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Saturday, November 19, 2005

Pakistan faces winter of death and despair - [Sunday Herald]

Pakistan faces winter of death and despair - [Sunday Herald]Pakistan faces winter of death and despair


From David Pratt, Foreign Editor, in Muzaffarabad


THEÊscaleÊofÊtheÊsufferingÊis unimaginable. More than three million people homeless across oneÊofÊtheÊremotest,Êmost mountainous places on the planet are inÊaÊbattleÊforÊsurvivalÊthatÊisÊgetting grimmer by the minute.

Journey for hours out of Pakistan's worst-hit cities ofÊMuzaffarabad and Balakot,ÊalongÊcrumblingÊmountain roads of unending landslides flanked Êby sheer thousand-foot drops, and you come across this scattered mass of the poorest and most vulnerable.

Among them, countless families who have lost breadwinners; children without parents; the elderly left alone. Traumatised, hungry, sick, cold and afraid, theyÊhuddleÊunderÊleakyÊtents,Êtarpaulins, cardboard ÐÊanythingÊthatÊmightÊhelpÊ keep out the rain and nightly subzero temperatures that prey on the weakest.

Yet for these, the survivors of last month'sÊearthquakeÊthatÊdevastated northern Pakistan and crushed to death moreÊthanÊ87,000Êpeople,Êanother scarcely believable disaster looms over what remains of their lives, as a bitter winter begins to take its own terrible toll.

ÒIt's the children I'm most worried about,Ó warns Zulqarnain Iqbal, team leader for the humanitarian agency Concern Worldwide, which has been working in some of the most inaccessible and worst-hit areas. ÒIn the camps you hear them coughing and many are already sufferingÊfromÊcoldÊandÊrespiratory-related diseases. Without proper shelter who knows how many will die?Ó

This is a region where any day now, snowfalls on the mountains can be up to 15ft deep. Drifts of 8-10ft are commonplace in tiny communities like the village of Mahar, which lies almost 10,000ft up in the Himalaya, and where I met formerÊschoolteacher Mohammed Miskeen.

ÒWe need steel sheets, food and winter clothes quickly, if we are to get through the next six months,Ó he tells me, as we sit on the flattened roof and crushed beams of what had been his home. Not far away, the higher peaks are already coated with snow and ice and the air is bitter, even in the midday sun. Would it not be better for him to move down off the mountain to cities like Muzaffarabad, I ask.

ÒYou have seen the place for yourself, it too has been destroyed. Is it any better than here, where we know how to survive if we have the right materials?Ó he replies.

Miskeen, like so many of these proud mountain people, insists they have their dignity and are not begging for help, they just need tools and supplies to survive the coming winter onslaught Ð and just possibly rebuild their lives.

ÒThis is our mother earth, where our family and ancestors are buried, we can never leave this place,Ó he says. But even for these hardy people, conditions are proving too harsh. Many have already made their way down to lower altitudes andÊtheÊcitiesÊofÊMuzaffarabadÊand Balakot,ÊtoÊjoinÊtheÊarmyÊofÊurban dwellers camped out in squalid tent sites next to the ruins of their homes along the banks of the rivers Neelum and Kunhar.

InÊtheÊBelaÊNoorshahÊdistrictÊof Muzaffarabad, on the edge of the River Neelum, lies a sprawling camp where more than 2000 people have sought sanctuaryÊamongÊrocks,ÊgravelÊand stagnant pools of filth. Here, there is no proper sanitation and families eat what they can get while living in a mire of garbage and human faeces.

ÒThis is a cholera epidemic waiting to happen,Ó one aid worker tells me. Like so many other relief organisations here, hisÊagencyÊisÊoverwhelmedÊbyÊthe demandsÊcountlessÊcampsÊlikeÊthis place on their abilities and resources.

Not far from Bela Noorshah, in a camp called Mera Tinoliya, I am approached by an elderly woman with three children. In tears, she tells me the two boys and girl are her grandchildren, and that their parents were killed in the earthquake.

ÒI've tried to look after them, but I'm alone and have nothing. Please take them with you to people who can give them what they need,Ó she pleads, as the youngsters begin to cry after realising what she is asking.

How many more families there are like them, left without the means or the will to cope, is anyone's guess.

Most of last month here was spent looking for the dead and giving them a decent burial. Now it is the day-to-day struggle for life that consumes those that the quake spared.

With most of the TV cameras now gone, the plight of these people has all but dropped off the world's radar. If such complacency continues, the death toll from this second winter disaster will be catastrophic.

ÒThis is the moment that you must sacrifice for us,Ó was how one survivor, an elderly man living in the ruins of Muzaffarabad City, put it to me yesterday. ÒIt is a question of basic humanity.Ó

20 November 2005

Xinhua - English

Xinhua - EnglishUS president Bush kicks off China visit
www.chinaview.cn 2005-11-20 00:05:25

BEIJING, Nov. 19 (Xinhuanet) -- US President George W. Bush arrived here Saturday evening, starting his third China trip since assuming presidency in 2001.

Bush's presidential plane Air Force One touched down around 18:40 local time at Beijing's Capital Airport, where the US president was greeted by Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, Chinese Ambassador to the United States Zhou Wenzhong and US Ambassador to China Clark T. Randt.

Also arriving aboard the presidential plane were Bush's wife Laura Bush, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and US National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

Bush's China's visit was regarded as a highlight of his Asian tour, which also took him to Japan, the Republic of Korea and Mongolia.

"Bush comes to China at a key moment, as the China-US relationsare currently at a crossroad," Prof. Qu Xing, vice president of the China Foreign Affairs University, said.

Chinese President Hu Jintao and Bush have met several times this year. In September, the two held talks on the sidelines of the UN summit in New York.

During the talks, Hu urged the two countries to keep high-levelcontact and properly handle conflicts through consultation. The two leaders agreed to take further steps to enhance mutual trust and cooperation to promote the bilateral constructive cooperative ties.

Qu said the relationship between the two countries is generally in "good shape", but the United States is deeply concerned with China's fast development and its policy towards China has been undergone intense domestic debate.

"The direct dialogue between the President Hu Jintao and President Bush is a good opportunity to clear doubts and improve trust," He said.

Sources with the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao are to meet with Bush on Sunday.

Zhu Feng, a professor on US studies with the Beijing University, said topics between the leaders are expected to cover economic issues like bilateral trade, RMB exchange rate and protection of intellectual property rights, as well as cooperationon international and regional affairs including Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, prevention of avian influenza and counter-terrorism.

Zhu said Bush's visit is not likely to bring about breakthrough on specific problems between two countries. "But whatis important is to maintain the positive momentum of contact and dialogue to keep the bilateral relationship moving forward steadily."

While some Americans held different attitudes toward China's growth, Chinese experts on American studies have noticed a conceptbrought up by Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick.

Zoellick, a top China policymaker, said in September that the United States must step up efforts to make China a "responsible stakeholder" in the international system to ensure that China would join the international community in addressing the challenges of the new century.

Fu Mengzi, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Contemporary International Relations, said Bush administration's evolving thinking of China could be viewed from the frequent contact between the two sides within this year.

Since the beginning of this year, China has hosted a successionof senior US cabinet members, including US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defence Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of Treasury John W. Snow, Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns.

Fu said such frequent contact between the two sides demonstrated that the US government has realized there are still more space for cooperation between the two countries despite the outstanding conflicts and problems.

Before coming to China, Bush told press that the Sino-US relationship was a complex and important one. He also said that the United States wanted to have good working relationship with China.

"As long as the two countries are willing to have dialogue and cooperation, the bilateral relations would evolve toward a better direction. But if the the Unites States keeps the policy of containment, the China-US relations can only move toward the opposite way," Fu said.

On the sidelines of his China visit, Bush is said to plan for bicycle riding at one cycling training base located in the westernsuburb of Beijing, which will also be the cycling stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, reports said.

Bush toured Beijing on bike during a visit here in 1975 when his father, former US President George Bush worked in Beijing as US liaison officer in China.

Six Chinese cycling athletes would accompany Bush during his 10-minute ride.

"We were told to concentrate on riding and be very careful not to bump into Mr. Bush," Ren Chengyuan, one of the six athletes told reporters at the training base. Enditem

Bush, in Beijing, Faces a Partner Now on the Rise - New York Times

Bush, in Beijing, Faces a Partner Now on the Rise - New York TimesNovember 20, 2005
Bush, in Beijing, Faces a Partner Now on the Rise
By JOSEPH KAHN and DAVID E. SANGER

BEIJING, Sunday, Nov. 20 - Fresh from another impassioned defense of his war leadership, President Bush arrived here on Saturday evening to defuse a host of tensions with China, even as many in Beijing argue that he will be able to apply little true pressure on the world's fastest-rising power.

Speaking just hours after a raucous debate over Iraq strategy unfolded in the House of Representatives, a defiant-sounding Mr. Bush told cheering American troops at Osan Air Base, south of Seoul, "We will stay in the fight until we have achieved the victory that our brave troops have fought for."

But in a sign of how much Iraq has dominated Mr. Bush's weeklong tour of Asia, he only vaguely alluded to North Korea in his forceful half-hour speech, delivered just 48 miles from the militarized border between the Koreas, where he stopped on his way to Beijing. Nor did he mention the stockpile of suspected nuclear weapons that the North boasts about and that the C.I.A. believes has expanded since the war in Iraq began. China is the key player in Mr. Bush's effort to find a diplomatic way to entice North Korea to give up those weapons.

Mr. Bush arrived in Beijing amid evidence that China has little intention of giving up the currency controls that Mr. Bush has said fuel the country's trade surplus, or of curtailing its crackdown on the media and on academic and religious freedoms.

