Contact Me By Email

Atlanta, GA Weather from Weather Underground

Saturday, August 20, 2005

All Headline News - Officials Continue Search After Red Sea Attack - August 20, 2005

All Headline News - Officials Continue Search After Red Sea Attack - August 20, 2005Officials Continue Search After Red Sea Attack

August 20, 2005 4:00 a.m. EST

Danielle George - All Headline News Staff Reporter

Aqaba, Jordan - Attackers firing Katyusha rockets barely missed the U.S. Navy ship docked at a Red Sea resort. Two more rockets were shot toward nearby Israel without causing serious damage.

Jordanian security forces are hunting for at least six Egyptian, Syrian and Iraqi suspects, as an al-Qaida-linked group that previously claimed responsibility for terror bombings in three Egyptian resorts said it staged the attack here.

The Abdullah Azzam Brigades posted a statement on the Internet saying its fighters fired the rockets Friday.

"A group of our holy warriors ... targeted a gathering of American military ships docking in Aqaba port," says the statement, which also threatened to bring down King Abdullah II of Jordan.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Bush's Aid Cuts on Court Issue Roils Latin America - New York Times

Bush's Aid Cuts on Court Issue Roils Latin America - New York TimesBush's Aid Cuts on Court Issue Roils Latin America
By JUAN FORERO

BOGOTÁ, Colombia, Aug. 18 - Three years ago the Bush administration began prodding countries to shield Americans from the fledgling International Criminal Court in The Hague, which was intended to be the first permanent tribunal for prosecuting crimes like genocide.

The United States has since cut aid to some two dozen nations that refused to sign immunity agreements that American officials say are intended to protect American soldiers and policy makers from politically motivated prosecutions.

To the Bush administration, the aid cuts are the price paid for refusing to offer support in an area where it views the United States, with its military might stretched across the globe, as being uniquely vulnerable.

But particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean, home to 12 nations that have been penalized, the cuts are generating strong resentment at what many see as heavy-handed diplomacy, officials and diplomats in seven countries said.

More than that, some Americans are also beginning to question the policy, as political and military leaders in the region complain that the aid cuts are squandering good will and hurting their ability to cooperate in other important areas, like the campaigns against drugs and terrorism.

In testimony before Congress in March, Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, the commander of American military forces in Latin America, said the sanctions had excluded Latin American officers from American training programs and could allow China, which has been seeking military ties to Latin America, to fill the void.

"We now risk losing contact and interoperability with a generation of military classmates in many nations of the region, including several leading countries," General Craddock told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Most of the penalties, outlined in a law that went into effect in 2003, have been in the form of cuts in military training and other security aid. But a budget bill passed in December also permits new cuts in social and health-care programs, like AIDS education and peacekeeping, refugee assistance and judicial reforms.

Though the amounts are a pittance for Washington, their loss is being sorely felt in small countries.

In an outburst, in June, President Alfredo Palacio of Ecuador told a Quito television station that he would not yield to Washington. "Absolutely no one is going to make me cower," he said. "Neither the government, nor Alfredo Palacio nor the Ecuadorean people need to be afraid."

His nation has one of the region's largest American military bases and has become increasingly important as a staging ground for American surveillance of everything from the cocaine trade to immigrant smuggling. Still, Ecuador has lost $15 million since 2003 and may lose another $7 million this year.

When the International Criminal Court's 18 judges took their oaths in March 2003, the tribunal was backed by 139 countries and heralded by supporters as the most ambitious project in modern international law.

It was intended to replace the ad hoc tribunals addressing atrocities in Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. This year the Security Council, with the United States abstaining, gave the court approval to prosecute cases related to atrocities in Darfur, Sudan.

Many legal scholars say it is unlikely that Americans would ever face the court because its focus is on the most egregious of war crimes, like systematic genocide, and the court is intended to try cases from countries where the judicial systems are unable or unwilling to handle such cases. There are also safeguards that would give the United States' own military and civilian courts jurisdiction over Americans.

But Bush administration officials, including some at the State Department, assert that the court could still move against American officials.

"The exposure faced by the United States goes well beyond people on active duty and it includes decision-makers in our government," said a high-ranking State Department official who was authorized to speak about the policy but only if he was not identified. "We're not hallucinating that our officials are at risk."

"The idea is that the court gets to second-guess if it's not satisfied," the official added.

Bruce Broomhall, director of the center for the study of international law and globalization at the University of Quebec in Montreal, disagrees. He noted that for the court to act against a suspected war criminal, the prosecutor must satisfy the judges that the host country was "shielding the individual concerned from criminal responsibility."

Still, Mr. Broomhall said, there is "a glimmer" of an argument behind the administration's concern. "If the crime is sufficiently organized and intense and a crime against humanity - if you get past that first threshold - it's potentially a crime within the jurisdiction of the court," he said.

Others, like Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch, acknowledge that there are countries that may want to use the court "as a political battering ram."

"What's in dispute," said Mr. Dicker, director of international justice for the group, "is what kinds of safeguards are necessary to prevent these kinds of distortions. The United States has adopted a solution that's inimical to the rule of law, that says because we're the most powerful state in the world, we'll create a two-tiered system of justice."

George Nethercutt, a former Republican congressman from Washington State whose amendment calling for cuts in economic aid was approved in December, acknowledged that the possibility an American would face charges was small. But he said that pushing countries to sign the agreements did not "seem like a disproportionate expectation" because aid is not an entitlement.

Opponents in the American Congress, though, call the administration's efforts part of a "hyper-precautionary" policy that does more harm than good.

"We're constantly pressuring other countries, and it comes to a point where it provokes a backlash and hurts us, hurts us militarily, hurts our commercial relationships, hurts us politically," said Representative Bill Delahunt, a Massachusetts Democrat.

Administration officials note that more than 100 immunity agreements have been signed. But supporters of the court say that most have been signed by poor countries heavily dependent on Washington for aid; NATO allies like Britain and Germany have been exempted from the penalties, as well as other wealthy countries like Australia and Japan.

In about two-thirds of the countries that have signed, legislative bodies have not ratified the agreements, raising questions about their legality, said the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, which supports the tribunal.

In all, 53 countries, from Kenya to Ecuador to some European nations, have declined to sign the agreements, saying Washington's effort undermines their commitment to the court. Not all have been penalized and some, like Paraguay and Dominica, later yielded to American pressure and signed agreements.

In Latin America the immunity agreements, and the sanctions, have been especially hard to swallow for left-leaning governments who have come to power by rejecting American-backed economic policies.

"It's a contradictory policy and it's ungrateful," said Luis Hernández, a retired Ecuadorean Army colonel who was educated at the United States Army War College.

American budgetary records show that Uruguay, whose new left-leaning government has vocally declined to sign an immunity agreement, has lost $1.5 million since 2003. Costa Rica has lost about $500,000, and unstable Bolivia has lost $1.5 million.

In addition, the United States International Military Education and Training program, which pays for Latin American military officers to study in the United States, has cut its rolls by 770 officers a year, from an average class of 3,000, military officials said.

Most nations that have lost money are cash-strapped, like Dominica, a Caribbean island which lost $400,000 and was unable to operate its only Coast Guard boat for two years. That meant no drug patrols or searches for fishermen lost at sea, said Crispin Gregoire, Dominica's ambassador to the United Nations.

"We were reeling from the impact of lost aid, and our economy was not in the greatest shape," he said. "The government decided to yield and we ended up signing."

Peru, a close Bush administration ally, has lost about $4 million "You feel the cuts, yes," said Congressman Luis Ibérico, president of the committee that oversees military spending and the antidrug campaign. "These are small amounts, but nevertheless, they're necessary to support our military personnel."

Painful as the cuts are, many countries say they will not budge before American pressure.

"We will not change our principles for any amount of money," said Michael I. King, the Barbados ambassador to the Organization of American States. "We're not going to belly up for $300,000 in training funds."

Many officials argue that existing treaties already protect American soldiers. The new agreements go too far, they say, by adding protections for ordinary Americans, like tourists, and non-American contractors who work for American companies.

Here in Colombia, where the American military has rotated 8,000 soldiers in the past five years as part of its largest mission in the region, a new immunity agreement two years ago has upset some officials. Colombia already had a 1974 treaty protecting American soldiers from criminal charges.

"These treaties say that everyone in Colombia must respect the law, Indians, Chinese, the Colombians," said a Colombian senator, Jimmy Chamorro, who considers them illegal. "Everyone except the Americans."

Japan Today - News - Baghdad says bombers seek civil war - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Baghdad says bombers seek civil war - Japan's Leading International News NetworkBaghdad says bombers seek civil war

Send to a friendPrint

Friday, August 19, 2005 at 07:47 JST
BAGHDAD — Iraqi leaders expressed concern Thursday that the deadly rush-hour Baghdad bombings sought to create a sectarian crisis in the country.

Meanwhile, insurgents killed four U.S. soldiers and eight other Iraqis, including a child, in separate attacks across country just 24 hours after the deadliest bombings in the Iraqi capital this year.

BBC NEWS | Business | Wall Street giants see oil rising

BBC NEWS | Business | Wall Street giants see oil rising Wall Street giants see oil rising
Wall Street giants Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch have revised upwards their predictions for the price of oil.

Oil prices rose to a record of $67.10 a barrel last week on supply and refinery worries and there are fears that prices will not fall and may go even higher.

US light crude will cost an average of $67 per barrel this year, $13.50 higher than a previous forecast, Goldman said.

Merrill, meanwhile, expects to pay an average of $56 a barrel this year, up $6 from its earlier target.

