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Iraq Report: May 5, 2000

5 May 2000, Volume 3, Number 13

KUWAIT DENIES AIR FORCE ROLE IN SORTIES ON IRAQ. A senior Kuwaiti official has denied that Kuwaiti and Saudi air forces have taken part in the allied sorties over Iraq, KUNA reported on 25 April. The denial came in response to a claim leveled by the Baghdad Ba'th party newspaper "Al-Thawra" the day before. Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Shaykh Salam Al-Sabah said that Kuwaiti warplanes "are solely operated by the brave Kuwaiti pilots who receive orders from the Kuwaiti command...They can reach anywhere, but no orders have been given them in this regard." (David Nissman)

SECOND GCC CONSULTATIVE MEETING ENDS. The second consultative meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council held in Muskat, the capital of the Sultanate of Oman, discussed the state of the Middle East peace process and the situation in Iraq. According to a report on Sultanate of Oman Television on 29 April, participants �underlined the political constants the GCC countries expressed toward these two issues in the political statements issued at the end of the periodic meetings of the Higher Council and the Ministerial Council." They also discussed accomplishments since the end of the Riyadh Summit last December, especially with regard to issues of customs federation, power link-up, and negotiations with the EU to sign a free trade agreement between the EU and countries of the GCC. (David Nissman)

IRAQ SUPPORTS MANILA ON MINDANAO. President of the Philippine Senate Pro Tempore Blas F. Ople met with Iraqi officials in Baghdad on his way to the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference in Amman. According to the "Manila Report" of 3 May, Iraqi parliament speaker Sa'dun Hammadi assured the Philippine government that the Iraqi government does not condone current attempts by minority ethnic groups to destabilize the Philippine government through secession.

Ople said that Iraqi officials had "expressed concern" over the war raging in Muslim Mindanao between the Philippine Armed Forces, the fundamentalist Abu Sayyaf and the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). In a press statement from Amman, Ople said "in my talks with the leaders of Iraq, it is clear that they would not support any effort of the MILF to sow further havoc on innocent civilians caught in the war in Mindanao."

Ople also said that he is inclined to support any move to review the sanctions against the Iraq government on purely humanitarian reasons." (David Nissman)

MOROCCO CALLS FOR LIFTING SANCTIONS ON IRAQ. King Muhammad VI on 26 April said at a banquet for President Maaouyia Ould Sid Ammad Taya of Mauritania that "the situation in Iraq and the painful circumstances that the brotherly Iraqi people are undergoing push us to call the international community once again to put an end to the nation's children and to secure them the basic rights to life, medicare and education", reported MAP from Rabat on 27 April. Mauritania�s president also urged the lifting of the sanctions on Iraq. (David Nissman)

IRAQ, PAKISTAN DISCUSS DEVELOPMENT OF TIES. Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan met with Tariq Akram, Pakistani minister of state and head of the Development Promotion Office in Pakistan, as part of a general effort to promote bilateral economic and political ties, according to a report on Baghdad Radio on 27 April. He also expressed Pakistan's satisfaction with the expansion of bilateral ties, and also explained its interest in bolstering these ties. The meeting was also attended by Dr. Fadil Al-Farraji, head of the Department of Combating Desertification at the Ministry of Agriculture. (David Nissman)

HANS VON SPONECK ON SANCTIONS, NO-FLY ZONES. Hans von Sponeck, the former UN Humanitarian Aid Coordinator in Iraq, outlined the reasons behind his opposition to the sanctions on Iraq and the no-fly zones at a meeting in Geneva on 26 April. He argued that the sanctions have had the effect of falling most heavily on the civilian population. As for the no-fly zones, von Sponeck said, they were set up ostensibly to protect the Kurds in the north and the Shiites in the south. This is, in itself, commendable; but they have been used to justify attacks on Iraqi military installations and have resulted in some civilian casualties.

