- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Damascus rejects 'accountability' bill

DAMASCUS, Syria The government newspaper warned yesterday that Syria would not bow to U.S. pressure as Congress prepares to debate a law that might punish Damascus for supporting radical Palestinian groups and Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas.

In a front-page editorial, Syria's official al-Ba'ath newspaper said renewed U.S. pressure was intended to reshape the region according to Israeli interests. "The pressures Syria faces now, either through Israeli threats or the questionable actions of the American Congress to pass what is called 'the Syria Accountability Act' do not differ in their goals from previous pressures," al-Ba'ath said.

A bill before Congress threatens to sanction Syria for backing the Hezbollah militia and being home to Palestinian groups Islamic Jihad and Hamas. Washington deems them "terrorists" and includes Syria on a list of "state sponsors of terrorism."

Iraqi refugees unwelcome in Iran

TEHRAN Iraqi refugees will not be welcome on Iranian soil in the event of a U.S. attack, and any humanitarian relief efforts will be strictly confined to border areas, an Interior Ministry official said yesterday.

"In the event of an American attack against Iraq, we will not authorize any Iraqi refugee to enter Iranian territory," Ahmad Hosseini, deputy interior minister charged with refugee affairs, told the official IRNA agency.

He said Iran has already put in place relief facilities to deal with as many as 50,000 refugees.

Turks testy over Kurds' status

ANKARA, Turkey Iraqi Kurdish faction leader Massoud Barzani said yesterday that recent tension with Turkey stemmed from distorted reports of his comments, but he warned Ankara not to resort to threats.

The German newspaper Die Zeit quoted Mr. Barzani last week as saying that Turkey would suffer massive defeat if it invaded northern Iraq to prevent Kurds from carving out a new state. It quoted him as saying: "A Kurdish intifada would turn our streets into a graveyard for Turkish soldiers."

Weekly notes

Scott Carpenter, deputy U.S. assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, is to visit Cairo today after a diplomatic spat over the jailing of an Egyptian-American human rights activist, sociology professor Saad Eddin Ibrahim. The White House said after Mr. Ibrahim's sentencing in July that President Bush would oppose a new $130 million aid package for Egypt, and its Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher told Washington to stay out of Egypt's internal affairs. An Iranian reformist party voiced fears Tuesday for the safety of one of its members jailed on charges of insulting the Shi'ite clergy and the prophet Muhammad, a capital offense. A statement from the secular leftist Organization of Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution said the life of writer Hashem Aghajari was at risk after he was moved to an isolated cell. He was jailed last month for a speech at Hamedan saying Muslims "should not blindly" follow religious leaders.

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