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Iraq Report: May 14, 2000

14 May 2000, Volume 3, Number 14

RUSSIAN DEPUTIES ATTEND BAGHDAD 'SOLIDARITY' CONFERENCE. A Russian parliamentary delegation is attending a Baghdad Conference for Solidarity with Iraq. The Russian delegation is headed by Leonid Slutsky, the deputy chairman of the State Duma for international affairs, according to an ITAR-TASS report of 5 May. Slutsky reportedly is carrying a message for Saddam Husseyn from Russian President Vladimir Putin in which Putin asserts "Moscow's determination to get the sanctions lifted. The delegation is expected to meet Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and possibly also Husseyn.

In his speech at the conference, Aziz claimed that the practical effect of the siege on the Iraqi people is more reduced than in the past "...because the peoples of the world--including Arabs--took action one way or the other, using all available means, to alleviate the effects of the siege or weaken the bloc of aggression in political and other fields."

Aziz also said that "personally, I would be stupid if I proposed to Iraq's leaders that they should deal with Resolution 1284," AFP reported on 9 May. Rejection of 1284 is also the rejection of UNMOVIC (the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission), which replaces UNSCOM as a weapons inspection arm of the Security Council.

The May 8-9 conference is a part of Iraq's extensive lobbying effort against the sanctions regime. This phase of it began at the meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Amman during which several parliamentarians decided to travel on to Baghdad as a show of solidarity with Iraq. Deputies from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, and the Palestine National Council formed the delegation that travelled on to Baghdad and called on the international community to lift the embargo.

According to the weekly Baghdad "Al-Rafidayn," Nabil Najm, an undersecretary of the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, said that "I want to see Arab leaders have complete dealings in order to lift the embargo." He added that the oil-for-food program "should not be the only framework for economic cooperation between Iraq and Arab countries." (David Nissman)

IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER IN BELGRADE. Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Sa'id Al-Sahhaf met with Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic in Belgrade for what Tanjug said would be "an exhaustive exchange of views on bilateral and international relations and other issues of common interest," reported Tanjug on 9 May.

But they are also likely to discuss Belgrade's trade with Iraq. According to a recent International Crisis Group report, three companies act as Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's agents by regularly exporting Serbian grain in exchange for hard currency, Russian gas, and oil from Libya, Syria, and Iraq. And the report notes that the grain trade with Iraq--permitted under the UN oil-for-food program--is handled exclusively by the Yugoslav military's military defense procurement firm.

The ICG has questioned the wisdom of the international humanitarian assistance program for Serbia. Under the present program, grain is delivered to this wheat-surplus nation, thus freeing Serbia's own grain for export. (David Nissman)

NEW IRAQI AMBASSADOR FOR RUSSIA. President Saddam Husseyn has appointed Muzhir Al-Duri, formerly the head of the office of his deputy Izzat Ibrahim Al-Duri, to be his new ambassador in Moscow. According to a report in the London's "Al-Zaman" newspaper on 5 May, this move is designed to develop relations between the two countries, "given the links the new ambassador has with certain influential circles in Russia."

This move follows the visit of Iraqi Defense Minister General Sultan Hashim Ahmad to Moscow last month. Sources for "Al-Zaman" say that relations between the two countries are set to develop further, especially in the military and security fields, in the exchange of intelligence, the procurement of an air defense system, and the development and modernization of Iraq's weaponry.

The new Iraqi ambassador has spent time in the Russian capital before: he has a doctorate from a Russian university. He reportedly has been following the development of Russian-Iraqi relations, particularly with Russian political parties that have maintained a line supportive of Baghdad. And he has maintained close ties to Russia's military industry companies. (David Nissman)

ARMENIA, IRAQ TO EXPAND COOPERATION. Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian received Nuri Ismail Taha Al-Wayss, Iraq's first deputy foreign minister, in Yerevan on 4 May to discuss expanding economic cooperation between the two countries. This was the first Armenian visit ever by a senior Iraqi official. The Armenian Foreign Ministry said the two men "emphasized the centuries-old friendship between the two peoples" and agreed that "there is potential of economic cooperation" between Armenia and Iraq.

