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Iraq Report: August 4, 2000

4 August 2000, Volume 3, Number 26

CONSEQUENCES OF IRAQ'S INVASION OF KUWAIT MARKED. The 10th anniversary of Kuwait was marked on 2 August, where the date marks "Call Day," an anniversary harking back to the Iran-Iraq War. For the Iraqi regime, it signifies the "U.S.-Zionist conspiracy" which targets "Iraq and the Arab nation."

Baghdad Radio of 2 August gave prominent coverage to a meeting of the National Progressive and Patriotic Front (NPPF) under the leadership of its secretary general, Abd-Al-Ghani Abd-Al-Ghafur. He explained that the reason for the "30-state aggression and the imposition of the unfair blockade on Iraq" was "the liberation of Al-Faw," a reference to an event during the Iran-Iraq War, "for the claws of the Iranian anti-Arab occupation has appalled the Zionists and the Americans as an assertion that the Arab nation is capable of liberating Palestine."

Commemoration of the anniversary was more muted in the rest of the world--and considerably less distorted. An AP dispatch of 2 August recalls the scene at NATO headquarters in Brussels. NATO spokesman Jamie Shea remarked that "it was the first time since World War II that one country had gobbled up another and then declared that country didn't exist any more." NATO did not enter the conflict directly because the Arab world was suspicious of it, and its participation may have meant that Egypt or Syria would decline to join the international coalition.

Others recalled the losses caused by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. "Anatolia" of 2 August interviewed two Turkish businessmen, who viewed the process starting with the assembling of the coalition to the imposition of the sanctions against Saddam Husseyn and continuing into the present "led to an $80 billion loss" to Turkey because of its loss of traditional markets.

The U.S. Department of State issued a statement through deputy spokesman Philip T. Reeker emphasizing Washington's continuing resolve to bring down the regime of Saddam and asserting that "we are also working to hold Saddam Husseyn and his top associates accountable for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Kuwait and elsewhere." (David Nissman)

GULF WAR'S 10TH ANNIVERSARY MARKED. Speaking on the eve of the 10th anniversary of Saddam Husseyn's invasion of his country, Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister Shaykh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah ruled out a resumption of ties with Iraq in the near future and said that his country intends to renew defense pacts with Western countries. "Talking about resuming relations with the Iraqi regime is premature and is out of the question in these circumstances, while that regime continues its hostile behavior toward Kuwait," he noted.

As far as the defense pacts are concerned, Al-Sabah said that "the continuation of the circumstances represented by an escalation of Iraqi threats towards Kuwait...makes us renew such agreements since they represent an important part of our defense strategy against any possible aggression." It has defense pacts and arms deals mainly with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

The day before, Reuters reported that he had said that he was ready to visit Iraq if it released some of the 600 people missing since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Iraq refused, denying Kuwaiti claims that it is holding Kuwaiti POWs.

Meanwhile, other governments marked the anniversary in their own ways. The United States continued the national emergency with respect to Iraq announced by then President George Bush on 2 August 1990.

"Because the government of Iraq has continued its activities hostile to United States interests in the Middle East, the national emergency declared on August 2, 1990, and the measures adopted on August 2 and August 9, 1990, to deal with that emergency must continue in effect beyond August 2, 2000," President Bill Clinton said.

Yemeni Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Abd-Al-Qadir Ba-Jammal told London's "Al-Hayat" on 2 August that the invasion "was a catastrophe for the region as a whole." He added that "the Yemeni-U.S. statement issued on the occasion of President Ali Abdallah Salih's visit to the United States in April said that Yemen and the United States sympathize with the Iraqi people vis-a-vis the tragedy they are experiencing, and that developed mechanisms should be found to end this suffering, while it is important for the resolutions of international legitimacy to be implemented in an atmosphere of objective understanding of circumstances."

Meanwhile, Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Musa said on 28 July that the continued embargo on Iraq has led to an unacceptable and illogical situation, according to a report by "MENA" on 28 July. He also mentioned the call made by Russia during talks between President Vladimir Putin and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz to halt air strikes against Iraq. He added that several Arab countries are moving in this regard. Musa also explained that the Iraqi problem is not only an Arab but an international one, related to the UN Security Council resolutions which should move towards lifting the embargo imposed on the Iraqi people.

