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Iraq Report: June 9, 2000

9 June 2000, Volume 3, Number 18

GCC MINISTERIAL COUNCIL TAKES HARD LINE ON IRAQ. At the completion of its 75th session in Jeddah on 3 June, the Gulf Cooperation Council Ministerial Council issued a statement "regret[ing] the Iraqi regime's insistence on disregarding the international legitimacy resolutions, defying its will, and rejecting all Arab and international initiatives that aim at forging an acceptable mechanism and an effective approach to deal with the United Nations in order to lift the international economic blockade on Iraq and end the suffering of its brotherly people."

The GCC statement further called on the Iraqi government to "refrain from any provocative or hostile acts against the State of Kuwait and neighboring states," and also "to refrain from any subversive acts" against Kuwait and to "admit that its invasion of the State of Kuwait was a violation of Arab and international charters." And it called on Baghdad to return the missing Kuwaiti and Saudi Arabian POWs.

Qatari Foreign Minister Shaykh Hamad Bin-Jasim Bin-Jabr Al-Thani took the opportunity to present ideas developed early in May at the Kuwait-Iraq Symposium on Iraq that was held in Kuwait, calling for closer cooperation between Baghdad and the UN and normalization of relations between Kuwait and Iraq, and the Gulf states and Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 22 May 2000).

As far as the Qatari initiative is concerned, AFP on 5 June reported that the it was going nowhere because Saudi Arabia and Kuwait "have scuppered the much talked about Qatari initiative and shifted the position of the other GCC members," Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. But subsequently, Al-Thani, interviewed by "Al-Jazirah" Satellite Channel Television on 5 June, claimed that initiative had not been rejected since the ideas contained within his statements were not yet in final shape.

Iraq officially responded to the GCC meeting statement on Baghdad Television on 4 June, saying that those present "repeated the same U.S. lies and allegations about Iraq." (David Nissman)

IRAQ, MALAYSIA MOVE TOWARD CLOSER COOPERATION. The fifth session of the Iraqi-Malaysian Committee for Economic, Trade, Scientific and Technical Cooperation opened in Baghdad on 3 June. The Iraqi side was led by Adnan Abd-Al-Majid, minister of industry and minerals, and by Malaysian Foreign Minister Hamid Al-Bar, according to a report on Baghdad Radio on 3 June.

Al-Majid stressed Iraq's desire to boost cooperation and urged the Malaysians to benefit from Article 50 of the UN Charter, which allows trade exchange with Iraq "despite measures imposed under the unjust embargo." Al-Bar added that his country is trying to broaden the base of its trade transactions with Iraq, and reminded the Iraqis that Malaysia had called for the lifting of the embargo against Iraq.

Al-Bar was received by Iraqi President Saddam Husseyn on 4 June, who reassured Al-Bar about Iraq's condition and determination to go on. The Malaysian foreign minister expressed his gratitude for Iraq's desire to boost relations with Malaysia in all spheres.

Al-Bar also met with Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, and Iraqi Oil Minister Amir Muhammad Rashid. (David Nissman)

IRAQ DENIES RESETTLEMENT OF PALESTINIANS FROM LEBANON. Baghdad has turned down a request from an unnamed Arab state to resettle Palestinians now living in Lebanon, London's "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" reported on 29 May citing "informed Iraqi sources." Rumors of a Palestinian resettlement in the Kirkuk region have been circulating among minority populations in Iraq for weeks. (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report" of 26 May 2000 and earlier). But the Palestinians have made it clear that they oppose any such action. (David Nissman)

THE ASSASSINATION THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN. A previously unknown group calling itself "Movement of Bright Dawn" [Harakat Al-Fajr Al-Mushriq] on 28 May said that it had killed Qusayy, the second son of President Saddam Husseyn and believed to be his designated successor, on 18 May. But London's "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" reported on 31 May that Qusayy was very much alive and continues to carry out his duties. Moreover, the paper noted, no exceptional measures were put in place in Baghdad at that time as one would have expected in the case of such an incident. (David Nissman)

YUGOSLAV-IRAQ URANIUM DEAL IN THE OFFING? Zagreb's "Vecernji list" reported on 31 May that the Yugoslavs have recently begun negotiations with Moscow on the sale of 50 kilograms of enriched uranium. The Vinca Nuclear Institute is making no statements because "the whole issue is being handled by the politicians now," the paper said.

"Vecernji List" points out that the BBC had reported almost at the same time that Iraq needed only one more kilogram of enriched uranium to build a nuclear bomb, and that "this quantity could possibly be obtained from Yugoslavia." Given the fact that meetings between high-ranking Yugoslav officials and Iraq have become quite common lately and have also been shrouded in secrecy, "everything leads to the conclusion that the topic of negotiations with Saddam Husseyn has been the delivery of uranium."

The newspaper asks: "how can one explain with what money the broke Belgrade has been paying for the large quantities of oil that it has been receiving from Iraq?"