Von Sponeck called for a reexamination of Iraq policy in general, because "the present sanctions-regime benefits only the United States and the Iraqi leadership." To the Iraqi leadership, the sanctions do not matter. He contends that "only when the people of Iraq have hope, can they find the necessary strength to bring about a change." And he noted that the per capita annual income in Iraq, which was about $3,000 in 1990, has now sunk to $252, putting Iraq in the category of one of the least developed countries. (David Nissman)

IRAQ PROTESTS GULF BIRTHDAY COVERAGE. Iraq sent a note to the Qatar-based Al-Jazirah satellite television channel protesting Al-Jazirah's coverage of Saddam Husseyn's birthday as "too pro-American", AFP reported on 1 May. Iraq's Ministry of Information said in its letter "Al-Jazira followed a logic and a way of expression that was purely American and this was by no means a matter of chance." The letter continued to say that "it seems Al-Jazira does not want to see Iraqis celebrating, but wants to see the people of Iraq living with disaster and suffering and even dying of hunger." Officials at the TV station refused to comment on the message, saying only that Iraq had sent them numerous protests in the past about programs it regarded as "anti-Iraqi." (David Nissman)

NEW OPPOSITION GROUP TARGETS QUSAYY. A new Iraqi opposition group, the "Islamic Guardian Groups Inside Iraq," has claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks in Baghdad which targeted Qusayy, Saddam Husseyn's son, when he was at a meeting at the Securities Directorate. Qusayy was not only the only important figure present, according to a report in Irbil�s "Regay Kurdistan" cited in the "Yemen News" of 2 May. Also attending the meeting were Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan, 'Abd Hammud, as well as a number of foreign personalities, such as a representative of Abu Nidal, and Akbar Khorasani, a leading figure in the Mujahedin-e Khalq. The meeting was allegedly to discuss the handing over of military bases to the Mujahadin-e Khalq,. The bases are in the Al-Murashidah and Falluja areas. The Islamic Guardians claim to have fired eight Katyusha rockets at the building. (David Nissman)

KRG REPRESENTATIVE MEETS WITH FRENCH OFFICIAL. Saywan Barzani, representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government in France, met with the the French Foreign Ministry official responsible for Iraqi affairs to discuss the positive impact UN Security Council Resolution 986 on the Kurds of Iraq, according to a report in the Sorani Kurdish newspaper "Brayati" on 18 April.

He urged the French government to continue its support for the people of Kurdistan and take their needs into consideration during discussions and reviews of Resolution 986. The Kurds have emerged as a major group of influence in France in recent years. In the early 1970s, there were perhaps a dozen Kurdish students in France, but now there are some 120,000 Kurds living in France. (David Nissman)

KURDISH ISLAMIC LEAGUE MEETS WITH IRANIAN DELEGATION. The Kurdish Islamic League [Yekgirtu], represented by members of the Political Bureau Muhammad Rauf and Hadi Ali, its Central Consultative Council and its Foreign Relations Bureau received a high-ranking delegation from the Islamic Republic of Iran headed by Sardar Masjidi, commander of the Ramazan military base, at the Yekgirtu political bureau headquarters on 13 April, according to a report in their newspaper "Yekgirtu" published in Irbil in Sorani Kurdish. The two sides discussed the situation in Kurdistan, the peace process, and relations between the people of Kurdistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran. (David Nissman)

TURKOMAN FRONT ACTIVITY INCREASES. The Turkoman Front, recently criticized by officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), has been launching an intensive lobbying effort among other political groups in Iraqi Kurdistan and outside.

The Front was accused by a Turkmen minister of the KRG of pretending to represent the Turkmens in Iraq, the implication being that they are taking orders from either Baghdad or Ankara (cf. RFERL Iraq Report, 30 April 2000). The Sorani Kurdish newspaper "Gulan" on 6 April and the Irbil Sorani newspaper "Khabat" on 7 April claimed in the words of the latter that the Front's leadership had been "condemned by the people of Kurdistan" and that it was basically challenging "the integrity of Iraq". "Khabat" went on to say that "it is impossible to allow these suspects, who call themselves the Turkoman Front and put themselves above the law and work against the supreme interests of the Kurdistan people, to exist anymore."

