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Iraq Report: November 17, 2000

17 November 2000, Volume 3, Number 38

NO KUWAIT-IRAQ RECONCILIATION AT OIC MEETING. Iraq and Kuwait failed to reconcile their differences at the Ninth Islamic Summit which began its work in Doha (Qatar) on 12 November, despite efforts by a variety of diplomats to promote such talks. Indeed, the representative of the Kuwaiti emir, First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Shaykh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, asserted on 12 November that "there has been no mediation whatsoever regarding the dispute between Kuwait and Iraq," KUNA reported.

Amman's "Al-Ra'y" on the same day even carried the text of a Qatari-prepared draft resolution on the Iraq-Kuwait conflict. The initiative for the hoped-for reconciliation was Qatari, but Qatari Foreign Minister Shaykh Hamad bin Jassam bin Jabr Al-Thani announced a day earlier that the Iraq-Kuwait issue would not be on the agenda. Indeed, Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Sa'id Al-Sahhaf said that the Qatari initiative had been "born dead."

But the Qatari initiative does have some support. London's "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" on 13 November reported that it had learned from Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Fu'ad Zarif that Iran has joined current mediation efforts to bring about a direct dialogue between Iraq and Kuwait.

Iraqi President Saddam Husseyn's message to the OIC meeting, delivered by the vice chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, Izzat Ibrahim, on 12 November and carried by INA, made no mention of the issue, dwelling instead on the need to liberate Palestine and claiming that thus far there were 4,229,671 male volunteers and 1,744,655 female volunteers in Iraq ready for a jihad. (David Nissman)

ZHIRINOVSKY BACK IN BAGHDAD... Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the extreme nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), arrived in Baghdad for yet another visit, on what was described as a humanitarian flight, Reuters reported on 11 November citing INA.

On his arrival, he was met by Deputy Premier Tariq Aziz. Zhirinovsky is in Baghdad to take part in the fourth meeting of a follow-up and coordination on the embargo in Iraq.

Also participating in this meeting is Yuri Shafranik, head of the Russian Committee of International, Scientific, Cultural, and Business Cooperation with Iraq. He is accompanied by a large, multinational delegation including representatives from Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, and Slovakia, according to a report from "ArabicNews" of 11 November. The two parties also reviewed relations between the Arab Socialist Ba'th Party and the LDPR.

Moscow is clearly testing the limits of the sanctions regime with its Baghdad flights and putting itself in a position to benefit if and when the sanctions regime is relaxed. One of the reasons for that is that Moscow is trying to recoup billions of dollars in debt for Soviet weapon deliveries to Iraq.

In addition to the Moscow flight to Iraq, the first British flight to Iraq in 10 years also arrived this week, carrying British politicians and a Roman Catholic priest. The purpose of that flight, too, was to protest the UN sanctions against the country. Organized in secrecy, the British flight refueled in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. According to a commentary in London's "Independent" of 13 November, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolai Milkov was a party to the subterfuge.

Meanwhile, however, Igor Desyatnichenko, deputy general-director of Aeroflot, has announced that Aeroflot does not intend to resume air communications with Iraq even if the UN removed the sanctions against the country, according to a release from "RosBusinessConsulting" of 15 November. He said that the company has concluded that it would not be profitable or safe to do so. (David Nissman)

...AND SO IS IVANOV. Igor Ivanov, Russian foreign minister and President Vladimir Putin's personal envoy to Saddam Husseyn, arrived in Baghdad on 13 November carrying a letter from Putin dealing with bilateral relations and the means of promoting them, according to Baghdad Radio. In a statement made at the airport on his arrival, he pointed out that his current visit falls within the framework of the mutual political dialogue which regularly takes place between Iraq and Russia.

On 14 November, Ivanov said that one of the main goals of his Middle East tour is "to make further efforts to normalize the situation in the region, which has seriously deteriorated lately, reported "Interfax," and added that "the most burning issue is that of ending bloodshed and clashes in the Palestinian territories. Russia's goal is clear: to ensure the implementation of the agreement on stopping violence."