On the horizon

Look to the long-term, however, and there is a divergence of views on what will happen to the price of oil.

In our view, recent strength has been driven by short-term supply disruptions and renewed geopolitical tensions
Merrill Lynch

Goldman Sachs expects that a barrel of US light crude will still cost close to $60 at the end of the decade.

While Merrill's global energy team also raised its forecasts for long-term US crude prices by 40%, it sees a more manageable price of $42 a barrel by 2009.

The difference in outlook is based on how they view investment by oil companies in coming years and how successful that spending will be on finding new fields and easing refinery bottlenecks.

"In our view, recent strength has been driven by short-term supply disruptions and renewed geopolitical tensions," Merrill's global energy team said.

"Longer-term, we believe $60 a barrel oil is unsustainable and expect prices to retrace."

US commodities guru Jim Rogers has told Reuters that oil will prices will soar upwards to $100 a barrel.

"I don't know about the next quarter or even next year...but it will go to over $100 a barrel," he said.

Mr Rogers, who sees strong oil prices as being based on strong demand and shortage of supply, pointed out there have been no great oil discoveries in "more than 35 years".

'People nervous'

In the current environment, however, any easing of prices seems likely to be short-lived.

After dropping on Wednesday following the publication of robust US stockpile figures, oil prices started climbing again on Friday after a blaze at a major Venezuelan refinery.

Crude oil prices rose following the fire at the massive Paraguana refining complex, which, combined with a halt in Ecuador's exports, and a reported blast at the Aqaba port of Jordan, was enough to give the market the jitters.

In electronic trading on Friday, a barrel of light sweet crude for delivery in September gained 89 cents, to $64.16 per barrel.

In London, Brent crude gained 97 cents to $63.37.

Also suppliers in the Opec group of producing nations are pumping at their highest rate in a quarter century, with not much in the way of spare capacity to make up any shortfalls.

Ecuador, South America's fifth-largest oil producer, normally produces 200,000 barrels of oil a day, but has been hit by protests in Amazon provinces over the level of investment from foreign operators.

"The market is concerned about short supplies and even 200,000 barrels is able to make people nervous," said Dariusz Kowalczyk, a Hong Kong-based investment strategist at CFC Seymour Securities.
Story from BBC NEWS:

BBC NEWS | Europe | Pope issues anti-Semitism warning


BBC NEWS | Europe | Pope issues anti-Semitism warning Pope issues anti-Semitism warning
Pope Benedict XVI has warned of rising anti-Semitism as he visited a synagogue in Cologne, in his native Germany.

Condemning the "unimaginable crime" of the Holocaust, he joined in prayers before a memorial to the six million Jews killed by Nazi Germany.

The visit was only the second time a head of the Catholic Church has visited a Jewish place of worship.

The Pope is on the second day of a trip originally scheduled for Pope John Paul II, who died in April.

Addressing Jewish leaders at the synagogue, Pope Benedict said: "Today, sadly, we are witnessing the rise of new signs of anti-Semitism and various forms of a general hostility toward foreigners.

"How can we fail to see in this a reason for concern and vigilance?"

The synagogue - destroyed by the Nazis in 1939 and reconstructed 20 years later - contains a memorial to the Jews who died in the Holocaust, of whom 11,000 lived in the city.


The Pope said progress had been made in improving relations between Catholics and Jews, but that "much more remains to be done".

"We must come to know one another much more and much better," he said.

Pope Benedict's visit follows Pope John Paul II's decision to enter the Rome synagogue in 1986.

Rabbi Alan Plancey of the UK's Chief Rabbinate welcomed the visit as "an important symbolic moment" in relations between Catholics and Jews.

"It is imperative that we continue to talk to each other, and learn from the past to improve our shared future," he said.

Later on Friday, the new Pope will meet representatives of the German Protestant Churches. During his four-day stay in Cologne, he also plans to meet Muslims.

The Pope plans to make clear that he regards the creation of better relations with all religions as an essential step on the road towards seeking world peace, says the BBC's Rome correspondent David Willey.

Young Catholics

About 400,000 Christians are in Cologne for a Catholic World Youth Festival. Their numbers are expected to double when the Pope preaches at an outdoor mass on Sunday.

The World Youth Day festival, invented by the late Pope, is held in a different part of the world every three years.

Arriving on Thursday, the Pope said he wanted to reinvigorate Christianity in an increasingly secular Europe.

The Pope has frequently bemoaned the waning role of the Church in Europe and says he hopes his trip will help kick-start "a wave of new faith among young people".

Vatican observers will be watching to see what sort of relationship he is able to establish with young Catholics, our correspondent says.

Many of them have been openly critical of the prohibitions he issued during the 20 years when he headed the Roman Catholic Church's disciplinary body.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Soldiers Evacuate One of the Last Remaining Settlements - New York Times

Soldiers Evacuate One of the Last Remaining Settlements - New York TimesAugust 19, 2005
Soldiers Evacuate One of the Last Remaining Settlements
By STEVEN ERLANGER
and GREG MYRE

GADID, Gaza Strip, Aug. 19 - The Israeli Army and the police moved into Gadid this morning to evacuate about 10 families of the original 300 residents from one of the few remaining Jewish settlements.

They were removed together with dozens of protesters, some of whom took to the red-tiled rooftops of homes. Policemen had to climb on rooftops to pull them down as protesters shouted curses at them, and in some case poured cooking oil on the sloped roofs to grease the policemen's paths.

They took down the Torah scrolls from the synagogue around noon, and the operation, which went relatively smoothly, was effectively over.

This morning there were only about five or so settlements of the original 21 in Gaza to be evacuated.

Security forces evacuated about than a dozen settlements on Wednesday and Thursday, the two first days of the operation. Gadid was the only place where they went in fresh today.

The Jewish sabbath begins at sundown Friday, and there will be a be a break from that point until sundown Saturday. Evacuations will resume on Sunday morning. There is no official deadline for the operation to end, but it now looks, security officials say, that the evacuation from the Gaza settlements could be completed by the end of the day on Monday.

The military, however, says it will need another three weeks to pull out its men and equipment and to demolish the settlers' homes.

Palestinians will not be able to take over the area until a month after the civilians are gone, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has said.

On Thursday, security forces seized control of two synagogues in Kfar Darom, where hundreds of the most fervent and aggressive protesters had barricaded themselves.

This settlement, the oldest in the Gaza Strip and one of the most militant, produced scenes of violence and raw emotion that the Israeli government had wanted to avoid. The storming of the settlement's only synagogue was covered live on Israeli television.

About 160 young protesters, who had prepared themselves for assault with the advice of a reserve colonel, Moshe Leshem, held the unarmed police officers at bay for two and half hours at the synagogue. To take control, the police used a water cannon, fire extinguishers, cranes, wire cutters and special forces.

The protesters, who were mostly from outside Gaza, taunted the police and soldiers throughout the day, threw paint and eggs at them and continued to prepare for the siege they knew would come.

They secured the front doors with chains, put oil and grease on the floors and stairways to hinder security forces and ran razor wire around the roof, where they had equipped themselves with a portable toilet. They had sheets of metal to block water from the water cannon, and long wooden poles, with V-shaped prongs at the end, to push away the ladders of the police SWAT teams. They had buckets of oil and a caustic liquid, which the police say included weapon-cleaning fluid, to pour on police officers and large spray cans of insulating foam to obscure their vision.

The police special forces were dressed in black coveralls and equipped with visored helmets and riot shields, but they carried no weapons, not even nightsticks.

Breaking into the ground floor of the synagogue and removing the dozens of protesters there was relatively easy. But the real difficulty was on the roof. The police struggled for hours to place their forces on the roof, trying to maneuver two large metal storage containers full of officers, lifted on cables by two giant cranes, into position.

The containers, modified with wire doors, were targets for paint and other fluids, and the men inside quickly went from ninja black to ghostly splattered white. The containers were raised and lowered three times before landing on the roof on the fourth attempt.

Another contingent of police officers were repeatedly pushed back as they tried to scale ladders from the first floor balcony to the roof. Protesters poured oil and a blue acidic liquid on them and hit them with garbage, eggs, paint and spray foam.

Nearly all of the protesters were from towns in Israel and settlements in the West Bank. Many were here to visit friends and relatives and overstayed their visitor's permits, and others slipped past checkpoints in the trunks of cars, in moving containers or on foot.

Four hours after the first police advance on the synagogue, at 9 p.m., officers were still hauling protesters out and loading them on buses headed for detention. Forty-four police officers and soldiers were injured, nearly all of them lightly, Israeli officials said.

"What we saw here crossed all boundaries," said Maj. Gen. Dan Harel, the senior Israeli commander in Gaza. "Everybody who was now on the roof will be arrested and put in prison."

Softer tactics succeeded at Gaza's largest settlement, Neve Dekalim, where about 600 protesters were carried out of the synagogue after three days of negotiations. Female soldiers dealt with the women, who clung to the pews, finally carrying some of them out of the building; the men inside had locked arms, making it harder to pull them away. But there was no violence, and by nightfall, the evacuation of Neve Dekalim was all but complete.

In larger terms, only 7 of the 21 Gaza settlements were not considered officially evacuated, an army spokesman said, and in 3 of those, in the north, residents had left voluntarily. The main tasks ahead are Netzarim, Atzmona, and Katif, the army said.

Israel had allotted a month to accomplish the evacuations of about 9,000 residents from Gaza and four small settlements in the northern West Bank. But with political tensions rising, including the resignation early last week from the government by Benjamin Netanyahu, the main rival to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the tempo has increased.