Officials said Mr. Bush planned to raise all those issues with Hu Jintao, the Chinese leader, on Sunday at a meeting and a dinner at the Great Hall of the People, just off Tiananmen Square. He also underscored his concerns about China's crackdown on religion by attending a service early Sunday at the Gangwashi Church, one of the few state-approved and state-monitored congregations in the country.

That visit was a highly symbolic one: His huge motorcade - more than 50 cars - took him to the church, off an alley near Tiananmen Square. He took part in a traditional Protestant service and signed the guest book with the words, "May God bless the Christians of China."

The church was carefully selected - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice went there earlier this year - and emerging from it, Mr. Bush chose his words carefully. "You know, it wasn't all that long ago that people were not allowed to worship openly in this society. My hope is that the government of China will not fear Christians who gather to worship openly. A healthy society is a society that welcomes all faiths and gives people a chance to express themselves through worship with the Almighty."

"I think we're at a turning point where most of those in power realize it is not in the American interest to try to contain China," said Yan Xuetong, a foreign policy expert at Tsinghua University in Beijing. "They may not like to see China rise, but there is nothing they can do to stop it."

White House officials on the trip say that the Chinese government rejected the idea of a joint news conference for the two leaders, eliminating any chance that Mr. Hu would have to answer questions about the pace of democratization.

In a measure of the wariness felt by the Chinese, the government said that it could only guarantee television coverage for Mr. Bush's visit when he goes bicycling with Olympic athletes on Sunday.

Aboard Air Force One, Michael Green, head of Asian affairs for the National Security Council, said Saturday, "We've made it clear to our Chinese hosts that the president's message is one that is positive about U.S.-China relations and should be heard by all Chinese citizens - just as when President Hu comes to the United States, his message is heard in full by the American people."

The state-controlled media in China ignored Mr. Bush's speech in Kyoto, Japan, on Wednesday, in which he cited Taiwan's democracy as a model for the mainland and argued that China was discovering "that once the door to freedom is opened even a crack, it cannot be closed."

That critique was relatively muted compared to the days when Mr. Bush spoke of China as a "strategic competitor." Officials from both countries now describe relations as stable, even warm, arguing that the two powers now manage their differences pragmatically. Mr. Bush and Mr. Hu appear at least temporarily in sync on how to handle Taiwan and North Korea, Bush administration officials and Chinese analysts said.

"I think the president has an optimistic view about how China is moving," Mr. Green said last week.

If so, that may be in part because an ebbing debate within the Bush administration about whether the United States should try to contain China's economic and military reach.

Foreign policy experts in China argue that even some neoconservatives in the administration, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, have come to accept China's rising economic and political influence as a fact that the United States must learn to manage rather than openly challenge.

Senior policy aides in the Bush administration also say the differences between the countries seem easier to address now than at any time in Mr. Bush's presidency. But officials caution that festering economic and political tensions could still severely strain bilateral ties.

In what appeared to be an effort to calm economic anxieties, the Chinese have agreed to purchase 70 Boeing 737 airliners, Mr. Green said as Mr. Bush arrived in Beijing on Saturday evening. Neither the Boeing Company nor the Chinese government made a formal announcement of the deal, however, and similar promises have been made during other presidential visits, only to be altered after the visit.

Stephen J. Hadley, Mr. Bush's national security adviser, tried to quell expectations for the trip by declaring in Washington last week that Mr. Bush sought no "deliverables" to bring home, a phrase that apparently embraced both diplomatic and economic achievements, including an accord for China to let its currency float more quickly.

He is unlikely to get any: in the days before Mr. Bush arrived, the Chinese police detained or arrested religious leaders. There is no sign that Beijing intends to release anyone on the list of human rights cases Mr. Bush gave to Mr. Hu in September, when they met in New York.

Although Mr. Bush said in Kyoto that market-oriented economic policies would eventually lead to political freedoms in China, the country has moved in the opposite direction under Mr. Hu. Since taking control of the Communist Party in late 2002, he has jailed journalists, rights activists and lawyers, and put tighter controls on the news media and on many outspoken intellectuals.

Human rights groups and others devoted to the rule of law, environmental awareness and other causes have been harassed or shut down.

Chinese dissidents fear that the situation will only get worse after Mr. Bush's trip, when the leadership feels less pressure.

"I think Bush said the right things, but I'm not sure how forceful he will be when he meets Hu Jintao face to face," said Liu Xiaobo, a longtime government critic whose home was put under guard this week in anticipation of Mr. Bush's arrival.

Another source of tension is China's currency policy. Under heavy American pressure, China dropped a fixed peg between its currency, the yuan, and the dollar in July. But it allows only minuscule daily swings in the currency values, far less than the administration says is necessary to correct a growing trade imbalance.

Chinese officials argue that manufacturers have paper-thin profit margins in a competitive export environment. Officials fear that anything other than incremental currency moves could threaten stability.

More broadly, Mr. Bush plans to discuss a new framework for thinking about China, stressing that it has become a major "stakeholder" in the international system and needs to take greater responsibility for fighting terrorism, stopping nuclear weapons proliferation and improving human rights in China and abroad, an administration official said.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

New Disclosure Could Prolong Inquiry on Leak - New York Times

New Disclosure Could Prolong Inquiry on Leak - New York TimesNovember 17, 2005
New Disclosure Could Prolong Inquiry on Leak
By TODD S. PURDUM

This article was reported by Todd S. Purdum, David Johnston and Douglas Jehl and written by Mr. Purdum.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 - The disclosure that a current or former Bush administration official told Bob Woodward of The Washington Post more than two years ago that the wife of a prominent administration critic worked for the C.I.A. threatened Wednesday to prolong a politically damaging leak investigation that the White House had hoped would soon be contained.

The revelation left the special prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, grappling with an unexpected new twist - one that he had not uncovered in an exhaustive inquiry - and gave lawyers for I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff and the only official charged with a crime, fresh evidence to support his defense.

Mr. Woodward's account of his surprise testimony to Mr. Fitzgerald - reported by The Post in Wednesday's issue and elaborated on in a first-person statement - now makes it apparent that he was the first journalist known to have learned the C.I.A. identity of Valerie Wilson, whose husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, has sharply criticized the administration's rationale for war with Iraq. [Page A22.]

He says that he was told in mid-June 2003 that Ms. Wilson worked as a C.I.A. weapons analyst, by an official who made an offhand reference that did not appear to indicate her identity was classified or secret.

Mr. Woodward said he provided sworn testimony to Mr. Fitzgerald on Monday, only after his original source went to the prosecutor to disclose their two-year-old conversation. But because Mr. Woodward said that source had still not authorized him to disclose his or her name, he set off a frantic new round of guessing about who that source might be and a wave of public denials by spokesmen for possible suspects.

A senior administration official said that neither President Bush himself, nor his chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., nor his counselor, Dan Bartlett, was Mr. Woodward's source. So did spokesmen for former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell; the former director of central intelligence, George J. Tenet; and his deputy, John E. McLaughlin.

A lawyer for Karl Rove, the deputy White House chief of staff who has acknowledged conversations with reporters about the case and remains under investigation, said Mr. Rove was not Mr. Woodward's source.

Mr. Cheney did not join the parade of denials. A spokeswoman said he would have no comment on a continuing investigation. Several other officials could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Woodward, perhaps the nation's single most famous reporter, never wrote about the case, even after it became the most prominent story in Washington, although he made public statements dismissing its importance. He only informed The Post's executive editor, Leonard Downie Jr., of his knowledge last month, just before Mr. Fitzgerald indicted Mr. Libby on charges that he made false statements about his contacts with reporters and accused him of obstructing the investigation into whether the disclosure of Ms. Wilson's identity was a crime.

On Wednesday, Mr. Libby's lawyer, Theodore Wells, pronounced Mr. Woodward's revelation a "bombshell" that contradicted Mr. Fitzgerald's assertion that Mr. Libby was the first government official to discuss Ms. Wilson's C.I.A. connection with a journalist, Judith Miller, a former reporter for The New York Times, on June 23, 2003.

The latest revelation left Mr. Woodward, an assistant managing editor at The Post who operates with extraordinary latitude to produce best-selling books detailing the inner workings of the highest levels of government, in an unusual - and unusually uncomfortable role.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Woodward said he had apologized to Mr. Downie for not disclosing his own part in such a long-running story long ago and said he had kept a deliberately low profile to protect his sources. "The terms of engagement change when a reporter and reporters are being subpoenaed, agreeing to testify, being forced to testify, being jailed," Mr. Woodward said. "That's the new element in this. And what it did, it caused me to become even more secretive about sources, and to protect them. I couldn't do my job if I couldn't protect them. And to really make sure that I don't become part of this process, but not to be less aggressive in reporting the news."

It was not clear just what had prompted Mr. Woodward's original source to go to Mr. Fitzgerald, or whether that source had previously testified in the case. But Mr. Woodward was said to have begun making inquiries about the case before Mr. Libby's indictment, which may have been the catalyst.

If there are inconsistencies between Mr. Woodward's account and any earlier account by his source, Mr. Fitzgerald could be obliged to explore new legal implications.

The existence of Mr. Woodward's mysterious source came as a surprise to lawyers in the case, because it hinted that Mr. Fitzgerald had failed to learn a significant fact after two years of investigation, despite his reputation as a ferocious investigator who spent weeks digging out the smallest details before seeking indictments.

Randall Samborn, a spokesman for Mr. Fitzgerald, declined to comment on Mr. Woodward's statement. Mr. Libby was at the federal courthouse here on Wednesday, reviewing documents to aid in his defense. Lawyers involved in the case said that while the issues raised by Mr. Woodward's new account did not go to the heart of the perjury and obstruction charges against Mr. Libby, they could cast doubt on an underlying prosecution theme: that Mr. Libby was untruthful when he told the grand jury Ms. Wilson's C.I.A. identity was common knowledge among reporters.

