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Year 2001 No. 33, February 21, 2001 Archive Search Home Page

Opposition to the US and British Bombing of Iraq

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Opposition to the US and British Bombing of Iraq
Thousands Protest in Iraq - Response of Iraq Government - Demonstrations against the Bombing -Arab States Condemn Air Strikes - France: No Legal Basis for US and British Bombing - German Political Leaders Criticise the US and Britain - Opposition from Government Leaders World-Wide

Tony Blair Prepares to Meet George W Bush

Oil Tanker Drivers Vote to Strike

NUS Launches Plans for Action Week

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Opposition to the US and British Bombing of Iraq

 

Thousands Protest in Iraq

Thousands of Iraqi people marched in the rain on February 18 to protest against the US and British air strikes. Iraqi TV showed damaged houses and shops in a town where one man was killed when missiles hit nearby.

More than 10,000 people – including Iraq’s Deputy Foreign Minister Nabil Najim – took part in Sunday's protest in central Baghdad, and at least 1,000 others gathered across the city near the offices of the Baath party.

"This dangerous aggression shows how much the Americans and Britons hate Iraqis and do not respect any international law," Najim told the demonstrators. "This aggression must be condemned."

Popular Syrian film star Raghda, who flew to Baghdad on Saturday night, spoke to the crowd. "Nothing could stop me from coming here. The people of Iraq and children of Iraq are in my heart," she said.

The demonstrators shouted slogans against US President Bush, held up pictures of Iraq President Saddam Hussein and burned the US and Israeli flags. It was the biggest protest in Baghdad since the four days of bombing in December 1998.

 

Response of Iraq Government

Iraq sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan calling for United Nations condemnation of Friday's attack, which it said killed at least two civilians.

The official Iraqi News Agency (INA) said US and British warplanes returned to the southern "no-fly zone" within hours of the raid.

``Iraq will continue defying American and British aircraft flying in its airspace...and will confront them by all possible means,'' Iraq's Trade Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh told reporters in Baghdad.

Iraq's United Nations ambassador on Saturday described the US-British air strikes near Baghdad as acts of aggression, and called for "a more rational policy" toward Iraq.

"Enough is enough," Ambassador Mohammed al-Douri said. "It was aggression and we know that, we have expected that, we will expect more aggression from the United States and the British". He said the Iraqi people have grown to expect "all these kinds of aggressions. It was daily from '91 till now, so nothing new really."

Al-Douri, who was sworn in as Iraq's new UN ambassador just 10 days ago, said he hoped Friday's air strike would be brought up in talks between Iraqi officials and Secretary-General Kofi Annan set for February 26-27.

"Whatever interests the rest of the Iraqi people will do it," he said, referring to the agenda for the talks. The ambassador asked US citizens "to push the (US President George W Bush) administration to have a more rational policy vis-a-vis the people of Iraq and Iraq as a state."

Iraqi newspapers condemned the US for the attack and said it would be avenged.

"The Americans' and Britons' new, savage crime will not pass unpunished and without decisive retaliation," the official Qadissiya newspaper said in a front-page editorial. "We will teach the new American administration and the Zionist entity lessons on Jihad and steadfastness," it added. It called the US President the "son of the snake", in reference to his father George Bush.

The government newspaper al-Jumhouriya described the assault as a "cowardly act" and "another failing action by the tyrant rulers of the criminal American administration".

Iraqi television broadcast an official statement. "We will fight them in the air, on land and sea and their aggression will achieve nothing but failure," it said. The statement also blamed Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, which provide bases for coalition forces in the region.

A senior Iraqi official criticised the UN on Tuesday for failing to censure last week's US-British air strikes. The senior member of President Saddam Hussein's Baath Party accused the United States of blocking any such move in the UN Security Council.

"Where is the Security Council... where is the United Nations and where are those who defend the UN's charter," asked Abdul-Ghani Abdul-Ghafur.

 

Demonstrations against the Bombing

In Gaza and the West Bank, hundreds of Palestinians marched in solidarity with Iraq to condemn the air raids. Iraq has consistently supported the intifadah against Israel.

Scores of Jordanians protested against the raid outside the heavily guarded US Embassy in Amman.

In Dublin, a protest vigil was held to protest against the unprovoked and illegal bombing of Iraq by US and British planes. It was held on Saturday afternoon at the Central Bank in Dame Street. The vigil also demanded an end to the Iraq sanctions.

In San Francisco, a demonstration was held on the day of the bombing to protest against the US war against Iraq. On Monday, a demonstration was held in New York City to demand: Stop the bombing of Iraq! End the sanctions now!

