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From the World-Wide Resourses of the Western Australia Reserch


									From the World-Wide Resourses of the Western Australia
Reserch Senter(*)
In the Run-Up to World War III, Reliably Reporting the News Relevant
to Extreme Right-Wing Democratic Socialists Everywhere
(validated for RiteThink(tm) by the Office of Our Man in Can-berra).

Our Home Page: <>
The Undeniable Evidence: <>
Even More Uneniable Evidence:

US Centcom News Releases:
Iraqi Body Count: <> [7,968+ as at 13 Jan
UN Mailing List: <>
Some Of The News, Some Of The Time:
This Stuff Blogged: <>
Also Kindly Archived: <>

Selecting latest news stories and other data for you...

I will continue to mourn the loss of life on that day... but I'll
never forget the lessons.
-- Pres Bush Jr, 07 Mar 2004.
   Mr Bush has defended the use of 9/11 images in his campaign ads.
   How could you miss an opportunity like that?

I don't buy the argument the war [GWII] was legalised by the Iraqi
violation of earlier resolutions.
-- Dr Hans Blix, 04 Mar 2004.
   It appears the Brit Govt shared the same view until the eve of war,
   when it received the Lord Goldsmith's.

They thought these phones protected their anonymity, but they didn't.
-- snr EU intel official, NY Times, 04 Mar 2004.
   Al-Qaeda guerrillas have been tracked down via a Swiss-made chip in
   their phones.

It's 'give us the money or we'll blow up a train carrying passengers'.
-- snr judicial source, Reuters, 04 Mar 2004.
   1000s of French rail workers searched the nat'l rail network for up
   to a dozen bombs. Nothing was found.

A person will see something on a machine, the floor, a case, leaking
out of an envelope or box. They have been instructed, if they see
something like that to consider it dangerous.
-- US Postal Service's COO Patrick R Donahoe, 03 Mar 2004.
   It's been revealed the US postal service has had 20,000 "white
   powder alerts" since 2001. Most have been nothing. Some resulted
   in fatalities.

I put the blame on the authorities. The coalition forces are part of
the authorities and they are in charge of maintaining security, so
they should do all that they can to maintain security.
-- Today's Pres of the Iraqi Council Bahr al-Uloum, 04 Mar 2004.
    After a wave of suicide attacks claimed more than 100 lives, 3
    more people have been killed in another bombing.

There are 8,000 border police on duty today, and more are on the way.
We are adding 100s of vehicles and doubling border police staffing in
selected areas. The US has committed $60 mn to support border security.
-- L Paul Bremer III, 04 Mar 2004.
   The US is moving to de-magnetise Iraq. Or at least catch the rest
   of the iron filings with a paper bag.

The president strongly believes that a diplomatic solution is possible
and we are not in any urgency to achieve that solution. We want a good
-- Sec of State Colin Powell, 04 Mar 2004.
   Um... "good solution" as opposed to some previous "bad solution"?
   Watch it Powell... the Star Chamber has been taking names.

[There's a perception] This govt is past its use-by date.
-- Andrew Wilkie, 06 Mar 2004.
   A former Aussie ONA officer who resigned over claims the govt was
   mis-using Iraq WMD intel before GWII says he's will stand for the
   Greens in Mr Howard's own seat of Benalong.

This war is not ended... It may only be at the beginning, at the end
of the first phase...
-- PM Tony Blair, 05 Mar 2004.
   Unable to dis-entangle himself from his Iraq decisions, Blair has
   made a new speech. Arguing cynicism is dereliction, he now concedes
   GWII be a hot topic for the rest of his career.

Fri, 05 Mar 2004.

2003 likely Europe's hottest in 500 y
1000s search French railway for bombs
AP poll finds Bush, Kerry tied in race
Al-Qaeda suspects captured in Yemen security sweep
Al-Qaeda suspects captured after phone chips left electronic trail
Blast in W Baghdad kills at least 3 more
Blix: Iraq war was illegal
Bush Admin "concerned" about gasoline prices
Bush condemned for using Sep 11 in election ads
Bush suffers in internat'l poll
Canada military buys 800 German off-road vehicles
Canada saves N Korean defector from execution "hell"
Child protection overhaul "could lead to false abuse claims"
Chinese release political activist from jail
Dow down 5 as Nasdaq climbs nearly 22
Fake medical university advertises on web
Fear and fortitude in Baghdad
Georgia and Azerbaijan build on pipeline ties with Saakashvili visit
Greece rules out foreign security at Games
Iraq Council head chides US on security after bombs
Iraq scrambles for new oil export routes to offset crippled Turkey
Iraqi clerics try to avert civil war
Israeli Arabs held for passing bomb data to terror group
Lawmakers grill Thompson on Canada drugs
Leaky pipe exposed as source of "rare wetland"
Many in world hold negative view of Bush
Marines receive mixed reaction in Haiti
NATO ready to send troops to Iraq
NATO urged to ban troops from brothels
Opp'n leader killed in Venezuelan govt protests
Ousted Haitian president vows to return
Oxfam focuses on slave labour in lead up to Olympics
Pentagon starts thinking outside of Cold War box
Police call for inquiry into Army bullying after Deepcut deaths
Powell stresses US patience on N Korea crisis
Rescue effort begins as Arctic base sinks
Smoking raise risk of blindness
Steady European interest rates trim USD
Sudan, rebels need to clinch peace deal: Powell
Techs rise, Intel disappoints after bell
Tories join attack on supreme court plans
Turkish water deal signed
UK troops may stay in Iraq for more than 2 y
US had 20,000 white powder alerts since 2001
US probe spots 9 terror suspects in merchant marine
US productivity brakes hard
US rejects push for Haiti "kidnap" inquiry
USDA moves toward reopening Canada cattle trade
WHO says HRT not good for women
Zimbabwe condemns wider sanctions

"Eyebrows raised" over Tas ferry prices
AMP head admits to "squandering" shareholders money
Disgraced former HIH director loses court challenge
Backbencher criticises Costello's leadership comments
Downer defends Costello
Booze ban on govt jet: Beattie
Carr to ban plastic shopping bags
Dozen hospitalised after chemical scare
Extra funds for Nauru concentration camps
Film Commission pushes ahead with archive merger
Food producers reject US FTA
Fragile Qld Coalition talks close to collapse
Asylum seekers to be interviewed
Govt "incompetent" on border protection: Labor
Govt soft on poverty: ACOSS
Govt launches broadband strategy
Govt tries $4.5 bn super fix
Liberals fear losing key seats
Man wins $9 mn in Powerball
Murders prompt call for tightening of sex workers licensing
NSW Govt silent on retrial decision
Officials unable to explain PBS blunder
Police disperse gang confrontation
Senator questions pets on flights plan
Tourism 8.3% of GDP: study
US gains unfair tinned fruit advantage: SPC
Wilkie runs for Greens in PM's seat

Dow down 5 as Nasdaq climbs nearly 22
NY (AP). Investors bought tech shares Thu but made few other
commitments ahead of the govt's Feb employment report, leaving stocks
mixed in still another lethargic session on Wall St.
The market's major indexes drifted in and out of positive territory as
they have much of the wk ahead of Fri's employment report.
The report, showing the number of new jobs created or lost during the
m, is considered one of the most critical indicators of the
economy's health.
"There's been a lot of speculation about where the number might come
in and how the market might react, so it makes sense for this to be a
bit of a directionless day," said Brian Pears, head equity trader at
Victory Capital Management in Cleveland.
The Dow Jones industrial average, which traded in a narrow, 45-point
band, closed down 5.11, essentially flat at 10,588.00.
The broader gauges were higher. The Nasdaq composite index advanced
21.75, or 1.1%, to 2,055.11, as gains among semiconductor stocks
helped it finish in positive range after 2 down days. The Standard &
Poor's 500 index was up 3.84, or 0.3%, at 1,154.88.
Investors, who have traded listlessly for wk in the absence of
galvanising economic or earnings data, were disappointed again
Thu. They seemed put off by a Commerce Dept report that orders to US
factories fell by 0.5% in Jan. Weaker demand for transportation
equipment, especially aeroplanes, pulled the overall number
down. Excluding transport, factory orders rose 1.4%.
But there was some upbeat news: The number of new applications filed
for unemployment benefits declined more than expected last wk, the
Labor Dept said. The reading, considered an indicator of the level of
layoffs, was seen as a sign that companies are feeling more confident
about the economy.
Separately, the dept said productivity of American workers grew at a
modest 2.6% annual rate during the final 3 m of 2003. That
matched analyst forecasts, but was slightly slower than the 2.7% pace
estimated by the govt last m.
The lack of significant employment growth has been a sticking point in
the recovery. Although companies seem to be laying off fewer workers,
they haven't been in a rush to hire people back. Still, a Fed Reserve
survey released Wed found jobs are growing, albeit slowly, and
economists remain optimistic about the outlook.
The change in non-farm payrolls will be the most-closely watched
component of Fri's jobs report; economists are expecting an increase
of 125,000 jobs. If the number comes in higher, the market could
rally, but a very strong reading could revive worries about pending
interest rate hikes, and spark a sell-off. Most analysts discounted
this, however, saying a better jobs picture is essential to the recovery.
"There may be some concern that the Fed will start to act, but the
natural response to that is, 'Well, let's hope so!'" said John
Caldwell, chief investment strategist for McDonald Financial Group.
"An environment that would drive the Fed to lower rates again is much
more scary than a sustainable economic recovery with jobs growth."
Walt Disney Co was up 15 c at $26.80 after the company's board voted
to strip the title of chairman from chief executive Michael Eisner,
who has been blamed for poor stock performance. The board reiterated
its support of Eisner's management team, and he is expected to stay on
to fight a hostile takeover bid from Comcast Corp.
Comcast, which has refused to raise its offer, rose 31 c to $30.71.
No 1 chipmaker Intel Corp was up 61 c at $29.65 ahead of a business
update set for after the close, when it was expected to tighten its
first-quarter revenue target.
Also among gainers on the Dow, pharmaceutical maker Merck & Co surged
67 c to $47.78 after reaffirming its earnings forecast for the
first-quarter and the y.
Many big retailers have reported strong sales for Feb, as spring fashions
and warmer weather lured customers. Dow component Wal-Mart Stores Inc,
the world's largest retailer, added 69 cents to $61.05, and Target
Corp gained 18 c to $43.77; each reported better-than-expected sales.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners more than 3 to 2 on the New
York Stock Exchange. Consolidated volume was lighter, with 1.61 bn
shares traded, compared with 1.69 bn shares on Thu.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average finished 0.4% higher Thu. In
Europe, France's CAC-40 gained 0.5%, Brit's FTSE 100 added 0.8% and
Germany's DAX index rose 1.5%.

Iraq scrambles for new oil export routes to offset crippled Turkey
London (AP). With oil exports from N Iraq crimped by the persistent
threat of sabotage, the Iraqi Oil Ministry is pursuing several options
to increase crude exports along safer routes in the Persian Gulf,
including deals to ship oil to 2 former foes.
The ministry is considering building pipelines to export limited
amounts of crude to Iran and Kuwait. Both countries suffered enormous
losses in wars launched by Saddam Hussein, and their interest in the
oil projects could attest to a turnaround in relations with Baghdad.
In addition, the Oil Ministry has refurbished 2 of the 4 berths at its
Khor al-Amaya export terminal in the Gulf.
Tankers began loading oil there Fri for the 1st time since before the
US-led invasion.
Oil is Iraq's most valuable export, and the country must sell more to
pay for rebuilding an economy shattered by wars, sanctions and
misrule. Confronted with political tensions and terror attacks, Iraq's
Governing Council and its US backers recognise that rising oil
revenues are essential to the creation of jobs and social stability.
However, some analysts argue that the Oil Ministry risks giving Iran
and Kuwait unnecessary leverage over Iraq's economic lifeblood. They
say the ministry should focus instead on securing and reopening Iraq's
N pipeline to Turkey and on completing repairs to the Khor al-Amaya
terminal, which was destroyed during GWI.
A few critics even allege the real rationale for exporting to Iran is
a corrupt deal between Shiite advisers to Iraqi Oil Min Ibrahim Bahr
al-Uloum and their religious brethren in Iran.
"Definitely there is no coherent strategy," former Iraqi oil minister
Issam Al-Chalabi said.
Iraq is now pumping more than 2 mn bpd of crude, compared to some 2.8
mn bbl on the eve of war last y. It exports most of what it produces.
Iraqi officials hope that new export outlets in the Gulf will help
make up for their current inability to make full use of the oil
pipeline from Kirkuk in N Iraq to the port of Ceyhan, Turkey. Insurgent
attacks have forced the pipeline's closure for all but a few days
since Saddam's ouster.
With help from the US military, the Oil Ministry is working to improve
security. The N pipeline is important because it gives Iraq a
convenient outlet to markets in Europe, whereas Iraq has typically
supplied customers in Asia from its S facilities in the Gulf.
Ministry officials have been reluctant to announce a target date for
resuming full use of the pipeline.
A Turkish oil official said modest amounts of oil began flowing
through the pipeline on Mon, though it wasn't clear if this wk's
average volume of 377,000 barrels signified a resumption of normal
shipments. The pipeline can handle up to 900,000 bpd.
"The Iraqis seem to be resigned to the instability in the northern
part of Iraq continuing for a long time," said Manouchehr Takin of the
Centre for Global Energy Studies in London. "Otherwise it doesn't make
sense to look at these other alternatives on a short-term basis."
Iraq has the world's 2nd biggest proven reserves after Saudi Arabia,
but politics has starved it of reliable export routes. Saddam's 1990
invasion of Kuwait led Saudi Arabia to halt Iraq's exports through a
pipeline to the Red Sea, and the Americans closed Iraq's pipeline to
Syria after toppling the former Iraqi leader.
Iraq's 1st pipeline, to what was then the port of Haifa in
Brit-controlled Palestine, ceased operating after the 1948 war that
resulted in the creation of Israel. Despite the pipeline's dilapidated
condition, the change of regime in Baghdad has encouraged some
Israelis to dream of importing cheap Iraqi crude.
A snr Iraqi oil official confirmed this wk that the Oil Ministry now
wants to build a small, 10-km pipeline to export up to 250,000 bpd to
a refinery in Abadan, Iran. Despite acrimonious relations between the
US and Iran, the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq has raised no
objections to this deal, the official said, speaking from Baghdad on
condition of anonymity.
Iraq already buys Iranian gasoline and kerosene, and the proposed
pipeline would be just another commercial arrangement, the official said.
Under a separate deal announced Sun, officials from Iraq and Kuwait
are evaluating the feasibility of building a pipeline to ship up to
250,000 bbl of Iraqi oil each day through Kuwait and its port
facilities in the Gulf.

Georgia and Azerbaijan build on pipeline ties with Saakashvili visit
Baku (AFP, 04 Mar 2004). Georgia's Pres Mikhail Saakashvili met with
his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev during a visit designed to
reinforce friendly ties between the 2 neighbours and partners in a
strategic oil pipeline project.
Good relations between the 2 nations are seen as crucial to the $multi
bn Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, which will export crude from
the landlocked Caspian Sea, across Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, to
world markets.
It was the 1st time the leaders of the 2 former Soviet republics in
the Caucasus had met. Both men came to power within the past 6 m,
Saakashvili in a bloodless revolt and Aliyev when he succeeded his
father as president.
"A new generation has come along and there is a new energy in our
relations," Saakashvili told reporters after talks with Aliyev in the
Azeri capital, Baku.
"There is no alternative to our cooperation and brotherly relations,"
added Saakashvili, a US-educated lawyer who at 36 is the youngest
elected head of state in Europe.
The BTC pipeline, currently under construction, will pump up to one mn
bpd from a terminal at Sangachal, 30 km S of Baku, to a tanker
terminal on the Mediterranean Sea.
It is being built by a consortium of multinat'l oil companies, with
backing from the US govt, and the bill for construction will come in
at around $US3 bn.
The pipeline, due to start pumping oil in the 1st quarter of 2005, is
seen as key to harvesting the oil riches of the Caspian Sea, home to
some of the world's largest untapped hydrocarbon reserves.
Saakashvili re-stated his commitment to the project, which will
provide much-needed transit revenues for his country, saying that "for
Georgia, the pipeline is a question of survival."
He pledged to resist any attempts by opponents of the project -- who
include green groups and Russia, which wants Caspian oil exported
across its territory -- to hold it up. "I will not allow such things
to happen," he said.
Away from energy projects, Saakashvili floated the idea of an economic
and customs union between Azerbaijan and Georgia which, he said, would
help lift the 2 countries out of poverty.
Saakashvili led a mass protest movement which ousted veteran president
Eduard Shevardnadze from office last Nov and won a landslide victory
in subsequent presidential elections in Jan.
Aliyev was elected president last Oct, succeeding his father Heidar
Aliyev as head of state and creating the former Soviet Union's 1st
political dynasty.
Relations between Shevardnadze and Heidar Aliyev were warm. The 2 men
were old colleagues from their days working as snr Communist Party
functionaries under Soviet rule.
Saakashvili is due to remain in Azerbaijan through Fri, when he will
be taken on a tour of the Sangachal oil terminal.

Bush Admin "concerned" about gasoline prices
Washington (Reuters). The Bush Admin is "extremely concerned" about
soaring retail gasoline prices, which recently topped $1.70/gal
[$A0.60/L] nationwide and are likely to set a record high this m,
according to energy officials.
"This Admin is extremely concerned," US Energy Secretary Spencer
Abraham told reporters after testifying before a Senate appropriations
subcommittee on the dept's proposed budget for FY 2005.
Abraham did not say what, if anything, the Admin was doing about
rising gasoline prices.
At a separate Senate hearing on energy supply and demand, the head of
the US Energy Info Admin said there was a "good possibility" that
retail gasoline prices will set a new high by the end of Mar.
The current nat'l average price for unleaded gasoline is $1.72 per
gallon, just 3 c shy of the record set during late Aug, according to
the EIA, which is the statistical arm of the Energy Dept.
Tight global supplies of crude oil, a recovering US economy and the
looming summer driving season mean that gasoline prices are certain to
climb higher during the next few wks, according to EIA analysts.
The EIA has also warned that because US gasoline inventories are below
normal levels, any problems at a refinery or pipeline may cause supply
disruptions and a resulting rise in price.
EIA Administrator Guy Caruso said that the recent rise in wholesale
gasoline costs has yet to be fully passed through to motorists.
"While it is still too early with any certainty how high prices will
go this y, many signs are pointing to a tight gasoline market this
driving season," Caruso told the Senate panel.
Caruso rejected criticism from some lawmakers who say the Admin should
stop putting crude oil into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and keep
as much petroleum on the market as possible.
"Our view is it doesn't reduce oil supply. We believe the world oil
supply has not been affected," Caruso said. The amount of oil going
into the crude oil stockpile was being offset by additional production
from OPEC, he said.
Crude oil accounts for nearly half of the cost of a gallon of
gasoline. The volatile US Apr futures contract, which soared earlier
this wk to nearly $37/bbl, closed at $36.64/bbl on Thu.
OPEC agreed last m to cut its output by 1 mn bpd on Apr 1, and to curb
1.5 mn bpd in production over current quotas to keep supplies in check.
During his appearance on Capitol Hill, Abraham did not discuss
gasoline prices or OPEC crude oil production. He instead sought to
justify the Energy Dept's proposed $24.3 bn budget for FY 2005, which
begins on Oct 1.
Abraham reiterated Congress should pass a broad energy policy bill,
now stalled in the US Senate. The $16 bn bill would double the use of
corn-distilled ethanol and offer incentives for oil and gas drilling.
"I think the question should be whether the Congress is prepared to go
into the election season having once again -- if it does -- fail to
pass an energy bill," he said. "This Admin has done everything we can."
John Kerry, the Democratic frontrunner for his party's presidential
nomination, has supported unsuccessful legislation that would impose
stricter mileage standards on sport utility vehicles and other
gas-guzzling automobiles.

Steady European interest rates trim USD
European rates steady.
London/Sydney. Interest rates in Brit and Europe have been left on
hold during a more settled night for global currency markets.
The Bank of England has kept its key rate unchanged at 4% after 2
increases since Nov.
The decision was widely expected even though there have been further
indications of an accelerating Brit economy.
On the other side of the Channel, the European Central Bank (ECB) has
continued to set its main re-financing rate at 2%.
And ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet, has described the current level
as "appropriate", dousing speculation of any near-term cut to stem the
rise of the euro.
As a result, the USD trimmed some of its earlier gains.
The euro is now sitting just below $1.22.
The AUD has moved lower.
At about 7.30 it was being quoted at 75 US c exactly, down 1/4
of a cent on yesterday's local close.
On the cross-rates this morning, it is at 0.6152 euros; 83.30 Japanese
yen; 41.14 pence sterling; and against the NZ dollar, it is at 1.124.
On Wall St, investors are keenly awaiting tonight's employment figures
in the US.
In the meantime, mainstream stock prices have lagged, while the
technology sector is firmer ahead of what is hoped to be a positive
outlook statement from Intel Corporation due shortly.
On the NY Stock Exchange, the DJIA has closed 5-points lower at 10,588.
The high-tech Nasdaq composite index is up 22-points at 2,055.
The Brit market has made solid gains with investors cheering the
decision to hold steady on UK interest rates.
The market has reached another 20-m high on the back of stronger
mortgage lenders.
London's FT-100 index has added 34-points to 4,559.
Yesterday in AUS, the market again failed to make much headway,
surrendering most of its early gains by the end of the day.
The mining sector was the main drag on the overall market.
But AMP shares were up more than 4% at $5.11 despite a $5.5 bn full-y
loss, the 2nd worst in AUS corporate history.
The All Ords rose one-point to a touch under 3,400.
The gold price is reasonably steady at $US393.15/oz.
Violence in Venezuela continues to hang over the oil markets.
West Texas crude has risen 3% o'night to around $US36.80/bbl.

US productivity brakes hard
Washington (AFP). Corporate America's sky-high productivity gains
fell back to Earth in the final quarter of 2003, data shows, in a good
sign for job seekers.
Productivity, or output for each hr worked, rose 2.6% in the 4th
quarter, revised Labour Dept figures showed, a little slower than the
1st estimate of 2.7% growth.
Growth in productivity -- a critical factor determining the maximum
speed of the economy -- had soared to a 20 y record 9.5% in the
prev Q, the govt said.
The figures sealed a 4.4% improvement in productivity in 2003, after a
5.0% surge in 2002.
Companies appeared to be nearing the point where they can squeeze no
more out of existing workforces, analysts said.
"We were getting used to some numbers that were somewhat
unrealistic. The key point is that we are now down to levels that are
still very good," said Naroff Economic Advisers Pres Joel Naroff.
"The slowdown [in productivity growth] is a consequence of the fact
that businesses cannot simply meet the growing demand out of working
workers harder," he said.
"That is where the good news comes: They are being forced to open the
door [to new hires]."
Feb unemployment data will be released on Fri, with most analysts
estimating that businesses hired a modest 125,000 extra people, not
enough to dent the 5.6% jobless rate.
Wall Street was rudderless ahead of the jobs report. The DJIA of 30
top stocks eased 13.56 points or 0.13% to 10,579.55 in late morning
US companies boosted output 4.1% in the final quarter of 2003, while
the number of hrs worked rose a modest 1.5%, the govt said.
Hourly compensation rose 2.2%, much higher than a 1st estimate of a
1.3% increase. Compensation rose 1.4% after inflation.
Unit labour costs fell 0.4%.
Improved profitability encouraged companies to hire more workers, said
Citigroup snr economist Steven Wieting.
"The trend of productivity growth is very favourable, and unit labour
costs are very favourable, but we just do not simply get our labour
for free," Wieting said.
BMO Financial Group economist Paul Ferley said the sharper rise in
compensation costs might be indicating a marginal tightening in the
labour market.
He predicted a gain of 125,000 to 175,000 jobs in Feb, leaving the
unemployment rate at 5.6%, possibly 5.7% if more people were drawn
into the workforce.
Queues outside US unemployment benefit offices appeared to reflect a
sluggish labour market in Feb.
The number of people lodging new claims for unemployment benefits
shrank by 7,000 to 345,000 in the wk ended Feb 28, not much changed
from the 357,000 claims made in the last wk of Jan, data showed.
Jobs have trailed far behind the rest of the economy, which expanded
at a 4.1% annual pace in the last quarter of 2003, after a 19 y record
8.2% explosion in the 3rd quarter of 2003.
US businesses hired 112,000 extra people in Jan -- a 3 y record but
far fewer than had been predicted -- as the unemployment rate dipped
to 5.6% from 5.7%.

USDA moves toward reopening Canada cattle trade
Washington (Reuters). The US Dept of Agriculture moved a step closer
on Thu to allowing imports of some cattle from Canada by setting a
30-day period for public comments on the proposal.
The USDA also said it would seek public comments on whether to allow
imports of some beef from cattle older than 30 m, which is now
The USDA suspended beef and live cattle trade with Canada last May
following the discovery of one case of mad cow disease in Alberta.
In Aug, it relaxed its ban to allow boxed beef from animals under 30 m
old, which are considered to be at lower risk for mad cow disease.
The USDA proposal to resume cattle trade by reopening the border to
animals under 30 m was delayed by a case of mad cow disease in
Washington state in Dec.
It was not yet clear how long the dept would take to review the public
comments before deciding whether to allow the resumption of cattle
trade and expand beef trade.
Technical officials from both countries are working on protocols for
trade so that shipments can resume quickly after the comment period,
Canadian Agriculture Min Bob Speller told reporters.
"We want to make sure that all the behind the scenes work is done
before the 30-day period is up," Speller said.
But he refused to estimate when trade might start.
US cattle industry leaders have said they will oppose trade until
Ottawa changes rules that block Canadian imports of US feeder cattle
for parts of the y.
Speller said he will decide within days whether to lift those
In considering an expansion of the beef trade, the USDA would require
that "specified risk material" be removed from carcasses of older
animals. This material includes central nervous system tissue suspected
of harbouring mad cow disease.
The Canadian industry estimates that if the border opens to animals under
30 m, live cattle exports would range from 1 mn to 1.2 mn head annually.
The US slaughters about 35 mn head of cattle annually.
Canadian industry leaders were pleased, but cautious.
"There is a bit of guarded feelings around that optimism," said Ted
Haney, president of the Canada Beef Export Federation, adding it is
impossible to predict when live cattle trade will resume.
"The timing really rests with the govt of the US.
We'll just have to see," Haney said.
Feedlots, farmers and rural business have been badly scarred by the trade
ban, with estimated losses of $C3.3 bn [$US2.5 bn] in the 1st 6 m of
On average, Canada produces about 1 mn more cattle than it can
slaughter, counting on US packing plants to take the rest, Haney said.
"Only after [the US border] is open will the true financial strain on
our industry be gone," Haney said.