Officials in Yerevan declined to give more details of the talks, saying only that Al-Wayss's visit aims to lay the groundwork for future bilateral agreements. The Iraqi deputy minister could not be reached for comment. He was said to have been briefly hospitalized after suffering a sudden increase in blood pressure during the meeting with Oskanian.

Armenia and Iraq established diplomatic relations earlier this year. The possibility of opening embassies in Yerevan and Baghdad was discussed on 11 May, according to official sources. Earlier, Armenian officials indicated that the existence of an ethnic-Armenian community in Iraq is a major factor in their drive to deepen ties with the regime of Saddam Hussein. In addition, last year, two Armenian firms secured UN permission to do business in Iraq.

"The Armenian-Iraqi relationship is developing within a framework that does not contradict the UN sanctions [against Baghdad]," Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ara Papian told RFE/RL. "We hope that the sanctions will not last for too long," he said. "Iraq is situated in our region, it is our geographically nearest Arab state." (Armen Zakarian -- RFE/RL Yerevan Bureau)

THAI-IRAQ RICE DEAL UNDER QUESTION. Thailand's government is re-examining a rice deal, whose terms call for Chaiyaporn International Co. to export 200,000 tons of rice to Iraq. But that company now has a liquidity problem and has asked to buy 200,000 tons from the Internal Trade Department. According to the "Bangkok Post" of 9 May, Deputy Prime Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi said that the rise export agreement "must be scrutinized carefully" before being approved.

But a more serious problem may be that the contract at least initially failed to meet the requirements of the UN oil-for-food program. Supachai said that if the government supported the export deal, the purchasing agreement would have to be conducted through the UN program to minimize the risks to the state. Otherwise, the government would have to bear the risk that the advance payment funds would not be repaid.

Chaiyaporn has had close ties to Iraq for over 10 years, and was the only local rice exporter maintaining contact with the Baghdad government since the Gulf War. (David Nissman)

IRAQI OIL EXPORTS RISING. The "Dow Jones Energy Service" reported on 8 May that shipments of oil from Iraq have been rising since early April, when daily exports climbed to more than 2 million barrels per day (b/d) for the first time this year. For the last four weeks, exports have been averaging 2.1 million b/d. Since the beginning of the current phase of the oil-for-food program in early December, Iraq has exported 239.3 million barrels of oil, thus generating $6.172 billion in revenues. Under the oil-for-food program, Iraq is allowed to export oil to pay for humanitarian supplies and pay reparations. Iraq's plan is to boost oil output by as much as 700,000 b/d by the end of the year. (David Nissman)

SADDAM OUTLINES EDUCATIONAL PHILOSOPHY. Saddam Husseyn told his cabinet that "political approaches and theories are the outcome of intellect. It can be said that our country embraces an ideology that is open to various schools of thought. There is no contradiction in this statement." He then asked rhetorically "How are we to develop a university education philosophy in accordance with this understanding of intellect, philosophy, and doctrine?" Saddam's answer was that "The philosophy of university education is not divorced from the state philosophy. On the contrary, the philosophy of university education is derived from the state philosophy." In his concluding remarks, he explained that the state philosophy is "mainly based on the doctrine of the Arab Socialist Ba'th Party" and that "the philosophy of university education must be derived from the state's philosophy and the party's doctrine." (David Nissman)

FIFA REINVESTIGATES IRAQI TEAM TORTURE. FIFA, the governing body of international soccer, is to reinvestigate claims by a former Iraqi player that he was tortured on orders from Saddam Husseyn's son Udayy, the "Sunday Times" of London reported on 7 May.

