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Iraq Report: January 26, 2001

26 January 2001, Volume 4, Number 4

'UDAY'S KUWAIT REMARKS PROVOKE ARAB RESPONSE. Recent remarks by 'Uday Saddam Husseyn in Baghdad's "Babil" on 30 December (see RFERL Iraq Report of 19 January 2001), in which he appeared to claim Kuwait as a still-integral part of Iraq, have drawn fire from other Arab officials. Saudi Arabia's Prince Saud Al-Faysal said in Tunis on 20 January said that he was "sorry" that anyone in Baghdad would continue to use such language, Riyadh's SPA reported. Meanwhile, 'Usamah Al-Baz, political adviser to Egyptian President Husni Mubarak, said that 'Uday's statements represented "a big mistake and destrot any common ground for dialogue that could be held between Iraq and Kuwait," according to Kuwait's "Al-Ra'y Al-'Amm" of 20 January. Further afield, the Russian Foreign Ministry through a spokesman said that suggestions that Kuwait was part of Iraq did not represent Baghdad's official position. (David Nissman)

IRAQ NEGOTIATES HAJJ INCREASE. An Iraqi Hajj Affairs delegation met with Saudi Arabia's Hajj Minister Ayad Bin Amin Madani to negotiate an increase in the number of Iraqi pilgrims who will be allowed to make the hajj to Mecca, SPA reported on 20 January. Up to now, only 12,000 Iraqis have been allowed to make the pilgrimage, Now, under the new accord, some 15,000 will be able to do so. (David Nissman)

TURKEY-IRAQ RAIL LINK TO REOPEN THIS MONTH. The railway between Nusaybin (in the southeast Turkish province of Mardin) and Baghdad will be reopened this month. It had been closed by Syria in 1982 during the Iran-Iraq War. According to "Anatolia" on 23 January, Turkish State Railways officials have said that the railway would be reopened as a result of Turkish initiatives. They also noted that all repair work in Turkey, Syria and Iraq had been completed. The railway will carry both passengers and cargo. (David Nissman)

SECOND UAE SHIP TO TRAVEL BETWEEN UAE AND IRAQ. The Senior Undersecretary of the United Arab Emirates Transport and Communications Ministry Jamil Ibrahim announced on 20 January that a second UAE ship, Manar, will begin regular sea voyages between the Rashid port in Dubai and the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr, according to Baghdad Radio of 20 January. The UAE ship Jabal Ali-1 started making this passage in November 1999. But the "Gulf News" of 23 January noted that the general manager, Samir Ahmad, of the Naif Shipping Company in Dubai has said that two new ships, the Jabal Ali-2 and Jabal Ali-3 are being added to the Rashid-Umm Qasr run next week. Ahmad added that the shipping line plans to link up all the Gulf ports to enable more people to travel. (David Nissman)

SADDAM PRAISES HANOI FOR ITS LONGSTANDING FRIENDSHIP. Saddam Husseyn told visiting Vietnamese Deputy Premier Nguyen Cong Tan that Vietnam is the only country which has maintained its friendship with Iraq at the same level as before the Mother of Battles. According to Baghdad Television on 20 January, Saddam "has discovered that Vietnam's friendship is different than that of others." The Iraqi leader instructed the Iraq-Vietnam Committee to look for ways to strengthen relations between the two countries and to raise them to the level of brotherly relations so as to promote the interests of the two friendly peoples. (David Nissman)

IRAQ TO SIGN FREE-TRADE AGREEMENT WITH SYRIA. Tariq 'Aziz, deputy prime minister of Iraq, said on 21 January that Baghdad will soon sign a free-trade agreement with Damascus similar to the one it signed with Cairo last week, Reuters reported on 21 January. The Egyptian accord has yet to be ratified by the Egyptian parliament, but it is expected to boost Egypt's exports to Iraq by $1 billion a year. Severed at the time of the Gulf War, Iraq's ties with Syria have gradually been restored over the last three years. (David Nissman)

IRAQ-BASED GROUP CLAIMS CREDIT FOR TEHRAN ATTACK. The Iranian opposition group Mujahedin-e Khalq, an organization primarily based in Iraq, claimed responsibility for four mortar shells going off in northeastern Tehran, saying that the "attack was carried out in response to the recent wave of executions and the brutal sentences passed on young people by the mullah's...judiciary," IRNA and Baghdad Radio reported on 21 January. (David Nissman)