 

Arab States Condemn Air Strikes

Egypt, which had supported the US in the Gulf War 10 years ago, sent Economy Minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali and Public Sector Minister Mokhtar Khattab to Baghdad to show solidarity with Iraq.

"We are here to support the Iraqi people and promote economic and financial relations between our countries," Boutros-Ghali told reporters.

``The air raids have just complicated the situation and killed innocent people,'' Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told Italy's la Repubblica newspaper. ``I don't believe Saddam is a threat to the world. Iraq is not a superpower and it doesn't have sophisticated trans-continental missiles,'' he was quoted as saying.

At a Parliament session in Jordan in which many members of the 80-seat Chamber of Deputies condemned the United States, Prime Minister Ali Abu-Ragheb said, "The condescending attitude and the use of force will lead to no results, but only incites sentiments ... in the region."

In Syria, the official Al-Thawra newspaper called Friday's attack a "dangerous precedent in international relations".

Libya and Tunisia in a joint statement called for the lifting the sanctions imposed on Iraq and for the "immediate cessation to all acts of aggression".

The Arab League said the assault had broken international law and would arouse anger across the Arab world.

 

France: No Legal Basis for US and British Bombing

French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine condemned the United States and Britain on Monday for launching air raids against Iraq, saying there was no basis in international law for the attacks.

Hubert Vedrine said in an interview with LCI television that Washington and London were isolated in their hard-line policy and France wanted to see an end to economic sanctions against Iraq.

``We have believed for a long time that there was no legal basis for this type of bombardment,'' Hubert Vedrine said, referring to Friday's air strikes near Baghdad.

``This action, as far as I am aware, is approved by hardly anyone. Only Canada and Poland, but I don't know why,'' he said.

``All other countries have expressed their disapproval, criticism, doubt and disquiet, as we have done, because we do not see the point of this action,'' he added.

The Foreign Minister said France was waiting for new US President George W Bush to adopt a new approach towards Iraq.

``We embarked several years ago on a policy of sanctions which had a sense at the beginning, but was then seen for what it was, that it was taking the Iraqi population hostage,'' he said. ``This embargo is not working well. It is the people who are suffering and we want to get out of it.''

France was one of the countries which sent troops against Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War but has increasingly distanced itself from US-British policy on Baghdad. In 1998 stopped taking part in regular air patrols over Iraqi airspace, leaving just Britain and the US.

 

German Political Leaders Criticise the US and Britain

Several political leaders in German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government have criticised the United States and Britain for the air strikes against Iraq.

The government itself has declined to comment on the air raids.

``This wasn't a very smart move,'' said Gert Weisskirchen, a foreign policy expert from Chancellor Schroeder's Social Democrats in parliament, in an interview which appeared on Monday in the Frankfurter Rundschau daily. ``We have to send the United States a signal that this is not acceptable,'' he added.

Another SPD foreign policy expert, Uta Zapf, told the Bild newspaper: ``I am horrified that there were bomb attacks directed at targets near Baghdad. I doubt that there is any legal justification for it.''

Angelika Beer, defence policy expert for the Greens, who share power with the SPD, said the attacks were unwarranted. ``What is now happening cannot be justified in any way,'' Angelika Beer told the Frankfurter Rundschau.

 

Opposition from Government Leaders World-Wide

China on Saturday condemned the US and British warplanes' strikes against Iraq and expressed deep regret over casualties of Iraqi civilians.

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said, "We condemn the air attacks launched by the United States and Britain against Iraq, and express deep regret over the deaths and injuries of innocent civilians resulting from the action." He said China has always maintained that Iraq's sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence should be respected. The US and British warplanes' bombing in Iraq will harm the international community's efforts to solve the issue of Iraq, he said. The spokesman called on the United States and Britain to stop their military actions in Iraq immediately so as to create a favourable atmosphere for the upcoming dialogue between Iraq and the UN Secretary-General.

Russia on Friday condemned the joint US-British air raids in Iraq, with a top defence ministry official accusing the new US administration of George W Bush of ignoring international humanitarian norms.

"What the American military is in the process of doing, at the beginning of the new US administration, is a threat to international security and the entire international community," General Leonid Ivashov told Interfax.

"This attack leaves Russia in no doubt" that Washington was seeking to "monopolise the role of being a world policeman," the ITAR-TASS news agency cited him as saying.

Ivashov said the United States was "trying to replace the UN Security Council, which constitutes a dangerous tendency that will destabilise an already fragile international situation."

The Russian foreign ministry said it was "concerned" at the announcement of the new strikes near the Iraqi capital.

Foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko was quoted by Interfax as saying: "Russia bases itself resolutely on the need to fulfil the UN Security Council resolution concerning Iraq. All actions going against international law only complicate the process of solving the Iraqi problem."

