Saturday, May 05, 2007
Petroleum Minister Murli Deora, who is currently on a visit to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia to participate in the Second Ministerial Energy Round Table of Asian Oil Producing and Major Asian Oil Importing Countries, met Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain Al-Shahristani and discussed ONGC Videsh’s (OVL) participation in Iraq’s upstream sector. OVL and Reliance Industries have evinced interest in entering Iraq’s oil exploration sector.
OVL, Reliance and Algeria’s Sonatrach were in talks with the Saddam Hussein regime before the US took over Iraq in 2000. The UN sanctions that came in after 2000 prevented further talks from talking place. Iraq has proven oil reserves of 112 billion barrels which makes it the world’s second largest, behind Saudi Arabia.
"The law is designed for the benefit of US oil companies," Ramzy Salman, an Iraqi economist who worked for the Iraqi oil ministry for 30 years, said. "If approved, it would take things back to where they were before the nationalisation of Iraq's oil in 1972." But he said the situation would be reversed when Iraqis regained their "true sovereignty".
Salman said: "If there is something that should be worked on, it is the [Iraqi] constitution. "The constitution contains serious gaps in terms of who is in charge of the oil and its revenues ... [despite the] oil in Iraq being under every Iraqi river, desert, marsh and farm." The new law, if approved, would authorise production share agreements (PSAs), which offer huge profits for foreign oil companies.
PSAs are normally ideal for poorer countries exploring virgin lands or wanting to extract oil from fields where the resource is well below the surface and are designed to protect investors from the risks involved in such exploration projects. But Iraqi oil experts say investors face virtually no risk, as the country's oil is the cheapest to extract worldwide, and is of such a high quality that it sells at a premium on world markets.
Issam al-Chalabi, Iraq's former oil minister, said PSAs were completely inappropriate for Iraq. He said: "An oil barrel in most of Iraq’s oilfields costs between 50 cents and one dollar to extract. Iraq's fields are also proven, and investing in them is risk-free. "These kinds of agreements are normally given when there is a risk, as the case in Sudan, Yemen and several other countries, where companies invest money with great risk that they would not find oil, or they find difficult to extract oil."
Al-Chalabi said PSAs were a highly profitable formula for oil companies and in many cases they were granted for "political reasons". "Iraq's PSA with the Chinese and Russians gave a profit percentage less than 10 per cent when the oil barrel price was around $25, but now the barrel is over $60 which means the percentage of 12.5 per cent is too high," he said.
Dhafir al-Ani, an Iraqi member of parliament, said: "The proposed oil law is the best possible in the current situation. "However, if there are some gaps in it, then the reason is the constitution, which contains several controversial issues and needs to reconsidered." Al-Ani agreed with Salman that the proposed law was a "political" deal to strengthen US allies in Iraq.
Iraq's neighbours and key international players meeting in the Egyptian resort of Sharm Al Shaikh called for the speedy transfer of security responsibilities but did not call for a withdrawal timetable. The participants pledged to "renew their support for the government of Iraq's efforts to accelerate the preparedness of its armed forces to assume full security and defence responsibilities in their country."
The communique added that such a process "will pave the way for the conclusion of the mandate of the multinational forces, whose presence will not be open-ended." It added that ending the coalition forces' presence in Iraq would come "upon the request of and in accordance with timing to be agreed by the government of Iraq."
Several Arab countries have repeatedly demanded a deadline for a US troop pull-out, something both the Baghdad government of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki and Washington have always refused to set. Commenting on the final statement during a news conference, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abul Gaith said: "To have unanimity... this was the maximum."
Iraq urged its neighbours to stop militants sneaking into Iraq and is expected to ask the Arab League to hold a conference on national reconciliation. Iraq made the call to its six neighbouring states that also brought together the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the European Union and the Group of Eight leading industrialised countries.
The talks are due to focus on border security, Iraqi refugees and political reconciliation between Iraqi factions and ethnic and religious communities. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Mousa said a draft final communique from the conference was expected to call on the Arab League to convene a national reconciliation conference for Iraq.
"We are ready for this. We are ready to host Iraqi national reconciliation," he said. "Now is not the time to exchange accusations but is the time to work together." Mousa gave no time frame as to when such a meeting could take place, nor did he say where it would be held. The 22-member Arab League is based in Cairo.
Iraqi Type S passports to be recognised in Jordan till September
The contract, potentially worth $475 million, is for providing intelligence services to the Army and wide-ranging security for the Army Corps of Engineers during reconstruction work in Iraq. It will replace another agreement that was to expire by month's end but is now being extended for up to six months while the challenges are resolved.
The Defense Department's process for acquiring weapons and other equipment has been rocked by recent scandals and the scrutiny of the "revolving door" that can benefit former Pentagon officials. The protests come at a time when members of Congress are demanding more scrutiny of private security contractors. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, said she has been frustrated in attempts to seek information about Aegis Defense Services, a British firm that holds the current security contract in Iraq. She has requested an audit of the firm by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.
"When [the Defense Department] refuses to provide information that should be public, I am -- what's the word? -- incensed," she said. The special inspector general has agreed to launch an audit, said spokeswoman Denise Burgess. Three years ago, DynCorp International challenged the awarding of the first security contract, worth $293 million, to Aegis, a firm led by Tim Spicer, a former lieutenant colonel in the Scots Guards whose previous firm, Sandline International, had been hired by warring factions in Papua New Guinea and Sierra Leone in the 1990s.
Aegis is in the running for the new contract, but Blackwater Security Consulting is challenging the Army over the process. The Government Accountability Office, which is reviewing the protests, declined to provide a copy of Blackwater's written challenge, but in a copy obtained independently, Blackwater wrote that the Army's decision to exclude it was "defective" and "meaningless," in part because the military did not explain how it evaluated the contractor's offer.
Blackwater, which is based in North Carolina, also wrote that it "never had an opportunity to ask relevant questions" about how the Army eliminated its proposal. Blackwater provides security in Iraq under a State Department contract but does not participate in the Iraqi operations centers that fall under the new Army contract. Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell declined comment.
Erinys Iraq is also challenging the Army's decision to exclude its offer; in its protest, the British contractor contends that the Army did not thoroughly review its proposal and failed to follow procurement rules, according to a source familiar with the protest. Erinys already provides security for some military personnel in Iraq under a separate contract. Robert Nichols, Erinys's outside counsel, declined comment.
Christopher Krafchek, an attorney for the Army assigned to the case, also declined to comment. Under the Army's bidding guidelines, it can exclude contractors from what it calls the "competitive range" because it is using a negotiated procurement process, meaning that it will base its decision not on the lowest bid price but on what it determines is the best value.
