Archive for Saturday, March 6, 2004


March 6, 2004



Israel: No withdrawal before U.S. elections

Israel will wait until after the U.S. presidential election in November to withdraw troops from the Gaza Strip, a security official said Friday, while soldiers sealed the West Bank and Gaza Strip amid warnings of attacks by Palestinian militants.

The moves came as an Israeli newspaper released a poll that put Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's approval rating at its lowest since he took office in 2001. For the first time, a majority of Israelis said he should resign, the poll said.

The poll in the Yediot Ahronot daily said 57 percent of Israelis thought Sharon was not trustworthy. That appeared to be a reflection of public displeasure about Sharon's alleged links to a growing number of scandals.


EU leader urges nation to push membership

The death of President Boris Trajkovski must not derail Macedonia's efforts to join the European Union, the top EU official said Friday at his funeral.

"We believe in this country, we believe in its determination to become a full member of the European institutions," said European Commission President Romano Prodi as he attended the ceremony along with heads of state and officials from nearly 60 countries.

Trajkovski was en route to an international conference Feb. 26 when his turboprop plane crashed in heavy fog in southern Bosnia. The crash occurred just hours before Macedonia was to submit its application for EU membership in Dublin, Ireland.


Chavez defends election process, denies abuses

President Hugo Chavez defended Venezuela's elections process Friday as hundreds of his opponents marched in Caracas to protest widespread arrests during anti-government demonstrations.

The South American nation has been hit by rioting linked to the rejection of a petition for Chavez's recall. At least eight people died and dozens were wounded in five days of street violence that abated Wednesday with the mediation of international observers.

Arguing that the left-leaning Chavez has become increasingly autocratic, opponents submitted more than 3 million signatures to demand the recall. About 2.4 million are required.


Italy bans protests of pardon request for Nazi

Citing security concerns, Italy on Friday banned weekend demonstrations about a controversial request seeking a pardon for convicted Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke.

Protests had been planned both by those who say the 90-year-old Priebke should be pardoned and those who insist he hasn't paid off his debt.

A pro-Priebke group had organized a demonstration today in a Rome square. Jewish community representatives, leftist lawmakers and resistance fighters' associations planned two counterevents -- one in the same square.

Rome Prefect Achille Serra said Friday the demonstrations posed a risk to public order, the only grounds on which a protest can be banned in Italy.


Blair still defending war

Prime Minister Tony Blair passionately defended his decision to join the U.S.-led war on Iraq, saying Friday that governments could not "err on the side of caution" when dealing with threats of global terror and weapons of mass destruction.

Blair, whose popularity at home has slumped since the campaign to topple Saddam Hussein, said the decision to commit Britain to the war was his most divisive since becoming leader in 1997.

But, in a speech in his constituency of Sedgefield, northern England, Blair argued that the international community had a "duty and a right to prevent the threat materializing" and to stop a regime brutally oppressing its people.


Russia may have helped Iraq with missiles

Weapons-hunters in Iraq have found evidence that experts from Russia and other countries helped with Iraq's missile programs, but it is unclear whether those countries' governments played any role, U.S. officials said Friday.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Bush administration would compile information it had obtained and eventually present it to those countries. In addition to Russia, officials found signs that experts from Ukraine, Serbia and Belarus may have been involved.

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