Opp'n leader killed in Venezuelan govt protests
Caracas (AFP). Venezuela's opp'n has negotiated with the Govt over
the official refusal to hold a referendum to recall Pres Hugo Chavez
and a local opp'n leader was shot dead during fresh protests.
Venezuela's UN ambassador Milos Alcalay quit his job in protest
against the Chavez Govt's handling of the crisis, damaging the Pres's
internat'l standing.
The new crisis erupted after the Nat'l Electoral Council said only 1.8
mn of the 3.1 mn signatures collected by the Opp'n to demand a recall
referendum were valid.
Some 2.4 mn valid names were needed for a referendum to be called.
Election council chief Jorge Rodriguez says an agreement with the
Opp'n was close and new talks would be held with the help of the
Organisation of American States (OAS) and the US-based Carter Centre,
which has been trying to mediate between Pres Chavez and the opp'n.
"It is very likely that Fri or Sat we will unveil the definitive
verification process," Mr Rodriguez said.
The Opp'n postponed one rally for 2 days, but Pres Chavez opponents
still held protests.
Democratic Action party leader Eva Carrizo was killed in Zulia state,
600 km W of Caracas, when protesters backing a recall referendum
clashed with Nat'l Guard troops, an opp'n lawmaker said.
Ms Carrizo was taking part in a protest in the city of Machique and
was killed by gunfire, said regional lawmaker Elias Mata.
Mr Mata and other demonstrators told the Globovision TV
network a Nat'l Guard trooper had shot Ms Carrizo.
8 people have now been killed and dozens injured in unrest last wk.
In the up-scale Caracas district of Chacao, Chavez opponents
demonstrated against the firing of several judges who ordered the
release of demonstrators arrested in protests in recent days.
About 350 people were arrested and the Opp'n said about 40 people were
still being held.
"We are going to report to the OAS what is going on. The world has to
know there are crimes against humanity," said opp'n leader Antonio
Mr Ledezma stressed the opp'n was not negotiating on the legitimacy of
signatures it collected, but rather on the procedures that may now be
used to check those signatures in doubt.
He said their goal was still to have a referendum.
The opp'n has proposed that only those who may allege their signatures
were included on signature lists fraudulently, or who want to remove
their name from the lists, be required to take part in the verification.
"The list should be published and then if anyone sees his name who did
not sign, can say so," said opp'n leader Jesus Torrealba, who also
said 5 days should be scheduled for the registration and not 2 as
the council proposed.
He also said the opp'n would keep up the pressure on the streets.
The US, concerned by m of turmoil in its 4th-largest oil supplier,
has encouraged the 2 sides to continue their dialogue.
Pres Chavez has long accused Washington of backing the opp'n, which
has tried to oust him twice in a nationwide strike last y and in an
aborted 2002 coup.
If the leftist-populist former paratrooper were ousted in a
referendum, Venezuela's constitution calls for a vote to elect a new
president within 30 days.
However, if a referendum were held after Aug 19 and Pres Chavez lost,
new elections would not be called.
The VP would assume power until 2006, when Pres Chavez's current term
Mr Chavez has agreed to abide by the results of any vote, if held, but
he argues that the signature-gathering process was marred by rampant

Blix: Iraq war was illegal
Blair's defence is bogus, says the former UN weapons inspector.
Stockholm (Independent). The former chief UN weapons inspector Hans
Blix has declared that the war in Iraq was illegal, dealing another
devastating blow to Tony Blair.
Mr Blix, speaking to The Independent, said the A-G's legal advice to
the Govt on the eve of war, giving cover for military action by the US
and Brit, had no lawful justification. He said it would have required
a 2nd UN resolution explicitly authorising the use of force for the
invasion of Iraq last Mar to have been legal.
His intervention goes to the heart of the current controversy over
Lord Goldsmith's advice, and comes as the PM begins his fight-back with
a speech on Iraq today.
An unrepentant Mr Blair will refuse to apologise for the war in Iraq,
insisting the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein in
power. He will point to the wider benefits of the Iraq conflict,
citing Libya's decision to give up its WMD, but warn that the world
cannot turn a blind eye to the continuing threat from WMD.
Sir Andrew Turnbull, the Cabinet Secretary, revealed that the Govt had
assumed, until the eve of war in Iraq, that it needed a specific UN
mandate to authorise military action.
Mr Blix demolished the argument advanced by Lord Goldsmith 3 days
before the war began, which stated that resolution 1441 authorised the
use of force because it revived earlier UN resolutions passed after
the 1991 ceasefire.
Mr Blix said that while it was possible to argue that Iraq had breached
the ceasefire by violating UN resolutions adopted since 1991, the
"ownership" of the resolutions rested with the entire 15-member Security
Council and not with individual states. "It's the Sec Council that is
party to the ceasefire, not the UK and US individually, and therefore
it is the council that has ownership of the ceasefire, in my
He said to challenge that interpretation would set a dangerous precedent.
"Any individual member could take a view -- the Russians could take
one view, the Chinese could take another, they could be at war with
each other, theoretically," Mr Blix said.
The A-G's opinion has come under fresh scrutiny since the collapse of
the trial against the GCHQ whistle blower Katharine Gun last wk,
prompting calls for his full advice to be made public.
Mr Blix, who is an internat'l lawyer by training, said: "I would suspect
there is a more sceptical view than those 2 A4 pages," in a reference
to Clare Short's contemptuous description of the 358-word summary.
It emerged on Wed that a Foreign Office memo, sent to the Foreign
Affairs Select Committee on the same day that Lord Goldsmith's summary
was published, made clear that there was no "automaticity" in
resolution 1441 to justify war.
Asked whether, in his view, a 2nd resolution authorising force should
have been adopted, Mr Blix replied: "Oh yes."
In the interview, ahead of the publication next wk of his book Disarming
Iraq: The search for WMD, Mr Blix dismissed the suggestion that Mr Blair
should resign or apologise over the failure to find any WMD in Iraq.
But he suggested that the PM may have been fatally wounded by his loss
of credibility, and that voters would deliver their verdict.
"Some people say Bush and Blair should be put before a tribunal and I
say that you have the punishment in the political field here," he said.
"Their credibility has been affected by this: Bush too lost some
He repeated accusations the US and Brit govts were "hyped" intel and
critical thinking. "They used exclamation marks instead of question
"I have some understanding for that. Politicians have to simplify to
explain, they also have to act in this world before they have 100%
evidence. But I think they went further."
"But I never said they had acted in bad faith," he added. "Perhaps it
was worse that they acted out of good faith."
The threat allegedly posed by Saddam's WMD was the prime reason cited by
Brit govt for going to war. But not a single item of banned weaponry
has been found in the 11 m that have followed the declared end of
Mr Blair will argue that similar decisive action will need to be taken in
future to combat the threat of rogue states and terrorists obtaining WMD.

US rejects push for Haiti "kidnap" inquiry
Washington (ABC, John Shovelan). The US Govt has rejected calls for
an investigation into whether former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand
Aristide was kidnapped. The Bush Admin has again denied it kidnapped
the former leader and forced him into exile. South Africa and some
Caribbean nations have called for an inquiry into allegations Mr Aristide
has made to members of the US Congress. Mr Aristide has said he was
the victim of a coup engineered by the US Govt and France and was
kidnapped by US troops and sent into exile. But US State Dept rep
Richard Boucher dismissed the allegations and the need for any inquiry.
"It's his decision, voluntary decision on his part," Mr Boucher said.
Mr Aristide is temporarily in exile in the Central African Republic.

Al-Qaeda suspects captured in Yemen security sweep
Yemen. Security forces in Yemen say they have captured 2 snr figures
in Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network. The men were arrested during a
major security sweep. Moving into the remote mountains of the S Abyan
province, Yemeni soldiers backed by tanks and helicopters surrounded a
camp used by suspected Islamic militants. During the operation security
forces captured Sayyed Imam Sherif, an Egyptian allegedly linked to Al
Qaeda. Also arrested was Abdul Rauf Nassib, the sole survivor of a US
missile attack which killed 6 suspected al-Qaeda members in Yemen 16 m
ago. Yemen is the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden and is regarded
by the US as a key ally in its campaign against terrorism.

Al-Qaeda suspects captured after phone chips left electronic trail
Washington (Independent). Anti-terrorism officials have captured
dozens of al-Qaeda suspects and were able to narrow the hunt for one
of the world's most wanted men because of the suspects' use of a
specific mobile phone chip, it was revealed yesterday.
Operation Mont Blanc, launched in 2002, tracked down the suspects by
following an electronic trail left by the Swiss-made chips. Among the
alleged al-Qaeda members whose whereabouts was narrowed by following
that trail was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man often described as the
network's operations director.
"They thought these phones protected their anonymity, but they didn't,"
a snr European-based intel official told The NY Times. "This was one
of the most effective tools we had to locate al-Qaeda. The perception
of anonymity may have lulled them into a false sense of security.
"We now believe al-Qaeda has figured out that we were monitoring them
through these phones." It had long been suspected that members of the
terrorism network were using mobile phones to communicate with each
other, regularly changing the phones and the numbers they were using.
But the investigation led by Swiss officials focused on the discovery
that the operatives preferred a specific type of chip that carried
pre-paid minutes and could be used around the world. The chips, made
by Swisscom, were popular with the alleged terrorists because they
could buy them without providing personal info.
The investigation gathered momentum after 11 Apr 2002, when investigators
traced a call placed by Christian Ganczarski, a 36-yo Polish-born
German Muslim who the authorities suspected was a member of al-Qaeda.
From Germany, Mr Ganczarski called Mr Mohammed, who was at the time in
a safe house in Karachi. Officials said that the 2 men did not talk
during the call but that it was instead intended to alert Mr Mohammed
that a suicide bombing mission against a synagogue in Tunisia was
under way. A total of 21 people, most of them German tourists, were
killed in the blast.
Using electronic surveillance, German authorities traced the call to
Mr Mohammed's Swisscom mobile phone, even though they did not know it
belonged to him. German police later searched Mr Ganczarski's house
and found a log of his many numbers, including one in Pakistan that
was eventually traced to Mr Mohammed. Once it was revealed he was in
Karachi, the authorities turned to the Nat'l Security Agency --
America's electronic eavesdropping facility -- to help pinpoint him.
Mr Mohammed, said to have planned the terrorist attacks of 11 Sep
2001, was captured in Mar 2003. Among his belongings was a personal
phone book that contained 100s of numbers. Tracing those numbers led
investigators to as many as 6,000 phone numbers, investigators said.
Authorities say that terrorists have now stopped using the chips. It
is believed that communications are instead being carried out using
internet phones, e-mail or personal messengers. "They know we are on
to them and they keep evolving and using new methods, and we keep
finding ways to make life miserable for them," said a snr Saudi
official. "In many ways, it's like a cat-and-mouse game." They claim,
however, that operation Mont Blanc disrupted at least 3 planned
attacks in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.
Last Jan, authorities arrested 8 people accused of being members of a
Swiss-based al-Qaeda logistical cell. Some of them are suspected of
being involved in attacks last y on a housing compound in Riyadh,
which killed 35 people.
A rep for Swisscom confirmed that the company had co-operated with the
inquiry but declined to comment further. Last y, the Swiss
authorities passed a new law making it illegal to buy mobile phone
chips without providing personal info.

Greece rules out foreign security at Games
Athens. Greece has ruled out foreign teams being allowed to use their
own armed guards against terrorist threats during this y's Athens
Olympic Games. Athens Olympics organisers will deploy more than
40,000 security staff during the 16 days in Aug, the largest number
ever used at an Olympics. Nonetheless, they have come under pressure
to allow foreign guards to accompany nat'l teams. Several teams,
including AUS, the US and Israel, have said they will bring their own
private guards. But the chief police rep says designated high-risk
teams -- expected to include the US and Israel -- will be under
tighter guard. As part of its security plan, Greece has set up a
seven-nation advisory group comprising AUS, Brit, the US, Israel,
Spain, France and Germany.
[With only 5 m to go, worries are growing the city won't be ready for
the Games. Officials are worried of a repeat of Atlanta, where asphalt
was being laid in the car parks during the opening ceremony. The govt
has called for citizens of Athens to go on holiday during the Olympics].

Thousands search French railway for bombs
Paris (Reuters). 10 thousand rail workers have combed France's sprawling
track network but found no bombs after a shadowy group demanding cash
triggered a major security alert by threatening to blow up trains.
The SNCF state railway said it had tightened surveillance on trains
and at bridges, tunnels and major hubs but a search of its 32,000 km
of track revealed nothing.
The conservative Govt, trying to reassure voters before regional
elections, vowed to bring to justice the previously unknown group,
which said it had planted 10 bombs and would explode them if it was
not paid about $5 mn.
The Govt is treating it as a criminal case and has ruled out any
involvement by radical Islamic groups. Crime specialists say it is
possible a single dangerous crank is behind the blackmail threats.
Police seemed to have few clues except threatening letters sent to
Pres Jacques Chirac and the Interior Ministry by the group, called
AFZ, and several telephone calls from a woman.
There have also been indirect contacts through personal messages
placed in the Liberation newspaper over several wks.
Under terms set by the group, the Interior Ministry identified itself
as Suzy and the blackmailers as Big Wolf in messages discussing a
hand-over of money by helicopter. The hand-over never took place and the
contacts have been severed.
"It's 'give us the money or we'll blow up a train carrying
passengers'," a judicial source said of the group.
* Mobilised
Claude Gueant, head of Interior Min Nicolas Sarkozy's office, said 600
police were working full-time on the case.
"Everybody has been mobilised and I hope we will soon identify the
people behind it," Justice Min Dominique Perben told RTL radio.
"Certain details lead us to think we are dealing with people who are
dangerous enough for us to take this matter very seriously."
SNCF, which has about 2.5 mn passengers each day, said people seemed
not to have changed their travel plans radically.
"I'm afraid but made the journey anyway," said Cristiane Torn, 45,
arriving with a large bag at the Gare De Lyon in Paris from the S city
of Marseille. "I heard on the radio there were problems on the trains
but I'd already planned my trip."
The Govt has been touting a drop in crime and improved security before
regional elections which will test its popularity on Mar 21 and 28. It
is determined not to let the threats damage the enviable safety record
of its TGV high-speed trains.
But it faces tough challenges, such as how to guarantee security on
every part of a vast and busy rail network, and how to track down a
group about whom it knows little.
The group has demanded a surprisingly small ransom. Media reports
suggest the sum has also varied from time to time.
The group names itself after the AZF chemical factory that exploded in
2001, killing 31 people, in an industrial accident.
It has been in contact with the French authorities since Dec 11 and
helped police find a time bomb on Feb 21 that it had buried under
tracks in SW France. Police tested it and found it could have
destroyed a section of track.

US had 20,000 white powder alerts since 2001
No arrests.
Washington (AP). Since the anthrax attacks in 2001, work at the
nation's post offices has been disrupted by more than 20,000 incidents
of suspicious powder leaking from envelopes and packages.
All but a few have turned out to be nothing more than soap, dust, talc
or other non-lethal substances. Sand was the culprit in one incident
-- included in wedding invitations for a beach ceremony.
Still, the scares have taken a toll in nerves, lost time and money.
The anthrax attacks -- which claimed the lives of 2 postal workers --
and the more recent ricin cases are keeping postal workers alert and
suspicious of unknown materials.
"A person will see something on a machine, the floor, a case, leaking
out of an envelope or box," said Patrick R Donahoe, the US Postal
Service's chief operating officer. "They have been instructed, if they
see something like that to consider it dangerous."
The area then is sealed off and local hazardous materials teams and
the Postal Inspection Service are called in, he said.
On Feb 11, for example, 3 post offices in Petersburg, Va, were closed
after white powder was seen leaking from a package addressed to Geneva
in Switzerland. The sender, a woman, had told a postal worker the
package contained perfume. A Fort Lee decontamination team, equipped
with oil drums and chemical suits, responded. Police cordoned off 2
blocks, and 3 postal workers and one firefighter received medical
treatment as a precaution.
Testing ruled out dangerous materials.
While there isn't a pattern, more of the alarms tend to be in the East
than in the West, Donahoe said, probably because the anthrax attacks
occurred in Eastern cities and workers there may be more sensitive to
the potential danger.
Postal inspector Molly McMinn said all have been false alarms other
than the ricin and anthrax cases already known. Still, she said,
responding to the false alarms drains resources.
Postal Service officials said they couldn't estimate the cost of
checking out suspicious packages, both for dollars and lost work hrs.
Donahoe said the amount of time lost depends on the facility. In a
large facility, he said, only an area may have to be evacuated, while
a smaller office may have to be shut down.
It also depends on the community. Some have high-tech equipment that
can conduct a field test quickly while others may have to send the
material to a lab, he said.
"I think that by responding quickly, the employees feel we're taking
their best safety and health into consideration," Donahoe said.
Leaking suspicious powders that turned out to be harmless include
powdered alfredo sauce, ground lentils, pudding mix and coffee
creamer, McMinn said.
Other cases have included leaking samples of detergent, sugar or
baking soda.
The Postal Service itself had used talc to maintain dryness in
shipments of stamps sent to collectors.
One anonymous reader told the trade publication Linn's Stamp News that
he had 6 firefighters, 2 police officers and the local hazmat crew in
his living room after noticing powder when he opened a package of stamps.
The post office now uses a non-powder dry board in its stamp packages.
Asked about the impact on workers, William Burrus, president of the
American Postal Workers Union, said: "Obviously, our members want to
be assured that items that are suspected of being dangerous are proven
not to be. The fact that there are numerous occasions is not a negative."
What does concern Burrus is an incident like the recent ricin letter
addressed to the White House, in which the Secret Service delayed
informing other agencies, including the Postal Service, about it.
Every day 100s of workers across the country suffer some illness or
but if they aren't told that they may have been exposed to a danger in
the workplace, they may not get the correct treatment, Burrus said.
He cited the anthrax cases at the Brentwood postal facility in
Washington. By the time they realized there was a problem and got
treatment, he noted, it was too late for the 2 workers who died.
Postmaster General John Potter, testifying at a House appropriations
hearing, told panel members that postal officials raised the issue
with the Secret Service and Homeland Security, and that they now
expect to be informed immediately of any future incidents.
In the fall of 2001, letters containing anthrax were mailed from New
Jersey to Florida, NY and Washington. Several people became ill, 100s
took preventive antibiotics and 5 died, including postal workers.
More recently, a letter containing the poison ricin was found in a
post office in Greenville, SC on Oct 15. Another vial, mailed to the
White House, was postmarked Oct 17, sent from Chattanooga, Tenn.
Ricin was found in Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's mailroom last
m, but wasn't linked to a specific letter.
No arrests have been made.

Pentagon starts thinking outside of Cold War box
Op/Ed (USA Today). Back in 1983, when the Cold War seemed permanent,
building a new-generation helicopter made sense. The Comanche was
designed to be a radar-evading gunship and flying data centre that
could direct attacks from the air against a massed Soviet army.
But during the next 20 y, the Comanche suffered technological
glitches, its costs rose 500% above initial estimates, and the
military threats it was supposed to meet changed dramatically. Last
wk, after spending nearly $7 bn on the program, the Pentagon
cancelled the Comanche before a single operational aircraft took flight.
In doing so, defence officials recognised that the craft doesn't fit
in a military more likely to face rebels with shoulder-fired missiles,
such as those targeting US helicopters in Afghanistan and Iraq. Facing
up to that reality shows a glimmer of the courage the Pentagon will
need to focus its resources on today's warfare demands instead of
throwing endless money at outdated priorities.
Def Sec Donald Rumsfeld has pledged to modernise a military still bloated
with weapons built for threats that no longer exist. They are one
reason the Pentagon's budget has grown by 50% -- or $145 bn -- since
Killing off outdated weapons frees up funds for more essential ones.
Unmanned aerial vehicles that cost less to produce and put fewer lives
at risk can handle many of the Comanche's tasks.
But the fierce reaction ignited by the decision to scrap the Comanche
shows why modernising the military is so difficult. Old Cold Warriors
who never saw a weapons system they didn't like launched a
counterattack. Interests in states where the Comanche would be built
screamed foul. Local members of Congress pledged to overturn the
action to protect hometown jobs the weapons system would have created.
Other potential targets for savings:
F/A-22 stealth fighter. A favourite of the Air Force, the aircraft is
slated to soak up another $5 bn in development costs next y alone. The
F/A-22 is designed for air-to-air combat against Soviet warplanes.
Such a capability no longer is a high priority. What's more, the Air
Force already has a 2nd fighter in development, the Joint Strike.
V-22 transport. The Osprey, a battlefield aircraft that takes off and
lands like a helicopter but flies like a plane, has great appeal. But
crashes during development have claimed 30 lives and raised doubts
about the technology. VP Cheney tried to abandon it when he was
defence secretary in 1989, but the Marine Corps and its allies have
kept the developmental program alive.
The Comanche is the 3rd major weapons system based in the past to be
halted in recent ys. A $9 bn Navy missile-defence project was
stopped in 2001, and the Army's $11 bn Crusader mobile howitzer was
killed in 2002. In both cases, the Pentagon had to face down fierce
lobbying from its own military services, contractors and communities
that stood to profit from the misdirection of defence dollars.
Promoters of these defence dinosaurs say they still would be useful
against today's threats and preserve the US military's technological
edge over other nations.
But combating both a new global danger and looming $500 bn budget
deficits requires sound choices. Investing bn in non-essential weapons
is not one of them.

US probe spots 9 terror suspects in merchant marine
Washington (Reuters). A 14-m investigation by the US Coast Guard and
FBI has uncovered 9 merchant mariners with possible terrorist links,
raising renewed concerns that US ships and ports are vulnerable to
Coast Guard rep Jolie Shifflet said on Thu that "Operation Drydock,"
prompted by nat'l security concerns after the Sep 11, 2001, attacks,
had also led to the arrest of about a dozen others whose active arrest
warrants for crimes from minor misdemeanours to attempted murder had
long gone unnoticed.
The Coast Guard said it investigated the records of more than 200,000
people who hold US merchant mariner credentials.
It also revoked or suspended the licenses of roughly 200 other
commercial seamen for a range of offences, Shifflet said. None of
those arrested, dismissed or suspended had been linked to terrorism.
Shifflet would not disclose what had happened to the 9 mariners
suspected of possible terror links, only saying, "We've taken steps to
mitigate the potential risks posed by these individuals."
She would not give the nat'lity of the 9, but said merchant
mariners were required to be US citizens or permanent resident aliens.
Shipping experts have long said the US maritime industry is vulnerable
to attack. They say porous borders, global logistics chains, limited
funds and the trade-off between security and commerce make fail-safe
protection impossible.
Almost 7 mn containers and about 50% of all imports arrive in the 361
US ports each y.
Analysts say the vulnerability of military vessels was laid bare by
the attack on the warship USS Cole in Yemen in 2000.
The investigation, which came after y of internal govt infighting,
Coast Guard exclusion from intel circles and cost-cutting, also involved
the Justice and Defence depts and the US intel community, and shows
security officials are taking the threat to US maritime interests
"The Coast Guard before 9/11 was not a full member of the intel
We didn't even have a seat at the table, and now we do," Shifflet said.
Some politicians and analysts say the Coast Guard, which is charged
with patrolling 153,000 km of coastline, remains over-stretched and
under-funded. Cost-cutting before the Sep 11 attacks had trimmed staff
to its lowest levels since the 1960s, but officials say funding has
increased substantially since then.
Concerned about possible nat'l security threats from fraudulent
merchant mariner documents, the Coast Guard said it had strengthened
its background checking process for commercial seamen and began
issuing more tamper-resistant credentials in Feb 2003.

Bush condemned for using Sep 11 in election ads
Washington (BBC). Relatives of victims of the Sep 11 terrorist
attacks have expressed outrage at the use of images of the event as
part of Pres George W Bush's re-election campaign. Ads using the
footage have started running on TV in more than a dozen
states. The 1st TV advertisements of Mr Bush's campaign to
stay in office feature shots of the devastation caused by the attacks
and firemen working in the rubble. The Pres's advisors say the
pictures are tasteful and necessary. The message of the
advertisements is that Pres Bush rose to the challenge. But some
people who lost relatives in the attacks say the images should not
have been used. Bill Doyle, whose son died on Sep 11, said several
families were outraged. He accused the Pres of trying to use the
tragedy as a springboard for his re-election. The Democrats, spotting
an early opportunity to embarrass the White House, have also condemned
the use of the images.

Bush suffers in internat'l poll
NY (AP). A majority of people in Canada [!], Mexico and 5 European
countries have an unfavourable view of the role that Pres Bush plays
in world affairs, Associated Press polls found.
Only in the US did a majority of those questioned, 57%, have a
positive view of Bush's role.
The AP polls were conducted by Ipsos, an internat'l polling firm, in
Brit, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Mexico, Spain and the US.
Just over 1/2 in Mexico and Italy had a negative view of Bush's
role. In Brit, the closest US ally in the war in Iraq, and in Canada,
2/3 had a negative view.
Sam McGuire, director of opinion research at Ipsos UK, said Bush's low
ratings in Brit are notable, given that country's close alliance with
the US. Brit traditionally has been seen as the US' "staunchest
European ally on world affairs," he said, and long has been a buffer
between the US and Europe.
3/4 of those in Spain and more than 80% in France and Germany had a
negative view of Bush's role in world affairs.
"Bush has a lot of work to do if he wants to be popular in France,"
said Edouard LeCerf, director of opinion research for Ipsos France.
The AP-Ipsos poll found that people in the 2 countries bordering the
US and in 5 major European countries think the war in Iraq
increased the threat of terrorism in the world.
In the US, people were evenly divided on whether the war has increased
or decreased the terror threat.
While a majority in each of the countries polled except the United
States said the terrorism threat was greater because of the war, fewer
than one in 10 in any of the European countries said the terror threat
had been decreased by the war.
In Canada and France, just over half felt it had been increased, while
in Germany, 3/4 thought the Iraq war has made the terror problem worse.
A majority in each country, including the US, said they felt the
situation between Israel and the Palestinians has made the terror
threat around the world worse.
The AP-Ipsos polls of 930 to just over 1,000 adults in each country
were taken Feb 12 to 21, and have margins of sampling error of plus or
minus 3%age points.

AP poll finds Bush, Kerry tied in race
Washington (AP). In the 1st poll since John Kerry locked up the
Democratic nomination, Kerry and Pres Bush are tied while independent
Ralph Nader has captured enough support to affect the outcome,
validating Democrats' fears.
The Republican incumbent had the backing of 46%, Kerry 45% and
Nader, the 2000 Green Party candidate who entered the race last m, was
at 6% in the survey conducted for The AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs.
Bush and the 4-term Massachusetts senator, who emerged as the nominee
Tue after a string of primary race wins over several rivals, have been
running close or Kerry has been ahead in most recent polls that did
not include Nader.
Since Nader entered the race Feb 22, campaign strategists and
political analysts have been trying to assess the impact of another
presidential bid by the consumer activist whom Democrats blame for Al
Gore's loss in 2000.
4 y ago, Nader appeared on the ballot in 43 states and Washington,
DC, garnering only 2.7% of the vote. But in Florida and New Hampshire,
Bush won such narrow victories that had Gore received the bulk of
Nader's votes in those states, he would have won the general election.
Exit polls from 2000 show that about half of Nader's voters would have
backed Gore in a 2-way race. Nader dismisses the spoiler label.
While Nader's support in the AP-Ipsos poll was 6%, his backing in
polls in 2000 fluctuated in the single digits -- often at about 4%,
but sometimes higher. This y, Nader is unlikely to get the Green
Party nod and faces a stiff challenge in getting his name on the
ballot in 50 states.
Kenneth Freeman, an 86-yo retiree from New Smyrna Beach, Fla, who
leans Democratic, was clearly unhappy with Nader's presidential bid.
"Ralph Nader is fouling it all up," Freeman said. "He's taking votes
away from the Democrats. I think he's on an ego trip."
Bush's job approval in the AP-Ipsos poll was 48%, with 49%
disapproving, which is essentially the same as last m when 47%
approved of the president's job performance.
His approval rating, which soared close to 90% after the Sep 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks and remained high for ms, has dipped to the
lowest levels of his presidency in recent wks.
6 in 10 said the country is on the wrong track, up from last ms, while
slightly more than a 3rd of those surveyed -- 35% -- said the country
is headed in the right direction.
"We're 240-something days from Election Day. We've got a long way to
go and expect it to be a close race throughout, no matter what the
factors are," said Terry Holt, a rep for the Bush campaign.
The poll was conducted Mon through Wed as Kerry captured 9 of 10 Super
Tue elections and claimed the nomination.
Nightly results suggested that Kerry did not get a bounce from winning
the nomination.
"For all those who want to bring change to America, we need to remain
behind the Democratic nominee," said Kerry campaign rep Stephanie Cutter.
Kerry, who had solid backing from 28% of the voters, was running
strong among minorities, people with low incomes, single people, older
voters and Catholics.
Bush, who had solid backing from 37%, performed well among whites,
men, Protestants, homeowners and suburban dwellers.
"I'm worried about the Democrats taking control," said Stephanie
Rahaniotis, a Republican from Lynbrook, NY She said after the Sep 11
attacks, she feels safer with Bush in charge and thinks Democrats will
"divert our attention from the military."
In the poll, Nader was most likely to get the backing of young adults,
independents and maybe a GOP voter.
Republican Virgil Ahlberg of Apison, Tenn, said he is seriously
considering a vote for Nader.
"Bush has come across as a little more aggressive and warlike than I
like," he said. "I like Ralph Nader being in the race. I like his
practicality and taking people to task for things they promise to do,
things that aren't being addressed."
The AP-Ipsos poll of 771 registered voters was taken Mar 1-3 and had a
margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 points.

Lawmakers grill Thompson on Canada drugs
Washington (AP). Lawmakers grilled Health and Human Services
Secretary Tommy Thompson Thu about his opp'n to importing prescription
drugs from Canada, an issue showing no signs of fading this election y.
Pointed questions from Democrats and Republicans on the House
Appropriations health subcommittee focused on Thompson's decision to
appoint Food and Drug Admin Commissioner Mark McClellan to lead a
study of drug importation.
"When Mark McClellan is put in charge of this consideration, it's a
stacked jury. He's been the most aggressive public name in stopping
re-importation," said Rep Anne Northup, R-Ky. Pres Bush has nominated
McClellan to lead the fed agency that runs Medicare.
Thompson said McClellan's panel would reflect a range of views, and
said its 1st public hearing would feature proponents of legalising
drug imports from Canada and elsewhere, where prescription drugs often
are much cheaper.
Public opinion polls have shown broad public support. Nearly 2/3 of
those surveyed in an AP poll released last wk said the govt should
make it easier to buy cheaper drugs from Canada or other countries.
Supporters of legalised imports hoped to use last y's Medicare
legislation to open the US border to drugs from abroad.
Despite majorities in both houses of Congress on record in favour of
imported prescription drugs, however, Republican congressional leaders
and the Bush Admin resisted adding the measure to the Medicare law
that Bush signed in Dec.
The ban on imports remains unchanged: Thompson must certify the safety
of imported drugs, and he, like his Democratic predecessor, has refused
to do so. "I cannot certify that all drugs coming into America are
safe," he said. "It's an undue burden on the secretary."
Several states and cities are making it easier for residents to obtain
drugs from Canada, despite warnings from the FDA.
Thompson acknowledged that the issue would not disappear.
"Everybody's upset and mad," he said. "I see it all over the country."
Meanwhile, Thompson said the media firm working for Pres Bush's
re-election campaign has decided not to work on any future publicly
funded advertising on behalf of the new Medicare law.
Nat'l Media Inc purchased $9.5 mn in air time for a 30-second ad that
the govt is running to explain the new prescription drug benefit for
seniors. Critics have said the ad is tantamount to political advertising,
and cited Nat'l Media's presence on the ad team as evidence.
The Bush Admin is planning additional ads this y.
Nat'l Media will not be a member of the group led by Ketchum
Communications, HHS officials said.

London. A new report says smokers are up to 4 times more likely
than non-smokers to develop a disease that is the leading cause of
adult blindness. Public health experts writing in the British Medical
Journal say age-related macular degeneration is an irreversible and
progressive illness that robs people of their sight. Although its
causes are unknown, evidence from 3 large studies shows smokers
are at higher risk.

Sydney. The World Health Organisation says hormone replacement
therapy is not good for women's health. WHO ageing program
coordinator Alexandre Kalache says there are a lot of unknowns in the
field of ageing and science sometimes makes big mistakes, such as with
HRT. He's told a conference in Sydney that even the WHO once embraced
the idea that hormone replacement therapy was good for women. Now, he
says, that's known to be wrong.