Several other firms are competing for the new Army contract, sources say, in addition to Aegis, which works side-by-side with Erinys in Baghdad's Green Zone on similar but separate contracts. Aegis came under fire two years ago when the special inspector general found that the firm could not prove that its armed employees received proper weapons training or that it had vetted Iraqi employees to ensure they did not pose a threat. Aegis said that the government's audit was done shortly after the firm arrived in Iraq, before proper procedures were in place.
While Aegis declined to discuss its bid, it defends its work in Iraq. "Aegis has a very good track record," said Kristi M. Clemens, the company's executive vice president. "We've served the U.S. government very well in our current capacity."
Security worse in Mosul
The rebels’ influence spreads beyond Mosul and recently carried deadly attacks in outlying towns and districts, targeting mainly Kurdish peshmergas or militias. U.S. troops are camped outside the city but have so far opted not to interfere despite the recent upsurge in violence and attacks.
Unidentified gunmen have killed another university professor – Nidhal al-Assdi. Armed men drive freely in the city totting their guns and threatening to kill anyone not obeying their orders. The worsening conditions have prompted the authorities to impose a curfew on the city but government police and security forces still dread moving to restive areas and at night they withdraw to their barracks. Communications between the city and the rest of the country has been disrupted by the rebels to hinder military operations by government troops.
51 fuel tankers set on fire
Both Baiji and Samarra are rebel hideouts and armed groups have conspicuous presence in the area. The two cities control the highway leading to the refineries and the Turkish borders. The whole area stretching from Baghdad to Mosul, 400 kilometers to the north of the capital, is extremely dangerous.
Rebels frequently attack fuel convoys as well as pipelines and oil installations. Their attacks have almost put out of order the twin pipeline which used to carry nearly 1 million barrels of oil to Turkish Mediterranean terminals under former leader Saddam Hussein. Baiji is also the site of major power generation plants and but rebel attacks on pylons and supply lines as well as the plants themselves have reduced out to minimal.
“This we cannot hide,” he added. Al-Faisal, who was considered one of the key players in the Egypt- based conference, told al-Hayat newspaper’s Saturday edition that ”the situation in Iraq is only getting worse” and added: “We fear that the situation will deteriorate into a civil war.” The comments were considered an “exaggeration” by al-Biaty who vehemently denied the possibility of a war based on confessional differences. He said that this and such statements by neighbouring states give “a wrong message” to the Iraqi people.
“These countries should open up their embassies, and send delegations into Iraq in order to receive reports that correctly mirror the situation in Iraq,” he said. “The brothers (in neighbouring states) have incorrect information.”
During the conference, reports even circulated that al-Faisal had refused to meet with al-Maliki. I this were true it could imply the lack of Saudi support for the Shia premier. Such reports have not been confirmed, but al-Biaty said that Al Maliki was “promised a visit to Saudi Arabia. And this visit never happened.” When asked by al-Hayat if the Saudi government was willing to back A lMaliki’s cabinet, al-Faisal said: “We do not interfere in the internal matters of Iraq or any other country. This is up to the Iraqis.”
He added that al-Maliki’s government has an important role in ”convincing” participants in the upcoming and much-anticipated Iraqi national reconciliation meeting “that (the Iraqi government) is the side that they should trust.” He also said that it is up to the Iraqi government to end the troubles of “all Iraqis.” Concerning Iraq’s armed militias, who are said to have infiltrated army, police and government ranks, al-Faisal said: “Is it acceptable that militias are part of a legitimate government now?”
In response, al-Biaty said that Saudi support is indeed needed as his country is embracing a new democracy project. But he added that ”Iraq will not accept ready-made recipes (for reconciliation) from either friendly nations or neighbouring ones.” He also said that Riyadh should facilitate a “direct meeting” between the Iraqi and the Saudi governments. “But it is important that (no country) sides with another regional party or one of the concerned factions,” he added. Saudi Arabia is a strict Sunni state, and in recent statements the Saudi leadership has underlined the importance of incorporating all factions in the Iraqi political arena.
* Denotes new or updated item.
BAGHDAD - A suicide car bomber killed one policeman and wounded five others when he rammed his vehicle into the Karkh police directorate in western Baghdad, one police source said. Another police source said the car bomb detonated inside the directorate's garage and 10 policemen were wounded.
MOSUL - Unidentified gunmen kidnapped and killed a doctor as he left Mosul's main hospital on Friday, hospital sources said.
*KIRKUK - A roadside bomb killed one civilian and wounded three policemen in central Kirkuk, police said.
*SHIRQAT - Gunmen killed a police Colonel in the town of Shirqat north of Baghdad, police said.
*BAGHDAD - The bodies of 15 people were found dumped across Baghdad on Friday, police said.
*BAGHDAD - Iraqi "Special Operations Forces" captured six suspected al Qaeda militants on Friday in southwestern Baghdad, a U.S. military statement said.
*KIRKUK - A roadside bomb wounded two civilians in central Kirkuk, police said.
Saudi Arabia said it is still negotiating with Iraq over writing off billions of dollars owed it by the war-torn country, and major creditors Kuwait and Russia failed to offer immediate debt relief. More than 60 countries and international organisations gathered for the conference, and managed to agree a blueprint for the stabilisation of Iraq that they called the International Compact. The agreement sets benchmarks to achieve a stable, united, democratic Iraq within five years. It defines international help for Iraq - including debt relief - but also sets conditions for the Baghdad government, particularly carrying out reforms aimed at giving Iraq's Sunni Arabs a greater role in the political process.
The statement by Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri, was seen as a warning to Sunnis not to join the political process and legitimize the Shiite-led government and its U.S. backers. Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi has resisted calls by fellow leaders of the main Sunni alliance to pull out of the government.
The statement, posted on a militant Web site, did not directly address reports from Iraqi officials that the al-Qaida leader was killed Tuesday by rivals north of Baghdad.
The U.S. military declined to confirm the report of al-Masri's death and believed it stemmed from confusion over the killing of another al-Qaida militant. There was no indication when the 20-minute statement was recorded, although a transcript posted on the Web site was dated Saturday. It could not be independently verified.
In the statement Saturday, al-Masri sharply criticized al-Hashemi for taking part in politics and legitimizing the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose U.S.-backed security forces are fighting Sunni insurgents and al-Qaida militants. "This criminal relentlessly calls for the occupier to remain," he said, referring to al-Hashemi.