The killing of four Palestinians in the West Bank on Wednesday by a Jewish settler also contributed to tensions, with the man arrested for the killings, Asher Weisgan, offering no regrets. "I'm not sorry for what I did," he said Thursday before entering a courthouse outside Tel Aviv. "I hope someone also kills Sharon."

After Thursday's clashes between resisters and security officers, it appears that Gaza could be cleared of civilians by early next week.

The scene in Kfar Darom was reminiscent of the final withdrawal from Yamit, a settlement in the Sinai that was returned to Egypt in 1982 as part of a peace treaty. There, protesters clung to rooftops and were dragged into cages lowered from helicopters. Foreign Ministry officials said they had advised the police not to use cages this time, for symbolic reasons. But the analogies to Yamit were clear, even if the tactics were different.

Kfar Darom was first founded as a settlement in the 1930's, then abandoned. It was re-established in 1946, and then lost to the Egyptians in fighting in June 1948. Israelis remember the few survivors fleeing to save themselves. It was rebuilt again in 1970 as a military post and training camp. But it evolved into a civilian settlement, and became a focus for pious and patriotic Jews who believed they were defending land given to them by God.

The 500 residents, who suffered frequent attacks by Palestinians who live on all sides of the settlement, were united in refusing to negotiate with the government about where they would live next. They did not pack up their belongings and said Thursday that they did not know where they would go.

The Mizrahi family put a large red bowl covered with a cloth outside their door, with a sign advising: "Do not touch. Dough rising." Later in the day, they baked bread. But finally, a team of police officers and soldiers went to their house, and after three hours of negotiations - including tears, insults and agony from the family - the Mizrahis were carried out of their house and put on a bus.

Many people forced the police to break down their doors. At one house, distraught men and women sat against a wall, in a strip of shade, remonstrating and screaming at police officers who sat beside them. One man was crying uncontrollably, and a burly army major took tissues and wiped the tears from the man's face.

Another man screamed at a team commander for expelling Jews from their homes. The commander took him aside and finally said, "We the people have to go on, or we will be left with nothing."

Nearby, an Israeli ambulance stood idling. Writing on the door said the ambulance had been donated by French Jews in memory of a soldier, Alexei Nikov, "who gave his life 29 October 1998 to save children in danger of death in Gush Katif."

Laser Amitai was a policeman here. But he left the force when he decided to remain in Kfar Darom against the wishes of his government. Mr. Amitai lost his wife, Miriam, in a school-bus bombing in November 2000, early in the latest Palestinian intifada, and he is widely respected here.

On Thursday, his brother, Levi, an officer in the Border Police, came to persuade Laser to leave. The two men and their sister sat in the living room, talking quietly, hugging and crying. Laser Amitai said: "This is not about our house. We are here today fighting the battle for Zionism."

Steven Erlanger reported from Kfar Darom for this article and Greg Myre from Kfar Darom and Gadid. Dina Kraft contributed reporting from Neve Dekalim.

Rocket Fired at 2 U.S. Navy Ships at Port in Jordan - New York Times

Rocket Fired at 2 U.S. Navy Ships at Port in Jordan - New York TimesAugust 19, 2005
Rocket Fired at 2 U.S. Navy Ships at Port in Jordan
By EDWARD WONG

AMMAN, Jordan, Aug. 19 - A rocket was fired early today at two American naval ships docked in southern Jordan, killing a Jordanian soldier and marking the first attack on American military ships in the region in five years, American and Jordanian officials said.

A rocket was fired at the same time from apparently the same area at an airport in a neighboring Israeli port, hitting a stretch of road and wounding a taxi driver, news agencies reported, citing Israeli officials and witnesses. A third projectile was fired at a Jordanian hospital around the southern port of Aqaba but did no damage.

No one claimed immediate responsibility for the simultaneous attacks, which displayed audacity in their use of military-style weapons and techniques. In October 2000, two suicide bombers detonated a launch loaded with explosives next to the American destroyer Cole as it was refueling in a port in Yemen. That attack, which killed 17 people and wounded 39 others, was attributed to Al Qaeda.

The attack today on the American vessels, the Ashland and the Kearsarge, took place around 8:44 a.m. and missed two naval ships at dock in Aqaba, said Capt. Ryan Fitzgerald of the United States Air Force, a spokesman for the American military command in the Middle East. The tocket flew over the ships and landed on a warehouse at the pier, he said.

A Jordanian military officer in the area said a Jordanian soldier in or around the warehouse was struck in the attack, The Associated Press reported. The soldier, Ahmed Jamal Saleh, died on the way to the hospital. Another projectile was fired at a Jordanian hospital, but missed and did no damage, another Jordanian official said.

The American ships are part of the Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, and were in Aqaba as part of routine military exercises with Jordanian forces.

The rocket that killed the Jordanian soldier was fired from land, as was the Katyusha rocket that hit Eilat, just across the Israel-Jordan border from Aqaba. The rocket landed 15 yards from the Eilat airport fence and created a small crater in the road, said a local police commander, Avi Azulin, according to The A.P.

A taxi driver passing on the road just as the rocket fell was lightly wounded. However, the rocket did not hit his car, witnesses said.

The Israeli defense minister,Shaul Mofaz, speaking in southern Israel, said the attacks were "intended to hit the Israeli side and the Jordanian side as well."

"We still don't know who is behind this act, but I'm sure the Jordanians will do all they can to prevent such attacks in the future as in the past," he said, adding that Israeli authorities are in contact with Jordanians over the incidents.

The Israeli government is in the middle of removing settlers from the Gaza Strip, in order to turn over authority of that land to Palestinians. Though Israeli troops have had to herd hard-line settlers onto buses and out of the territory, the removal has been relatively quick and peaceful so far. About half the population of Jordan is Palestinian, and most people in this country strongly favor the unilateral move by Israel.

American ships docking in Middle Eastern ports have increased their security procedures in the years since the attack on the Cole, which is based in Norfolk, Va.. The terrorists who struck at that ship used 500 pounds of explosives that blew a 40-foot hole in the side of the ship.

Last September, a court in Yemen sentenced two men to death and four others to prison terms for their roles in the suicide bombing. The six were comprised of five Yemenis and Abd Rahim Nashiri, a Saudi who American officials said headed Al Qaeda operations in the Persian Gulf. Mr. Nashiri was held in American custody in an unknown location.

In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the American and British military used Jordan as a staging post for Special Forces operations. The soldiers made overland incursions into the deserts of Anbar Province, in western Iraq, seeking to destroy bases of support for Saddam Hussein. The American military is still dependent on Jordan for cooperation in the ongoing war in Iraq, which shows no signs of abating.

Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994 and has been sharply criticized by conservative Islamic groups for its ties to both Israel and the United States.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Malaysia's Anwar wins libel case


BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Malaysia's Anwar wins libel case Malaysia's Anwar wins libel case
By Jonathan Kent
BBC News, Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia's High Court has awarded former deputy leader Anwar Ibrahim $1.2m in damages over a pamphlet that hastened his downfall in 1998.

The pamphlet, Fifty Reasons Why Anwar Ibrahim Cannot Be Prime Minister, included allegations that Mr Anwar was corrupt and a homosexual.

When Mr Anwar launched this libel suit he was still deputy prime minister.

In the time it's taken to settle the case, he was sacked, and imprisoned for six years for corruption and sodomy.

The latter conviction was eventually overturned and he was released from jail a year ago.

After seven years, the High Court has finally ruled that the claims in the pamphlet were very vicious and very serious.

The damages, said the judge, Hishamuddin Yunus, were unusually high to reflect the gravity of the allegations and the lack of an apology.

Hand strengthened

The author, Khalid Jafri, is critically ill in a Kuala Lumpur hospital.

He is currently on bail pending his appeal against a one-year jail term for writing the leaflet.

The pamphlet was widely circulated at the height of the political and economic turmoil that gripped Malaysia in 1998, just as some of Mr Anwar's supporters started to press for him to replace the then premier, Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The allegations were seized on by Mr Anwar's opponents and are believed to have contributed to his arrest and prosecution.

Mr Anwar is currently barred from holding office until 2008 but this ruling can only strengthen his hand.
Story from BBC NEWS:

BBC NEWS | Africa | Zimbabwe 'rejects' African envoy

BBC NEWS | Africa | Zimbabwe 'rejects' African envoy Zimbabwe 'rejects' African envoy
President Robert Mugabe has rejected the appointment of an African Union envoy to help solve Zimbabwe's political problems, the envoy has said.

Former Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano said Mr Mugabe felt there was no need for talks with the main opposition party, the MDC.

South Africa has been pushing for talks as it considers giving an emergency loan to help Zimbabwe pay its debts.

Zimbabwe is going through an economic crisis, with shortages of basic goods.

The MDC accuses Mr Mugabe's government of harassing its supporters and rigging elections.

'Internal problem'

Mr Chissano was appointed earlier this month by African Union Chairman, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.

"It is an internal problem that they can handle through the democratic institutions in Zimbabwe," Mr Chissano said he had been told by Zimbabwean officials.

The former Mozambique leader, who stepped down earlier this year, however said he felt that Zimbabwe could benefit from outside mediation.

"My opinion is yes, the world must help Zimbabwe to solve their problems - when they request that."

He was speaking at a summit of Southern African leaders.

The summit, to mark the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the Southern African Development Community, Sadc, is going to discuss democracy and political stability in the region but will not directly tackle the problems in Zimbabwe.

Earlier this week, South Africa's deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad denied that South Africa wanted to see a coalition government in Zimbabwe but said it wanted to see economic reforms.