Vladimir Lukin, deputy speaker of the Duma lower house of parliament and former ambassador to Washington, told Moscow Echo radio that the latest strikes "will not do any good," adding: "Bombing Iraq is not a way. It is necessary to seek other methods (to enable) observation of the peace accord."

Turkey, from which US and British warplanes take off to patrol the north Iraq "no-fly zone", condemned Washington for failing to inform it before the assault was launched.

A Spanish foreign affairs spokesman said Spain and other European allies had not been informed of the raid.

An Italian foreign ministry source said Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini would question US Secretary of State Colin Powell about the attack when they meet in Washington this week.

Article Index



Tony Blair Prepares to Meet George W Bush

Tony Blair has declared that he is ready to find a way of helping meet what he has referred to, seemingly without irony, as American desires for extra protection against attack from so-called "rogue states".

In the Dail Mail newspaper, just prior to the criminal bombing of Baghdad, he said that any solution must meet concerns from Europe, Russia and China.

The National Missile Defence (NMD) scheme of the US to create a "missile shield" – nicknamed Son of Star Wars – is likely to depend on the upgrading of the Fylingdales early warning base in North Yorkshire.

Tony Blair has so far refused to say whether he would agree to use of the base for NMD, insisting that it would be wrong to do so before any request has been received from the US.

The Prime Minister is due to meet the US President for the first time on February 23, when he arrives for a two-day visit to Washington and Camp David, and the issue is reported to be high on the agenda.

Asked about reports in the Daily Mail which suggested that Tony Blair will offer his support for the project during those meetings, Downing Street would say only: "No proposals have been put forward to us. The Americans are still looking at it to see how it would work."

Writing in the American business magazine Forbes, the Prime Minister said: "This is definitely in the box marked 'handle with care' on all sides. It is a very sensitive issue. I understand totally America's desire to make sure that its people are properly protected. I also understand the concerns people have about the ABM treaty and the desire to preserve it."

Article Index



Oil Tanker Drivers Vote to Strike

Oil tanker drivers who deliver fuel for Shell have voted by over seven to one to take strike action in support of their five per cent pay claim.

On an estimated turnout of 78%, the voting was 240 to 32 in favour of strike action, with the number of drivers who are prepared to take part in industrial action short of a strike being even higher.

Announcing the strike ballot result, Ron Webb, the TGWU national secretary, said, "There is an overwhelming feeling amongst the drivers that justice in terms of a pay rise is long overdue. That is why we have a huge majority in favour of strike action and a strong number of drivers voting in the ballot.

"They believe that after some fifteen years of cut backs and now record profits at Shell, a five per cent rise is both affordable and fair.

"The T&G believes, however, that the company are alive to the consequences of a strike going ahead. We have been in talks to avoid confrontation and are making good progress. With this vote now made public, I believe we can make further progress and at speed to resolve this whole dispute."

Talks between the TGWU and P&O Trans-European, Shell’s contract distributor, were continuing to make progress.

Article Index



NUS Launches Plans for Action Week

The NUS has announced that Action Week (Monday 26 February to Friday 2 March) is at the centre of its campaign strategy against fees. The NUS says that in the run-up to the General Election it is essential that students continue to have their voices heard. Action Week is the best way to ensure the critical hardship problem is kept on the agenda.

The activities planned have been spread over the week to avoid overwhelming students’ unions. That said, the NUS points out, even the smaller events can have an impact on the public, media and politicians.

On Monday each students’ union is encouraged to stage a ‘Question Time’ style event. MPs and prospective candidates should be invited to answer students’ questions as guests on a panel. Tips on how to run the debate will be provided nearer the time.

Tuesday is Union Day. Working with the higher education unions, the NUS aims to have every students’ union set up to collect signatures for a national petition. 250,000 signatures are required from students, potential students, lecturers, teachers, parents and the general public.

A large-scale postcard signing session has been planned for Wednesday. After morning lectures, NUS is calling for each students’ union to organise an area of tables where students can sign and personalise pre-printed postcards addressed to their MP. Student officers are asked to collect all the cards and send them to arrive on MPs' desks on Friday, or take them to the MP's surgery.

Thursday’s National Shutdown is important, stresses the NUS. The last shutdown was a big success and organising another one so close to General Election gives students the chance to show how damaging fees are. The sight of empty lecture rooms everywhere would send an appropriate message.

The last event of the week, Lobby your MP, encourages every students’ union to schedule a meeting with their local MP for Friday. Fridays are usually constituency days and MPs are often available to meet local people. The NUS is requesting that student officers should prepare a delegation of three or four well-versed students to visit MPs at their surgery and request support.

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