Ousted Haitian president vows to return
Jean-Bertrand Aristide has vowed to return to Haiti.
CAR (AFP). Deposed Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide has
accused France of colluding with the US to get rid of him.
He made the accusation in a phone conversation from the Central
African Republic, where he has been granted temporary asylum.
In the conversation, which he had with a French writer, Mr Aristide
said France had reacted to his demand for the restitution of what he
called Haiti's "independence debt" from its former colonial ruler.
He said Paris followed up with a systematic campaign of dis-info and by
colluding with the US in what he branded a "political kidnapping".
Mr Aristide says he plans to go back to Haiti, insisting he did not
officially resign.
He said he had signed a document "to avoid a bloodbath, but there was
no formal resignation".
The US has rejected calls for an inquiry into the conditions of Mr
Aristide's departure for exile.
"There is nothing to investigate, we do not encourage nor believe
there is any need for an investigation," State Dept rep Richard
Boucher said.
"There was no kidnapping, there was no coup, there were no threats,"
he said.
Controversy over Mr Aristide's departure organised by the US has grown
calls by Caribbean Community nations and from S Africa's foreign minister
for a independent inquiry into circumstances surrounding the departure.
Democratic politicians have accused the Admin of Pres George W Bush,
amid early US presidential campaigning, of forcing Mr Aristide into
Mr Aristide said he was the victim of a coup orchestrated by
Washington and has accused France of colluding with the US.

Marines receive mixed reaction in Haiti
Port-au-Prince (AP). US Marines trained their rifles down gritty
streets and into a teeming market as they patrolled the Haitian
capital with other peacekeepers Thu, drawing smiles and a few angry
words, but no resistance.
Hatred is still simmering among various factions nearly a wk after
Pres Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted in a rebellion that left at
least 130 people dead, with new killings discovered outside Port-au-
As the Marines rolled into the looted port area in 8 Light Armored
Vehicles and ventured into the crowds, onlookers gathered around in
curiosity but showed no fear.
At one point, a Marine poured a canteen of water over his head to cool
off in the sweltering heat, drawing chuckles from passers-by.
"I feel much safer now the Marines are here," said Frantz Labissiere,
44. "I wouldn't be here if the Marines weren't here."
But not everyone shared his view. As the convoy passed an angry knot
of people, one youth shouted: "You took our president -- now you're
taking our country!"
Others held up photographs of Aristide, who fled the country Sun as
rebels neared the outskirts of the capital and the US and former
colonial ruler France pressed him to resign.
Haiti's 1st freely elected leader lost a lot of popularity in Haiti --
and in Washington, which restored him to power in 1994 after he was
ousted in a 1991 military coup -- because he allegedly used militant
loyalists to attack and intimidate his opponents, failed to help the
poor and condoned corruption. Aristide, in exile in the Central
African Republic, has denied the accusations.
The Central African Republic will offer him permanent asylum if he
asks but would find it difficult to pay for his upkeep, the govt said
"I can't say definitively if Mr. Aristide will stay here or if he'll
go, but if he asks us, we won't refuse him," Communications Min
Parfait Mbaye told The Associated Press in Bangui.
The Organization of American States announced the establishment Thu of
a tripartite council that is the 1st step to forming a govt of nat'l
unity in Haiti. The members are Leslie Voltaire, who was Aristide's
Min for Haitians Abroad; former opp'n Sen Paul Denis, a member of the
Democratic Platform coalition; and Adama Guindo, the UN resident
representative in Haiti.
The 3 are to choose, by consensus within 1 wk, 7 members for a
Council of Sages which in turn will propose a new PM.
The killing of Haitians continued, despite the arrival of the US Marines
and French troops as the vanguard of a UN peacekeeping mission, as
well as a pledge by rebel leader Guy Philippe that his men would disarm.
On Thu, Philippe traded his military clothes for a blue polo shirt and
jeans, and was unarmed. He told The Associated Press he wants go to
"many cities, to see how people are living and how I can help." He
said he has given the order to his forces to disarm, and said their
weapons were "in the bases" around Haiti.
In Gressier, 10 km W of Port-au-Prince, the bodies of 4 men were
seen in the street Thu. All were shot in the head and 3 had their
hands tied behind their backs -- 2 with rope, one with a shirt. The
4th man's hands weren't tied and it appeared he may have been trying
to flee when he was shot.
Some Haitians doubted Philippe's pledge and the arrival of
peacekeepers would end revenge killings.
"The rebels want to take over the country," said Gracious Laguenne, a
tailor. "As soon as the Americans leave, they're going to come back
and it will be the same thing all over again."
More than 1,600 foreign troops are now on the ground in Haiti,
according to the US S Command. They include 1,000 US Marines, 440
French, 130 Chileans and 60 Canadians. More than 20 US military
flights have delivered the US forces with nearly 800 tons of equipment
and supplies this wk. Since Feb 21, the US Coast Guard has intercepted
and repatriated more than 900 Haitian boat people.
The St Petersburg Times, meanwhile, reported Thu that looters found
stacks of $100 bills -- possibly as much as $350,000 -- in a hidden
safe at Aristide's mansion in suburban Tabarre. The bills were either
crumbling into dust or stuck together so tightly that they couldn't be
pulled apart, the newspaper said.
As the Marines expanded their control over the capital, merchants
began cleaning off pro-Aristide graffiti. A worker wiped "Viv
Aristide" off the metal gates of an auto dealership.
The Marines cleared debris from barricades that had been built by
Aristide militants to protect the city from the rebels. Others used
mechanical hooks atop Humvees to lift concrete barriers.
A few gas stations opened and long lines grew. The colourfully painted
tap-tap pickups that are the most popular form of transport took to
the road. Charcoal vendors set up shop on the sidewalks, as did
shoeshine boys and women selling fruit and vegetables.
Daphnee Saintilima, trying to sell papayas, voiced the concern of most
people in this country, where 2/3 of the 8 mn people go hungry every day.
"The most important thing for me is to feed my family. I'm tired of
politics. Politics doesn't feed me," she said.
But for some, the foreign peacekeepers are an occupying force
cementing Aristide's removal.
"People are still angry" at Aristide's departure, said Marie-Claude
Augine, 46. "Just because we have tanks patrolling, it doesn't make
things better. The rebels need to just go and so do the Americans."
S Africa added its voice Thu to calls for an independent internat'l
investigation into the circumstances of Aristide's departure from Haiti.
Aristide flew to exile in Africa aboard a U.S-provided jet as rebels
closed in on the capital Sun. When he arrived in Central African
Republic, he claimed US troops forced him to leave.
"The suggestion that Pres Aristide may have been forced out of office,
if true, will have serious consequences and ramifications for the
respect of the rule of law and democracy the world over," South
African Foreign Affairs Min Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said in a statement.
The the 15-nation Caribbean Community said Wed that the circumstances
of his departure were suspicious and should be investigated by an
independent internat'l investigation.
State Dept rep Richard Boucher brushed aside criticism.
"It's time to look forward. It's time to focus on what we can all do
for the people of Haiti."

Turkish water deal signed
Istanbul (Haaretz). Israel yesterday signed an agreement in principle
on importing water from Turkey, following 4 and a half y of negotiations.
Under the agreement, signed by Foreign Ministry director-general Yoav
Biran and his Turkish counterpart, Ugur Ziyal, Israel will import 50
mn cubic meters of water per y for a period of 20 y, for a total
of one bn cubic meters. The imports will supply about 3% of the
country's drinking water.
The water will be brought to Israel from a water-export facility built
by the Turks on the Manbaget River in the S of the country. The
Manbaget is considered to have extremely high-quality water.
The agreement does not include a timetable, but Israeli officials said
that the water will certainly not begin to arrive this y and probably
not next y, either. The accord also states that the price of the
water, the method of transportation and the means of quality control
will be determined in negotiations between the parties. The most
likely means of transport is a special 250,000-ton tanker ship.
Finance Ministry officials estimate that the price of producing the
water in Turkey will be 13 to 18 c per cubic meter, while the
transport costs will be 70 to 80 c per cubic meter, bringing the total
cost to as much as $1 per cubic meter, or $50 mn pa.
That is almost double the expected price of desalinated water at the
coastal desalination plant that Israel is now building, and 4 times
the price of fresh water supplied by Israel's own natural resources.
For this reason, the agreement is considered "political" rather than
economic, and the Finance Ministry has been highly critical of it.
One treasury official said caustically that if Israel has to buy the
water in order to maintain its good relationship with Turkey, "it
would be better to leave it in Turkey. Then the economic damage to
Israel would be much less."
Ziyal, questioned by reporters yesterday, denied reports that Ankara
had frozen infrastructure development projects in E Turkey in
which Israeli companies are involved to the tune of about $1 bn, in
order to pressure Jerusalem to sign the water agreement.
The freeze on these projects, he said, is due to his country's
economic woes.
The agreement is based on a joint statement issued by PM Ariel Sharon
and the Turkish energy minister in 2002, and later approved by the
cabinet, in which the sides stated Israel would purchase water from

Blast in W Baghdad kills at least 3 more
Baghdad (Reuters). A rocket slammed into a Baghdad street nr a
telephone exchange on Thu, killing at least 3 people, Iraqi police at
the scene said.
On Wed, a bomb exploded in another telephone exchange in Baghdad,
sparking fears that guerrillas were targeting Iraq's communications
system in a new form of sabotage. The country's energy infrastructure
has frequently been attacked.
Police at the scene of Thu's attack said the rocket had skidded along the
ground after the initial impact, hitting a car and killing its occupants.
A large crowd of Iraqis stood around the mangled remains of the car.
"3 were killed and 2 were wounded," policeman Luay Majeed said.
Some of the crowd that gathered after the attack shouted anti-US
slogans, chanting: "America is the enemy of God."
On Tue a series of bomb attacks on Shi'ites in Baghdad and the holy
city of Karbalah killed at least 171 people, making it Iraq's bloodiest
day since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Iraq Council head chides US on security after bombs
Baghdad (Reuters). The head of Iraq's Governing Council said Thu the
country's US-led occupiers must do more to provide security after bombs
killed at least 181 people at Shi'ite Islam's holiest shrines this wk.
The comments by Mohammed Bahr al-Uloum, a Shi'ite cleric and current
president of the US-appointed Council, underlined friction between
leaders of the Shi'ite majority and occupying forces over a wave of
devastating attacks on Iraqis.
Not long after he spoke, assailants killed at least 3 people in a car
nr a telephone exchange in W Baghdad in a rocket attack, local police
said. A bomb exploded at another Baghdad exchange Wed, raising fears
that guerrillas have taken aim at Iraq's communications.
In the N city of Mosul, US soldiers opened fire on Iraqis trying to
a Turkish truck Thu, killing 5 of them, local police at the scene said.
Iraq's top Shi'ite authority Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, whose call for
elections forced Washington to speed up the timetable for polls, has
blamed US forces for failing to secure Iraq's borders. Another Council
member said the attacks showed Iraqi militias should be in charge of
"I put the blame on the authorities," Bahr al-Uloum told reporters as
he visited a hospital where survivors of Tue's attack at Baghdad's
Kadhimiya shrine were being treated.
"The coalition forces are part of the authorities and they are in
charge of maintaining security, so they should do all that they can to
maintain security."
Iraq's US governor Paul Bremer said Wed that Washington would spend
$60 mn to boost security on Iraq's long, porous borders. He said 100s
more vehicles and Iraqi security personnel would be used to beef up
Brig General Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations for the US
Army in Iraq, said the death toll from Tue's attacks was 71 in Baghdad
and at least 110 in Karbalah. The exact Karbalah toll was not known as
several bags of mangled body parts had also been collected.
Kimmitt said 553 people were wounded in the attacks.
Iran's state news agency said 49 Iranians were among those killed in
the Karbalah blasts.
Iraqi and US officials said the bombings, which targeted worshippers
as they commemorated the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, a revered figure
in Shi'ite Islam, were part of a campaign by a man accused of links to
al Qaeda to foment civil war in Iraq.
General John Abizaid, the cmdr of US forces in the region, said he had
linking Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to the attacks, and suggesting the militant
had also developed links with the spy network of the ousted Iraqi govt.
US forces have put a $10 mn price on Zarqawi's head.
The US-led occupation authority says Zarqawi was working to ignite
strife to torpedo US plans to hand sovereignty to Iraqis on Jun 30.
A US general in Baghdad said that while foreigners posed the biggest
in terms of the sophistication of attacks, most of those fighting
occupation troops were Iraqis.
"There's little doubt that the same trigger-pullers who used to pull
triggers for the former regime are probably pulling triggers for
someone else," said Brig General Martin Dempsey, cmdr of the 1AD in
charge of Baghdad.
"But we see that the motivation of the leadership is changing from
former-regime restoration of power to extremism."

UK troops may stay in Iraq for more than 2 y
London (The News, Pak). Brit troops will have to remain in Iraq for
at least 2 y and perhaps more because of the instability revealed by
the bloody attacks in Karbala and Baghdad, Brit representative Jeremy
Greenstock said on Wed.
"This is a crunch period for the future of Iraq. Iraqi society has got
to realise that they have got to unite against [violence]," he told
BBC radio.
Greenstock, who is responsible for civil Admin in S Iraq, said those
who wished to destroy attempts to build a new Iraq planned to
intensify violence in the m leading up to the hand-over of authority.
He said the attacks on Tue were part of the last desperate struggle of
violent people to obstruct the process of nation building. The
violence, therefore, "was expected and is very difficult to stop".
Greenstock said Brit troops would remain after the hand-over of
sovereignty to an Iraqi interim Admin in Jun.
"We will stay here after Jun," he said adding, "We are not going to
leave." Asked how long Brit troops would remain, he replied, "My
prediction is at least another 2 y, maybe more than that. They will
come down in numbers as the Iraqi capacity grows. There will be a
correlation between those things."
Greenstock warned that the security situation is going to be nasty and
"we always predicted that."
Meanwhile, Brit PM Tony Blair said on Wed militants from across the
Middle E are flooding Iraq, bent on causing mayhem and instability.
"Terrorists from every [alleged] extremist group around the Middle E
are pouring into Iraq," Blair told parliament.

Iraqi clerics try to avert civil war
Muslim religious leaders calm Shiites and Sunnis after attack on
Baghdad (Baltimore Sun/AP). Shiite Muslim clerics joined Sunni
preachers in a march of 1000s of mostly black-clad men yesterday,
trying to keep passions in check after an attack on Shiite pilgrims
that raised fears of civil war.
US and Iraqi officials disagreed over how many people died in Tue's
bombings in Baghdad and Karbala -- the deadliest since the fall of
Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi Governing Council said 271 people were
killed. US officials put the toll at 117.
The attacks -- at some of the holiest shrines of Shiite Islam and on
the most sacred day in the Shiite calendar -- threatened to turn Shiites
against Sunnis if the bombers were found to have been Sunni extremists.
But strife with the country's Sunni minority would hardly be in the
interests of the Shiites, who stand on the verge of achieving their
dream of political power after generations of suppression. Civil war
would threaten those dreams, and the influential clergy appeared eager
to keep passions in check.
No group claimed responsibility for Tue's attacks. However, the top US
cmdr in the Middle East, Gen John Abizaid, said yesterday that the US
has evidence that the al-Qaeda-linked Jordanian militant Abu Musab
al-Zarqawi was behind the bombings.
US officials said 15 people were detained in Karbala in the attacks,
though none was charged. Among those detained were 5 Farsi
speakers, a suggestion that they were Iranians. About 100,000 Iranians
were believed to have come to Iraq for the Ashura religious rituals,
and Iran's news agency said 23 Iranians were among the dead.
In what appeared to be a nod to criticism from Iraq's top Shiite
cleric, US administrator L Paul Bremer III said the coalition would
help strengthen border security, saying it was "increasingly apparent"
that "a large part of terrorism" comes from outside Iraq.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani and other Shiite leaders
accused the US-led coalition of failing to provide adequate security
for the worshippers and of not doing enough to prevent extremists from
crossing Iraq's porous borders.
"There are 8,000 border police on duty today, and more are on the way,"
Bremer said. "We are adding 100s of vehicles and doubling border
police staffing in selected areas. The US has committed $60 mn to
support border security."
In an attempt to play down sectarian divisions, Shiite Muslim clerics
and Sunni preachers led 1000s in a march from a Shiite suburb in
E Baghdad to the Kazimiya district where the bombings took place.
"We and our Sunni countrymen are, have been and always will be brothers,"
said Shiite preacher Amer al-Hussein, a snr aide to firebrand cleric
Muqtada al-Sadr, an outspoken opponent of the US-led occupation.
Abizaid's statement in Washington is the most direct assertion yet by
a US official that al-Zarqawi is carrying out a terrorist campaign in
Iraq, as described in a letter purportedly written by al-Zarqawi and
intercepted recently by US intel.
The letter outlined plans to attack Shiite religious sites to foment
civil war. The Bush Admin says al-Zarqawi has links to Osama bin
Laden, leader of al-Qaeda.
"The level of organisation and the desire to cause casualties among
innocent worshippers is a clear hallmark of the Zarqawi network, and we
have intel that ties Zarqawi to this attack," Abizaid, head of the US
Central Command, told a congressional committee.
A letter purported to come from al-Qaeda denied responsibility for
Tue's bombings, blaming US troops instead -- but it also called
Shiites infidels.
In Karbala, weeping relatives pored over lists of the dead posted on
the hospital walls as authorities worked to identify victims. Families
who received their loved ones' bodies took them away for burial.
In a sign of the bitterness over the lack of security, several
thousand Shiites chanted anti-American slogans in one funeral
procession. "No, no, Americans! No, no, Israel! No, no, terrorists!"
they shouted, carrying 3 coffins through Karbalah's streets. Some
took a sheet painted to look like an American flag and set it ablaze.
Also yesterday, 3 rockets hit a telephone exchange building in
Baghdad, knocking out internat'l phone service for much of the country
only days after the system was put back in service. One Iraqi worker
was killed and another injured, Iraqi officials said.

NATO ready to send troops to Iraq
Brussels (AFP). 9 Iraqis were killed in a string of attacks across
the war-ravaged country, as NATO announced it would send troops if an
Iraqi self-govt, due to take over on Jul 1, requests its support.
Polish troops also said they had captured 7 al-Qaeda suspects and
Karbala law officials accused the US-supervised interior ministry of
short supplying them after bomb attacks killed 102 people at a
religious festival, according to a new toll.
3 Iraqis were killed and at least 5 wounded in a rocket attack by
unknown assailants in SW Baghdad, police and witnesses said.
The target of the attack was not immediately clear, but an AFP
journalist said the rocket exploded about 100 metres from a US
military base.
Violence also dogged the N city of Mosul, where 3 policemen and 2
civilians were killed in a rocket and automatic rifle attack, police
Another Iraqi police officer was killed and 2 others seriously wounded
in the N city of Kirkuk when gunmen attacked their patrol, police said.
A US soldier was also wounded nr Baquba, in central Iraq, when a
homemade bomb exploded nr his convoy.
Earlier, Polish troops said they had arrested 7 al-Qaeda suspects
since mid-Jan, including 2 in the past wk, in the countdown to the
rampage on the Shi'ite Muslim holy city during the Ashura pilgrimage.
The rep conceded the US-led coalition had anticipated Tue's
spectacular bombings, but stuck to a security plan putting Iraqi
forces in charge of the city for the major holiday.
Polish Warrant Officer Zbigniew Dabkiewicz said 2 of the suspects were
connected with Jordanian Abu Mussab Zarqawi, the US-led coalition's
prime suspect the Karbala and Baghdad attacks.
The pair, both Iraqis, were implicated in a Dec 27 suicide bomb attack
in Karbala that killed 19 people, and are now in US custody, he said.
As fears of fresh violence ran high on the eve of the signing of a
temporary constitution, Karbala law enforcement officials vented anger
at being undermanned ahead of Ashura.
They charged that the interior ministry had failed to meet a request
for weapons, cars and radios.
The series of bombings in the city and the capital killed 173 people
and wounded 553 others, interim health minister Khdeir Abbas said,
giving an updated toll.
Speaking in Washington, the top US cmdr in the Middle E opposed the
formation of Shi'ite militias in response to Tue's violence, warning
that it would be a "destabilising event".
General John Abizaid's comments before the Senate Armed Services
Committee came in response to reports of rising demands by Shi'ites to
protect their communities with militias tied to political parties in
the face of escalating attacks targeting civilians.
In Warsaw, NATO Sec-Gen Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said he would send
soldiers to Iraq if Baghdad requested them and that the UN should
mandate a stabilisation force for the country under sovereign self-rule.
"After the 1st of Jul, it is up to the sovereign Iraqi govt to decide"
whether to ask NATO to send troops, he said.
The US is to formally end the occupation of Iraq and hand over power
to a sovereign govt on Jun 30, although it will retain a military
presence in the country.
In Madrid, Russian For Min Igor Ivanov said attacks would continue to
rock Iraq until the lingering US-led occupation was wrapped up.
"We believe that the only way to resolve this problem are a political
settlement and elections in a sovereign Iraq, issues which are
currently being discussed at the UN," he said.
The European Commission also warned that security is the key
constraint on delivering $mns of aid to Iraq, as it listed its
priorities for spending money pledged last y.
In the aftermath of allegations by a former Brit cabinet minister that
London spied on Kofi Annan in the run-up to the Iraq war, the UN
Sec-Gen met Brit's UN representative Emyr Jones Parry.
Initially announced for Wed, the meeting was put back 24 hr at Jones
Parry's request, said a rep.
"You can guess one of the subjects on the agenda," he told reporters.
Back on the ground, US troops in Baghdad are also to begin focusing
their mission on extremists, with remnants of the former Iraqi regime
becoming an increasingly spent force, Brig General Martin Dempsey said.
Operation Iron Promise, to be launched on Mar 16, will replace
Operation Iron Grip, which focused on cells of fighters from the
deposed Baath party and those loyal to former president Saddam Hussein.
"The motivation of the enemy is changing from former regime to
extremists," Dempsey told reporters.
Dempsey said the Baghdad and Karbala bombings were carefully planned,
going off one minute apart.
"It is a level of coordination that we have seen only a few times,"
Dempsey said, adding that he had seen similar tactics employed in

Fear and fortitude in Baghdad
Baghdad (Asia Times). The streets in Baghdad are mean at night. Only
wild dogs prowl. Iraqis and journalists are prudent to stay inside. At
11 pm I received a call from a friend in the Saha neighbourhood of
Baghdad's Shaab district, a Shi'ite stronghold. A Sunni mosque nr his
house had been attacked.
"They are Wahhabis," he said [Iraqi Shi'ites call all conservative
Sunnis Wahhabis]. "Did I want to come?" I couldn't resist, and asked
the hotel for their taxi driver, but I didn't explain why I was going
there. Not a single car was out as we drove for 20 minutes from the
city centre to the Qiba mosque. The streets of Shaab were misty and
unlit. The road before the mosque was blocked by a truck.
As we drew up, about 20 men holding Kalashnikovs surrounded the taxi,
and on each side young men in shabby civilian clothes pointed the
barrels of their guns into the car through the rolled down
windows. They demanded to know who we were and what we wanted. They
were very tense. I asked the one on my side who he was, but he ordered
me out of the car. The taxi driver explained that I was not an
Iraqi. "He's a foreigner!" they shouted to each other, and all the
men came closer to the car. "They are all Israelis and Jews," shouted
one man in a slurred voice.
We tried to explain that I was a journalist, but they had never seen
an American passport or a press ID before. Why was I here? What did I
want? It was clear from the fear in their eyes and the anger in their
voices as they barked orders that they wanted to find somebody to
kill. They used none of the polite expressions that typically colour
even hostile Arabic conversation. They only gave orders, as if we were
their prisoners, their voices echoing against the empty city's buildings.
The man with the slurred voice pointed his Kalashnikov directly at me,
clearly in a drunken rage. The driver and I protested again that I was
just a journalist, in the country to investigate an attack. Not
knowing if they were Sunni or Shi'ite, I recited the names of every
Iraqi Sunni and Shi'ite leader that I could think of and said that
they were all my friends. I won over 2 men, and they began struggling
with the drunk man, who was still seemingly intent on shooting me. He
would not move the gun's barrel from right in front of me. My chest
was a vacuum. Then I managed to move away from the swaying danger. The
undecided ones in the group nervously eyed me, but before they could
make up their minds one way or another one of the sympathetic ones
hustled me into the mosque.
There were a number of armed guards in the mosque. I tried to remember
how to speak Arabic, and felt ashamed that my knees were very
weak. The guards confirmed that after the last prayers at night, as
the devout were emptying onto the street, a car drove by and opened
fire. "Praise God, nobody was wounded," they said, pointing to the
white gashes in the wall where bullets had torn off chunks of
plaster. They added that only a few m ago the same thing had
happened. As more men gathered holding their Kalashnikovs in a
ready-firing position [a rarity for Iraqis who usually sling their
weapons lazily], I decided that I had seen enough.
In the morning, Shaab's streets were busy with children playing amid
garbage and sewage pools. Donkeys pulled carts carrying gas for stoves
and boys banged on containers to let the neighbourhood know that they
were passing. American soldiers manned a checkpoint, along with fresh
Iraqi recruits, searching suspicious cars. A house nr the mosque is
riddled with bullets and burned. It belonged to a Wahhabi Muslim who
was killed last summer by local Shi'ites.
Abu Hasan, the mosque caretaker, was busy fixing the generator, his
hands and dishdash robe blackened with grease. He explained that the
attackers the night before opened fire from 2 cars, an Opel sedan and
a Nissan Pickup, at 7.30 in the evening. They were dressed like
police, he said, and before they managed to fire a RPG a bystander
grabbed it from them. "They want to create fitna [strife] between
Sunnis and Shi'ites, but it won't happen. I am 60 y old, I have never
seen any problems between us. We intermarry and are friends. America
is responsible for this," said Abu Hassan.
He added that Shi'ites from the city and from nearby Sadr City visited
the mosque to show solidarity. Sheikh Dhia from the local Shurufi
mosque came along with tribal leaders. "We are a targeted mosque
because Sunnis and Shi'ites both come here and are united," he
said. He asserted that 52 Sunni visitors had been among those killed
in the Baghdad attacks on Tue.
In Aug, the mosque was 1st attacked, he said, and 3 people were
wounded. After the latest attack the police shot a man in the leg in a
case of mistaken identity. The drunk man who was most intent on
shooting me the previous night was Abu Yasir, famous in the neighbourhood
for his alcohol-inspired belligerence. Seyid Nasr of the Seyid Haidar
Huseiniya [a Shi'ite place of religious mourning] also visited Qiba on
Thu, with 30 friends and relatives. As the honorific Seyid title
reveals, he is a descendant of the prophet Mohammed, and thus especially
respected. He is also the oldest and best known Seyid in Shaab. His
large home is down the street from a wall with posters of Ayatollahs
Khomeini and Khamenei of Iran. The walls of his study are decorated
with posters of Muhamad Bakr al-Hakim, the slain leader of the Supreme
Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, as well as other ayatollahs.
Seyid Nasr wore a black turban and thick glasses. "Our good leaders
will prevent fitna," he said. He explained that when he visited the
Qiba Mosque, he told the gathered people: "I am Sunni and I am
Shi'ite. We are all Muslims." He was certain that "there will not be
any problems between us", and blamed Jordanian wanted terrorist [by
the US] Abu Musab al-Zarqawi for the attacks.
Seyid Nasr explained that the Wahhabi who was killed and whose house
was burned was called Mohammed. On the day of Muhamad Bakr al-Hakim's
death last Aug, Mohammed went to a nearby square that had a painting
of Iraqi Shi'ite leaders. "Mohammed spat and threw stones at the
paintings, and then shot at them with his Kalashnikov," Seyid Nasr
said. "He killed one Shi'ite and wounded another. After that, the men
from the neighbourhood shot him and burned his house. The Americans
came to take his body and found many weapons in his house, as well as
pictures of Osama bin Ladin." Mohammed was from the Dulaimi tribe, and
in order to make peace the Dulaimis gave monetary compensation to the
family of the murdered Shi'ite. "After this, Sunnis and Shi'ites
prayed together in the Qiba mosque, and tomorrow we will do so again,"
said Seyid Nasr, who also mentioned that 51 Sunnis had perished in the
Baghdad explosions.
So far, the bloodletting that the attacks were meant to provoke has
not started, and leaders of both sects have called for unity and
patience. Shi'ite Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the highest Iraqi cleric,
urged that Iraqis unite, and blamed the Americans for failing to
secure Iraq's borders. Dr Muhamad Bashar al-Faydhi, a rep for the
Council of Sunni Ulema, blamed "foreigners" for the attacks,
describing them as a "real crime", and adding that "it is impossible
for any Muslim to do such a thing. Iraqis could never do this". Dr
Harith al-Dhari, another member of the Sunni council, placed
responsibility for the attacks in what he called "Holy Karbala and
Holy Kadhimiya" on America. The chief of the religious Admin of the
Sunni Waqf, Ahmad Abdul Ghafur al-Samarai, described the attacks as "a
dirty crime. Islam does not accept it. No religion allows this."
But Sunni leaders are taking precautions. Armed guards man the gate to
the Abu Hanifa mosque in Aadhamiya, the most important Sunni mosque in
the country. Sheikh Muayad of Abu Hanifa is closely escorted by a
bodyguard armed with a small automatic pistol beneath his vest.
Sheikh Muayad himself had visited the Kadhim shrine in Baghdad [scene
of the attacks] on the morning they took place. Abdel Hamid Rashid
al-Ubeidi, an assistant to Sheikh Muayad, said "only the Tigris river
separates us" from "our Muslim brothers" in Kadhimiya across the
bridge. "Our destiny is one and our enemy is one," he said, describing
the enemy as "the one who wants to divide us and make us opposed". He
blamed "foreigners" for the attacks, explaining that "sons of the
nation would never do this. If they were Muslim it was only in
name". Abdel Hamid added that "we are expecting an attack at any
moment. And if it is our destiny, then that is God's will."

