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Iraq Report: May 18, 2001

18 May 2001, Volume 4, Number 17

BAGHDAD SAYS U.S. TOP SPONSOR OF TERRORISM. An Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the United States "tops the list of nations that sponsor and instigate terrorism," Baghdad Radio reported on 10 May. Responding to the annual U.S. State Department report on terrorism, the spokesman said that Washington "regards as terrorism the peoples' rights to engage in self-defense and to protect their dignity, existence, and independence." But, he said, the U.S. does not seem to think that "its provision of a safe haven for terrorist groups, its financing and arming of these groups, and its instigation for armed rebellion against the Iraqi government" represent terrorism. The spokesman suggested that Washington's loss of a seat on the UN Human Rights Commission and on the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention showed that others recognize that fact. (David Nissman)

TARIQ AZIZ SEES SMART SANCTIONS AS INEVITABLE... Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told the 11th Pan-Arab Conference that Baghdad views the imposition of what the U.S. calls "smart sanctions" as inevitable but said that Baghdad will reject any plan that maintains the unjust blockade against Iraq, Baghdad Radio reported on 14 May. In other comments, he stressed Baghdad's willingness to work with the Arab countries, Iran, and Turkey. (David Nissman)

...BUT RAMADAN SAYS NO UN INSPECTORS WILL BE ALLOWED. In an interview published in Moscow's "Vremya Novostei" on 14 May, Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan said that Baghdad will now allow UN inspectors back into Iraq. "Why do we need all those spies in Washington's pay?" he asked rhetorically. As to Russian President Vladimir Putin's role, Ramadan said that "look how many Arab leaders have visited Moscow! Everyone feels that Putin has something that did not exist in Russia before." (David Nissman)

APP ACCUSES BAGHDAD OF TRAFFICKING IN BODY PARTS. The Assyrian Patriotic Party (APP) sent a letter to the World Health Organization on 17 May accusing Iraqi Health Minister Umid Midhat Mubarak of having approved the illegal transfer of human organs from political prisoners who had died to other patients. The letter was clearly intended to embarrass Mubarak who is now attending a meeting in Geneva, but the APP said that they have documentation that he is guilty of this crime and want Mubarak kept out of the WHO meeting. (David Nissman)

'UDAY HAS ANOTHER FOOTBALL PLAYER PUNISHED. Saddam's son 'Uday, who heads Iraq's football federation, has had another football player tortured after the latter failed to perform as required in a match against Turkmenistan, London's "Sunday Times" reported on 13 May. Sa'd Qayth Nu'man is the second football player to have suffered from Uday's anger in less than two years. The first, Haydar Mahmud Al-Hudaythi, was bastinadoed, dragged through gravel, and forced into a sewage tank so that his wounds would become infected. (David Nissman)

SYRIAN INTERESTS OFFICE TO OPEN IN BAGHDAD. London's "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" on 12 May reported that a Syrian interests section in Baghdad will open "in the next few days." It will be headed by Muhammad Hasan Tawwab, who holds the rank of minister plenipotentiary at the Syrian Foreign Ministry. Baghdad opened a similar office in Damascus more than a year ago. The delay appears to reflect continuing tensions in the relationship. Another indication of that was reported by London's "Al-Hayat" two days later. According to that paper, former Iraqi Minister of Information Hammam Abd-Al-Ghafur summoned the director of the Baghdad office of the "Al-Jazirah" Satellite Television and asked him to stop airing a program based on an extensive interview with the former Syrian President Amin Al-Hafiz, who is now in exile in Baghdad. "Al-Hayat" says that "the sharp criticisms, which Al-Hafiz leveled at the Damascus government during the interview, might adversely affect the rapprochement moves between the two countries. (David Nissman)

JORDAN SEES IRAQI TIES AS 'STRATEGIC.' Following his four-day visit to Baghad, Jordanian Trade and Industry Minister Wazif Azar said that the framework agreement signed between the two countries reflects the "strategic aspect" of bilateral ties, London's "Al-Quds Al-'Arabi" reported on 10 May. This represents a shift in Amman's position and appears to be rooted in King 'Abdullah's desire to visit Baghdad, economic calculations, and a desire to re-establish regular flights between the capitals. Amman's move also may reflect a desire there to put pressure on Washington, where the free-trade agreement with the U.S. is still pending in the Congress. (David Nissman)

IRAQ, IRAN MAY RESUME AIR LINKS. Baghdad's "Al-Rafidayn" on 15 May said that Baghdad and Tehran are negotiating to restore air links broken off more than 20 years ago. (David Nissman)

SCIRI HEAD PRAISES KUWAIT. Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, praised Kuwait for highlighting the hostile intentions of Baghdad, the "Kuwait Times" reported on 14 May. He also reiterated his view that the Iraq regime can be changed only by the Iraqi people. (David Nissman)

IRAQ ACQUIRES VIETNAMESE BUSES. Vidamco plans to export 500 buses to Iraq, with the first 300 to be delivered this year, SGT-Hanoi reported on 14 May. (David Nissman)

KDP HAS NO PROBLEMS WITH TURKMENS. Mas'ud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, said at a press conference in Ankara that Turkey's concerns about Iraq's territorial integrity are "unnecessary." But he noted that Ankara is also concerned about the Turkmens, although he stressed that "we don't have any problems with our Turkmen brothers," the Anatolia news agency reported on 10 May. (David Nissman)

ANKARA REJECTS IDEA OF KURDISH STATE IN NORTHERN IRAQ. Turkish Foreign Ministry officials told the "Turkish Daily News" on 15 May that Ankara sees "no possibility for the establishment of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq." They also denied the existence of a reported secret report by the prime minister on Iraq. That report was said by Turkish media to include a provision saying that Ankara will prevent the formation of a Kurdish state in Iraq. The alleged "secret document" was discussed in the pro-PKK publication "Ozgur Politika" of 14 May and the Istanbul newspaper "Radikal" of 13 May. "Ozgur Politika" said that the report shows that Ankara will support Iraq's territorial integrity. But "Radikal" said that the report calls for normalizing ties with the Turkmens. (David Nissman)

IRAQI KURDS ASSURED OF U.S. PROTECTION. American officials in Ankara have told the Barzani delegation that even though the U.S. patrols over the northern Iraq no-fly zone may be reduced, they will still protect the region against Saddam's forces, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 11 May. (David Nissman)

KURDISTAN ELECTRIC POWER NETWORK EXPANDS. Several power generators have been delivered to Irbil, and teams of the Soran Electricity Supply Directorate have drawn up plans for the town of Soran and environs. According to Irbil's "Brayati" of 29 April, several of the Soran plans are now being implemented. The directorate plans to expand the system in the future. (David Nissman)

CHALDEAN CHURCH HOLDS CONGRESS IN BAGHDAD. The Chaldean Church, Iraq's largest Christian denomination, convened a five-day congress in Baghdad on 14 May, AFP reported. Religious figures from around the world have been invited to attend. Iraqi Religious Affairs Minister Abd-Al-Munaym Ahmad Salih used the occasion to urge the international community to oppose U.S. efforts to prolong the embargo, reported AFP on 15 May. (David Nissman)