In fact, only a small group of officials - at the White House, the State Department, and the Central Intelligence Agency - are believed to have known by early June 2003 about Ms. Wilson's ties to the C.I.A. They included Secretary Powell, Mr. Tenet, Mr. McLaughlin, Mr. Cheney, Mr. Libby; Marc Grossman, then the under secretary of state for political affairs; Carl Ford, then the head of the State Department's intelligence bureau; and Richard L. Armitage, then deputy secretary of state.

Mr. Wilson did not publicly identify himself until July 6 as the former ambassador who had made a trip to Niger in 2002 on behalf of the C.I.A. to investigate a claim that Iraq had tried to buy uranium there. Both The New York Times, in a May 6 column by Nicholas D. Kristof, and The Washington Post, in a front-page article on June 12 by Walter Pincus, had reported about the trip, but had not identified Mr. Wilson by name.

But former government officials have said that Mr. Pincus's inquiries at the White House, the C.I.A. and other agencies about Mr. Wilson's trip prompted Mr. Libby and other officials within the administration to try to learn more about the origins of the trip.

In his formal statement in The Post, Mr. Woodward said he had mentioned to Mr. Pincus in June 2003 that Ms. Wilson worked at the C.I.A. But Mr. Pincus, who has written that he first heard about Ms. Wilson from a senior administration official in July, said he did not recall that.

"The way he describes it, which is he walked by and said something about Wilson's wife being at C.I.A., I have absolutely no memory of it at all," Mr. Pincus said in a telephone interview. "And I think he may say that my reaction was 'What!' " like I was surprised. He now thinks I may never have heard him, and said, 'What?' "

Mr. Pincus did recall a later conversation with Mr. Woodward, in October 2003, after Mr. Pincus wrote about administration officials' efforts to discredit Mr. Wilson. He said Mr. Woodward stopped by his desk to tell Mr. Pincus that he "wasn't the only one who had been told," about Ms. Wilson's identity before it was publicly revealed in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak on July 14, 2003. Mr. Pincus said Mr. Woodward "asked me to keep him out of my reporting, and I agreed to do it."

Mr. Pincus said he agreed not to pursue the question of whether anyone in the administration might have contacted Mr. Woodward because "he hadn't written a story."

He continued, "I was writing that they had talked to a group of people. I don't think I named everybody."

Mr. Fitzgerald's indictment of Mr. Libby provides some clues about the small number of people who were directly involved in exchanging information about the Wilsons. It says that Mr. Libby first sought information about Ambassador Wilson's trip from Mr. Grossman, on May 29, 2003. It says that Mr. Grossman directed Mr. Ford's intelligence bureau to prepare a report about Mr. Wilson and his trip to Niger, and briefed Mr. Libby about that report as it was being completed, telling him on June 11 or 12, 2003, that Mr. Wilson's wife worked at the C.I.A. and that State Department personnel were involved in the planning of the trip. Mr. Grossman declined to comment on Wednesday, and Mr. Ford did not reply to a telephone call and an e-mail message.

Mr. Libby also learned from a "a senior officer of the C.I.A." on or about June 12, 2003, that Mr. Wilson's wife worked at the C.I.A. and was believed to be responsible for sending Mr. Wilson on the trip, the indictment says.

The indictment says that it was Mr. Cheney who specifically first told Mr. Libby, on or about June 12, 2003, that Ms. Wilson worked in the counterproliferation division at the C.I.A., a fact that meant that she worked within the agency's clandestine service, where many employees are undercover. It says that Mr. Libby understood that Mr. Cheney had learned the information "from the C.I.A.," and people who have been officially briefed on the investigation say that notes taken by Mr. Libby at the time say that Mr. Cheney learned it from Mr. Tenet.

Others mentioned in the indictment as having discussed Mr. Wilson's trip with Mr. Libby in June or July 2003 include Eric Edelman, then Mr. Cheney's national security adviser; Catherine Martin, then his director of public affairs; Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary; Mr. Rove, Mr. Bush's political adviser; and David Addington, the counsel to the vice president. Other administration officials known to have been interviewed by investigators include Condoleezza Rice, who was then national security adviser and is now secretary of state; Stephen Hadley, then deputy national security adviser and now the national security adviser; Mr. Card; and Mr. Bartlett.

Mr. Woodward's statement could help Mr. Libby counter one of the main charges against him, that he lied to the grand jury about a conversation with Tim Russert, NBC's Washington bureau chief, in which Mr. Libby asserted that it was Mr. Russert who told him about Ms. Wilson. The lawyers said that they could say he merely misspoke, never intending to mislead the grand jury because he honestly believed he had heard about the C.I.A. officer as the subject of gossip in news media circles.

But some legal experts were skeptical that Mr. Woodward's disclosure would significantly alter the case against Mr. Libby.

"I don't think that in a technical legal sense it matters," said Rodney A. Smolla, dean of the law school at the University of Richmond and a specialist in media law. "It's neutral as to Libby because he has been indicted for perjury and for lying, and nothing in his account seems to sanitize those lies if in fact they turn out to be lies."

Other than Mr. Libby, the only administration official publicly known to have talked with reporters about Ms. Wilson's identity is Mr. Rove.

Other mysteries remain. It is still not known who first told Mr. Novak about Ms. Wilson. In addition, Mr. Pincus has never publicly disclosed the identity of an administration official he says told him on July 12, 2003, that Mr. Wilson's trip was "a boondoggle" by his wife. Mr. Pincus has said he testified about that exchange in 2004 after his source told prosecutors about it; Mr. Novak is also believed to have testified in the case, although he has not said so publicly.

Mr. Woodward wrote that he conducted three interviews related to the investigation, which were mainly background interviews for his 2004 book, "Plan of Attack," about the Iraq war. He said that he had confidentiality agreements with each of these sources, who signed written statements releasing him from his previous pledge of secrecy.

Mr. Woodward said that he testified about a second meeting on June 20, 2003, with a second administration official who was not identified by Mr. Woodward, but whom The Post identified on its Web site Wednesday as Mr. Card. Mr. Woodward wrote that he had a list of questions to the interview that included a line that said "Joe Wilson's wife." A tape of the interview contained no indication that the subject had come up.

A third conversation was conducted by phone with Mr. Libby on June 23, 2003. Mr. Woodward told him that he was sending 18 pages of questions intended for Mr. Cheney, including one that referred to "yellowcake," the uranium ore at the center of Mr. Wilson's fact-finding trip to Africa. "I testified that I have no recollection that Wilson or his wife was discussed, and I have no notes of the conversation."

In the telephone interview, Mr. Woodward said that his goal had been "the protection of a confidential source, and aggressive reporting, and they do go hand in hand."

Richard W. Stevenson, Eric Lichtblau and Anne E. Kornblut contributed reporting for this article.

American Faces Charge of Graft for Work in Iraq - New York Times

American Faces Charge of Graft for Work in Iraq - New York TimesNovember 17, 2005
American Faces Charge of Graft for Work in Iraq
By JAMES GLANZ

In what is expected to be the first of a series of criminal charges against officials and contractors overseeing the rebuilding of Iraq, an American has been charged with paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks to American occupation authorities and their spouses to obtain construction contracts, according to a complaint unsealed late yesterday.

The man, Philip H. Bloom, who controlled three companies that did work in Iraq in the multibillion-dollar reconstruction effort, was charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, conspiracy to launder money and interstate transportation of stolen property, all in connection with obtaining up to $3.5 million in reportedly fraudulent contracts.

The complaint, unsealed in the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia, also cites two unnamed co-conspirators who worked in the Coalition Provisional Authority, the American administration that governed Iraq when the contracts were awarded in early 2004. These were the officials who, with their spouses, allegedly received the payments.

"This is the first case, but it won't be the last," said Jim Mitchell, a spokesman for the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent office. Mr. Mitchell said as many as a dozen related cases had been referred to the Justice Department for possible prosecution.

Mr. Bloom's lawyer, Robert Mintz of Newark, said he still knew little about the case beyond what was in the complaint. "The complaint and the supporting affidavit were unsealed for the first time today and we're in the process of reviewing the allegations," he said.

Mr. Bloom, who lived in Romania for many years, appeared in court yesterday, Mr. Mintz said. He was arrested recently at Newark Liberty International Airport, the lawyer added.

The complaint says that in order to obtain lucrative reconstruction contracts, Mr. Bloom paid at least $200,000 a month to an unspecified number of coalition authority officials, including the two co-conspirators and their spouses. Neither co-conspirator is named in the complaint, although it indicates that one is cooperating with the prosecution.

The other co-conspirator, the complaint says, held the position of comptroller and financing officer for "C.P.A. South Central Region in Iraq," which included Hillah. This person controlled $82 million "to be used for payment of contract services rendered in Al Hillah, Iraq, including contracts awarded to Bloom," the complaint asserts.

A United States government official said this person was named Robert J. Stein.

The complaint says the contracts Mr. Bloom obtained "were purported to be for the rebuilding and stabilization of Iraq" in Hillah and Karbala, a holy city in the south. The work included "the renovation of the Karbala Public Library; demolition work related to, and construction of, the Al Hillah Police Academy; the upgrading of security of the Al Hillah Police Academy, and the construction of the Regional Tribal Democracy Center."

With the assistance of the alleged co-conspirators and others, the document says, Mr. Bloom submitted multiple bids on the same contracts, using the names of different companies that were either controlled by Mr. Bloom or did not exist. Once there were sufficient bids to satisfy United States government regulations, the co-conspirators, including Mr. Stein, would ensure that the contract went to one of the companies, the complaint says.

"The value of these contracts ranged up to $498,900," the complaint says. "Co-conspirator 1's approval authority for awarding contracts was limited to contracts less than $500,000."