Powell stresses US patience on N Korea crisis
[Unlike Iraq, we know they HAVE WMD].
Washington (Reuters). The US is not losing patience with diplomatic
efforts to end N Korea's suspected nuclear arms program, Secretary of
State Colin Powell said on Thu.
The comments appeared designed to avoid precipitating a new
confrontation with Pyongyang ahead of the Nov 2 US election and to
reassure allies Washington is committed to a diplomatic path after a
report suggested US patience was wearing thin.
Officials from the US, the 2 Koreas, China, Japan and Russia met in
Beijing last wk to try to find a solution but their discussions ended
only in an agreement to hold more talks.
The Washington Post reported that Pres Bush told his negotiating team
to make clear US patience for a diplomatic solution could run
out. Citing unnamed US officials, the Post said the president's action
effectively halted discussions on a detailed joint statement that
would have laid out steps to try to resolve the crisis.
"The president strongly believes that a diplomatic solution is
possible and we are not in any urgency to achieve that solution. We
want a good solution," Powell told reporters after talks with S Korean
For Min Ban Ki-moon.
The latest stand-off with N Korea began in Oct 2002, when US officials
accused N Korea of a clandestine program to develop nuclear weapons
that Washington sees as a direct threat to its allies S Korea and Japan.
Washington wants the complete, verifiable and irreversible
dismantlement of N Korea's suspected nuclear weapons programs and --
despite its earlier refusal to offer Pyongyang any "quid pro quo" to
achieve this -- has made clear that other nations are willing to
provide inducements.
"We will be patient in pursuing this policy," Powell said. "We are not
[in ]) crisis [as is] suggested by the newspaper article this morning
-- that somehow we are running out of time or running out of steam on
our diplomatic efforts."
The US believes N Korea may be pursuing nuclear weapons by
reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods that can yield plutonium for
bombs and by a separate, clandestine program to enrich uranium.
"Whatever they are doing or not doing, they will not force us or
pressure us into any kind of a deal that is anything short of"
complete dismantlement, he said. "The actions they are taking are only
keeping them away from benefits that they need."

Israeli Arabs held for passing bomb data to terror group
Jerusalem (Haaretz). 2 brothers, both snr members of the Israeli Arab
movement Sons of the Village and residents of Arabe village in the
Galilee, have been arrested and charged with passing explosives
expertise to Al-Aqsa Martyrs in Jenin. The instructions, for preparing
explosives and rockets, came from Fatah's Abu Mussa faction in Jordan.
Shin Bet security service and Galilee district police sources close to
the affair yesterday said Hezbollah actually wrote the manuals but
that connection was not mentioned in the indictment.
Majed Kna'ane, a 33-yo psychologist and a top official in the movement,
was charged yesterday in Haifa District Court with transferring the
instructions in an act of betrayal and espionage.
His brother Mohammed, 39, the movement's Sec-Gen, was charged with
making contact with an enemy agent.
The brothers were arrested on Feb 7, but the arrest was not revealed
until yesterday. The prosecution said the brothers met the Sec-Gen of
the Palestinian Fatah Abu Musa faction, Ibrahim Ijawa, the leader of
the Popular Front, Ahmad Sadat, at his Jericho prison cell, and the
leader of the Popular Front, George Habash.
The prosecution says Ijawa also recruited another pair of brothers,
Assan Athamla, the secretary of the Balad movement in Nazareth, and
Sirhan, both who were charged with having contact with Hezbollah last m.
Prosecutors charged that Majed Kna'ane went to Jordan in 2001 where he
met Ijawa. Over the last 2 y, according to the charges, Kna'ane
transferred about $12,000 from Ijawa to his brother. At the end of
2002, on Ijawa's request, Kna'ane bought 24 detailed maps of various
sections of the country, and kept them in his house.
About 5 m ago, Ijawa asked Kna'ane to take 2 devices, an electronic
back massage and a blood pressure monitor, from Jordan to Jenin. The
appliances were brought to a friend of Kna'ane's, Anas Abed Al-Aziz,
and from there taken to Al-Aqsa Martyrs activist Muntsar Abu-Elion.
The police and Shin Bet said Majed confessed to the charges, and is
acting as a state witness against his brother. The brothers' attorney,
Orna Cohen from the Adallah organisation, said yesterday that the 2
deny all charges.
Adallah said that the 2 were treated harshly by the Shin Bet during
their interrogation. The Shin Bet said "interrogations are conducted
according to law and accepted practices, and under tight supervision."
Zimbabwe condemns wider sanctions
Harare (ABC, Sally Sara). Zimbabwe has reacted angrily to the
strengthening of sanctions by the US and AUS. Zimbabwean Info Min
Jonathan Moyo has condemned the sanctions and says they will not have
any affect. Mr Moyo says the US can "go to hell". He says US
officials are imperialists who would not know democracy if it "hit
them in the face". A rep for Pres Robert Mugabe has also accused AUS
of taking senseless action against Zimbabwe. The Fed Govt has
extended travel restrictions to include snr officials from Zimbabwe's
state-owned companies. For Min Alexander Downer says the AUS has
strengthened the sanctions because of its growing concern about the
plight of the people of Zimbabwe.

Canada saves N Korean defector from execution "hell"
Toronto (AFP). A N Korean defector branded a "war criminal" thanked
Canada for saving him from a personal "hell" after it decided not to
deport him to probable execution in his Stalinist homeland.
Song Dae Ri was refused political asylum in Canada last y by the
country's Immigration and Refugee Board, which ruled that as a former
N Korean official he was complicit in war crimes committed by its rulers.
But Deputy PM Anne McLellan late Wed stayed a removal order against
Ri, ruling that he did not pose a risk to Canadian security and could
stay in the country as a temporary resident.
Canada's war crimes unit had found no evidence he was guilty of crimes
against humanity.
"I felt like I was in hell and now I'm on my way to heaven," said Ri,
in remarks passed to AFP by his lawyer.
"I was never a war criminal and I am happy that someone in the govt
can take this rock off my back."
Ri's case touched off a media and political firestorm in Canada, as it
raised the question of whether a low-level official could do anything
about crimes against humanity committed by the govt for which he worked.
North Korea, under reclusive strongman Kim Jong Il is blamed for gross
human rights violations, and accused of starving mn of its people as
paltry financial and food reserves are diverted to its mn-strong army.
Ri had argued that if he was returned to N Korea he would likely be
executed for treason.
He escaped to Canada with his wife and son Chang-Il or Joshua [now 6
y old] in 2001 from Beijing where he worked as trade official for N
Officials do not dispute his claims that his wife was lured back to
North Korea later that y by her parents where 4 m later she was executed.
His father was also killed in retribution for his defection.
Ri's lawyer Robert Moorhouse said that his client had applied to
permanent residency in Canada, so he could build a new life with his son.
"Now that the allegation of war crimes has been removed, and given the
fact that his son will soon be a permanent resident himself with no
other family in the world, we expect that the govt of Canada will do
the just thing and grant Mr. Ri the same status as his son," he said.
Moorhouse said that Ri had lost 30 kg during a y of uncertainty
over his status in Canada.

Chinese release political activist from jail
Beijing. China has released a prominent dissident from jail.   Nothing
has been made public yet in China, but an influential US human rights
group says China has released 37-yo Wang Youcai from prison. This
afternoon in Shanghai the dissident was put on a plane headed for the
US to receive medical treatment. That is a common reason given when
China releases dissidents. Wang was jailed in 1998 after he helped
found the China Democracy Party. It was not his 1st stint -- he was
imprisoned after the 1989 Tianamen massacre. In recent wks, 2 other
political prisoners have been freed, but the US says ordinary Chinese
continue to lack the freedom and right to peacefully oppose or change
Communist rule.

Fake medical university advertises on web
Honiara, Solomon Is. An Internet website claiming to belong to a
university medical campus in Solomon Islands is offering degrees to
internat'l students for $40,000. The King's University School of
Medicine claims to be located on 50 acres of land in the capital,
Honiara. The website claims the Solomon Islands Medical Campus is
part of a privately owned university established by approval of the
Solomon Islands Govt. The campus does not exist -- certainly not as
it is displayed in the photographs on the website. Prospective
students are invited to apply for the 45 places left for the next
semester, at a cost of almost $9,000 for the 1st y, or $40,000 for
the full medical degree course. The phone number listed for the
campus in Honiara is disconnected, but another number in Perth in W
AUS has a recorded message asking callers to leave their details.

Tories join attack on supreme court plans
London (Guardian). The Conservative constitutional affairs rep, Alan
Duncan, has joined the lord chief justice, Lord Woolf, in attacking
the govt's plans to create a supreme court.
He told Guardian Unlimited that the proposals -- contained in the
constitutional reform bill -- would result in an "inferior" and
"politicised" judiciary, "an American name and a very expensive
Yesterday, Lord Woolf claimed that the govt's plans would create a
"second class" institution, which would be a "poor relation" of others
around the world.
The govt, however, has made it clear that it will ignore the law lord's
call to defer the plans until after all the stages of reform of the
House of Lords have been completed.
A rep for the constitutional affairs dept said the creation of a
supreme court and the abolition of the post of lord chancellor were
necessary because the "separation of powers is vital to maintain
public confidence".
Mr Duncan, meanwhile, said he would "like to change it straight back
again" if the bill is passed, though he conceded that repeal was
dependent on "where they are in [reforming] the House of Lords".
But he insisted that "at the very least we'll need to reappraise the
system of judicial appointments". The govt is planning to establish an
independent commission to appoint judges.
"The lord chancellor appoints people who have never attracted
criticism in the past," Mr Duncan added.
"It is not easy to find people who want to be a judge, because you
have to give up a lot of money to do it."
"So if you go to open recruitment, and try and make it more reflective
of society, you're not only going to find inferior people to do it,
you're also going to have a growth of people demanding their judgements
reflect their representative qualities."
"Is the gay judge gay friendly? Is the woman judge female friendly? Is
the black judge black friendly? And that is a pretty insidious form of
Mr Duncan insisted that the present arrangement -- of the lord
chancellor heading the judiciary and the law lords sitting in the
House of Lords -- may look "mad in theory but it does work in practice".
"This is offensive to tidy-minded liberal lefties who want all
political theory to fit into neat boxes," he said.
"All that will be added to our existing system, which everyone says
works perfectly well, [by the govt's plans] would be an American name
and a very expensive building."
"You'd have thought Lord Dome would have worked that out by now," he
said of the lord chancellor, Lord Falconer.
The govt also rejected Lord Woolf's criticisms of its plans to prevent
the courts hearing appeals against decisions from immigration tribunals,
which he had dubbed "fundamentally in conflict with the rule of law".
A home office rep said: "We respect the views of the lord chief
justice. But it is important he respects our desire to deliver the
radical reforms we were elected to get through. "If we had been cowed
by previous criticisms, we would never have halved asylum claims or
got life meaning life for murderers.
Lord Woolf went so far as to warn that the judiciary may even need a
written constitution to protect itself from further political

Oxfam focuses on slave labour in lead up to Olympics
London. Olympic authorities are being urged to help the mn of women
workers who are allegedly working in poor conditions to make
merchandise for this y's Athens Games. The internat'l aid agency
Oxfam says garment workers in developing countries such as Indonesia
and Cambodia are being forced to work longer hrs for less money.
Oxfam's Andrew Hewett says the Internat'l Olympic Committee and the
AUS Olympic Committee can influence the way sportswear companies
operate. "We hope that there will be change. It will require
considerable public pressure but we hope that the companies concerned
will see that it is in the interests of their industry to lift their
game and to clean up their act," he said.

Rescue effort begins as Arctic base sinks
Arctic Ocean. Russia is gearing up to snatch the crew of a floating
research station off the cracking Arctic ice floes that have nearly
swallowed the facility.
Most of Russia's N Pole-32 research station sank overnight, when the
ice below it 1st cracked and then disintegrated.
None of the 12 researchers posted to the station was hurt and all took
shelter in the few structures that did not sink in the icy water,
officials said.
Station chief Vladimir Koshelyev told Russia TV's website:
"All of a sudden ... a huge wall of ice appeared that kept growing and
"First they were 3 metres high, then 5, then 7 and finally over
10," he said.
"In the course of a half hour they practically swallowed up 90% of the
station, leaving only 2 small houses."
The researchers, all experienced polar hands, have taken shelter in
the 2 houses with food and emergency supplies to last about 5 days,
he said.
The researchers alerted border guards to the accident via radio and 3
helicopters have been prepared to pluck the scientists off the ice.
The choppers are due to fly to the station this wk, according to Artur
Chilingarov, a deputy speaker of Parliament and former Arctic explorer
who is coordinating the rescue effort.
"Don't worry, we'll get you off so you can return to the motherland,"
Russian TV showed Mr Chilingarov telling the researchers via
telephone from his State Duma office.
The station was set up in Apr 2003 to study climate change.
It has travelled about 3,000 km atop the ice floes since then and is
currently about 700 km from the N Pole in the Nansen Basin, news reports
The station, Russia's 1st since the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991,
was due to complete its work by Mar 20.

Child protection overhaul "could lead to false abuse claims"
London (Guardian). Govt plans to set up a sophisticated tracking
system to keep tabs on every child in England could lead to parents
being falsely accused of child abuse, child welfare experts warned today.
An electronic file would be created on every child to record warning
signs of abuse and neglect, including professionals' concerns and
in a bid to enable child protection services to intervene before
families reach crisis point, under the children's bill published today.
Eileen Munro, reader in social policy at the London School of
Economics, said this risked a repeat of the recent cases of parents'
falsely accused of causing the cot deaths of their babies.
Ms Munro, an expert on child protection risk assessments, said that
the accumulation of minor concerns on the proposed databases by
different childcare staff could lead to problems being blown out of
proportion, or misinterpreted as in recent child protection scandals,
including the murder of 8-yo Vic Climbié.
She said: "The databases proposed by the children bill will allow a
wide range of staff to record any info they consider relevant, which
is a gross invasion of privacy. This info will not only include
factual info but also professionals' concerns and theories, which
risks a repeat of the recent cases of parents wrongly accused of
causing the cot deaths of their children.
"Vic Climbié's case illustrates the fallibility of professional
judgement, a point also emphasised by the recent cases of parents
wrongly accused of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. While it may be
possible to challenge the accuracy of factual info on a database, it
is not so easy to challenge judgements. It is also difficult to shake
off the smear even when a judgement is revised."
The children bill will require 150 local authorities to set up
databases on all local children and young people, recording warning
signs of abuse, neglect and offending behaviour, in a bid to enable
staff to identify and assist children and families with potentially
serious problems before they reach crisis point.
But Terri Dowty, policy officer for the family welfare organisation
Action on Rights for Children, condemned the proposed surveillance
system as "an outrageous intrusion into family life".
She claimed that the databases would present "an open invitation to
child abusers", and called on the govt to provide a cast-iron guarantee
that the widespread sharing of such sensitive info would not
compromise children's safety or privacy.
"We only have to look at the spate of recent prosecutions of 'caring'
professionals who have abused children -- teachers, police officers,
social workers and others -- to seriously question the govt's judgement
in promoting such an ill-conceived and dangerous scheme," said Ms Dowty.
"It is an unacceptable intrusion into the lives of families who are
responsible for bringing up their children and for ensuring their
safety is not compromised. The accuracy and security of data can never
be guaranteed, and the whole concept conflicts with existing data
protection legislation and European convention on human rights."
The education secretary, Charles Clarke, has dismissed concerns about
the proposed surveillance system, saying that the interests of
children "absolutely" took precedence over the civil liberties of adults.

Sudan, rebels need to clinch peace deal: Powell
Washington (Reuters). The US hopes the Sudanese Govt and rebels in
the S can reach a peace settlement this m, finally ending their
decades old civil war, Secretary of State Colin Powell said.
Washington, which is mediating between the 2 sides and has offered
improved ties and aid to the African nation if a power-sharing accord
is implemented, predicted a deal would be reached last y between the
Islamist Govt and the rebels from the Christian and animist S.
But the 2 sides must still settle competing claims to the Abyei area,
Mr Powell said at a congressional hearing, where he was pressed to
help end a war that has killed 2 mn people.
"By the end of Mar, I hope we will be able to crack this," he told a
House Internat'l Relations subcommittee.
Mr Powell said the US is ready to offer its ideas on breaking the
final impasse now that the sides have basically ended disputes over
two other areas and hammered out a deal on how to share the country's
oil revenues.
"We are very close. In the days ahead we will be working very hard to
try to bring this to a successful conclusion ... If we get a
comprehensive peace agreement and implementation of a peace agreement,
we have a long range plan as how to re-engage," he said.
Mr Powell said eventually the US could establish an embassy in Khartoum.
Despite advances toward peace in S Sudan, the US remains concerned
about continued fighting in a separate conflict in the W.

Canada military buys 800 German off-road vehicles
Ottawa (Reuters). The Canadian govt, under heavy fire for sending its
troops into danger zones in aging jeeps, said on Thu it was buying 802
German off-road utility vehicles for the armed forces.
A defence ministry rep said the G-Wagons -- built by DaimlerChrysler
AG unit Mercedes-Benz -- would cost $C126 mn [$US95 mn]. The
4-seater vehicles will be delivered by the summer of 2004.
The G-Wagons will replace the armed forces' fleet of Iltis vehicles.
2 Canadian soldiers in Kabul died last y when their Iltis hit a land
mine, prompting critics to say that an armoured vehicle might have
provided more protection.
Mercedes-Benz said in a statement that Canada was also buying a
minimum of 150 armoured protection kits which could be fitted to the
G-Wagons in a matter of hrs.
"The kits ... [provide] protection against small arms ballistics, hand
grenades and anti-personnel mines," said the defence ministry rep.
The 1st 60 vehicles will be deployed this m to Kabul, where some 2,000
Canadian soldiers are serving as part of a NATO -led stabilisation
force. Over 60,000 military G-wagons have been sold to NATO armies
around the world.
"It's a proven, off-the-shelf light utility vehicle ... that makes it
the vehicle of choice for military applications in armies around the
world," said the rep.
Leaders of Canada's military -- which consists of around 50,000 active
troops -- have long complained of being asked to do too much with too
little money.
Finance Min Ralph Goodale, due to deliver a budget on Mar 23, said on
Sun that Ottawa was obliged to ensure that its soldiers were properly
In May 2002, Parliament's defence committee called for a 50% jump in
military spending over 3 y. The current defence budget is slightly
more than $C13 bn.

NATO urged to ban troops from brothels
Brussels (Reuters). W troops abroad should be banned from brothels
and sex clubs that fuel an illegal trade in women forced into
prostitution, the US and Norway urged their NATO allies Thu.
The 2 nations urged the W defence alliance to mount a coordinated
clampdown on the human trafficking that sends women to work as
"modern-day slaves" in bars frequented by troops on missions overseas.
"Trafficking in human beings is part of the dark side of globalisation,"
said US ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns. "We don't have the luxury
of turning away from this problem because 10s of 1000s of lives are
being ruined."
"We want NATO to have a common policy to combat Apr,"
he told a news conference with his Norwegian counterpart, Kai Eide.
The envoys were speaking on the sidelines of a one-day conference on
NATO's potential role in tackling what they described as a "dark and
shameful" crime that could destabilise emerging democracies, especially
in the W Balkans.
The US estimates that each y as many as 800,000 men, women and
children are bought, sold, transported across nat'l borders and held
against their will for sexual exploitation or forced labour.
It has taken the issue seriously since an undercover investigation in
S Korea 2 y ago exposed the involvement of US troops in paying for sex
with women who had been trafficked from the Philippines and former
Soviet states into forced prostitution in bars nr a military
Pres Bush has since set a zero-tolerance policy with respect to human
trafficking for all American military personnel, including peacekeepers
in the Balkans.
Burns, quoting a UN estimate, said that up to 90% of sex workers in
Bosnia were acting against their will.
"They would typically be told they were going to be a waitress or a
dancer, taken down to Bosnia, their passports taken away and then sold
from one guy to the next," he said.
Eide, whose country has prohibited govt employees and military
personnel abroad from purchasing or accepting sexual services, said
traffickers are so sophisticated they move in tandem with
concentrations of internat'l security forces.
The ambassadors said it was now time for a NATO-wide policy to
coordinate the efforts of the 46 countries in the alliance's Euro-
Partnership Council, whose reach stretches from Canada to Central Asia.
"NATO has a special responsibility to ensure that our forces do not
contribute to this problem," they wrote in the Internat'l Herald
Tribune, calling on partnership members to:
* educate military personnel overseas about trafficking;
* step up efforts to pursue evidence of trafficking in persons in
  clubs and other places frequented by NATO military personnel,
  placing them off-limits, and help host countries to investigate
  human trafficking;
* incorporate provisions in overseas civilian service contracts that
  prohibit participation in activities supporting or promoting human
  trafficking, and impose penalties on contractors who fail to monitor
  their employees' conduct.

Police call for inquiry into Army bullying after Deepcut deaths
Surrey (Independent). A long-awaited police report into the violent
deaths of 4 young soldiers at Deepcut barracks yesterday recommended a
wider inquiry into the intimidation and harassment which drive
vulnerable recruits to commit suicide.
The investigation by the Surrey force calls for a new system of
accountability for and supervision of the treatment of entrants to the
forces, and describes bullying at the camp in Surrey as being "in
sufficient quantities to raise concern".
The House of Commons Defence Select Committee said yesterday that it
would hold an inquiry into recruit training.
Adam Ingram, the Armed Forces minister, told the Commons that the Govt
would consider what form a wider investigation might take, but that a
public inquiry would not serve any useful purpose.
The families of the dead privates -- Sean Benton, 20, Cheryl James,
18, Geoff Gray and James Collinson, both 17 -- have repeatedly called
for a public inquiry. Kevin McNamara, a Labour MP who has campaigned
for the families, described the report as "devastating". A "broader
inquiry", he said, was a "public inquiry by any other name".
The police found that between 1991 and 2001 there were 75 deaths in
the Army involving firearms in non-conflict situations, of which 60
had led to suicides or open verdicts at inquests. The report concluded
that a broader inquiry, extending beyond Deepcut into the armed
forces, could identify "more important lessons and safeguards to help
reduce risks in the Army... Such an inquiry would have the capacity
to reveal more info about why young soldiers, including trainees, are
particularly vulnerable to undetermined deaths, suicide and self-harm."
When Surrey Police asked the Army in 2003 for details of self-harm by
recruits at Deepcut, they were told that no reliable records could be
provided, according to the report. However, a study of guardroom logs
showed 39 such incidents, a figure regarded as "only half of the true
The investigation details individual acts of harassment which, it
said, could be subjected to further investigation in the future. In
one instance, a young female soldier had woken during the night to
find a corporal abusing her. When she complained to a supervisor, the
matter was "laughed off as a joke".
Mr Ingram said: "I understand that the 4 tragic deaths at Deepcut are
matters that we have to attend to and the Surrey Police carried out a
very intensive investigation. They interviewed 900 people and took
1,300 witness statements. That is such a comprehensive investigation,
I don't know what a public inquiry would elicit."
Des James, the father of Pte Cheryl James, said: "I'm not particularly
bothered about the House of Commons Select Committee. We mustn't allow
it to become a substitute for the real thing. I think the report is
extremely thorough and well put together. But it gives me absolutely
no satisfaction to say, 'I told you so.' I have been banging on since
the mid-90s about the culture of intimidation and bullying in the Army
-- and now this has backed that up."
Jim Collinson, the father of Pte James Collinson, said: "Both the Army
and Surrey Police failed in their duty of care to their young
soldiers. They failed to give us a proper investigation right from the
beginning. Vital forensic evidence was lost. If you do not get the
start of the investigation right, you'll not get the end right."

"Eyebrows raised" over Tas ferry prices
Hobart. A European ship broker has spoken this morning about his
claims the Tas Govt paid too much for the Bass Strait ferries --
Spirit of Tas I and II.
Norwegian Stan Stancheff says eyebrows were raised when the sale of
the former Greek ships went through.
In a Tas parliamentary committee hearing yesterday, the Upper House
Member for Rosevears, Kerry Finch, alleged the sale was marred by
corruption and kick-backs to foreign ship brokers.
Mr Finch says a Norwegian-based ship broker told him TT-Line paid
about $100 mn too much for the ships.
TT-Line has denied the claims.
Mr Stancheff says he has only made his views known through e-mails to
Mr Finch.
Mr Stancheff said this morning he had no role in the purchase of the
ships but alleges Tas taxpayers have been hard done by.
"I'm just an observer with a sense of annoyance when I see that state
money or taxpayers' funds are misused," he said.
"The proper procedure in valuing the ships was not done and the
valuation was provided by someone who was not independent and the Govt
should basically either instruct the auditor or the board of directors
to get a new valuation of the ships."
TT-Line chairman Nick Evers says Mr Finch's comments, made under
parliamentary privilege, are unsubstantiated and do not stand up to
"In my view and in the view of all credible observers at the time, and it
was thoroughly done and it was completely transparent, it was a good
Period," he said.

Dozen hospitalised after chemical scare
Adelaide. 12 people have been taken to hospital after a chemical
scare in Adel's NE. The Metropolitan Fire Service says people inside
a home in the suburb of Gilles Plains [!!] were trying to fumigate the
dwelling using pesticides containing aluminium phosphide. 4 people
inside the house and 8 emergency workers have been taken to Royal Adel
Hospital after being exposed to the chemical. The nearby area has
been cordoned off, but emergency services say the danger is almost
over. Metropolitan Fire Service rep Bill Dwyer says some homes
downwind from the scene are being evacuated to allow the contaminated
property to be ventilated. "A precautionary measure, fortunately now
we've got a bit of a breeze here," he said. "We're going to put
positive pressure fans in place and they will blow the residue fumes
or odours out of the property."

Film Commission pushes ahead with archive merger
Sydney. The AUS Film Commission has confirmed it will co-locate its
MEL and SYD Screensound archiving offices with AFC facilities.
Screensound is embroiled in a controversial merger with the smaller
AUS Film Commission. The commission says the new arrangement will
give Screensound staff access to better facilities. But Ray
Edmondston from support group Archive Forum says the closure of
separate Screensound offices will have a detrimental effect on the
work of the archive. "It will not have an obvious and visible
separate presence, it'll be clearly a subordinate part of the AFC," he
said. "The symbolism is very important to them and it will be less
distinct from the AFC and not at all clear to people what it is."

Senator questions pets on flights plan
Hobart. A Tas Liberal Sen is seeking an explanation from Qantas
subsidiary Jetstar on its plans to allow pets in overhead lockers.
Sen Guy Barnett says the low-cost airline has advised him pets cannot
be carried in the aircraft hold but can be placed in the overhead
lockers. It is one of the concerns being aired at a public meeting
with the carrier in Launceston today. Tas business leaders are also
calling for an additional flight to MEL. Sen Barnett says there are
many risks associated with having pets in overhead lockers. "It
raises a whole range of issues in terms of safety and health issues in
terms of dogs being up there with cats, mice, rats and birds," he
said. "You put your hand up into the overhead locker, you might have
it bitten off by a great dane or something, there's all sorts of
issues it raises."

Food producers reject US FTA
N Vic. A farmer and meat exporter from Vic's Upper Murray has
described the free trade deal with the US as a disaster.
Kevin Bowtell believes beef, sugar and grain producers will all lose
out because of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
He says AUS negotiators went in with a particular outcome in mind.
"I think they went in with open eyes, but determined to get this free
trade agreement, irrespective of what they had to give away and I
think too much has been given away," he said.
"We've opened the doors to America and how we're going to be able to
save from being subjected to the dumping of subsidised stock I don't
know, and AUS farmers as far as I can see get nothing out of it."
Meanwhile, the managing director of SPC Ardmona believes the canned
fruit industry has lost out in the trade deal.
Nigel Garrard says under the deal, tariffs on AUS canned fruit exports
will decrease by 1% a y over 18 y.
But he says a 5% tax on American imports into AUS will be cancelled
Mr Garrard says it is not a level playing field and the AUS canned
fruit industry will have to start looking to other markets.
"My idea of a free trade deal is that it's the same for both parties
and there's absolutely no doubt that it's not the same for both
parties, and I would put the canned fruit industry right up there with
sugar as one of the big losers out of the free trade agreement," he said.

US gains unfair tinned fruit advantage: SPC
Canned fruit industry criticises free trade agreement.
N Vic. The managing director of SPC Ardmona believes the canned fruit
industry has lost out in AUS's free trade agreement with the US.
Nigel Garrard says under the deal, tariffs on AUS canned fruit exports
will decrease 1% a y over 18 y. But he says a 5% tax on US imports
into AUS will be cancelled immediately. Mr Garrard says it is not a
level playing field and the AUS canned fruit industry will have to
start looking to other markets. "My idea of a free trade deal is that
it's the same for both parties and there's absolutely no doubt that
it's not the same for both parties," he said. "I would put the canned
fruit industry right up there with sugar as one of the big losers out
of the free trade agreement."

