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ISSUE: #. 66. Dec. 30, 2002








By Bill Weinberg
with David Bloom, Special Correspondent

1. West Bank: Sharon Calls for Increase in Assassinations
2. Gaza: Housing Demolitions Continue in Rafah
3. IDF Still Using Human Shields, Say Rights Groups
4. B'tselem: IDF Beats, Shaves Heads of Palestinians
5. IDF Force Palestinian-American to Pose as Suicide Bomber
6. Soldier Who Killed Old Woman Slapped on Wrist
7. Electoral Commission Bars Arab, Approves Kach Militant
8. Lebanese Mercs Vote Likud
10. Internationals Protest in Solidarity with Palestinians
11. American Indian Militant Calls for "Global Intifada"

1. Pentagon Escalates Gulf Military Build-Up
2. Saddam Shoots Down Drone
3. French Protest U.S. Battle Group
4. Refugee Crisis Looms
5. Turkish Troops Fight Kurdish Guerillas in Northern Iraq
6. Did U.S. Shoot Down Ukrainian Airliner?
7. Shi'ite Opposition Against U.S. Intervention
8. Saddam-Rumsfeld Lovefest Back in the News--at Last!
9. Iraq Torture Victim Calls Out U.K. on Aiding Saddam...
10. ...But is Censored by New York Times
11. Saddam Arming al-Qaeda?
12. Will Saddam Take Exile to Avoid War?
13. Study: Balkan Bombing has Grave Implications for Iraq

1. Report: CIA Using Harsh Interrogation Techniques
2. Human Rights Watch: US Must Investigate Torture Claims
3. U.S. Soldier Shot in Head
4. Death Faces Returning Refugees
5. RAWA Censored by U.S. Immigration Authorities
6. Trans-Afghan Pipeline Plans Advance

1. Jihadis Deal Pakistan Bloody Christmas
2. Musharraf: Ready for Nuclear War

1. "International Terrorism" Behind Chechnya Suicide Blast?
2. Chechens Fear "Wahhabi" Threat

1. Back to the Brink in Korea
2. Iran Next?
3. Congress Approves Nuclear "Bunker-Busters"
4. Pakistani Scientist's Son: Osama Sought the Nuke
5. Neither Rain nor Snow nor Deadly Atomic Fallout...
6. Greenland Inuit Protest "Star Wars" Plans
7. Belgrade Mission Swipes Yugo Uranium--More to Come?
8. Ukrainian Cops Impound Radioactive Christmas Trees
9. Bechtel Contracted to Entomb Chernobyl
10. 3rd Circuit Screws TMI Survivors
11. Energy Department: Renewable Generation Down


On Dec. 30, Israeli Attorney General Elyakim Rubenstein told Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to only use "targeted killings" as a last resort. (AP, Dec. 30) In reaction, Sharon told his cabinet the "anti-terrorist struggle" must be reinforced. "We should strike against those who commit these attacks, those who organize them and those who help them." (UK Telegraph, Dec. 31) This past week saw an upsurge in the assassination of Palestinian resistance leaders and fighters.

On Dec. 23, two Palestinian militants, one from Fatah and one from Hamas, were approached by an Israeli undercover unit while they were driving across a field in a tractor in Jenin. According to Palestinian security officials, the Israelis stopped the tractor and then shot the two men at close range. Israeli security sources said the men had raised their rifles after they realized they were surrounded. (South China Morning Post, Dec. 24)

On Dec. 25, Israeli paratroopers shot dead a Hamas member in Nablus. (EFE, Dec. 25) An elderly Palestinian man dropped dead Dec. 26 after a stun grenade thrown by Israeli troops landed near him in Tul Karm. Salim Marawah, 65, was standing near his house during a raid by Israeli troops in the area. (AFP, Dec. 26)

The Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that on Dec. 26 an Israeli special unit stormed the guards' room at Ramallah hospital, and abducted a Palestinian youth after wounding him. (BBC Monitoring: Wafa, Dec. 26)

Israeli forces killed nine Palestinians on Dec. 26 in what Israel described as "wide-ranging counter-terrorist actions" across the West Bank. An Islamic Jihad leader died in a gunbattle in Qabatiya, near Jenin. Five Israeli soldiers were wounded. A Hamas leader and his passenger in Ramallah were shot dead when Israeli forces riddled his car with gunfire, claiming he drew a gun when they tried to arrest him. Palestinian witnesses said the Israelis also opened fire on local youth, killing an unarmed 19-year-old traffic policeman. Another Palestinian was killed while fleeing arrest in Ramallah, Israel said. In Tul Karm, Israeli Border Police killed the head of the local al-Aksa Martyrs' Brigades. Israeli forces also killed two Palestinian gunmen in the center of Nablus. After the battle, residents came out of their homes to protest the Israeli-imposed curfew. One protester, who the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) claimed was armed, was shot dead, and Palestinian hospital sources said that 20 people were hurt. (Times of London, Dec. 27; Ha'aretz, Dec. 27)

On Dec. 27, two Palestinian gunmen, engineering students from the town of Dura near Hebron, infiltrated the Jewish settlement of Otniel and shot four Yeshiva students to death. The two attackers were themselves killed. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility. Israeli forces destroyed houses belonging to Islamic Jihad militants in Dura the next day. (AFP, Dec. 29)

Voice of Palestine radio reported that on Dec. 28 "four citizens were wounded when the occupation forces opened fire on hundreds of citizens held at Atarah Bridge, which was declared a closed military zone." (BBC Monitoring, Voice of Palestine, Dec. 29) That same day, Israeli troops on Dec. 28 dynamited the Palestinian preventive security headquarters in Deir Jareer near Ramallah. (Xinhua, Dec. 28)

Eleven-year-old Abdel Karim Salameh was killed when Israeli forces opened fire at crowd of stone-throwing children in Tul Karm on Dec. 30. A second boy was wounded in the leg by a rubber-coated steel bullet. The Israeli military denied live fire had been used. (UK Independent, Dec. 30)

AFP reports that on Dec. 30, near Jenin, a 37-year-old Palestinian schoolteacher was shot dead by an Israeli soldier after his car rammed into an army jeep, injuring an Israeli officer. It was not clear whether or not the crash was an accident. The man was unarmed. (AFP, Dec. 30) The Voice of Israel reported "a Palestinian got out of the vehicle and began running towards the soldiers. They opened fire and killed him." (BBC Monitoring: Voice of Israel, Dec. 30) The Palestinian news agency Wafa reported the incident differently: "Eyewitnesses said that teacher Asim Fu'ad Abd-al-Rahman Massad, 37, from Faqqu'ah in Jenin in the West Bank, was martyred when the occupation soldiers suddenly opened fire on him. Eyewitnesses noted that an Israeli military vehicle intercepted Massad's car near Al-Julmah military roadblock. His car lightly bumped against the Israeli vehicle. The soldiers ordered him to get out of the car and then shot him dead without any reason." (BBC Monitoring: Palestinian news agency Wafa, Dec. 30)

On Dec. 30, a Palestinian in Nablus was shot dead by Israeli forces occupying the city. Palestinian officials reported the man was throwing rocks at the IDF. The army said he had thrown a Molotov cocktail. Two other Palestinians were wounded, one critically. (AFP, Dec. 30) A 55-year-old Palestinian man from the village of Al-Nabi near Ramallah died Dec. 30 when Israeli troops prevented the car he was driving in from reaching the hospital. (BBC Monitoring, Voice of Palestine, Dec. 30)(David Bloom) [top]

The Israeli army destroyed 15 houses in the Rafah refugee camp near the border with Egypt on Dec. 24. A Palestinian security spokesman said the action left 100 people homeless. The army said its troops raided Rafah to destroy clandestine tunnels through which Palestinian militants smuggled weapons from Egypt into the Gaza Strip. (Xinhua, Dec. 24)

