effective work of inspectors, will be realistic, and will not contain provisions that will automatically open the way to the use of force." "The proposed draft does not yet meet such requirements," he added.
One day earlier, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yurii Fedotov told ITAR-TASS on 21 October that the UN draft resolution on Iraq "will not contain the unacceptable elements of the previous American draft." Fedotov added that the "new document must not have provisions that envisage automatism in the use of force against Iraq and absolutely impossible, unrealistic demands regarding the inspection activity." The minister said the new resolution "should reflect the opinion of the majority of UN member countries whose representatives spoke at the open sitting of the UN Security Council on Iraq at the end of last week," noting that most of those countries lobbied for a settlement by political means.
According to Reuters, the U.S. draft proposal no longer includes authorization of military action but declares Iraq in "material breach" of current resolutions and threatens "serious consequences" for Iraq should it fail to comply with the demands of UN inspections. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IRAQI REPRESENTATIVE CRITICIZES UN SECURITY COUNCIL. In a speech at the 57th session of the UN General Assembly on 17 October, Iraqi representative to the United Nations Security Council Muhammad al-Duri called on the council to reform its work mechanism, Iraqi News Agency reported. Al-Duri said the Security Council has turned into a "court" for Iraq. The "court" works secretly, and the council acts as witness and judge. Al-Duri said, "For 12 years, the Security Council has devoted much of its time to discussing the Iraq issue. These discussions were absolutely not in accordance with the UN Charter or anything that has do with international peace and security, but were in keeping with the desire and interests of two countries [the United States and Great Britain] that dominate the Security Council, without any consideration for the humanitarian and legal aspects of the UN Charter and the constant rules of international law." Al-Duri accused the Security Council of passing unjust resolutions against Iraq that deny the country its rights under the UN charter. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
BAHRAIN'S ISLAMISTS SAY U.S. PLANS TO DIVIDE IRAQ. Bahrain's Islamists have accused the United States of conspiring to divide Iraq into three parts in line with Israel's plans, according to the "Gulf News" on 17 October. "The Muslim nation today faces a great danger" in Palestine, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf states, according to a press release issued on 21 October by the Islamic Assalah Society, the Islamic Shura Society, and the Islamic National Minbar Society. The Islamists said the United States, Britain, and Israel are "determined to fragment the region to redraw its political order" and that the plan is "aimed at putting [Iraq's] wealth and resources under the actual control of the Zionists." (Kathleen Ridolfo)
SABRI ACCUSES U.S. OF TRYING TO RECRUIT IRAQI DELEGATION... Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri accused the United States of trying to recruit members of the Iraqi delegation to Vienna. Iraq reached an agreement with the UN for the return of weapons inspectors following two days of talks in Vienna on 1 October (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 4 October 2002). Sabri did not elaborate on his accusation, made during an interview with Al-Jazeera Satellite TV on 23 October. He did, however, comment on the U.S. draft resolution on Iraq, now being debated at the UN Security Council. Sabri told Al-Jazeera, "We hope that no measures will be taken to obstruct the inspection mission, because the measures delineated in this wicked U.S. draft resolution include impossible conditions." (Kathleen Ridolfo)
...AND SAYS WEAPONS INSPECTORS WILL SPY FOR WASHINGTON. Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said inspectors are trying to acquaint themselves with Iraqi installations in order to pass the information on to the United States, Britain, and Israel in a 23 October interview with the German daily "Handelsblatt." He denied that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction and accused the United States of using the issue as an excuse to penetrate Iraq's national-security structure. On the issue of weapons inspectors, Sabri pointed out that during the 1998 Desert Fox operation, the United States specifically targeted installations that had been visited by weapons inspectors. He added, "If the inspectors now want to visit these military installations and see files, they really want to spy out our defense measures and our arrangements for our troops."
Sabri also accused the United States of trying to change the "rules of the game" on Iraq, since previous Security Council resolutions tied Iraqi cooperation to the lifting of sanctions, not war. He said the U.S. agenda is to obtain access to Iraq's natural resources, including oil, adding, "The United States wants to change the entire international law and make the world subordinate to its hegemony." (Kathleen Ridolfo)
KDP DELEGATION VISITS TURKEY. Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government Nechervan Idris Barzani led a delegation of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) to Turkey on 23 October. Kurdistan Satellite TV reported that the Turkish Foreign Ministry invited Barzani along with fellow members of the KDP political bureau Azad Barwari, Fadil Mirani, and Hoshyar Zebari.
Barzani told reporters at a news conference in Ankara that the purpose of the visit is to discuss the situation in Iraq. "In our talks with Turkish officials, we shall explain our call for a solution to the Kurdish people's issue in Iraq within the framework of a united Iraq," he said. He added that the KDP respects Turkey and aspires to maintain good relations with its neighbor. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
IRAN WILL NOT GIVE U.S. ACCESS TO BASES. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi denied reports that Iran will provide the United States with access to its military bases, calling the reports "sheer lies," Iranian News Agency reported on 21 October. Asefi added that any such move from the Islamic Republic is totally rejected, and flies in the face of Iran's declared policies and the principles governing Iranian diplomacy. (Kathleen Ridolfo)