Officials unable to explain PBS blunder
Canberra (AAP). Trade officials have been unable to explain exactly
how AUS's cheap medicines system will be affected by the free trade
deal with the US.
The 1,000-page agreement was released publicly on Thu -- including a
key detail which will allow decisions to exclude drugs from the
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) to be reviewed.
Exact details of how it will operate and even its power have not been
Patricia Ranald from the Public Interest Advocacy Centre at the
University of NSW said the changes could push up drug prices.
But the fed govt and the man who led the negotiations, Stephen Deady,
said the deal was in AUS's best interests as it would tie the country
to the US economy.
Meanwhile, PM John Howard will head to Bris on Fri for talks with Qld
sugar producers angry that they've been left out of the deal.
Sugar was excluded from the free trade agreement after the US -- to
protect its own sugar producers -- would not agree to any deal which
opened up the market.
Cane growers are looking for a rescue package of up to $600 mn.

Govt tries $4.5 bn super fix
Canberra (AAP). The fed govt said it will pour more than $4.5 bn into
paying out its superannuation liabilities to Telstra and AUS Post.
The govt will make a single lump sum payment of $3.125 bn to the
Telstra superannuation scheme and another $1.443 bn to AUS Post's scheme.
Finance Min Nick Minchin said the payments would eliminate any future
risk to taxpayers and provide greater certainty to both super funds.
"This decision will result in a $4.7 bn reduction in the AUS govt's
unfunded superannuation liability," he said.
"For Budget purposes, the payments will be largely treated as a
financing transaction that will not have a direct effect on the
underlying cash balance."
Sen Minchin said the lump sum payments will replace the current
quarterly instalments paid to the Telstra and AUS Post superannuation
funds, known as TSS and APSS respectively.
The changes mean that Telstra and AUS Post will now be responsible for
meeting the costs associated with the benefits under their
superannuation schemes.
"The system of quarterly payments to the TSS and APSS involved complex
actuarial calculations, and significant uncertainty for taxpayers,
Telstra shareholders, and for the super schemes covering Telstra and
AUS Post workers," he said.
"The lump sum payment will not affect the benefits of members of the
superannuation schemes and simply replaces the stream of payments
previously expected by the schemes."
Sen Minchin said he would table Determinations to give effect to the
govt's decision to make the lump sum payments in parliament next wk.
The govt's lump sum payments represent the book value of the assets,
held in the respective accounts of the superannuation schemes.
The govt has made payments worth about $500 mn each y since 1990 into
the super schemes.
The payments related to Telstra and AUS Post employees who were
formerly covered by the Commonwealth's superannuation arrangements and
then transferred to the Telstra and AUS Post schemes.
Sen Minchin said the lump sum payment would not have any effect on the
superannuation arrangements of Telstra and AUS Post workers who
remained in the commonwealth super scheme.
The govt will continue to be responsible for the liability of the
remaining members in the commonwealth fund.
Telstra said its superannuation scheme will remain fully funded, with
assets in excess of liabilities.
"As disclosed in Telstra's half-y accounts, Telstra remains on a
superannuation employer contribution holiday, the continuation of
which depends on the performance of the fund," Telstra said.
"The actuary is currently reviewing the fund's position, as at 30 Jun,
"It is possible that the actuary will recommend re-commencement of
employer contributions at some point during 2004-05, albeit at a
reasonably low level."
The superannuation funds were set up 14 y ago when Telstra and AUS
Post were corporatised.
Telstra's fund has 70,000 members while AUS Post has 35,000.

Liberals fear losing key seats
Canberra (AAP). Internal Liberal Party polls showed key Coalition
seats were at risk, The AUS newspaper said. The Crosby-Textor polls
conducted over the past 6 m support PM John Howard's fear that his
govt was just 8 seats from "electoral oblivion". "There's fear we got
a get-out-of jail card in 2001 by buying our way out, but it won't
work a 2nd time round," a Liberal Party source said. The seats the
Coalition fears losing at the next fed election include the S AUS
Marginal seat of Hindmarsh, where Liberal Party MP Chris Gallus is
retiring; Hinkler and Herbert in Qld; Dobell on the NSW central coast;
Canning in W AUS and Wakefield in SA.

Wilkie runs for Greens in PM's seat
Sydney. Former intel officer Andrew Wilkie has announced he will be
the Greens candidate in the PM's seat of Bennelong in N SYD at the
next election. Mr Wilkie says he is hoping to generate debate about
the Howard Govt and believes politicians need to be more accountable
for their actions. But he admits it will be tough trying to beat the
PM. "Of course I'm the underdog, I understand that it's a monumental
task ahead of me to try to beat the PM in his own electorate," he
said. "But I am really encouraged already by the excitement the news
of my preselection is generating. "I think it would be very, very
unwise of the PM to take my challenge too lightly."

Govt soft on poverty: ACOSS
Melbourne. The AUS Council of Social Service says the Fed Govt
(ACOSS) is failing to recognise the seriousness of poverty in AUS by
delaying the tabling of a Senate inquiry report on the issue. The Fed
Govt wants to respond to the Senate report with a minority report.
The report was to have been tabled yesterday but it has now been
delayed until next wk. ACOSS's Michael Raper says the report would be
a good starting point for the Govt to develop a nat'l strategy to
tackle poverty. "It seems to suggest that there might be a number of
good recommendations coming out of the Senate inquiry but that the
Govt doesn't want to go that way," he said. "I think perhaps that
recommendations are about increasing the rate of youth allowance,
adding rent assistance to Austudy payment and perhaps some nat'l
targets and it would be most unfortunate if the Govt is not prepared
to go that way."

Govt "incompetent" on border protection: Labor
15 people have been found on Ashmore Reef, off W AUS's N coast.
Canberra. The Fed Opp'n says it should be an embarrassment for the
Govt that a boatload of people was able to reach Ashmore Reef off NW
AUS undetected.
The 9 women and 6 men were discovered on the reef yesterday and are
being interviewed by Customs officers.
Immigration Min Amanda Vanstone says it is not yet known where they
are from or how they got there.
Labor's immigration rep Stephen Smith says that is not good enough.
"The Govt says it is strong on border protection. The truth is it is
incompetent," he said.
"This is the 3rd occasion...we've seen a breach of our borders. Where
was the surveillance?"
Sen Vanstone says the latest arrival strengthens the case for more
islands to be excised from AUS's migration zone.
PM John Howard has backed the Sen Vanstone's assessment.
"I heard Sen Vanstone this morning and I thought everything she said
was correct, particularly the comment she made that the most important
element in deterring illegal immigrants is to have not only the policy
of excision but also the policy of returning boats," he said.
Meanwhile, Greens leader Sen Bob Brown says Sen Vanstone should treat
asylum seekers as human beings.
"I just wish she'd go and meet some of them and find out that they've
got a heart beating in their breast, they've got aspirations for the
future, they want to make good with life," he said.
"They're hoping that AUS can not only be a place where they can make
good but then can contribute to this country too. That's my experience
with the people who come by boat to this country."

Canberra. Immigration officials are interviewing a group of 15
suspected asylum seekers who slipped through Australia's borders and
landed on Ashmore Reef. 2 navy vessels were on their way last night
to the reef, off WA's N coast, to intercept the illegal immigrants,
who were spotted by Coastwatch around midday yesterday. Imm Min
Amanda Vanstone says the Customs vessel Dame Roma Mitchell is in
attendance at Ashmore Reef, which has 3 small, low, uninhabited
islands. It's unknown where the group of 8 men and 7 women is from,
whether they are trying to claim asylum, or how or when they arrived.
No boat has been found.

Adelaide. FM Alexander Downer says Australia is to provide Nauru with
over $22 mn to help stabilise the country's economy and strengthen law
and order. Nauru is the site of some of Australia's concentration
camps for non-white immigrants. Mr Downer says the extra development
assistance is part of a new memorandum of understanding signed with
Nauru. He says the memorandum of understanding is effective until Jun
2005 and signals an increased level of co-operation between the 2
countries. As part of the new arrangement, Australia will provide
Nauru with a secretary of finance and may also appoint a police

Tourism 8.3% of GDP: study
Brisbane (AAP). AUS's tourism industry has become an increasingly
crucial part of the nat'l economy, contributing overall 8.3% Gross
Domestic Product (GDP), a new study said.
The study by the Bureau of Tourism Research (BTR) found directly and
indirectly the industry annually contributed $58.9 bn to GDP and made
up 10% of all AUS employment.
BTR director Dr Peter Robins said there was a "high degree of
inter-connectivity" between tourism and other sectors.
He said this was emphasised by the negative impact of both the Sep 11
terrorist attacks in the US and the collapse of Ansett in 2001.
"It caused a loss in jobs and a fall in both GDP and Gross Value
Added," Dr Robins said.
Direct tourism GDP in 2001/02 fell $53 mn compared with 2000/01 while
indirect tourism GDP -- that is, tourism-related flow-ons in other
sectors -- fell $162 mn.
The latest Tourism Research Report also found cultural visitors in AUS
contributed $8.7 bn to export earnings in 2000/01.
It also found culinary visitors tend to travel for longer and have
higher levels of expenditure than total visitors.

Backbencher criticises Costello's leadership comments
Canberra. Fed Treas Peter Costello has been rebuked by a backbench
colleague after failing to rule out taking a tilt at the Liberal
leadership before the election. Yesterday the Treasurer's refusal to
rule out challenging John Howard for the leadership fuelled speculation
he will take a tilt at the PM's job before the election. Backbencher
Ross Cameron is in no doubt Mr Howard will lead the Coalition at the
next poll. "Leadership's important and that's one of the reasons the
PM's been elected and re-elected because there's a feeling he's
delivering it," he said. Health Min Tony Abbot rejected the speculation
insisting Mr Costello is a team player. "I think he was just getting
understandably annoyed at impertinent questions, I think that's
basically what was happening yesterday," Mr Abbott said. Mr Costello
has today dismissed questions from journalists about the issue.

Downer defends Costello
FM angling for job in new cabinet.
Canberra. For Min Alexander Downer has defended Treasurer Peter
refusal to rule out a leadership challenge before the next election.
Mr Costello has refused 3 times to rule out challenging PM John Howard
before the election, due later this y.
But Mr Downer, who deposed then opp'n leader John Hewson in 1994, only
to lose the Liberal leadership to Mr Howard in a challenge in early
1995, said he agreed with Mr Costello.
Mr Downer said there was no possibility of a leadership challenge before
the election and Mr Costello was right not to waste time on the issue.
"I think it's a perfectly reasonable approach for Peter Costello to
take to say that he won't discuss issues like that," Mr Downer told
"Leadership is not an issue in the Liberal Party.
"There is no chance that there will be a challenge to John Howard's
leadership between now and the next election. I think not only does
the parliamentary party know that but the public knows that.
"Of course the Liberal Party isn't going to have a leadership
challenge between now and the next election. That's perfectly clear."
Mr Downer said Mr Howard was a dominant, powerful and successful
leader and there was no mood for a challenge.
Earlier, Mr Howard told ABC TV he was not surprised by Mr Costello's
"I wouldn't have expected him to give any other answer to the
question," Mr Howard said.

Fragile Qld Coalition talks close to collapse
Brisbane. Coalition talks between the Qld Nat'l and Liberal parties
are again close to collapse. Both sides returned to the negotiating
table yesterday but little progress has been made. After a brief
telephone discussion late yesterday, Nat'l Party president Terry
Bolger and his Liberal counterpart, Michael Caltabiano, have agreed to
meet face-to-face in Bris on the weekend. Mr Bolger is pessimistic
about a resolution, saying the Liberals still want the Nat'l Party to
walk away from key seats in Bris and on the Gold Coast. Mr Caltabiano
says there are a range of issues still on the table. Opp'n leader
Lawrence Springborg says the negotiations are at a delicate stage and
he is unsure if a Coalition can be reformed by the time Parliament
resumes in less than a fortnight.

Govt launches broadband strategy
Canberra (AAP). The fed govt has launched a nat'l broadband strategy
aimed at driving the uptake of high speed internet in AUS.
Communications minister Daryl Williams said all states and
territories, except for Vic, had signed off on the strategy which
would work towards the vision of AUS being a world leader in the
availability and effective use of broadband.
"What we want is to make sure is that AUS can capture the economic and
social benefits that flow from broadband connectivity," he told an AUS
Telecommunications Users Group conference.
"The strategy will allow us to coordinate activities right across all
levels of govt.
"Moreover, it will give us a common starting point for future policy
Mr Williams said the focus of the strategy would be to deliver
improved broadband services to sectors such as small and medium
enterprises, communities, health, education, research, advanced
industries and to regional and rural AUS.
Mr Williams said he was disappointed the Vic govt had refused to sign
up on the nat'l strategy despite being consulted in its preparation.
"We continue to hope that Vic will reconsider its position," he said.
Mr Williams said there were 3 key elements to the Action Plan for the
strategy which were currently being developed.
The 1st was a $107.8 mn Higher Bandwidth Incentive Scheme (HiBIS)
which was aimed at bringing broadband to regional AUS at prices
comparable to those paid by metropolitan users.
"Essentially service providers who register with the scheme will
compete against each other to supply broadband to customers in
designated areas at prices comparable to those in metropolitan AUS,"
Mr Williams said.
"The providers will receive an incentive payment for each customer
they connect."
Another key part of the strategy was the $23.7 mn Coordinated
Communications Infrastructure Fund (CCIF) which would build on
broadband infrastructure developments in key public sector areas such
as health and education.
Finally, an $8.4 mn demand aggregation broker program would deliver
broadband to communities where commercial services would be otherwise
non viable.

Brisbane. Qld Prem Peter Beattie has placed a total alcohol ban on
the government jet in the wake of revelations that a bottle of wine
was brought into a dry Aboriginal community. Previously MPs had been
able to bring alcohol they had purchased themselves onto the plane.
However Mr Beattie's told the Nine Network a total ban will now be in

Sydney.   One person has been arrested and a number are being
questioned following a confrontation between gangs at a shopping mall
in Sydney's SW last night. Around 150 people from 2 rival
gangs converged on the Westfield shopping centre in Liverpool around
8.15 pm, but were met by more than 30 police. Liverpool Local Area
Commander Superintendent Terry Jacobsen says a group of young Serbs
were trying to gain entry to the shopping centre to confront members
of a rival Lebanese gang inside.

AMP head admits to "squandering" shareholders money
Sydney. The head of the financial services giant AMP Limited says the
decks are cleared for recovery, after the 2nd largest loss recorded by
an AUS corporation. AMP announced a full-y loss for 2003 of $5.54 bn.
Only News Corporation's $12 bn bottom line shortfall in 2001/2002 has
been bigger. Losses by the AMP's stricken UK operations was the main
contributor -- it has since been spun off into a separate company.
AMP chief executive officer Andrew Mohl admits shareholders money was
"squandered". "Dealing with the problems of the past has been an
extremely painful process, but doing nothing in the hope that things
would get better was simply not an option," he said. "The de-merger to
separate the company along geographical lines -- overwhelmingly
supported by our shareholders -- was the right strategic direction for
the company. "It also represents, however, the beginning of the
process to rebuild and revitalise AMP."

Disgraced former HIH director loses court challenge
Sydney. Former HIH director Rodney Adler has lost his Supreme Court
legal challenge to avoid facing court on stock market manipulation
charges. Mr Adler applied for a permanent stay on the proceedings
which would ensure the matter never goes to trial. It is alleged he
used company money to buy $10 mn worth of shares in the insurer to
spark interest in the stock and in turn boost the share price. Mr
Adler argued there had been an abuse of power as he has already been
punished for the same crimes under civil law. However in dismissing
the application, Justice Bruce James found the criminal and civil
charges serve different purposes.

Murders prompt call for tightening of sex workers licensing
Darwin. The manager of a Darwin escort agency is calling on the
Territory Govt to tighten licensing for sex workers.
The call comes after the bodies of 2 murdered prostitutes were found
floating in the Adel River SE of Darwin.
Prostitutes who work for an agency must report to the police.
But Michelle Love says many girls do not register and become private
She says the Govt should ensure all girls can register in a discreet
"The girls don't want to go to a police station. They don't want to
register with the police as a prostitute, so they go private and when
they go private they're not allowed security, they're not allowed a
driver, they're not allowed a receptionist, they have to work
completely on their own and consequently it's dangerous," she said.
"And in my opinion the legislation encourages this sort of behaviour."
The N Territory Govt says it has been looking at issues surrounding
the sex industry for a while, especially on health and safety.
While there has been no consultation with the industry so far, the
Govt admits it will need to work in conjunction with the industry to
improve safety.

NSW Govt silent on retrial decision
Sydney. The NSW Govt is resisting Opp'n calls to lodge an appeal in
the High Court over a decision to quash a man's conviction for his
part in one of SYD's notorious gang rapes.
With 3 related cases still before the courts, the Govt is refusing to
2 y ago a group of men were convicted of repeatedly raping a teenage
girl over a 6 hr period in SYD's SW.
4 of the men have appealed against their conviction to the New S Wales
Court of Criminal Appeal.
Yesterday, the court upheld one of those cases in finding that 20-yo
Tayyab Sheikh was unfairly treated and denied a fair trial because of
widespread media publicity.
The Shadow A-G, Andrew Tink, says the Govt should take the case to the
High Court to clarify whether juries can ignore media coverage and
stick to the facts presented.
"It's a fundamental issue, it's an absolutely fundamental issue to the
Admin of justice," he said.
But a rep for the A-G says that with the appeals of Sheikh's 3
co-accused still pending it would be inappropriate to comment.
The teenager at the centre of the case yesterday broke down at
learning of the verdict but has told police she is prepared to again
take the witness stand in a retrial.
The Salvation Army's Major Joyce Harmer, who supported her throughout
the original trial, says she feels sorry for her in having to again
give evidence.
"Because of what I've seen the young lady go through previously, I had
hoped that would have been the last of it and I guess this is now a
total upheaval for all concerned and those especially who are close to
her," she said.

Leaky pipe exposed as source of "rare wetland"
Taipei (AFP). A Taipei wetland looked upon as an urban rarity and the
pride and joy of a local school has been exposed as nothing more than
the result of a leaking water pipe. Students at the Kung-kuan
Elementary School in Taipei have highly valued the wetland within
their campus for almost 3 decades. The school recently received a
grant from education authorities to turn the wetland into an ecology
park, or a habitat to house butterflies and insects. Local newspapers
report the embarrassment surfaced when water authorities checked the
school's pipes and found the leak. Since then, the wetland fountain
has stopped gushing and the school has found that its monthly water
bill has dropped 5-fold.

Byron Bay. NSW Prem Bob Carr says he'll soon force supermarkets to
charge for plastic bags or ban them altogether. Mr Carr says if an
agreement on a ban or financial penalty on plastic bags can't be
reached between all states, New South Wales will go it alone. The
premier hasn't committed to a specific time frame to implement the
changes, but he says the supermarkets knew the state government was
going to move on the issue.

[From the Ebeling Memorial "In isn't Happing" files:]
2003 likely Europe's hottest in 500 y.
Washington (AP). Last y's deadly summer in Europe probably was the
hottest on the continent in at least 5 centuries, according to
researchers who analysed old records, soil cores and other evidence.
More than 19,000 people died.
Researchers at the University of Bern, Switzerland, collected and
analysed temperature data from all over Europe, including such climate
measures as tree rings from 1500. They found that the climate has been
generally warming and last summer was the most torrid of all.
"When you consider Europe as a whole, it was by far the hottest," said
Jurg Luterbacher, climatologist and the 1st author of a study
appearing this wk in the journal Science.
Luterbacher said the study showed that European winters are also
warmer now. The average winter and annual temperatures during the
3 decades from 1973 to 2002 were the warmest of the half
millennium, he said.
Some studies have linked rising average temperatures in N America and
elsewhere to global warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels, but
Luterbacher said his team did not attempt to make such a connection.
"We don't make any analysis of the human influence," he said. "We
don't attempt to determine the cause. We only report what we find."
Other climatologists, however, say the new study agrees with models
that have predicted a steady rise in global temperature as the result
of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere from the burning of
fossil fuels and other sources.
Stephen Schneider, a climate expert at Stanford University and a
prominent advocate for the theory of human-caused global warming, said
the Luterbacher paper is consistent with what climate modellers have
been predicting for 20 y.
"The data is starting to line up showing that those projections were
correct," Schneider said. "We warned the world that this was likely to
happen because we believed the theory, but couldn't actually prove it
was happening. Now the data is coming in."
In the study, Luterbacher and his team analysed the temperature
history of Europe starting in 1500 to the present. For the earliest
part of the half millennium, the figures are estimates based on proxy
measures, such as tree rings and soil cores. But after about 1750, he
said, instrumented readings became generally available throughout Europe.
During the 500 y, there were trends both toward cool and toward
hot. The 2nd hottest summer in the period was in 1757. That was
followed by a cooling trend that continued until early in the 20th
century. The summer of 1902, for instance, was the coolest of the
entire record.
Starting in 1977, the record shows "an exceptionally strong,
unprecedented warming," the researchers report, with average
temperatures rising at the rate of about 0.36 degrees per decade.
Then came last summer.
"The summer of 2003 exceeded 1901 to 1995 European summer temperatures
by around 2 degrees C," the study said. "Taking into account the
uncertainties [in the study method], it appears that the summer of
2003 was very likely warmer than any other summer back to 1500."
Record temperatures were recorded in most of the major cities of
Europe last summer, with many readings over 100 degrees. Authorities
have attributed 1000s of deaths to the excess heat, making the heat
wave one of the deadliest weather phenomena in the past century.
In France, the toll was estimated at about 14,802 dead. About 2,000
more than normal died in Aug in England and Wales. On Aug 11, Brit's
hottest day on record, there were 363 more deaths than average and the
temperature reading reached 101.3 in Brogdale in SE England.
Altogether in Europe, based on official numbers collected by The
Associated Press, there were more than 19,000 excess deaths in the
summer ms. France was hardest hit, but the average number of
summer deaths increased by 4,175 in Italy, 1,300 in Portugal and more
than 1,000 in the Netherlands.
The intense heat also wilted crops, caused wildfires and continued a
century-long trend of melting the continent's glaciers.
Luterbacher said some mountain glaciers have shrunk by 50% in the past
century in Europe, and some ice fields lost 10% of their mass last
summer alone.
In addition, he said, the long trend of warming temperatures is now
melting the high altitude permafrost -- the soil that usually remains
frozen y-round -- and that some buildings, bridges and roadways are
now threatened with unstable foundations.
And it may get worse, said Luterbacher. He said some studies forecast
that if the warming trend continues, Europe may have summers like 2003
every other y starting late in this century.

Melbourne. A Melbourne building industry worker got the fright of his
life today when he answered his mobile phone and was told he'd won $9
mn. The 40-yo man from suburban Knox thought the phone call was a
joke but pulled over anyway to hear a Tattersall's representative tell
him he'd won last night's Powerball lottery. However the married
father's mobile phone battery ran out, so he had to wait until he got
to work to confirm the win with Tattersall's.

Sydney. The Australian stock market closed stronger today, buoyed by
momentum from the strong reporting season and the decline in the AUD.
The All Ords closed 17 pts higher at 3416. In Japan, the Nikkei
gained 136 pts to end the wk at 11,537. The Hang Seng added 3 pts to
close at 23,455. Oil has broken the 37 barrier, trading around
$US37.05/bbl this evening. The AUD is continuing to circle 75 c, and
is presently at 75.05 US c.

The US Govt has rejected calls for an investigation into whether
former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was kidnapped.

Yemen has captured an Egyptian militant with suspected links to
al-Qaeda, the 2nd arrest of a snr militant in the S of the country
this wk. He is believed to be Imam al-Sherif, founder of the Jihad group.

6.30 pm
PM Howard has refused to comment on Liberal Party polling, saying it
was an internal matter. He was visiting the marginal seat of Dobell,
on the NSW C coast, trying to shore up support. He didn't reject the
claim he was pork-barrelling by announcing financial support for a
community centre after state funding runs out. The Coal'n had won the
seat only by the skin of its teeth last time, the PM indicated. It's
understood the internal LP polls show Dobell is one in danger of going
to the Labor Opp'n in the up-coming election.

Ahead of the signing of the interim Iraqi Constitution next wk,
security forces across the country are preparing for more attacks.
The country is presently observing 3 days of mourning after multiple
bomb attacks say more than 180 killed earlier this wk. Today, there
were more attacks on infrastructure, with 3 people dying in Baghdad
and an oil pile line bombed in the N. A snr US officer today admitted
a snr terrorist that had been reported killed wks ago may still be
alive. There was no direct evidence he'd been killed, Gen Abizaid
told a Senate Committee in Washington today.

An investigation has found a Pakistan company was prepared to sell a
nuclear weapon for $50 mn. The package was even advertised at an
internat'l arms show. The person behind the operation was A Q Khan.
Officials say it was a far-flung operation, with a factory in Malaysia
set up to produce the centrifuges for the uranium enrichment
operation. A small Swiss company designed was to play a key part --
the same one that passed 14 key design ideas to Libya. An engineer
working for the company says he was a machine shop operator, and
didn't know what to use the parts would be put. It turns out the US
has known about the operation for 7 y. ABC says it's found documents
that show the US had enough into in 1997 to put Pakistan on a black
list. It's been publicly wondering why nothing was done about any of
the companies, not A Q Khan until recently.

8 people, incl a leading politician, have now been shot dead in
Venezuela after riots erupted following Pres Chavez's refusal to
accept a petition for a recall referendum. The govt says at least 1/2
the signatures on the petition are forgeries. Chavez has said the
forgeries belong to dead people or foreigners. The US, which has long
been accused by Chavez of being behind moves to remove him, has called
on the Pres to carefully consider his position.

7 pm
NT detectives are puzzled by the killings of 2 women in the NT. It's
been confirmed the pair were "unregistered sex workers". According to
NT laws, unregistered workers are not allowed to work with a bodyguard
or driver. Sex workers in the Territory are calling for the laws to
be changed. The women's bodies were found by tourists in a river nr
Darwin. Their legs had been bound. A PM found they died by drowning.

Carl Suleman is behind bars tonight after he was found guilty of 4
counts of fraud. He was found to have lied about his bank balance
when be bought 2 luxury cars and a motor launch, shortly before the
collapse of his ISP "Froggy". He was found to have defrauded
investors in his company. While Suleman claimed to have $4 mn in his
bank account, it was later found he had only $32,000 cash.
11 pm
With fresh reports the Coal'n is closing in on OBL in Afghanistan,
Tony Blair says now is not the time to "err on the side of caution".
Mr Blair made the comments in the past few hrs, in a speech analysts
say tries to head off the continued attacks by anti-war members of the
Labour Party. But the carefully-written speech may have the opposite
effect. Mr Blair argued the war on Iraq was just the opening salvo in
the war on terror -- giving it even more importance for anti-war
critics. Mr Blair's speech also comes after key Blix comments. The
former UN weapons chief has said the Brit govt was wrong to go to war,
and did not assess its intel critically. Yesterday Blix renewed his
argument GWII was technically illegal, since it required a specific
UNSC Res to authorise military action. In his speech today, Blair
ack'ed his opponents have valid arguments. But he maintains war with
Iraq was the right thing to do.
Blair said critics should stop attacking his integrity. It was a
judgement he'd made. He could not ignore the threat of global terrorism,
he said. It was unlike any threat the world had faced before.
Blair also called for the UN to be re-structured to better fight the
internat'l war on terrorism.

The Chinese PM has ack'ed the gap between rich and poor in China is
too wide. He told the opening session of Parliament the govt was
taking a raft of new measures to tackle the problem. The new policies
would see a growth rate of 7% this y -- a 2% slow down. In rural
areas, people are complaining about the cost of health care and
education, the PM said. He said wages in rural areas were growing
too slowly and some people were being left behind.

A local official in Afghanistan says he's rec'd credible info that
Osama bin Laden narrowly escaped capture in the Pakistan tribal areas
last wk. Pakistani security forces has been searching S Waziristan
last wk, although Pres Musharraf denied troops were hunting for OBL.
But the Afghan official says he's received a message from a former
Taliban official, who says he received a fax message saying OBL was
alive and well after escaping back into Afghanistan. The fax was
rec'd 3 days ago. It says OBL had escaped attempts to catch him in S
Waziristan. Analysis say the claim, if true, is amazing. Given the
US will be watching all electronic forms of communications it's
amazing the info came via fax.

In Russian, PM Fradkov has promised to reduce poverty, review the
armed forces, curb corruption, cut bureaucracy, raise the std of
living, and boost agriculture. The new PM has been confirmed by the
lower house of the Russian parliament. Fradkov won 80% of vote.
There were no surprises. Pres Putin controls the Duma. Fradkov told
the Duma he supports Putin's bureaucracy reduction program and
dependence on foreign natural resources. The latter may involve a
further crack-0downs on Russia's oil oligarchs. Fradkov has already
announced his deputy.

The Sri Lanka govt says it won't negotiate with a Tamil break-way
organisation in the E of the country.
The Iraqi Council is expected to shortly sign the interim Constitution
that will be in effect until after a yet-to-be-scheduled general

Amnesty Internat'l has launched a world-wide campaign to fight
violence against women. It quotes the report of a 50-country study
that finds 1/3 of woman are beaten, coerced into sex, or suffer some
other form of abuse, some time in their lives. Amnesty highlighted
violence against women and girls who had allegedly shamed their
families, or who didn't accept arranged marriages. The other focus of
AI's campaign is on times of conflict, when rape is used as weapon
against both women, as well as their husbands and families.