Al-Hadithi told of being arrested at 2:30 a.m., harangued by Udayy, who is responsible for Iraqi sports, and undergoing torture by being dragged over sharp stones. He said further that his teammates who lost the 1998 World Cup qualifier were ordered to be flogged for faulty passes. He says that "Udayy instructed some people to watch the match on television, count the bad passes and give the statistics to special units of floggers who punished the players." Sharar Haydar Al-Hadithi, an Iraqi soccer player who has since defected to Great Britain, repeated allegations he had made last August when he first spoke to the "Sunday Times." At that time, FIFA dismissed his accusations. An earlier FIFA investigation of similar claims exonerated Iraq of the charges by two FIFA officials who had travelled to Baghdad. At that time, Iraqi players claimed to have been whipped and beaten when they lost a qualifying match, which cost them a place in the 1998 World Cup finals.

This time, however, Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president, wrote to Tim Loughton, a conservative MP who has taken up Al-Hadithi's case, that "I have forwarded the file to the FIFA general-secretary for further action." (David Nissman)

UN AID COORDINATOR IN IRAQI KURDISTAN. Tun Myat, the new UN humanitarian aid coordinator for Iraq, arrived in Kurdistan in northern Iraq on 7 May, reported AFP on 7 May. According to an unnamed UN official, he will spend five days in the region, meeting with UN agencies and the Kurdish leadership. Tun Myat of Myanmar took up his post on 30 March, replacing Hans von Sponeck, who had resigned in protest because of the hardships the continued sanctions were inflicting on the Iraqi people. (David Nissman)

ACTIVIST URGES OPPOSITION SUMMIT BE HELD. Abd-Al-Aziz Al-Yasiri, an Iraqi opposition figure living in Austria, has urged that the entire Iraqi opposition hold a summit independent of the United States or the United Nations, London's "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" reported on 3 May. Only in this way can the opposition overcome the problems their country now faces. And if the opposition holds such a conference and emerges with a unified stand, he argues, it will regain its influence as a result of eliminating the subservience that has characterized it in its relationship with the United States. (David Nissman)

KUWAIT PARLIAMENT TO HOLD CONFERENCE ON IRAQ. The Kuwaiti Parliament is organizing a conference on Kuwait's relations with Iraq set to start on 13 May. Abdul Muhsin Jammal, rapporteur of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Kuwaiti Parliament, told reporters that the president of the parliament, Jassem Al-Kharafi, Deputy Muhammad Saker, and the Foreign Affairs Minister, Shaykh Sabah Al-Ahmad, will give talks at the opening, according to a press release from the Iraq Foundation of 9 May.

Jammal said that the conference would concentrate on increasing the cooperation between the Kuwaiti and Iraqi peoples, although he also stressed that "the committee and parliament absolutely reject any dealings with the present Iraqi government, even on the parliamentary level, except through international organizations." (David Nissman)

CHILDREN'S HEALTH IMPROVING IN KURDISTAN BUT NOT IN BAGHDAD-CONTROLLED AREAS. UNICEF has concluded that children's health is improving in Iraqi Kurdistan but that child mortality rates are rising in parts of Iraq under Baghdad's control. According to a report on Kurdish Satellite TV, broadcasting from Salah-Al-Din in Sorani Kurdish on 11 April, this is because the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has been implementing all aspects of Resolution 986. In Kurdistan, foods and medicines are distributed directly by the UN, whereby in Baghdad-controlled Iraq, the Iraqi government itself is responsible for distribution and allocation. (David Nissman)

KDP DENIES ENVOY RECALLED. Medya-TV, a pro-PKK television station broadcasting from Paris, reported on 7 May that the representative of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), Safin Diza'i, had been recalled to KDP headquarters at the order of KDP leader Mas'ud Barzani. But the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 10 May that the story of the recall of Diza'i is unfounded and that, according to a KDP statement issued on 9 May, "the KDP attributes a great deal of importance to its relations with Turkey and has decided to retain Diza'i, who has served in the same post since February 1992, in his new capacity of leadership...and as its representative." Diza'i had been in Ankara since 1991. (David Nissman)