- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2003

Insider notes from United Press International for Feb. 4 …


The U.S. State Department's in-house hawk, under-secretary John Bolton, is taking time off from the North Korean nuclear crisis this week to fly to Israel to see two old chums, Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy (now Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's national security adviser). Officially, it will be presented as a routine meeting, with Bolton briefing the Israelis on North Korea and consultations on progress at the Russian-built Busheir nuclear site in Iran. But in fact, Bolton's mission is to nail down the evidence behind Sharon's claims that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction have been moved to hiding in Syria. So far, neither U.S. nor British intelligence has been able to substantiate the Israeli claim.


Officially, Jordan takes no part in the military build-up of Anglo-American forces against Iraq. In fact, it's an open secret in Amman that there are two Special Forces bases in the country's remote desert regions, at Jaffer in the southeast of the country and at Safawi, closer to the Iraqi border. The bases are believed to be sending out patrols of British SAS troops and American Delta Force teams into Iraq's al-Anbar desert, a vast region used to launch Scud missiles against Israel during the Gulf War. The Jordan bases are also to be used for the CAESAR mission, combat air rescue for downed allied aircrew. But for the moment, the Jaffer and Safawi bases are semi-stealthy, with troops and equipment barred from showing themselves publicly. Jordanians say the best clue to their presence is the disappearance of 4x4 vehicles from all the rental agencies. Amman taxi-drivers are so pleased they are boasting to their customers of the brilliant deals they struck with "American companies" for six months rental of anything with four-wheel drive.


Pakistani paranoia about growing Israeli-Indian military cooperation is not likely to lessen with the announcement that Israeli Military Industries is offering the Indian army bombs capable of piercing concrete, fortresses, and bunkers. The PB-500 weapons, capable of piercing the most hardened fortifications, are perfectly suited to destroying Pakistan's nuclear infrastructure, and will be displayed this week at the Aero India 2003 defense exhibition in Bangalore. In contrast to normal gravity bombs dropped by aircraft, the PB-500 includes a laser guidance system, developed by Israeli Aircraft Industries and Elbit Systems. IMI claims the munitions can penetrate six and one-half feet (two meters) of hardened concrete, and that its explosive payload causes damage equivalent to bombs twice its weight. At the exhibition's opening, IMI chairman retired Brig. Gen. Arie Mizrachi said that Asia was high on IMI's priorities, would increase its research and development budget by invest $20 million next year. Forty percent of Israeli weapons exports are to Asian countries.


And it's not just the Israelis who'll be there. The Aero India show — staged at Yelahanka airbase just outside Bangalore — is the biggest arms and aerospace bazaar on earth, with India talking of spending $100 billions on arms imports over the coming decade. But the civilian market is also hot, with Europe's Airbus hoping to build on its new sale of 43 commercial airliners to India. Airbus sees India buying 222 aircraft over the next 15 years, and wants to grab the bulk of the market with fancy financing. Airbus is fighting Boeing's 777-200 to sell Air India 10 long-range airliners with an option for 7 more. Air India is also shopping for 18 short-range airliners, and the Airbus A321 and the Boeing 737-900 are going head-to-head for the $1.5 billion deal. Boeing is unhappy at the lack of high level U.S. support as it faces French Prime Minister Jean-Louis Rafarin lobbying hard for Airbus.


It is not her impressive record as the European Parliament Member with the best attendance record that causes such a stir when Christine de Veyrac marches through the Brussels corridors. It's the claim in a new book by French political writer Daniel Carton that she is the mother of a love child by her former boss, France's ex-President Valery Giscard d'Estaing. Brought out of retirement to run the European Union's constitutional convention, Giscard is now a very heavy hitter in Brussels, which makes Christine a significant figure indeed, despite last year's 50th anniversary of Giscard's marriage to society belle Anne-Aymone de Brantes. Christine de Veyrac used to be Giscard's parliamentary aide. Now 76, Giscard was a spritely 68 when the boy was fathered, says the saucily titled book "Of Course It's Off The Record — What Political Correspondents Never Tell You." And Europeans being Europeans, the only thing about the affair that has raised eyebrows is how Giscard used his influence to get her a parliamentary seat. Francois Beyrou, Giscard's successor as leader of his UDF party, would not co-operate. So Giscard persuaded Nicolas Sarkozy, currently France's tough Minister of the Interior, to put Christine on his own party list — a big favor that Giscard will have to repay.

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