A KUNA dispatch from 12 November says that Ivanov will also be visiting other Arab countries and that during his subsequent visit to Saudi Arabia, he will confirm "the importance of Iraq's abidance by the UN resolutions related to its invasion of Kuwait." (David Nissman)

UKRAINE LOOKS TO IRAQ FOR OIL. The leader of the Ukrainian Social Democratic Union, Serhiy Peresunko, told "Vechirniy Kyiv" on 10 November that Iraq desperately needs Ukrainian-made equipment for the oil industry, power engineering, and agricultural machinery. He also mentioned the presence of some 40,000 Ukrainian specialists who worked in Iraq during the Soviet period. And he argued that Ukraine could realistically count on Iraq as an alternative source of inexpensive fuel, thereby reducing its dependence on Russia.

In the interview with "Vechirniy Kyiv" he mentioned that during the visit of an official Ukrainian delegation headed by First Deputy Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov, Ukraine will receive a "couple of million barrels of oil within the quota set by the UN Security Council." The newspaper added that Peresunko actively supports the extension of relations between Ukraine and Iraq. He noted that during the Soviet period, 75 percent of the goods exported to Iraq from the Soviet Union were made in Ukraine.

With regard to Iraqi oil versus Russian oil, Peresunko explained that "no matter how great our friendship is with Russia, their monopoly on fuel leads to their imposing rules of the game on us." In addition, he pointed out, the route from Iraqi oil fields to Samsun in Turkey is only 2,000 kilometers long, while that from Tyumen is 4,000 kilometers in length, a difference that will reduce transport costs and make oil cheaper. "If this plan is implemented," he said, "we will not face an energy crisis, even if the Russian government decides to turn off the faucet at one of their oil distribution centers." (David Nissman)

TURKEY SUGGESTS NEW SANCTIONS POLICY. Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem told the "Chicago Tribune" on 12 November that the time has come for the U.S. and its allies "to explore if there can be some adjustment of the sanctions." He added that "the U.S. really should consult with others to see what is wrong with the policy and to see if together we can develop a new one." The article noted that another factor contributing to the erosion of international support was the collapse of the Mideast peace process. Also cited in the article was Feridun Sinirlioglu, director of the Middle East desk at the Turkish Foreign Ministry, who explained that "Saddam Husseyn is seen as a figure who resisted the West. With the hostility all across the Arab world toward Israel and the United States, the political climate is very conducive to being exploited by Saddam." Sinirlioglu also noted that Turkey had stood with the U.S. in enforcing the sanctions even though it proved to be very costly to the Turkish economy. (David Nissman)

ITALY, IRAQ CLOSER TO DIALOGUE. Lombardy Regional President Roberto Formigoni landed in Iraq for the sixth time in 10 years earlier this month, according to Milan's "Il Sole-24 Ore." Iraqi Deputy Premier Tariq Aziz reportedly made him a promise that "once the sanctions are lifted, we will not forget who has befriended us in recent years. The French and Italians were two of our main industrial partners prior to 1990." The Iraqis gave Italy first prize for the best exhibition at the Baghdad International Trade Fair this year as well as a number of contracts for small and medium-sized businesses. Lombardy and the Foreign Trade Institute are being encouraged to come to Iraq before their competitors move in. And a cross-party majority in the Italian Parliament passed a motion last June calling for an end to the embargo and the reopening of the Italian embassy. (David Nissman)

LEBANON TO BE INCLUDED IN IRAQ-SYRIA PIPELINE. Iraq will soon be pumping oil to the Syrian terminal of Banias, according to London's "Daily Star" on 13 November. But, more intriguingly, Lebanon will also be part of the deal. That may reflect recent diplomatic moves between the two countries.

The Lebanese premier conferred in Doha on 12 November with Izzat Ibrahim, vice chairman of Baghdad's Revolutionary Command Council, the highest level of contact between the two countries since Lebanon broke its relations with Iraq in 1994 following the murder of an Iraqi dissident in Lebanon. When asked about the meeting, a Lebanese source said "the issue of the Syrian-Lebanese leg of the Iraqi pipeline was discussed."

Iraq used to pump oil to a Lebanese oil refinery in Tripoli, which had a capacity of some 500,000 barrels a day. The refinery is now in very bad shape and it is unclear how long repairs and necessary renovation will take. The pipeline to Syria, which has to be repaired and cleaned of rust, will initially carry some 200,000 barrels of Basra crude which Syria will buy at cut rate prices. The oil will be refined at Banias and reshipped to consumer countries by tanker and sold at world market prices. (David Nissman)

IRAN CALLS FOR LIFTING OF IRAQ SANCTIONS. At the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Doha, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi called for the lifting of UN sanctions against Iraq, saying that the sanctions have cost much suffering to the Iraqi people, reported the on 13 November. While Iran and Iraq maintain embassies in each other's capitals, they do not have diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level, only at the charge d'affaires level. Kharrazi said that upgrading these relations to the ambassadorial level will depend on resolving issues between the two countries remaining from the Iran-Iraq war. The issues include the exchange of POWs and the bodies of dead soldiers and the establishment of good neighborly relations. (David Nissman)

KOFI ANNAN MEETS WITH IRAQI OFFICIAL. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan met with the Iraqi vice chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, Izzat Ibrahim, to discuss the UN sanctions regime and "to find ways and means to break the current deadlock," Reuters reported on 13 November. The meeting was held on the sidelines of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Doha, Qatar.