Last week, al-Hashemi spoke to President Bush in a phone call to discuss the Sunni threats to leave the Cabinet. An insurgent statement in March, calling Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zubaie a stooge "to the crusader occupiers," was followed a day later by an assassination attempt against the highest-ranking Sunni government official. The latest statement, however, did not call for attacks against the Islamic Party, which, al-Masri said, would only distract his group from its fight against the Shiites and American forces.
"The leaders of the Islamic Party are renegades but we make it clear that we don't want to fight them and be drawn into secondary battles that only serve the occupier and its Shiite associates," he said.
Sunni tribesmen that once fought with the insurgency have been increasingly joining the security services at the urging of their elders to restore stability to their strife-ridden lands. Interior ministry spokesman Brigadier General Abdel Karim Khalaf told reporters Saturday that thanks to the efforts of the tribes, specifically in the western Al-Anbar province, security forces are now on the offensive.
"For the first time in four years the government is giving an offer to the armed groups to lay down their weapons and give themselves up to the government," he said. "Those that have not shed Iraqi blood will be given a general amnesty. We intend to raise the people of the province in the army and police to 21,000 fighters to ensure security there," he said, adding that at the end of 2006, there were 9,000.
Tribes in Iraq's western province of Al-Anbar have banded together and are working with US and Iraqi forces to combat Al-Qaeda and sending people to join the security services to restore stability and hasten the departure of US troops. The fiercely independent Sunni tribesmen also see the advantage of not being patrolled by security forces largely made up of Shiites from elsewhere in the country. Attempts are being made by the US military and Iraqi government to build such tribal alliances elsewhere in the country where the predominantly Sunni insurgency is raging with limited success.
Insurgents, particularly those linked with Al-Qaeda, have struck back hard against the tribes looking to ally with the government. The seven plain clothes police found murdered north of Baghdad in the oil refining town of Baiji on Friday were tribal recruits to Anbar province's special anti-terrorism police unit, a police intelligence captain told AFP on condition of anonymity. The bodies of the policemen, which were riddled with bullets, had been dumped on the roadside.
Friday, May 04, 2007
INM daily summary – 4 May 2007
- Iraq urged its neighbors on Friday to stop militants sneaking into Iraq and, at talks in Egypt on stemming bloodshed, is expected to ask the Arab League to hold a conference on national reconciliation.
- Iran’s Ports and Shipping Organization (PSO) Sunday announced that it has reduced by 50 percent the port tariffs and costs for the vessels that transport goods to Iraq.
- Iran's electricity export to Iraq is set to increase to 500 megawatts as a new power line comes on stream in Khosravi, Kermanshah Province.
- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will reopen offices in Baghdad in an effort to address the growing refugee problem, the UN announced on May 1.
- Gunmen stormed the offices of an independent radio station in a predominantly Sunni area of Baghdad on Thursday.
- Sadrists in Basrah demand the release of detainees while the Islamic List threatens to demonstrate.
- Iraqi Christians are fleeing their areas particularly in the restive quarters of Baghdad despite the ongoing U.S. and Iraqi military operations to bring stability to the city.
- In Sharm el-Sheikh on Thursday Rice had a 30-minute meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem -- Washington's highest-level contact with Syria in more than two years.
- Creditor nations including the UK, Saudi Arabia and China have pledged to waive $30bn (£15.1bn) of Iraqi debt, about 60 per cent of what Baghdad estimates it owes other countries.
- The US military killed a senior Al Qaeda figure this week in Iraq but the dead man was not the group's chief as was claimed by Iraqi officials.
- Security round-up.
* denotes new or updated item.
* BAGHDAD - U.S. troops killed three suspected insurgents and detained six others during raids in central Iraq on Thursday and Friday, the U.S. military said.
BAGHDAD - Five Iraqi policemen were killed and two were wounded when their patrol was hit by a roadside bomb in the Hay al-Amel neighbourhood in southern Baghdad, police said.
BAGHDAD - A car bomb exploded outside a police station in Doura, in southern Baghdad, police said. There was no indication of casualties.
BAGHDAD - The U.S. military identified two more senior al Qaeda in Iraq leaders killed in an operation in Taji on May 1, the U.S. military said. They were Sabah Hilal al-Shihawi, a religious adviser to Muharib Abdul Latif al-Jubouri, and Abu Ammar al-Masri, a foreign fighter.
MAHMUDIYA - U.S. soldiers found a weapons cache including seven 107 mm Iranian rockets and an Iranian mortar, as well as four roadside bombs and components for 25 others during combat operations near Mahmudiya, about 30 km (20 miles) south of Baghdad, the U.S. military said on Friday.
BAGHDAD - One U.S. soldier was killed and two wounded when their patrol was hit by a roadside bomb south of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.
KIRKUK - A car bomb left outside a police officer's home killed two people and wounded 28 others on Thursday in Kirkuk, 250 km north of Baghdad, police said.
BAGHDAD - A mortar round killed two people and wounded three others in the Jisr Diyala district of Baghdad on Thursday, the interior ministry said.
BAGHDAD - Two people were killed and six wounded in a mortar attack in the Al-Shurta district of southwestern Baghdad on Thursday, the interior ministry said.
BAGHDAD - Two people were killed and two were wounded when gunmen attacked Radio Djila in western Baghdad on Thursday, the interior ministry said.
BAGHDAD - Twenty-five bodies were found in different parts of Baghdad on Thursday, the interior ministry said.
FALLUJA - Nine bodies were found in Falluja, 50 km west of Baghdad, police said. Four were believed to be brothers.
BAIJI - Six police officers were found dead in Baiji, 180 km north of Baghdad, police said.
"In order to confront local, regional, and international challenges, an agreement has been concluded between three groups, the Islamic Army in Iraq, the Army of the Mujahideen, and the Ansar al-Sunna to form a united front," the group said in a statement posted on a jihadi website. Many experts believe the announcement of a new alliance between Ansar al-Sunna and the Islamic Army points to a deepening rivalry among Islamists in the Sunni insurgency and a serious challenge to Al-Qaeda's Iraqi franchise.
This new front "is no friend of America, or of democracy in Iraq -- but, should it succeed, it will present an existential political threat to the future of Al-Qaeda in Iraq," said Evan Kohlmann, an expert on jihadi movements.
There have been unconfirmed reports in the Arabic press of clashes between these rival insurgent groups and the Islamic Army has released statements appealing to Al-Qaeda supremo Osama bin Laden to rein in his Iraqi branch. At the heart of the conflict between the movements is Al-Qaeda's attacks on civilians and those they disagree with rather than just against US forces. Hating Al-Qaeda does not mean liking the Iraqi government, and these insurgent groups still remain opposed to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
"A number of countries have made concrete commitments under the compact today. In particular, there was broad support for the terms of the Paris Club on Iraq's outstanding debt," said Mr Ban, referring to the decision by the international creditors' group to forgive 80 per cent of Iraq's debt. "Specific financial commitments made by particular countries are estimated at over $30bn," he told a news conference.