11.30 pm
Democrats in the US Congress have been trying to get to the bottom of
the Haiti regime change. With the Bush Whitehouse making much of
democratic processes, there's a strong suspicion it's a matter of
convenience. Today, they were quizzing Roger Noriega -- asst Sec of
State for the W Hemisphere and Bush Admin's fixit man for S American
affairs. But Noriega was not giving straight answers to the questions.
Did Aristide leave of his own accord? Of course. Was it strongly
suggested to him that he leave? Hard to say.
Dems suspect Powell and the rest of the State Dept have again been
side-lined, with Bush policy implemented directly by Noriega.
But getting an answer from Noriega is good practice for a lifetime
skinning live electric eels.
Nearby, US Sec of State Colin Powell continued to argue former Pres
Aristide left Haiti of his own free will.
After maintaining the Bush Admin line for 48 hrs, Powell yesterday had
hinted that what needed to be done had been done.
Today he was back on-message.
As proof, Powell argued, the company that supplies Aristide's security
say the Pres was not forced out. His own security personnel
accompanied him when he left.
But that company is based in the US, and hires mostly former US and
Brit military personnel.
BBC World News could not get straight answers from a company rep in SF.
The rep says Aristide went voluntarily, but would not comment on the
details, saying it was against company policy.

Oil is trading higher this evening. ABC TV quotes "the" price at
$US37.03/bbl. The AUD is continuing to circle 75 US c -- as it has
for the past 24 hrs -- trading now at 75.05 US c.

Sat, 06 Mar 2004.

5 killed in Yemen mosque shooting
Avalanche buries tourists: Turkey
Hunt for bin Laden stepped up
Record snowfall strands drivers: Korea
Rescue for Arctic team prepared
Ashcroft in intensive care: US
Constitutional talks continue: Iraq
EU rules out FTA with the US
New Russian PM aims for reshuffle
Police block Nazi demo: Rome
Protest against King in Nepal
Dozens of Inca mummies found: Lima
More evidence of water found on Mars
Singapore to preserve WWII prison camp
Viking harbour found in Norway

Boy killed in Perth road rage attack
Searchers find body of boy: NSW
Verandah collapses at 21st party
Arson attack at soccer stadium: Vic
Storms hinder boat-people interview
70,000 homes without power after storms
Heavy surf closes GC beaches
Flood waters likely to rise: NSW
Yachtsman found safe and well: Qld
Women face biggest super shortfall
Hundreds to meet PM on sugar trip
Rail workers call 24-hr strike
Children targeted as military pilots
CityLink pays back over-charged users
350,000 expected for Mardi Gras

The Dow has ended the last session of the wk closing up 8 pts at
10,596. In London, the FTSE lost 23 to end at 4547. Gold is trading
around $US393.20/oz. The German Dax lost 8 pts to close at 4,126.

Sanaa. 5 people have been killed in Yemen and 30 others wounded when
a gunman opened fire outside a mosque. A security official says
Abdallah Ahmed Yahia Zeid Ghassan threw 2 grenades and sprayed bullets
at worshippers after mid-morning Friday prayers, killing 4 men and a
woman. The attacker fled from the scene and barricaded himself in his
home, besieged by local residents and police, before turning his gun
on himself. In his pocket, police found a letter saying he carried
out the attack because he wanted to rid his village of corruption.

Erzurum. An avalanche has buried 5 tourists from Britain and Canada
in the ski resort of Palandoken in E Turkey. The Turkish news
agency Anadolu says 4 were able to dig their way to safety, but the
5th, a 60-yo man, was found dead by rescuers. Authorities have closed
off the ski slopes in the area as a precaution against further avalanches

Seoul. Food has been flown in to thousands of motorists stranded on
South Korean highways as snowfalls wreak havoc with traffic and force
schools to close. South Korean officials say helicopters have
supplied food, water and blankets to people who've spent the night in
their cars, marooned in knee-deep snow on 2 key highways linking Seoul
with the southern provinces. Some 5,000 cars with 10,000 people have
been stuck on the Gyeongbu and Jungbu Highways for up to 12 hr.
Officials say the snowfalls have broken all records since official
statistics began in 1934.

NY. US forces have launched a new high-tech search operation to step
up their efforts to catch terrorist chief Osama Bin Laden. Spy planes
and satellite monitoring are being put in place along the mountainous
border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The move comes amid reports
that US forces are closing in on the world's most wanted man, who has
been sought since the Sep 11, 2001, terror attacks. A separate report
said today bin Laden recently narrowly evaded capture by Pakistani

Moscow. A dozen scientists stranded on a drifting Arctic ice floe
will spend a 3rd night in the remnants of their research station as
rescuers try to airlift them to safety. A rescue team's flown to the
Norwegian Spitzbergen archipelago to evacuate the scientists after a
10-m-high ice wall crushed their research station. Interfax agency's
quoted a spokeswoman for Russia's weather research centre as saying
the operation will start around 16.00.

Washington. US A-G John Ashcroft is in intensive care with a painful
illness involving inflammation of the pancreas. Justice Department
spokesman Mark Corallo says the 61-yo's suffering from a severe case
of gallstone-caused pancreatitis. Ashcroft became the top US legal
officer in 2001 after a bitter confirmation battle following his
appointment by US President George W Bush.

Baghdad. Negotiations for an interim constitution for Iraq will
resume on Monday after last-minute objections from Shi'ites delayed
the signing of the document today. A spokesman for the Iraqi National
Congress, one of the groups that forced the delay, says no agreement
is expected overnight and talks will resume on Monday morning.
Agreement on an interim constitution is a key step in US plans to hand
sovereignty back to Iraqis on Jun 30.

Washington. A top EU trade official has ruled out chances of the US
and the EU negotiating a free trade agreement. Karl-Friedrich
Falkenberg, director of the European Commission's trade office, has
told a group of lawyers and lobbyists the EU's top trade priority is a
successful conclusion of world trade talks. Those negotiations have
been revived in recent ms after a disastrous meeting last Sep in
Cancun, Mexico.

Pasadena. NASA's Spirit rover has found evidence of water activity in
a volcanic rock on the other side of Mars from where its twin,
Opportunity, discovered signs that rock had once been drenched. Ray
Arvidson, deputy principal investigator of the rover mission, says the
amount of water at Spirit's site would have been much less than what
is indicated at Opportunity's site. The new findings come from study
of a rock dubbed Humphrey that Spirit came across en route from its
landing site to a big crater.
Katmandu. About 10,000 demonstrators have marched through the streets
of the Nepalese capital Kathmandu in protest against the dismissal and
replacement of the elected government. King Gyanendra sacked former
prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba in October 2002, accusing him of
incompetence and failing to control the Maoist insurgency. Demonstrators
have been calling for immediate parliamentary elections, saying the
current government of PM Surya Bahadur Thapa is unconstitutional.
[Later reports say 91 people have been killed in shootouts between
govt soldiers and Maoist rebels].

Moscow. Russia's new PM, Mikail Fradkov, has pledged to slim down and
reshuffle the government and tackle a lumbering bureaucracy. The move
is responding to calls for more effective administration by President
Vladimir Putin, who nominated him earlier this wk and is cruising
towards re-election on Mar 14. Fradkov's told the State Duma, or
lower house, he will form a team more compact than that of outgoing PM
Mikhail Kasyanov, which had 24 ministers and 6 deputy premiers.

Rome. Rome's police chief has banned a weekend demonstration planned
by sympathisers of convicted Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke. Achille
Sera reversed an earlier decision due to what he says are heightened
tensions and the threat of counter-demonstrations On Wed Sera had
overridden Rome mayor Walter Veltroni after he refused to issue a
permit for the supporters of Priebke, who was convicted in 1998 for
his role in the massacre of 335 civilians during WWII. His supporters
want him released because of his advanced age.

Lima. Dozens of mummies dating back more than 500 y have been
discovered in Peru on the path of a proposed highway on the outskirts
of the capital Lima. Archaeologists have uncovered 26 burial bundles,
each containing at least one mummy. Archaeologist Guillermo Cock says
it's not known exactly how many mummies are at the site because the
bundles haven't been opened yet. He says they are the remains of
farmers and craftsmen, mostly textile workers.

Singapore. A symbolic part of Changi Prison, a notorious WWII POW
camp, will be saved from bulldozers that will level the rest of the
massive facility. The Singapore govt's decision comes after AUS,
Brit, and even many Singaporeans criticised plans to demolish the
still-functioning prison. The demo was to make way for a mega-complex
to be completed by 2005. A govt statement says it has decided to
preserve a symbolic part of the Changi Prison which has historical
significance and heritage value.

Oslo. Norwegian archaeologists say they've found the remains of a
harbour complex built by the Vikings 1,000 y ago -- the first of
its kind discovered in Norway. The Vikings were renowned for daring
voyages as far as North America in their open longboats which also
provided essential transport along this northern country's long coast.
The ancient harbour complex at Faanestangen, nr the W coast city of
Trondheim, was discovered when a local landowner started building a
small boat dock.
Perth. A 2-yo boy has been killed in a driveway rage attack in Perth.
Police say a family in a Commodore was involved in an argument with
the 40-yo driver of a Toyota about 9 pm WST last night in the S
suburb of Bentley. The family pulled over into the driveway of their
home in Mills Street to let the driver pass. But the driver of the
Toyota then allegedly accelerated up the driveway, hitting the
Commodore and crushing the 2-yo boy, who was standing behind it.

Sydney. Searchers have found the body of a 10-yo boy who was swept
into a flooded creek while crossing a causeway in N New South
Wales last night. The boy and his parents were trying to cross
Rowlands Creek to get to their house near Murwillumbah about 9 pm when
they were overpowered by a surge of water. A police spokeswoman says
the boy's body was found soon after the search resumed this morning,
not far from where he went missing.

Canberra. Imm Min Amanda Vanstone says some of the suspected asylum
seekers found on Ashmore Reef paid people smugglers up to $1,000 to
come to Australia. Storms off the West Australian coast yesterday
hindered immigration officials' plans to interview the group on board
the Customs vessel Dame Roma Mitchell, via satellite phone. Senator
Vanstone says interviews with 4 of the 15 so far indicate they are
Indonesian, and were dropped at Ashmore Reef by a boat.

Sydney. Flood waters are expected to rise to 8 m in parts of N
New South Wales with many evacuations expected later today. State
Emergency Service spokesman Phil Campbell says waters in Lismore are
expected to swell to 8 m by noon, with waters in Murwillumbah tipped
to rise to 3.7 m. Mr Campbell says it's likely a Lismore caravan park
will be evacuated. Wind gusts of up to 100 kph have accompanied the
rain which reached 150 mm in the Tweed catchment area yesterday

Brisbane. A French yachtsman has been found safe and well after
disappearing in rough seas off SE Qld overnight. A full-scale search
was launched this morning after the man phoned water police on his
mobile last night to report trouble with his yacht in Moreton Bay, N
of Brisbane. Rescue teams found the man just after 9 am AEST on the E
side of Green Island. He had sheltered his yacht from the rough winds
behind the island overnight but hadn't told police this morning that
he was safe and well.

Brisbane. About 70,000 people are still without power in SE Qld and
some face a 24-hr wait as Energex struggles after last night's violent
wind and rain. The intense storm included wind gusts of up to 120 kph
and caused widespread flooding and damage to homes. It's estimated
about 17,000 homes are without power in the Gold Coast hinterland,
around 8,000 in Brisbane and 11,000 N of Brisbane. Over 100 crews are
working to restore power.

Gold Coast. Dozens of Gold Coast beaches were closed today as huge
seas created dangerous swimming conditions and caused widespread
erosion. Several teenagers watching the big seas were rescued after
being swept off the Gold Coast Seaway, which was then closed to
spectators. Waves of 4 to 5 m are breaking on the beaches and the
swell is even larger out at sea. The Volunteer Marine Rescue station
at Point Danger says ocean swells peaked with a wave measuring 14.3 m
off Tweed Heads this morning.

Canberra. Financial services group BT warns Aussie women are facing
massive shortfalls in their superannuation savings to fund their
retirement. BT's customer relations dir Lisa Pogonoski says womens'
super savings are expected to fall short by 75% of the $300,000 target
needed to fund a comfortable retirement. Ms Pogonoski says the
problem is compounded by the fact that many women own a small business
and don't contribute to superannuation schemes.

Brisbane. 100s of cane growers are expected to meet with PM John
Howard today, as he visits Cairns and Mackay on a trip to hear the
concerns of the sugar industry. Mr Howard arrived in Cairns last
night after meeting with industry leaders at a meeting in Brisbane.
The meeting was also attended by Deputy PM John Anderson and Ag Min
Warren Truss. Mr Howard confirms he will increase the federal
government's rescue package for the industry, but declines to say by
how much or when a decision will be made.

Sydney. The RAAF is reportedly targeting children as young as 13 to
become pilots amid fears Australia will unable to cope with future
defence needs. A confidential internal report, obtained by the
Weekend Australian newspaper, says the RAAF's pilot system is deeply
flawed and employee dissatisfaction is rife. The newspaper says the
2002 report shows 2 in 3 qualified pilots are leaving the air force
within 2 y of completing their 10-y service obligation.

Melbourne. Up to 900 customers of Melbourne's CityLink are to be
reimbursed after a company program revealed they were over-charged to
use the toll road. CityLink chief executive officer Brendan Bourke
says the mistakes happened because customers used inappropriate e-tags
in their vehicles. Mr Bourke says most of them have multiple e-tag
devices, with one device registering higher tolls. Most of the
refunds are expected to be $100 or less, but in one case the refund
will be $1,600.

Melbourne. Arsonists are being blamed for a fire at a soccer stadium
in Melbourne's inner N. A Metropolitan Fire Brigade spokesman says
crews were called to the stadium in Bridges Reserve in Harding Street,
Coburg at about 4.25 am. He says firefighters managed to contain the
blaze with the assistance of the stadium's sprinkler system, to a
seating area and one room. The extent of the damage is not yet known.

Melbourne. Party-goers celebrating a 21st birthday in Melbourne's
inner N earlier today have escaped serious injury when a verandah
collapsed under them. Metropolitan Fire Brigade commander Wayne
Carlson says 9 people were injured when the timber verandah
collapsed, falling 3 m at the party in Coburg North just after
midnight. Fire authorities say the verandah collapsed because of
rotten wood which gave way under the weight of the party goers.
Sydney. More than 500 rail maintenance workers across NSW have called
a 24-hr strike because of perceived threats that RailCorp plans to
close 2 regional rail centres. Australian Manufacturing Workers'
Union state secretary Paul Bastian says members are angry that
RailCorp CEO Vince Graham this wk raised the spectre of Goulburn and
Bathurst rail maintenance centres being closed. Maintenance workers
will walk off the job for 24 hr from midnight tomorrow.

Sydney. Huge crowds are expected for this y's Gay and Lesbian Mardi
Gras parade in Sydney, despite grey skies and the threat of rain.
Organisers are expecting around 350,000 people, and police are hoping
the parade will be free of incidents. Surry Hills Local Area
Commander Graeme Waldron has told reporters he hopes everybody will
have a safe and enjoyable night but police won't be tolerating any
antisocial or criminal behaviour. Police are also asking spectators
not to bring glass bottles.

0.30 am
There seems to be a last-minute hitch in the signing Iraqi interim
constitution. 5 Shi'ite members of the Council have failed to turn up
for the final reading of the draft. The BBC says 2 problems that had
not been commented on before now seem to be at issue.

Libya has handed over a full declaration of its chem weapons programs.
It's disclosed large amts of chems used for nerve gases and other toxins.

2 am
US Gov of Iraq Paul Bremer is reportedly "livid" at the delay in
signing the new Iraqi Const'n. 25 pens had been laid out, the podium
was prepared, but the ceremony was cancelled. The deal had been
reached on Mon and was hailed by the US-appointed Council as "a major
step forward". But now some Shi'ites want to re-negotiate. They want
a joint presidency for Iraq, with 3 Shi'ites as members. They also
want to remove safeguards that would give minority groups veto powers.

Romano Prodi has called on Macedonians to press forward to join the
EU, in tribute to Pres Trajkovski who died in a plane crash last wk.

Dem Presid'l hopeful John Kerry has left open the possibility he might
attend D-Day commemorations in France. It would be the 60th anniversary
of the landings. He was in attendance for the 50th anniversary. Kerry
already has a "French connection" -- his mother was raised in Brittany.

US citizens in Moscow have been warned to keep a low profile ahead of
national elections. There are no specific threats but Russian officials
expect terrorist attacks. Americans have been told to particularly avoid
the 3 main religious shrines in Moscow.

According to an opinion poll in India, the BJP coal'n govt is set to
win a clear victory in nat'l up-coming elections. Analysts predict an
increase in 13 seats for the BJP, with the share of seats for coal'n
partners dropping by 8 seats.
Athens. Polls show the Greek elections will be very close on Sun.
The Socialists are trying for an unprecedented 4th consecutive term
amid charges of cronyism and corruption. In a bid to boost its
chances, the govt dropped the PM and re-drafted Papandreou. But both
50 yo politicians are regarded in some circles as insiders who helped
create the current problems. Greeks say education in particular has
been short-changed under the present govt. Small businessmen
complain they can't plan ahead because tax laws are always changing.
Locals say Greek laws make the US look like a tax haven. Greeks say
no matter who wins they expect changes the day after the elections.
There will be no rest of the next PM.

Perth. A child has been killed after a driveway argument between 2
drivers in Bentley. During the argument the child got out of car. He
was killed when the 2nd car rammed the other vehicle. The driver was
then severely beaten by family members.

Cairns. 70 sugar industry members are meeting with PM Howard,
about corruption in world sugar markets. Milling and sugar growing
are the 2 main industries in the shire. Growers say they need help to
move away from sugar. It's unlikely to be the $600 mn the industry is
seeking. "We come rather as good friends", said PM Howard.

Baghdad. The Iraq Council has announced the interim constitution will
be signed on Mon after a last-minute delay when some Shi'ite members
refused to attend the signing ceremony. The Council says there is
widespread consensus about the provisions of the Constitution, but
there is still some dialog on a sensitive issue. Rebel Shi'ite
members of the Council say they disagree with the provisions of the
"Basic Law" that allow minority provinces to block the will of the
majority of Iraqis.

NY. Martha Stewart has been found guilty on 4 charges of conspiracy,
lying and obstruction of justice. Known to mns for her TV shows she
was accused of lying to investigators about the reasons for selling a
small tranche of stock. The finding could mean a prison sentence for
the woman who epitomised American gracious home-making.

SYD. Cardinal Pell's 63 yo cousin will lead the Mardi Gras parade in
SYD tonight. She and her partner have fought for social justice all
their lives. She says she's not in the parade to "get at" George
Pell, but is calling for what every heterosexual couple is entitled to
under the law.

Haiti. 1000s of supporters of J B Aristide have marched in the
capital, demanding the return of the Pres. 10,000 demonstrators
called Bush a terrorist, hurled insults at US Marines, and complained
their country is now under US occupation.
The protest came as a council of "7 wise men" was established. The
wise men were selected by a tri-partite council -- a mixture of
Haitian govt and opp'n members and UN diplomats.
US Marines have so far met little resistance.
France already has 800 police and soldiers in Haiti. Canada says it
will send 450 soldiers within 24 hrs for policing duties, the
protection of "certain individuals" and the delivery of humanitarian
aid. They will stay 3 m.
The US says military teams have expanded outside the capital. They've
arrived in Cap-Haitien and Gonaives. Trouble is expected.
An adviser to rebel leader Guy Philippe says rebels will keep their
weapons as long as govt supporters are armed.
A new PM will be named within 1 wk.
S Af has added its voice to calls for an investigation into Aristide's
departure from the country. Aristide has not formally applied for asylum
in S Af. Analysts say it could cause problems during an election y.

12.30 pm
Chile. At the APEC security conf Canada has opposed any move for
pilots to carry weapons on aircraft. It made a strong statement
against the US policy. Weapons should be handled by trained,
dedicated professionals, and not aircraft crew said the Canadian rep.
US passed laws in 2002 to allow domestic pilots to carry firearms.
An Australian analyst has told the meeting al-Qaeda is developing a
range of new weapons and tactics to overcome security precautions
around the world.

1.30 pm
Rescue workers in SE Qld are relieved no major damage has been
reported after storms swept the area o'night, with driving rains and
winds of 130 kph. They say they'd been expecting far worse after
experience with a series of storms last wk. 5 people were rescued
when their cars became trapped by rising waters. Many power poles and
trees were downed, but most call-outs related to leaking roofs. Power
workers are still restoring power to about 70,000 homes.

Tony Blair critics have slammed his speech earlier today in which he
called for a re-organisation of the UN to fight world terrorism. They
say Blair should be moving to support the UN at a critical time, not
continue to undermine it's authority.

4 pm
3 people have been arrested and police say they expect to arrest 3
more after a fight in Light Square in Adel this afternoon.

Rainfall is expected to reduce the crowds at tonight's Mardi Gras
parade in SYD.

6 pm
A controversial wildlife project is being hailed a success. Grey
wolves were re-intro'd to Yellowstone National Park, Cal, 70 y after
they had been exterminated. The original handful of wolves has now
grown to 300. As hoped, the wolves have thinned out elk herds. The
predation has allowed other species room for grazing. Plant species
have also benefited. The ripple effect is still being tracked by
scientists. The project has been such a success that wolves may be
taken off the endangered species list. That will please nearby
ranchers, who say cattle losses are on the rise.
8 pm
China's military is on the march. This y the govt has announced a 12%
increase in military spending. The official figure is $US25 bn, but
the real number is probably double that. The hike was announced at
the annual People's Congress. Even at the expanded pace, it will take
many more ys to modernise China's military. But Japan has voiced
disquiet at the expansion. Even more worried is Taiwan.

9 pm
Qld. 30,000 homes, mostly on the Sunshine and Gold Coasts, are still
without power this evening after they were knocked out last night by
storms with winds of 130 kph. Around 150 repair crews have been out
all day re-connecting customers.

Sun, 07 Mar 2004.

1 dead,1 injured in avalanches: AUS
10s of 1000s march against Venezuelan president
2 Christians axed to death: Egypt
2 dead as TV news chopper crashes
50,000 demonstrate against reforms
6 die in botched attack: Palestine
6 killed in botched suicide bomb attack at Gaza Strip
Airlines baulk at anti-terrorism costs
As US watches, Iraq warms to an old enemy
Blast hits Moscow apartment block
Blast rocks Moscow apartment block: police
Bomb found nr Baghdad hotel
Brit launches probe into Iraqi firefight
Bush rejects campaign ads criticism using Sept 11 images
Chalabi: "blame CIA, not me" over WMD
Foreign troops brace for protests in Haiti
Iraqi leaders beak off talks
Israel raids Gaza refugee camp
Libya to sign nuke check protocol
Malaysia holds 6 Indonesian Islamist militants
Mexico given concession on border
Red Cross delivers Saddam message
Russian billionaire richest in UK
Russian researches rescued
Russians aided Iraqi missile program, US says
Secret service chief a murder suspect
Shiite leaders discuss Iraqi constitutional impasse
US threatens sanctions against Syria: officials
US, Afghan forces kill 9 militants, capture 14
War crimes team heads to Iraq
Water taxi capsizes,10 missing: US
Woman gets "extras" in her salad

2 dead in flash flood in N NSW
2 men shot during SYD pub fight
ALP backs Homeland Security Dept
Access to English program extended
Ashmore asylum seekers to return to Indonesia: Vanstone
Clean Up Australia Day Underway
Downer welcomes Changi decision
Flood waters continue to threaten far-north NSW
Govt probes S Africa war graves vandalism
Labor still concerned about FTA
Live animal trade struggles
Man arrested in NSW over Israeli grenade attack
Man attacked by shark: WA
Mardi Gras defies the drizzle
Most GP'S see 30-40 patients a day
Organ donor registrations soar
PM promises to help sugar industry
Police injured in street brawl in Adel
Search for ultra light underway
Siev-X asylum seeker memorial planned for CBR
Springborg to announce cabinet Mon
Storm aftermath delays repairs

Moscow. A blast in a Russian apartment block has destroyed at least 8
flats and trapped people under the rubble. Interfax news agency is
quoting police as saying the most likely reason for the blast in
southern Moscow is a gas explosion. It's not yet clear if there are
casualties. Emergency workers are evacuating people from the 12-storey
building. Gas explosions are common in Russia, but the explosion will
have rattled nerves ahead of next Sunday's presidential elections.

Blast rocks Moscow apartment block: police
Moscow (AFP). A powerful blast ripped through an apartment block in
Moscow early Sun, police said. The blast was caused by a bomb,
ITAR-TASS quoted a police official as saying. There were children
among the people lying under the rubble, whose exact number was not
immediately clear, the news agency quoted rescuers as saying. The
blast, which rocked a building in the S of Moscow, occurred at 04.00
am (0100 GMT) and destroyed at least 8 apartments, ITAR-TASS quoted an
official with the emergencies ministry's Moscow office. Security had
been stepped up across Russia amid fears of terrorist attacks in the
run-up to the March 14 presidential poll, in which Pres Vladimir Putin
is all but certain to win re-election to a 2nd term.

Cairo. Several hundred police have been sent to a town in southern
Egypt after a Muslim man axed 2 Christians to death. The Muslim
farmer hit the 2 Coptic Christians with an axe in a brawl that broke
out when his donkey slipped on a wet dirt road outside their house in
the town of Salamun, 500 km south of Cairo. The killing has
triggered fears of revenge acts and sectarian clashes and authorities
are saying the suspect is mentally ill in a bid to pacify the population.

Baltimore.   US authorities say a water taxi carrying about 24
passengers has capsized in Baltimore's Inner Harbour. They say at
least 2 of the 12 people rescued are seriously injured and 10 are
missing. They say a storm that hit the city at about the time of the
accident may have caused the vessel to capsize.

Graz. Avalanches in Austria have killed a man and injured a woman.
The APA news agency says a 39-yo man skiing on Kalbling Mountain
in Liezen set off an avalanche. His 13-yo son alerted mountain
rescue authorities, but the victim was dead when dug out of the snow.
A second avalanche buried a 31-yo woman off-trail ski touring on
Veitsch Mountain. Police say she came to rest with one hand poking
out of the snow and her 2 companions were able to dig her out --
injured, but alive.

Tokyo. 2 people are dead and 2 missing after a helicopter chartered
by a television company to cover a traffic accident in central Japan
crashed and exploded. Police say 2 bodies were recovered from the
crash site at Nagiso town, some 200 km west of Tokyo. They say the
helicopter appears to have hit power lines. The 4 people in the
helicopter included a 26-yo female reporter, a male cameraman in
his 30s and a pilot and mechanic in their 50s.

Chalabi: "blame CIA, not me" over WMD
Baghdad (Reuters). Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmed Chalabi says
he is tired of being blamed for misleading the US about Iraqi weapons
of mass destruction (WMD) and points the finger instead at the CIA in
an interview with CBS's 60 Minutes to be aired on Sun.
Chalabi, who heads the Iraqi Nat'l Congress exile group and has close
ties to the Bush Admin, says the CIA should have done a better job
analysing info received from defectors he steered their way.
"This is a ridiculous situation," says Chalabi, who still maintains
that WMD will be found in Iraq.
Chalabi said the CIA knew defectors could be biased and that even the
press was saying "defectors have an ax to grind, don't believe them".
"Now you're telling me that despite all this public evidence, the
United States govt took our word without checking out the people?"
Chalabi said incredulously .
"Intel people who are supposed to do a better job for their country
and their govt did not do such a good job."
Chalabi, who was born into a prominent Iraqi family but spent 45 y
outside Iraq before returning in Apr, denies coaching defectors,
something the CIA believe he's done for ys, according to a former
CIA analyst interviewed on the show.
The analyst, Ken Pollack, who now works for the Saban Center for
Middle East Policy and for CNN, said the Bush Admin used the info to
label Iraq an imminent threat.
Pollack said they were looking "to simply confirm a preconceived
notion of an extremely threatening Iraq ... on the cusp of acquiring
the most advanced ... dangerous weapons".
Pollack blames snr US officials, not Chalabi.
"This is one of those ... 'fool me once shame on you, fool me twice
shame on me'," said Pollack.
"Chalabi has a track record. We knew this guy wasn't telling us the
A defiant Chalabi said he was eager to further defend himself.
"I want to be asked to testify in the US Senate in the Intel
Committee. I want to do this in an open session," he says.