And French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine told London's "Al-Hayat" on 1 August that "economic sanctions that were the result of the occupation of Kuwait and Iraq's threats and were necessary at the beginning are now having a very dangerous effect on Iraqi society and the Iraqi people." And, as a result, he said, "France feels that the sanctions that have been imposed on Iraq for 10 years are oppressive, ineffectual, and dangerous because they have no effect on the regime and do not encourage it to cooperate, and dangerous because they instill in the sanctions generational feelings of revenge, a generation that knows only war and deprivation." (David Nissman)

SADDAM, MILOSEVIC SEEK 'STRATEGIC COOPERATION.' Iraqi President Saddam Husseyn and his Yugoslav counterpart Slobodan Milosevic are hoping for a "strategic cooperation" that "rejects hostile U.S. policy," according to Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Taha Yasin Ramadan, as reported by AFP on 27 July. Ramadan said that "Iraq is determined to pursue its cooperation with Yugoslavia, conforming to the principles common to the two countries that reject hostile U.S. policy." Ramadan's statements were timed to the presence in Iraq of a large delegation of some 60 businessmen and officials led by Yugoslav Minister of Trade Borislav Vukovic (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 28 July 2000). (David Nissman)

OIL-FOR-FOOD PROGRAM GENERATES $29 BILLION SINCE 1996. Benon Sevan, head of the UN Humanitarian Program for Iraq, announced on 31 July that the oil-for-food program has generated nearly $29 billion in revenue so far, Dow-Jones reported. Sevan pointed out that "this is by far the largest humanitarian program administered by the United Nations." Because of the rise in global oil prices over the last year, the program's revenue, which is kept in a UN-controlled escrow account, has far exceeded expectations. And in the last phase of the program, which ended in June, a record $8.28 billion was generated.

About $20 billion is slated to go into humanitarian efforts; the rest is routed into Gulf War compensation payments and administrative expenditures. As of 30 June, Iraq had submitted $14 billion in humanitarian contracts to the committee. Sevan pointed out that the committee has approved $11.9 billion and placed $1.25 billion on hold. Most of the contracts on hold involve oil industry spare parts and other items the U.S. and Great Britain contend could be diverted for military use.

Sevan departed for Iraq on Tuesday for two weeks, during which time he will meet with senior Iraqi officials and international aid workers. (David Nissman)

SYRIA-IRAQ RAIL LINK TO REOPEN. Rail service between Syria and Iraq is to resume on 11 August, AFP reported. Service was suspended in 1981. Ghassan Abd Al-Razzaq Al-Ani, director-general of the State Enterprise for Iraqi Railways, announced that the train would run once weekly between Mosul and Aleppo, which is roughly 210 miles north of Damascus. The 300-mile journey between the two cities will take 14 hours, with a one-way ticket costing 10,000 dinars ($5). Al-Ani said also said that Iran and Syria are to hold talks with Baghdad after having agreed on rail links between the two countries passing through Iraq as well as Turkey. (David Nissman)

POLISH-IRAQI ECONOMIC COOPERATION COMMITTEE TO RESUME MEETINGS. Tadeusz Donocik, undersecretary of the Polish Ministry of Economy, said in Baghdad that Poland is keen to develop trade ties with Iraq to make up for the losses it suffered in trade dealings over the last 10 years, Xinhua reported on 30 July. He added that his visit will bring about the resumption of meetings of the Joint Polish-Iraqi Committee of Economic Cooperation, as well as the signing of contracts in different fields for Poland to export humanitarian goods to Iraq within the framework of the UN oil-for-food program. (David Nissman)

JORDAN-IRAQ PIPELINE TO BE REVIVED. Wa'il Sabri, Jordanian energy minister, announced that his government will resurrect discussions about a Jordanian-Iraqi pipeline because of its importance to Jordan's economy, according to Amman's "Al-Arab Al-Yawm" of 27 July.

At the end of last year, Iraq and Jordan signed an agreement on the Iraqi supply of oil to Jordan. It was also decided to increase the value of the trade protocol between the two countries to $300 million, an increase of $100 million.

