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Iraq Report: November 24, 2000

24 November 2000, Volume 3, Number 39

SADDAM STILL HIDING CHEMICAL, BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS. London's "Daily Telegraph" on 20 November said that Saddam Husseyn's stockpile of weapons of mass destruction is hidden in schools and hospitals throughout Iraq. Citing Western intelligence reports, the paper says that Baghdad has at least 610 tons of precursor chemicals for the production of the deadly nerve agent VX. And Peter Hain of the British Foreign Office told the "Times" of London that "we have good reason to suspect that Iraq is hiding chemical, biological, and weapons of mass destruction in a range of locations."

These articles appear at a time of intense diplomatic and other activity promoting the lifting of the international sanctions regime on Iraq. Among the countries which have promised to do so if certain conditions are met is Great Britain. Indeed, Hain, in the same "Times" article said: "I want to see the sanctions suspended so that everything can move forward. Iraq can move forward, the region can move forward. But the only vehicle for that is UN Security Council Resolution 1284, which in return for allowing inspectors back would trigger in months, literally within 180 days, sanctions suspension."

Hain added that he has been meeting with a number of "key" foreign ministers in the region who have been seeking a dialogue with Iraqi Deputy Premier Tariq Aziz to determine how Resolution 1284 can be implemented. He added that "I am hopeful that a way can be found for Iraq's dignity to be respected, while allowing the arms inspectors in, then we could see sanctions suspended within six months."

The "Times" article suggested that Hain also had "hinted" that if Iraq began to cooperate there could be movement on the question of the no-fly zones. (David Nissman)

DEFECTOR SAYS SADDAM KILLED SCORES OF MILITARY OFFICERS. A top-level defector from Iraq has told British intelligence that Saddam Husseyn has directed the killing of scores of military officers over the last two years, London's "Observer" reported on 19 November. In February 1999, he said, Saddam ordered the execution of 38 officers, including General Kamil Al-Dulaymi, who was suspected of planning a coup.

The defector said that orders for the execution of those suspected of opposing the regime are always signed by an immediate member of Saddam's family or a close associate. The signatory can order whether or not the victim should be tortured before being executed. Both of Saddam's sons and three of Saddam's half-brothers have signed such orders, the defector added.

In addition to executions, the defector described a massive new prison construction program. One of these new prisons, Sijn Al-Tarbut in Baghdad, known as "the casket," is located underground. And prisoners there, he said, are kept on a liquid diet. Another prison has been built on the site of an old factory in Rashdiyah on the outskirts of Baghdad, and is known to hold hundreds of prisoners. Additionally, other cells have been opened by Husseyn's son Udayy the "Olympic Garage." (David Nissman)

KUWAIT REJECTS RUSSIAN CALL NOT TO ALLOW U.S. FLIGHTS. U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen said on 19 November that Kuwait had rejected a proposal from Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov that it prohibit the United States from using its airbases to enforce the Iraqi no-fly zones and allow Russia to bring it together with Iraq, according to a UPI report on 20 November. He also said that the only way for Iraq to get rid of the sanctions was to allow "full and unfettered" weapons inspections.

While in Kuwait, Cohen made no direct mention of the Russian proposal, but he did say that efforts are being exerted to normalize the conditions and spread peace and security in the region. In response to a question concerning Russia's initiative regarding the security system that aims at reducing the tension in the region, the defense secretary said that any regional security system must be under the umbrella of the UN due to its experience in this field, KUNA reported on 19 November.

Russia sees its proposal as a "confidence-building measure," Cohen noted but immediately added that "I think the confidence building measure for Saddam Husseyn is to stop flying in the no-fly zones, to stop firing at our pilots, and to demonstrate that he is ready to comply with the UN Security Council measures." (David Nissman)

SAUDI FOREIGN MINISTER, IVANOV DISCUSS IRAQ AND REGIONAL ISSUES. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faysal discussed relations between Saudi Arabia and Moscow and ways to improve them, the situation in the region, and other issues of mutual concern in Riyadh on 19 November, according to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia TV1 on 19 November.

