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Iraq Report: November 10, 2000

10 November 2000, Volume 3, Number 37

BAGHDAD LASHES OUT AT ISRAEL. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told an international seminar on the occasion of the 1,200th anniversary of the Abbaside Bayt Al-Hikmah (House of Wisdom) that "the struggle we are now waging in Iraq and Palestine is not a struggle over land and is a struggle between two civilizations." He added that the Western "attack" on Iraq in 1991 was the attack of a "false civilization" on a true one. Meanwhile, Izzat Ibrahim, deputy secretary of the Iraq Command of the Arab Socialist Ba'th Party, discussed with Ba'th Party officials and secretaries of the party branches the different ways to train Iraqi jihad volunteers to liberate Palestine from "the claws of the lowly Jews, who are descendants of monkeys and pigs and worshippers of the infidel tyrant," according to a report on Baghdad Radio on 6 November. (David Nissman)

IRAQI FLIGHTS TO BASRA, MOSUL RESUME. Iraq resumed domestic flights to Basra and Mosul on 5 November for the first time since 1991. Basra is inside the southern no-fly zone, and Mosul the northern. These are the first Iraqi flights to the area since 1991. The Iraqi military is not allowed to fly fixed-wing aircraft of helicopters into the zones, but on 3 November, the United States indicated that it had no objection to civilian aircraft going to these cities (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 3 November). But State Department spokesman Richard Boucher noted that aircraft flying anywhere in Iraq could face danger, especially over the no-fly zones. Baghdad attempted to put its spin on this development when Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Sa'id Al-Sahhaf said to Al-Jazirah Satellite Television on 5 November that the "no-fly zones are illegitimate" and that "operating domestic flights is part of our efforts to stop the U.S.-U.K. crime, represented by imposing the two no-fly-zones." (David Nissman)

UDAY TORTURES IRAQI NATIONAL SOCCER TEAM FOR LOSING. Three members of the Iraqi national soccer team that lost in the quarterfinals of the Asian Cup competition were singled out for torture by Uday Saddam Husseyn upon their return to Iraq, London's "Daily Telegraph" reported on 5 November. The paper says that the three were "beaten and whipped for three days" in the basement of the Iraqi Olympic Committee building. This is not the first time Saddam's eldest son has used torture to try to force Iraqi athletes to improve their performance. But it hasn't always worked: one athlete who was tortured in the Al-Radwaniyah prison managed to escape from the country. (David Nissman)

IRAQ MOVES TO BREAK OUT OF DIPLOMATIC ISOLATION. Iraq has taken a series of moves to try to break out of its current diplomatic isolation. London's "Al-Quds Al-Arabi" reported on 8 November that Egypt has now restored diplomatic ties with Baghdad.

Meanwhile, for the first time in nine years, Saudi Arabia has decided to open a land border-crossing with Iraq in order to expedite the entry of Saudi exports in accordance with contractual agreements approved by the UN Sanctions Committee, according to London's "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" of 7 November.

In other moves, Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan and Jordanian Prime Minister Ali Abu-Al-Raghib signed a protocol on trade and economic cooperation on 3 November, according to Iraqi official radio on 3 November. Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Sa'id Al-Sahhaf met with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Salih last week, according to the "Yemen Times" of Sana'a of 5 November. President Saddam Husseyn received Tareq Ekram, Pakistani Minister of State and envoy of General Pervez Musharraf, chief executive of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, according to a report by Baghdad Radio on 4 November.

And Iran's Minister of Roads and Transportation Mahmud Hojjati met in Baghdad with Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan to discuss the expansion of transportation links between the two countries, IRNA reported on 6 November. Hojjati was in Baghdad to attend the Baghdad International Trade Fair.

In Europe, Vojislav Seselj, president of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), met on 7 November with the Iraqi Ambassador to Yugoslavia, Sami Sadun, Tanjug reported. And in Asia, Tokyo has decided to reopen its embassy in Baghdad, "Yomiuri Shimbun" reported on 5 November. But a new Japanese ambassador to Iraq will not be named. The Japanese charge d'affaires stationed in Jordan will continue to fill the post of acting envoy to the country.

Meanwhile, a 17-member Russian delegation headed by Aleksandr Pivovarov, deputy minister for industry, science, and technology, arrived in Baghdad on 6 November, AFP reported on 6 November. Only a week earlier, a Russian delegation composed of 250 Russian deputies, oil executives, and other industrialists flew into Iraq for the Baghdad International Trade Fair.