"We are negotiating in the... broad context that we need fundamental economic changes, and how do we minimise the political tensions of Zimbabwe without necessarily talking about governments of national unity," Mr Pahad said.

Zimbabwe needs $300m to repay its debts or it faces expulsion from the IMF.

South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki has indicated that he would be inclined to help but officials are still negotiating over the details.

There are shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency, with rampant inflation and unemployment.
Story from BBC NEWS:

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Taiwan struggles with Chinese dissidents

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Taiwan struggles with Chinese dissidents Taiwan struggles with Chinese dissidents
By Caroline Gluck
BBC News, Taipei

The tiny self-ruled island of Taiwan is proud of its democratic principles, even though the Chinese communist mainland regards it as part of its territory.

So you might expect Taiwan to welcome the trickle of Chinese political dissidents who have fled there to seek asylum.

There have only been four such cases in the past decade, according to the body responsible for Taiwan's relations with China - the Mainland Affairs Council.

But they are nevertheless proving a political headache for the Taiwanese authorities.

The most recent cases involve two pro-democracy activists who escaped to Taiwan more than a year ago.

Chen Rongli arrived in January 2004, while Yan Peng arrived in June of the same year.

The two men were held in a detention centre for illegal Chinese in Ilan, eastern Taiwan, for months, while the authorities investigated their backgrounds and confirmed that they were, indeed, political activists.

Thousands of other Chinese are held at the detention centre every year, trying to get into Taiwan for economic reasons.

The two dissidents were recently released from detention and placed in a safe house, while the government tries to find a third location that might offer them asylum.

Our legal system is not yet complete; we have no refugee law and we don't have a law for political asylum
Joseph Wu, Mainland Affairs Council
Taiwan, which prides itself on its democratic record and its protection of human rights, has no refugee or asylum law, and says it can only offer the men temporary visas.

Its ambiguous international status - the island is not formally recognised by the United Nations or many other international organisations - makes it harder to seek co-operation in resolving the issue.

Fleeing China

In his first media interview since his release, 42-year-old Yan Peng spoke to the BBC about his dramatic escape to Taiwan, and his frustration about his current situation.

His political activism on the mainland dates back to the early 1980s. At the time of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, he organised demonstrations in his home city of Qingdao.

He says he experienced constant harassment and monitoring by the Chinese authorities, and was jailed for 18 months in 2002 on charges of attempting to overthrow the Chinese government.

But even after his release, he said, he continued to help fellow democracy activists, and set up pro-democracy websites.

His decision to flee mainland China came after a tip-off that he was likely to be re-arrested by police ahead of the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests.

He travelled to the coastal city of Xiamen and hired a boat to take him to the Taiwanese-controlled islands of Kinmen.

"There were lot of Chinese coastguard boats around the island... they sped towards us... and tried to catch me," he said.

"I jumped into the sea and started to swim. The coastguard pursued me and tried to shoot me. Because of the waves that day, they didn't shoot very accurately. I managed to reach the island. I screamed for help. The Taiwanese soldiers immediately surrounded me.

"There was a 10 minute confrontation. The Chinese coastguards demanded that the Taiwanese soldiers return me. One Taiwanese soldier said maybe they should. I begged them not to. After my begging, he eventually made a call to his superior.

"It was probably the loneliest 10 minutes of my life. I prayed and prayed that I could stay... and eventually they decided to pass me over to the Taiwanese coastguard.

"That was 2 June. Prosecutors eventually decided to postpone any charges against me. On 4 June, I was taken to Ilan, in eastern Taiwan, and I was kept in a detention centre for illegal Chinese for eight months."

Third location

Mr Yan shared a room with another dissident, 37-year-old Chen Rongli, who spent eight years in jail in China for trying to form a political party.

Both were told Taiwan could not offer them political asylum and that they should consider a third location.

"I told them any Western country that respected the concept of democracy or human rights would be fine," said Mr Yan.

"After eight months' detention, I was really disheartened. It wasn't difficult for me to face my 18-month spell in jail in China. I was prepared to face that treatment, as I was challenging the authorities. But I wasn't prepared for detention in Taiwan. I felt really helpless."

The irony, he said, was that he had specifically chosen to escape to Taiwan, rather than South Korea or Japan, which were closer to Qingdao, because he had been impressed by President Chen Shui-bian's inauguration speech in 2000.

"He delivered a speech, emphasising a commitment to human rights, and a desire to work for democracy," said Mr Yan.

"When I decided to escape, the first country I thought of was Taiwan."

"I don't want to complain too much", said Mr Yan. "I think there might be a gap between Western and Eastern democracy... I put myself in this difficult spot.

"I don't know where I will be next. But think of the students killed in Tiananmen Square incident... and those still in jail. I think I'm lucky."

Taiwan's top official responsible for relations with China, Joseph Wu of the Mainland Affairs Council, told the BBC that the two men would be allowed to stay in Taiwan on temporary visas until a third place could offer them asylum.

Local human rights groups are pushing for the men to be granted residency, allowing them to work and live legally in Taiwan.

"Our legal system is not yet complete; we have no refugee law and we don't have a law for political asylum", said Mr Wu, explaining that a draft asylum law had yet to be discussed - let alone passed - by Taiwan's legislature.

"So far we just have Mr Chen and Mr Yan who are staying in Taiwan... and we already face a lot of pressure in hosting them."

He added that the only way to tackle the problem in the long term was for China to become more democratic and allow its citizens freedom of expression.
Story from BBC NEWS:

BBC NEWS | Americas | Brazil rally urges Lula to resign

BBC NEWS | Americas | Brazil rally urges Lula to resign Brazil rally urges Lula to resign
By Tom Gibb
BBC News, Sao Paulo

Some 12,000 to 15,000 left-wing protesters have marched in Brazil's capital, Brasilia, to demand the resignation of the president.

Brazil's embattled President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is fighting to survive a corruption scandal.

His governing Workers' Party has issued an apology to the nation.

The party is accused of paying for the support of allied parties in the Brazilian Congress and using illegal, undeclared election funds.

The march by left-wing parties which have broken away from the government was slightly larger than a rally in support of President Lula da Silva earlier in the week.

The protesters called on Lula to step down or be impeached by Congress.

They accused him of betraying election promises to promote change and redress Brazil's huge wealth gap.

Tumbling support

So far, however, the protests, both for and against Lula, have been too small to really affect the course of the corruption scandal.

Some opposition lawmakers have said they will only support impeaching Lula if public opinion demands it.

Polls have shown the president's support tumbling, but at the same time the majority of Brazilians do not want to see all the political and economic instability that an impeachment would entail.

Meanwhile, the Workers' Party has issued a public apology to the nation, saying that its members were not aware of the practices being followed by some of the leadership.

While the statement supports Lula, it also contains implicit criticism of the way the party has been run, calling for greater accountability.

Many in the party would like to see the government change its highly conservative economic policy, which has closely followed IMF-style austerity measures.

9/11 Panel's Leader Requests Quick Assessment of Officers - New York Times

9/11 Panel's Leader Requests Quick Assessment of Officers - New York TimesAugust 18, 2005
9/11 Panel's Leader Requests Quick Assessment of Officers
By PHILIP SHENON

WASHINGTON, Aug. 17 - The chairman of the Sept. 11 commission called on the Pentagon on Wednesday to move quickly to evaluate the credibility of military officers who have said that a highly classified intelligence program managed to identify the Sept. 11 ringleader more than a year before the 2001 attacks. He said the information was not shared in a reliable form with the panel.

The chairman, Thomas H. Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey, offered no judgment about the accuracy of the officers' accounts. But he said in an interview that if the accounts were true, it suggested that detailed information about the intelligence program, known as Able Danger, was withheld from the commission and that the program and its findings should have been mentioned prominently in the panel's final report last year.

"If they identified Atta and any of the other terrorists, of course it was an important program," Mr. Kean said, referring to Mohamed Atta, the Egyptian ringleader of the attacks. "Obviously, if there were materials that weren't given to us, information that wasn't given to us, we're disappointed. It's up to the Pentagon to clear up any misunderstanding."

In a statement last week, Mr. Kean and the vice chairman of the commission, Lee H. Hamilton, said that Able Danger, a computerized data-mining operation run from within the Defense Department's Special Operations Command, "did not turn out to be historically significant, set against the larger context of U.S. policy and intelligence efforts."

But Mr. Kean suggested Wednesday that the statement would need to be revised if information from officers involved in Able Danger proved to be true.

This week, an Army intelligence veteran, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, became the first officer associated with Able Danger to allow himself to be named publicly. Colonel Shaffer said that the project's analysts had identified Mr. Atta and three of the other hijackers by name by mid-2000.

The Sept. 11 commission has said that it received similar information in July 2004, only days before it issued its final report, from a Navy captain who was also involved in Able Danger. It said the captain's information was determined not to be "sufficiently reliable to warrant" additional investigation. The Navy captain has not been publicly identified.

The Pentagon has not disputed the accounts from Colonel Shaffer or the Navy captain. But it has withheld comment on Able Danger, saying it is gathering information about it.

Members of the Sept. 11 commission have disputed Colonel Shaffer's statements that he told commission staff members in October 2003 about the identification of Mr. Atta. The staff members have said they recall no mention of Mr. Atta's name in the meeting or in Pentagon documents that were later turned over.

Mr. Kean said he found it difficult to imagine they would have failed to follow up on any information about Mr. Atta. "The name Mohamed Atta was electric," he said.

Sept. 11 Advocates, a group led by five women from New Jersey and Connecticut whose husbands died in the attacks, said Colonel Shaffer's account was evidence that panel members "failed in their obligation to the American public and to those who lost their lives on 9/11."

