South News Gulf crisis updates
Feb 16

Pope urges Annan to go to Iraq
South News Feb 16

Vatican: The Vatican said on Monday that Pope John Paul was ``deeply concerned'' over the crisis in Iraq and that the Pontiff wanted U.N.Secretary-General Kofi Annan to go to Baghad on a peace mission.
A statement said the Pope had relayed his concern at the weekend through the Vatican's permanent observer to the United Nations, Archbishop Renato Martino.

In the US, all seven active U.S. Roman Catholic cardinals cautioned in a letter to Clinton that bombings could be impossible to justify. About one-fifth of the National Catholic Conference of Bishops already had signed on to a campaign to end U.S.-led sanctions against Iraq.

"...this bombing campaign, together with the total embargo in place since August, 1990 was, and is, an attack against the civilian population of Iraq. Such counter-population warfare has been unequivocally condemned by the most authoritative teaching body of the Catholic Church, The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965)." -Excerpt from a letter dated January 20, 1998 to President Clinton and signed by 54 U.S. Catholic Bishops.

On Monday, the executive board of the National Council of the Churches of Christ, meeting in New York, approved a letter to Clinton urging the president to seek a diplomatic solution. The board includes more than 40 representatives of 32 mainstream Protestant and Orthodox Christian denominations.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Saeed al-Sahaf said Monday Iraq hoped Annan would succeed in coming up with an ``objective'' formula over the inspection of presidential sites.

A French official said President Jacques Chirac expected to meet Sahaf Tuesday and Annan Wednesday, and the Iraqi minister would meet the U.N. chief the same day in the French capital. Annan would probably reach Baghdad Thursday.

He said Iraq had sent France a list of presidential sites that could be inspected for chemical and biological weapons without a time limit, ``which gives us the feeling that they are serious about a solution.''

Meanwhile in Riyadh the chief of the Organization of the Islamic Conference Ezzidine Laraki announced on Sunday that he is ready to visit Iraq as soon as possible to help seek a peaceful solution to the crisis over arms inspections.

Laraki told reporters in Saudi capital Riyadh that he has sent a message to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to expressed his readiness to cooperate with him in resolving the crisis, the Kuwaiti News Agency reported. He voiced his support for diplomatic efforts to defuse the crisis.

Qatar diplomat flies to Baghdad
 South News Feb 16

Baghdad:   The foreign minister of the Gulf Arab state of Qatar arrived in Baghdad on Monday to help find a peaceful end to the Iraq crisis, officials said.

They said Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, the first foreign minister from a Gulf country to visit Iraq since its 1991, had landed at Saddam International Airport in the Iraqi capital.

An authorised U.N. source in Baghdad said he did not know whether the Qatari minister's flight had been approved by the committee that oversees U.N. sanctions on Iraq. ``We have received no information from the sanctions committee about the flight as of now,'' the source said.

A Qatari plane carrying 16 tonnes of humanitarian aid arrived in Baghdad on Saturday with the approval of the committee. U.N. officials inspected the plane on its arrival.

 An organiser said the aim was to show that Qataris opposed any military strike on Iraq."The Iraqi people are ill-treated and we think what is happening is a conspiracy against the Iraqi people," Mohammed al-Mutawa of the Qatari People's Society for Lifting Sanctions on Iraq, told reporters at a Baghdad airport.

"We were able to  penetrate the embargo (on Iraq)," Mutawa said. "We came to say to the Iraqi people that the Qatari people are with you," Hassan Rasheed, another Qatari on the plane, said.

In Doha, a Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman said Sheikh Hamad's visit to Iraq was a ``a contribution from Qatar to finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis.''
He said any talks the minister held in Baghdad would be ``in support of international diplomatic efforts being exerted to find a diplomatic and peaceful solution to the current crisis between Iraq and the United Nations.''

CARE warns of 'collateral' disaster
South News Feb 16

Amman: An Australian aid worker warned of massive humanitarian disaster as the US pondered collateral damage in a strike on Iraq.

CARE Australia's Lockton Morrissey said Sunday in a full-scale military assault Iraq's infrastructure would also suffer. "The effects of cutting off supplies of electricity, water and sewage treatment in what are mainly urban settlements would be devastating", Morrissey said.

Meanwhile in the United States an American general has warned that a military strike on Iraq is likely to leave about 1500 Iraqi civilians and soldiers dead. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Henry Shelton, made the estimate in a private briefing of US senators as the Clinton administration continued its efforts to persuade the US public and Congress of the need for military action.

General Shelton said he expected only a handful of American pilots would be lost. After his confidential briefing the general told reporters the US had no quarrel with the Iraqi people. "We are going to great lengths to ensure we hit only what we intend to hit." He added a clear warning that this could not be guaranteed.

Lockton Morrissey Middle East regional manager of CARE Australia is based in Amman, Jordan said Iraq had already suffered seven years of devastation, and it would get worse.

CARE is the only Australian aid organisation to remain in Iraq through seven years of economic sanctions. There are now about 30 Australians in Iraq working for the UN or non-government aid organisations.
Mr Morrissey said water would become not just polluted but deadly, electricity supplies would stop and hospitals would cease functioning. Food supplies, which were often late, were barely enough to feed people in refugee camps and would not sustain civilians in cities.

"One thousand children a week die in Iraq. That is ridiculous and it will just get worse."

Saadi challenges Butler on facts
South News Feb 16

Baghdad: Iraq has accused UNSCOM chief Richard Butler of pushing towards military confrontation and challenged the basis of his staements.

An Iraqi presidential advisor, Amer al Saadi, in an interview said."He is just exerting maximum pressure and provoking and beating the drums of war" .

Richard Butler, the Australian diplomat who heads the United Nations weapons inspection effort, said the "logic" of the alleged Iraqi weapons shifting was clear. "That could only have been the case under circumstances where we weren't there first," he said on the CNN program "Late Edition," adding: "That's why access is crucial."

General Amer Al Saadi, an adviser to President Saddam Hussein,said he was amazed by Mr Butler's comments . "This is absolute nonsense. None of this has happened," he told reporters in a news conference carried live by CNN.

 Mr al Sadi issued a direct challenge to Mr Butler: "Read the reports of the inspectors on all the hundreds and hundreds of inspections that were carried out by his team and tell us exactly where they have discovered weapons of mass destruction or related materials."

"The facts are Iraq declared these weapons. Iraq presented these weapons to Unscom and Iraq destroyed them under the supervision of Unscom." General Amer al-Saadi went to say that US and Britain were undermining the work of the weapons inspectors. "The military attack would practically destroy the (monitoring) system which relies on communications cameras and sensors," said Amer al-Saadi.

Saadi added that Iraq would make no attempt to tamper with the equipment of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) charged with verifying Iraq has dismantled its weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq further denied claims in a leaked U-S congressional report that Baghdad has smuggled weapons of mass destruction to Sudan and Libya for safe-keeping. Iraqi Justice Minister Shebib al-Maliky said because of a United Nations embargo imposed in 1990, the country has just one working port which is monitored by the international community.

U-S Defense Secretary William Cohen said the claims in the congressional report strengthen the case for a military strike on Iraq.

Yossef Bodansky, director of the House of Representatives Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, said on Sunday  his information, first published in a Feb. 10 task force report, came from Arab opposition movements as well as from British, German and Israeli intelligence sources.