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Iraq Report: August 6, 2001

6 August 2001, Volume 4, Number 24

SCIRI SAYS RUSSIA, CHINA HELPING IRAQ REARM. Kuwait's KUNA news agency on 31 July said that Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) officials claim that Moscow and Beijing are providing Baghdad with expert assistance in rebuilding its chemical and biological weapons facilities. (David Nissman)

NINEVEH GOVERNOR WOUNDED. "Iraq Press" reported on 27 July that 'Abdulwahid Al-Shannan, a general and governor of the Nineveh province, had been shot and severely wounded. He had angered local Kurds and Arab tribes in the region by his repressive policies, the news agency reported, but no suspects have yet been identified. (David Nissman)

BAGHDAD EXECUTES MILITARY OFFICERS FOR ALLEGED PLOT. SCIRI said that two field-grade officers have been executed for conspiracy and ties with the Iraqi opposition, the "Kuwait Times" reported on 29 July. At the same time, First Deputy Kuwaiti Prime Minister Shaykh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, denied an Iraqi claim involving two Kuwaiti resistance groups that have allegedly executed armed operations in Kuwait. He told London's "Al-Hayat" on 28 July that "we are not prepared for reconciliation with the Iraqi regime which continue to use these threats against us." He also said that an Islamic resistance armed group attacked the Ba'th Party's headquarters on 12 July. Also, another armed group raided the regime's headquarters in Al-Kufa. SCIRI reports that the regime's Youth headquarters was attacked by rockets on 16 July. (David Nissman)

FOUR BA'TH PARTY MEMBERS KILLED IN BAGHDAD. Four Ba'th Party members were assassinated in Saddam township in the most impoverished section of Baghdad, according to "Iraq Press" of 28 July. Police and security personnel took part in a sweep through the area, and 10 people were arrested. The area is known as a refuge for dissident groups. (David Nissman)

TWO LAWYERS SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR ORGANIZING ANTI-REGIME NETWORK. Iraqi courts have sentenced two lawyers, Muhammad 'Abd-al-Razzaq Al-Hadithi and Karim Al-Shammari, to death for their role in organizing an anti-regime network inside Iraq, "Iraq Press reported on 30 July. The two were charged with attempting to "polarize" opposition to the regime through the distribution of illegal leaflets charging Baghdad with various human and civil rights violations. 'Uday Saddam Husseyn recently accused the country's lawyers of defending "criminals" and making deals with judges to win cases. (David Nissman)

IRAQI DOCTOR SAYS PRISON AUTHORITIES SLAUGHTER THOUSANDS. In a joint interview to "Iraq Press" and London's "Al-Zaman" on 2 August, Dr. Mahir Fakhr Khashan, who recently fled to Jordan, said that recently two thousand prisoners had been executed in Iraq as part of a "prison-cleansing campaign" ordered by Saddam Husseyn and conducted under Qusay Saddam Husseyn's supervision. Khashan added that political prisoners are routinely executed on Wednesdays. (David Nissman)

NUMBER OF IRAQI ASYLUM SEEKERS IN JORDAN JUMPS. "Iraq Press" reported on 27 July that 9,000 Iraqis have applied for asylum in Jordan over the last six months, compared to 3,000 for the first nine months of 2000. Those denied Jordanian asylum by the UNHCR regularly apply to other countries for refuge. According to the U.S. Committee for Refuges, as many as 2 million Iraqis with a well-founded fear of persecution now live outside Iraq. (David Nissman)

SAUDIS SAYS IRAQIS REPEATEDLY VIOLATE BORDER. Riyadh has said that Iraqis have violated its borders repeatedly in recent weeks, the "Middle East Economic Digest" reported on 27 July. Saudi Arabia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Fawzi Shobokshi on 10 July delivered a letter to the UN Secretariat complaining about these violations and saying that these incursions, which also involve drug trafficking, are undermining security and stability in the region. Earlier, Shobokshi had complained about violations during which one Iraqi soldier was killed. Iraq has denied all the allegations, the "Digest" reported. (David Nissman)

IRAQ SAYS PROVEN OIL RESERVES TOTAL 112 BILLION BARRELS... Iraqi Oil Minister Amir Muhammad Rashid said that his country's proven oil reserves total 112 billion barrels and that potentially it has as many as 214 billion barrels, Baghdad radio reported on 1 August. Rashid further said that he hoped Iraq will be able to produce 6 million barrels of oil a day after rehabilitating and developing more of its 74 oil fields. (David Nissman)