Russians aided Iraqi missile program, US says
Washington (NY Times/IHT). A group of Russian engineers secretly
aided Saddam Hussein's long-range ballistic missile program, providing
technical assistance for prohibited Iraqi weapons projects even in the
y just before the war that ousted Saddam, US officials say.
Iraqis involved in the missile work told US investigators that the
technicians had not been working for the Russian govt but for a
private company. But any such work on Iraq's banned missiles would
have violated UN sanctions, even as the Sec Council sought to enforce
Though Iraq ultimately failed to develop long-range ballistic missiles
and though even its permitted short-range missile projects were fraught
with problems, its long-range missile program is now seen as the main
prohibited weapons effort that Iraq continued until the war was imminent.
After the 1st Gulf war in 1991, Iraq was allowed to keep only crude
missiles that could travel up to 150 km, or about 145 km. But the
Russian engineers were assisting Baghdad's secret efforts illegally to
develop longer-range missiles, according to the US officials.
Since the invasion of Iraq last March, American investigators have
discovered that the Russian engineers had worked on the Iraqi program
both in Moscow and in Baghdad, and that some of them were in the Iraqi
capital as recently as 2001, according to people familiar with the
intel on the matter.
Because some of the Russian experts were said to have formerly worked
for a Russian aerospace design centre, which is closely associated
with the state, their work for Iraq has raised questions in Washington
about whether Russian officials knew of the experts' involvement in
forbidden missile programs. "Did the Russians really not know what
they were doing?" asked one person familiar with the US intel
reports. A rep for the Russian Embassy in Washington denied any
knowledge of the allegations of recent Russian technical support of
Iraq's missile effort. "The US has not presented any evidence of
Russian involvement," said Yevgeny Khorishko, the embassy rep.
Russia and the former Soviet Union were among Iraq's main arms
suppliers for decades before Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, leading to
the 1st Gulf war.
The Bush Admin has previously said it had uncovered evidence that Iraq
unsuccessfully sought help from N Korea for its missile program, but
the Admin had not disclosed the evidence that Iraq also received
Russian technical support.
CIA and White House officials refused to comment on the matter. People
familiar with the intel say they believe that the Admin has been
reluctant to reveal what it knows about Moscow's involvement in order
to avoid harming relations with Pres Vladimir Putin. "They are
hyper-cautious about confronting Putin on this," said an intel source.
In public testimony last wk about the threats facing the US, George
Tenet, the director of central intel, restated Washington's concerns
about Russia's controls over its missile and weapons technology,
without mentioning the evidence of missile support for the Saddam
govt. "We remain alert to the vulnerability of Russian WMD materials
and technology to theft or diversion," he said. "We are also concerned
by the continued eagerness of Russia's cash-strapped defence,
biotechnology, chemical, aerospace and nuclear industries to raise
funds via exports and transfers -- which makes Russian expertise an
attractive target for countries and groups seeking WMD and
missile-related assistance."
The Iraq Survey Group, the US team that has hunted for evidence of
banned weapons, also found indications that Baghdad had received
assistance from sources in Belarus, Serbia and Ukraine, according to
US officials.
In an interim report on the progress of the Iraq Survey Group released
in Oct, David Kay, then the CIA's chief weapons hunter, reported that
his group had found "a large volume of material and testimony by
cooperating Iraq officials on Iraq's effort to illicitly procure parts
and foreign assistance for its missile program." It listed several
examples of assistance from foreign countries, but apart from N Korea,
no other countries were identified. American teams have still not
found conclusive evidence that Iraq had any chemical, biological or
nuclear weapons, raising doubts about one of the US's main reasons for
the war. Since resigning his post in Jan, Kay has said he believes
that Iraq largely abandoned the production of banned weapons after the
first Gulf war and that it destroyed its remaining stockpiles in the
'90s. But Kay has said the evidence shows that Iraq tried to upgrade
its ballistic missiles. In interviews with Iraqi scientists,
examination of documents and other sources, the survey group
determined that Iraq was actively seeking ways to upgrade its crude
missile abilities to try to build a rocket fleet that could become a
regional threat capable of reaching US forces in neighbouring
countries. US officials say that the UN restrictions that allowed Iraq
to keep missiles with ranges of up to 150 km had an unintended
effect. From the Iraqi perspective, it meant that it was still legal
for Baghdad to continue some missile development activities. Iraq took
advantage of the loophole permitting short-range missiles to seek
foreign advice on technical matters, with the goal of developing
vehicles with greater range and accuracy than its previous missiles,
according to officials familiar with the intel.
In his Oct report, Kay said Iraqi detainees and other sources had told
US investigators that, beginning in 2000, Saddam approved efforts to
develop ballistic missiles with ranges from 400 to 1,000 km.
Still, the evidence gathered by the survey group suggests that Iraq's
development efforts were poorly organised and ultimately unsuccessful.
"They had too many scattered programs, and so they didn't focus their
efforts on any one missile," said one person familiar with the intel
on the matter.

Bush rejects campaign ads criticism using Sept 11 images
Washington (AFP). US Pres George W Bush put down criticism of
televised advertisements for his re-election campaign, which flash
images of the Sep 11 attacks, insisting he will "never forget the
lessons of that day". "I will continue to speak about the effects of
9/11 on the country and my presidency," Mr Bush said at a joint press
conference with Mexican Pres Vicente Fox at the US Pres's ranch.
"I'll continue to mourn the loss of life of that day, but I will never
forget the lessons of that day," when more than 2,700 people were
killed in attacks with hijacked airliners orchestrated by the Al Qaeda
terrorist network. "I have an obligation to those who died," Mr Bush
said, adding, "I look forward to the debate about who is the best to
run this country in the war against terror". Mr Bush, a Republican,
is set to run against Democratic Sen John Kerry in the Nov 2 general
election. Families of victims of the Sep 11, 2001 attacks called on
Mr Bush to pull images of the horrific attacks from the ads.

Crawford. US President George W Bush has given Mexican President
Vicente Fox a concession on his push to ease border restrictions. The
move comes as the 2 leaders seek to rebuild a friendship soured by the
Iraq war and shifts in US foreign policy after the September 11, 2001
attacks. As he and Bush wrapped up a 2-day meeting at the US
president's ranch, Fox confirmed he'd received a pledge to allow some
Mexicans who travel frequently to the US to bypass requirements they
be photographed and fingerprinted each time.

Airlines baulk at anti-terrorism costs
Vina del Mar, Chile. An APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation)
security summit has been told that commercial airlines cannot afford
expensive systems to defend themselves against terrorist attacks. The
threat from shoulder-fired missiles nr airports was a major theme at
the counter-terrorism conference. An executive from the Boeing
Corporation said the expense of anti-missile systems was prohibitive.
He said the cost would be between $7 and $14 bn pa, just for
American planes. The conference concluded anti-missile systems were
not viable and the threat could not be eliminated. However, it called
for greater efforts to control the trade and sale of shoulder-fired
missiles. The conference is taking place at Vina del Mar in Chile.

Malaysia holds 6 Indonesian Islamist militants
KL. Malaysia is holding in detention 6 Indonesians caught returning
from a Jemaah Islamiyah militant training camp in the S Philippines, a
snr security official told Reuters on Sat.
Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a Southeast Asian offshoot of Al Qaeda, was
behind the Bali bombings in late 2002 and the suicide bomb attack on
the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta last y.
The security source said the 6 men were caught several wk ago, but
their arrest kept quiet.
"They were all Indonesians on their way home from the S Philippines
where they had been at a JI training camp," the source told Reuters.
They were discovered among a boat load of illegal immigrants arrested
while trying to enter Malaysia's state of Sabah nr Sandakan, a port on
the NE coast of Borneo, just across the Sulu Sea from the islands of
the S Philippines.
It is a favoured route for militants.
There is large flow of illegal migrants through Borneo as the island
is shared between Indonesia, Malaysia and the tiny sultanate of
Brunei, and the coastline and interior are hard to patrol.
The source said one of the men known as "Denny" was a trainer at a
camp hosted by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the restive
S Philippine island of Mindanao.
Philippines intel officials wish to question "Denny" and he may be
sent back, though for now all 6 men were being held in Kamunting
detention camp in N Malaysia, the source said.
Malaysia is holding some 72 Jemaah Islamiyah suspects, and up to 18
members of a local group called Kumpulan Militan Malaysia (KMM), under
a security law allowing detention without trial.
Around 46 of the prisoners in Kamunting began a hunger strike last wk
to protest the conditions of their imprisonment.

Man arrested in NSW over Israeli grenade attack
Byron Bay. A man has been arrested at Byron Bay on the NSW N coast
over a grenade attack on an Israeli police station 4 y ago. 33 y old
Hezl Bohadana was taken into custody last Mon after a major
surveillance operation. He is wanted in Israel for the attempted
murder of Israeli police, illegal use of explosives and conspiracy to
commit serious crimes. Mr Bohadana appeared in a closed sitting of
the Lismore Local Court court last wk. He was remanded in custody to
appear in a SYD Court on Apr 14, while a formal request is made from
Israeli authorities for his extradition.

War crimes team heads to Iraq
Washington (AP). A team of 50 US Justice Dept prosecutors,
investigators and support staff is en route to Iraq to assemble war
crimes cases against former president Saddam Hussein and others in his
former regime, a snr official said.
The goal of the effort is to sift through 1000s of pages of evidence
and provide a 'road map' for Iraqis to use when they eventually bring
Saddam and others in his Admin before war crimes tribunals.
US officials want the world to view the trials as an Iraqi process,
not one run by Americans or other foreigners.
The US team includes main Justice lawyers, FBI agents, US Marshals
Service members and others involved in the fed criminal justice
system, said a snr Justice Dept official.
"It's one piece of the internat'l effort to assist the Iraqis in
putting together these proceedings," said the official, who spoke on
condition of anonymity.
"They are learning how to put together a legitimate legal system."
The Iraqi Governing Council has already set up tribunals consisting of
3 panels of 5 judges each, with 9 other judges to serve on an
appeals panel.
The timetable for a trial of Saddam, who was captured by US forces on
Dec 14, is not yet clear, nor are the charges that might be brought.
The Justice Dept team will be assigned to a new Regime Crimes
Adviser's Office run by the Coalition Provisional Authority, which is
headed by US administrator Paul Bremer.
The office will also include legal officials from other countries,
including Great Brit, Spain and Poland, the Justice official said.
The legal developments were 1st reported by The NY Times on its
internet site.
The newspaper also quoted Salem Chalabi, an Iraqi lawyer in charge of
the war crimes issue, as saying the trials might not begin until late
this y and that Saddam might not be the 1st defendant.
According to the newspaper, Chalabi said Iraqis want to avoid giving
Saddam an internat'l platform to try to justify his actions, as former
Serbian leader and Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic had done in
his war crimes trial at The Hague, Netherlands.
"We don't want the tribunal and people like Saddam to be the principal
teller of the history here," the Times quoted Chalabi as saying.
"We want to bring very specific charges."
The Justice Dept has sent dozens of other officials to Iraq in the m
since the war ended to help create a modern, democratic legal
system. These officials have trained judges, prosecutors, defence
lawyers, investigators, police and prison personnel, among others.

Amman. The International Committee of the Red Cross says it has
delivered a message from ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein to his
eldest daughter Raghad who lives in Jordan. The ICRC is unable to
give any details or discuss the nature of the message. But says it
will take a message back to Saddam from any member of his family in
keeping with the humanitarian agency's policy. Raghad and one of her
sisters, Rana, have sought refuge in Jordan with their nine children
since July 31.

Baghdad. Iraq's leaders are taking a 2 day break from formal
talks, but it's still hoped the interim constitution will be signed
into law on Monday. But council members are warning the the whole
agreement -- which was supposed to have been signed at a special
ceremony yesterday -- is now in danger as deep ethnic differences
resurface. The delay arose after Shi'ite Muslim leaders argued that
the constitution could give the Kurdish community a technical veto
power at a later date when a referendum is to be held on Iraq's
permanent constitution.

Shiite leaders discuss Iraqi constitutional impasse
Baghdad (AFP). Iraq's Shiite political leaders have expressed hopes
of soon endorsing the country's interim constitution, one day after
virtually derailing the process just as it was due to be signed.
5 Shiite members of the US-installed Governing Council and party
leaders have been meeting over the weekend with Iraq's most
influential cleric to thrash out again the wording of parts of the
repeatedly delayed basic law.
Shiite Muslims, in the majority in Iraq, argue that a clause in the new
temporary constitution could give the Kurdish community veto power at
a later date when a referendum is to be held on Iraq's permanent
They also object to the inclusion of Kurdish as an official language
and want a 5-person presidency, dominated by 3 Shiite members,
rather than the current system of a Shiite president with Kurdish and
Sunni deputies.
Despite scuppering a high-profile signing ceremony Fri, Shiite council
members remain cautiously optimistic that they can agree among themselves
by Mon, but it is unclear whether their new formula will please
"The law will be signed Mon, God willing, we are trying to find a
formula that will satisfy all the parties," Shiite council rep Muwaffaq
al-Rubaie said, who has been involved in talks in the holy city of Najaf.
"We are going to stay tomorrow and perhaps Mon morning in the hope
that we can reach an understanding," he said.
The undoing of what appeared to be a done deal was a new twist that
angered other leaders in a wk marked by day and night political
wrangling and the bloodiest attacks in Iraq since dictator Saddam
Hussein was ousted in Apr.
Asked what the consequences would be if the 25-member council failed
to approve the text, Hatem al-Hassani, a deputy to Sunni Muslim council
member Musin Abdul Hameed, said, "then we would have a very big problem".
"This would send a very damaging message to the people of Iraq and to
the rest of the world."

Bomb found nr Baghdad hotel
Baghdad. US soldiers in Iraq say a suspected bomb has been found in a
bag on a street next to Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, where many
foreigners are based. They say a dog detected the bag and that a
check confirmed it contained explosives. An explosives team is now on
the way to the scene. US troops are preventing all people from
walking down the street, where a number of shops are located.

Brit launches probe into Iraqi firefight
Basra (AFP). Brit has launched an investigation into a firefight in S
Iraq that injured 7 Brit soldiers and left 3 Iraqis dead, the Defence
Ministry says. The Brit soldiers came under small arms fire while on
routine patrol in a village nr Basra on Fri. "A crowd of people
started to gather in the village which is when the situation started
to become more hostile, they called for back up and started to come
under sustained heavy fire," a defence ministry rep said. The Brit
troops were attacked with heavy machine guns and a rocket propelled
grenade, and a nearby patrol had to be called in to get them to
safety. It is thought 3 Iraqis were shot dead during the firefight,
and it is not known if any more were injured, said the defence
ministry rep. She was unable to say why the fighting broke out,
whether the dead Iraqi were civilians, or to give any more details
about the investigation.

As US watches, Iraq warms to an old enemy
Baghdad (AP). With the ouster of Saddam Hussein, Iraq has begun a new
friendship with Shiite Iran, a move that up-ends decades of US policy
that sought to keep the 2 Persian Gulf nations apart.
Shiite Muslims, who comprise 60% of Iraq's 25 mn people, were long
oppressed under Saddam's Sunni-dominated regime.
Now Shiites are headed for control of Iraq's next govt, a move
expected to build strong relations between the 2 former enemies, who
spent 8 y locked in a war that saw a mn killed and wounded.
Washington appears to be resigned to the new state of affairs.
"We've known for a long time that the next govt was going to be
Shiite," said Gregg Sullivan, the US State Dept rep for Near Eastern
affairs. "That doesn't mean it has to be a Shia religious govt, but
we're not ruling that out, of course."
In the future, a democratic and Shiite-run Iraq could influence Iran,
Sullivan said. But for now, it is Iran that is helping shape Iraq.
On Fri, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, an Iranian citizen
and Shiite leader based in S Iraq, had a hand in scuttling the signing
of Iraq's interim constitution. Al-Sistani thought it should be more
favourable to the Shiites.
Other Iraqis who lived in exile in Iran are now among the most
powerful figures in Baghdad.
Perhaps the biggest sign of rapprochement is the throwing open of the
long-sealed border. For ms, some 10,000 Iranian pilgrims have
crossed the border each day, flooding religious shrines in Iraq's holy
cities of Karbala and Najaf.
On Tue that opening turned tragic, when bombs exploded in crowds
of Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad and Karbala on the holy day of Ashoura.
Iranians made up a quarter of the 181 dead and 553 injured.
After the blasts, Tehran asked its citizens to avoid Iraq until the
country stabilises. But there is little doubt on both sides of the
border -- and in Washington -- that the invasion of Iraq has led to a
new friendship.
In recent m the 2 countries' dignitaries have made several official
visits to each other's capitals. There are plans afoot to build a
cross-border oil pipeline and has been talk of abolishing travellers'
"There will be very close ties on all levels, in trade, in security,
in investment," said Entifadh Qanbar, a rep for a Shiite member of
Iraq's Governing Council, Ahmad Chalabi. "Iran is a huge country. It
could be a great market for Iraq."
The US and Iran have been at odds since Islamic revolutionaries ousted
Iran's US-backed shah in 1979 and held US embassy workers hostage for
more than a y.
Since then, the US govt has sought to keep Iran and Iraq apart.
The US played both sides of the Iran-Iraq war. The Reagan Admin gave
intel and weapons to Saddam, while secretly arming Iran and sparking
the Iran-Contra scandal of 1986.
After the Gulf War in 1991, the US declined to back Iraqi Shiites'
rebellion against Saddam, in part to prevent an Iran-backed regime
from taking power. Tens of 1000s of Shiites were slaughtered and Iraq
endured 12 more y under Saddam.
Now, Iran-backed Shiites are taking power anyway.
Iran played its cards wisely, nurturing an Iraqi Shiite bloc without
acting to destabilise Iraq, said Davoud Hermidas Bavand, a university
professor in Tehran.
For 2 decades, Iran sheltered the Supreme Council of Islamic
Revolution in Iraq and its leader Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, who returned to
Baghdad last y and became a powerful member of the Governing Council.
"Iran accepted the US invasion and occupation knowing that under
democratic principles the Shia would come to dominate Iraq," said
Jeremy Binnie, an analyst with the Jane's Group in London.
Some analysts see the 2 countries forming an alliance that vies for
regional dominance with pro-American Sunni-led regimes in Saudi Arabia
and the Gulf.
But as support for Iran's mullahs dwindles, a democratic Iraq may wind
up influencing Iran, Sullivan said.
Already, Iraq's reopened Shiite shrines are eclipsing those in Iran.
And Iraq's more progressive Shiite leaders, like al-Sistani, are
emerging as counterparts to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
"Iraq's ascendance in the Shiite world is not going to sit well with
Iran," Sullivan said. "I'm not so sure [Tehran] is enthused about
Sistani's emergence. I think there will be more and more Shia groups
turning away from Iran and toward Iraq."
Lebanon's Hezbollah, a Shiite party whose armed wing has been branded
a terrorist group by the State Dept, is one of those groups, Sullivan
"There's even talk that Hezbollah has already been looking toward Shia
leaders in Iraq and travelling to Iraq to visit the holy sites," he said.

US, Afghan forces kill 9 militants, capture 14
Paktika, Afghanistan (Reuters). American and Afghan troops have
killed 9 suspected Islamic militants during a gun battle in the
eastern province of Paktika the US military said, in one of the
heaviest clashes reported in recent ms.
In separate operations, 14 suspected rebels were detained in a US air
assault in the E on Thu and 2 snr Taliban cmdrs were captured by
Afghan forces on Fri after an attack on a post nr the Pakistan border
killed 7 govt soldiers.
The clash involving US forces on Fri began when they opened fire on a
group of 30 to 40 armed men apparently trying to move to the side of
their sniper position E of Orgun-E, 170 km S of Kabul, in order to
launch an attack.
"They were armed, they were acting in a hostile manner, so we fired on
them and then we pursued them with the Afghan Nat'l Army," US military
rep Lt-Col Bryan Hilferty told a news briefing in Kabul.
"9 of them were killed in that battle, and there were no coalition
At least 10 US snipers from a special operations task force in
Afghanistan were involved in the battle, supported by a nearby
battalion of Afghan troops.
The rest of the group of suspected guerrillas fled.
The clash was one of the largest reported in recent m between the
13,000 US-led troops in Afghanistan and their local allies and Islamic
militants from groups including the ousted Taliban militia and Al Qaeda.
Remnants of the Taliban have declared a "jihad", or holy war, on
foreign forces and their Afghan allies and aid organisations which has
seriously undermined security and stability, especially in the S and
* Militants held
In a separate incident on Thu, 14 suspected militants were captured at
a compound N of the eastern town of Khost.
Troops from the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment
launched an air assault and found 100 mortar rounds, 100 RPGs, rifles
and other ammunition at the compound.
"We had intel that led us to a compound N of Khost," Hilferty said,
declining to comment further on the nature of the intel.
The 14 suspects are being questioned.
In Spin Boldak, a town on the Afghan-Pakistan border in the S province
of Kandahar, cmdr General Fati Khan said 2 snr Taliban cmdrs had been
caught by local forces.
Khan identified the cmdrs as Mullah Naeem and Mullah Abdul Rahim.
They were arrested along with 40 other militant suspects in an
operation to hunt down the assailants involved in Thu's attack on a
checkpoint in which 7 soldiers died.
The US military and its Afghan allies are hunting Al Qaeda and Taliban
fighters mainly in the S and E of Afghanistan.
American forces have shifted away from large-scale operations to
deploying smaller outfits into rural areas where they spend several
days in each location to build relations with locals and improve intel
The prime targets are Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, his deputy Ayman
al-Zawahri, Taliban supreme cmdr Mullah Mohammad Omar and renegade
warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

6 killed in botched suicide bomb attack at Gaza Strip
Gaza (Reuters/ABC, Jane Hutcheon). At least 6 Palestinians have been
killed in a botched attack nr the Erez crossing between Israel and the
Gaza Strip. 12 Palestinian police were wounded in the attack. 3
militant Palestinian groups, Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the Al Aqsa
Martyrs Brigades have claimed responsibility for the attack. It
involved 3 vehicles, 2 of them made to look like Israeli army jeeps.
The 1st vehicle was a car driven by a suicide bomber, who detonated
his device killing only himself. Soldiers killed the occupants of one
of the jeeps after they opened fire. They later found 2 Kalashnikovs,
10 magazines and 10 hand grenades in the vehicle. A 2nd jeep was
blown nr a Palestinian police post, killing the attacker and 2 policeman.

Gaza. Israeli forces have swept into a refugee camp in the Gaza
Strip, killing at least 3 Palestinians in gun battles hrs after an
attack by militants at the Israel-Gaza border. Witnesses say dozens
of armoured vehicles took part in the apparent sweep for militants in
the Bureij camp in the central Gaza Strip. Earlier, six Palestinians
were killed during a failed assault by militants in fake Israeli army
jeeps at the Erez crossing.

Vienna. Libya will sign the UN nuclear watchdog's
additional protocol this wk to show how serious it is about giving up
weapons of mass destruction. The International Atomic Energy Agency
board will meet on Monday to discuss resolutions on Iran and Libya's
previously undeclared nuclear weapons. Diplomats say Libya is
expected to sign the additional protocol at the meeting, but they say
discussions on Iran's resolution have been more difficult.

US threatens sanctions against Syria: officials
Washington (ABC, Lisa Millar). The US appears set to impose sanctions
against Syria for its continued support of terrorist groups. Senior
White House officials say Syria has not done enough to stop militants
entering Iraq. US Pres George W Bush is expected to impose the
sanctions under a new law allowing the US to punish Syria for its
alleged support of radical Islamic groups and weapons programs. White
House officials say the sanctions are coming but the severity and
timing has not been revealed. It is expected economic rather than
diplomatic sanctions will be imposed. Egyptian leaders say the US is
just trying to pressure Syria and will go no further than threatening
sanctions. Admin officials say the decision is imminent.

Foreign troops brace for protests in Haiti
Port-au-Prince (AFP). US and French troops patrolling the volatile
Haitian capital are bracing for more demos by both supporters and
opponents of ex-president Jean Bertrand Aristide.
Opp'n leader Evans Paul called for a march to the heavily guarded
presidential palace on Sun, one wk after Mr Aristide resigned and fled
to exile in Africa under pressure from Paris and Washington and as
insurgents closed in on Port-au-Prince.
On Fri, 1000s of Aristide supporters, some carrying concealed weapons,
staged a noisy protest outside the palace, protected by US Marines
backed by tank-like armoured trucks.
Protesters said they would stage a counter-demo Sun when the opp'n
takes to the streets.
The city was generally calm as US and French troops patrolled the
streets on foot and in all-terrain vehicles, at times together with
Haitian police officers.
Angry mobs had gone on a rampage of violence and looting following Mr
Aristide's departure.
Since the patrols started on Wed, the armed insurgents who had made a
triumphant entrance in the capital after Mr Aristide's departure have
kept off the streets.
They have yet to lay down their weapons, as rebel leader Guy Philippe
vowed they would do.
A top US general has urged the rebel leader to make good on his promise.
"To the best of my knowledge, Mr Philippe is still in the city and we
are still working with him to lay down his weapons, which he promised
he would do and which we believe he will do," General James Hill said,
who heads the US S Command.

Secret service chief a murder suspect
Belgrade (AP). Serbian PM Vojislav Kostunica has appointed a close
aide as his new secret service chief, despite his arrest as a suspect
in the assassination of a chief of govt.
Rade Bulatovic was a security adviser while Kostunica was president of
Yugoslavia, the predecessor state to Serbia-Montenegro.
He also was among dozens of suspects that the police said were part of
the plot to kill former PM Zoran Djindjic.
He was arrested on March 12 last y and held for several wks, accused
by police of aiding assassins by promising that the army -- then
controlled by Pres Kostunica -- would not intervene.
Bulatovic was never charged, and Kostunica has called his detention a
"political" move by his rivals. In his new post, he replaces Misa
Milicevic, according to a govt statement.
The appointment came only days after Kostunica and his Cabinet took
office, replacing the pro-Western govt of former PM Zoran Zivkovic.
Kostunica took part in a pro-Western coalition that ousted former
president Slobodan Milosevic, now on trial in The Hague, Netherlands,
for war crimes.
But Kostunica fell out with other pro-democracy leaders and has been
criticised for seeking parliamentary support for his govt from
Milosevic's Socialists.

Tens of 1000s march against Venezuelan president
Caracas (AFP). Tens of 1000s of Venezuelans have marched through the
capital of Caracas protesting against Pres Hugo Chavez and insisting
on the validity of signatures gathered to force a recall vote. The
march began at 11.45 am local time, with protesters gathering at 6
points around Caracas and heading toward the central Avenida
Libertador, near downtown and considered a neighbourhood strongly
loyal to Mr Chavez. 2 earlier protests one wk ago and on Thu turned
violent, as protesters staged running battles with police in Caracas
and other cities. 8 people were killed and dozens more suffered
gunshot wounds. Some 3,000 security forces were deployed on the
streets, authorities said. At issue are some 3.1 mn signatures on
petitions seeking a recall referendum on Mr Chavez's govt. The
commission earlier this wk ruled that only 1.8 mn were valid -- well
short of the 2.4 mn needed to organise a recall vote. Talks between
the opp'n and electoral officials were set to continue on Sat local
time, in a bid to agree on a system to validate the petitions in

Istanbul. Around 50,000 people have gathered in Turkey's capital
Ankara to protest against government plans to reform the public
sector. Turkey's government is implementing a series of
reforms, promised to the International Monetary Fund under a $A25 bn
loan accord, after a punishing 2001 financial crisis. One of the
protesters has called for a general strike if the draft bill before
parliament is passed. The protest has largely been peaceful.

London. A new wealth list shows Russian oil magnate Roman Abramovich
is the richest person in Britain. London's Mail on Sunday newspaper
reports that Abramovich, who moved to Britain last y after purchasing
the Chelsea soccer team, is worth $A17.5 bn. The newspaper's annual
Rich Report puts Abramovich ahead of Hans Rausing, whose Tetrapack
packaging fortune is valued at $A16 bn, and landowner the Duke of
Westminster, who's worth $A11 bn.

Moscow. A dozen Russian researchers stranded on an Arctic ice floe
have climbed aboard a rescue helicopter and are headed for land.
Three days ago a large section of the floe about 600 km from
the North Pole disappeared into the sea, taking 4 of the research
station's six buildings with it. The Interfax news agency has quoted
Artur Chilingarov, a polar explorer and vice-speaker of parliament, as
saying all 12 scientists and 2 dogs are now aboard and are headed to

Sydney. Drizzling rain did not dampen the spirit of the Gay and
Lesbian Mardi Gras last night with up to 300,000 spectators lining the
streets for the annual celebration. Spectators began staking out
vantage points along the Oxford St course of the parade as early as
2.30 pm, toting eskies, milk crates and step ladders. Pre-parade
entertainment began around 6.50 pm with an estimated 35,000
people participating in a world-record attempt for the most number of
people dancing to popular Village People hit "YMCA".

Perth. A man is recovering in hospital after being attacked by a
shark while spear fishing off the mid-west coast of WA. The ABC says
the 47-yo man is under sedation in hospital after being bitten twice
on the leg by a bronze whaler shark. It's understood the man was
fishing off Cervantes, 245 km N of Perth, when he was attacked.

Canberra. The live animal export industry is continuing to struggle
with new figures showing a huge drop-off in sales. Meat and Livestock
Australia says live sheep exports slumped 62% during January while
cattle exports dropped 30%. The 2 industries combined are worth more
than $1 bn annually to the Australian economy. Australia has had a
ban on live sheep exports to the country's most important market,
Saudi Arabia, since August last y, after a shipment of animals were
rejected on disease grounds.

Flood waters continue to threaten far-north NSW
N NSW. Authorities are urging motorists on the far-north coast of NSW
to exercise caution today because of the threat of flooding. They are
expecting some local roads to be cut as floodwaters move downstream
from the towns of Lismore and Casino. State Emergency Service rep
Scott Hanckel says a close watch is being kept at Coraki, where the
Richmond and Wilson Rivers meet. "The flooding here in Lismore was
contained to minor flooding in the N Lismore area," Mr Hanckel said.
He says the conditions have so far caused relatively few problems.
"There was no major local flooding behind the levees at all in either
south or central Lismore," he said. "Flooding was very much contained
to the outer areas around the town -- it's mostly affected local roads."

2 dead in flash flood in N NSW
N NSW (AAP). 2 people died, including a 10-yo boy, as communities
adjoining several rivers in N NSW were deluged by torrential rain.
An SES rep said up to 200mm of rain fell on the NSW N coast in just 24
hr, with communities around the Tweed, Bellingen, Wilsons and Richmond
rivers the worst affected by flash floods.
Police said a boy was swept from his parents after a surge of water
overpowered the family as they tried to cross a causeway at Rowlands
Creek nr Murwillumbah about 9 pm Fri.
Losing sight of their son, the couple swam to safety, police said.
Deteriorating conditions forced emergency workers to call off an
initial search at midnight on Fri.
But a NSW Police rep said the boy was found close to where he
disappeared around 8.30 am when the search resumed on Sat.
An SES rep said the body of an elderly woman -- who has not yet been
identified -- was also recovered just after 12 noon from a
creek nr Nambucca Heads.
The woman was believed to have drowned, but police were yet to confirm
the circumstances surrounding her death.
The rep said sand-bagging of homes and businesses had kept flood waters
on the outskirts of most towns and no evacuations had been necessary.
Of the 110 emergency calls received, she said no major structural
damage had been reported, with most calls for help concerning fallen
The Tweed and Richmond rivers had reached peak levels and flood levels
were easing, while the Wilsons River was likely to have hit its peak
at midnight, she said.
"Even though the rain has stopped, there's still going to be flood
issues for the next couple of days," she said.
The SES warned people to avoid inundated areas, saying shallow waters
concealed dangerous objects and water flows were deceptive.
"We don't want people walking through shallow, fast-flowing flood
Conditions would remain unsafe until at least Mon, the SES said.
No major road closures were necessary.
Brisbane. More than 8,000 homes in SE Qld are still without power due
to the damage caused by high winds and rain on Friday. Energex says
local flooding around Tamborine and Bonogin on the Gold Goast hinterland
is hindering repair crews. The power supplier says it's called in
additional crews from Ergon Energy and Powerlink Qld to restore power
as quickly as possible to the affected areas. 7 helicopters were used
yesterday to survey the storm damage and help with repairs.

