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Iraq Report: March 30, 2001

30 March 2001, Volume 4, Number 10

OPPOSITION ACCUSES IRAQ OF CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY. Two Iraqi opposition groups -- one called "Ahrar Al-Iraq" (the Free People of Iraq) and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) -- called on the leaders of the Arab world at their summit in Amman to refrain from dealing with Saddam Husseyn because of his continuing crimes against humanity. The Ahrar Al-Iraq statement was published by KUNA on 28 March. The SCIRI letter was distributed in Amman and reported by news services there.

SCIRI FIRES ROCKETS AT SADDAM'S PALACE. SCIRI said that its units had fired four Katyusha rockets at the Republic Palace in Baghdad on 22 March and noted that the Iraqi authorities had planted explosives in another area of the city to "cover up this operation of the resistance," according to London's "Al-Hayat" on 23 March. Official Baghdad media outlets accused "Iranian agents" of causing the explosion near the Republic Palace. Meanwhile, Hasan 'Abdallah, official spokesman of the "Iraq Islamic Resistance," said his forces attacked the Presidential Palace in Baghdad with 122 mm Katyusha rockets. He noted that this was the third such attack; others took place in May and September of last year. 'Abdallah's group is among those supported by Tehran. (David Nissman)

IRAQ ISLAMIC PARTY CALLS FOR 'NATIONAL FRONT.' Leaders of the Iraq Islamic Party (IIP) told a conference on "U.S. Policy and the Position of Iraqi National Forces" that there is no basis for the Iraqi opposition to cooperate with the U.S. because their objectives are so different. In a statement published by London's "Al-Hayat" on 22 March, the IIP called for the formation of a national front to overcome differences within the opposition and thus become better able to fight Baghdad.

IRAQI STEPS UP SPYING IN UAE. Iraq has increased its intelligence activities in the United Arab Emirates, the Iraqi National Congress told London's "Al-Zaman" on 22 March. The INC said that Baghdad is using a restaurant as cover and is increasing its contacts with both religious scholars and businessmen. (David Nissman)

WAS QUSAY IN TEHRAN LAST WEEK? A newspaper, "Al-Ittijah Al-Akhar," published by Iraqi opposition figure Mish'an Al-Juburi, says that Qusay Saddam Husseyn, the chief of the security agencies in Iraq, paid a visit to Tehran last week to meet Iranian security and military officials. They reportedly discussed threats against Iraq and other regional states arising from a U.S. plan to establish a safe haven in southern Iraq. The Gulf newspaper "Al-Watan" on 27 March. reports "Al-Ittijah Al-Akhar" as saying that "following Qusay's recent visit, Iraq agreed to allow a Syrian train to Iran to pass through Iraqi territory. [And] Saddam Husseyn also issued a decree releasing 27 Iranian prisoners held in Iraq." There is no independent confirmation of this report. (David Nissman)

SADDAM APPEALS TO ARAB SUMMIT. Saddam Husseyn sent a letter to the Arab summit in Amman urging the group to unite to oppose Israel and to support the Palestinian people. Saddam stressed that Iraq has always been opposed to Israel and that it will always do so. He made no mention of Kuwait. And he noted that 'Abdul Karim Qassim, the leader of the Iraqi revolution, was executed because "he deviated from the concept of Arabism and Faith," INA reported on 27 March. Saddam ended his missive with the words: "May God damn the Jews." (David Nissman)

PUTIN PROPOSES 'PACKAGE SOLUTION' ON IRAQ... Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that the Arab summit in Amman accept his proposal for a package solution to Middle East problems, including the lifting of sanctions against Iraq, Interfax reported on 27 March. Putin said Moscow would do everything possible to promote dialogue between the United Nations and Baghdad and that it would take additional steps to guarantee the security and prosperity of all the countries in the region. (David Nissman)

...BUT SUMMIT MAKES LITTLE PROGRESS ON IRAQ... The Amman summit failed to take any major decisions on Iraq besides noting that mediation efforts are underway between Baghdad and Kuwait. But a Jordanian official is cited by the "Kuwait Times" as saying that "the Iraqis are still obstinate and radical about their demands. They are rejecting compromises but (other) Arabs are united and determined to respect their international commitments." Nonetheless, Jordan's King 'Abdallah II was asked by Arab League Secretary-General Ismat 'Abdul-Majid to undertake further consultations and contacts to improve ties between Iraq and Kuwait, according to a report from AFP on 28 March. In addition, the group is preparing a working paper on the issue, and one Arab diplomat, speaking to the French agency under conditions of anonymity, said that Baghdad does appear to be moving closer to accepting its proposals, including an Iraqi declaration recognizing Kuwaiti sovereignty, the lifting of sanctions, discussion of outstanding POW issues, and resumption of air links between Baghdad and the outside world. (David Nissman)

...EVEN AS SAUDIS UPSET BY ANY DISCUSSION OF IRAQ. The "Mideast Mirror" on 23 March noted that Saudi Arabia had downgraded is representation to the Amman summit to express its unhappiness with any discussion of Iraq. Prince Sultan bin-'Abdul'Aziz, who is also second deputy prime minister, represented Riyadh instead of Crown Prince 'Abdallah bin-'Abdul'aziz, who has been deputizing for King Fahd at such conferences over the last several years. (David Nissman)