The complaint contends that the monthly bribes to coalition officials have been corroborated by an Iraqi witness, one of the conspirators "and other persons with personal knowledge of the payments, and through reviewing various financial records."

In one case Mr. Bloom, "who paid the aforementioned bribes, kickbacks and gratuities," the complaint says, "caused the transfer of funds totaling more than $267,000 from foreign bank accounts to accounts in the United States in the name of Co-conspirator 1 and/or his spouse." Other transfers came from banks in Kuwait, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Romania to accounts controlled by the alleged conspirators, the complaint says. Some transfers also went to jewelers, automobile dealerships and a realty firm, all apparently for the benefit of the fellow conspirators.

"I believe that the financial and monetary transactions described above are part of a conspiracy to violate United States law," wrote Patrick McKenna Jr., a special agent for the inspector general's office, as part of the complaint.

Little information was immediately available about Mr. Bloom or Mr. Stein. But the inspector general previously noted that in the rush to start reconstruction projects in south central Iraq, contracts were handled sloppily and oversight was minimal.

The charges are likely to fuel further criticisms of the rebuilding effort in Iraq, which has largely failed to live up to the hopes of United States officials. Large amounts of the money appropriated for rebuilding have been spent on securing projects and repairing sabotage, both results of insurgent activity. The effort has also been criticized for failing to take into account the problems faced by any building project in Iraq, including the difficulty of visiting project sites.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

NPR : Woodward Says He Was Told About Plame

NPR : Woodward Says He Was Told About PlameWoodward Says He Was Told About Plame

Listen to this story...

by David Folkenflik

Morning Edition, November 16, 2005 · Famed Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward testified Monday that a senior Bush administration official told him about CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity nearly a month before it was publicly exposed.

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iraq probes US phosphorus weapons

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iraq probes US phosphorus weapons Iraq probes US phosphorus weapons
An Iraqi human rights team has gone to the city of Falluja to investigate the use of white phosphorus as a weapon by US forces, a minister has told the BBC.

Acting Human Rights Minister Narmin Uthman said her staff would examine the possible effects on civilians.

The US has now admitted using white phosphorus as a weapon in Falluja last year, after earlier denying it.

The substance can cause burning of the flesh but is not illegal and is not classified as a chemical weapon.

The BBC's Caroline Hawley in Baghdad says it will be some time before the human rights team reports back.

The US had previously said that white phosphorus had been used only to light up enemy positions.

BBC defence correspondent Paul Wood says having to retract its denial is a public relations disaster for the US.

In other developments in Iraq:

* Sunni parties demand an international inquiry into the alleged abuse of more than 170 detainees by Iraqi forces in Baghdad.

* Three US soldiers are killed in a roadside bomb near Baghdad

* A car bomb kills a US marine in Karmah, 80km (50 miles) west of Baghdad.

A Pentagon spokesman, Lt Col Barry Venable, confirmed to the BBC the US had used white phosphorus "as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants" - though not against civilians, he said.

He said earlier denials had been based on "poor information".

Washington is not a signatory to an international treaty restricting the use of the substance against civilians.

The US-led assault in November 2004 on Falluja - a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency west of Baghdad - displaced most of the city's 300,000 population and left many of its buildings destroyed.

'Particularly nasty'

San Diego journalist Darrin Mortenson, who was embedded with US marines during the assault on Falluja, told the BBC's Today radio programme he had seen white phosphorous used "as an incendiary weapon" against insurgents.


WHITE PHOSPHORUS
Spontaneously flammable chemical used for battlefield illumination
Contact with particles causes burning of skin and flesh
Use of incendiary weapons prohibited for attacking civilians (Protocol III of Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons)
Protocol III not signed by US

However, he "never saw anybody intentionally use any weapon against civilians", he said.

White phosphorus is highly flammable and ignites on contact with oxygen. If the substance hits a person's body, it will burn until deprived of oxygen.

Globalsecurity.org, a defence website, says: "Phosphorus burns on the skin are deep and painful... These weapons are particularly nasty because white phosphorus continues to burn until it disappears... it could burn right down to the bone."

A spokesman at the UK Ministry of Defence said the use of white phosphorus was permitted in battle in cases where there were no civilians near the target area.

But Professor Paul Rodgers, of the University of Bradford's department of peace studies, said white phosphorus could be considered a chemical weapon if deliberately aimed at civilians.

He told PM: "It is not counted under the chemical weapons convention in its normal use but, although it is a matter of legal niceties, it probably does fall into the category of chemical weapons if it is used for this kind of purpose directly against people."

An Italian documentary revealing the use of white phosphorus in Iraq sparked fury among Italian anti-war protesters, who demonstrated outside the US embassy in Rome earlier this month.

Iraq's human rights minister said the team was sent to Falluja after the documentary was broadcast on Rai TV in Italy.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Senate Presses Administration for Iraq Plans - New York Times

Senate Presses Administration for Iraq Plans - New York TimesNovember 16, 2005
Senate Presses Administration for Iraq Plans
By CARL HULSE

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15 - The Senate voted on Tuesday to press the Bush administration to provide more public information about the course of the war in Iraq as lawmakers of both parties made it clear they wanted chief responsibility for securing the country shifted to the Iraqi government within the next year.

Lawmakers voted 79 to 19 for a Republican plan to seek new quarterly reports on matters like the number of Iraqi troops ready to take the lead in combat operations. The proposal expressed the Senate view that "2006 should be a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty."

But the Senate rejected, by a vote of 58 to 40, a Democratic proposal to require the Bush administration to project dates for a phased withdrawal of troops should conditions allow.

While the practical consequences of the bipartisan vote on the Republican proposal may be limited and largely symbolic, the willingness of most Senate Republicans to join with most Democrats to prod the Bush administration on the war represented new determination to distance themselves from the White House in the face of dwindling public support for operations in Iraq.

"For the first time," said Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, "our Republican colleagues have joined Democrats in listing and insisting on a clear Iraqi strategy from this administration, a schedule to achieve it and real accountability."

[President Bush, asked during a news conference in Kyoto, Japan, about the Congressional action, said on Wednesday that he was "more than happy" to provide Congress with more regular updates on Iraq.

["I appreciated the fact that the Senate rejected an amendment that would have taken our troops out of Iraq before the mission is complete," he said, a reference to the Democrats' attempt to set a deadline for withdrawal. He said he viewed the language that passed as consistent with the administration's strategy, and insisted anew that "the only reason we won't succeed would be if we lost our nerve."]

The proposal, part of a broad annual Pentagon policy measure approved 98 to 0, came as senators also sought greater influence in setting American policy on the treatment of terror detainees and their access to courts, matters Congress has largely ceded to the administration. The detainee provisions, if enacted into law, would essentially codify the military court system established by the White House for "enemy combatants" at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

By 84 to 14, the Senate approved a bipartisan compromise that would allow the Guantánamo prisoners to challenge in federal court their detention as enemy combatants and to appeal automatically any convictions and sentences handed down by military tribunals in excess of 10 years. The deal retreated from a Senate vote last week that would have cut off the detainees' access to the federal courts, but it would still prevent those being held from asking the courts to intervene in treatment and prison conditions.

The Senate positions on Iraq policy, detainee rights and an earlier approval of a provision banning cruel and inhumane treatment of detainees known as the McCain amendment were expected to complicate negotiations over military policy with the House, which included none of those proposals in its own Pentagon measure. And the administration has already encouraged the House leadership to resist the provision on torture in a separate Senate military spending bill.

White House officials said on Tuesday that the administration would be willing to provide additional information sought by Congress. "We have always welcomed a regular dialogue with Congress," said Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman. "We agree that progress is being made by both the military and civilians in Iraq. The progress is extraordinary and should not be drowned out by partisan politics in Washington."

Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader and a sponsor of the Iraqi policy approved by the Senate, sought to frame the approach as one of cooperation with the White House.

"It is not a change of policy," said Mr. Frist, who called the approval of his plan an "absolute repudiation" of the Democratic push for possible withdrawal dates.

But the main opposition for the policy proposal came from Republicans who said it put too many constraints on the administration, was a step toward a timetable for withdrawal, was ill timed because Mr. Bush is out of the country and had been prompted mainly by political anxiety about the impact of the war on next year's midterm elections.

"I think it speaks to a bit of nervousness about public perception of how the war is going in terms of '06 elections," said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, one of 13 Republicans who joined 6 Democrats in opposing the proposal. "And to be honest with you, the war is going to be going on long after '06. I'm more worried about getting it right in Iraq than the '06 elections."

Though the competing proposal from Senate Democrats was rejected, most of them backed the Republican leadership's plan and hailed its approval as a new recognition by the Senate that Bush administration policy on Iraq had been misguided.

"The United States Senate said the policy must change; staying the course will not do," said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader. "It was a vote of no confidence on the president's policies in Iraq."

Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia and the chairman of the Armed Services Committee who wrote the proposal based on a Democratic plan, said the push on the Iraq policy was not meant as criticism of the administration but was a signal to the Iraqi people.

"We have done our share," Mr. Warner said. "Now the challenge is up to you."

In the measure, the Senate says its view is that American forces should not remain in Iraq "any longer than required" and that the "administration needs to explain to Congress and the America people its strategy for the successful completion of the mission in Iraq."

The bill also requires a new quarterly report from the administration, though it provides no penalty for noncompliance. Among the topics to be covered in the report are efforts at reaching a domestic political settlement in Iraq, training of Iraqi security forces, the status of Iraqi police forces, the ability of the Iraqi government to direct domestic security forces and a schedule for meeting conditions that would allow a transfer of security responsibilities and, ultimately, a withdrawal of troops.

The vote on the legal rights of detainees ended days of intense negotiations after the Senate voted last week to block their access to the courts, an action that drew opposition from a variety of human rights and legal advocacy groups who saw it as an affront to the Constitution.