People's Daily Online -- Chinese, Russian staff officers in battle planning

People's Daily Online -- Chinese, Russian staff officers in battle planningChinese, Russian staff officers in battle planning
font size ZoomIn ZoomOut

Chinese and Russian staff officers for the Sino-Russian joint military exercise are busy with strategic consultations and battle planning in the Russian Far East city of Vladivostok, the first phase of the 8-day military drill, sources said Thursday.

Source: Xinhua

Minority Report Faults NASA as Compromising Safety - New York Times

Minority Report Faults NASA as Compromising Safety - New York TimesAugust 18, 2005
Minority Report Faults NASA as Compromising Safety
By JOHN SCHWARTZ

Seven of the 25 voting members of the group that monitored NASA's progress in making the space shuttle fleet safer after the loss of the Columbia issued a blistering minority report yesterday accusing the space agency's leadership of compromising safety to justify returning to flight.

"It is difficult to be objective based on hindsight, but it appears to us that lessons that should have been learned have not been," the minority wrote, in a document appended to the final report of the group.

Even after two and a half years of intense work to make the shuttles safer, NASA managers "lack the crucial ability to accurately evaluate how much or how little risk is associated with their decisions, particularly decisions to sidestep or abbreviate any given procedure or process," wrote the seven panelists, who included a former astronaut and a former director of the Congressional Budget Office.

Managers and officials, they went on, "must break this cycle of smugness substituting for knowledge."

The minority report, which comes a week after the successful mission of the shuttle Discovery, did not say that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration should stop flying the shuttles, and the panel's majority stated that the fleet had been made substantially safer. But the finding is a rebuke to the agency and a warning that a single flight has not solved its problems.

A spokesman for the NASA administrator, Michael D. Griffin, said yesterday that "Mike is addressing those issues," in part through a management shakeup.

The spokesman, Dean Acosta, pointed out that the minority report specifically noted that Dr. Griffin had sent engineers and managers back to the drawing board in April and delayed the launching by two months so that work on evaluating risks like liftoff debris could be more fully undertaken.

The 25-member group was established by NASA in 2003, after an independent panel investigating the Columbia disaster found that the agency's "broken safety culture" was partly at fault. Known as the Stafford-Covey Task Group, after the two former astronauts who led it, the group was charged with certifying that the Columbia accident board's recommendations had been met before the return to orbit.

The group released a summary of its final report in June, finding that NASA had substantially reduced the risks of flight.

It also found that the agency had not fully met three of the accident board's critical recommendations: calls for eliminating foam and ice debris during launching, toughening the orbiter's outer skin and developing techniques to repair a damaged craft while in orbit.

It did not endorse or warn against returning to flight, saying instead that its charter was narrowly focused on the accident board's recommendations. The decision of whether the shuttle was safe to fly, the task group said, was NASA's alone.

The finding that foam could still be a problem was borne out on the Discovery's liftoff on July 26, when a 0.9-pound piece of foam fell from the external fuel tank and narrowly missed the orbiter. NASA officials have suspended further flights until the foam problem can be more thoroughly resolved.

The commission delivered the rest of the report yesterday, along with the 19-page annex containing the minority views. In a telephone briefing with reporters, the group's co-chairman, Richard O. Covey, said the group included the annex at the request of Dr. Griffin.

Mr. Covey said the opinions of the minority had not been officially discussed within the full group because they constituted general observations about NASA culture and did not bear directly on the core mission of the group.

"It fell outside of the scope of looking at readiness for 114," he said, using NASA's official designation for the Discovery flight.

Mr. Covey cautioned against reading too much into the minority report. Other members of the full group who had long experience in complex organizations, he said, were not disturbed by NASA's approach to safety issues. For his part, he said, "I personally did not find the process, as it played out, unusual." NASA, he said, "did a very competent job."

The others, he said, saw it differently. "If you watch sausage being made, it's not always pretty," he said, "and some people are going to find it uglier than others."

The dissenters included Dr. Dan L. Crippen, the former head of the Congressional Budget Office, and Susan Morrisey Livingstone, a former under secretary of the Navy. They, and other members of the group, did not respond to requests for comment.

The subgroup criticized the tendency of NASA officials "to characterize the modified external tank as 'safer,' the 'safest ever,' or even 'fixed,' " when there was no objective data to support the claims.

It was especially critical of NASA managers for what it called "adjustment of performance standards" when targets could not be met. "When achievements are mandatory at first but become 'goals' when the going gets tough, it sends a strong message to everyone that nothing is mandatory," the group said.

Instead of committing itself to simply meet all of the 15 return-to-flight recommendations, the group said, NASA should have systematically analyzed the goals and decided which were most important and most attainable, and set priorities. Instead, they said, an all-out effort and schedule pressures caused the agency to cut corners and change goals on the way to launching.

On that, Mr. Covey agreed. "They may have done themselves a disservice," he said, speaking of NASA managers, by deciding to pursue a "blanket 'we're going to do them all' " approach.

Howard E. McCurdy, a public affairs professor at American University in Washington who has written extensively on NASA management, said the agency should heed the minority report. "This is what a lot of people have been saying for close to 20 years," Dr. McCurdy said.

Bad Iraq War News Worries Some in G.O.P. on '06 Vote - New York Times

Bad Iraq War News Worries Some in G.O.P. on '06 Vote - New York TimesAugust 18, 2005
Bad Iraq War News Worries Some in G.O.P. on '06 Vote
By ADAM NAGOURNEY
and DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK

WASHINGTON, Aug. 17 - A stream of bad news out of Iraq, echoed at home by polls that show growing impatience with the war and rising disapproval of President Bush's Iraq policies, is stirring political concern in Republican circles, party officials said Wednesday.

Some said that the perception that the war was faltering was providing a rallying point for dispirited Democrats and could pose problems for Republicans in the Congressional elections next year.

Republicans said a convergence of events - including the protests inspired by the mother of a slain American soldier outside Mr. Bush's ranch in Texas, the missed deadline to draft an Iraqi Constitution and the spike in casualties among reservists - was creating what they said could be a significant and lasting shift in public attitude against the war.

The Republicans described that shift as particularly worrisome, occurring 14 months before the midterm elections. As further evidence, they pointed to a special election in Ohio two weeks ago, where a Democratic marine veteran from Iraq who criticized the invasion decision came close to winning in a district that should have easily produced a Republican victory.

"There is just no enthusiasm for this war," said Representative John J. Duncan Jr., a Tennessee Republican who opposes the war. "Nobody is happy about it. It certainly is not going to help Republican candidates, I can tell you that much."

Representative Wayne T. Gilchrest, a Maryland Republican who originally supported the war but has since turned against it, said he had encountered "a lot of Republicans grousing about the situation as a whole and how they have to respond to a lot of questions back home."

"I have been to a lot of funerals," Mr. Gilchrest said.

The concern has grown particularly acute as lawmakers have returned home for a Congressional recess this month. Several have seen first-hand how communities are affected by the deaths of a group of local reservists.

In Pennsylvania, Bob Casey Jr., a Democratic challenger to Rick Santorum, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, attacked Mr. Santorum on Wednesday for failing to question the management of the war. Mr. Casey said the issue would be a major one in what is quite likely to be one of the most closely watched Senate races next year.

Republicans said they were losing hope that the United States would be effectively out of Iraq - or at least that casualties would stop filling the evening news programs - by the time the Congressional campaigns begin in earnest. Mr. Bush recently declined to set any timetable for withdrawing United States troops.

Grover Norquist, a conservative activist with close ties to the White House and Mr. Bush's senior adviser, Karl Rove, said: "If Iraq is in the rearview mirror in the '06 election, the Republicans will do fine. But if it's still in the windshield, there are problems."

Given the speed with which public opinion has shifted over the course of the war and the size of the Republican majority in the Senate and House, no one has gone so far as to suggest that war policy could return Democrats to power in the House or the Senate.

Representative Thomas M. Reynolds of New York, chairman of the Republican Congressional campaign committee, said he believed that the war would fade as an issue by next year and that even if it did not the elections would, as typically the case, be decided by local issues.

"I'm not concerned," Mr. Reynolds said. "Fifteen months away is a long time, and I don't see it. It's going to get back to the important issues of what's going on in the district. When it gets down to candidates, it's what's going on in the street that matters."

Some Republicans suggested that the White House was not handling the issue adroitly, saying its insistence that the war was going well was counterproductive.

"Any effort to explain Iraq as 'We are on track and making progress' is nonsense," Newt Gingrich, a Republican who is a former House speaker, said. "The left has a constant drumbeat that this is Vietnam and a bottomless pit. The daily and weekly casualties leave people feeling that things aren't going well."

Republicans, Mr. Gingrich said, should make the case for "blood, sweat and toil" as part of a much larger war against "the irreconcilable wing of Islam."

Over the considerably longer term, the Iraqi turmoil raises a possibility that the war could again help shape a presidential nominating contest. Mike Murphy, a Republican consultant with ties to two potential presidential candidates for 2008, Senator John McCain of Arizona and Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, predicted that there would be a Republican equivalent of Howard Dean, a candidate opposing the war. He also predicted that such a candidate would not succeed.

Pollsters and political analysts pointed to basic opinion shifts that accounted for the political change. Daniel Yankelovich, a pollster who has been studying American attitudes on foreign affairs, said: "I think what's changed over the last year is the assumption that Iraq would make us safer from terrorists to wondering if that actually is the case. And maybe it's the opposite."