IAEA REPORTS NO IRREGULARITIES IN IRAQ. International Atomic Energy Agency officials left Baghdad on 24 January after issuing a report that it had found no irregularities at Iraq's nuclear site, UPI reported on 24 January. The four-man delegation, headed by Ahmad Abu Zahra of Egypt, did say that it had gathered information which will now be analyzed at IAEA headquarters in Vienna. The investigators sought to confirm that natural and enriched products were "still in the right place." This check is not connected to the UN disarmament inspections formed after 1991 but rather is in line with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty Iraq signed in 1972. Meanwhile, the Ba'th Party newspaper "Al-Thawra" called on the IAEA to help Baghdad to use atomic energy for peaceful ends, "something which is its legitimate rights," AFP on 24 January. (David Nissman)

IRAQ-SYRIA PIPELINE TO BE UNDER OIL-FOR-FOOD PROGRAM. Washington has said that the United States "would support a request for this pipeline to be designated as one of the authorized export routes under the Oil-for-Food Program, so that payments then are made under UN control," according to U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher on 23 January. Boucher pointed out that this question had been discussed with the Syrian government and that Damascus had responded that it has not reached a final agreement on this point. (David Nissman)

IRAQI OPPOSITION GROUP PROPOSES NEW NATIONAL FRONT. London's "Al-Zaman" on 23 January reported that an Iraqi opposition group has issued a call for uniting national and democratic forces into a new "national front." The appeal came from the Iraq Democratic Popular Alliance. Signed by Sami Muhammad, the document said that "the political scene in the opposition has regrettably been dominated by rivalry, a struggle for positions, a fight over grants and donations, a tendency to adhere to a monopolistic mentality, as well as over-confidence, megalomania, and other negative political action ills." It also called for a central leadership which would consist of "representatives of the opposition political parties and organizations" as well as representatives from the military and some independents. Various ethnic groups were also named. (David Nissman)

IRAQI WRITER SAYS SAUDI ARABIA IN CRISIS. Sami Mahdi, a journalist writing in the Ba'th Party newspaper "Al-Thawra," on 22 January said that Saudi Arabia is undergoing a series of acute crises in politics, economics, security, society, and public morality. To deal with these challenges, the Iraqi writer said, Riyadh is "trying to export them abroad." And he said that the Saudis have exploited hostility to Iraq as a cover for this export operation. (David Nissman)

IRAQI MINISTER DISCUSSES RADIATION SECURITY IN MOSCOW. Iraqi Health Minister 'Umid Midhat Mubarak and Russian Emergencies Minister Sergey Shoygu met in Moscow to discuss humanitarian aid and radiation security on 23 January, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 January. (David Nissman)

BAGHDAD TO REPLACE CURRENCY IN KURDISTAN. According to a Kurdish source in Iraqi Kurdistan, Baghdad has drawn up a plan to withdraw old Iraqi currency printed outside Iraq that currently is the coin of the realm in the Kurdistan Regional Government. London's "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" of 23 January says that Iraqi government collaborators have been ordered to open offices in regions adjacent to the KRG for this purpose. Baghdad has been in the process of withdrawing foreign currency, particularly the U.S. dollar, from the region over the last several years. (David Nissman)

PUK, KDP MEET TO DISCUSS PKK. PUK officials met with their opposite numbers in the KDP to discuss the PKK, the Kurdish Observer reproted on 24 January. The two agreed to work to expell the PKK from the region. Spokesmen for the two parties also said that they hope to launch a new era in PUK-KDP relations. A PUK spokesman, Feridun Abdulkadir, said that the Washington process was essentially dead but that the Ankara process can be renewed. His views were echoed by KDP spokesman Hoshyar Zebari who said "there is no change in our stance toward the PKK." (David Nissman)

TALABANI APPOINTS NEW PM. Jalal Talabani, PUK secretary general, has appointed Dr. Barham Salih to be the new prime minister of the PUK-controlled region of Iraqi Kurdistan. According to the "Kurdistan Observer" of 16 January, experts in the PUK-KDP conflict believe that with the appointment of Salih, relations between the KDP and PUK are likely to improve. Salih had been director of the PUK bureau of international relations, based in Washington, and he represented the PUK in the Washington peace negotiations between the PUK and KDP. He replaces Kusrat Rasul, who reportedly was uncomfortable with Talabani's developing relationship with Turkey. In another sign of warming PUK-KDP ties, Talabani reportedly has given instructions to the media under his control to stop broadcasting propaganda directed against the KDP. (David Nissman)