Voice of Palestine radio reported on Dec. 24 the IDF wounded a Palestinian man and inflicted heavy damage on residents' houses during an incursion into Al-Qararah and Al-Hay al-Namsawi, east of Khan Yunis. (BBC Monitoring: Voice of Palestine, Dec. 24)

On Dec. 24, Israeli forces opened fire at a group of Palestinians they described as digging a hole near an unmanned army outpost east of Jabaliyah in the Gaza Strip. One fifteen-year-old was killed, and five were wounded. (AP, Dec. 24; BBC Monitoring, Wafa, Dec. 24)

Palestinians said Israeli troops shot nine-year-old Hanneen Abu Suleiman in the head, as she played outside her home Dec. 28 in the town of Khan Younis. Witnesses said the gunfire came unprovoked from a Jewish settlement a few hundred yards away. The army said Palestinians in the area had fired at an army outpost. (AP, Dec. 28)

A Palestinian militant dressed in an IDF uniform cut through the fence separating Gaza from Israel and opened fire on an army patrol on Dec. 30. The patrol returned fire, killing him. (AFP, Dec. 30)

Two Palestinians were wounded in Rafah during a Dec. 30 raid by the IDF on the area near the border with Egypt. (Xinhua, Dec. 30)(David Bloom) [top]

Despite a ruling by the High Court of Justice forbidding the use of "neighbor practice," in which the IDF coerces neighbors of wanted suspects to serve as human shields in the arrests, human rights groups say the practice continues. Several affidavits filed in the court recounted incidents in which Palestinians claimed to have been forced to become human shields, a violation of the Geneva Convention. Three weeks ago, the army told the court it had issued orders that the practice must cease. (Ha'aretz, Dec. 25) (See also: Human Shield Killed in IDF "Neighbor Practice")(David Bloom) [top]

The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem says Israeli soldiers beat five Palestinians in a Hebron barbershop on Dec. 3, forcibly shaved the heads of two of the men, and tried to make a third swallow shampoo. A soldier hit one of the men in the face with a metal bucket. When Palestinian youths outside began throwing stones at the shop, the soldiers took cover behind the customers and fired at the stone throwers over their shoulders, illegally using the captives as human shields. B'Tselem added: "This grave incident is only the tip of the iceberg. Cases of punishment and abuse of Palestinians by IDF soldiers in the occupied territories occur daily." Recently, Palestinians in Hebron reported Israeli troops forced them to select which one of their limbs would be broken, in a macabre "lottery." (See WW3 REPORT #65)(AP, Dec. 30)(David Bloom) [top]

The Al-Hayat Al-Jadida daily newspaper reported Dec. 27 that the Israeli army abused a 14-year old Palestinian-American, Ahmad Abdel Haq. According to the boy's mother, soldiers raided her home after blowing open the front door with explosives. They forced the boy to sit on the floor and tie an al-Aksa Brigades headband on his head, then took pictures of him. She said an officer placed a Palestinian flag and two M-16 machine-guns behind him, as well as a number of hand grenades and another gun in front of him, and forced him to read a suicide bomber's statement. Haq's mother said the soldiers threatened to kill him if he told the media about the incident. Finally, he was thrown against the stairs, resulting in injuries to his head. She reported the incident to the US consulate, saying she feared the photographs might be used against her son. Haq's mother said the boy needed psychological care as a result of the incident. (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec. 27, trans.: Hear Palestine News Service)(David Bloom) [top]

An IDF soldier who shot and killed Fatma Obayed, a 95-year-old woman travelling in a taxi on a road forbidden to Palestinian vehicles, has been sentenced to 65 days in military prison. The IDF determined the shots were fired without justification, since the taxi did not pose a mortal threat to the soldiers. Mohammed Obayed, the victim's grandson, who lives in A'atara northwest of Ramallah, reacted angrily: "The Israeli army thinks that it is humanitarian and progressive, but this sentence shows its true face. The soldier's action was a very grave matter, but in my opinion whoever judged the soldier bears much greater responsibility since he has encouraged Palestinian blood to be spilled in the future. Other solders will understand that the price to be paid for such an act is just two months in prison." (Ha'aretz, Dec. 26)(David Bloom) [top]

Israel's election commission on Dec. 30 barred MK Ahmed Tibi, an Israeli Arab legislator from the Arab Movement for Renewal-Hadash Party, from participating in the upcoming elections. Tibi had drawn the ire of many in the Israeli political establishment when he called Palestinian resistance in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield last spring "an act of noble heroism." The electoral commission is comprised of representatives of Israeli parties currently in power, and the right-wing representatives voted against Tibi in a bloc. (AP, Dec. 30) Israeli High Court Justice Michael Chesin, who is overseeing the committee, had called on its members not to disqualify Tibi, despite noting that Tibi " often treads a very dangerous tightrope" and makes disturbing remarks. Cheshin called Tibi's disqualification "a bad and incorrect decision. Likud Justice minister Meir Sheetrit called the decision a "blunder."

The commission is also expected to bar Arab MK Azmi Bishara, and his entire Balad party as well. Bishara complimented Hezbollah on their "resistance" at an event commemorating Hafez Assad's death in Syria last year. "Balad's political-diplomatic line is support of Hezbollah," said the representative of Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein "They want to create a state on the ruins of the State of Israel." (Ha'aretz, Dec. 31) Israeli journalist Uri Avnery had this following observation: "If the Balad party or its chief is disqualified, all or most of the Arab citizens will boycott the elections. The Arab sector, constituting almost 20% of the Israeli population, will disappear from the political map. Without it, there is no chance for the Left ever to return to power, or even to play a meaningful role in a 'Unity Government.'"(New Profile, Dec. 28)

The same day it disqualified Tibi, the election commission again ignored Chesin's recommendation and approved former Kach leader Baruch Marzel to run on the extreme-right Herut list, led by MK Michael Kleiner. Israel banned the Kach movement in 1994 after a Kach supporter, Dr. Baruch Goldstein, shot and killed 29 Muslim worshippers at the tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Marzel was a protege of Rabbi Meir Kahane, the movement's leader, who was assassinated by an Egyptian gunman in New York in 1990. Herut calls for brutally crushing Palestinian resistance, and settling the occupied territories. (Reuters, Dec. 29) "This is the mark of Cain on the forehead of the Central Elections Committee and the political system, which approves such an anti-democratic racist reptile and wants to disqualify an authentic representative of the Arab public," Tibi told reporters.

The head of the Special Assignments Department at the attorney general's office, Talia Sasson, said during the deliberations that documents found at the offices of the Kach movement prove beyond a doubt that Marzel still leads the outlawed militant group, and therefore must be ruled out as a candidate for the Knesset. "I am still in a state of shock," Chesnin told an Israel Radio interview. "I must point out that the decision has left me greatly upset. I assumed all along that Marzel would not be allowed to run. Of course, I come from a very different world and, in that respect, I may be slightly naive." Interestingly, the left-wing Meretz faction joined the right-wing representatives on the electoral commission to approve Herut's list. (Ha'aretz, Dec. 30)(David Bloom) [top]

The Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot reported Dec. 30 that some 800 former members of the South Lebanese Army (SLA), Israel's Christian proxy army in Lebanon, were registered to vote in the Likud primary. Omri Sharon, son of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and number 27 on the Knesset list, helped the SLA members' absorption into Israel in exchange for their votes. Many Likud members were angered by the report, noting it was illegal for non-Israelis to be members of the party, or to vote in primary elections. Sharon junior dismissed the report. (Jerusalem Post, Dec. 30) (See also: Lebanese Mercs Find New Jobs at IDF Checkpoints)(David Bloom) [top]