Richard A. Viguerie, a veteran conservative direct-mail consultant, said Mr. Bush "turned the volume up on his megaphone about as high as it could go to try to tie the war in Iraq to the war on terrorism" last year, and he argued that the White House could no longer do that.

"I just don't think it washes after all these years," Mr. Viguerie said.

The other changing factor is the continued drop in Mr. Bush's job-approval rating that could make him less welcome on the campaign trail.

"If this continues to drag down Bush's approval ratings, Republican candidates will be running with Bush as baggage, not as an asset," Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, said. "Should his numbers go much lower, he is going to be a problem for Republican candidates in 2006."

The near success in Ohio by Democrats was achieved after the party had enlisted an Iraq veteran, Paul L. Hackett, who nearly defeated Jean Schmidt.

The chairman of the Democratic Congressional campaign committee, Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, said he was talking to four or five other Iraq veterans to run in open seats or against weak Republican incumbents.

The chairman of the Senate Democratic campaign committee, Charles E. Schumer of New York, said, "There is no question that the Iraq war, without any light at the end of the tunnel apparent to the American people, is becoming more and more a ball and chain rapidly weighing down the administration."

Mr. Schumer, reflecting continued Democratic nervousness at being portrayed as disrespectful of troops, added, "I have been more supportive of the president's war on terror than many Democrats."

This week in Rhode Island, Secretary of State Matthew A. Brown, a Democratic challenger to Senator Lincoln Chafee next year, called on Mr. Bush to set a six-month deadline to bring American troops home from Iraq.

"You owe it to the American people to get this job done and bring our men and women home to their families," Mr. Brown said on Wednesday.

Mr. Chafee's spokesman, Stephen Hourahan, responded by noting that Mr. Chafee had voted against the war, though he said he did not know whether Mr. Chafee would support the type of deadline urged by Mr. Brown.

In Pennsylvania, Mr. Casey, the prospective challenger to Mr. Santorum, said he would press the incumbent on why he had not taken a lead in raising questions about the war.

"Most people want to know what is the situation with training the Iraqi forces?" Mr. Casey said. "Where are we? Where are we with getting armor to our troops?"

Mr. Santorum's spokesman, Robert Traynham, said Mr. Santorum would not be hurt by supporting the war.

Mr. Traynham read a statement from Mr. Santorum that said, "Doing what is best for this country is always good politics in terms of protecting us from evil dictators such as Saddam Hussein."

Even apart from these problems, the party of the president in power traditionally loses seats in the midterm election of a second term.

"It's tough," Mr. Murphy, the consultant, said. "The press will try to make Iraq the cause of whatever historical problems we would normally have in an off-year election."

Representative Walter B. Jones, a North Carolina Republican who initially supported the war but has begun calling for a pullout, said, "If your poll numbers are dropping over an issue, and this issue being the war, than obviously there is a message there - no question about it."

"If we are having this conversation a year from now," Mr. Jones added, "the chances are extremely good that this will be unfavorable" for the Republicans.

For Palestinians, Joy and Some Hints of Sympathy - New York Times

For Palestinians, Joy and Some Hints of Sympathy - New York TimesAugust 18, 2005
For Palestinians, Joy and Some Hints of Sympathy
By JAMES BENNET

BEACH CAMP, Gaza Strip, Aug. 17 - The essence of the Palestinians' national story, the one told in their songs and schoolbooks, is a tale of dispossession and eviction by Jewish and Israeli forces. It is symbolized by keys to houses unseen for two generations and affirmed by maps showing Palestinian villages lost in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 and boundaries blurred in the one in 1967.

On Wednesday, Palestinians watched Israeli Jews forcibly evict other Israeli Jews, who struggled and wept over their homes and what they saw as a devastating new chapter in the Jewish people's own story of dispossession, of loss.

As news reports conveyed images of agonized settlers and soldiers, some Palestinians celebrated the removal of those they saw as usurpers of their land and liberty. But mixed with the jubilation and grim satisfaction there were flashes of sympathy, too, from some of those who know what it means to lose a home.

"I feel that as a Palestinian this is my territory, this is my land," said Mkhaimar Abu Sada, a political scientist at Al Azhar University in Gaza City whose family became refugees in 1948. "This is my life, and I really want this to be happening right now. But on the other side, it's something on the human level - it's not an easy thing to take someone from their property and make them leave."

A bewildering upheaval is under way, a shifting of the theoretical and actual grounds on which the conflict has been fought. Israeli Jews have been barred at army checkpoints from reaching the settlements; giant armored bulldozers are preparing to demolish Israeli, rather than Palestinian, homes. Gaza is being unsettled, and everyone is struggling to understand what it means.

Dr. Eyad Sarraj, a psychiatrist in Gaza City who was made a refugee as a boy in 1948, said of the evacuation, "It provokes feelings of victimization and a kind of feeling we are all victimized by the whole thing."

He recalled watching television with his wife and friends on Tuesday. "One Israeli settler lady was talking about that she planted some trees, and she wanted the people behind to look after them," he said. He looked over at his wife, he remembered. "She was smiling," he said, "and at the same time she had tears. So it tells you about the conflicting emotions."

In this Palestinian refugee camp, where tents long ago hardened into houses of cinder blocks and memories of lost villages softened into myth, refugees said they found themselves thinking back this week on their own experiences. But some said that did not make them sympathetic.

"Let them taste the bitterness," said Amona Aksham, who has lived more years and been surrounded with more grandchildren than she has counted.

Illuminated by a bare bulb as she sat on a thin mattress on the floor, she remembered her "beautiful life" in a village near Ashkelon. There, she grew grapes instead of buying them and left bread still baking when she fled the Israelis in 1948 without any belongings. "No, I can't sympathize with them," she said. "They didn't sympathize with us."

Unlike the settlers, Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes by an enemy during war, and no one compensated them. There are more differences than parallels, despite a shared romance with the land and with their remembered notions of their present antagonists.

Palestinian refugees like to say life with Jews was neighborly before the Zionists came and spoiled it all; for settlers, the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza were their friends until Yasir Arafat came to Gaza.

A few blocks from Ms. Aksham's house, Suheil Abu al-Aaraj sat with his brother, Abdel Khader Abu al-Aaraj, in the balmy evening air and recalled the family home in Israel, which he first visited in 1972.

"Maybe I shouldn't mention this," he continued. "I saw a settler crying on television. But they've been settlers for what, 20 years? What about those who stayed refugees for 50 years? They are victims, and we are victims too."

His brother, 50, hotly interrupted him. "They are not victims," he said. "They are occupiers. They kicked us out of our land. They killed us."

Suheil Abu al-Aaraj, 40, replied, "When I say victims, I meant victims because their government cheated them." The Israeli government sent them to Gaza in the first place, he said.

Many Palestinians were irritated by what they saw as excessive news coverage of the travails of people they believe have caused untold Palestinian suffering. Diana Buttu, an adviser to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said, "I feel no sympathy for them whatsoever."

Ms. Buttu also said Israeli governments had used the settlers by encouraging them to go to the West Bank and Gaza. "But at the same time it's not as though they weren't warned they were living in occupied territory," she said. Her relatives became refugees in the 1948 war, leaving behind homes near Nazareth in what is now northern Israel.

"In the case of my uncles and my aunts, they didn't have a country they could go to, and they still now remain in exile," she said. "And the difference is they were actually from Palestine, rather than being imported in from around the world." Israeli Jews argue that Israel is their historic homeland, to which they have returned after 2,000 years in exile.

In the zero-sum game that can define Israeli-Palestinian relations, what makes one side sad might be expected to make the other proportionately happy. Yet Palestinians are wary of all this Israeli tumult.

Palestinians have for decades seen Ariel Sharon, one of Israel's most ferocious commandos and an architect of the settlement movement, as a bitter enemy. Now they are watching him turn on the settlers.

Dr. Sarraj said, "It's very strange and very comical, even, that this same man has victimized his own people twice: once luring his people into this settlement activity and then evicting them, and at the same time victimizing Palestinians." Many suspect Mr. Sharon of trying to hold on to most of the West Bank and all of Jerusalem.

Many Palestinians are reluctant to celebrate because the pullout has not yet resulted in any palpable change in their lives. It may be weeks or months before the army finishes demolishing the settlements and lets Palestinians in. Palestinians do not know if Israel will release its control of Gaza's borders and airspace.

Further, Palestinian officials fear that excessive jubilation might send the message that the Palestinians consider Israel to have ended its occupation even before it releases control. "It's a huge bind," Ms. Buttu said. "The colonization is finally over, but occupation is not."

By minimizing their own relief, Palestinians may signal the rest of the world that the Israeli misery is not so important, that it does not indicate a serious concession.

"The Israelis now are correcting their historic mistake: to settle in areas, territories, that do not belong to them," said Jibril Rajoub, the national security adviser to Mr. Abbas. "They are just correcting this mistake. They are not doing a benefit for anyone."

He spoke while standing at an Israeli Army checkpoint just north of the Gush Katif cluster of settlements. The checkpoint was shut tight against Palestinians, as soldiers struggled with the settlers nearby.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

CNN.com - Coretta Scott King hospitalized - Aug 16, 2005

CNN.com - Coretta Scott King hospitalized - Aug 16, 2005Coretta Scott King hospitalized
Civil rights matriarch in fair condition

ATLANTA, Georgia (AP) -- Civil rights matriarch Coretta Scott King was in fair condition Tuesday after being hospitalized for an unspecified condition, a hospital official said.

King, 78, the widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., went to an emergency room Tuesday morning and was resting comfortably later in the day, said Piedmont Hospital spokeswoman Diana Lewis.

