- The Washington Times - Monday, February 3, 2003

Insider notes from United Press International for Feb. 3 …

Gen. Eric Shinseki became the first U.S. Army chief to visit India Monday on a visit that will take him up to the disputed Kashmir frontier for briefings on Pakistan-backed infiltration, rising ominously again despite the winter weather. His Indian hosts, who include Defense Minister George Fernandes, are also pushing an unusual request. India has traditionally come under the Pentagon's Pacific Command (a U.S. Navy fief) while Pakistan comes under Central Command (run by the U.S. Army). India wants to come under the Central Command system because of its strategic priorities over Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Arab world and Persian Gulf in general, and it also wants to bring Army and Air Force co-operation with the United States up to the high level of the naval links, where joint exercises are now routine. A highly realistic joint training exercise is now being planned for later this year between F-15s of the U.S. Air Force and India's Russian-supplied Su-30.

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Had he stayed much longer, Shinseki might have run into an extraordinarily high-powered delegation from France that is heading for New Delhi this week. Led by Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the team includes France's ministers of Finance, Infrastructure and Transport, New Technologies and the minister of state for Foreign Affairs. Top industrialists and bankers, including the head of France's employers' federation, make up a total of 170 in Paris's seduction mission — all intending to embody President Jacques Chirac's statement that France "has made a strategic choice in favor of India."

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European Parliament President Pat Cox faces a difficult decision Tuesday that could finally collapse Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority. Cox must decide what to do about demands from a quarter of his members for an official inquiry into the increasingly well-based claims that the EU's monthly $10 million subsidy to the Palestinian Authority is being used to fund terror. EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten has been battling for more than a year to head off these charges, but without success. Now Patten says he is prepared to settle for a watered-down inquiry by a joint working group of members from the Budget, Budgetary Control and Foreign Affairs committees. But even the author of this compromise plan, German Christian Democrat Armin Laschet, has written to his fellow members calling for the monthly subsidy to Arafat's PA to be suspended. The paper trail of PA documents seized in Israeli raids into the West Bank makes a powerful case for a proper inquiry — which might also want to examine why Patten and the commission have been so determined to stop this scandal from blowing up.

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As a result of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's disastrous defeat in two state elections Sunday, Germany is likely to have a woman president next year. In Germany, presidents are elected by the Federal Assembly, which consists of all members of the lower house of parliament and an equal number of state legislators. As the 16 state legislatures are now overwhelmingly in the hands of the right-of-center Christian Democrats, they will dominate the Federal Assembly. Several CDU leaders have already announced they favor a woman for the nation's highest, though largely ceremonial office, currently held by Social Democrat Johannes Rau. A name frequently mentioned is that of Petra Roth, Frankfurt's attractive and tough mayor. Some CDU politicians seem to have an ulterior motive for promoting her or other women candidates: Two ladies at the head of Germany — a president and a chancellor — would be one too many. So if the president were female, the chancellor would have to be male, which would preclude CDU leader Angela Merkel's elevation to chief of government after the next federal elections in 2006.

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Dutch prostitutes are up in arms about plans by Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen to impose a night curfew on the capital's legendary red light district. Cohen, who was the Labor party's candidate for prime minister in last month's general elections, wants bordellos to shut up shop at 1:00 a.m. However, the plan has been slammed by prostitutes union Vakwerk and lobby group De Rode Draad. The two organizations fear hookers will not be able to afford their canal-side rooms under the restricted opening hours. As a compromise, they are proposing a closing time of 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. However, in a news statement, the groups insisted the whorehouses must be allowed to open again at 7 a.m., "for clients who want to bicycle by before their work."

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