A petition by eight reserve soldiers who have refused to serve in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip on moral grounds was rejected by the Israeli High Court of Justice on Dec. 30. The judges rejected the concept of selective conscientious objection--that is, choosing specific circumstances in which one refuses to serve, as opposed to outright pacifism. "In a society as pluralistic as ours, recognition of selective conscientious objection might loosen the links that hold us together as a people," wrote justice Aharon Barak. "Yesterday, the objection was to serve in southern Lebanon. Today, the objection is to serving in Judea and Samaria. Tomorrow, the objection will be to evacuating the outposts in the territories. The army of the people might turn into the army of [different] peoples, made up of different units, each of which has its own areas where it may operate and other areas where, for reasons of conscience, it may not." Lt. David Zonshain, a leader of the refusenik movement, was let out of military prison to appear before the court. Afterwards, he told reporters, "For 11 years I have served in the IDF as an officer in the paratroopers and it is a great privilege for me to do so. In the light of today's court decision, I will have the great privilege of serving in [military] jail Number Six. I think this is the best and most serious military service one can perform in the army today. It is the most Zionist and the most Jewish act and the only right one under these circumstances." When asked how his refusal differed from soldiers who refuse to remove "illegal" settlement outposts in the West Bank, Zonshein replied: "There is a big difference. The refusal to remove outposts is based on ideological and Messianic considerations whereas our refusal is based on universal values." (Jerusalem Post, Dec. 30) (See also: Refuseniks Mount Legal Challenge to Occupation)(David Bloom) [top]

On Dec. 28, about 350 anti-globalization activists from 25 different countries staged a solidarity demonstration in Ramallah. The activists were attending the World Social Forum in Palestine. The demonstrators marched with Palestinian flags, chanting "End the occupation, settlers out!" A statement from the organizers said the forum's purpose was to "integrate the Palestinian national cause in the global agenda of social movements" and "stir world public opinion in reaction to the Israeli abuse of human rights in the Palestinian territories." The four-day event is modeled on the World Social Forum held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, last February. After two days of workshops in Ramallah, the delegates went on field visits in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. (AFP, Dec. 28) 13 Belgian nationals headed for the meeting were sent back to Belgium when they arrived at Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport on Dec. 26. The Israeli Interior Ministry said the Belgians were expelled because they were considered likely to disturb the peace. (AP, Dec. 27)

On Dec. 29, 17 internationals joined more than 50 Palestinians in an attempt to deliver food and medical supplies to Mawasi, a Palestinian town behind an Israeli checkpoint surrounded by Jewish settlements near Rafah in Gaza. The IDF put up roadblocks, so demonstrators emptied the two ambulances full of supplies and proceeded on foot. At the Rafah-Masawi checkpoint, Israeli soldiers fired without warning, injuring a Palestinian AP photographer in the head. A press release from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) says 300 Palestinians and 25 international observers, from Britain, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Germany and the US, will try again on Dec. 31. 100 Palestinians from Mawasi will greet the demonstrators on the other side of the checkpoint. (ISM, Dec. 29; ISM, Dec. 31) The army closed off Mawasi two months ago, and Palestinian women who were in Rafah getting supplies and medical treatment have been prevented from returning. "Every day we go to al-Mawasi, the soldiers at the roadblock fire at us, and prevent us from entering into the area," one of the women complained. (Xinhua, Dec. 29)(David Bloom) [top]

On Dec. 25, longtime indigenous activist Dacajeweiah "Splitting the Sky" John Hill--a veteran of the 1971 Attica prison uprising in New York State as well as land struggles in British Columbia--joined Samer Elatrash, local Palestinian human rights activist, for a panel entitled "Land and Dignity: Bridging the First Nations and Palestinian resistance movements" at Montreal's Concordia University. Dacajeweiah called for a "global Intifada" against all forms of colonialism. "Not only is the Arab world in a resistance against colonialism," he said. "But the whole world is coming to a posture of an international uprising, an international revolution against the imperial powers of the world, in particular the rogue state of America and its NATO allies, and the real axis of evil--namely Tony Blair, George W Bush and Canada's own Jean Chretien." (Palestine Chronicle, Dec. 26) [top]


Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed a deployment order Dec. 24 sending "significant" ground forces, combat aircraft and logistics support to the Persian Gulf, the Pentagon announced Dec. 27. The classified order identifies an array of forces and capabilities--including mechanized infantry units, mid-air re-fuelers and medical facilities--that will be deployed to Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and other Gulf nations in the coming weeks. The order leaves it up to the various military services to decide what specific units will fulfill the force requirements. The Navy responded by issuing "prepare to deploy" orders to two aircraft carrier battle groups and activated a hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, based in Baltimore, and ordered its crew to prepare a 1,000-bed trauma center. (Washington Post, Dec. 28)

See also WW3 REPORT #65 [top]

Baghdad shot down an unmanned Predator spy plane over southern Iraq Dec. 23. An Iraqi fighter jet reportedly violated an allied no-fly zone in the south to fire at the drone before retreating north. "They got a lucky shot today, and they brought down the Predator," Gen. Richard B. Myers, Joint Chiefs chairman, admitted at a Pentagon press conference. (Washington Times, Dec. 24) [top]

With chants of "no blood for oil," some 1,000 marched through the French Mediterranean port of Marseille Dec. 26 to protest the passage of a US Navy battle group headed for the Persian Gulf. The battle group, led by aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, has nearly a dozen ships with 8,000 sailors and Marines, ended a five-day stop in Marseille Dec. 25. Bernard Genet, a spokesperson for anti-war group Understand and Act criticized France's policy of opening ports to US flotillas. France officially maintains a critical distance from the US/UK war drive, saying that everything must be done to avoid military action. (AP, Dec. 26) [top]

With international aid groups warning that a military assault on Iraq could lead to a "humanitarian disaster" and up to 1 million refugees fleeing the country, the UK's International Development Secretary, Clare Short, broke ranks with the government, insisting that war against Saddam Hussein cannot be justified if it causes "devastating suffering" to his people. (UK Independent, Dec. 29) UNICEF and the World Food Program are already moving emergency supplies to Iraq and neighboring countries in anticipation of a refugee crisis and potential starvation. A special meeting called at the UN to address the looming catastrophe found that conditions in Iraq "after years of sanctions" are far worse than they were after Operation Desert Storm, with 'high levels of vulnerability and dependence'. The 1991 war caused more than a million Kurds alone to flee the fighting and an unknown number "probably greater" of southern Shiites. (UK Observer, Dec. 22) [top]

On Nov. 22, two vehicles of Turkey's MIT intelligence service and a military tank were ambushed near the village of Kiste-Nzure in Barwari Bala, Duhok Governorate, northern Iraq, by the guerrillas of KADEK, or Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress--the successor organization of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). After several hours of fierce fighting, four Turkish officers were killed and others were wounded, and the tank was badly damaged. The guerrillas also seized some military equipment and ammunition. After the fighting, the Turkish army, supported by military helicopters, launched an incursion to recover the bodies and to pursue the KADEK guerrillas. After more heavy fighting they succeeded in recovering the bodies.

(Hawlati, Al-Sulaymaniyah, Iraq [in Sorani Kurdish], Dec. 2, via BBC Monitoring, Dec. 24)

See also WW3 REPORT #52 [top]

The Ukrainian airliner which crashed in Iran on Dec. 23 may have been shot down by forces patrolling the no-fly zones over Iraq, Gov. Yevhen Kushnaryov of the eastern Ukrainian district of Kharkiv said in a TV interview. At least 44 people died in the crash. Said Gov. Yevhen Kushnaryov: "Accidents like this can be caused by anything: a mistake on the part of the crew, engine failure or some other technical reason. But we should keep in mind that this zone is close to Iraq, where a special [no-fly] regime is in place. That is, nothing should be ruled out..." (Inter-TV, Kiev [in Russian], Dec. 24, via BBC Monitoring) [top]

The head of the Tehran-based Office of Jihad of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq said that that group does not approve of US military intervention. In an interview with correspondents, Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim stressed that "the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq wants the Iraqi regime to be overthrown by the Iraqi people." (Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network 1 [in Persian], Dec. 28, via BBC Monitoring)

See also WW3 REPORT #63 [top]

Finally, a mainstream US newspaper has taken note of current Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's role in the arming of Iraq with chemical weapons in the 1980s. Wrote the Washington Post Dec. 30: "High on the Bush administration's list of justifications for war against Iraq are President Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons, nuclear and biological programs, and his contacts with international terrorists. What US officials rarely acknowledge is that these offenses date back to a period when Hussein was seen in Washington as a valued ally. Among the people instrumental in tilting US policy toward Baghdad during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war was Donald H. Rumsfeld, now defense secretary, whose December 1983 meeting with Hussein as a special presidential envoy paved the way for normalization of US-Iraqi relations. Declassified documents show that Rumsfeld traveled to Baghdad at a time when Iraq was using chemical weapons on an 'almost daily' basis in defiance of international conventions."

