- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 26, 2002

SYRIA
Sharon's accusations called ridiculous
DAMASCUS Syria denied claims by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that Iraq may be transferring chemical and biological weapons to Syria, saying yesterday that the accusation aims to divert attention from Israel's arsenal.
"This accusation against Syria is ridiculous because Syria signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and called all Arab states to make the Middle East clear of weapons of mass destruction whether nuclear, chemical or biological weapons," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement faxed to the Associated Press in Damascus.
Mr. Sharon told Israel's Channel 2 on Tuesday that the Jewish state has information that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was transferring weapons he wants to hide, including chemical and biological weapons, to Syria.

GREECE
Immigrants die in boat tragedy
ATHENS A dinghy filled with illegal immigrants sank in Greek waters yesterday, leaving three persons dead and four missing in the country's third refugee tragedy in less than a week.
A coast guard spokesman said the inflatable dinghy sank off the eastern Aegean island of Hios. Rescue ships recovered three bodies, rescued 14 immigrants and were searching for another four persons.
The spokesman told reporters the dinghy had set off from Turkey, where the two other ill-fated voyages began.
On Dec. 19, the coast guard retrieved 10 bodies and rescued more than 100 immigrants on two speedboats that ran aground near the island of Evia, north of Athens.
On Tuesday, at least three illegal immigrants drowned after a boat smuggling dozens of people ran aground on the western Greek island of Corfu.

ISRAEL
Minister barred from running
JERUSALEM The Israeli central election committee yesterday denied Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz the right to run for a parliament seat in the next legislative elections, Israeli public radio said.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Likud party had voted the former chief of staff into 12th spot on its electoral list of candidates for the Jan. 28 elections.
But the committee ruled the legal six-month period before a senior military officer can be officially discharged had not yet expired.

CUBA
Castro bedridden by insect bite
HAVANA Cuban President Fidel Castro, who has not been seen in public for a week, told his countrymen yesterday that an insect bite that had caused his left leg to swell up will keep him in bed for another few days.
In a letter published on the front page of Cuba's state-run newspapers, the 76-year-old leader reassured Cubans he was recovering from an infection he got from scratching a mosquito or ant bite more than a week ago.
Mr. Castro said he developed lymphangitis from a staphylococcal infection of the skin. Lymphangitis indicates the spread of bacteria to the bloodstream and can cause life-threatening infections.

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