A YEMENI ROLE IN IRAQ-KUWAIT PRISONERS DISPUTE. Yemeni President 'Ali 'Abdallah Salih told a visiting Kuwaiti delegation that "time will deal with the issue between Iraq and Kuwait, noting that "we have told and continue to tell the Iraqis to be quiet and we will defend you. Stay away from the language of threats to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Threats do not bring stability to the region and do not do Iraq any good. Sometimes the Iraqis do not listen to us and all our efforts are wasted," Kuwait's "Al-Ra'y Al-'Amm" reported on 22 March. Salih said that he was prepared to serve as an intermediary on the question of POWs and has received a letter on that issue from Saddam Husseyn. In response, Kuwait Speaker Al-Khurafi said that he doubts that the Iraqi regime "wants to end the nightmare in the region," adding that Kuwait will wait to allow "Iraq [to] present the evidence and prove what it is claiming." (David Nissman)

IRAQ TO BUY MALAYSIAN CARS, MOROCCAN TRUCKS. The Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional (Proton) of Malaysia is expected to sign an agreement for the sale of 5,000 units of its 1.5 l Proton Wira, according to a report from "Bernama" of Kuala Lumpur of 19 March. The cars will be purchased under the oil-for-food program. Meanwhile, it was announced by "La Nouvelle Tribune" of Casablanca on 20 March that DAF Industries Maroc recently shipped 100 DAF trucks to Iraq. That deal was done under the oil-for-food program. (David Nissman)

DEPORTATIONS OF KURDS CONTINUE... The Iraqi authorities have forcibly deported five Kurdish families in Tuze Khurmatoo, south of Kirkuk city. The officials seized their documents and handed over their houses to Arab families. The Kurds were told to register as Arabs or face deportation to areas controlled by the Kurdish authorities. According to the "Kurdistan Observer" of 26 March, the deportees who arrived in the Kurdish Regional Government have asked the UN to pressure the Iraq government to allow them to return to their lands and end further deportation activities. (For details on Baghdad's Arabization plan, see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 13 August 1999.) (David Nissman)

...AS OTHER KURDS CALLED UP FOR COMPULSORY MILITARY TRAINING. Irbil's "Regay Kurdistan" on 12 March reported that Kurds in the Al-Dibz Administrative District of the Kirkuk Governorate have been told to report daily for military training. Those who do not are arrested and then imprisoned. In addition, Baghdad officials are threatening the families of the non-participants with expulsion from the area. (David Nissman)

PKK LEADER ATTACKS PUK PEOPLE AND POLICIES. On 1 February "Serxwebun", a pro-PKK Internet magazine based in Cologne, published a lengthy interview with Cemil Bayik, a member of the PKK (Kurdish Workers' Party) Leadership Council, containing an attack on the PUK and its leader Jelal Talabani. Bayik said that "the PUK has participated in the international plot that resulted in the imprisonment of leader Apo [Ocalan]" and it trying to undermine PKK efforts elsewhere. He said that the U.S. and Britain have called on the PUK to destroy the PKK. He suggested that the KDP, another Kurdish group, should recognize that if the PKK is eliminated, "efforts will be made to eliminate it as well." (David Nissman)

LIFTING EMBARGO SEEN HURTING KURDS. M. E. Pencewini, writing in "Ozgur Politika" a pro-PKK journal published in Neu-Isenburg on 18 March, said that if the international embargo is lifted, the Kurds will lose all of the 13 percent share of oil revenues that they now get and that commercial ties between Kurdish regions and other countries would likely collapse. Given the direction things are moving in, Pencewini suggests that the KDP and PUK should sign a peace agreement and establish a joint parliament and that they should "destroy" the Washington Agreement. (David Nissman)

KURDISH RIVALS EXCHANGE NAWRUZ GREETINGS, MEET IN U.S. Leaders of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) have exchanged Nawruz greeting. "Kurdsat," broadcasting from Al-Sulaymaniyah on 20 March, reported that Jalal Talabani, leader of the PUK, expressed the hope that Barzani (leader of the rival KDP) could "revive and implement all agreements, especially the Washington Agreement." In reply, Mas'ud Barzani, leader of the KDP, expressed the opinion that "the two sides have reached the conviction that the right way for solving problems is brotherhood and cooperation between the two sides and also the other allied patriotic parties." Both the KDP and the PUK also sent delegations to the U.S. State Department. The KDP was represented by Hoshyar Zebari, principle official for the KDP for international relations, and the PUK by the newly-appointed PUK Prime Minister Barham Salih, according to a report from "The Kurdistan Observer" of 24 March. (David Nissman)

IRAQI ARMY IN KURDISH REGION? The Irbil newspaper "Hawlati" on 11 March claimed that Iraqi armed forces now occupy some hills within the administrative boundaries of Khanaqin. A few months ago, Iraq's forces attacked Ba'adre Region and later the Nughawan village in Guwer region. This time it reportedly attacked the Garmiyan region. By 3 March, its forces had advanced within Khanaqin, moved towards Kani Mazri heights and captured their old positions in this area. Kurdish forces have not yet taken steps to dislodge them, the paper said. (David Nissman)

HARIRI ASSASSINS IDENTIFIED. The Interior Ministry of the Kurdistan Regional Government have identified the assassins of Franso Hariri, an Assyrian KDP Central Committee member who was killed on 18 March, the "Kurdistan Observer" reported on 23 March. This ends any attempt by the KDP to place responsibility on the PUK and its leader Jalal Talabani for the crime. (See "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 9 March 2001). (David Nissman)