The figure included commitments by Bulgaria, China, Saudi Arabia, Greece and new commitments by the UK, Australia, Spain, Denmark and South Korea. Few could expect Iraq's creditors to collect anything more than a small fraction of what they owe, much of which was run up under the rule of Saddam Hussein.
They are due to focus on border security, Iraqi refugees and political reconciliation between Iraqi factions and ethnic and religious communities. Baghdad is dependent on U.S. military support in its drive to halt a slide into all-out civil war by stamping out sectarian violence and defeating insurgents who draw support from the Sunni Arab minority once-dominant under Saddam Hussein. But the diplomats, who declined to be named, said Iran was holding out against substantial contacts with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Rice and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki exchanged pleasantries over lunch on Thursday, but a U.S. official said a bilateral meeting was not planned for Friday. "We'll see if any other kind of interaction occurs," the official added.
Rice's encounter with Mottaki and talks with Syria's foreign minister on Thursday marked a shift in U.S. President George W. Bush's once resolute opposition to high-level contacts with Iran and Syria. Baghdad's interest in seeing a Rice-Mottaki meeting is clear as it is widely acknowledged that Shi'ite Muslim Iran is an influential force on Iraq, both as a neighbor and because of its links with elements in the Shi'ite-led Iraqi government. The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, did not rule out a meeting between Rice and Mottaki.
In Sharm el-Sheikh on Thursday Rice had a 30-minute meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem -- Washington's highest-level contact with Syria in more than two years. She described the talks as "professional and business-like" and said she had urged Syria to stop foreign fighters entering Iraq. Moualem said the talks were "frank and constructive". "I didn't lecture him, he didn't lecture me," said Rice.
MPs speak up for Iraqi Christians
Doura was a major Christian center with several monasteries, churches and a major Chaldean Catholic seminary. They are all empty now with monks, priests and congregations fearing to attend them. A Christian member of parliament, Abdulahad Mansour, said to stay the Christians are forced to pay a tax of 250,000 dinars for each member of the family, an exorbitant sum which only few can afford in Iraq.
“I urge the government to put an end to these threats and practices and find a solution to the suffering of Christians in Iraq,” said Mansour. Another MP, Romeo Hakari, said large numbers of Christians have fled to the Kurdish north or left the country for Syria or Jordan. “Iraqi Christians have been subjected, following the collapse of the former regime, and especially in Baghdad, to a real crisis for the first time in their history. Many of them have been killed, many of them have been kidnapped; their churches have been destroyed; and thousands made homeless,” Hakari said.
Sadrists in Basrah demand release of detainees while Islamic List threatens to demonstrate
During a recent press conference, Qasim Al Fayadh, an Islamic List and Basrah Council Member, said “The List threatens to demonstrate in Basrah, unless the Iraqi Prime Minister’s Council approves the Provincial Council’s decision to ‘dismiss’ Basrah’s Governor.” Al Fayadh denied the accusations which Basrah’s Governor (Al Waili) has made against SCIRI [that SCIRI is encouraging Basrah’s people to oppose the Governor]. Al Fayadh said, “Many of Basrah’s parties and movements – including the Islamic List and independent entities – have demanded the Governor’s dismissal… Because, he has failed to manage the Province’s security file and has failed to stop the assassinations which occur in Basrah.”
Sources reported that Basrah’s Governor – Muhammed Musbah Al Waili, has left Basrah city under an escort by British forces and has moved to an undisclosed location. Salam Al Maliki, a Sadr Movement Member of Parliament, blames the Occupation forces and Iraq’s government for exacerbating the situation in Basrah.
Salam Al Maliki added, during an announcement, “After yesterday’s clashes between Sadr Movement elements and British forces in a number of Basrah’s neighborhoods, plus the arrests of a religious man/cleric (Sheikh Salih Al Jizani) and his five brothers. We can say ‘There is an organized campaign (in Basrah) against the elements of the Mahdi Army and the Al Sadr Martyr’s office' and, we demand the release of 315 detainees - Mahdi Army members and politicians - who are being held in the Occupation force’s prisons.”
Karim Youssef, the station's deputy director, said gunmen also tried to kidnap four employees as they were riding to work, but the driver managed to get away. He said the two-story building then came under attack with rockets, rifles and hand grenades about 2:30 p.m. "Our guards and the staff resisted the attackers for 30 minutes before evacuating the building," Youssef said, adding the attackers then detonated a bomb on the first floor that destroyed all the equipment, including the transmitter.
"Now the radio is not operating," he told The Associated Press by telephone. "We are an independent radio station ... They are targeting us because we are independent and we have no sectarian policy. Our news is balanced and we have employees from all sects and ethnic groups."
Radio Dijlah, named after the Arabic word for the Tigris River, was created in 2004 as Iraq's first independent talk radio station. Gunmen also abducted a radio newscaster, Karim Manhal, and his driver while releasing a female staffer who was with them near the station's headquarters on March 17. Nabil Ibrahim al-Dulaimi, a 36-year-old Sunni news editor with the private station was gunned down as he drove to work on Dec. 4.
Journalists and media outlets have been frequent targets of militants and sometimes security forces in Iraq since the U.S.-led war began in March 2003. The Committee to Protect Journalists has recorded at least 100 journalists and 37 media support workers killed - not including Thursday's attack - and at least 48 journalists abducted.
(MNA) - Iran’s Ports and Shipping Organization (PSO) Sunday announced that it has reduced by 50 percent the port tariffs and costs for the vessels that transport goods to Iraq. In line with the objectives of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the maritime cooperation between Iran and Iraq, PSO made the decision.
However, the report added that the discount does not include oil tankers or the vessels’ towing expenses that are normally charged by the private sector directly. The concessions are aimed at the expansion of economic relations with the neighboring and Muslim countries, development of transportation, and offering further incentives to the merchants and businessmen for their selection of Iran’s southern ports for transporting their non-oil goods to Iraq, the report added.
"We will not allow terrorist organizations to use Iraqi territory as a safe haven," Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told an opening session of the one-day conference. "That is what drives us to call on the regional neighbors to prevent the infiltration of terrorist groups into Iraq and to stop them obtaining material support and political and media support." The talks are due to focus on border security, Iraqi refugees and political reconciliation between Iraqi factions and ethnic and religious communities.