With regard to Iraq, the prince said "the two countries used to have strong relations with Iraq. Therefore, both of us are in agreement on the need to maintain Iraq's national and territorial integrity and the need to lift the plight of the Iraqi people who suffered a lot in the past decade, of course within the Framework of the Security Council resolutions." (David Nissman)

'JERUSALEM DAY' PARADE HELD IN BAGHDAD. Baghdad Television announced on 20 November that a "Grand Jerusalem Parade" had taken place in the Iraqi capital. Marchers were those who had volunteered to fight on the side of the Palestinians. It was attended by President Saddam Husseyn, Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan, and Abd-Al-Majid Al-Rafi'i, head of the pro-Iraq Ba'th organization in Lebanon. "Commander" of the parade was Ali Hasan Al-Majid, member of the Iraq Command of the Arab Socialist Ba'th Party. The parade began when Saddam fires a shot from a rifle in the air. (David Nissman)

PAKISTANI EXPORTS TO IRAQ INCREASE. According to Pakistan Export Promotion Bureau chairman Tariq Ikram, Pakistan has received $102.9 million worth of export tenders from Iraq, "Asia Pulse" reported. Ikram said his efforts to increase trade volume with Iraq had paid off and that Pakistan's exports to the country had risen to between $15-18 million from between $5-6 million. (David Nissman)

REGULAR BAGHDAD-AMMAN FLIGHTS TO RESUME. A senior Iraqi official told AFP on 20 November that Iraqi Airways and Royal Jordanian Airlines "will resume air links in early December." Initially, there will be three flights a week.

But officially, the 10-year embargo on commercial air services to and from Iraq remains in place despite dozens of flights to Saddam International Airport, which reopened in August. Roughly 60 planes have landed in Baghdad since then. (David Nissman)

AZIZ CALLS FOR REGIONAL 'ECONOMIC INTEGRATION.' In a 20 November interview carried by Beirut's "Al-Safir," Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz has called for economic integration between Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. He argued that current conditions are conducive to this, because the embargo against Iraq has been effectively broken.

With regard to Lebanon, Aziz said that it is natural for Lebanon "the fraternal and almost neighboring country to follow the path of economic integration with Iraq, especially since Iraq needs goods and services provided by Lebanon. At the same time, Lebanon needs the oil which Iraq has." He pointed out the improvement in Iraqi-Syrian relations facilitate cooperation between Iraq and Lebanon. Regarding more geopolitical issues, Aziz said that Iraq has no political ambitions regarding Lebanon, something that he suggested opens the way for better relations between the two.

He also said that there is "great improvement in relations between Syria and Iraq, and that it is only a matter of days before pumping oil via the Iraqi pipeline across Syria is resumed. He noted that trade with Syria could be increased to the highest level. And as far as Jordan is concerned, Iraq extends to Jordan oil assistance worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Following the visit of the Jordanian premier to Iraq, the two countries signed a trade agreement which allows Jordan to export goods worth $1 billion. (David Nissman

AZIZ TO VISIT CHINA. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz will visit China on 26 November as the guest of the Chinese government, Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi said, according to the "Peoples Daily" of 21 November. (David Nissman)

BULGARIAN DELEGATION DISCUSSES JOINT COOPERATION. A Bulgarian delegation, headed by former Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhen Videnov, held a series of talks with Iraqi officials in Baghdad on bilateral cooperation between the two countries, Baghdad Radio reported on 20 November.

Meanwhile, Mahir Hasan, a businessman and member of the Iraqi community in Bulgaria, told INA that some members of the Iraqi community and Bulgaria are seeking to operate another flight to Baghdad next month to express their solidarity with Iraq and to defy the air embargo imposed against Iraq.