Lewis would not elaborate on the reason for the hospitalization, but said King would spend the night at the hospital for observation.

Lewis said the King family was expected to release a statement Wednesday. Attempts to reach relatives by phone Tuesday weren't successful.

King has canceled recent public appearances, raising concerns about her health.

At a ceremony paying tribute to the King family at the Georgia State Capitol on June 30, her son Martin Luther King III said his mother was "doing well" and was only abiding by her doctor's orders to limit her activities. He refused to give additional details.

"I had a feeling, based on her cancellation of several events, that she wasn't doing well," state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, president of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, said Tuesday. "I have been praying for Mrs. King every day and I urge Atlanta, Georgia, the nation and the world to pray for her."

The Alabama-born Coretta Scott was studying voice at the New England Conservatory of Music when a friend introduced her to King, a young Baptist minister working toward a Ph.D. at Boston University. They married in 1953.

They had four children, and she was a supportive lieutenant to her husband during the most tumultuous days of the American civil rights movement.

After his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968, she continued his work, founding the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change the following year.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

48 Are Arrested as Israelis Clash in Gaza Pullout - New York Times

48 Are Arrested as Israelis Clash in Gaza Pullout - New York TimesAugust 17, 2005
48 Are Arrested as Israelis Clash in Gaza Pullout
By STEVEN ERLANGER
and DINA KRAFT

NEVE DEKALIM, Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Aug. 17 - Israeli soldiers moved into this Jewish settlement in larger numbers early Wednesday morning in an effort to persuade reluctant residents to leave their homes voluntarily before they would be forced out.

In the face of opposition from outside demonstrators, the soldiers moved into the town in columns in the hours before dawn, their stated motive to help residents pack up - just hours before they had orders to remove the settlers.

On Tuesday, settlers and sympathizers threw stones and eggs at soldiers and police officers here in an emotionally searing confrontation over the government's order to vacate this and other Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, which Israel captured 38 years ago.

At least 48 demonstrators were arrested in the clashes on Tuesday as officers poured into Neve Dekalim and tried to ensure that moving vans could enter for residents who wanted to leave.

The scene seemed a foretaste of what was expected after dawn Wednesday, when the Israeli Army intended to move forcefully into many settlements in order to complete the civilian pullout within a week.

The senior Israeli Army commander in Gaza, Maj. Gen. Dan Harel, said his troops would be concentrated here, in the largest settlement in Gaza, which has been the focus of resistance to the decision to pull out of all 21 settlements in Gaza and 4 small ones in the West Bank.

Since Monday it has been illegal for Israeli civilians to be here, and Tuesday was the last day when settlers could leave on their own, with their belongings.

Officials say half of Gaza's 9,000 settlers have already left, and General Harel promised that those who agreed to leave by midnight would be permitted to return to pack their belongings. Those who wait and are taken by force will receive less government compensation for the move than those who obey the law, officials said.

Neve Dekalim has become a focus for the religious and generational dissent to the pullout order, which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says is necessary for Israel's future security.

A high-ranking police officer said the intention was to present the settlers with overwhelming force, even if the officers are unarmed, in order to make serious resistance seem impossible. In preparation, many of the demonstrators here have taken refuge in the synagogue.

Many of the smaller settlements, especially in the north, are already empty, or nearly so.

By Tuesday morning, the army had detained nearly 1,000 Israelis who tried to enter the closed military zone of Gaza and, while the settlers and protesters slept, soldiers cut down the gates to the settlement.

As the police tried to enforce the law, the protesters, many of them young, devout and living in settlements on the West Bank, feared that the evacuation of Neve Dekalim was about to begin and confronted the officers. The most serious incidents occurred when one young man threw a caustic liquid, probably ammonia, into the eyes of a police cameraman, and another tossed urine on a woman police officer and paint on a senior commander.

Two officers and two civilians were injured. Those arrested were taken out of Gaza to face a court in Beersheba, where many were released on bail.

But the confrontation appeared to steel the will of the authorities to put an end to the emotional and oratorical drama here, which is inevitably taking a toll on young soldiers in Israel's draft army and even on professional police officers.

Young protesters constantly engage officers in taunting conversations about their willingness "to expel Jews" and to "act like Nazis," then urge them to disobey their orders.

One young soldier, guarding a bus against protesters who spent some of the day trying to slash the tires of official vehicles, said she found the conflict draining. "It's not what I trained for," said the woman, 19, who would identify herself only as Anit. "This is hard on all of us. They're full of passion."

Later, soldiers moved into the settlement to knock on doors, to reassure those settlers who wanted to move, and who were prevented from doing so by the protesters, that they would be regarded differently from those who refused to move, and their belongings would receive special attention.

Soldiers have been training for weeks for this operation, practicing on each other the forced removal of angry civilians. Israel's total exit from Gaza will take weeks, with the last soldiers due to leave in early October.

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has stationed troops near the settlements and called on the 1.3 million Palestinians of the Gaza Strip to refrain from violence. Hamas and other militant groups, jostling for credit for having pushed the Israelis out, have said they would not disrupt the withdrawal "as long as there is no aggression."

Aharon Franco, the deputy Israeli police commander, said in an interview that two-thirds of the settlers here had moved or wanted to do so before they were forced out, and that it was the obligation of the police to enable them to do so.

"Apart from the wonderful local residents, there are thousands of youngsters here from all over the country, and they're wandering around with nothing much to do," he said. "And every vehicle that comes along - they've got spikes and they stick them in the tires."

Elsewhere in Gaza, smaller settlements were quieter, with some essentially empty as of Tuesday. In Bedolah, Rabbi Matti Elon arrived from Jerusalem to offer the remaining families solace. David Zigdon, 35, was moving and helping his parents, Yossi and Einav Zigdon, to move. They have been here 26 years. "I remember when there was nothing here but sand," Mr. Zigdon said. "I'm very angry and very empty."

The family grows vegetables, and new cardboard boxes were stacked against a wall, reading, in English, French and German: "Sweet Pepper. Produce of Israel. Class I."

At the back the family was burning its old Volvo, the black acrid smoke rising into the humid sky, setting a tree on fire. "We don't want the Arabs to have it," Mr. Zigdon said.

Then the gas tank exploded, like a mortar.

Other possessions were thrown on the fire, and some neighbors tried to burn their houses, which the Israeli Army will bulldoze in any event by mutual agreement with the Palestinian Authority, which says the single-family houses do not suit the needs of their people. After the Israelis withdraw fully, the Palestinians will have control of the settlements.

Yishai Yehuda, 23, a friend who came to offer solidarity with the settlers, said: "They are a special family. All their lives are here. They are devout. These people are so strong, so faithful. They are the people who will lift Israel higher."

The Zigdon family had spray-painted a letter on an inside wall of their house. It was addressed to the Israeli Army and the police: "Here we sat, ate, laughed and cried. Soldiers and policemen, our house is your home, like your mother's, the smells of the food and the songs of the Sabbath, which the State of Israel is taking away from us, with our memories and those of hundreds of friends whom we hosted here. We are leaving with our heads down. The crown has fallen from our heads. We the Zigdon family want to be remembered and not forgotten."

The letter ended, "With our condolences to the people of Israel, the Zigdon family."

News Scan: Aug. 15, 2005 - Forbes.com

News Scan: Aug. 15, 2005 - Forbes.comNews Scan: Aug. 15, 2005

NEW YORK - Business, technology and wealth news:

HP Profit Falls, Beat Views
Hewlett-Packard's fiscal third-quarter earnings beat Wall Street expectations as the personal computer company's sales improved and its printer business remained strong amid a major corporate restructuring.

July U.S. Inflation Jumps On Gas
Consumer prices shot up in July, reflecting higher prices for gasoline and other energy products while output at the nations' factories, mines and utilities slowed sharply. The Federal Reserve reported that industrial production rose just 0.1% last, the weakest showing in three months. Output increases at factories and utilities slowed after big gains in June while mining output actually fell.

JPMorgan, TD Settle Enron Suits
Two banks agreed on Tuesday to pay at least $420 million to settle their parts of the "Megaclaims" lawsuit filed by Enron against 10 banks, alleging they "aided and abetted fraud" and could have prevented the energy trader's collapse.

Merck Rests Case In Vioxx Civil Trial
Merck rested its case Tuesday and jurors heard the last bit of testimony in the nation's first civil trial related to the drug maker's painkiller Vioxx, bringing the panel in the five-week case a step closer to deciding its outcome.

U.S. Stocks End Down On Inflation Data
Stocks tumbled after Wal-Mart Stores said higher gasoline prices curbed customer spending. The news sent many retail stocks lower, while government data showing a larger-than-expected jump in inflation also dampened investor enthusiasm.

American Airlines Ups Some Fare Surcharges
American Airlines, a subsidiary of AMR, on Tuesday said it is raising the surcharges on international fares to help offset soaring fuel costs. The air carrier added a $10 surcharge one way, or $20 round trip, on flights to and from international destinations, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, effective immediately.

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Earthquake rocks northern Japan

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Earthquake rocks northern Japan Earthquake rocks northern Japan
A powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 has hit Japan's north-east coast, injuring at least 40 people.

A tsunami alert was issued by Japan's meteorological agency, but later lifted after two small waves a few centimetres high hit the coastline.

The quake's epicentre is thought to have been 20km (12.4 miles) below the ocean off Miyagi prefecture, striking at around 1146 (0246GMT).

It shook buildings in the capital Tokyo, some 300km (186 miles) away.

The casualties were largely caused by the collapse of the roof of a swimming pool in Sendai city, Miyagi prefecture.