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said a draft final communique from the conference was expected to call on the Arab League to convene a national reconciliation conference for Iraq. "We are ready for this. We are ready to host Iraqi national reconciliation," he said. "Now is not the time to exchange accusations but is the time to work together." Moussa gave no time frame as to when such a meeting could take place, nor did he say where it would be held. The 22-member Arab League is based in Cairo.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
INM daily summary – 3 May 2007
- Four Filipino contractors working for the U.S. government were killed in a rocket attack on the heavily fortified Green Zone, the American Embassy said Thursday.
- The survey by the Central Statistical Bureau says that 43 percent of Iraqis suffer from ‘absolute poverty’ and another 11 percent of them live in ‘abject poverty’.
- The Shiite Fadila (Virtue) party presented on Wednesday proposals and suggestions to tackle political and security deterioration in Iraq.
- Kurdistan Region's Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said that his government wants to retain Kirkuk peacefully.
- Kurdish and Sunni Arab officials expressed deep reservations on Wednesday about the draft version of a national oil law and related legislation.
- Soaring sectarian violence and government abuses have caused an alarming deterioration in religious freedom in Iraq, prompting a U.S. advisory panel for the first time to place it on a watch list of countries where worship is under severe threat.
- US and Iraqi forces have killed the most senior insurgent leader in Iraq, Deputy Interior Minister Hussein Ali Kamal said on Thursday.
- At least 85 Iraqis were killed or found dead nationwide, police reported.
- Iraq won a trickle of debt relief pledges at a big international conference in Egypt on Thursday.
- Security round-up.
The daily Iraq violence report is compiled by McClatchy Newspapers Special Correspondent Sahar Issa in Baghdad from police, military and medical reports. This is not a comprehensive list of all violence in Iraq, much of which goes unreported. It’s posted without editing as transmitted to McClatchy’s Washington Bureau.
Labels: Iraq violence
The first day of the two-day conference in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh is dedicated to the International Compact, a five-year plan to restore stability and economic prosperity through national reconciliation. But much of the attention is on whether the United States will abandon its longstanding reluctance to hold high-level talks with the Iranian and Syrian governments, as recommended by the Baker-Hamilton commission on Iraq last year.
In his opening speech to the two days of meetings in Egypt, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appealed for debt relief. "We call on everybody participating in this conference to write off the accumulated debts of Iraq," he said. Iraq sits on the world's third-largest proven crude oil reserves but is struggling to rebuild after four years of war.
Iraqi Finance Minister Bayan Jabor said the three Eastern European countries -- Slovenia, Bulgaria and Poland -- would agree to forgive 80 percent of Iraqi debt but did not say how much that would be. He said the European Union would grant Iraq $200 million, and he expected grants from some Asian countries as well. But James Dobbins, an analysts at the RAND Corporation, said debt relief was of secondary importance because the Iraqis are not paying off the money they owed anyway.
"It is a purely paper transaction. It's symbolic but it doesn't have any immediate effect," he said. Jabor said that Iraq had rejected as unacceptable an offer from Russia to forgive the debt it is owed by Baghdad in return for access to a major Iraqi oilfield. "The Russians are hesitant. They want investment in the Rumaila oilfield in return for eliminating the debt," he said. When Saudi Arabia announced last month that it was writing off 80 percent of the more than $15 billion it was owed by Iraq, Jabor estimated his country's debt at $140 billion.
The suicide attack occurred at dusk near a police station in Sadr City, the Baghdad stronghold of the Mahdi Army militia. Three policemen and six civilians were killed and 34 people were wounded, police said. No group claimed responsibility, but suicide bombings are generally associated with Sunni religious extremists led by al-Qaida. Such extremists consider Shiites heretics and collaborators with the Americans.
Also Wednesday, two U.S. soldiers were killed and two others were wounded when a bomb devastated their vehicle in southern Baghdad, the U.S. command said. Another soldier died in a blast in western Baghdad, the command said. At least 3,354 members of the U.S. military have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. Last month, at least 104 U.S. service members died — the highest monthly figure since December.
U.S. officials also fear the bombings will provoke a violent response from Shiite militiamen, who have generally assumed a lower profile in the capital since the crackdown began Feb. 14. Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, an Iraqi military spokesman, said, "Next week will witness more military operations in both halves of Baghdad," he said, referring to the two sides of the Tigris River that divides the city. "Almost all our military operations are now taking place on Baghdad's outskirts."
On Wednesday, the U.S. military announced that its buildup of forces was nearly complete with the arrival this week of the fourth of five brigades ordered to Baghdad by President Bush in January. About 3,700 soldiers from the 4th Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division, based in Fort Lewis, Washington, will be deployed in the Baghdad area and in northern Iraq, the military said. When the fifth brigade arrives by next month, the U.S. command will have about 160,000 American troops in the country.
On Wednesday, police reported finding the bullet-riddled bodies of 55 people apparently slain by sectarian death squads. They included 30 in Baghdad and 10 in Baqouba, where U.S. troops are trying to wrest control of the city from al-Qaida and its allies. The other killings were reported in Mosul, Baghdad and communities south of the capital, police said.
"His body is under the control of the interior ministry," the junior minister told AFP. "His body has been identified." The Islamic State of Iraq is an umbrella group of Sunni insurgents dominated by Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
It has been blamed for attacks on Shiite civilians and has claimed responsibility for some of the bloodiest assaults on Iraqi security forces.
Separately, US military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Garver said the military would hold a news conference later on Thursday to announce a "recent success against a senior leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq." According to an Iraqi security official in the northern city of Tikrit, Baghdadi's mourning family had already begun receiving well-wishers in his hometown of Dhuluiyah, around 75 kilometres (40 miles) north of Baghdad.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Baghdadi is a 37-year-old law graduate whose real name was Mohib and was well known in the region, itself known for its Al-Qaeda sympathies. Kamal said Baghdadi was killed in a clash in the Ghazaliyah neighbourhood of northwestern Baghdad, a flashpoint on one of the city's many sectarian fault lines and a focus of recent security operations.
His death would be the first major success of a 10-week-old joint US-Iraqi security operation, which has seen tens of thousands of extra troops and police flood the war-torn capital in a bid to quell sectarian bloodshed.
The spokesman, Khalid Salih, said the provision violated a clause in the Constitution that says the central government must work with regional governments to determine management of known fields that have not been developed. The Kurds, who have enjoyed de facto independence in the north since 1991, have been arguing for maximum regional control over oil contracts. The provision is part of four so-called annexes that are to be debated with the draft oil law in Parliament. Any objection to one or more of the annexes will stall passage of the law.