The flight, arranged by the Iraq Society in Bulgaria, carried 97 people including politicians, medical workers, and members of Bulgaria's Iraqi community. Because of Videnov's presence on the flight deputies of the ruling United Democratic Forces who were to join the delegation refused to take part, BTA reported on 21 November. But when the plane departed, it was seen off by several high-ranking government and Ba'th Party officials. (David Nissman)

BARZANI TOURS ARAB WORLD. Mas'ud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), met with Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi and other Libyan officials on 16 November, according to a report by Kurdistan Satellite TV from Salah Al-Din on 17 November. Barzani's trip to Libya is within the framework of a tour of several Arab countries. On 20 November, Barzani was in Damascus to meet Abdallah Al-Ahmar, assistant secretary-general of the Arab Socialist Ba'th Party. Other members of the Barzani delegation included members of the KDP political bureau Muhsin Dazabi, Azad Barwari, Hushyar Zibari, and Masrur Mas'ud Barzani, Syrian Arab Republic Radio reported on 21 November. (David Nissman)

KDP OFFICIAL ON IMPROVED KDP-PUK RELATIONS. Sami Abdurrahman, the Kurdistan Democratic Party deputy prime minister, told AFP on 20 November that "there is a considerable improvement in our relations with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)," according to AFP of 20 November. But despite this improvement in ties between the two, Abdurrahman said that "important problems remain." And as a result, "there is still a long way to go to set up a joint administration."

Joint elections were held in 1992, which resulted in a 50-50 split between the parties. As a consequence, the Kurdish parliament has been unable to function. According to Abdurrahman, elections could be held in six months. AFP pointed out that a key factor in the KDP-PUK dispute are the tax revenues, which the KDP collects through its control of the Khabur post, a major stopping point in Turkish-Iraqi trade.

With regard to the recent bombing attack in Irbil, which killed several people, he maintained that "peace will prevail" and the stability of the area was undisturbed. Abdurrahman stressed the need to keep the Western security zone (no-fly zone). And concerning the ongoing talks with Baghdad, he pointed out that the Kurds are in regular contact with Baghdad "on everyday matters" but not on "political matters." (David Nissman)

BOMB ATTACK IN IRBIL. AFP reported on 16 November that six people were killed and 17 others wounded in a bomb attack on an Irbil cafe in KDP-controlled Iraqi Kurdistan. Safin Dizayi, the Ankara representative of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), said that "we don't know yet who is behind this attack that came as a shock for us. It aims to destabilize the situation in the region where there were no such attacks for several years." He added that a serious investigation has been launched into the incident.

The antagonism between the KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which controls that part of Iraqi Kurdistan not under the control of the KDP, has abated somewhat in recent years. However, the region is also used by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) as a jumping board for attacking Turkish territory. As a result, the Turkish army makes frequent incursions into the area.

Turkey's military maintains that some 5,000 PKK militants crossed over into northern Iraq since last September when the PKK said it was laying down its arms and withdrawing from Turkey to seek a peaceful solution to the Kurdish conflict in Turkey. (David Nissman)

SECOND TURKMEN CONVENTION TO BE HELD IN IRBIL. The Second Iraqi Turkmen Convention began on 20 November in northern Iraq in Irbil, according to the "Turkish Daily News." It was expected to call on the Iraqi government to end its Arabization policy, which has hit the Turkmen living outside of the protected area. The area south of the northern no-fly zone is under Baghdad control, and Turkmen living there bear the full brunt of the Arabization policy.

But on 21 November, the "Turkish Daily News" reported that representatives of Turkmen organizations called on Turkey to more actively participate in efforts to find solutions to their problems. Iraq Turkmen Front Deputy Chairman Mustafa Kemal Yaycili told a Turkish delegation at the convention that "it is as if we are living in captivity."

It is not only Baghdad which is a problem for the Turkmen. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) also keeps the Turkmen community under constant pressure and threat in northern Iraq. Yaycili said "we ask Turkey to make the KDP come to the negotiation table with us." (David Nissman)