Mr. Graham, the author of the original plan, said the new approach could protect both the Bush administration's objectives for holding and trying the detainees and the rights allowed of those being held. The compromise "allows every detainee under our control to have their day in court," he said.

But other lawmakers were highly critical. Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said the Senate was meddling with "fundamental rights" without sufficient review. "These are weighty and momentous considerations that go far beyond the detainees at Guantánamo," Mr. Specter said.

An effort to reject the Graham provisions on court access by Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, failed on a 54-to-44 vote.

In the aftermath of the votes on the legal rights of detainees, human rights groups expressed disappointment., acknowledging that the compromise was an improvement over last week's decision but saying it still limited the jurisdiction of the courts.

"It is certainly past time for Congress to get involved in the issue of detention at Guantánamo," said Elisa Massimino, Washington director of Human Rights First. "But Congressional involvement should mean more than simply endorsing the administration's deeply flawed processes like the military tribunals and combatant status review tribunals. Encroaching on the rule of the courts does not solve the problem, and in fact makes it worse."

For Rice, a Risky Dive Into the Mideast Storm - New York Times

For Rice, a Risky Dive Into the Mideast Storm - New York TimesNovember 16, 2005
News Analysis
For Rice, a Risky Dive Into the Mideast Storm
By STEVEN R. WEISMAN

PUSAN, South Korea, Wednesday, Nov. 16 - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spent all day and night successfully brokering an accord on Tuesday on security controls at a Gaza border crossing, suddenly elevating the Bush administration's involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a new level.

Until now President Bush and Secretary Rice have avoided taking risks in the conflict, confining their diplomacy to consultations, exhortations, drive-by visits to the region and documents like the "road map" to a Palestinian state, which calls for several steps by Palestinians and Israelis, few of which have occurred.

What changed this week, State Department officials said, was mounting alarm at the bitter impasse over the Gaza Strip after the Israeli withdrawal last summer and fear of more instability and frustration that could lead to a rebuke of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in parliamentary elections in January.

That sense of urgency, driven by warnings from Washington's Arab and European allies as well as from American envoys, prompted Ms. Rice's unusual personal participation in the negotiations in Jerusalem. That resulted in the accord announced early Tuesday morning giving Palestinians control over a Gaza crossing, with monitors from the European Union.

The Arab and European allies pressed for more American efforts to untangle the issues paralyzing the peace negotiations. Diplomats from allied countries have said the credibility of Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice is at risk, and they have besieged Ms. Rice to seize the opportunity or lose what they regard as the last chance of making peace for years to come.

"A lot of diplomacy is about when things are ripe for movement," a senior State Department official said. "There was the sense that now was the time to really capitalize on the situation." The official insisted on anonymity under the department's ground rules for briefings.

Ms. Rice arrived in Pusan on Wednesday morning to attend the Asia-Pacific economic conference.

Another form of pressure came from James D. Wolfensohn, the Middle East envoy of the so-called quartet consisting of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. Mr. Wolfensohn had begun blaming a lack of American involvement for the impasse behind the scenes.

"If you are an envoy of the quartet you have a certain amount of possibilities in negotiations," Mr. Wolfensohn, a former president of the World Bank, said in Jerusalem on Tuesday. "If you are the secretary of state of the United States, I would have to say, there is a little more clout associated with it. And to push it over the edge one needs not envoys, but secretaries of state."

The challenge for Ms. Rice now is to keep the process going, since the Gaza agreement will be difficult to carry out and the next phase of efforts to ease tensions promises to stir resentment on both sides.

Israelis and Palestinians are now likely to demand more American involvement on a range of issues, from the Palestinians' call for Israel to ease its presence in the West Bank to the Israeli demand for a crackdown on Hamas and other militant groups. Ms. Rice took office early this year amid criticism that the Bush administration had relied largely on force in its first term. "The time for diplomacy is now," she said then.

But she has effectively outsourced the negotiations on North Korea to a consortium of partners led by China and left dealings with Iran to a team led by Britain, France and Germany. On the Middle East now, the United States is front and center.

Probably the most difficult aspect of Washington's enhanced role is that it could lead to more American pressure on Israel. This week Ms. Rice leaned heavily on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his aides to ease Israeli controls over the people and goods going in and out of the Gaza Strip. How much pressure she can exert on other matters depends on a peaceful Israeli-Palestinian situation, something that is outside American control.

If suicide or rocket attacks resume, with Gaza as a base, American pressure on Israel to freeze the expansion of its settlements and the building of its security barrier, or to lift checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank, will probably be out of the question.

At the same time that Ms. Rice was negotiating the accord, former President Bill Clinton was in Jerusalem for memorials to Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister who was assassinated 10 years ago. Mr. Clinton got rapturous receptions. But Mr. Bush has deliberately avoided his example in most cases, particularly his personal involvement in the Middle East.

Ms. Rice had also avoided personal involvement, and last February she deliberately left the region to avoid appearing at a summit meeting of Arab, Palestinian and Israeli leaders in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt, to complete the Gaza withdrawal plan.

But when she arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday, aides said she was determined that this trip was going to be different, in part because of Mr. Wolfensohn's dire warnings about the deteriorating situation.

"We're going to get this done while I'm here," Ms. Rice told Mr. Sharon and Mr. Abbas in separate meetings, according to State Department officials. The two leaders' reaction, the officials said, was skepticism, and there were suggestions that she narrow the scope of what she wanted to accomplish in one day of talks.

Some issues have indeed been put off - not simply the details of carrying out the agreement but also plans for an airport for the Palestinians. Also deferred are the issues of Israel's presence in the West Bank and actions that the Americans wanted Mr. Abbas to undertake to disarm militant groups. Rebuffing American requests, he has said he cannot confront those armed groups until after the elections in January.

American officials vow to hold Mr. Abbas to his promise, saying he should realize how much his standing in Washington will be on the line.

On Tuesday, Ms. Rice, who got two hours of sleep Monday night, was getting some rest. "We have a long road ahead, a long road ahead," Ms. Rice said earlier in the day. "I have to say as a football fan, sometimes the last yard is the hardest, and I think we experienced that today."

China Confirms Three Cases of Bird Flu in Humans - New York Times

China Confirms Three Cases of Bird Flu in Humans - New York TimesNovember 16, 2005
China Confirms Three Cases of Bird Flu in Humans
By KEITH BRADSHER and ELISABETH ROSENTHAL

BEIJING, Nov. 16 - China's Ministry of Health today confirmed three human cases of bird flu, including two in central China's Hunan Province and one in east China's Anhui Province.

The announcement, which provided no further details, was posted on the Web site of Xinhua, the official news agency, a day after China's Agriculture Ministry said that it would inject all of the nation's 5.2 billion chickens, geese and ducks with a vaccine against bird flu.

That campaign, disclosed by the official New China News Agency, would be the largest single vaccination effort ever for any species, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. It promises to be logistically complicated, not least because it entails chasing and catching billions of free-range birds. The Agriculture Ministry did not provide a timetable.

Dr. Qi Xiaoqiu, the director general of the department for disease prevention and control at China's Health Ministry, said at a news conference on Tuesday that it was "highly probable" that a boy and a girl who suffered high fevers last month - the girl died - had been the country's first human cases of bird flu. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao warned last week that China faces a "very serious situation" as it seeks to control the virus.

At any one time, China has about 4 billion chickens and 1.2 billion ducks and geese, but even those numbers understate the size of the vaccination task. The country consumes about 14 billion domestically grown chickens, ducks and geese every year.

Dr. Qi said that three-fifths of the poultry in China was kept by families, who let the birds and other domesticated animals wander around the neighborhood and the yard and often through the house. Constant close contact between animals and people is worrisome because birds and pigs can carry the H5N1 bird flu virus and may transmit it to people.

"People raise pigs and people keep birds just like Americans keep dogs," Dr. Qi said. "Those pigs and birds are part of the family. It is a kind of self-sufficient, outmoded production method."

Dr. Qi and Roy Wadia, a World Health Organization spokesman here, said on Tuesday there had been no sign yet of human-to-human transmission of bird flu, a critical ability the virus needs to develop if it is ever to cause a human pandemic.

In an interview at the same conference at which Dr. Qi spoke, an American official who insisted on anonymity said before the Chinese announcement that migratory birds were likely to spread flu to poultry in the United States at some point.

Kristen Scuderi, the Agriculture Department's deputy press secretary, said the United States had 40 million doses of bird vaccine in stock and another 30 million doses in production, which would be used to create a barrier zone around an area with a severe outbreak. "The initial response is culling, but if the outbreak was really egregious we might go into the stockpile," she said. Some outbreaks have resulted in the deaths of millions of birds.

China reported 50 outbreaks of bird flu in 16 provinces last year, and has reported 11 more to international health agencies this autumn, including 2 more small outbreaks reported on Tuesday. Poultry infections have been especially severe this autumn in Liaoning Province.

The official New China News Agency reported last week that a fake flu vaccine, possibly including active virus, may have actually spread the disease instead of preventing it, although there has been no suggestion that this occurred elsewhere.

"The harm is incalculable," said Jia Youling, the chief of the veterinary department at China's agriculture ministry, according to the news agency.

China has also developed its own version of Tamiflu, an antiviral drug, and is preparing to produce it in large quantities if a human pandemic occurs, official news media said. There is no human vaccine against bird flu because it is impossible to predict the form the virus will take if it develops the capacity for human-to-human transmission.

Veterinary experts at the Food and Agriculture Organization's headquarters in Rome said that more information was needed to assess the wisdom of China's decision to vaccinate all poultry.

"With the recent multiplication of outbreaks in China they have now decided on countrywide vaccination, but at this point we cannot say if such a massive program is either possible or advisable," said Joseph Domenech, chief of Veterinary Services. He added that if any country can carry out such a program, "China can do it."

