Classified By: DCM Gregory L. Berry for reasons 1.5 (B)(D).
---------------- General Overview ----------------
1. (C) The Embassy is operating on a normal schedule March
31. Consular services are open. Activities at the American Language Center remain suspended, and there is only restricted activity by FSN's at the Peace Corps office. Movements of American staff remain restricted.
2. (C) Consular section began receiving phone calls asking whether the Embassy is open to receiving Iraqi applications for refugee status. Callers are being told that "all refugee applications must first be approved by UNHCR before any receiving country can consider granting such status."
3. (C) Approximately 1:00 a.m. local time, Michael Birmingham, (Voices in the Wilderness, Chicago) telephoned the Embassy to say that his friend Ramzi Kysia, reportedly a U.S. citizen, with "Voices of the Wilderness" had departed Baghdad on Sunday, 3/30 at 9:00 a.m. by car for Jordan and had not been heard from since. Mr. Birmingham said he had checked with the UN relief agencies working at the border and they did not think Mr. Kysia had crossed. Mr. Birmingham said he would advise Embassy when he hears from his friend.
4. (U) Eight peace activists are staying in the Hotel Monzer in the Abdali section of Amman. They plan to depart for the U.S. on Tuesday. One activist, Mr. Weldon Nisly, is currently in the hospital and may not be able to travel. If he does not travel, one other member of the group will remain with him. Consular Section and RMO visited him March 31. The eight Amcits are: Leah Wilson, Margaret Gish, Shane Clayborne, Betty Scholten, Clifford Kindy, Kara McGill, Weldon Nisly, and Johnathan Hartgrove.
5. (C) During a visit to the Public Security Division (PSD), Petra news agency reports that King Abdullah II hailed PSD for its work "in keeping the citizens' security and the homeland's stability," and reiterated respect for freedom of expression in Jordan. The King pointed out that the Jordanian people's expressions of feelings about Iraq have been "conscious and responsible," embodying Jordan's "angry stand" on the consequences of the war on Iraq for civilians and in solidarity with them. (Ref FBIS GMP200330030000178)
6. (C) Petra news agency reported that on Sunday Jordanian journalists condemned the "American-British invasion against Iraq." The demonstration organized by the Press Association expressed support for Iraq "in the face of the vicious attack which claims the lives of hundreds of unarmed civilians." (Ref FBIS GMP200330030000175) The item did not report how many people attended the demonstration.
7. (C) There were a few small, non-violent gatherings in the city March 30, with a couple of gatherings scheduled for last evening. No violence was anticipated with these known gatherings. There was a candlelight vigil held by 100 - 200 women at the UN offices. 100 press members marched to a press office near Jordan University. Additionally, 700 people demonstrated at the Professional Associations Complex, but did not leave that complex.
Economic and Trade Developments
8. (SBU) Queen Alia International Airport Director Nasri Nowar reported that two planeloads (747s) of humanitarian aid from Japan will arrive at the airport March 31. Nowar said the Japanese Embassy was playing the event up as a photo op with 60 Japanese journalists and the Ambassador of Japan expected to be in attendance. He also said that Royal Jordanian flights to the United States will continue to operate once or twice per week, depending on loads, and that service to Europe both by RJ and European carriers was still running, albeit at reduced levels.
9. (SBU) The Amman Stock Exchange was down slightly by .36% on lower trading March 30. Banking sector contacts said business was normal and emphasized, alluding to reports of unusual activity in the Saudi banking sector, that there were "no indications or suggestions" of capital flight in Jordan.
10. (SBU) Contrary to local press reports, Jordan Telecom (JT) has not reestablished telephone links with Iraq via alternative satellite routes. JT Director of Marketing Olivier Faure said that, although the company had attempted to reroute calls through a number of different telecom providers (including MCI in the U.S. and British Telecom in the U.K.), it had not yet been successful. Faure was not optimistic that connections would be established in the short term, given what he termed "the obvious damage" to the Iraqi fixed-line network, judging by the "ever-increasing" number of complaints by customers unable to reach friends and family in Iraq.
11. (SBU) A QIZ company manager said that one of his major clients, accounting for half of his production, cancelled April orders due to the war. He said another client asked him to put a confirmed May order on hold. Embassy/Econ informed him of Embassy and Washington activities related to QIZ support during the crisis, and offered to contact his buyers if he desired.
12. (S) Military sources report that the two-truck MSF convoy has been located. According to MSF, the trucks had been held at the Iraqi side of the Jordan-Iraq border since Wednesday, March 28 (no further details on why the trucks had been held). The convoy reportedly left the Iraqi side of the border at 1200 yesterday (local time) and was expected to reach Baghdad by nightfall yesterday. Iraqi customs and immigration officials continue to staff the border post on the Iraqi side.
13. (C) IOM reports that 26 TCNs crossed into Jordan from Iraq overnight (March 30-31). Nine of them reportedly have document problems and are being held at no-man's land at the border. An elderly Iraqi couple with health problems who seek permission to transit Jordan en route to Bahrain also are awaiting permission to enter Jordan. UNHCR believes GOJ authorities will allow the couple to tranist Jordan. IOM reports that a significant and ever-changing number of Somali and Sudanese nationals continue to insist that they do not want to return to their countries of origin. The Somali and Sudanese nationals are long-term residents of Iraq (15 - 20 years) who claim that they have no remaining ties to their home countries or any means of supporting themselves there - - or, in some cases, even getting back to their home villages. IOM cannot forcibly repatriate these TCNs, nor can it offer any assistance (repatriation packages, etc.) to help convince them to go home. UNHCR is interviewing everyone who says they don't want to return home but so far has not found that anyone meets UNHCR criteria for refugee status. As long as the total transit camp population remains manageable (total population hovers around 250 right now, as IOM is making plans to repatriate people in small groups), IOM and the Jordan Red Crescent believe they can provide a minimal, acceptable level of care for the TCN population for the foreseeable future. Without having been out to the camp, Embassy Refugee Coordinator suspects that many of these Somalis and Sudanese are hoping to wait out the war here in Jordan and then return to their homes/jobs in Iraq after some degree of stability has returned to Iraq. So far, all of the relevant players - - including the GOJ - - seem inclined to let them wait it out, but it is not clear how long that will be true.
14. (C) Another emerging protection question is the status of Palestinians trying to enter Jordan. 18 Palestinians without any travel documentation were admitted to the transit camp in Ruweished, but UNHCR reports that over the last two days, two separate groups of stateless Palestinians (total of 11 individuals) held overnight in no-man's land were "persuaded" by GOJ authorities to return to Iraq. UNHCR is starting to suspect that these were not voluntary returns. The GOJ has made it very clear to everyone involved that it will not allow Palestinians to enter Jordan, but need to find a way to care for stateless Palestinians until it is safe for them to return to their homes in Iraq.