- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2003

A Kurdish political leader is appealing to the United States this week for emergency financial aid in the face of a near-total embargo from Baghdad and a sealed border with Turkey that have left his government strapped for cash.
"We are already feeling the pinch," said Barham Salih, prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government for Suleimaniyah, in an interview yesterday. "Trade has dwindled and the oil-for-food program is all but terminated. Economic pressures are becoming really grave."
Mr. Salih, who arrived in Washington Saturday, has met with key Bush administration officials in an appeal for $50 million for the government serving the section of northern Iraq protected by U.S. and British fighter patrols. He met yesterday with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Ryan Crocker. On Monday he met with the Pentagon's No. 3 civilian official, Doug Feith.
Northern Iraq's normal sources of income have largely dried up in recent months.
U.N. workers in the oil-for-food program, which helps distribute money for food and medical assistance to northern Iraq from the country's oil revenue, began leaving the Kurdish territory last month.
Saddam Hussein began restricting trade from Baghdad to the north over the summer, and more recently has clamped down on the smuggling that resulted. "Only the most die-hard Kurds are continuing to smuggle goods from the rest of Iraq," a Kurdish diplomat in Washington said yesterday.
Turkey has also closed its border with northern Iraq in preparation for war, denying the Kurdish parties revenue from trucks smuggling oil from Iraq. The only reliable link to the outside world remaining for the Kurds is its border with Iran.

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