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Iraq Report: November 23, 2001

23 November 2001, Volume 4, Number 38

AZIZ OPENS BAGHDAD CONFERENCE COMMITTEE MEETING. The 6th meeting of the Baghdad Conference's Follow Up and Coordination Committee was opened by Iraqi Deputy Premier Tariq Aziz on 12 November, according to INA of 13 November. Attending the meeting were representatives of a number of friendly and Arab countries, some for the first time. Participating and speaking at the conference were the former president of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, British parliamentarian George Galloway, Russian ultranationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky (deputy speaker of the Russian Duma), Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj, former speaker of Russia's Supreme Soviet Ruslan Khasbulatov, and Ma'n Bashur, president of the Pan-Arab Forum in Lebanon.

Aziz reviewed the tasks of the Baghdad Conference, primary of which is "Iraq's just cause." In this connection he asked for support in lifting the embargo and ending the "U.S.-British aggression" toward the country.

Aziz said the second concern of the committee was the issue of Palestine and the need to support the people's intifada.

He also pointed out that the U.S. president has still not presented any tangible evidence about who carried out the 11 September events, but that President Bush is "exploiting the event to divide the world and subjugate it to the will of the United States."

He also called for a new Nonaligned Movement and stressed Iraqi President Saddam Husseyn's call for establishing an institutionalized world grouping opposed to the policy of hegemony and monopoly with the aim of protecting the national independence and interests of the countries that might join.

All the other speakers expressed their rejection of the continuation of the unjust blockade against Iraq and called on countries to embrace the call by Saddam Husseyn. (David Nissman)

NORMAL TIES WITH IRAN IRAQ'S TOP PRIORITY. Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri Hadithi said in an interview with the English-language daily "Iran News" that the current Iran-Iraq impasse will not benefit either country and normalization of ties with Tehran take a high priority for Iraq's foreign policy, reported IRNA on 20 November.

He added that in order to advance the cause of healthy Tehran-Baghdad ties, the first step should be to resolve outstanding issues from the Iran-Iraq war, such as refugees, MIAs, and prisoners of war.

With regard to the MIAs, he said the matter is being dealt with by the two sides in a satisfactory manner. "Agreements have been reached as to how to pursue this matter and find the remaining MIAs." Iraq recently turned over the bodies of 70 soldiers and Iran reciprocated by returning the remains of 16 Iraqi soldiers killed during the war.

Hadithi also termed "positive" the economic and commercial ties as well as the visits by Iranian citizens to holy places in Iraq. He said that these visits should be encouraged, expanded, and discussed in detail during future meetings between officials and diplomats from both sides.

He added that he had met briefly with Iranian foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi, but was unable to discuss bilateral issues with him privately. (David Nissman)

FIFTEEN KURDISH OPPOSITIONISTS EXECUTED IN KIRKUK. The Iraqi government executed 15 Kurdish oppositionists in Kirkuk last week. They were arrested last month by the Iraqi security apparatus, according to the Radio of the Iraqi Kurdistan Conservatives, cited by of 19 November. The victims were buried in a mass grave near a military barrack north of Kirkuk.

It is also reported that Saddam's security apparatus has increased its activities in recent months. Some 40 percent of Kurdistan (south of the no-fly zone which demarcates the Kurdistan Regional Government [KRG]) is under Baghdad control. UN Security Council Resolution 688 is supposed to protect the Kurds and Shi'a population but no steps have been taken by the international community to implement it. Kirkuk also contains a significant population of Iraqi Turkmen who are equally unprotected.

The oil-rich cities of Kirkuk and Khanaqin are subject to the arabization policies of the Ba'thist regime under which they are supposed to change their nationality to Arabic; if they do not, their properties are confiscated and they are driven either over the border of the KRG to the north, or into the south of the country. Their property is then taken over by Arabs. (David Nissman)

SYRIA FREEZES IRAQI ASSETS. In the past few weeks the Syrian government has frozen the assets of Iraqi governmental bodies in the amount of tens of millions of dollars because of a dispute over trade cooperation agreements, "Al-Bawaba" reports on 18 November citing a report in the London-based Arabic language newspaper "Al-Hayat."

According to the "Al-Hayat" report, the two countries are trying to resolve their differences. Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan is scheduled to go to Damascus this week. The paper also notes that Jordanian and other Middle Eastern diplomats have recently warned against overly close trade relations with Iraq. According to the diplomats, Iraq is warming to its neighbors as a protective measure should the U.S. choose to attack it in coming months. "Al-Hayat" writes that trade relations with Iraq "are likely to be threatened." (David Nissman)

UDAY REPORTEDLY KILLS NEPHEW OF IZZAT IBRAHIM. The "Iraq Press" of 16 November reports from Damascus that Saddam Husseyn's eldest son, Uday, shot and killed the nephew of Izzat Ibrahim, Saddam's deputy on the Revolutionary Command Council.

