Tracking Number:  175102

Title:  "Situation 'Fluid' in Southeast Iraq, Kurdish North." The Iraqi government appears to be establishing some degree of control in southeastern Iraq, but the situation is still unsettled. (910306)

Date:  19910306


03/06/91 1Ne Re SITUATION "FLUID" IN SOUTHEAST IRAQ, KURDISH NORTH (Government establishing some control) (1060) By Russell Dybvik USIA Diplomatic Correspondent

Washington -- The Iraqi government appears to be establishing "some degree of control" in some cities of southeastern Iraq, but "the situation is still fluid" there and in the Kurdish north, State Department deputy spokesman Richard Boucher said March 6.

"We continue to receive numerous reports of civil unrest in Iraq," Boucher told a news briefing on the eve of Secretary of State Baker's departure on a 10-day trip to the Middle East and the Soviet Union. "Over the past 24 hours, the level of unrest appears to have been highest in the cities of Karbala, Najaf, and Hillah in southern Iraq and Kirkuk, Sulaymaniya, and Ranya in the Kurdish north," Boucher said.

He said the United States has asked the Iraqi government for information concerning up to 30 journalists reported missing in southern Iraq, at least five of whom are believed to be Americans. They apparently crossed from Kuwait into Iraq in an attempt to cover the disturbances in southern Iraq.

The deputy spokesman said "the most serious fighting currently seems to be taking place in and around the Shia holy cities of Karbala and Najaf, which apparently remained largely in the hands of anti-government forces" on March 5. "In these areas, there are large government forces, including Republican Guard units and regular army units, which are continuing their efforts to restore government control," Boucher said.

He acknowledged that Basra is among the cities in southeastern Iraq where the government appears to be reasserting some degree of control, but where sporadic violence and unrest are also continuing.

Boucher was unable to say if the violence is sectarian or politically based. "This is, as we've said, to a great extent, spontaneous activity by people opposed to the regime," he said, noting many have opposed Saddam Hussein's regime for a long time. "It's also based on the fact that the government has brought nothing but harm and suffering to its people," he added. He noted that these groups also have a long history of opposition to the Baath regime in Iraq and at least one of them is allied with Iran.

GE 2 POL307

"We don't think that outside powers should be interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq," the deputy spokesman declared. "These questions of government and the future of Saddam Hussein are for the Iraqi people to decide." He said "the United States respects and believes in the territorial integrity of Iraq" and has made it very clear that it does not "support the dismemberment of Iraq."

David Mack, deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, telephoned Khalid Shewayish, the senior Iraqi diplomat in Washington, late March 5 to ask for "any information" the Iraqi government may have about the missing journalists. Mack also asked Iraq to facilitate their safe return to Kuwait or to a third country, Boucher said. A similar request was made by U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering March 5 in a meeting with Iraq's permanent representative to the United Nations, and through the Soviet government to authorities in Baghdad.

Baker is to leave Washington March 7 on a trip that will take him to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Syria, the Soviet Union and Turkey, and possibly Kuwait. The secretary will be holding consultations on the postwar situation in the gulf. His agenda includes security arrangements for the region, arms control and proliferation, the Arab-Israeli peace process and regional economic assistance and cooperation. Baker has made it plain that "as long as Saddam Hussein remains in power, we would be in favor of a total arms embargo," Boucher recalled.

"The secretary has, in the past, stated very clearly that we look to the countries of the gulf -- to the GCC states particularly -- to take the lead in the discussions of the post-war security arrangements," Boucher reminded reporters when asked about the March 6 Damascus meeting of the six Gulf Cooperation Council states, Egypt and Syria.

While in Saudi Arabia, Baker is expected to meet with representatives of the six GCC states, a senior U.S. official told reporters later.

Asked if Syria should be included in an Arab peace-keeping force for the region, Boucher said he was "not in a position at this point to try to specifically rule in or rule anybody out of future postwar security arrangements."

"We look to the GCC states to take the lead in terms of the discussions, the ideas, and the efforts that will have to be made for their own security in the future," Boucher said.

On related issues, the deputy spokesman:

-- characterized the action by the Revolutionary Command Council in Baghdad to rescind the annexation of Kuwait by Iraq's National Assembly as "an official act of the Iraqi

GE 3 POL307 government," but said "whether it fully rescinds the annexation is a question the legal experts have to look at." Boucher was not aware of any Kuwaiti citizens having been released by Iraq, but he said it was something the International Committee of the Red Cross and the coalition's military command would continue to pursue.

-- told reporters he was not aware of any evidence that chemical weapons may have been used again to quell the unrest in the Kurdish north. "We have many times stated our opposition to any use of chemical weapons whether it is in warfare, or even more so against innocent civilians," the deputy spokesman said. "The international community has spoken out strongly on this in the past, and I would expect that to continue to be the case."

-- said the United States is "very pleased" that the Japanese Diet approved, on March 6, the bills which provide Japan's new financial contribution to Desert Storm. "We understand that the disbursements in cash will be made very shortly," he said. "Japan's unwavering political support and substantial financial contributions have been very helpful in the effort to counter Iraq's aggression." While the exact allocation of the Japanese assistance will be discussed and decided with the Japanese government, "we do expect, as we've said in the past, the lion's share of this contribution will come to the United States," Boucher said. NNNN

File Identification:  03/06/91, PO-307; 03/06/91, AE-306; 03/06/91, EP-316; 03/06/91, EU-302; 03/06/91, NE-310; 03/07/91, NA-414
Product Name:  Wireless File
Product Code:  WF
Languages:  Arabic
Thematic Codes:  1NE
Target Areas:  AF; EA; EU; NE
PDQ Text Link:  175102