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Iraq Report: April 7, 2000

7 April 2000, Volume 3, Number 9

HANS BLIX DISCUSSES UNMOVIC ORGANIZATION. Hans Blix, head of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), told London's "Al-Hayat" on 28 April that he was working on drawing up an organizational plan for his new organization so that it can begin work in the near future.

In other comments, Blix suggested that Baghdad would ultimately be interested in his organizational plan even though Iraq has rejected UN Security Council Resolution 1284. He based this argument on the fact that UNMOVIC personnel will be under UN control whereas those of the now defunct UNSCOM remained "under the control of their governments, or at least they had the sense of loyalty to the governments, which employed them."

In UNMOVIC, Blix explained, the entire staff will be under UN contract, subject to Article 100 of the charter, and will take instructions only from the United Nations. Any employee who receives and follows instructions from his or her government will, Blix said, be immediately fired. Moreover, "we will not supply others with intelligence information" that we gather.

And he added that "we expect Iraq to be open and help us" even though there have been no inspections there for 16 months, adding that his role now is to win Iraqi cooperation and to make them explain the past situation.

As of the beginning of April, however, Blix acknowledged that he had not been in contact with Baghdad: "I am not hired by the Security Council to sell the resolution. I am hired to implement it."

Hans Blix's appointment as head of UNMOVIC has been criticized in the West. Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger wrote in on 20 March that "the death knell for UN inspections of Iraqi weapons was sounded by the UN's appointment of Hans Blix as the new chief arms inspector," largely because Blix has said that his "inspection teams would not force their way into suspected weapons sites in Iraq and would defer to UN headquarters to resolve any confrontations." (David Nissman)

IRAQ-KUWAIT OBSERVATION MISSION EXTENDED. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended that the Security Council extend the life of UNIKOM (the UN Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission), the multinational force that monitors a demilitarized zone on both sides of the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border. The force currently includes 1,300 soldiers under the command of Irish Major-General John Vize. (David Nissman)

YEMEN, IRAQ REAFFIRM TIES. Iraqi leader Saddam Husseyn received Abdullah Ahmad Ghanim, Yemeni minister of legal and parliamentary affairs and personal envoy of Yemeni President Ali 'Abdullah Salih. Ghanim invited Husseyn to attend Yemen's celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of Yemeni unity in May, Baghdad Radio reported on 30 March.

Xinhua pointed out on the same day that Yemen has called for an end to the UN sanctions against Iraq, for which Saddam thanked Yemen, as well as for an Arab summit to discuss regional issues and Arab affairs. Subsequently, Reuters reported from Dubai on 2 April that the Yemeni president had said that he did not expect Husseyn to attend the ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of the merger of north and south Yemen.

Saddam is not the only Arab leader invited to Sana'. But according to the Amman weekly "Al-Majd" of 3 April, other Arab leaders have ruled out any possibility that their participation in Yemen's unity celebrations will evolve into an Arab summit. (David Nissman)

UAE, BAHRAIN TO REOPEN BAGHDAD EMBASSIES. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is set to reopen its Baghdad embassy, which has been closed since the beginning of the Gulf War. An unidentified Arab diplomat told AFP on 3 April in Baghdad that Iraqi diplomats were also going to reopen their embassy in Abu Dhabi as well as its consulate in Dubai. Meanwhile, Bahrain has also announced that it plans to reopen its embassy in Baghdad on "humanitarian grounds," making it the third Gulf monarchy to send diplomats back to Baghdad. Qatar reopened its embassy earlier, and Oman never severed relations. (David Nissman)

IRAQI OIL MINISTER ON U.S. ELECTIONS AND OPEC. Iraqi Oil Minister Amir Muhammad Rashid told Baghdad Radio on 1 April that last month's OPEC meeting in Vienna had decided to increase production because of U.S. pressure. He added that there had been two reasons for Washington's actions: the upcoming elections and a desire to take revenge on OPEC. "The current U.S. leadership wants to demonstrate that it can apply pressure on OPEC and reduce prices sharply because this affects fuel prices in the United States," Rashid said. And Washington is also interested in taking "revenge" on OPEC by "weakening it."

Rashid argued that Baghdad this time had "played a role in clarifying economic facts" and that its opposition to production increases would be vindicated before the June OPEC meeting. "One reason we decided to meet in June," Rashid said, "is to discuss the sharp decline in prices which is expected to take place. We will then be able to convince everybody and say: Look and see what we did."

The Baghdad newspaper "Al-Jumhuriyah" of 25 March had already accused the U.S. of blackmailing OPEC members. "Al-Jumhuriyah" claimed that the U.S. had "tried to influence OPEC's decisions and the organization's right to determine the interests of the countries it represents away from the U.S. Zionist hegemony, blackmail, and dominance." Washington, the papers suggested, had done this via Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson's recent trip through the Gulf. (David Nissman)

TWO IRAQI AMBASSADORS QUESTIONED, JAILED IN BAGHDAD. According to London's "Al-Zaman" newspaper on 3 April, the Iraqi ambassador to India, Salah Abd al-Qadir al-Mukhtar, has been recalled to Baghdad for "questioning about mismanagement issues and...his failure to deal with issues linked to Iraq's commercial ties with India. Earlier, Al-Mukhtar served as editor of the Baghdad daily newspaper "Al-Jumhuriyah."