The Post reviewed thousands of declassified government documents and conducted numerous interviews with former policymakers, determining that "US intelligence and logistical support played a crucial role in shoring up Iraqi defenses against the 'human wave' attacks by suicidal Iranian troops. The administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush authorized the sale to Iraq of numerous items that had both military and civilian applications, including poisonous chemicals and deadly biological viruses, such as anthrax and bubonic plague."

The Reagan administration also supplied intelligence on Iranian troop buildups to Saddam Hussein regime Iraqis, sometimes through third parties such as Saudi Arabia. The US "tilt" to Iraq in the war was enshrined in National Security Decision Directive 114 of Nov. 26, 1983, which still remains classified. Former officials told the Post the directive stated that the US would do "whatever was necessary and legal" to prevent Iraq from losing the war with Iran. But that "legality" seems dubious at best, as the Post reports that the directive "was issued amid a flurry of reports that Iraqi forces were using chemical weapons in their attempts to hold back the Iranians. In principle, Washington was strongly opposed to chemical warfare, a practice outlawed by the 1925 Geneva Protocol. In practice, U.S. condemnation of Iraqi use of chemical weapons ranked relatively low on the scale of administration priorities, particularly compared with the all-important goal of preventing an Iranian victory."

On Nov. 1, 1983, senior State Department official Jonathan T. Howe, told Secretary of State George P. Shultz that intelligence reports showed Iraq was resorting to "almost daily use of CW" against Iranian troops. "But the Reagan administration had already committed itself to a large-scale diplomatic and political overture to Baghdad, culminating in several visits by the president's recently appointed special envoy to the Middle East, Donald H. Rumsfeld." Secret talking points prepared for Rumsfeld's first visit to Baghdad used some of the language from NSDD 114, including the statement that the US would regard "any major reversal of Iraq's fortunes as a strategic defeat for the West." When Rumsfeld met with Saddam on Dec. 20, he told the dictator that Washington was ready for a resumption of full diplomatic relations, according to a State Department report of the conversation. Iraqi leaders later described themselves as "extremely pleased" with the Rumsfeld visit, which had "elevated US-Iraqi relations to a new level."

The Reagan administration removed Iraq from the State Department terrorism list in February 1982--over the objections of Congress. Iraq--along with Syria, Libya and South Yemen--was one of four original countries on the list when it was first drawn up in 1979. Some former US officials say that removing Iraq from the list provided Saddam with an incentive to expel Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal from Baghdad in 1983. But Iraq continued to host Abu Abbas, leader of the Palestine Liberation Front, who took refuge in Baghdad after being expelled from Tunis for masterminding the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro, in which an elderly American tourist was killed.

According to a sworn court affidavit prepared by former National Security Council official Howard Teicher in 1995, the US "actively supported the Iraqi war effort by supplying the Iraqis with billions of dollars of credits, by providing military intelligence and advice to the Iraqis, and by closely monitoring third country arms sales to Iraq to make sure Iraq had the military weaponry required." The affidavit said that former CIA director William Casey used a Chilean company, Cardoen, to supply Iraq with cluster bombs.

The Reagan administration also turned a blind eye to the export of "dual use" items such as chemical precursors that have military and civilian applications. Writes the Post: "When United Nations weapons inspectors were allowed into Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, they compiled long lists of chemicals, missile components, and computers from American suppliers, including such household names as Union Carbide and Honeywell, which were being used for military purposes. A 1994 investigation by the Senate Banking Committee turned up dozens of biological agents shipped to Iraq during the mid-'80s under license from the Commerce Department, including various strains of anthrax, subsequently identified by the Pentagon as a key component of the Iraqi biological warfare program. The Commerce Department also approved the export of insecticides to Iraq, despite widespread suspicions that they were being used for chemical warfare."

Iraq's use of chemical weapons was no secret. In February 1984, an Iraqi military spokesman virtually acknowledged their use in a warning to Iran: "The invaders should know that for every harmful insect, there is an insecticide capable of annihilating itÉand Iraq possesses this annihilation insecticide." In December 1988, Dow Chemical sold $1.5 million of pesticides to Iraq, despite concerns that they could be used as chemical warfare agents. An Export-Import Bank official reported in a memorandum that he could find "no reason" to stop the sale, despite evidence that the pesticides were "highly toxic" to humans and would cause death "from asphyxiation." State Department reports note the by 1987, the Iraqi air force was also using chemical weapons against Kurdish guerillas in then north of Iraq. Today, Bush administration spokesmen cite Saddam's use of chemical weapons "against his own people" to bolster their argument that his regime presents a "grave and gathering danger" to the US.

The Saddam-friendly policy still hadn't turned around on the very eve of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. When the then-U.S. ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, met with Saddam on July 25, 1990, a week before the invasion, she assured him that Bush "wanted better and deeper relations," according to an Iraqi transcript. "President Bush is an intelligent man," the ambassador told Hussein, referring to the father of the current president. "He is not going to declare an economic war against Iraq."

See also WW3 REPORT #48 [top]

Hussain al-Shahristani, an exiled Iraqi nuclear scientist who was tortured and imprisoned for 11 years for refusing to work on Saddam's secret nuclear program, accused the United Kingdom of supplying Saddam's dictatorship with the very equipment that was used to torture him. "When I was in jail I was held with British-made handcuffs," said al-Shahristani. "In the cells next door, I could hear the screams of people who were having holes drilled into their bones. Those drills were made in Britain." Al-Shahristani made his comments at a press conference where he was chosen to present a new 23-page report from the British Foreign Office on rights abuses in Saddam's Iraq. He embarrassed officials by straying from the script to accuse Britain of complicity with Saddam's regime. (UK Telegraph, Dec. 3) [top]

The New York Times' Dec. 3 account of the new British report mentioned the its accusation of Iraq's "Unique Horror" in the headline--but made no mention of al-Shahristani's own accusation. It only mentioned that the scientist "noted that the British and American governments had not been so concerned about human rights in Iraq in the past," and quoted him saying, "However, later is better than never."

The Times account did, however, quote Amnesty International accusing British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of a "cold and calculated manipulation" of the human rights situation in Iraq to back up the case for military moves against Baghdad. "Let us not forget that these same governments turned a blind eye to Amnesty International's reports of widespread human rights violations in Iraq before the gulf war," said the secretary general of the group, Irene Khan.