Bird vaccination campaigns involve a huge amount of manpower because the animals must be injected one by one. The Food and Agriculture Organization normally recommends such large-scale programs only in areas where the H5N1 bird flu virus has become endemic - places where it persists in the environment and where culls and quarantines have proved ineffective.

Parts of Vietnam and Indonesia fall into this category, and widespread vaccination programs have controlled flu among poultry in some areas. Dr. Domenech said he had seen no evidence that this was true for all of China.

Bird vaccine has been widely available for several years. Costing merely 10 cents a dose and produced by a dozen manufacturers, it is nearly 100 percent effective. China's Agriculture Ministry said Tuesday that it was producing 100 million doses a day, a figure that Dr. Domenech said was plausible.

The difficulty with the bird vaccine, particularly in Asia, is organizational: Veterinary workers must go village to village and door to door, since most poultry in this part of the world is kept on small farms and in backyards.

In most parts of Asia, the vaccine is administered in endemic areas and in areas surrounding outbreaks that have been controlled by culls. The vaccine is also given to poultry in areas where wild birds are known to be infected.

The Chinese have given no indication that H5N1 virus is widespread in their country, and have said that all outbreaks this autumn have been brought under control.

The vaccine is not recommended for use in birds in Europe or North America, as bird flu is still rare in Europe and has not been seen at all in the United States. In such places, the preferred method for stamping out the disease is culling birds for a radius of up to a few miles around the outbreak and quarantining poultry in a wider area for several weeks.

"The vaccine may be appropriate in Asia, but our first response would definitely be culls and quarantines," said Philip Tod, spokesman for the European Union's health department.

In the last month, Europe has experienced its first outbreaks - in Turkey, Romania and Croatia. All have been controlled in this manner. Mr. Tod said no European governments are currently stockpiling vaccines because they can be produced relatively easily and quickly.

Keith Bradsher reported from Beijing for this article, and Elisabeth Rosenthal from Rome.

Torture Alleged at Ministry Site Outside Baghdad - New York Times

Torture Alleged at Ministry Site Outside Baghdad - New York TimesNovember 16, 2005
Torture Alleged at Ministry Site Outside Baghdad
By JOHN F. BURNS

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 16 - Iraq's government said Tuesday that it had ordered an urgent investigation of allegations that many of the 173 detainees American troops discovered over the weekend in the basement of an Interior Ministry building in a Baghdad suburb had been tortured by their Iraqi captors. A senior Iraqi official who visited the detainees said two appeared paralyzed and others had some of the skin peeled off their bodies by their abusers.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari held a hurriedly organized news conference to announce the official inquiry. He also said there would be a second investigation, including a comprehensive count of the thousands held in Iraqi jails, to determine whether there was a wider pattern of abuse, as many opponents of his government have claimed. He said the detainees had been moved to another location and had been given all necessary medical care.

A joint statement by the American Embassy and the United States military command called the situation "totally unacceptable" and said American officials "agree with Iraq's leaders that mistreatment of detainees will not be tolerated."

The discovery of what appeared to have been a secret torture center created a new aura of crisis for American officials and Iraqi politicians who hold power in the Shiite-led transitional government. For many Iraqis, the episode carried heavy overtones of the brutality associated with Saddam Hussein and his Sunni-dominated government.

Ominously, amid rising sectarianism here, Interior Ministry officials reported that the abused detainees appeared to have been mostly Sunni Arabs, and their abusers Shiite police officers loyal to the notorious Badr Organization, a militia with close links to Iran.

Today, Sunni Arab politicians demanded an international investigation.

Omar Hujail, a member of the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party, said all the detainees were Sunni Arabs. "It is not the only place where torture takes place," he said at a news conference. "We have been telling them for ages that there are people wearing the uniforms of the interior ministry raiding houses at night and arresting people but everybody denied it," according to Reuters.

Hadi al-Amery, the head of the Badr Organization, denied any involvement.

"This bunker is run by the Interior Ministry, the Americans are there every day," he said in a Reuters report.

For American officials in Iraq, still laboring under the shadow of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal and other allegations of mistreatment of prisoners, the new allegations came at a particularly inopportune moment.

American efforts are currently centered on national elections scheduled for Dec. 15 for a full, four-year government. What American troops found in the government building appeared laden with potential for aggravating Sunni-Shiite tensions just when American officials have been working hard to draw wavering Sunni groups into the political process.

The detention center was discovered by chance late on Sunday evening, when troops of the Third Infantry Division, investigating a mother's complaint about a missing 15-year-old boy, led Iraqi soldiers in forcing their way past Interior Ministry guards at the building in Jadriya, a densely populated suburb less than a mile south across the Tigris River from the Green Zone compound that is the seat of American and Iraqi power.

Only a half-mile further south is the headquarters of the Shiite religious party that is the parent of the Badr group, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, known as Sciri, which has wide influence in Jadriya.

American officers said the guards had told them that only 40 men were held in the building.

At his news conference, Mr. Jaafari said the troops who stormed the building found "signs of malnourishment" among the 173 men and teenage boys, and "there was some talk that they had been tortured."

He said he had appointed a deputy prime minister, Rowsh Shaways, who is Kurdish, to head an inquiry, and ordered him to report within two weeks. "We want to know how this was allowed to happen, and how things reached this point," Mr. Jaafari said. The wider investigation, into jail conditions across the country, will be led by "ministers and other figures," he said.

An Interior Ministry statement said flatly that torture had occurred and that "instruments of torture," which it did not describe, were found in the building.

The ministry's under secretary for security, Maj. Gen. Hussein Kamal, was similarly blunt. "They were being abused," he told Reuters. "This is totally unacceptable treatment and it is denounced by the minister and everyone in Iraq."

In a CNN interview, he was more graphic. "I saw signs of physical abuse by brutal beating, one or two detainees were paralyzed and some had skin peeling off various parts of their bodies," he said.

The dismay among American officers involved in the operations on Sunday was evident from a report on Tuesday in The Los Angeles Times, which on Monday carried the first report of the raid in Jadriya. In its report on Tuesday, the newspaper quoted Brig. Gen. Karl Horst of the Third Infantry Division, the commander of the raid, as saying that there would be more operations directed at uncovering secret detention centers. "We're going to hit every single one of them," he said.

Since the Jaafari government took office in May and gave the post of interior minister to Bayan Jabr, a former leader of the Badr militia, it has been dogged by allegations that Shiite religious militiamen have infiltrated the country's 110,000-member police force and acted as a spearhead of revenge against Sunnis, locking up thousands in secret detention centers, and forming police death squads that single out Sunnis.

Mr. Jabr has denied the allegations, describing them as Sunni insurgent propaganda intended to discredit the country's first Shiite-majority government. He has also pointed to the widespread sectarian killings carried out by Sunni insurgents, who have attacked thousands of Shiites in mosques and bazaars and have carried out group killings of kidnapped Shiites, including police officers.

Mr. Jaafari acted after meetings with the American ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, and with the American military commander, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., according to accounts by American officials.

The disclosure of the direct American role in hastening Mr. Jaafari into action was a break from the usual pattern in the 17 months since Iraq regained formal sovereignty, a period in which American officials have been assiduous in exerting their influence behind the scenes. Coupled with the uncompromising tone of the American statement, it left little doubt that the Americans saw the episode as one with dire implications for the American enterprise here.

"The alleged mistreatment of detainees and the inhumane conditions at an Iraqi Ministry of Interior detention facility is very serious, and totally unacceptable," the American statement said.

Omar al-Neami contributed reporting from Baghdad for this article, and an Iraqi staff member of The New York Times from Kirkuk

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Alito Plays Down '85 Memo on Abortion - New York Times

Alito Plays Down '85 Memo on Abortion - New York TimesNovember 15, 2005
Alito Plays Down '85 Memo on Abortion
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and MARIA NEWMAN

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15 - Samuel A. Alito Jr., President Bush's nominee for the Supreme Court, said today that his written views against abortion rights 20 years ago were the responses of "an advocate seeking a job."

The remarks came up when Judge Alito met this morning with Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as he makes his rounds to meet with lawmakers who will vote on his nomination.

After the meeting, Ms. Feinstein told reporters she had asked the judge why he had described himself, when he was applying for a promotion in the Reagan administration, as a thoroughgoing conservative "particularly proud" of contributing to cases arguing "that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion."

"He said first of all it was different then," Ms. Feinstein said. "He said, 'I was an advocate seeking a job, it was a political job and that was 1985. I'm now a judge, I've been on the circuit court for 15 years and it's very different. I'm not an advocate, I don't give heed to my personal views, what I do is interpret the law."'

She was asked if she found his answer satisfactory.

"The question is, Did I believe he was being absolutely truthful, and I did," she responded.

She said he "was very sincere, he was very direct in answering my questions, he clearly is well-steeped in the law, has a good mind, is an able thinker." Senator Feinstein is a strong supporter of abortion rights.

Judge Alito himself did not respond to reporters' questions about the document before meeting with the senator, saying only, "I'm just here to speak with Senator Feinstein."

Judge Alito is to meet later today with Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who voted against the nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to be chief justice, as did Ms. Feinstein..

On Monday, Mr. Kennedy and Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, both Democrats and members of the judiciary committee, said the judge's strong statements obligated him to explain his legal views on abortion rights cases and other controversial issues. Previous nominees for the Supreme Court have refused to answer such questions to avoid the appearance of prejudgments.

"Here, unfortunately, the memo itself creates the perception of bias," Mr. Schumer said on Monday, "and it will be crucial for this nominee to address the issue head on."

The 1985 job application, disclosed on Monday by the White House and first reported by The Washington Times, provides a new window into the deeply conservative roots of the legal views held at the time by Judge Alito.