"We are worried about these ideas put into the annexes," Salih said in an interview in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. "It worries us a lot." If the law and the annexes go to a vote before Parliament, a rejection by the Kurdish bloc alone, which holds 58 of 275 seats, would not doom the law. But Parliament operates by consensus, and members say it is almost certain that no law regarding oil will pass without the approval of the Kurds.
A senior Shiite Arab legislator, Sheik Jalaladin al-Saghir, said the concerns raised by the Kurds amounted to a bargaining tactic. "I think it's a maneuver," he said, adding that he believed the Kurds "will move forward to pass the law since everybody needs it."
Contributing a further layer of complication, a Sunni Arab legislator said Wednesday evening that the main Sunni Arab bloc, which has 44 legislative seats, objected to any discussion of the law in Parliament at this time. "Acceleration in presenting it is inappropriate since the security condition is not encouraging," said the legislator, Saleem Abdullah. He said Sunni Arabs were also worried that the law would give foreign companies too large a role in the country's oil industry. Sunni Arab political leaders supported cabinet approval of the draft law, but appear ambivalent now.
White House officials have said passage of the oil law is one of four major benchmarks they would like the Iraqi government to meet before fall.
"Our slogan is that we want to rectify what has been forcefully done to Kirkuk and return Kirkuk to its natural position according to the Iraqi constitution and law in a peaceful way," said Barzani in an interview that was published last saturday.
Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution has laid out three major steps to resolve the dispute over the fate of Kirkuk. The first step is the return of Kurdish and Turkoman refugees to Kirkuk and the compensation of Arab settlers, brought to the city by Saddam Hussein's regime, who go back to their original areas in the southern and central parts of the country. The other two steps include a census to determine the population of the oil-rich province of Kirkuk to be followed by a referendum scheduled for the end of this year on whether Kirkuk should be part of Kurdistan or not.
Asked if his government would resort to military force to retain Kirkuk should the constitutional process fail, Barzani responded, "We don't want to and don't like to discuss this issue in this way. The important thing here is that there is a problem, and if one of the parties thinks that by taking the benefit of time and delaying the steps (of resolving the issue) the problem will be forgotten, then it is wrong. Any delay in resolving that issue will further deepen it and delaying it for any single day will further complicate the matter."
Al-Shemri said, "The party has worked out a number of suggestions to ease the political congestion." The Fadila party, holding 15 seats out of the 275-member-parliament, was a component of the Shiite Unified Iraqi Coalition, the largest bloc in parliament with 128 seats, but the party withdrew from the Shiite bloc, seeking alliances away from sectarian ties.
The legislator also added, "the proposals focused on committing to the pledge document, which was signed in Mecca last year between Sunni and Shiite clerics and politicians, which commits everyone to shun sectarianism and stop the bloodbath."
The legislator, who noted that the prime minister had to be firm and to rely only on efficiency when selecting ministers, said "the suggestions also include giving an active role to constructive opposition, as part of the political process, by holding a conference where it can meet in an Arab country, and by involving it in the political process by nominating 13 additional lawmakers to the parliament so their number will reach 288 instead of the present 257." Fadila also suggested that parliamentary elections be held every two years, at least for the upcoming days, instead of the current four year term.
43 per cent of Iraqis suffer from abject poverty
Both terms are measures aid organizations use to quantify poverty in the world and they refer to people below poverty level. People in absolute poverty lack the necessary food, clothing or shelter to survive and 43 percent of Iraqis now fall into that category, the survey says. People in abject poverty lack a minimum income or consumption level necessary to meet basic needs and 11 percent of Iraqis are in that category, according to the survey.
The study is the result of a nation-wide survey of families across the country and takes into consideration the millions of Iraqis who have been displaced or forced to flee abroad. The survey is the largest and most comprehensive the bureau has conducted in the past four years. Hundreds of researchers and civil servants working in its offices in Iraq were involved.
It was the third straight day that the U.S.-controlled area in central Baghdad was hit by rockets or mortars, heightening concerns about security in the area that is home to the U.S. and British embassies and thousands of American troops. Insurgents and militia fighters routinely fire rockets and mortars into the sprawling complex on the west bank of the Tigris River, but the attacks seldom cause casualties or damage because they are poorly aimed and the zone contains much open space.
But two Americans - a contractor and a soldier - were killed in late March in a rocket attack on the area and two suicide vests were found unexploded less than a week after that. The adequacy of security in the vast area in central Baghdad more recently came into question in the aftermath of the April 12 suicide bombing in the Iraqi parliament building's dining hall. One lawmaker was killed in the blast, which was claimed by an al-Qaida-led amalgam of Sunni insurgents.
The Philippines banned deployment of workers to Iraq after insurgents abducted Filipino truck driver Angelo de la Cruz in July 2004. About 5,000 to 6,000 Filipinos are employed in U.S. military camps across Iraq, mostly as cooks and maintenance personnel. A smaller number work as bodyguards for businessmen. Most already were in Iraq when the Philippine government imposed the deployment ban. Despite the ban, many Filipino workers are believed to have slipped into Iraq through neighboring countries such as Jordan, prompting the government to appeal to those countries to help block such passage.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
INM daily summary – 2 May 2007
- The Iraqi government has sent to parliament a landmark draft oil law, the oil minister said on Wednesday.
- U.S. President George W. Bush has vetoed legislation that would have required him to begin withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Iraq this year.
- A coalition of Sunni militant groups linked to Al-Qaeda today denied that al-Masri had been killed.
- Iraqi parliamentarian Liqa al-Yasin read a letter from Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to U.S. President Bush during the April 28 session of parliament.
- Iran has extended $1 billion in credits for reconstruction projects in Iraq, a senior official said Tuesday ahead of an international conference on stabilizing Iraq.
- Some governments key to Iraq's future are balking at entering into an ambitious contract with the country that commits them to substantial aid in exchange for a promise of unity in Iraq within five years.
- Major-General Hussein Kamal, said the government was "trying to investigate and confirm the report" that al-Masri had been killed in a battle within his own group or by tribesmen.
- The U.N. refugee agency says it has signed an agreement with Syria to help the country cope with the health and education needs of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees.
- Hundreds of Yazidi rioters attacked the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the towns of Khana Sor and Jazira, west of Mosul, and took down the Kurdish flag and burned it, according to several Kurdish and Yazidi websites.
- Kurdish political factions operating in the Sunni Arab-dominated Province of Nineveh have become a main target for attacks by insurgent groups in the area.
- Kish Free Trade Zone and Iraqi Kurdistan on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding to expand bilateral exchanges.
- Security round-up.
- The Iraqi military has banned heavy vehicles from crossing most of Baghdad's bridges, a senior military official said on Wednesday.