See also WW3 REPORT # 62 [top]

Admitting that the details are "murky," the New York Post reported Dec. 12 that the Bush administration has "credible evidence" that Saddam's Iraq supplied "al-Qaeda-linked extremists" with "a deadly chemical weapon"--possibly the nerve agent VX. The paper cited anonymous "officials" claiming that the agent "was smuggled through Turkey for a possible attack in Europe or the United States or both." The group in question was identified as "Asbat al-Ansar, a Lebanon-based Sunni group that receives financial support from al-Qaeda." [top]

Arab leaders seeking to avoid a new war they fear could ignite the whole Middle East are considering the possibility of pressing Saddam Hussein to step down and go into exile, diplomats say. "There is a strong feeling that the United States is after Saddam and not after weapons of mass destruction and therefore efforts should focus on how to persuade Saddam to leave," said one Arab diplomat on condition of anonymity. Regional newspapers have carried reports of offers made to Saddam to flee to Egypt or Libya, even Cuba or North Korea, but no government has commented officially on the prospect. (AP, Dec. 29) [top]

The bombing of factories during the 1999 NATO campaign in Yugoslavia may have long-term environmental and health effects, according to a new report, raising questions about the pending military assault on Iraq. The report by the Washington-area Institute for Energy and Environmental Research warns that bombardment of industrial facilities may violate international humanitarian law. "Precision targeting may be intended to minimize civilian damage, but the choice of targets may still violate the international laws of war, including the Geneva Conventions," said Nicole Deller, a lawyer and co-author of the study. "The deliberate targeting of industrial facilities that hold little military value yet can cause severe health and environmental damage appear to violate these laws."

The institute studied the bombardment of the Zastava car factory in Kragujevac, some 100 kilometers south of Belgrade, and a petrochemical plant, fertilizer plant and oil refinery in Pancevo, about 20 kilometers northeast of the capital. Both cities were designated environmental "hot spots" by the UN Environment Program Balkans Task Force after the bombings. "There is no doubt that the bombings released large quantities of contaminants such as mercury, but it is impossible to precisely determine their effects because of lack of data about pre-conflict pollution levels," said Sriram Gopal, the report's main author. In Pancevo, the bombings resulted in major releases of the toxic chemicals dichloroethane and mercury. In Kragujevac, bombed transformer stations at the car factory leaked toxic PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyls, which have been linked to some cancers.

The institute said the Pentagon bottlenecked its investigation by rejecting its Freedom of Information Act request for the targeting criteria used in the bombings, handing over 42 blank pages that were marked declassified. An analysis of the Yugoslav bombing campaign carried out this year by the US General Accounting Office also remains classified. Despite incomplete data, the institute said the report shows the need to redefine how "collateral damage" is evaluated. "Currently collateral damage is measured in terms such as the number of civilian casualties or the cost of replacing property," Gopal said. "Long-term harm to the environment can be much more difficult to quantify and evaluate, despite its very significant costsÉ. As this study indicates, the health and environmental consequences of precision bombing can affect unborn generations far into the future, even when the bombs are entirely successful in finding their targets." (AP, Nov. 5) [top]


CIA interrogators have been using "stress and duress" techniques on captured fighters in Afghanistan, the Washington Post reported Dec. 26. The paper described a cluster of metal shipping containers it said constituted a secret CIA interrogation center at Bagram Air Base, headquarters of US forces in Afghanistan. Captives who refused to cooperate were often kept standing or kneeling for hours, in black hoods or spray-painted goggles, the report said, citing anonymous intelligence specialists. At times they were held in awkward, painful positions and deprived of sleep with a 24-hour bombardment of lights. Those who cooperated were rewarded with "creature comforts" as well as feigned friendship, respect, cultural sensitivity and, sometimes, money. On the other hand, some who refused to cooperate were turned over--"rendered," in official parlance--to foreign intelligence services whose use of torture has been documented by the US government and human rights organizations. US officials have said little publicly about the captives' names, numbers or whereabouts, and virtually nothing about interrogation methods. The Post based its account on interviews with several former and ten current intelligence officials--including several who said they had witnessed the handling of prisoners. The paper said that all interviewed defended the interrogation techniques as necessary. A second interrogation center was reported to be on Diego Garcia, a British-controlled island in the Indian Ocean. According to US officials, nearly 3,000 suspected al-Qaeda members and supporters have been detained worldwide since September 11, 2001. About 625 are at the US Navy's facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Approximately 100 have been "rendered" to third countries. Thousands more have been arrested and held with US assistance in countries known for brutal treatment of prisoners, the officials were quoted as saying. (Reuters, Dec. 26)

A letter from Moazzam Begg, 35, the only British prisoner being held at Bagram, to his wife in Birmingham, wrote of hunger and being kept awake by bright lights. "I still don't know what will happen with me," he lamented. So far the US has admitted that two men held at Bagram have died in custody--one from a heart attack and the other from a pulmonary embolism, or blood clot on the lung. An investigation is now under way, but no reason has been given for what caused the injuries. The US has been equally silent in the case of Begg. British Foreign Office officials admit that after 11 months of asking they have still not been able to see him to check on his health. Begg has not seen a lawyer, a Red Cross official or any member of his family either since he was arrested in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad last February. When the US bombing began in November 2001, Begg closed down the school he had opened in Kabul and moved to Pakistan--where he was arrested, bundled into a car and smuggled back over the border into Afghanistan, first to Kandahar and then to Bagram. (UK Observer, Dec. 29) [top]

Human Rights Watch responded to the Washington Post allegations of harsh interrogation techniques at Bagram Air Base by sending a Dec. 26 letter to the White House demanding an investigation and reminding President Bush that torture is illegal under international law. The letter read in part:

"Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned by allegations of torture and other mistreatment of suspected al-Qaeda detainees described in the Washington Post ('US Decries Abuse but Defends Interrogations') on December 26. The allegations, if true, would place the United States in violation of some of the most fundamental prohibitions of international human rights law. Any US government official who is directly involved or complicit in the torture or mistreatment of detainees, including any official who knowingly acquiesces in the commission of such acts, would be subject to prosecution worldwide. Human Rights Watch urges you to take immediate steps to clarify that the use of torture is not US policy, investigate the Washington Post's allegations, adopt all necessary measures to end any ongoing violations of international law, stop the rendition of detainees to countries where they are likely to be tortured, and prosecute those implicated in such abuse." [top]

A US soldier was seriously wounded with a gunshot wound to the head at Kandahar Air Field, but not by enemy fire, Pentagon sources said. The soldier, who was not identified, was flown to a US military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, but was later moved to a undisclosed location. The Pentagon declined to provide details of the shooting, but said it was being investigated. (Newsday, Dec. 30) [top]

At least 41 children died of severe cold this December at Afghan refugee camps on the border with Pakistan, aid workers report. Haji Abdul Ghani, of the Pakistan-based Edhi Welfare Trust, told Reuters that squalid conditions in four camps around the southern Afghan town of Spin Boldak, combined with freezing temperatures, threaten another 1,200 children. Ghani said pneumonia, tuberculosis and malaria are all prevalent at the camps. Nearly 100,000 live in camps at Spin Boldak without adequate clothing or shelter, with another 35,000 in similar camps on the Pakistan side of the border. Afghanistan has an estimated 700,000 internally displaced people. About 400,000 are scattered around southern areas of the country, having been forced from their homes by drought and war. Many have been filtering back into Afghanistan from Pakistan and Iran since the fall of the Taliban, but adequate resources are not available for the returnees, and the eastern border has now been sealed by Pakistani troops pursuing Taliban/al Qaeda remnants forces. (Reuters, Dec. 15) [top]

Oct. 19 saw a conference at New York City's Barnard College entitled "Afghan Women Report: Achievements and Challenges One Year After Bonn," looking back at events since the international conference which established the framework for Afghanistan's new government. But NYC activist Anne Jaclard reports in the November issue of the bulletin News & Letters:

"RAWA (Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan) had been invited to the conference, but the U.S. refused to give its representative a visa. I missed hearing RAWA's principled stand that only a secular government can establish women's rights. Since all the Afghan speakers had either advocated a moderate Islamic government, avoided the issue, or assumed that was the best one could hope for, I asked the speakers to address the issue of a secular government. The idea was dismissed as impossible 'because people won't accept it' by Fatima Gailani, who had been the spokesperson for the Mujahadeen (religious army) when it was fighting the Soviet Union, and who only recently became active in women's rights." [top]