Although his views may have changed, any hint of his legal philosophy is of keen interest to partisans on both sides of the debate over his nomination because he would succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the swing vote on abortion rights and other social issues.

And his opinions as an appeals court judge often adhere so closely to precedents that they seldom reveal his views.

"I am and always have been a conservative," Judge Alito wrote, citing William F. Buckley Jr.'s magazine National Review, Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign and strong disagreement with the liberal Warren Court as formative influences on his views.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will hold confirmation hearings in January, seized on the application as evidence that Judge Alito, who sits on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, would take an ideological agenda to the bench.

Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said the document showed "an eager and early partisan in the ranks of ideological activists in his party's extreme right wing."

And Mr. Leahy said some of the statements - including an objection to Warren Court rulings that prohibited states from maintaining election districts that diluted minority representation - raised questions about Judge Alito's commitment to the principle of one person one vote.

Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for the White House, said Judge Alito should be evaluated on the basis of his 15 years of decisions as a federal appeals court judge, "not personal beliefs expressed in a memo before he became a federal judge." His record "shows a clear and consistent pattern of modesty, respect for precedent and judicial restraint," Mr. Schmidt said.

Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican on the Judiciary Committee who opposes abortion rights, said, "I'm not sure it is news that Judge Alito is pro-life, nor that Roe v. Wade was poorly reasoned."

Still, Mr. Cornyn said Judge Alito's track record on the appeals court demonstrated that he could put aside his personal views, including on the question of abortion rights. "I have every confidence he will continue do so if he is confirmed to the United States Supreme Court," he said.

Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who is a supporter of abortion rights and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said the disclosure was more reason to question Judge Alito closely on how he would value the precedents upholding abortion rights. Mr. Specter said Judge Alito's views might have changed as the Supreme Court affirmed such rights several times since 1985 and the decisions became "embedded deep in the culture of the country."

Still, he added, "the plot thickens every day."

Two other Republican senators who support abortion rights, Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine, expressed sharp concerns about the statement.

In his 1985 application - a successful appeal for promotion from assistant to the solicitor general to deputy assistant to Attorney General Edwin Meese III in the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department Judge Alito described a commitment to conservative legal views that he said he arrived at in college a dozen years before.

Unlike memorandums from John G. Roberts Jr.'s work for the Reagan administration released during his confirmation hearings, Judge Alito's application describes only his personal views, not those of his employer.

"In the field of law, I disagree strenuously with the usurpation by the judiciary of decision-making authority that should be exercised by the branches of government responsible to the electorate," he wrote.

"In college, I developed a deep interest in constitutional law, motivated in large part by disagreement with the Warren Court decisions," Judge Alito wrote. He singled out that court's decisions in matters of criminal procedure, the separation of church and state, and the reapportionment of state voting districts to ensure minority groups were equally represented.

Judge Alito wrote that he believed "very strongly" in limited government, federalism and "the legitimacy of a government role in protecting traditional values."

Judge Alito wrote that he was "a life-long registered Republican" who had contributed to the National Conservative Political Action Committee, a pillar of the political movement that grew out of the Goldwater campaign.

The statement says that he was also a member of Concerned Alumni of Princeton, a conservative group that published a magazine criticizing Princeton's minority admissions, permissive social norms and secular atmosphere.

Judge Alito also said that within the previous year he had submitted articles for publication in the conservative magazines National Review and American Spectator. Neither could find his submissions.

David D. Kirkpatrick reported from Washington for this article, and Maria Newman from New York.

Daily Kos: Latest Gallup poll

Daily Kos: Latest Gallup pollLatest Gallup poll
by kos
Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 02:55:51 PM PDT

Gallup. 11/11-13. (10/28-30 results)

Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?

Approve 37 (41)
Disapprove 60 (56)

# Two-thirds of independents and 91% of Democrats disapprove of the job Bush is doing. Even among Republicans, who have solidly backed Bush in the past, 19% express disapproval -- a new high.

# For the first time -- albeit by a narrow 49%-48% -- a plurality disapprove of the way Bush is handling the issue of terrorism. Six in 10 disapprove of the way he's handling foreign affairs, the economy, Iraq and immigration, and 71% disapprove of him on controlling federal spending.

# A 53% majority say they trust what Bush says less than they trusted previous presidents while they were in office. In a specific comparison with President Clinton, those surveyed by 48%-36% say they trust Bush less.

# A record high 60% say going to war in Iraq was "not worth it." In a finding consistent with previous polls, 54% say it was "a mistake" to send troops there.

And more signs of the Bush Albatross Syndrome:

Fewer than one in 10 adults say they would prefer a congressional candidate who is a Republican and who agrees with Bush on most major issues, according to a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday. Even among Republicans, seven of 10 are most likely to back a candidate who has at least some disagreements with the president.

Report Details F.D.A. Rejection of Next-Day Pill - New York Times

Report Details F.D.A. Rejection of Next-Day Pill - New York TimesNovember 15, 2005
Report Details F.D.A. Rejection of Next-Day Pill
By GARDINER HARRIS

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 - Top federal drug officials decided to reject an application to allow over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill months before a government scientific review of the application was completed, according to accounts given to Congressional investigators.

The Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, concluded in a report released Monday that the Food and Drug Administration's May 2004 rejection of the morning-after pill, or emergency contraceptive, application was unusual in several respects.

Top agency officials were deeply involved in the decision, which was "very, very rare," a top F.D.A. review official told investigators. The officials' decision to ignore the recommendation of an independent advisory committee as well as the agency's own scientific review staff was unprecedented, the report found. And a top official's "novel" rationale for rejecting the application contradicted past agency practices, it concluded.

The pill, called Plan B, is a flashpoint in the debate over abortion, in part because some abortion opponents consider the pill tantamount to ending a pregnancy. In scientific reviews, the F.D.A. has concluded that it is a contraceptive.

The report suggested that it quickly became apparent that the agency was not going to follow its usual path when it came to the pill. "For example," it said, "F.D.A. review staff told us that they were told early in the review process that the decision would be made by high-level management."

Top agency officials denied many of the report's findings, including its conclusion that the top officials' involvement was unusual and that they had decided to reject the application before the agency's own scientific review was concluded. Julie Zawisza, an F.D.A. spokeswoman, said the agency stood by its rejection of the morning-after pill application.

"We question the integrity of the investigative process that results in such partial conclusions by the G.A.O.," Ms. Zawisza said.

Earlier this month, after Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, denounced the agency's decisions on the pill, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt also said the agency had acted appropriately.

But on Monday, Dr. Susan F. Wood, former director of the agency's office of women's health, said that what she described as the F.D.A.'s willingness to ignore science in the service of abortion politics has "only gotten worse" since the events that were the focus of the G.A.O. investigation. Dr. Wood resigned in August after the agency decided to delay its decision on the morning-after pill once again.

Senator Murray and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, issued a statement saying that the report "has confirmed what we have always suspected, that this was a politically motivated decision that came down from the highest levels at the F.D.A."

The investigation was requested by 30 House members and 17 senators. On Monday, 18 Democratic House members signed a letter of protest to Mr. Leavitt.

The letter noted that Congressional investigators had been unable to uncover the role in the Plan B decision played by the former agency commissioner, Dr. Mark B. McClellan, because agency officials told investigators that all of his e-mail messages and written correspondence on the subject had been deleted or thrown out. The Democrats charged that these acts contravened federal records laws.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the nation's largest provider of abortion services, issued a statement saying, "The G.A.O. report confirms the F.D.A. has been playing politics with women's health all along."

Wendy Wright, executive vice president of Concerned Women for America, a conservative women's advocacy group in Washington, said that the report's finding that top agency officials had overruled staffers was comforting. "The F.D.A. has been making some pretty serious mistakes lately," Ms. Wright said.

Plan B is manufactured by Barr Laboratories and is now available only with a prescription. Manufacturers rarely criticize the F.D.A., fearing that doing so might anger agency officials. Carol Cox, a Barr spokeswoman, chose her words carefully.

"While we're disappointed that the F.D.A. has not approved Plan B for over-the-counter use, we continue to seek that approval," Ms. Cox said.

Plan B was originally manufactured by Women's Capital Corporation, which won approval from the F.D.A. in 1999 to sell the drug by prescription. The pill contains high doses of the medicines present in birth control pills.

If taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, Plan B generally prevents pregnancy. But it is most effective taken soon after sex, prompting the efforts to make it available quickly and without a prescription.

In April 2003, Women's Capital applied to make Plan B available over the counter. Barr bought the rights to the drug and continued to pursue the application. An advisory committed voted 23 to 4 in December 2003 to recommend approving the switch.

Within days of the committee's vote, however, Dr. Janet Woodcock, the F.D.A.'s acting deputy commissioner of operations, and Dr. Steven Galson, acting director of its drug center, told four top staff members that the application would be rejected, even though the agency's scientific review of the application had yet to be completed, the staff members told Congressional investigators. That review was completed in April.

Drs. Woodcock and Galson denied to investigators that they had made such statements.

Dr. Galson told them that "although he was '90 percent sure' as early as January 2004" that he would reject the application, he made his final decision only after reviewing the scientific evidence.

From 1994 to 2004, F.D.A. advisory committees reviewed 23 applications to switch drugs from prescription to over-the-counter status. Plan B was the only one of those 23 in which the agency went against the committee's advice.

Dr. Galson said in a May 2004 news conference that while he had consulted other top officials at the agency, the decision to reject the Plan B application was his alone. He decided to issue a "non-approvable" letter to Barr, he said, because only 29 of 585 participants in a Barr study of the drug had been ages 14 to 16. None was under 14.

Dr. Galson said younger teenagers might act differently than older ones and might engage in riskier sex if they knew an emergency contraceptive was easily available. The company needed more data to ensure that this was not true, he said.