Annan described the talks as "frank and useful." For his part, Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Sa'id Al-Sahhaf noted that "we have agreed to open a comprehensive dialogue between the United Nations and Baghdad without preconditions." He added that "they are preparing their ideas and Iraq will prepare its own ideas and brief the secretary-general on a meeting that will be held either in Baghdad or in New York."

An Iraqi official said that Annan had requested the meeting, which focused on Baghdad's rejection of UN Security Council Resolution 1284. Resolution 1284 offers an easing of the sanctions in return for permitting UN weapons inspectors into the country. Annan said in his speech to the OIC on 12 November that "the Iraqi leadership will achieve more with cooperation with the international community, including its neighbors, than through confrontation."

Meanwhile, Sa'id Hasan, Iraq's UN ambassador since January 1999, will be replaced by Muhammad Al-Douri, a career diplomat who has been Baghdad's representative at the Geneva headquarters of the United Nations for two years, according to a Reuters report of 13 November. Al-Douri is scheduled to arrive in New York at the end of this year. (David Nissman)

IBRAHIM RECEIVES EGYPTIAN PRIME MINISTER. Izzat Ibrahim, vice chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council and head of the Iraqi delegation to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, received Egyptian Prime Minister Arif Ubayd to discuss increasing cooperation among Islamic countries. On the Iraqi side, the meeting was attended by Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Sa'id Al-Sahhaf, and Ahmad Abd-Al-Mu'min, minister of awqaf and religious affairs. For the Egyptians, Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Musa and a number of members of the Egyptian delegation were on hand. (David Nissman)

GRAVE OF CHEMICAL ATTACK VICTIMS FOUND. Another mass grave of chemical attack victims has been found in the village of Gop Tapa in Kirkuk Governorate (now part of the PUK-governed Kurdistan Regional Government), according to a report on "KurdSat" of 11 November broadcast from Al-Sulaymaniyah. That village was occupied during the Anfal campaign in 1988. The eight bodies, one family of six and two PUK peshmergahs, were identified. Gop Tapa is one of the villages bombarded with chemical weapons during Baghdad's campaign against the Kurds. According to the report, the village was hit with chemical weapons on the night of 3 May 1988, when six Iraqi aircraft bombarded the village. The bodies were reburied in a state ceremony. (David Nissman)

MINE REMOVAL IN KURDISTAN PROCEEDING SLOWLY. Mine clearance in Kurdistan is proceeding too slowly, Kurdistan Satellite TV said on 11 November. It noted that the clearance of a 240-square kilometer field in the Fish Khabur area of Zakho took nine months. In that area alone there were some 5,000 mines. If the clearance process proceeds at current rates, "it will take decades," the station said. At present, the station added, much of Iraqi Kurdistan is planted with mines, the most being in the Al-Sulaymaniyah Governorate, followed by Irbil, and then Dohuk. The mines were laid during the Iran-Iraq war. Walid Ahmad, mine removal field coordinator at UNOPS, said the slow pace of their work is due to a lack in modern mine removal equipment and the mountainous location of the fields. (David Nissman)

KDP DENIES HANDING OVER PKK MILITIA TO TURKEY. On 8 November, Irbil's "Brayati" carried a statement by a Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Political Bureau spokesman denying the 2 November allegations by "Medya-TV," which often serves as a PKK outlet, that the KDP had handed over PKK militiamen to Turkey. The PKK militia were named in the broadcast. The "MEDYA-TV" item was then picked up by the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) newspaper "Kurdistani Nuwe" on 5 November. The KDP spokesman said that the KDP did not hand over any PKK militia. They returned to Turkey at their own request. He also gave the names of the men, and added that "the International Red Cross is aware of their return. They have signed papers and videotapes of them expressing their will to return to Turkey." (David Nissman)