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Archive for Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Briefly

June 18, 2003

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London

Ex-ministers: Government exaggerated Iraqi threat

An inquiry into Britain's decision to wage war in Iraq opened Tuesday with two former ministers testifying that the government manipulated intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs to bolster the case for an attack.

Former House of Commons leader Robin Cook said the government had already decided on a policy of ousting Saddam and used intelligence to justify it, becoming the United States' leading ally against Saddam.

Clare Short, the former International Development Secretary, said Blair "pre-committed" Britain to conflict months before the war, even as the United Nations was working to resolve the crisis peacefully.

Cook and Short both quit the Cabinet over Blair's pro-war stance.

Malaysia

WHO chief says SARS under control for now

The chief of the World Health Organization declared Tuesday that SARS is under control -- contained less than 100 days since the sounding of a global alert.

"We have seen SARS stopped dead in its tracks," the WHO director-general, Gro Harlem Brundtland told more than 1,000 international researchers, officials and health experts meeting in Kuala Lumpur to discuss lessons learned from the outbreak.

Her statement came just hours after WHO lifted a month-old warning against nonessential travel to Taiwan, the third-most hard-hit area after China and Hong Kong. But the U.N. agency recommended continued vigilance in all areas of Taiwan.

Gaza Strip

Palestinians kill 7-year-old; peace talks still faltering

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas failed on Tuesday to persuade militant groups to end attacks on Israelis. Just after their meeting, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on a car and killed an Israeli child.

A 7-year-old girl was killed and a 5-year-old girl was seriously wounded in the shooting on a highway just inside Israel, close to the West Bank town of Qalqiliya. Army Radio said the gunfire came from the West Bank. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Israeli government official Zalman Shoval said the shooting showed that alongside peace efforts, "our own battle with the terrorists will have to continue."

Abbas' three-hour meeting with leaders of militant groups produced no truce accord, but there was agreement to continue the talks.

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