Officials from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Pakistan met in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat, to sign an agreement on construction of a gas pipeline crossing the three countries. This follows an Islamabad summit meeting bringing together the presidents of the three countries in May when the project received formal approval. With improved regional security after the fall of the Taliban last year, the three governments have decided to push ahead with plans for the ambitious 1,500-kilometer gas pipeline. The trans-Afghan pipeline would export Turkmen gas via Afghanistan to Pakistani ports, from where it could reach world markets. India is the largest potential buyer and Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Delhi was welcome to join the project. The Asian Development Bank is carrying out a study for the project, but investors remain cautious about putting money into Afghanistan--where the central government still has only limited influence in regions the pipeline would cross. (BBC, Dec. 27)

See also WW3 REPORT #s 46 and 37 [top]


Two attackers covered in burkas (traditional women's robes) tossed a grenade at a small church during Christmas services in Chianwala, 40 miles outside Lahore, Pakistan, killing three and wounding 11 others. (NYT, Dec. 26) [top]

Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, suggested in Dec. 30 comments that he was ready to use nuclear weapons if Indian forces had entered his territory during escalated tensions over the past year. "I personally conveyed messages to [Indian] Prime Minister [Atal Bihari] Vajpayee through every international leader who came to Pakistan that if Indian troops moved a single step across the international border or Line of Control, they should not expect a conventional war from Pakistan," the general told a gathering of Pakistani air force veterans. He did not specifically mention nuclear arms, and the government later said he was not referring to the use of such weapons--without explaining what he actually meant. (AP, Dec. 31) [top]


The death toll from a suicide bombing at the headquarters of the pro-Russian government in Chechnya stood at 61 when rescuers called off the search for survivors Dec. 29, two days after the attack devastated the compound in the Chechen capital, Grozny. Officials in the republic blamed rebel Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov for the attack, but Maskhadov denied any involvement. Authorities in Moscow blamed the attack on "international terrorism." Officials say three bombers wearing Russian military uniforms drove two trucks through the gates of the compound, before detonating explosives equivalent to one ton of TNT. (BBC, Dec. 29) (

Muslim Brotherhood leader Mamoun el-Hodeiby, speaking to the AP from his Egypt headquarters Dec. 29, also denied accusations by Russian counter-terrorism officials that a member of the organization was among those who planned the Chechnya attack. "We as the Muslim Brotherhood cannot be part of such acts, never," said el-Hodeiby, who has been a vocal supporter of the Chechen separatist cause. "The Russians should not blame others for what they are doing to the Chechen people," he said. The ITAR-Tass news agency reported that a Russian counter-terrorism official, Col. Ilya Shabalkin, had named Chechen rebel warlord Shamil Basayev and a Muslim Brotherhood member identified as Abu al-Walid ordered the bombing. Yasser el-Sirri of the London-based Islamic Observation Center, told the AP that Abu al-Walid is the nom de guerre of Abdel Aziz al-Ghamidi, a Saudi militant who took over from warlord Omar Ibn al Khattab, who died mysteriously in Chechnya earlier this year. Khattab, believed to have ties with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, was responsible for some of the Chechen rebels' boldest attacks. (AP, Dec. 29)

See also WW3 REPORT # 31

While the Kremlin and FSB (former KGB) warn of "Arab mercenaries" and "international terrorism" at work in Chechnya, some commentators in Russia point to Moscow's own brutal counter-insurgency war as laying the seeds of terror in the conflicted Caucasus republic. "Young Chechens are growing impatient with the moderate political approaches of [elected Chechen rebel president Aslan] Maskhadov," said Anna Politkovskaya, an independent Russian journalist who has been widely praised for her courageous reporting of Russian military abuses against Chechen civilians. "The young radicals believe that only the most painful terrorist methods can win." In the first Chechen war, 1994-96, Chechen rebels did resort to hostage-taking, but shunned suicide tactics and showed little interest in Islamic ideology. "The horrors of the current war [1999-present] have given rise to a generation that knows nothing but the Koran and fighting," said Ruslan Khasbulatov, a Moscow-based Chechen moderate and former Speaker of the Russian parliament. "This has happened in response to the zachistki," the reputedly brutal Russian security sweeps, "which are driving young Chechens to join rebel detachments in ever larger numbers." (Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 30) [top]

Days before the devastating suicide attack, Umalt Dudayev in Grozny wrote for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting on the assassinations of Said-Pasha Salekhov and his son by unidentified assailants in the village of Stariye Atagi, 20 kilometers south of the Chechen capital. Salekhov, 50, was a descendant of the ancient Arab tribe of Kureishi--to which the prophet Mohammed himself supposedly belonged--and was one of Chechnya's most respected religious leaders. The locals blame the Nov. 21 killings on Wahhabi militants--but few will speak openly, fearing for their own lives. The pro-Moscow interior ministry in Grozny reports that since Russia began its current war in Chechnya three years ago, some 30 prominent religious figures and upwards of 200 regional and local government officials have been killed at the hands of Islamic militants in the republic. Any contact with Russian authorities is sufficient to land local religious leaders on the Wahhabi hit list. "We are caught between a rock and a hard place," admitted the deputy governor of one of Chechnya's municipalities, who did not want to be named. "The Russians don't trust us as they think we collaborate with the guerrillas. On the other hand, the Wahhabis are after us. As far as they are concerned, we are all traitors, or kafir [Arabic for apostate]."

Non-governmental organizations in Chechnya estimate that up to ten percent of the populace now supports the hardline Islamists, who have even infiltrated the security forces. "When the new war began in Chechnya, many Wahhabi militants shaved off their beards, bought themselves fake papers and dispersed among civilian population," said Magomed Bakhaev, deputy chief of police of the Urus-Martan district. "Many of them have joined the regular police force, riot police and other interior ministry departments. There is a sprawling, powerful network of Wahhabi militants operating across Chechnya, which has hardly been affected by Russia's anti-extremism effort." Bakhaev said the clandestine Wahhabi network recruits young Chechens into Jamaats-militant Islamic squads-and pays for undercover operations against Russian troops and Chechen officials. "They are everywhere," he said. "They are watching for those Chechens who collaborate with Russian authorities, and make lists of local officials. Then the Sharia [Islamic law] court issues death sentences in absentia to those people..."

Fundamentalist Islam first appeared in Chechnya via the Arab volunteers who came to fight in the first war against the Russians, from 1994-6. Several of the Islamic radicals had fought the Soviet army in Afghanistan and wanted to continue the struggle in Chechnya. They included Fathi, a Chechen of Jordanian origin, and Khattab, a Saudi who died last spring under mysterious circumstances. Khattab has since been replaced by his deputy, known as Abu Walid. Some say Abu Walid is a Jordanian Chechen, others claim that, like Khattab, he comes from southern Saudi Arabia.

The end of the first war left several militant groups in powerful positions. The Akhmadov brothers, Arbi Barayev and Abdul Malik, became wealthy through kidnapping and seizing oilfields. Post-war ruin and unemployment have driven many young Chechens into the hands of these Islamic militias. But most Chechens are Sufi Muslims, whose religious practices are strongly interwoven with old customs and Chechen common law, known as adat. Chechens worship their own saints--evlia--who brought Islam to the mountainous country centuries ago. The militant newcomers rejected these indigenous traditions as apostasy--and were, in turn, viewed with suspicion by many Chechens. "The Wahhabi militias were manned by junkies, drunks and generally people of dubious background," recalled Zaindi-Haji, a mullah from Pervomaiskoe near Grozny. "To be sure, there were some honest acolytes of 'pure Islam' among them, as well, but most of them were in it only for the money. They would stop at nothing to achieve their mercenary ends. They used religion to brainwash young Chechens and cause splits in society. This was a great evil for which they will never be forgiven."