- Officials in the Iraqi Ministry of Construction and Housing have asked Iraqis to be wary of vendors who sell properties belonging to the displaced under false pretences.
- Top diplomats from around the world converged on the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Wednesday for the biggest diplomatic push to solve Iraq's woes since the 2003 invasion.
On her way to Egypt, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the onus was on Iraq's neighbours to show their commitment to ending the violence, warning that their own stability was at stake. Completing a shift in US policy, Rice was expected to talk to Syria and Iran, who have been accused by Washington of funding and abetting Iraq's Sunni insurgency and Shiite militias respectively. A rumoured meeting with her Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, would mark the first bilateral talks between the foes' top diplomats since the United States cut relations in 1980. However, Iran has yet to give an unequivocal sign it is ready for talks and Deputy Foreign Minister Mehdi Mostavafi said on Tuesday the conditions were not right for a "dialogue" with Rice at the conference.
In the run-up to the landmark conference, Western and regional leaders have hammered home the same message that Iraq's influential neighbours need to do their share. As preparatory consultations kicked off in Sharm el-Sheikh on Wednesday, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh urged the international community to help rescue his country.
The Sharm el-Sheikh conference is the second attempt in two months to bring Iraq's neighbours together in a bid to reach a consensus on means of ending the carnage. In readiness for the 27 foreign ministers and 22 other delegations due to attend the talks, Egyptian police threw up a tight security cordon around the resort.
Rice was expected to arrive in Egypt later Wednesday. She was due to go straight into preliminary talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other officials.
The two-day conference starts in earnest on Thursday with the launch of the International Compact with Iraq (ICI), an initiative providing a framework for Iraq's security and economic development. US Treasury Deputy Secretary Robert Kimmitt said the talks would seek to achieve further debt relief for Iraq's embattled economy and set clear benchmarks for its increased integration. But he remained cautious on the results that could be expected from the talks.
In some districts where violence is escalating, new residents who bought houses with fake documents are refusing to leave the properties they bought and are asking for protection from militias. The problem is compounded by the fact that the majority of property – houses and land – in Iraq is not in the name of the people who claim to own it, specialists say. Many people do not have title to their own land or houses.
U.S. and Iraqi commanders, fearful insurgents are changing tactics to attack Iraq's infrastructure, have increased security in the dozen bridges linking mostly Shi'ite eastern Baghdad with predominantly Sunni western Baghdad.
"We have decided that trucks and pickups that weigh over 1.5 tons are banned from crossing all the bridges (in Baghdad) except the Muthanna and Doura bridges," Brigadier-General Qassim Moussawi, Iraqi military spokesman for a U.S.-backed security crackdown in the capital, told a news conference. Politicians from both sides of the Shi'ite-Sunni sectarian divide have accused insurgents of trying to split the capital of seven million people along sectarian lines.
BAGHDAD - The bodies of 15 people were found shot in different districts of Baghdad on Tuesday, police said.
ANBAR PROVINCE - U.S. forces detained 10 suspected insurgents in Anbar province and two others in Baghdad during overnight raids targeting al Qaeda senior leaders and roadside bomb networks.
BAGHDAD - At least three people were killed and 15 wounded when several mortar rounds landed in three different districts in south and southwestern Baghdad on Tuesday, police said.
BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb killed a person and wounded two others in northern Baghdad on Tuesday, police said.
UDHAIM - Gunmen killed two employees working in a cell phone company on Tuesday in the town of Udhaim, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
(McClatchy Newspapers) - The daily Iraq violence report is compiled by McClatchy Newspapers Special Correspondent Mohammed Al Dulaimy in Baghdad from police, military and medical reports. This is not a comprehensive list of all violence in Iraq, much of which goes unreported. It’s posted without editing as transmitted to McClatchy’s Washington Bureau.
The Iraqi official added that the economic development and progress of the zone will help Iran join the World Trade Organization (WTO). "The trade and commercial activities of the Kish FTZ in the course of Iran's accession to the WTO is considered a good experience for other countries," he said.
Touching on the MoU between Kish FTZ and Kurdistan region of Iraq, he noted that the visit of the Iranian Ambassador to Iraq Mohammad-Hossein Kazemi Qomi to Kurdistan region, and his eagerness to expand bilateral trade and commercial relations prepared the grounds for signing of the agreement. Pointing to the advantages of enhanced trade and tourism ties between the two sides, he said that establishment of an air link between Kish FTZ and Kurdistan region of Iraq is among the provisions of the MoU.
He underlined the need to provide businessmen of the two regions with the opportunity to expand trade relations, adding, "By forming a joint council composed of both sides' businessmen as per the MoU, we will witness a momentum in implementation of the agreement." Managing Director of the Kish FTZ Organization Majid Shayesteh and the commerce minister of Kurdistan region of Iraq signed the MoU.
Political parties in Kurdistan targeted by insurgent groups
The insurgents have so far destroyed three main offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of the Massoud Barazin, the president of the Kurdish region. The Kurds have extended their influence and control to the peripheries of Mosul, the provincial capital. Kurdish militias patrol the city’s outlying towns and villages and set up checkpoint on main roads leading to it. Mosul is a major insurgent stronghold and insurgent leaders fear Kurdish practices might choke their supply routes.
A senior Kurdish official is number two in Nineveh provincial council to represent a sizeable Kurdish community in the city. The official, Khisro Koran, a senior KDP member and deputy governor of Nineveh, said the attacks were meant to “embroil the Kurds in the current sectarian fighting” in the country. He said Kurds in Mosul and other areas were being subjected “to a campaign of liquidation,” forcing thousands of them to flee. The insurgents operate conspicuously in Mosul and kidnap or kill officials or residents who do not heed their instructions.
Ninewa Deputy Governor Khisro Guran told the Peyamner News Agency Saturday that members of an armed group called the Yazidi Reform and Progress Movement, which he described a "Ba'athist" group stirring chaos in Yazidi towns, attacked the KDP headquarters in Seba Sheikh Khidr, a village in the Qahtaniya district west of Mosul, and set it on fire late Friday.
Yazidi workers and students residing in the Kurdish autonomous region had received death threats, and angry Kurdish rioters almost broke into a hotel full of Yazidi workers in Erbil before security forces intervened several days ago. The Bahzani website reported that two Yazidi men were killed in Mosul by unknown gunmen.
Iraqi police in Ba'shiqa said that two people who participated in stoning the young girl were detained and that two of the girls's uncles and four other people had fled the town while investigators continue to search for the rest of the culprits, including the girl's brother, who had appeared in a cell phone video recording of the murder, which was widely circulated on the Internet. Aswad's corpse was exhumed and sent to the Medico-legal Institute in Mosul several days ago before it was returned to the Sheikh Shams cemetery, medical sources told a Kurdish newspaper yesterday, but they did not disclose the results.
