- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 24, 2002

Israeli planes raid southern Lebanon

KFAR CHOUBA, Lebanon Israeli warplanes attacked suspected Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon yesterday after the guerrillas fired rockets and mortar shells at Israeli outposts in a disputed border area.

In the first Israeli air raids on Lebanon in three months, Israeli jets swooped repeatedly over a hill in the Chebaa Farms area, firing at least six air-to-surface missiles, witnesses said. Israeli artillery also shelled suspected guerrillas who earlier had targeted Israeli positions with rockets and mortars.

Lebanese security officials said guerrillas shelled three Israeli positions in the Chebaa Farms. It was not immediately clear whether any positions were hit, but witnesses reported heavy smoke billowing from the posts.

U.S. has no plan for Central Asia base

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan The commander of the U.S.-led anti-terrorist campaign in Afghanistan said yesterday that the United States was not planning a permanent military presence in Central Asia.

The comments by Gen. Tommy Franks came amid mounting Russian fears that America was planting roots in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia a region rich in resources and for centuries under Moscow's control.

Gen. Franks, on his latest Central Asian tour, said the region's cooperation had been critical to the success of the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism.

He said the United States would work with the Central Asian governments to determine how long a U.S. military presence would remain in the region.

"We have no plans to build a permanent military base" in Central Asia, the general told journalists after meeting with President Askar Akayev during a stop in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek.

Afghan says bin Laden linked to militants

BEIJING Backing Beijing's claims, the Afghan foreign minister yesterday said there was "no doubt" that Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network had links with militants accused of terrorism in China's troubled western Muslim region of Xinjiang.

Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, accompanying Afghanistan's interim leader Hamid Karzai on a visit to Beijing, did not rule out repatriation for any terrorist suspect captured in China to face justice at home.

Libyan appeals Lockerbie conviction

CAMP ZEIST, Netherlands Attorneys for a former Libyan intelligence agent appealed his conviction in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and asked a Scottish court yesterday to hear new evidence.

Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi was convicted a year ago and sentenced to life imprisonment for planting the bomb that blew Pan Am Flight 103 from the sky on Dec. 21, 1988, killing 259 passengers and crew and 11 persons on the ground. He will be eligible for parole in 20 years.

Defense attorney William Taylor said he wanted to call a witness to testify about a security breach at London's Heathrow Airport, challenging the conclusion that Megrahi had placed the bomb on a plane in Malta.

A security guard at Heathrow testified several weeks after the verdict, indicating that sometime in the two hours before the ill-fated flight left London a padlock had been broken on a gate leading to the baggage area.

EMI drops Mariah Carey with $28 million payoff

LONDON Pop diva Mariah Carey found herself out of a job yesterday when her record company EMI paid her $28 million to walk away from the biggest recording contract of all time.

British-based EMI Group confirmed weeks of speculation that it was severing ties with the U.S. vocalist after signing her in a mammoth deal last year, only to see her first release "Glitter" sell a disappointing 2 million copies.

The axing comes at a bad time for Miss Carey, 31, whose professional and private life has topped gossip columns since the collapse of her marriage to Sony Music boss Tommy Mottola. He had discovered her as an 18-year-old waitress.

The singer had an emotional breakdown last year, delaying "Glitter," which finally was released in September. Ill health then prevented Miss Carey from promoting the album, resulting in a huge loss for EMI. The company had hoped the album would match the success of previous hits such as her 1993 release "Music Box."

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