The New York Times leads with—and others front—Condoleezza Rice’s unexpected visit to Iraq Sunday, where she urged the heavily Shiite government to increase the participation of Sunnis in writing the country’s constitution. The Washington Post leads with allegations that Russian officials made millions of dollars from the U.N. oil-for-food program; the Russians allegedly sold oil that Saddam Hussein allowed them to buy at a reduced price. USA Today leads with different U.N. news: Kofi Annan’s warning to the White House that the Security Council may deadlock if asked to penalize Iran for its nuclear program. In an interview with the paper, the secretary-general indicated that Russia and China—both economically tied to Iran—would veto any push to sanction the country, though the Bush administration and Britain are pushing for Iran to be brought before the council. The Los Angeles Times’ top nonlocal story debates whether Pakistan knew the full extent of the secret life of its top nuclear scientist, who is now thought to have masterminded the sale of nuclear equipment to Iran and North Korea.
Rice visited northern Iraq and the Green Zone, meeting with Kurdish leaders and Iraqi top officials and addressing U.S. troops and diplomats. The papers note her trip came amid continuing violence, including suicide bombings and the discovery of bodies of slain Iraqis in as many as three places. During her visit, Rice also said Syria is “standing in the way of the Iraqi people’s desire for peace,” referring to terrorist networks assembling in the country.
The charges that the Russians profited from the U.N. program are part of a report issued after a Senate committee investigation. Hundreds of pages of documents from the inquiry “outline a trail of oil and money that leads directly from Iraq to the Kremlin,” the WP says. More than 30 percent of Iraqi oil allotments ended up with Russian officials, politicians, and businessmen, the report concludes. Some of the beneficiaries were close to Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin.
According to the Post, the documents were provided to reporters Friday on the condition that stories not be published about them until today (when the Senate will hold a hearing on the matter), but it’s unclear if other journalists had the same access as the Post. The Wall Street Journal has a report on the story, as do the Associated Press and Reuters, but the other papers are largely quiet on the issue.
The documents don’t directly implicate Annan, but they don’t make him look great, either. On his relationship with Congress, the secretary-general bluntly told USAT: “I’m afraid that it has gone sour again.”
The popularity of Abdul Qadeer Khan—the Pakistani nuclear scientist—granted him apparent immunity from many top Pakistani officials, says the LAT. Despite warnings from the U.S. and the international community, Pakistani leaders have not fully investigated him, though he was forced to retire. International investigators may never know the scope of the relationship between the scientist and the Pakistani government, and the unanswered questions contribute to their worry about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
Forty-six bodies were found in different locations around Iraq Sunday, says the NYT, and many appeared to have been killed execution-style. Separately, two suicide bombers caused several deaths, and according to USAT, two clerics—one Sunni and one Shiite—were killed Sunday. The LAT notes on its front page that the latest violence is evidence of mounting sectarian conflict. Meanwhile, Marines ended a major seven-day offensive in western Iraq during which more than 125 insurgents were killed and 39 suspected terrorists were detained, according to a statement issued by military officials.
The Post and the NYT front Newsweek’sapology for an inaccurate item about reported desecration of the Quran by American guards at Guantanamo Bay. The Newsweek story reported that according to an anonymous source, investigators had determined that military officials had flushed a Quran down a toilet. The report led to violent anti-American protests in Pakistan and Afghanistan during which several deaths occurred. Though the magazine acknowledged possible errors, it did not retract the report, and Michael Isikoff—Newsweek’s veteran investigative reporter who mainly reported the story—said the magazine would continue to look into what he called “a very murky situation.” Newsweek’s editor said that a senior Pentagon official had initially declined to comment when shown a draft of the report. The Pentagon now calls the report false.
Speed slowing? Methamphetamine use in the workplace rose last year, the WP reports. But the use of the drug grew at a slower pace than in previous years, according to a private company that conducted 7.2 million office drug tests in 2004. While positive tests rose three percent in 2004, in 2003 those testing positive had increased 68 percent from the previous year.