- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 2, 2004

QATAR

Russian missions protected after slaying

LONDON — Arab countries in the Persian Gulf have stepped up security around Russian diplomatic missions to prevent suicide attacks by Muslims to avenge the Feb. 13 assassination of Chechen rebel leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev.

Russian intelligence was blamed for the explosion that killed Mr. Yandarbiyev in Qatar. Qatari authorities arrested two Russian intelligence agents last week for involvement in the killing. Moscow retaliated by arresting two Qatari boxers visiting Russia with a sports team.

A diplomatic source in the Gulf told United Press International via telephone that regional security agencies fear that Chechen groups will try to “deal a painful and immediate blow to Russian interests in the Gulf” over the assassination. “The role of Russian intelligence in the killing has become more evident, and is not just an accusation,” the source said.

ISRAEL

Army steps up attacks in Gaza

JERUSALEM — The Israeli army announced yesterday that it was stepping up the war with Palestinian militants, as aides to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon struggled to persuade the Bush administration to back his controversial “disengagement plan.”

“In the light of the intensification of the activities of the terrorist organizations over the last few weeks, we will intensify our antiterror operations,” the military chief of staff, Gen. Moshe Yaalon, told army radio.

His announcement came after the Israeli military resumed assassinations, which Israel terms “targeted killings,” which had been suspended for several weeks, killing three suspected militants Saturday in a helicopter strike in Gaza City. The radio also said senior officers had been ordered to “eliminate as many terrorists as possible” before an expected pullout from the south and center of the Gaza Strip as part of Mr. Sharon’s plan.

EGYPT

Ministers give up on effort to focus

CAIRO — Arab foreign ministers failed to agree on a formula to turn the Arab League into an organization that would have greater international clout and returned to “square one” yesterday, said an Arab official who asked not to be named.

Participants in the meetings in the Egyptian capital said Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria had tried late Monday to impose a joint draft as the basis of discussions, but had encountered reservations from some Gulf Arab and North African states.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, meanwhile, drafted a document merging the proposals of seven countries. Talks yesterday, however, no longer focused on these two documents, but on all the Arab proposals.

Weekly notes

The wife of Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul has announced that she is dropping legal action against her country before the European Court of Human Rights over a ban on Turkish students wearing Islamic head scarves. “When I filed suit, my husband was not yet foreign minister. We did not foresee that,” said Hayrunnisa Gul in a statement carried by the Anatolia news agency. “My submission was exploited politically,” she added. … Saudi and Yemeni military officials yesterday ended two days of talks with an agreement to set up two field committees to study the security arrangements required to block infiltration and smuggling# across their border. The recommendations of the two panels would be considered at the next meeting of the joint military committee, which will be held soon, an official in the Yemeni delegation said.

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