These KDP-inspired attacks on the Turkoman Front (ITF) have galvanized the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) into action. Jalal Talabani, leader of the PUK, has held a series of meetings with the leaderships of other political parties which flourish inside the "no-fly" zone (cf. RFERL Iraq Report, 24 April 2000). And the PUK sent a delegation to the Turkoman Front relations office in PUK-controlled Sulaymaniyah on 9 April. Led by Mustafa Chawrash, head of the PUK relations office, that group was received by Samir Demirbash, head of the ITF relations office. According to a report in the Irbil newspaper "Turkoman Ali" on 16 April, the two sides discussed the most important political developments in the area. They asserted that the "historical relations between the Kurdish and Turkmen peoples will not be disturbed, and stressed the need to "strengthen bilateral relations in the public interest".

The next day Demirbash received a group from the Islamic Unity Movement, headed by Dara Muhammad Amin, a member of the Movement's political bureau. Among other items, they reaffirmed that the "language of dialogue dominates our era." A few days earlier, on 6 April, Demirbash had also received a delegation from the Kurdistan Conservative Party. In their discussions, they also emphasized the importance of enhancing bilateral relations between the Turkmens and the Kurds.

A report in "Ozgur Politika" of 27 April cites sources in Ankara who have demanded that the United States put pressure on the KDP to grant the Turkmen Front its rights. Safin Dizayi, the KDP's Ankara representative, claims that the KDP is exerting its utmost efforts to establish good relations with the Turkmen. He adds that "they even have a militant force which consists of 500 people. If this is not democracy, I do not know what democracy is. We live under very unique circumstances and no one expects total democracy to be established in this part of the world. Despite all this, there are thirty parties in north Iraq and all operate freely." (David Nissman)

TURKISH PARTY DELEGATION VISITS KDP POLITICAL BUREAU. A group from Turkey's Peace and Democracy Party (PDP) met with the Kurdistan Democratic Party's (KDP) Political Bureau in Salah al-Din to discuss the current situation in Kurdistan and relations between the KDP and other parties. The PDP delegation was headed by Yilmaz Camli, according to a report in the Sorani Kurdish newspaper "Brayati" of 27 April. They were met by Jawhar Namiq Salim, secretary of the KDP political bureau. The PDP is in Kurdistan on an official visit. (David Nissman)

KURDS TO RECEIVE CULTURAL AUTONOMY IN RUSSIA. A conference on establishing a federation for Kurdish cultural rights in the Russian Federation appears to be receiving widespread government support. The pro-PKK journal "Ozgur Politika" published a report on the conference which was republished by the "Kurdistan Observer" on 2 May. The PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) has also expressed its support for the federation.

The conference, "A Cultural Autonomy Federation for Kurds in the Russian Federation", was held in the conference hall of the Russian Ministry for Nationalities. Among the topics discussed were a federation for the autonomous cultural units in Russia, support at the state level for the cultural rights of the Kurdish people, the development and establishment for national rights in accordance with Russian laws, and the official adoption of a Cultural Development Program for the Kurds of the Russian Federation.

"Ozgur Politika" sees indications of government support by the attendance of Mikhail Belousov, Deputy Chairman of the Russian government's Presidential Council, and Nikolay Bugay, of the Minorities Department of the Ministry of Nationalities.

Nikolay Bugay is also co-author of the work , together with T. M. Broyev and R. M. Broyev, "Sovetskiye Kurdy: Vremya Peremen", a work detailing the history and present status of the Kurds of the former Soviet Union and of contemporary Russia. It was published jointly by the Institute of Russian History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Center for Kurdish Culture, and the Kurdish 'Unity' Front in 1993. Bugay has been a tireless activist for Kurdish rights in Russia.

The proposed federation will be an umbrella organization for the some 300,000 Kurds living within the Russian Federation, concentrated in Moscow, Saratov and Krasnodar. It is bound to have a great impact on other parts of the world inhabited by Kurds who are or have been deprived of cultural rights, such as Turkey, Iran and Iraq.

Also speaking at the conference was Vasili Safranchuk, Chairman of the Committee to Defend PKK Chairman Abdullah Ocalan, and Professor Yacheslav Aldonasyov, who said in his speech that the "international conspiracy against PKK chairman Ocalan was at the same time a conspiracy against Russia. Kurdish National Congress member Nadir Nadirov stressed that the development of the Kurdish Culture Federation was not merely a cultural activity, but was also a political effort. (David Nissman)