Ashmore asylum seekers to return to Indonesia: Vanstone
15 people have been found on Ashmore Reef, off W AUS's N coast.
Canberra. Imm Min Sen Amanda Vanstone says the group of 15 people who
arrived on Ashmore Reef last wk came to AUS from Indonesia to seek
work. She says the AUS Govt has contacted Indonesian authorities
about returning the group to Indonesia. Sen Vanstone says the 9 women
and 6 men have completed their interviews with immigration officials
and are believed to have been dropped at the edge of Ashmore lslands
last Tue night. Sen Vanstone says the arrivals have identified
themselves as Indonesian nat'ls, that most carried Indonesian identity
cards and 2 had Indonesian passports. She says some admitted to being
tricked by a people smuggler who had promised to bring them to AUS to
find fruit picking work. The Min says AUS Fed Police is investigating
their claims, including whether they each paid the people smuggler
between $400 and $1,000. They remain in the care of Navy and Customs
officers at Ashmore Islands.

Siev-X asylum seeker memorial planned for CBR
Canberra. A lobby group is confident it will be able to build a
memorial for asylum seekers on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin in
CBR. The SIEV-X nat'l memorial project group has asked school
students to design a site to remember more than 350 asylum seekers who
died when their boat sank between Indonesia and AUS in Oct 2001. The
group has held a preliminary meeting with the Nat'l Capital Authority
(NCA) about getting permission for a memorial to be constructed near
the lake. Organiser Steve Biddulph says there is widespread interest
in the idea. "The plan is to have the memorial completed by the 4th
anniversary of the sinking, which is Oct 2005," Mr Biddulph said.
"We've had letters of support from the ACT Chief Min and also spoken
to planning authorities, and we don't foresee any major problems in
having a memorial built somewhere on the shores of the lake." The
controversy over sinking of the Siev-X continues with calls for an
independent judicial inquiry into whether there was any culpability by
AUS authorities. Siev is the acronym for Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel.

Canberra. The government is extending access to the adult migrant
English program, declaring the ability to speak English must be a top
priority for those coming to Australia. Minister for citizenship and
multicultural affairs Gary Hardgrave says it's in the national
interest for all Australians to be able to speak English. He says the
government has allocated $500 mn to English tuition over the next 5 y
with $114 mn for English teaching this FY. He says the money will
fund teaching for 33,000 migrants a y.

Govt probes S Africa war graves vandalism
Canberra. The Fed Govt has requested an independent report on the
condition of AUS Boer War graves in S Africa. Reports suggest thieves
have stolen headstones and other markers from cemeteries, where
Aussies who died in the war more than 100 y ago have been buried. Min
for Veterans Affairs Danna Vale says the graves are the responsibility
of the Brit Govt but the Office of AUS War Graves has contributed
towards their maintenance since 1996. She says the office has
requested a report on the condition of the graves and will investigate
measures to ensure the veterans are remembered.

Canberra. FM Alexander Downer has welcomed the Singapore government's
announcement that it will preserve parts of the notorious Changi
prisoner of war camp. The Singapore government says it will preserve
a symbolic part of the still functioning prison, which is to be
demolished to make way for a mega-complex to be completed in 2005. Mr
Downer says Changi Prison is of immense historic and emotional value
to many Australians, particularly those who were interred there during
WWII and their families.

Canberra. The Australian Medical Association says doctors who rush
more than 100 patients a day through their doors without good reason
should be brought to account. The Daily Telegraph in Sydney yesterday
reported that eight GPs have been accused by the Health Insurance
Commission of seeing as many as 140 patients a day. AMA vice
president Mukesh Haikerwal says numbers like these aren't the norm for
Australia's 56,000 doctors. He says most GPs see 30 to 40 patients a
day and spend an average of 15 minutes with each.

Melbourne. A record number of Australians have signed up to be organ
donors since the death of cricketer David Hookes highlighted the
issue. Almost 5,000 people registered during Organ Donor wk this y
compared to 931 during the wk-long appeal last y. The cricket and
media personality who was felled by a fatal blow outside a Melbourne
nightclub was a passionate advocate of the cause. The foundation says
the national Organ Donor Register has received six times the normal
number of calls for a m, in the last 2 wk.

Sydney. 1000s of people are braving the rain in many parts of NSW to
help clean up Australia. Clean Up Australia spokeswoman Melissa Hayes
says more than 600,000 people are expected to participate in the
nationwide clean up at 7,000 official sites. She's advising people to
bring their own wet weather gear.

Cairns. PM John Howard has told sugar industry representatives he's
trying very hard to find a solution that is fair to the industry and
also fair to Australian taxpayers. Mr Howard spent 2 hr in Cairns
yesterday listening to the concerns of cane growers, mill operators
and local mayors. He says people in the industry are facing a
difficult time because the heavy subsidies paid in many countries are
corrupting the world sugar market. The industry has called for up to
$600 mn in assistance funding.

Canberra. Opp'n leader Mark Latham says Labor still has strong
reservations about the benefits of the free trade agreement between
Australia and the US. But he says the Opposition will hold
its judgement until after a full parliamentary inquiry. Mr Latham has
told the Nine Network the release of the 1,100-page FTA is throwing up
more issues and concerns. He says there are 35 Australian
agricultural products that, if they do well in the US and the prices
there fall, the tariffs will be reactivated.

Brisbane. Qld Opposition leader Lawrence Springborg is set to
announce a shadow cabinet of National Party MPs tomorrow as coalition
talks with the Liberal Party go nowhere. Talks between the parties
broke down last wk after they failed to agree on who would hold the
deputy opposition leadership role and which party would contest seats
on the Gold Coast at the next state election. Nationals State
President Terry Bolger says Mr Springborg hopes the shadow cabinet
will include the 5 Liberal MPs who he campaigned to see elected at the
recent poll.

Canberra. Labor has renewed its pledge to create an over-arching
homeland security department to guard Australia's borders and fight
terrorists. The pledge follows a fact-finding trip to the United
States by Opposition homeland security spokesman Robert McClelland.
Mr McClelland's told the Ten Network the US experience of a department
of homeland security indicates significant benefits of merging the
customs, immigration and quarantine arms.

Police injured in street brawl in Adel
Adelaide. A police officer has been hurt and 2 patrol cars damaged in
a wild brawl at Morphett Vale in Adel's S overnight. Neighbours in
Louisa Street and Booth Avenue called police after a gathering of
about 30 youths became rowdy at about 1.00 am ACDT this morning. SA
police were pelted with missiles, with one officer being hit by a
bottle and the windows of 2 patrol cars smashed. Back-up was called
in and the youths scattered when the police helicopter and Star group
police officers arrived. Several people were arrested and charged
with street offences.. In a separate incident, a man remains in a
critical condition after suffering head injuries in a fight with
another man at hotel at Paralowie overnight. Police say the 29-yo man
from Enfield was taken to the Lyall McKewon Hospital, but later
transferred to the Royal Adel when his condition worsened. Police are
asking anyone who witnessed the fight to contact them.

2 men shot during SYD pub fight
Sydney (AAP). 2 men have been shot in SYD's south, with one of the
men in a critical condition and undergoing surgery after taking a
bullet in the back. The 2nd man is in a serious but stable condition
after being shot in the arm at the St George Hotel on Canterbury Road,
Campsie, at around 11 pm Sat. A police rep said the pair were
shot after a fight broke out between a security guard at the pub and
several men. The rep said a number of shots were fired during the
fight, and both injured men were taken to St George Hospital for
treatment. A hospital rep said the man who was shot in the back was
in a critical condition and was undergoing surgery. "One is in a serious
but stable condition and remains in the hospital's emergency dept,"
she said. "And the other is in theatre and he's in a critical

Brisbane. A search is underway for an ultra light aircraft missing on
a flight between Moranbah and Charters Towers in Central Qld. The
pilot of the bright yellow aircraft left Moranbah at 6.15 am AEST
yesterday and hasn't been seen since. A spokeswoman for the
Australian Search and Rescue Coordination Centre says the pilot was
the only person on board the aircraft. She says searchers are
scouring an area of more than 4000 square km for the aircraft. Anyone
who might have seen the aircraft is asked to call 1800 815 257.

Chicago. A woman in the US state of Ohio has found part of a
restaurant worker's thumb in her salad. Stark County health
commissioner William Franks says the woman thought it was gristle or
something similar when she tried to chew the unexpected garnish. He
says that physically the woman's okay, apart from hysteria. The
restaurant employee had apparently sliced off the tip of his thumb
while chopping lettuce at the Red Robin restaurant near Canton.

1 am
At least 3 Palestinians have been killed when vehicles disguised as
Israeli military jeeps attacked posts at a C Gaza border crossing.
The Army says the vehicles came from the Palestinian side. They say a
man had got out of a vehicle and started shooting. The Army says he
was shot dead by soldiers. A 2nd vehicle subsequently exploded nr an
Israeli security post.

Sir Lankan Tigers say they've expelled a rebel leader who announced
earlier he wanted a separate peace deal with the C govt. They said
they were relieving the Col in the E because of his betrayal of their
cause. The said he was a lone individual without supporters. But
they wouldn't say why the Col had decided to split from the main LTTE,
saying only he had been "prompted by malicious elements".

The Thai Energy Min has announced the privatisation of the country's
largest power company has been postponed indefinitely. The announcement
follows protests from 1000s of power company employees who warned of
the loss of jobs and higher electricity prices.

Russia has successfully rescued 12 scientists and 2 dogs that had been
trapped on an ice floe for 3 days. All are said to be well. Most of
the scientists' research stn was destroyed on Wed. They'd spent 3
nights huddling in the remains of their base. 2 choppers flew in
today from Spitsbergen. They located the group and landed on the ice
floe. The base had been a drifting research centre, studying climate
change. The researchers got a close up and personal illustration of
climate change when the ice cracked and rose up in a 10 m wall,
crushing their base and supplies, earlier this wk.

Cypriot diplomats say a solution to their island's re-unification is
slipping away. The comments came after a meeting in Ankara between
Cypriot and Turkish officials.
7.30 am
Chile. An APEC security summit has been told it's not possible to
eliminate the threat of shoulder fired missiles from nr airports. It
calls for the greatest internat'l cooperation to limit their
availability. The missile can be bought for as little as $US40,000 on
the black market.

At least 6 people have been killed nr Erez crossing, C Gaza Strip.
Israeli military sources say 3 vehicles conducted a co-ordinated
attack. The 1st vehicle was driven by suicide bomber. It blew up nr
an ind'l zone. Soldiers opened fire on a 2nd vehicle. The gunmen and
driver inside were killed. A cache of weapons was later found in the
vehicle. A 3rd vehicle blew up on the Palestinian side of the border.
Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsar Martyrs Brigades have claimed

Police have seized 2 firearms in W SYD after a shooting incident at a
pub o'night. Shots were fired during an argument between security guards
and several patrons. 2 men were shot and are recovering in hospital.
A security guard was shot in the arm. A 2nd man was shot in the back,
and is in critical condition. Police hope to speak to both men later

2 young Ipswich girls have been dragged to safety from a swollen ck
o'night. A police officer says the 12 and 13 yo girls were hanging
from a branch in the middle of the ck when he arrived. He swam out
and pulled them in with the help of a 2nd officer. The girls had
apparently been walking on the ck bank and got swept into the middle
by the rush of water.

SYD. Clover Moore says NSW Labor govt has badly misjudged the public
anger over the forced amalgamation of the S SYD and SYD councils, and
the dismissal of the SYD council.

The Fed Govt has launched an "urgent investigation" into the desecration
of Aussie war graves in S Africa. It's reported the grave of executed
digger "Breaker" Morant has been vandalised.

A NSW man was attacked by a bronze whaler shark yesterday.

A new hotline to dob in a car hoon has opened for residents of NW MEL.
The area has been "terrorised" by illegal street racers in the

The (AUS) Sun Mail says an opinion poll shows the Fed Coal'n would
have lost 6 marginal seats in Qld if an election were held last wk.

The Guardian has summarised the key speech delivered by Tony Blair
yesterday. Blair underlined the war on terror and the future role of
the UN. The editorial says it's a long time since Blair made a more
thoughtful speech about the war on terror. We live in an interdependent
world, it says with a constant threat of internat'l terrorism. But
the papers says Blair is wrong about GWII. Iraq was not the source of
the threat about which Blair is warning.

The NY Times says that following a Whitehouse directive dozens of war
crimes investors are going to Iraq. The investigators will gather
evidence to be used in the war crimes trial of Saddam Hussein and other
regime officials. The secret order was signed by Conny Rice, says the
paper. It directs the US-appointed Iraqi govt to start investigations.
The war crimes trials will be be run by Iraqis.

A German court struck down a const'l amendment that would have allowed
fed authorities to tap phones. The court told the Fed Govt citizens
had a right to be left alone in their own homes.

Iraq Shi'ite leaders say they hope to endorse the country's interim
const'n "soon", but they won't say when.

Food and supplies have been air-dropped to 1000s drivers stranded on S
Korea's motorways. 2,000 cars were caught for 8 hrs in record
snowfalls. The weather bureau says 49 cm snow fell in the past 24
hrs. 20,000 soldiers and 8 choppers have been deployed to rescue

In Qld a 51 yo woman has died o'night after she was swept away by
floodwaters. She's the 2nd person to die from the heavy rains. A 10
yo boy was drowned yesterday. Officials warn of continued storms.

Up to 300,000 people lined the streets of Gay Sydney o'night to watch
the Mardi Gras parade . Numbers were only slightly down due to the
inclement weather. The after-parade dance party was sold out. For
the first time in 2 y all 17,000 tickets were sold, making it one of
the largest dance parties in the world.

Lib MP Chris Pyne has admitted PM John Howard will hand over power to
Peter Costello soon after the next election, should the Libs win. His
comments to a TV program contradict the PM's continued assurances and
comments from Tony Abbott and other snr Mins. Mr Costello has pointedly
this wk refused to rule out challenging Howard for the leadership even
before the election, widely expected to be held in Nov.

A group of suspected asylum seekers found on Ashmore Reef on Fri have
told customs officials they had been there for 3 days.
Customs officers have been interviewing 15 Indonesian-speaking people
overnight, who say they paid people smugglers as much as $1,000 to
take them to Ashmore Reef off the NW coast of AUS.

The US appears set to impose sanctions against Syria for its continued
support of terrorist groups.

A letter that former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein wrote to his
family from US custody has been delivered to his eldest daughter in
Jordan, the Red Cross says.

4 pm
There's been a marked decline in Fins taking the ferry ride to Estonia.
With the country cutting its 40%+ liquor tax this wk, and Denmark
having done it last y, Sweden is now under pressure to lower its
alcohol taxes. With liquor prices the highest in the EU, there's
speculation it will have the lowest domestic sales. Sweden has one of
the strongest temperance movements in the world. But the next stage
of the booze war is over the horizon -- when Latvia, Lithuania and
Estonia to join the EU next y. They have among the lowest alcohol
prices in Europe.

The battle is on for enforce US-style security at the up-coming
Olympic Games. Greece has had to cough up $US750 mn to cover the costs
-- the latest bill of any Games. Although Greece has good relations
with Arab countries, that's no guarantee of a trouble-free
Olympics. But Olympic officials have more to worry about than
al-Qaeda. The left-wing mayor of Nicosia is protesting against the
security measures, along with many other Greeks. The Games have seen a
swag of security cameras installed in public areas, and many are not
happy -- incl the mayor. "Suggestions" have been issued to the public
to sabotage the cameras. Any many of the cameras have been put out of
commission with black spray paint. Slogans have been scrawled on
security booths. The mayor says terrorism is not so much a matter of a
problem with people, but a problem with "imperialist institutions". If
he wants to flirt with a nice lady, he says, he doesn't want any
security guard spying on him while he does it.

5 pm
7 Palestinians have been killed and another 20 injured after the Israeli
army conducted 3 raids into refugee camps in C Gaza. The raids happened
in the dead of night and sparked strong fighting in the camps. Israel
says it was a pinpoint raid to break terrorist infrastructure.

6 pm
In Greece, with voting underway, the conservatives say their internal
polling shows they are 4% ahead of the socialist govt.

6.30 pm
14 people have died in Turkey, as heavy rain led to widespread
flooding across the country.

In Korea, the record snow storm is credited with causing $200 mn in

The Imm Dept says it's ID-ed the people found on Ashmore Reef earlier
this wk. They are Indonesian nationals who'd been told they could
obtain work as fruit pickers. They were tricked into paying people
smugglers, but had been dumped on the reef a couple of days before
they were found. They were bee returned to Indonesia next wk.

While lawyers are busy organising an appeal for Martha Stewart,
analysts are examining the case for what it might say about a line-up
of other white-collar criminals. CBS has pulled Steward's lifestyle
show from its 191 stns. No matter what happens to her company, she
could be banned from running it if the SEC succeeds in a civil suit
accusing the home-style guru of insider trading.

Scotland is dealing with climate change. While some ski resorts are
using hi-tech to keep the runs open, rising temps and falling
snowfalls have seen 2 resorts put up for sale in the last few wks.
Snowfall is down 30% over long-term averages.

Mon, 08 Mar 2004.

At least 15 die in Turkey floods
More bloodshed in Haiti
Furious Palestinians to retaliate
24 Chinese miners trapped
Iraq's interim constitution stays
Rockets fired at US Iraq HQ
Cyclone slams Madagascar
N Korea signals new demands
US urged to scrap Libya sanctions
Greek conservatives sweep to power
Chavez warns US against invading
QEII urges C'wealth to tackle poverty
NZ and Tonga reach agreement

More leadership speculation
Govt considers extending bonus
Beattie welcomes open inquiry
10 overdose on party drug
International Women's Day
White powder found at mail centre
Costa disappointed with strike
NSW Health Commission powers boosted
Clean Up Australia Day a success
Penguins found washed up on beach

Ankara. Anatolia news agency reports that 15 people have been killed
in floods and avalanches in eastern and south-east Turkey. The
hazardous conditions have been triggered by torrential rains and
melting snow over the past 2 days. The agency says the latest
victim's a 7-yo girl whose body was found 700 m from her house after
she was swept away yesterday by floodwaters in Cat, E Turkey.

Port-au-Prince. The toll during an opposition rally in Haiti's
capital has risen to at least 6 dead and 26 wounded. Medical sources
and witnesses say the dead include a Spanish television journalist. A
rebel leader whose troops helped depose president Jean Bertrand
Aristide more than a week ago says he's ready to take up arms again
after gunmen opened fire on the rally. Guy Philippe has told local
Radio Vision 2000 he'll be obliged very soon to order his troops to
take up the arms they laid down under US pressure.
Israel. Furious Palestinians have vowed to carry out retaliatory
strikes in the heart of Israel as a mass funeral was held for victims
of an army raid that left 14 dead and nearly 100 wounded. A crowd of
more than 10,000 gathered to pay their last respects for 13 of the
victims. They were killed in the early-morning operation at the
Nusseirat and neighbouring Bureij refugee camps.

Najaf. Iraq's interim constitution will be signed tomorrow without
changes being made to the text and despite the reservations of the
country's top Shi'ite cleric. The interim constitution was due to
have been signed on Fri. However 5 Shi'ites balked at the last minute
after it emerged that Sistani, Iraq's foremost cleric who holds immense
influence over the 60% Shi'ite majority, had objections.

Baghdad. Iraqi police say guerrillas have fired 10 rockets at the HQ
of the US-led administration in Baghdad. The attack's come on the eve
of the planned signing of an interim constitution for Iraq. Police
say there are no casualties from the blasts. They say the rockets had
been fired from a parked car and the attackers fled leaving behind
other explosives in the car along with 2 rockets that had not been fired.

Damascus. Syria has urged the US to reconsider a bill threatening to
impose sanctions for allegedly supporting terrorist groups. Also it's
called for dialogue to resolve differences between the 2 countries.
Syrian Trade Min Ghassan Al-Rifai says dialogue, patience and
understanding are always the answer to conflicts. George W Bush
signed a bill permitting sanctions against Syria for its support of
Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the US is still
debating what penalties if any to apply.

Antananarivo. Tropical cyclone Galifo has hit the Indian Ocean island
of Madagascar and rescue officials say as many as 50,000 people could
be left homeless. Interior minister, General Soja says there is little
information available on the damage, but they are sure the situation is
serious. Soja says this is because Galifo has hit regions and cities
which were already seriously affected by cyclone Elita less than 1 m ago.

Seoul. N Korea has threatened new counter-demands in the stand-off
with the United States over Pyongyang's nuclear program. In a report
carried on the official KCNA news agency, NK says it may insist on the
withdrawal of US troops from South Korea, and a verifiable and
irreversible security guarantee from Washington. The report says it
will raise the stakes if the US fails to drop its demand that
Pyongyang completely, verifiably and irreversibly dismantles its
nuclear weapons programs.

Beijing. Rescuers are desperately trying to save 24 Chinese coal
miners trapped underground by flooding. The official Xinhua News
Agency reports 49 coal miners were underground at the No 2 Mine of the
Hami Coal Co in China's north-western Muslim Xinjiang region when the
flooding occurred. The deputy director of the Xinjiang Bureau of Coal
Mine Safety says 25 miners escaped and another 15 were known to be alive
after contacting the surface by telephone. The fate of the other 9
miners is not known.

Athens. Conservatives have ended a decade of socialist rule in Greece
with a resounding election victory. Their success hands new PM Costas
Karamanlis the challenging job of overseeing this year's Olympic
Games. Socialist leader George Papandreou has conceded defeat in the
face of exit polls indicating a win of around 5 points for the New
Democracy party.

Caracas. Venezuelan Pres Hugo Chavez has vowed to freeze oil exports
to the US and wage a 100-year war if Washington ever tries to invade
his country. The US has repeatedly denied ever trying to overthrow
Chavez. However the leftist leader has accused Washington of being
behind a failed 2002 coup and of funding opposition groups now seeking
a recall referendum on his presidency.

London. Queen Elizabeth II says Commonwealth nations must tackle
hunger and poverty if they wish to strengthen democratic rule. The
Queen's Commonwealth Day message is being broadcast today throughout
Britain and its former colonies, including Australia. The queen says
a Commonwealth summit in Nigeria last December emphasised the link
between democracy and development.

Auckland. NZ and Tonga have completed bilateral trade negotiations as
part of the smaller South Pacific nation's bid to join the World Trade
Organisation. NZ trade negotiations minister Jim Sutton says the
agreement is a significant step forward in Tonga's bid for WTO
The countries have reached agreement on the terms for entry of goods
and services to Tonga after it joins the organisation. Tonga
submitted its application for accession to the WTO in 1995.

Sydney. A-G Philip Ruddock says PM John Howard remains the undisputed
leader. Mr Ruddock says the Liberal Party has an outstanding leader
in Mr Howard who has delivered effective leadership to Australia and
continues to do so. He says the only speculation about Mr Costello
challenging for the top job comes from people in the media who want to
make it an issue. However Treasurer Peter Costello has again refused
to rule out a challenge to PM John Howard ahead of the next election.

Sydney. The Fed Govt is reportedly considering extending a cash bonus
worth $10,000 a year tax-free to more pensioner retirees who stay in
the workforce as a further step in encouraging baby boomers to fund
their own retirements. Family and Community Services Min Kay Patterson
is reportedly examining ways to ease the eligibility requirements for
a cash bonus now available to retirees who defer claiming the age
pension and continue to work.

Brisbane. Qld Prem Peter Beattie has welcomed the idea of an open
inquiry into the so-called wine affair. Opp'n Leader Lawrence
Springborg says he wants the inquiry after a bottle of red wine was
found on a government jet when it flew into an alcohol-restricted
Aboriginal Community on Cape York Wed last wk. Aboard the jet were
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy Min Liddy Clark who
received a carpeting from the premier.

Sydney. A leopard suit, a glass eye and a beer keg made up part of
the 8,383 tonnes of rubbish volunteers picked up around the country
today, on Clean Up Australia Day. Some 677,000 people braved poor
weather in some states to take part in the nat'l initiative. The
volunteers descended on more than 7,000 sites including 1,628
roadsides, 753 parks and 1,682 waterways and coastal areas.

Brisbane. A white powder that's made seven postal workers itchy after
it leaked from an envelope at a Brisbane mail sorting centre, has
proved to be non-toxic. Police say they've tracked down the addressee
on the envelope and have been told the powder is herbal incense.
Ambulance officers treated mail workers at the suburban Cleveland
sorting centre for minor irritation after they touched the leaked
powder around 4.30 am AEST today.

Melbourne. 10 people are in hospital after overdosing on the party
drug known as Grievous Bodily Harm during a Melbourne rave.
Metropolitan Ambulance Service spokesman James Howe says paramedics
were repeatedly called to the dance party at Rod Laver Arena between 1
am and 8 am today following reports people had collapsed after taking
GBH. Mr Howe says one man in his 20s is in a critical condition in
the Alfred hospital and nine others are in serious condition.

Sydney. A series of fund-raising breakfasts marking International
Women's Day are being held this week to draw attention to the plight
of disadvantaged women. The UN's Development Fund for Women held a
fund-raising breakfast in Sydney this morning for women in South
Pacific nations. Sex-slave trafficking on the Thai-Burma border will
be the focus of the week's biggest event -- the International Women's
Development Agency breakfast to be held next Sat at the Sydney Town Hall.

Sydney. NSW Transp Min Michael Costa says he's disappointed that rail
maintenance workers have pushed ahead with today's 24-hr strike. Mr
Costa says he fully supports RailCorp chief Vince Graham in his
handling of the matter. Also he says the Australian Manufacturing
Workers Union has failed to act in good faith by by-passing the normal
avenues of consultation and ignoring a recommendation by the NSW
Industrial Relations Commission to abort the action.

Sydney. The NSW Health Care Complaints Commission will have its powers
strengthened and snr staff removed under changes made by the state govt.
Also a separate body will be set up to look at systemic problems
within the Health Dept. Prem Bob Carr says the commission has been
too focused on extending its own areas of responsibility. He says it
needs to refocus on its core objectives of investigating patient and
staff complaints about health care.

Melbourne. 100s of dead and injured penguins have been found washed
up along Victoria's SW coast over the past wk. Phillip Island Nature
Park acting research manager Rosalind Jessop says some of the bodies
will be sent to an expert vet to determine whether or not they died of
starvation. Dr Jessop says this year's breeding season was later than
usual at Phillip Island. The nature reserve has urged people who find
dead penguins to contact the centre.

Israeli troops have killed at least 14 Palestinians in raids on 2
refugee camps in C Gaza. The dead incl at least 4 boys aged no more
than 8 yo. More than 15 others have been wounded. The Army is now
withdrawing from Gaza. 100s of armed Palestinians took to streets to
repel Israeli armoured vehicles and tanks. Israel says their forces
were met with anti-tank missiles, explosive devices and heavy gunfire.
There were no Israeli casualties.

Political figures in Iraq say there's been progress into the signing
of the interim Basic Law. Following a meeting, key Shi'ites say the
document will be signed on Mon. They emerged after direct talks with
Ayatollah al-Sistani in Najaff. One said the Const'n would be signed
despite deep reservations by the Ayatollah. His objections broke off
the planned signing on Fri. He's repeatedly said the interim Const'n
should not deal with fundamental issues because it's been decided by an
unelected body.

The Bush Admin has confirmed a ship containing the last of Libya's
nuclear equipment is on its way to the US.

Brit Home Sec Blunkett is on his way to the US. While in Washington,
he will discuss the possibility of simultaneous terror attack on both
sides of the Atlantic. There will be an exercise to simulate the
dual attack scenario. You can't prosecute or punish a suicide
bomber, says Blunkett, you have to prevent the attack, and pre-emptive
action may be necessary. He says the internat'l community should
debate now, not wait until after an attack as happened in the US after
9/11. A syndicate of terror networks wants to destabilise the US, Brit
and the world economies, says Blunkett.

The anti-Chavez Opp'n in Venezuela has promised not to abandon its
campaign to depose the Pres. 100,000 supporters marched in the capital
today. Their leaders said they would not be intimidated by govt
authorities. They converged on the centre of Caracas from 6 different
directions. They're angry the govt will double-check signatures on a
petition calling for a recall referendum. The govt says 1/2 the
signatures are from dead Venezuelans or foreigners.

Sydney. Australian stocks were pushed closer to all time highs by
noon today, driven by strong performances in the financial and
resources sectors. The All Ords was 11 points stronger at 3427. Its
all-time intra-day high is 3443.

(*) Who is responcible for W.A.R.S? A small group of dedicated
sandgrubbers, bannana-lickers and 5th columnists on the run from
support payments and sundry legalese in their home countries. Mention
us at any Uncle Harry's Suburban Bunker and get a 10% discount on cop-

All speling macroizated for correctitood by Mcrosotf Speelchek.

*** Please stand by for further orders from The Leader ***

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