This is in addition to 11 ambulances the UNHCR is delivering to the Ministry of Health, Syrian Red Crescent and the Palestinian Red Crescent. This is the fourth agreement between the agency and Syrian government since the beginning of the year. UNHCR spokeswoman, Jennifer Pagonis says the aim is to support refugee health and educational needs.
Syria and Jordan are hosting more than two million refugees fleeing violence in Iraq. Both countries are overstretched and unable to cope. Last month, the UNHCR held a conference to create international support and protection for Iraqi refugees. Pagonis says the conference succeeded in raising awareness of the humanitarian crisis in the region. She says governments have promised not to deport Iraqi asylum seekers.
UNHCR spokeswoman Pagonis says earlier this year, the agency set up a new registration center for Iraqi refugees in Douma, 15 kilometers from Damascus. So far, nearly 78,000 refugees have been registered. During registration, she says, the most vulnerable Iraqis are identified for medical assistance, community services and resettlement. She says resettlement is reserved for those Iraqis who can never go home because their lives may be in danger.
Iraq's government had said that al-Masri had been killed either by rivals in al-Qaeda or by Sunni tribesmen. Later, however, Brigadier-General Abdul-Karim Khalaf, spokesman for the interior ministry, said al-Masri's death had not been confirmed. Another senior official, Major-General Hussein Kamal, said the government was "trying to investigate and confirm the report" that al-Masri had been killed in a battle within his own group. The internet statement by the Islamic State in Iraq "assures the Islamic nation about the safety of Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, may God save him, and that he is still fighting the enemies".
Late on Tuesday, the leader of a Sunni Arab group opposed to al-Qaeda told Iraqi television that his fighters tracked down and killed al-Masri along with seven of his aides, two of them Saudis. "Eyewitnesses confirmed his death and their corpses are still at the scene," Abdul-Sattar al-Rishawi, head of the Anbar Salvation Council, said. Another member of the Anbar Salvation Council, an alliance of Iraqi tribes that are opposed to al-Qaeda's presence in the Iraqi insurgency, told the AFP news agency that al-Masri had been killed by members of the al-Dulaimi tribe.
"The clashes started between the Dulaimi tribe, which is part of the Salvation Council, and Al-Qaeda at 9am (05:00 GMT) and continued until 11," Sheikh Hamid al-Hayis, head of the Anbar Salvation Council, said. "They killed him along with two Saudi leaders and three Iraqis." Iraq's interior ministry said on Tuesday it had received intelligence information on al-Masri's apparent death, and that Iraqi security forces were not involved.
A US military spokesman could not confirm the report, and said that several previous reports of al-Masri's death were found to be false. "I hope it's true, we're checking, but we're going to be doubly sure before we can confirm anything," Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Garver said. In March, Iraqi media reported that al-Masri had been wounded in a shootout with Iraqi soldiers, but the information proved unfounded.
US officials have said al-Masri is an Egyptian who specialises in car bombings. He has allegedly headed al-Qaeda's operations in Iraq since the death of then-leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a US air-raid in June 2006.
Labels: Abdul-Sattar al-Rishawi, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, Al Qaeda in Iraq, al-Dulaimi tribe, al-Nibayi, Anbar Salvation Council, Brigadier-General Abdul-Karim Khalaf, Islamic State in Iraq, Sunni tribesmen
Strongly backed by the United Nations, it aims to strengthen the role of the international community in stabilizing Iraq. But as the government struggles to stem the violence, Sunni-dominated Arab countries and several major European and Asian countries have indicated an unwillingness to spend more on Iraq.
The United States, the U.N. chief and the Iraq prime minister have been actively seeking support for the five-year compact. Al-Maliki went on a Mideast tour last week to push the compact, and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent his special adviser on the compact to several countries in Europe and the Mideast. The Bush administration also has been trying hard to persuade other countries to follow the its lead and write off Iraq's huge debt.
Said Arikat, spokesman for the U.N. mission in Iraq, said Tuesday that about 50 countries have said they will attend Thursday's gathering. In return, the international community would accept that reforms can only be achieved with cooperation and investment. Such assistance "can include the granting of 100 percent debt relief" and financial and technical assistance, the compact says.
In an interview last week, Ban urged the world to be generous, expressing hope that international support would spur the Iraqi people to promote national reconciliation. The 42-page compact says the police and military must be "depoliticized, impartial, accountable, transparent, and professional." It also says the government will seek support from all parties to dissolve militias and reintegrate their members.
But Sunni-dominated Arab countries are not convinced that Iraq's Shiite-led government will live up to those goals, complicating efforts to generate wide support for the compact. Several major European and Asian countries, meanwhile, have let it be known they don't have extra money to help Iraq.
The compact projects economic growth jumping from 3 percent in 2006 to 15.4 percent in 2007 and then slowing to 5.3 percent in 2011 _ the last year of the compact. It also projects oil production increasing from 1.97 million barrels per day in 2006 to 2.35 million barrels daily in 2007 and 3.5 million barrels per day in 2011. The compact requires the government to establish a human rights commission, enforce the rule of law in police operations, courts and prisons, develop anti-corruption plans and reform the civil service. It provides for an oil-profit sharing law and a fully funded budget for 2007.
"We are prepared for implementation of economic projects in Iraq. For this purpose, we have allocated $1 billion in credit," IRNA quoted Larijani as saying. His comments came two days before Iran joins the United States, European powers and Arab countries at a conference in Egypt to discuss a plan for stabilizing Iraq. Iran's decision to participate has raised the possibility of a rare direct encounter between high-level U.S. and Iranian officials.
But Larijani, who spoke in the Iraqi holy Shiite city of Najaf, criticized the United States on Tuesday, accusing its former ambassador to Iraq of meeting with terrorists. "We have information that the United States is holding talks with terrorists. The U.S. ambassador to Iraq talked to the leaders of these groups several months back," he said, without providing details.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, has acknowledged that U.S. and Iraqi officials talked to representatives of insurgent groups hoping to draw more Sunni groups away from al-Qaida. Current U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said last month that U.S. authorities will not talk with "terrorists," apparently distinguishing between al-Qaida in Iraq and Sunni insurgents opposed to the political process.
The U.S. has long accused Iran of providing weapons to insurgents in Iraq, a charge the country denies. Iran, a Shiite Muslim country with close ties to Iraq's majority Shiite population, says it does not allow fighters to cross into Iraq, but it does not rule out that such people might cross the long border illegally.