...TO SELL NATURAL GAS TO TURKEY. Iraqi Oil Minister Amir Muhammad Rashid said that that his country has agreed to build a pipeline to supply Turkey with gas. The Iraqis say they will supply southwestern Turkey with 11 million cubic meters of gas a year, an amount that can be increased, according to "Mediafax Economic News Service" of 30 July. The two countries agreed on the construction project in 1997. It will be 800 miles long (1,300 kilometers) and extend from Kirkuk. The second stage of the project, according to Rashid, will be connecting Turkey's Mediterranean ports to the line. Work on the pipeline had been delayed due to the restructuring of the Turkish economy. (David Nissman)

KURDISH AUTHORITIES RELEASE UN DRIVER. A Tunisian driver for the UN arrested for carrying explosives in his car in Ain Kawa, on the outskirts of Irbil, was released following a meeting between Tun Myat, the coordinator of the United Nations oil-for-food program, and his delegation and Nechirvan Barzani, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Irbil. (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 27 July, 2001). Investigators had failed to establish a direct link between the UN driver and the explosives found in his vehicle. Kurdish media reported on 1 August that the UN worker continues to deny any knowledge of the explosives. (David Nissman)

MINSK DENIES ILLEGAL ARMS SALES TO IRAQ, OTHERS. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry on 27 July denied media reports that Minsk has entered into illegal arms deals with Iraq and other countries and groups involved in terrorism, RIA-Novosti reported. The ministry statement said that the reports, which have been disseminated on the Internet, are "aimed at undermining the international standing of Belarus and discrediting its peaceful foreign policy." (David Nissman)

SCIRI HEAD SAYS BAGHDAD PLANS TO ERADICATE SHI'ISM. The Ayatollah Sayid Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iran (SCIRI) linked the "martyrdom" of the important Iraqi religious thinker, Ayatollah Bahru'l-Ulum, to his refusal to support Qusayy Saddam Husseyn as his father's successor in an interview with the Iranian Students' News Agency on 2 July. In a comment on the current state of the religious authorities in Iraq, he claimed that it was and is the policy of the current regime to lay siege to the religious authorities and destroy their role. And he added that "the Ba'th regime does not at all tolerate the refusal of the religious authorities to converge and cooperate with its internal and foreign policies." (David Nissman)

KURDISH MINISTER SAYS OIL-FOR-FOOD PROGRAM WORKING. Nasrin Mustafa Sideek, minister of reconstruction and development in Irbil (the Kurdistan Democratic Party-controlled sector of Iraqi Kurdistan), said in an interview published in the July 2001 issue of the "Middle East Intelligence Bulletin" that the oil-for-food program is working, having brought water systems, roads, health centers, and other public works. She noted that 23 percent of Kurdistan's 3.6 million people remain displaced and that the oil-for-food program provides assistance to keep them alive. She also said that restrictions inherent in the U.S.-U.K plan for smart sanctions could restrict the Kurdistan Regional Government's trade and investment possibilities and thus reduce aid to some of the displaced people. (David Nissman)

KURDISTAN REJECTS BAGHDAD'S CALL FOR DIALOGUE. The Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan on 26 July issued a communique saying that they were always ready to participate in "any peaceful initiative" to address the Kurdish problem, but that they do not believe that Baghdad has created the conditions yet for such talks, "Kurdistan Newsline" reported on 29 July. The communique also underscored their commitment to a federal relationship between Kurdistan and Baghdad. (David Nissman)

PUK RESHUFFLES GOVERNMENT. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan has reshuffled its ministers in its part of the Kurdistan Regional Government. According to KurdSat of 25 July, the ministers of education and interior have been relieved of their posts, and three other ministers have been replaced. The new minister of education is Narmeen Usman Hasan, the new minister of the interior is Nawshirwan Fu'ad Mufti, the minister of social affairs is Muhsin Ali Akbar, and Jamil Karim Abdal is the minister of the region for cabinet affairs. Also, Dr. Kamal Abd-Al-Jalil Fu'ad has been named minister of agriculture and irrigation. (David Nissman)