- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Insider notes from United Press International for Jan. 14 …

Viktor Zakharov, head of the capital division of the FSB (Russian intelligence), told Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov and top city officials Tuesday that "more than 20 credible signs" have been intercepted by security services (including Interpol) indicating Chechen extremists are preparing a serious terrorist attack on a Moscow target, possibly the city's subway system. Security at Moscow's nuclear research reactor, the airports and a strategic canal linking the city with the Volga river is being hurriedly tightened. Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesmen say security forces in Chechnya have discovered a manual for making ricin among possessions of a killed rebel. French and British authorities said last week that detained men suspected of planning an attack using the poison — found in a police raid on a London flat — may have been trained in Chechnya.

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It may not emerge publicly from Tuesday's Paris summit between French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, but the two men have agreed that the European Union needs a real foreign minister. They have accordingly decided that two current jobs should be merged into one. The post of EU's Commissioner for External Relations (currently British centrist Conservative Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong) is to be merged with the EU Council's High Representative (currently former NATO chief, Spanish moderate socialist Javier Solana). Patten retires next year, so Solana will be the beneficiary, getting control of Patten's annual $8-billion budget, mainly for humanitarian and development aid. This could end badly since Solana is responsible to the EU Council (where the 15 national governments meet) while a commissioner is part of the EU's executive arm, the commission, which is supposed to be above national concerns. The British have opposed merging the two jobs, asking the uncomfortable question — who would mediate in a foreign policy dispute between member states and the commission.

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The countdown to war with Iraq continues. According to Pentagon sources, the remainder of the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized), based at Fort Stewart, Ga. (with some advance elements already in Kuwait) will be assembled within the week and receive final movement orders to speed it to Kuwait. Also being mobilized are the 1st Cavalry Division based at Fort Hood, Texas, and the 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment based at Fort Carlson, Colo. Both already have advance units such as quartering parties in Kuwait. All three outfits are "big hammers, bone crushers," says UPI's source. Reserve Special Force units are being recalled and reassembled as well. President Bush was given a briefing Monday on Iraq's oil fields: their capacity, structure and routes of access.

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The Pentagon's war liaison unit has arrived in Israel, led by Army Maj. Gen. Charles Simpson, whose usual job is director of air and space operations in Europe. Simpson prepared the way for the mission, which will coordinate responses if Iraq attacks Israel, on a visit last month with Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith. Joint exercises are being stepped up. This week sees joint exercise Juniper Cobra, with Israel's air defense command, the two American Patriot batteries now deployed in the Negev, and Aegis-equipped warships from the U.S. Sixth Fleet. Other ships are running an anti-submarine exercise, Noble Dina, with the Israeli navy.

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Warning — if you read this, you are breaking Canadian law. The preliminary hearing for the man accused of being Canada's worst serial killer is under way in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. And Canadians are banned from hearing any of the evidence. Pig farmer Robert Pickton, 53, faces 15 counts of first-degree murder after an 11-month search of his property turned up DNA and belongings of 15 women reported missing. His defense team sought a complete ban of the public from the hearings but the judge opted instead to impose a publication ban on the Canadian media. But U.S. television stations and newspapers from neighboring Washington state have converged on the court — even though cable television companies that carry the U.S. stations into British Columbia are being forced to black out news segments with trial details. All of the dead women went missing from Vancouver's seamy east end and were all reported by family members to be troubled by drugs or prostitution. Nearly 50 other area women have been reported missing in the past several years, and investigators continue combing the dilapidated farm for further evidence. The preliminary hearing is expected to last until late April.

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What has got into those Canadians? Those eager-to-be-liked and wimpish northerners will announce Wednesday that their top book award, the Gelber Prize, is going to the muscular defense of take-no-prisoners American patriotism "Special Providence: How American Foreign Policy Changed the World." Author Walter Russell Mead, a fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations, beat out the favorite (and far more Canadian-minded) "The Paradox of American Power; Why the World's Only Superpower Can't Go It Alone' by Kennedy School Dean Joe Nye.

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