- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 19, 2002

White House weighs plan to KO Iraqi missile sites

The Bush administration is considering an Israeli proposal to send U.S. Special Forces into Iraq's western desert to knock out Iraqi missile sites in the event of war, a U.S. official said yesterday.

In a joint operation, Israel would furnish the United States with intelligence about the sites and how to disarm them early in the conflict, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Israel's aim is to sharply reduce the risk of an Iraqi missile attack.

Israel presented the proposal during Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's talks this week in Washington with President Bush and senior White House, Pentagon and State Department officials.

Mr. Sharon was given assurances the administration would make a maximum effort to neutralize any Iraqi missile threat.

He did not get a response to the Special Forces proposal during his three-day visit, and it is under consideration, the official said.

Two F-18s crash off California coast

POINT SUR, Calif. Two Navy fighter jets crashed into the Pacific off the California coast during a training mission yesterday, military officials said. All four crew members were missing.

The F/A-18-F Super Hornets crashed 80 miles southwest of Monterey during an exercise with six other aircraft, the Navy said. The two F-18s were not carrying any weapons.

At the Pentagon, Navy spokesman Cmdr. William Fenick said he did not know whether the planes had collided.

A Coast Guard plane, an Air National Guard helicopter and a commercial fishing vessel were at the site searching for the missing aviators.

There was no sign of survivors, but the fishing boat, the White Dove, had found a debris field a mile in diameter, Coast Guard spokeswoman Veronica Bandrowsky said.

The crew was from the Black Aces squadron at the Lemoore Naval Air Station near Fresno.

Assembly members charged with misconduct

MADISON, Wis. The state Assembly's two most powerful Republican leaders were charged with felony misconduct in office yesterday, one day after the Senate majority leader a Democrat was charged with 20 felony counts.

Prosecutors investigating reports that several Wisconsin lawmakers and employees had used their state offices illegally for campaign work also filed charges yesterday against another Republican Assembly member and a former Assembly employee.

Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, charged along with Assembly Majority Leader Steve Foti and Assistant Majority Leader Bonnie Ladwig, issued a statement denying the charges.

Michigan OKs testing for welfare recipients

LANSING, Mich. A federal appeals court yesterday cleared the way for Michigan to test welfare recipients for drug use.

U.S. District Court Judge Victoria Roberts halted a pilot drug-testing program in 1999 after a group of welfare recipients and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan argued that the testing is unconstitutional.

A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Judge Roberts' decision yesterday, saying the testing program is based on a legitimate need to ensure that public money is not used for illegal purposes.

Robert Sedler, the attorney who sued the state Family Independence Agency on behalf of several welfare recipients, said he will appeal to the full court.

Michigan was the first state to pass such a program, and many other states have been watching the case progress, the ACLU said yesterday.

Shuttle Atlantis returns to Earth

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. Space shuttle Atlantis and its crew of six returned to Earth yesterday, ending a 4.5 million-mile journey that entailed major construction work on the International Space Station.

During their 11-day mission, the shuttle astronauts successfully outfitted the space station with a $390 million girder that features a sophisticated cooling system.

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