Sources inside Iraq say Uday shot Ziyad Duri in the head several times on a main thoroughfare of Baghdad when Duri refused to break his engagement to Ibrahim's daughter, whom Uday had divorced last year after a short marriage.

Ibrahim is one of Saddam's most trusted lieutenants and officially the second in command after Saddam himself. However, Ibrahim is old and ailing, and is apparently powerless when it comes to someone like Uday.

Uday has reportedly murdered many people, including his father's butler and food taster.

Saddam is said to have sent his secretary, Abdhamid Mahmud, to Duri's funeral service to offer his condolences. Izzat Ibrahim did not show up at the funeral, which was held in the city of al-Dur, 150 kilometers north of Baghdad. (David Nissman)

IRAQI VICE PRESIDENT DENOUNCES U.S. Iraqi Vice President Ramadan said that Iraq "is capable of standing up to the challenges posed by the United States in a bid to undermine its security and weaken its resolve," AFP reported on 19 November. Ramadan was apparently responding indirectly to U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton's statement at a conference in Geneva on the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention at which he said that "Iraq's biological weapons program remains a serious threat to international security."

He also claimed that Washington "resorts to force and sanctions against other countries" and is "incapable of solving any problem it has with other countries through dialogue."

The Baghdad newspaper "Babil," which is controlled by Uday Saddam Husseyn, is quoted as saying that Iraq "will be the focus of attention of the U.S. administration, as will Syria, Somalia, and Sudan." (David Nissman)

FORMER IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO AUSTRIA REFUSES TO RETURN TO BAGHDAD. The former Iraqi Ambassador to Austria, Faris Naema (as spelled by source) has refused to return to Baghdad, according to a Kuwaiti representative, Safa Mahmud, of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). He told KUNA on 14 November that Naema was accompanying his wife, who has been working as a consultant at the Iraqi embassy in Vienna for three years. She had been ordered by Qusay Saddam Husseyn to return to Baghdad after he implemented some changes in the Foreign Ministry.

Naema is remaining in Vienna due to his fear of being penalized by Qusay and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hadithi, with whom Naema is not on good terms.

Naema had been commander of the First Legion during the Iran-Iraq War, then the commander of Al-Bakr Military College. In 1990 he became an adviser to Saddam Husseyn. In 1993 he was named ambassador to the Philippines, and in 1993 as ambassador to Austria.

After he ended his term as ambassador, his wife, Janan Shawqat, was appointed a consultant to the embassy in Vienna. Naema remained with his wife. (David Nissman)

IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER SPEAKS OUT AT OIC MEETING. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hadithi, speaking at a meeting of foreign ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in New York, called for the intensification and enhancement of support for the Palestinian people. He said that "we have to make all efforts necessary to end this systematic aggression and terrorism against the Palestinian people and help the brothers in Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon liberate their entire land and terminate the despicable racist and terrorist onslaught," reported Baghdad Television on 17 November.

He also asked the OIC to stop the U.S. aggression against the people of Afghanistan and interference in Afghanistan's internal affairs.

He also asked for "the Islamic countries' effective support for our just battle against the comprehensive embargo."

He concluded his speech by saying "I would like to welcome the call mentioned in the final statement for solidarity with Libya, Sudan, and Iran against sanctions imposed collectively or individually against their Muslim people. We also hope the statement would include a call for lifting the unjust embargo of Iraq." (David Nissman)

LOW QUALITY GOODS FLOOD IRAQI MARKETS. The Iraqi Trade Ministry has halted the import of soaps from Egypt following complaints that the ministry is buying goods unfit for human consumption, "Iraq Press" reported on 15 November.

Local press reports speak of numerous deaths resulting from the consumption of foodstuffs imported by the ministry under the UN-sponsored oil-for-food program. Egypt, which now tops countries trading with Iraq, and the Ukraine have been singled out for shipping such products to the country.

Minister of Trade Muhammad Salih was quoted as saying that hundreds and thousands of tons of Indian and Ukrainian wheat have been rejected by his ministry because they were found to be "unsuitable for human consumption."

Current Iraqi policy focuses on trade with countries supportive of Iraq's fight against the UN trade sanctions regardless of normal commercial practices. Even the Iraqi Ministry of Health has accused the trade Ministry of importing such goods, leading to death and serious illness, even among children. (David Nissman)

UDAY'S FALCON FLIES THE COOP. Saddam Husseyn's eldest son, Uday, has mobilized Iraq's security services and media in search of a falcon that reportedly escaped from his personal zoo, according to "Iraq Press" from Damascus on 16 November. He has announced a reward of one million dinars (approximately $500) for the capture of the bird.