However, just as support for fundamentalist Islam was waning, Russia's new war against Chechnya in 1999 drove young people back into the arms of Wahhabi teachings and Jamaat squads. "Our young people have lost moral guidance," lamented Sharani Jambekov, a professor at the university in Grozny. "The war has wreaked havoc on their views and system of values. Every single Chechen family has lost someone in the war. Young people see it as their duty to avenge the death of their next of kin, and that's the main reason why many of them join Wahhabi movements."

(Umalt Dudayev is the pseudonym of a Chechen journalist) [top]


The North Korean government moved 1,000 uranium fuel rods to the Yongbyon nuclear reactor Dec. 26, saying that it wanted to restart it to produce electricity. But John Large, one of Britain's leading nuclear experts, says restarting the reactor could enable North Korea to produce nuclear weapons in as little as 30 days. North Korea's move comes just a week after the authorities unilaterally disabled monitoring equipment and seals put in place by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency under a 1994 deal in which the US promised to supply oil in exchange for North Korea shutting down its nuclear program. Pyongyang says it needs the electricity to compensate for the US suspension of oil shipments after North Korea admitted in October that it was still trying to develop nuclear weapons. But Large, a former British Naval technician, is skeptical. "All scenarios point to the finishing of the development of nuclear weapons," he said. "It brings the whole of South-East Asia into political instability." (London Times, Dec. 27)

A Russian Foreign Ministry official accused President Bush on Dec. 23 of having sparked the crisis by "blackmailing North Korea with its difficult economic situation." Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov said Bush incited North Korea's steps to unfreeze its nuclear program by branding it part of the "axis of evil." Mamedov asked the Vremya Novostei daily newspaper: "How should a small country feel when it is told that it is all but part of forces of evil of biblical proportions and should be fought against until total annihilation?" That same day, Russia's Foreign Ministry expressed Moscow's official regret over Pyongyang's statement that it had started removing the monitoring equipment. In Washington, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker dismissed the suggestion that Bush was to blame as "absurd," noting that Mamedov's assessment contrasted with the official position of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

A Russian nuclear arms expert also said that while North Korea may soon have enough plutonium to develop low-yield nuclear weapons, it still faced major obstacles. "North Korea lacks the necessary technology to build certain components, such as detonators to explode nuclear devices, and some others," Sergei Kazennov of the Institute of World Economy and International relations told Itar-Tass news agency. (Reuters, Dec. 23)

The crisis deepened Dec. 27 when the joint US/UN command monitoring the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea announced that North Korean troops have been moving weapons into the zone in violation of the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War. US/UN authorities said an investigation had confirmed reports by South Korean soldiers that North Korean troops had brought 7.62mm machine-guns into the area six times between Dec 13 and 20. The weapons were reportedly set up 100 to 400 yards north of the Military Demarcation Line, and removed at the end of each day. (UK Telegraph, Dec. 28)

Ironically, one important test will be whether work continues on the two new nuclear power plants North Korea is allowed under the 1994 agreement with the US. The group building them--the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), financed largely by Japan and South Korea--will meet soon to decide. If that work goes on--under close international supervision, but with Pyongyang's approval--it could be a sign of progress. (BBC, Dec. 27) Russian officials, meanwhile, charged that KEDO helped spark the crisis by stalling construction of the new reactors. "The main conflict here is linked to the fact that KEDO countries have not fulfilled duties they promised to,' said Russia's Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev. (The Straits Times, Dec. 29)

But US oil shipments are essential to poverty-wracked North Korea until the permitted new reactors are completed. On Nov. 14, in response to Pyongyang's statement that it was still pursuing nuclear weapons, President George Bush declared that November's oil shipments to the North would be the last if North Korea did not agree to halt its weapons ambitions. However, confusion clouded the North Korean statement which sparked the controversy. A key Korean phrase interpreted to mean the North actually posses nuclear weapons could have been mistaken for the phrase "entitled to have"--according to Seoul, capital of South Korea, which is wary of a new war on the peninsula. (BBC, Dec. 27)

Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Dec. 23 the US is prepared to wage war against North Korea and Iraq simultaneously. "I have no reason to believe that North Korea feels emboldened because of the world's interest in Iraq," Rumsfeld said. "If they do, it would be a mistake. We are perfectly capable of doing that which is necessary." (Washington Times, Dec. 24)

North Korea also issued an official protest of the new James Bond film, "Die Another Day," which begins with the fictional secret agent being captured and tortured for months by North Korean forces, and ends with him foiling a North Korean attempt to invade the South and attack US forces with space-based weapons. The statement said the formulaic Pierce Brosnan/Halle Berry star vehicle "clearly proves" the US is "the root cause of all disasters and misfortune of the Korean nation" and is "an empire of evil." The statement, released by North Korea's Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, demanded the US stop showing the film. The film--which closes with Brosnan and Berry having sex in a Buddhist temple--has also aroused hostility and calls for a boycott in the South, where anti-US sentiment has swelled since the acquittals of two US soldiers whose armored vehicle killed two Korean girls in June. (BBC, Dec. 14)

See also WW3 REPORT # 56 [top]

Not to be left out of the fun, Iran--the third leg of Bush's "axis of evil"--also insisted it is forging ahead with its controversial new nuclear reactor. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said US concerns that Iran was developing nuclear technology for military purposes were unfounded. The International Atomic Energy Agency will send inspectors to check Iran's nuclear facilities in February, after Tehran postponed a visit scheduled for this month. Kharrazi told official state media: "Iran has no plan to produce nuclear weapons, and all efforts in this field are intended for peaceful means." But US officials said that secret facilities at Arak and Natanz spotted in commercial satellite photographs, were both of a type that could be used to help build a nuclear weapon. A new nuclear plant is also being built, with the help of Russian technicians at the port of Bushehr, and is scheduled to begin operating in 2004. US officials argue that a weapons program is the only reason an oil-rich state like Iran would need a nuclear plant. (BBC, Dec. 14)

See also WW3 REPORT #s 45 , 40 [top]

Buried in the $393 billion defense authorization bill that Congress approved in November was an obscure item authorizes the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration, which manages the US nuclear stockpile, to spend $15 million to study modifying nuclear weapons to be used to destroy underground factories or laboratories. The US produced a preliminary "bunker-buster" weapon in 1997 by repackaging a hydrogen bomb into a hardened case. Pentagon planners contend that such new weapons are needed against the deeply buried and fortified installations that some countries, including Iraq and North Korea, are thought to use for producing and storing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The Energy Department is also considering building a new installation for making the plutonium "pits" that are at the heart of nuclear bombs. The plant would cost $2.2 billion to $4.1 billion, the department estimates. It intends to issue a decision on construction in April 2004. "At a time when we are trying to discourage other countries--such as North Korea--from developing nuclear weapons, it looks hypocritical for us to be preparing to introduce a whole new generation of nuclear weapons into the arsenal," said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA). (NYT, Nov. 16)

See also WW3 REPORT #46 [top]

A leading Pakistani nuclear scientist, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, barred by his government from talking to reporters, has made it known through his son that Osama bin Laden approached him before the 9-11 attacks for help in making nuclear weapons. The al-Qaeda leader was rebuffed, the son, Azim Mahmood, said in an interview with the AP. "Basically Osama asked my father, 'How can a nuclear bomb be made and can you help us make one?'" he said. "My father said, 'No, and secondly you must understand it is not child's play for you to build a nuclear bomb.'" Dr. Mahmood, is under a gag order from Pakistani intelligence officials, but his conversations with bin Laden in meetings in 2000 and as late as July 2001 were reconstructed for the AP by his son. Azim Mahmood said his father met with bin Laden in Afghanistan several times, "and definitely this question of building a nuclear bomb came up." The father was detained in November 2001, and released in February, but has to carry a mobile phone at all times so Pakistani intelligence can track his movements. Azim said his father's US interrogators were particularly intrigued by one of his books, "Doomsday and Life After Death." Dr. Mahmood first met bin Laden in 2000 while visiting Afghanistan to build a school, the son said. "My father shared the Taliban thinking. He liked their system of government. He wanted to help them." When bin Laden learned a nuclear scientist was in Kabul, he sent an al-Qaeda operative, Abu Bilal, to his hotel to arrange a meeting.