Meanwhile, Ihsan Abd Al-Razzaq Yunis, chairman of the Union of Iraqi Industries, stated that "Iraq has taken the necessary steps for its exports and imports to pass through "Aqaba," on Jordan's Red Sea, in the next few weeks, according to AFP on 1 August. He added that this move will improve trade links with Jordan. The Iraqi president's free oil grant to Jordan was also increased to $300 million, an increase of $50 million. The grant constitutes 50 percent of the crude oil and oil byproducts that Jordan imports from Iraq. (David Nissman)

ARMENIAN PRESENTS CREDENTIALS TO AL-SAHHAF. Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Sa'id Al-Sahhaf received the credentials of the new Armenian charge d'affaires, Murad Muktiryan, on 27 July, according to Baghdad Radio. Al-Sahhaf expressed Iraq's desire to develop relations between the two friendly countries in all fields to serve their joint interests. Muktiryan, for his part, expressed the wish to explore new horizons of diplomatic, economic, and political cooperation between the two countries. The Armenian diplomat had arrived in Baghdad on 20 July to attend the opening of the new Armenian embassy. Armenian Foreign Ministry press secretary Ara Papyan said that Armenia and Iraq would be developing trade relations in areas not included in the U.S. sanctions. (David Nissman)

TURKEY TO UPGRADE TO AMBASSADORIAL LEVEL IN IRAQ. Ankara will soon appoint an ambassador to Iraq, according to the "Turkish Daily News" of 28 July. He is expected to be Mehmet Akat, who currently serves as minister counselor in Turkey's London embassy.

The Turkish Foreign Office has not confirmed this report, but it did say that at present more than 30 countries maintain ambassadorial-level representation in Baghdad. Pressure on Turkey to name an ambassador had been building after the June visit to Iraq by Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Faruk Logoglu in early June.

Turkey's primary concern in northern Iraq is the possibility of the establishment of an independent Kurdish state. A Xinhua commentary of 28 July makes the point that it is this concern that has brought Turkey and Iraq closer together. It says: "Turkey, stating on numerous occasions that it would not allow the founding of an independent Kurdish state in the region, has called on Baghdad to reinforce its administration over the northern Kurdish-populated area."

But other factors may be at work as well: Until the Gulf War in 1991, Iraq was Turkey's top crude oil provider and third largest trading partner. Since then, Turkey has purchased most of its crude from Saudi Arabia. (David Nissman)

IRAQ REQUESTS SECOND BORDER GATE WITH TURKEY. Iraqi leader Saddam Husseyn has asked Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit to allow a second border crossing between the two countries, "Milliyet" reported on 29 July. And Ecevit has instructed his foreign ministry to conduct an initial study of the feasibility of such a plan. The prime minister reportedly is warmly disposed to the plan, but others in the Turkish capital are not, including the Turkish general staff. (David Nissman)

IRAQI TURKMEN A TURKISH PRIORITY. Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem told the "Turkish Daily News" on 31 July that "the Turkmen have a very high priority in our policy on northern Iraq, with a strong dimension of security. We have been pursuing a policy of goodwill to create policies of cooperation that will benefit everyone in the region. But I do not think we have received positive results from our policy of goodwill. We are now working on a new policy and are not excluding ourselves from self-criticism. Let me tell you one thing. Turkmen in the KDP-controlled area have been oppressed. Seventy-five percent of the world's Turkmen are now living in Iraq, but they are oppressed as well [Other estimates put the figure at perhaps 38 percent]. They are under pressure both from the KDP and from Iraq. These are conditions we cannot accept." (David Nissman)

INTERNET CAFE OPENS IN BAGHDAD. On 27 July Iraq's first Internet center opened in Baghdad. Charges at the center are 2,000 dinars an hour (roughly $1) and e-mail costs an additional $50 a year. Transport and Communications Minister Ahmad Murtada said that three other Internet centers would open in Baghdad soon.

Run by Murtada's ministry, the center has 18 computers, five dedicated to e-mail use, and the rest for web browsing. One user complained to AFP that "the center is small and there are too many visitors."

The manager of the center said that "all the sites are accessible except those which are contrary to the Muslim religion" and "those which show pornographic films that pollute the spirit and destroy society."

Earlier, on 15 June, Khalid Abu-Al-Tumn, a columnist for the Baghdad weekly newspaper "Al-Zawra," which is under the control of Uday Saddam Husseyn. And shortly before that, Baghdad University decided to make its Internet Local Area Network accessible to students. (David Nissman)