The bird fled Uday's zoo -- which is situated in the main presidential compound overlooking the Tigris River. Uday is reportedly fond of rare birds. The missing falcon is one of his rarest birds, worth some $20,000.

While Uday's zoo is flourishing, the state-run zoo is said to be in a deplorable condition. A local newspaper, "Nabidh al-Shabib," said that the municipality has allocated more money to buy more animals in an attempt to revive the zoo. (David Nissman)

KDP SOURCE SEES NO THREAT IN IRAQI, TURKISH TROOP BUILDUP ON BORDER. The Arabic language newspaper in London, "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat," of 14 November reports that an authoritative source in the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has described life in the region as normal, and denied the existence of serious Turkish or Iraq military threats.

The source confirmed the presence of an Iraqi troop buildup along the contact lines separating territories under Kurdish control and those under Baghdad's control. He said that "these are precautionary measures that the Iraqi authorities resort to from time to time and which increase in size with reports that Iraq may come under new U.S. attacks." He added that Baghdad had received strong U.S. warnings not to exploit the current situation to attack the Kurdish areas.

The source also linked a Turkish troop buildup to the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan. He said that "the Turks are worried that there may be a mass exodus in Iraq toward Turkey in the event of a large-scale strike against Iraq, and that is why they are taking precautions to prevent that from happening, and to seal the border with Iraq should the situation warrant it."

Recently there was a light-weapons clash between an Iraqi army unit and KDP fighters following the killing of an Iraqi officer who had lost his way and entered an area under Kurdish control near Irbil. Other than that, there have been no further serious incidents. (David Nissman)

IRAQ READY TO COOPERATE WITH ARMENIA IN ALL SPHERES. Iraq is ready to cooperate with Armenia in all spheres, the Iraqi charge d'affaires to Armenia, Abbas Badri, stated today in a meeting with members of the Armenian deputy group "Armenia-Iraq," according to Arka News Agency on 16 November.

According to Badri, the Iraqi Embassy in Armenia is working to promote bilateral relations. He said: "Unfortunately, Armenian businessmen are badly acquainted with the Iraqi market and they need state support in several matters." At the same time he noted "there are no serious reasons for the low level of commercial relations between Armenia and Iraq."

Armenia may export particular foodstuff products and industrial production, Badri said. He added that "at present we have definite contacts between Armenian and Iraqi businessmen, and we are ready to do everything possible for their further development." (David Nissman)

SCIRI WELCOMES U.S. STRIKES AT 'TERRORIST REGIME.' Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir Hakim, leader of the Iran-based Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iran, told UPI on 19 November that the "Iraqi people would favor any (U.S.) attacks if they lie within the framework of the existing UN resolutions supporting the Iraqi people and if they are targeted at the terrorist regime (of Saddam Husseyn)."

Hakim added that given the present situation in the Middle East and the lack of international consensus concerning the "issue of Iraq," the United States does appear to be ready to take action against Baghdad.

He claimed that the Iraqi people and its army would "topple the regime if they are effectively supported by the international community rather than being hampered to do so." (David Nissman)

JUND AL-ISLAM, PUK CLASHES CONTINUE. After talks between the Islamic Group and the Jund al-Islam proved fruitless (the Jund refused to break up and join the Islamic Group), and Jund fighters did not take advantage of the general amnesty offered by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the battle between the Jund and the PUK resumed, according to the Al-Sulaymaniyah newspaper "Hawlati" on 12 November.

PUK fighters attacked Jund strongholds in the vicinity of Halabcha on 3 November. While PUK forces were able to seize a number of Jund positions, the Jund mined them before abandoning them. This resulted in an unknown number of PUK casualties.

By the start of the month of Ramadan, 17 November, fighting between the two sides continued. A senior PUK commander stated that "there are nightly exchanges or mortar and heavy machine-gun fire," according to of 17 November. However, analysts familiar with the Jund-PUK conflict do not believe that Ramadan will interfere with the PUK's fight against the Jund al-Islam. (David Nissman)

BARZANI AND TALABANI EXCHANGE RAMADAN GREETINGS. Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), sent a telegram offering his greetings to Masud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party. Talabani expressed the wish that the month of Ramadan would be an opportunity to prepare to overcome all obstacles in full reconciliation of both parties and the implementation of the Washington Peace Agreement, reported on 18 November.

Barzani reciprocated by sending the greetings of his comrades and himself to Talabani, cadres, and fighters of the PUK. He prayed that the holy month of Ramadan would bring blessed rewards for the Muslim people of Kurdistan, and that God would help both sides in strengthening their joint struggle and their joint position on the basis of the Washington Peace Agreement. (David Nissman)