- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2002

Israeli diplomatic leak
A senior diplomat at the Israeli Embassy is suspected of leaking details of a top-level meeting between Israeli and U.S. officials concerning the anticipated war in Iraq.
The diplomat is the only target of an Israeli investigation who refused to take a lie-detector test, but the identity of the official has not been released, Israeli news reports said yesterday.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon to keep the official out of sensitive meetings in the future, reports said. A source knowledgeable of embassy affairs, however, denied the report that the diplomat refused the lie-detector test and questioned whether the leak had even come from the embassy.
The investigation by Israel's Shin Bet security service centers on a November meeting in Washington between a delegation led by Dan Meridor, a member of Mr. Sharon's Cabinet, and U.S. officials headed by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.
Mr. Armitage was angered that details of the talks were leaked to the Israeli newspaper, Ha'aretz, before and after the meeting, which focused on U.S. plans for Iraq after the removal of Saddam Hussein.
Shin Bet questioned Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon; Ephraim Halevy, the national security adviser; Gideon Frank, director-general of the Atomic Energy Commission; Amos Yaron, director-general of the Defense Ministry; Yoav Biran, director-general of the Foreign Ministry; and Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, head of the plans and policy directorate of the Israeli Defense Forces.
In the meeting, U.S. officials wanted assurances that Israel would not retaliate if it is hit by Iraqi missiles. In the 1991 Persian Gulf war, Israel refrained from responding to Iraqi missile attacks.
The Israeli side wanted to know about U.S. plans for a new government to replace Saddam and how the Bush administration proposed to maintain a balance among the Sunni Arab, Shi'ite Arab and Kurdish communities in Iraq, according to Ha'aretz.
The newspaper also said the Israelis wanted assurances that Washington was fully aware of the possible implications a war would have in the Middle East and on the supply of Iraqi oil.
Lebanon custody fight
Two Lebanese-American girls have apparently taken shelter at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut to avoid their Lebanese father, as their divorced parents battle each other in a custody dispute.
Vincent Battle, the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, asked the Lebanese government to allow the two teen-age girls in the embassy and their 12-year-old sister, who is still with their father, to travel to the United States to see their American mother, the Lebanese Foreign Ministry said yesterday.
Mohammed Issa, secretary-general of the Foreign Ministry, had deferred Mr. Battle's request pending a lawsuit filed by the girls' father, Behnam Slim, who claims his daughters have been kidnapped, the Associated Press reported. The embassy has refused to comment.
The two girls have been at the embassy since Dec. 10 when Lebanese authorities barred them from leaving the country. Lebanese law required minors to have permission from their parents before they travel abroad. Reports said embassy personnel had accompanied the girls to the Beirut airport, but it is not clear how they ended up at the U.S. diplomatic mission in a suburb of the capital.
Adan Addoum, Lebanon's prosecutor-general, has asked to meet with the girls, but they have refused to leave the embassy, the AP reported.
Mr. Slim divorced his wife nine years ago and returned to Lebanon with his three daughters. He said their mother did not seek custody at the time.
Estonia's embassy
Estonian Ambassador Sven Jurgenson yesterday said he has resolved a dispute with the D.C. government over the reconstruction of the Estonian Embassy, which was extensively damaged by a fire in July 2001.
The District had been holding up work on the building at 2131 Massachusetts Ave. NW, until Estonia agreed to install a sprinkler system. Estonia had objected to the requirement because a system could add $2 million to the cost of repairs, estimated at $1.35 million.
The dispute had pitted the embassy's claim of sovereignty over diplomatic property against the city's fire-code regulations. Mr. Jurgenson did not say how the disagreement was resolved.

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