In a separate interview, Mullah Mohammed Khaksar, a former senior Taliban official, said bin Laden was trying to obtain nuclear materials, but he could not say whether the effort succeeded. The Mullah, who renounced the Taliban last year but had made contact with US officials in 1999, said he knew of several mysterious shipments that entered Afghanistan and were stored at a warehouse in Kandahar, a Taliban stronghold. One was a balloon-like container covered in aluminum and others were capsules the length of a man's hand, the Mullah said. Azim Mahmood said his father was uncertain whether al-Qaeda possessed nuclear material. "At one meeting they brought a box, a thing that someone had sold to them for a huge amount of money, but my father laughed and said it was nothing," he said. (AP, Dec. 29)

See also WW3 REPORT #s 15 and 2 [top]

US postal workers will be offered potassium iodide pills to protect against cancer in the event of a nuclear or radiological emergency. The USPS said it was buying nearly 1.6 million pills from Tampa-based Anbex, Inc. for distribution to all 750,000 postal workers. "Employees are out there in all of these communities nationwide and we wanted to err on the side of caution," Postal Service spokeswoman Sue Brennan said. (AP, Dec. 3) [top]

US plans to make Greenland a cornerstone in the new missile shield system is sparking protest among the ice-capped island's 56,000 Inuit (Eskimo) inhabitants. Greenland's military base at Thule, just 800 miles from the North Pole, hosts an early warning radar to detect missiles aimed at the US. Under the Pentagon's new proposals, the radar will be significantly upgraded by 2005. "People in Thule are strongly against the anti-ballistic missile program, unless our community gets a lot of money from the Americans," said Axel Olsen, vice-mayor of Qaanaaq 75 miles from the base. "People are afraid if a war begins we will be one of the first targets," he added. A former trading station, Thule Air Base was built after Denmark signed an agreement with the US in 1951, when Greenland was a Danish colony. Greenland has since been granted limited autonomy, but Denmark still has control over foreign treaties and military affairs. Some 600 Inuit were forced from their homes as construction on the Thule base began. "We're occupied by strangers," said Kaaleeraq Nielsen, a supporter of the pro-independence Inuit Brotherhood party. "We have to renegotiate the 1951 treaty because we want our land back." In mid-December, the US formally asked Denmark to allow the Thule base to be used in the new "Star Wars" program. Greenland's vice premier Josef Motzfeldt, was allowed to sit in on the Washington meeting between the US Secretary of State Colin Powell and the Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller. But Greenland's political parties are united in wanting their country to be a signatory to any new military deals.

"The 1951 agreement between the US and Denmark on defense of Greenland should be renegotiated with direct and active participation of Greenland," said Jakob Janussen, chair of the Commission on Self-Governance of Greenland. Pro-independence politicians say by charging the US for its use of the military base they can raise funds needed to operate independently of Denmark, which currently supplies an annual $375 million to sustain the former colony. "We don't get any financial benefits from the base. Even using the base for our civilian aircraft is out of the question," said Aqqaluk Lynge, president of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference in Greenland, which represents the Inuit. Others reject further development of the Thule site altogether on environmental grounds. In 1968, a US military aircraft carrying nuclear bombs crashed, causing severe pollution in the area. Even today Greenlanders do not know whether Denmark has given the US approval to transport nuclear weapons over their territory, locals complain. "At least one kilogram of plutonium is unaccounted for," says Greenpeace's Madge Cristensen. "We have been trying to get an overview of dump sites at Thule but have been denied access," he added. "Our concern is also for global peace issues." (BBC, Dec. 19) [top]

100 pounds of high-quality uranium--enough to make three nuclear weapons--was whisked out of Yugoslavia's Vinca Institute for Nuclear Sciences in August by an international team of officials from the US, Russia, Yugoslavia and the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency. The keeping the nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists. The Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit group founded by the media entrepreneur Ted Turner, donated $5 million to cover much of the cost of the action. State Department officials planned the operation said that as many as two dozen research reactors in 16 countries were being considered for similar missions. "We want to get at all of them, and some of them are going to be a lot more pernicious than others," said a senior official said, who spoke on condition of anonymity. (Washington Post, Aug. 26) [top]

Ukrainian officials seized the fir trees at local markets in the southern town of Rovno, where they were being sold for the upcoming Orthodox Christmas, claiming they were cut in an area contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. After the region was covered by a radioactive cloud, a complete ban on the felling of trees in the contaminated forests surrounding the Chernobyl reactor was imposed. Police said the local businessmen knew the trees from the Zhytomyr region were contaminated, and used forged documents to sell them. Authorities are now attempting to trace people who have already bought the trees. (BBC, Dec. 29) [top]

An international consortium led by Bechtel International Systems Corp. of San Francisco is completing plans for what may be the largest movable structure ever built--a 20,000-ton steel shell to enclose Chernobyl Reactor 4, site of the devastating 1986 nuclear accident. The hangar-shaped arch, nearly 370 feet high, is to be slid into place along greased steel plates to cover the ruined remains in a weather-tight shelter. Inside, robotic cranes and live workers will then begin prying apart the wreckage and removing radioactive debris. The effort is part of a 10-year plan launched by the Group of 7 industrialized nations in 1997. The $768 million project, including the shell, is scheduled for completion in 2007. The shelter is designed to keep water out and dust in for 100 years, or until the Ukrainian government to designate a permanent storage facility and dispose of more than 200 tons of uranium and nearly a ton of plutonium that remain in the ruins . (Washington Post, Dec. 29) [top]

The 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia refused to hear an appeal of a lower-court decision summarily dismissing the claims against General Public Utilities Corp., owners of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Harrisburg, PA, and related defendants. Lawyers for 1,990 plaintiffs who claimed their health was damaged by the 1979 reactor meltdown at the plant say their legal action is over. "There's nothing more that can be done to proceed with them, essentially," said lawyer Lee Swartz. "We doubt the US Supreme Court would agree to hear the case." An estimated 100,000 people fled the region during the crisis. TMI Alert, a group that monitors Three Mile Island, vows that it will continue to track radioactivity-related cancers. Said TMI Alert Eric Epstein: "While this is a setback, I believe we'll endure and prevail, probably when I'm a very old man." The plaintiffs included Terry Koller and his wife, Joanne, who was pregnant during the TMI incident. Their daughter, Abigayle, was born with deformed feet. Koller said he and his wife have known for some time that the case was "dead in the water." Their daughter, after two surgical operations as a child, played basketball in high school and college and now does mission work. "We have moved on with our life," Koller said. "She has moved on with hers. We're not thinking about the past. The Lord gave her abilities in other ways." (AP, Dec. 28) - [top]

Consumption of energy from renewable sources--such as solar, wind and bio-fuels--fell sharply in 2001, the Energy Department reports. The department attributed much of the decline to a drought that cut hydroelectric generation by 23%. The end-of-the-year report by the department's Energy Information Administration also said solar equipment was being retired faster than new equipment was being built. "Back in the late 70's and early 80's, we had very, very large support programs," said Fred Mayes, who handles data on renewable energy at the agency. Those programs, launched after the loss of oil from Iran jacked the price to almost $40 a barrel, expired in the 1980's, and "things went into the tank," Mayes said. Equipment from the boom years is wearing out, and the base of installed equipment is shrinking, he said. Over all, consumption of renewable energy fell 12% to the lowest level in over 12 years, accounting for only 6% of the energy consumed in the country. Only 36.3 megawatts of solar capacity were added in 2001. At that rate it would take 30 years to add the capacity of one large nuclear plant. (NYT, Dec. 8) [top]


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