At the same time, diplomatic sources in Amman told the paper that the Iraqi ambassador to the Sudan, Nadim Ahmad Al-Yasin, had been jailed in Baghdad. He had been ambassador to Morocco but was recalled in connection with suspected financial improprieties. (David Nissman)

NEW OPPOSITION GROUP LAUNCHES ATTACK IN BAGHDAD. A hitherto unknown group calling itself the "Islamic Observer's Group Inside Iraq" [majmu'at al-raqib al-islami dakhil al-iraq] has claimed responsibility for an attack on a Palestinian neighborhood in Baghdad. The London-based daily "Al-Quds Al-Arabi" on 4 April received a statement, sent from Al-Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan, which asserted that the attack was aimed at Saddam Husseyn's son, Qusayy Saddam Husseyn, as well as at a number of high officials such as Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan and Abd Hammud, who is responsible for the president's personal security. The Islamic Observer's Group claimed that eight people were killed in the attack. Baghdad announced the deaths of six people. three Iraqis and three Palestinians, who were living in a residential complex. (David Nissman)

TURKS EXPRESS CONCERNS ABOUT KURDISH INDEPENDENCE. A high-level delegation from the Kurdistan Democratic Party, headed by Nechirvan Barzani, Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), visited Ankara last week to discuss political, economic, and security issues. But it made no headway in reducing Turkish concerns about the possibility of an independent Kurdish state even though some observers suggested that the KDP could serve as an ally to Turkey against Iraq.

But one member of the Kurdish delegation, Hoshyar Zebari, head of the KDP's international relations department, told Saadet Oruc of the "Turkish Daily News" on 30 March that "we don't have a policy of independence and I think we succeeded in clarifying many of the issues that have been worrying Turkey." For some time, Kurdish organizations, linked to northern Iraq but not linked to national liberation groups like the PKK, have sought to disengage themselves from appearing to promote the idea of an independent South Kurdistan carved out of northern Iraq (David Nissman)

PLO OFFICIAL ON ARABIZATION OF KIRKUK... Faisal Husseyni, a senior Palestine Liberation Organization official, said in Montreal that his organization opposes Baghdad's Arabization efforts in Kirkuk but has no means available to stop it. Meanwhile, Dr. Rebwar Fatah told KurdishMedia on 11 March that "by moving the Palestinians into displaced Kurdish homes, Iraq would progress its Arabization in the Kurdish oil-rich areas and also damage the relationship between two oppressed-stateless nations, the Kurds and Palestinians." Rumors of Palestinian resettlement in Iraq have circulated for some months, but the PLO has rejected any such resettlement of Palestinians into Kurdish areas (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 31 March 2000). (David Nissman)

...AND TALABANI ON THE SAME ISSUE. Jalal Talabani, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), told "Kurdistani Nuwe" on 25 March that "the Kurds are not ready to abandon this sacred city [Kirkuk], not only because it is an important economic region, but because in historical, cultural, and strategic perspectives, Kurdistan cannot exist without Kirkuk in a way that is acceptable to the people now." He added that there will be no negotiations or agreements with the Iraqi government without [the settlement of] the Kirkuk issue."

He noted that alongside the Kurds in Kirkuk, there are also Turkmen, and that "they also have suffered, like us, from national repression and deportation." He also stated that "now more than any other time, we need to consolidate the Kurdish-Turkmen brotherhood and united struggle, not only for the sake of Iraq, but also for the liberation of Iraq."

Talabani said that many predominantly Iraqi Arabic groups also oppose the Arabization of Kirkuk. Among these are the Iraqi Communist Party, the Iraqi Socialist Movement, the Nasirite Arab Nationalist Movement, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Al-Da'wa, the Iraqi National Accord, and the Iraq National Congress. And he added that "I think even inside the Ba'ath Party and among current Iraqi officials, there are individuals who would stand against this policy if they had the freedom to express their views. I believe that this policy is futile and will not succeed." (David Nissman)

KDP-IRAN, IRAN HOLD SECRET TALKS IN IRAQI KURDISTAN. Secret talks reportedly are continuing between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kurdistan Democratic Party-Iran (KDPI) in Koysanjaq, part of PUK-controlled Iraqi Kurdistan. London's "Al-Zaman" said Jalal Talabani, the general-secretary of the PUK, led a delegation to Koysanjaq where he met with KDPI leaders, including Mala Abdullai Hassainzada, the KDPI secretary-general. Talabani supposedly offered his mediation for negotiations with the Iranian government.

KurdishMedia reported on 2 April, however, that the KDPI had denied that any negotiations or talks with the Iranian government were taking place. The KDPI added that such rumors represent an attempt "by some sides inside the Islamic administration" to discredit it among the Kurds and throughout the region. (David Nissman)