And a Russian delegation is to visit Iraq by air in mid-November, according to a report by ITAR-TASS on 6 November. The visit is to take place within the framework of the Anti-Blockade Action, said an official in the Russian Academy of Geopolitical Problems. The purpose of the action is to draw the attention of the world to the situation in Iraq as a result of the economic blockade. In Iraq, delegation members plan to discuss ways of lifting the blockade and working out concrete proposals on a program of bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

But regular Russian-Iraqi flights are still a matter for the future. Iraqi Transport Minister Ahmad Murtada, after a meeting with Aleksei Sapkinen, vice president of Vnukovo Airlines, told AFP that "the resumption of regular flights, four times a week, will only happen when we receive Foreign Ministry clearance." (David Nissman)

BAGHDAD, KYIV SLATED TO BECOME SISTER CITIES. Baghdad is to become the sister city of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv when the Iraqi capital's mayor visits Ukraine early next year, according to a Ukrainian radio report on 6 November. Meanwhile, a joint Ukrainian-Iraqi committee currently is discussing problems with the Baghdad infrastructure, primarily water purification, the sewage system, and the electricity grid. (David Nissman)

KIRKUK GOVERNOR CALLS ON UN TO STOP ARABIZATION. Abdullah Izz-Ad-Din Shaswar, acting governor of Kirkuk, on 1 November appealed to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the permanent members of the Security Council, international human rights organizations, and all Iraqi political parties to help end Baghdad's policy of the arabization of Kurds, Turkmen, and Assyrians, the Sulaymaniyah newspaper "Kurdistani-Nuwe" reported.

Shaswar pointed out that in the last month alone, Iraqi officials have expelled some 147 people from the liberated areas of Kirkuk and Al-Sulaymaniyah governorates and scores more sent to Irbil and southern Iraq. Once families are identified as candidates for expulsion, he said, one member is arrested as a hostage to force the others to comply.

He argued that this arabization policy is "a blatant violation" of UN Security Council 688, as well as UN Resolution 986 (oil-for-food), "because often when the Iraqi government expels citizens from Kirkuk and its environs, it seizes their food rations, and deprives them of food for several months, until the new ration tickets are issued to them." (David Nissman)

BARZANI SAYS KURDISH ADMINISTRATION 'DEAD.' In a statement to London's "Al-Hayat" on 28 October, KDP leader Mas'ud Barzani conceded that the Kurdish administration in northern Iraq is now "dead," as is the 50-50 deal with PUK leader Jalal Talabani. And he suggested that as a result, the "continuation of dialogue" with President Saddam Husseyn's regime is now inevitable. In other comments, he accused Talabani of going back on his stand on the 50-50 division of the Kurdish administration, and maintained that they should go back to the results of the 1992 elections.

He said that the KDP does not object to holding new elections under the supervision of the UN, the Arab League, or neutral observers. And he noted that relations with Iran have improved and that ambiguities in the relationship with Ankara had been removed. (David Nissman)

Talabani expressed surprise at Barzani's statements. In a rejoinder which appeared in London's "Al-Hayat" on 31 October, Talabani said that "if his administration is dead, why does he have a council of ministers and a government in Irbil?" Talabani also claimed that Barzani had many "secret and open links" with the central government since 1992 that were openly acknowledged by Iraqi Deputy Premier Tariq Aziz. And he reaffirmed his commitment to the Washington Agreement. (David Nissman)

KURDISH TRIBAL CONFLICT ERUPTS IN HALABCHA. Irbil's "Brayati" newspaper on 28 October reported that tensions between the Zardoyee and Ilkhani tribes in Halabcha have exploded into fighting with deaths on both sides. Branch-12 of the KDP reportedly sent a message to the two tribes and all residents in the city expressing its sorrow about the incident and expressing the hope that the fighting ends immediately and that "the sons of the two tribes stop killing each other."

The message also said that "we consider ourselves responsible for safeguarding the people's interests, regardless of their political views," and "we always tried to establish fraternity and tolerance to solve social problems." The PUK also intervened to resolve the tribal dispute. According to "Kurdistani Nuwe" of 1 November, they formed a higher committee in cooperation with the General Guide of the Islamic Unification Movement, and held several meetings with the disputing parties who expressed their intention to end the dispute.

Meanwhile, bombs placed in small businesses have caused some injuries in Irbil, according to the Irbil newspaper "Regay Kurdistan" of 1 November. The attacks appear to have been carried out by Islamist groups and "mercenaries of the spying agencies of the Baghdad regime," the paper said. It noted as well that the city has suffered "daily" incidents such as acid attacks on women, attacks that the paper said represented an effort to block the KDP-PUK peace process. (David Nissman)