But the G.A.O. called this rationale "novel" and said it was not in keeping with earlier agency decisions in which the behavior of older adolescents was routinely used to predict that of younger ones. The report also noted that the December 2003 advisory committee had voted 27 to 1 that Barr's study had demonstrated that consumers, adolescents included, could use the drug appropriately.

In his rejection letter to Barr, Dr. Galson suggested two ways it could receive approval. First, it could perform another study that included more young adolescents. Or it could seek to sell the drug "behind-the-counter," making it easily available only to women 16 and older, with younger women still needing a prescription.

Barr took the second approach in an application filed in July 2004. Although the agency's rules required it to issue a decision in January, it has delayed doing so indefinitely.

It is unusual for the agency to suggest a means of approval to an applicant only to decide later that its own suggestion might not be appropriate.

Rice Brokers Israeli-Palestinian Agreement on Gaza Passage - New York Times

Rice Brokers Israeli-Palestinian Agreement on Gaza Passage - New York TimesNovember 14, 2005
Rice Brokers Israeli-Palestinian Agreement on Gaza Passage
By STEVEN R. WEISMAN
and GREG MYRE

JERUSALEM, Tuesday, Nov. 15 - Israel and the Palestinian Authority have reached a broad agreement to move people and goods in and out of Gaza to enhance the territory's viability and strengthen the moderate leadership of the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced Tuesday after a full day and night of marathon negotiations.

The agreement represented a major breakthrough in an impasse over several issues that had caused mounting bitterness between Israel and the Palestinians following the withdrawal of Israeli forces and settlers last August. It was aimed at opening up several crossings from Gaza to neighboring Israel and Egypt while giving Israeli security personnel a role behind the scenes in checking trucks, buses and individuals to guard against terrorist attacks.

In an extraordinary personal effort in the Middle East that the Bush administration has not attempted in five years, Ms. Rice and her aides led the arduous all-night negotiations, closeted at her ninth floor suite in the David Citadel Hotel here, near the old walled city, with top aides to Prime Minister Sharon and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. She was also joined by James Wolfensohn, the former World Bank president and special Middle East peace envoy.

Earlier, Ms. Rice decided abruptly after a full day of talks to cancel her plans to travel to South Korea on Monday night in order to bring the talks to a successful conclusion amid warnings by Palestinians that without the issues being solved, Gaza would remain a prison for Palestinians, unable to export goods or let people get to their jobs in Israel and the West Bank.

The six-part agreement calls for Palestinian operation of the Rafah crossing on the border with Egypt, with the European Union playing a role and helping Israel play a backup role behind the scene. The accord also calls for cargo to be able to leave Gaza shortly and for buses to be able to transport Palestinians to Israel and the West Bank, and for construction of a seaport to begin shortly.

There was no agreement on opening the airport in Gaza, as the Palestinians wanted. In addition, Israel pledged to start work with the United States on identifying checkpoints and crossings to be lifted in the West Bank that have drawn criticism from the Palestinians, but no firm commitment to actually lift them was set.

"The important thing here is that people have understood that there is an important balance between security on one hand and allowing the Palestinian people freedom of movement," said Secretary Rice, adding that if the Palestinians can export, work and move about freely they can improve their lives and build on democracy.

Ms. Rice said Mr. Wolfensohn would work to make sure that both sides stick to their deadlines.

A five-page document was released at the announcement made by Ms. Rice, Mr. Wolfensohn and Javier Solana, the external affairs envoy for the European Union, which will supply personnel to help operate Rafah. The cargo and bus crossings will be operated solely by the Palestinians and Israel.

Ms. Rice said that she worked through the night on the negotiations, getting only two hours of sleep.

"This is the first time that a border is opened and not controlled by the Israelis," said Mr. Solana. "As you can imagine this is a very important step."

The agreement said that the Rafah crossing should be open by Nov. 25, in ten days, and that "on an urgent basis" Israel would permit the export of agriculture products in the current harvest season. American officials say that the export of these products was considered vital to the territory's economic viability.

Mr. Wolfensohn has more recently been openly critical of the refusal of both sides to make concessions to ease the crossings, and to ensure the Gaza area's economic future by allowing it to export produce and other goods and send some of its people to jobs in Israel and the West Bank.

On Monday, Mr. Wolfensohn's frustrations burst forth in a talk at a conference in Jerusalem, saying he would leave his post if the two sides "want to blow each other up."

The Associated Press quoted Mr. Wolfensohn saying that he "found it difficult to understand why on six issues in 20 weeks of negotiations it has been impossible to bring about more progress."

"I am simply observing that it's tough and maybe I'm not up to it," he said. "Maybe someone else is."

People close to the talks said that Ms. Rice had in effect replaced Mr. Wolfensohn as the negotiator and had drafted her own compromise document.

American, Israeli and Palestinian officials said that the central issue that Ms. Rice hoped to resolve this evening was who should monitor the passage of potential extremists in and out of Gaza.

Also being discussed were demands by the Palestinians that bus transportation be available for them to move freely from Gaza to the West Bank and that Palestinians be allowed to export produce and other goods from Gaza into Israel and the West Bank 24 hours a day.

Earlier on Monday, Ms. Rice attended a memorial service for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and before that held a news conference in Ramallah, in the West Bank, with President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. There she said that "with enough will and creativity" an agreement on the issue of immigration into Gaza through the Rafah border with Egypt was "within sight."

"I do think they're making a lot of progress," Ms. Rice added. A few hours later, Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, said that Ms. Rice was determined to reach an agreement and would return to Israel after visiting Jordan instead of leaving tonight for her planned next stop, an economic conference in South Korea.

The struggle to get an agreement on the crossing issues meant that the parties were focusing on highly technical and perhaps obscure matters but ones crucial to paving the way for progress between Israel and the Palestinians in the future.

The crossing dispute, in particular, is a classic case in Middle East diplomacy of a small matter with large overtones. For Israel, the concern is security and for Palestinians, it is their control over Gaza now that the pullout of Israeli forces and 9,000 settlers is complete.

Part of Mr. Wolfensohn's frustrations, officials said, was that parties were failing to heed his warnings for a comprehensive agreement in time for crops to be delivered after being harvested recently. Mr. Wolfensohn has cited delays imposed by Israel, which are keeping Palestinian trucks from leaving Gaza to deliver recently harvested produce to markets in Israel and the West Bank, dealing an economic blow to Palestinian farmers and businesses.

For Palestinians, gaining control of the one border crossing with Egypt known as Rafah is perhaps the most important issue, because it would mean that Palestinians in Gaza could come and go from the territory without passing through Israeli security. Israel took control of the crossing with Egypt after capturing Gaza in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Negotiators are also seeking to reach a deal that would set the rules for other Gaza crossings. The two sides have been discussing the Karni crossing, on the eastern side of Gaza, which is used to import and export goods. Palestinians complain that perishable agriculture products sometimes rot because of delays. In addition, the sides are negotiating the terms of a convoy system that would allow Palestinians to travel between Gaza and the West Bank, with Israeli security providing the escort.

After the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza at the end at the end of the summer, thousands of people flowed in and out of the Rafah crossing, alarming Israeli security people. Now Israel insists on retaining some control over the border by setting up cameras and computers to track people's identity - though Israeli security officials would not be present at the crossing.

The Israeli fear is that terrorists bearing arms or cash to be paid to suicide bombers could come into Gaza from Egypt and sneak into Israel. They are demanding the right to have cameras and computers at the Rafah crossing feeding information into Israeli information banks to check for potential terrorists.

With some reluctance, Israel has also accepted the presence of monitors from the European Union to help man the Rafah crossing, but they want more.

"We want to augment Palestinian weakness in a way that does not insult Palestinian independence," said an Israeli official, speaking on anonymity because he was not authorized to use his name.

Palestinians, on the other hand, say that such an intrusive Israeli presence is offensive and unacceptable. President Abbas, at the Ramallah press conference with Ms. Rice, declared that Israel "will not be present at the crossing."

A Palestinian official, declining to be identified because the negotiations were still going on, and referring to Israel's desire to be a part of the crossing inspection regime, said, "It's difficult to explain to our people that they have been liberated when they are occupied by proxy."

Palestinians also are incensed that Israel has presented what they call a "blacklist" of people who have had records of being detained by Israeli security forces who would in effect be barred from going in and out of Gaza in the future. They fear the Israelis want to stop even family members of those people.

Saeb Erekat, a key Palestinian negotiator, said in an interview after the news conference that the Palestinians were willing to accept the presence of Israeli computers but not cameras.

The compromise proposal being discussed by Ms. Rice, according to officials, would be to have the European Union retain effective control over the cameras in order to give the Palestinians the ability to claim that there was no Israeli presence. But as of this afternoon, there was no sign that this proposal would win agreement on both sides.

Among the other issues that remain to be resolved are the demand by Palestinians that Israel ease up checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank, pull forces out of main cities there and release Palestinian prisoners.

Ms. Rice arrived in Israel on Sunday evening and spent the day first in meetings with the Israeli prime minister at his office before driving to Ramallah.

She was here in part to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the death of Mr. Rabin and attended the memorial service for him. But by coincidence, this period is also the first anniversary of the death of Yasir Arafat, whose flower-bedecked gravesite she sped by on her way to meet with Mr. Abbas.

American officials are expressing open disappointment, meanwhile, with what they say has been a failure by Mr. Abbas to confront and disarm militant groups, something he has said he will do after the legislative elections in late January of next year. The Americans now say they expect him to take action after the elections.

The Palestinian Authority is facing other serious problems, including its finances. The finance minister, Salaam Fayyad, said that there is a shortfall of $600 million in the Palestinian budget this year, or about a third of its expenditures, and he did not know where they would make it up.