During Saddam's meeting with Serbian Assembly speaker Dragan Tomic, the Iraqi leader called on Belgrade to join forces with Iraq in the struggle against the United States and its allies. "Vecernji list" notes that the Tomic-Husseyn meeting was not publicized in Yugoslavia (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 2 June 2000 for a report on the publicized aspects of the meeting). NATO Secretary-General George Robertson has said that he does not know whether Belgrade held a uranium stockpile or not. (David Nissman)

DINARS FOR DRUGS. According to "Efe" of 5 June, published in Panama City, the Colombian army has charged that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia are buying up land abutting the demilitarized zone, using Iraqi dinars obtained from drug sales. The charge was made by Colonel Francisco Pedraza, commander of the army's Seventh Brigade. According to Pedraza, the guerrillas traded a cocaine shipment for arms. "But Iraq did not come through," he remarked, adding that the guerrillas were paid approximately 20 million Iraqi dinars. (David Nissman)

IRAQ'S ARDOR REBUFFED BY SYRIA, CHINA. An article in the Paris-based "Al-Watan Al-Arabi" of 2 June says that well-informed Arab sources are saying that Iraqi President Saddam Husseyn told former Algerian President Ahmad ben Bella in Baghdad that he is willing to establish a "unity" of Syria and Iraq "at any time and in the form that the Syrian officials choose."

These sources claimed that Ben-Bella had taken the initiative at this meeting and spoke about the need to begin a cooperation, even an alliance, between Iraq and Syria because Iraq is besieged, isolated, and surrounded by Security Council resolutions, while Syria is facing U.S.-Israeli pressure which is likely to increase.

Saddam's response was that the basic obstacle to this "unity" was Syrian, as Syria only wants to act in the framework of Security Council resolutions so that rapprochement with Iraq will not affect Syrian-U.S. or Syria-Gulf relations. But Syrian leaders have no desire for unity with Iraq and do not wish to develop relations with it outside the framework of UN Security Council resolutions, the sources said.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan told Su Rong, an alternative member of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, that Baghdad and the ruling Ba'th Party are willing to develop ties with China. Su Rong is in Baghdad on an official visit. But Su Rong reiterated China's stand that the Iraqi issue should be reasonably resolved within the framework of the relevant UN resolutions. (David Nissman)

TURKEY, IRAQ TO SMOOTH RELATIONS? Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Faruk Logoglu is paying an official visit to Iraq between 4-7 June. According to a report from Xinhua, he is to "smooth the way for better relations between the two neighbors." Logoglu is expected to touch on all the bilateral and regional issues with Nuri Ismail Al-Wayss, senior undersecretary at the Iraqi Foreign Ministry.

Their discussion is likely to center on Operation Northern Watch and the American and British aircraft flying out of Incirlik air base in Turkey to patrol the no-fly zones.

Although Ankara's ties to NATO limit its ability to maneuver, some in the Turkish capital have indicated that they want to expand trade with Iraq under the UN-mandated oil for food program. (David Nissman)

DEMOCRATIC CENTRIST TENDENCY TO MEET IN CHICAGO. The oppositionist Democratic Centrist Tendency (DCT), the primary rival to the U.S.-supported Iraq National Congress (INC), is to hold a meeting in Chicago on 23 June, London's "Al-Quds Al-Arabi" reported on 5 June. The main speaker will be the DCT's official spokesman, Ghasan Al-Atiyah.

The U.S. State Department has been cautious about attending the meeting, stating that the DCT is a "rival" to the INC which receives financial and material support from the U.S. administration. Meanwhile, the INC leadership is to meet with U.S. Vice President and presidential contender Al Gore, and ask for increased support for the Iraqi opposition in the event that he wins the presidential election. (David Nissman)

KIRKUK IDENTITY PROTECTION CENTER ESTABLISHED. "Kurdish Media" reported on 4 June that a Kurdish pressure group has established a Kurdish center at The Hague to publicize and protect the inhabitants of Kirkuk in Iraq. The city and its environs have been subject to a campaign of Arabization, displacement, and the confiscation of their property by the Saddam Husseyn regime (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 26 May 2000). The founders maintain that these processes have been going on without any intervention by the international community, primarily the UN.

Rumors are circulating that Husseyn's move is based on the alleged agreement of the U.S. administration to permit the Arabization if Iraq agrees to resettle Palestinians there. The "Kurdish Media" report claims that "Saddam's ultimate aim is to ethnically re-engineer the city that has been Kurdish for hundreds of years."

The new organization is called the Kirkuk Identity Protection. It objectives are: to stop the displacement and Arabization of Kirkuk; to enhance the living standards of displaced people from Kirkuk; and to rehabilitate the Garmian area and to assist relatives of the 180,000 Kurds massacred by Saddam in the Anfal campaign. (David Nissman)

KDP DENIES PLAN TO ATTACK PUK CAPITAL. An official spokesman for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) denied on 31 May that the KDP is mobilizing its armed forces to attack Sulaymaniyah, the capital of that part of the Kurdistan Regional Government under the control of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

Jalal Talabani, the head of the PUK, had claimed in an interview with the BBC that such an attack was planned.

The KDP statement said that: first, the KDP is committed to the full implementation of the Washington Agreement, signed in Washington in September 1998; second, the KDP forces had to take defensive measures to counteract "suspicious movements" of PUK forces along the lines of demarcation between the two groups; and third, KDP leader Masud Barzani issued a statement on 28 May ordering KDP media outlets not to respond to the PUK's propaganda campaign against the KDP (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 2 June 2000 and 26 May 2000). (David Nissman)

JOURNALIST MURDERED IN IRBIL. Sarbast Mahmud, a Kurdish journalist and the editor of the newspaper "Media," was murdered in Irbil, capital of Kurdish Democratic Party-controlled Iraqi Kurdistan, according to a report in "Kurdish Media" dated 1 June.

No one has yet claimed responsibility. "Kurdish Media" points out that "this incident occurred during a media war between the two main Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan."

"Kurdish Media" adds that since Iraqi Kurdistan has been under Kurdish control, there have been several "waves of terror," some of which were undoubtedly triggered by regional powers "to demonstrate there is a political vacuum under Kurdish rule." (David Nissman)