Initial reports suggested at least 80 people had been wounded.

But state broadcaster NHK later said one person had been seriously hurt and 13 were slightly injured.

Correspondents say Japan is extremely well prepared for earthquakes, and a similar magnitude quake elsewhere in the world would have proved deadly.

"There was a tremendous boom... People were screaming and headed toward the exit. It shook a lot... A lot of people were crying," a young woman at the scene told NHK.

Bullet trains were suspended, three nuclear power station were shut down automatically for safety checks, and flights at Tokyo's Haneda airport were temporarily halted as a precaution.

Some 17,000 households were reported to have lost power.

'Horizontal shakes'

Two tsunamis around 10cm high (four inches) hit the coast about 15 minutes after the quake but were not thought to have caused any damage.

There were also reports of a landslide in what is a mainly rural part of Japan.

"I was cycling to work and initially thought I had a loose front wheel," Sendai resident Philip Wood told the BBC. "So I stopped to check. Then I realised it was an earthquake since cars were shaking and electric pylons were swaying all around me," he said. Japan is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries, situated on four tectonic plates.

Tokyo was hit by a magnitude 6.0 earthquake last month, which injured at least 18 people.

The country's deadliest quake in recent memory occurred in the city of Kobe in 1995, with a magnitude of 7.3, that killed more than 6,400 people.

Before then, a 1923 quake, known as the Great Kanto Earthquake, killed more than 100,000 people.

Over 1,400 People Gathered to Mourn the Passing of a Man Who Communicated a Powerful Message: Black People Matter

Over 1,400 People Gathered to Mourn the Passing of a Man Who Communicated a Powerful Message: Black People MatterOver 1,400 People Gathered to Mourn the Passing of a Man Who Communicated a Powerful Message: Black People Matter
Race Relations Blog
Your Guide, Susan Pizarro-Eckert From Susan Pizarro-Eckert,
Your Guide to Race Relations.
FREE Newsletter. Sign Up Now!
August 16, 2005

Over 1,400 People Gathered to Mourn the Passing of a Man Who Communicated a Powerful Message: Black People Matter
John H. Johnson, awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor in 1996 by President Clinton, is considered to be one of the nation's most influential African-American Executives. He founded Johnson Publishing Co., a publishing, cosmetics, television production and fashion firm that became one of the largest privately owned American companies owned by an African-American.

Ebony and Jet magazines, the company's most popular publications, are essential in American history as they were first to provide positive images of African-Americans. These positive images inspired African-Americans across the country to aim high - to become doctors, lawyers and politicians.

Newsday reports that President Clinton, who was present at the funeral, addressed the audience, the Johnson family, and John H. Johnson himself when he said, "John, your legacy will never die. It lives on, because you became great by sharing the greatness in others." Visit the Newsday site to learn read more about yesterday's event and to learn more about John H. Johnson.

Leaders in Iraq Extend Deadline on Constitution - New York Times

Leaders in Iraq Extend Deadline on Constitution - New York TimesLeaders in Iraq Extend Deadline on Constitution
By DEXTER FILKINS and JAMES GLANZ

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 15 - The Iraqi political process descended toward paralysis on Monday, when leaders failed to meet the deadline for completing the new constitution and voted to give themselves another week to resolve fundamental disagreements over the future and identity of this fractious land.

Several of the leaders said the disagreements, revolving around Islam, oil and the distribution of political power, grew sharper and more numerous as the day dragged on. Some said they were pessimistic that such vast differences could be resolved at all, much less in seven days.

"The differences are huge, and there is not enough determination from the political leaders to solve the problems," said Saleh Mutlak, a Sunni leader in the negotiations. "Almost 50 percent of the constitution is not finished yet."

The final push for consensus, held inside the fortified Green Zone, began Monday morning and ended minutes before midnight, when senior Iraqi leaders told the country's elected assembly that they had been unable to reach a deal. The assembly quickly voted to amend the interim constitution, which had decreed Aug. 15 as the deadline, to give the drafters an extra week.

For now, the date for the nationwide referendum on the constitution, Oct. 15, and for parliamentary elections, on Dec. 15, remain unchanged. Yet some Iraqi leaders were already discussing the possibility of dissolving Iraq's National Assembly and holding fresh elections if they fail to agree on a constitution by Monday.

That option would be a last resort, the Iraqis said, partly because of fears that it could throw Iraq into a full-blown political crisis and possibly embolden the insurgency.

"If this delay will solve the problem, it's O.K.," said Haseeb Aref, a Sunni member of the constitutional committee. "But if it will not solve the problem, then we will find it is necessary to dissolve the National Assembly and have a new election."

Kurdish leaders also said they planned to push for a dissolution of the National Assembly and for new elections if a constitution did not emerge by Monday.

President Bush played down the delay and applauded the Iraqis, saying, "Their efforts are a tribute to democracy and an example that difficult problems can be solved peacefully through debate."

The Bush administration has been pressing Iraqi leaders to finish the constitution by the deadline, hoping that progress on the political front will eventually allow it to begin reducing the number of American troops here.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice echoed Mr. Bush's sentiment, noting that the vote to delay indicated "considerable momentum toward completion" of the draft constitution.

But another administration official, who was not allowed to speak publicly, said "there's a lot of nervousness" within the administration over the situation.

The crucial disagreements were the same ones that for weeks have bedeviled the Iraqis who have been laboring to write a constitution: the importance of Islam in Iraqi law, the rights of women, the division of oil wealth and the desire of Shiite leaders to establish their own semi-independent region in southern Iraq.

At least two other issues, seemingly settled, arose again to intensify the stalemate. Kurdish leaders insisted on the right of three predominantly Kurdish provinces in northern Iraq to secede. And Shiite leaders tried to insert a provision that would declare senior Shiite clerics independent of the government and to be symbols for the nation, a move that raised concerns that the Shiite leaders were planting the seeds for a theocracy.

The disputes reflect the different views of national identity held by the main ethnic and sectarian groups: the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. Indeed, in the case of the Kurds, and now the Shiites, the disagreements reflect a lack of enthusiasm about the very notion of an Iraqi state.

In the face of the rancor, Iraq's leaders expressed confidence that they would be able to bridge their differences by Monday.

"They need time," Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said after the vote. "I think next week will be enough."

The Iraqis failed to break the impasse despite the intense efforts of the American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, who huddled with Iraqi leaders and proposed compromises throughout the day. Near midnight, Mr. Khalilzad entered the National Assembly chambers with President Jalal Talabani, who introduced him to the members as a "dear brother."

But leaning on the Iraqis to produce a consensus where none may yet exist also raised the risk of exacerbating tensions among the country's major groups. Nearly all of the major disputes over the constitution divide along ethnic and religious lines. Iraqi leaders said there were limits to how far their respective communities would allow them to go in order to make a deal.

"We already have a problem with our people," said Mr. Mutlak, the Sunni leader, speaking of the Shiite demand for an autonomous region. "This is one agreement we cannot make, because if we make it we cannot walk in the street anymore."

As if to underscore American concerns over the dangers of delaying the constitution, a mortar shell, apparently fired by insurgents, exploded just short of the Green Zone as the negotiations unfolded.

Iraqi leaders began meeting at 10 a.m. for what they hoped would be a session to wrap up a few remaining differences. Instead, a plethora of disagreements burst forth.

By the end of the day, the divergence was so great that there was not even a consensus on the main points of disagreement. For example, Haseeb Aref, a Sunni, said he believed that the role that Islamic law should play in drawing up legislation had been settled, but Barham Salih, a Kurd, said delicately that "differences of opinion" remained on the relationship between the state and religion.

Mr. Salih, in turn, said the status of Iraqi Kurdistan as a semiautonomous region had been accepted by all, while other negotiators said they were appalled by last-minute Kurdish demands.

Amid the kaleidoscopic array of claims and counterclaims, a few central disagreements stood out.

The first was the Shiite demand for an autonomous region in southern Iraq that would consist of the nine Shiite-dominated provinces - half of Iraq's provinces. Sunni leaders, and even some secular Shiites, continued to oppose it, saying that it could fatally weaken the nation.

The second sticking point was a renewed push by the Kurds for the right to leave the Iraqi state. Kurdish leaders said their demands were justified by history, as their people have long been brutalized by governments in Baghdad.

"The Arabs and every people on the earth, they have the right to self-determination," said Mahmood Othman, a Kurdish leader. "So what's wrong with it?"

Even issues of a far lesser magnitude, like the question of whether Iraqis should be able to hold dual citizenship, rose again. Likewise, the outlines of an agreement made days earlier on the distribution of Iraq's oil wealth appeared to come apart. The oil discussions broke down as negotiators tried to make almost existential distinctions between known and yet-to-be-discovered reserves.

Perhaps the most highly charged of the day's disagreements involved a renewed Shiite demand that their religious leadership, a council of ayatollahs called the Marjariya, should be declared independent of the Iraqi government.

"The government should not interfere in their affairs," Sheik Khalid al-Atiyya, a prominent Shiite member of the constitutional committee.

But others, including some secular Shiite leaders, regarded the proposal as an improper mixing of the mosque and the state.

"I fear this is a first step in setting up an Islamic state," said Raja Kuzai, a Shiite member of the National Assembly. "The Marjariya should not be in the constitution."

Mr. Salih sought to put a positive face on the messy turn of events by comparing them to the authoritarian predictability of the government that ruled Iraq until 2003.

"It's an historical turning point in Iraqi history after a government that ran the country by fire and steel," Mr. Salih said, adding, "We need to solve our disagreements."

Joel Brinkley contributed reporting from Washington for this article.