- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 8, 2003

Insider notes from United Press International for Jan. 8 …

Here's an interesting coincidence. Muhammad Abbas, the veteran Palestinian terrorist who is widely reckoned to have planned and directed the hijacking in 1985 of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro, is in Cairo for talks with Gen. Omar Suleiman, Egypt's intelligence chief. Abbas, who is secretary-general of the People's Front for Liberation of Palestine, flew in from Baghdad, Iraq. And another unusual visitor flew discreetly into Cairo Wednesday, the former chief of Israel's Mossad intelligence service Ephrain Halevy, who is now a top adviser to premier Ariel Sharon. General Suleiman tells U.S. diplomats he is trying to get a broad agreement from the Palestinians to stop terrorist attacks against civilians (an area in which Abbas has considerable expertise). Tel Aviv sources say Halevy is scheduled to see Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher and other "unnamed officials." Could General Suleiman be trying to midwife to a Halevy-Abbas meet?

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Arab diplomatic sources in Amman are saying the Bush administration has prepared a list of 13 Iraqi "war criminals" including Saddam, his two sons and other top Iraqi officials. The sources said the 13 were to be referred to a criminal court if arrested alive on charges of committing war crimes against thousands of Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds during the 1991 popular uprising. The list includes Ali Hassan al Majeed, Saddam's cousin and member of the Revolutionary Command Council; Deputy President Izzat Ibrahim al Douri; Deputy Prime Minister Taha Yassin Ramadan; former Prime Minister Mohammed Hamza al Zubeidi; Saddam's private secretary Abed Hammoud al Takriti; intelligence chief Taher Jalil Habboush al Takriti; head of General Security Hani Abdel Latif Talfah al Takriti; Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Military Industry Abel Tawwab Mulla Hwaish; former Oil Minister Amir Mohammed Rasheed al Obeidi (see below); and Iyad Fteih Khalifa al Rawi, chief of Staff of "Saddam's Guerrillas" unit. Some top officials were not included in the list — notably Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.

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There are interesting reshuffles taking place in Baghdad anyway. Iraq's veteran oil minister, Gen. Amir Muhammad Rasheed (who used to run Iraq's weapons programs until given the oil portfolio in 1995) has been retired by a decree signed by Saddam Hussein. His replacement is Ba'ath party official Samir Abdulaziz Al Najm. Informed sources say Saddam wanted General Rasheed out of the way before the U.N. inspectors could get to him, or to his wife, Dr. Rihab Taha, whose nickname is "Dr. Germ." The U.N. inspectors would definitely like to ask about her research work in weaponizing botulism and anthrax.

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Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi leaves for Moscow Thursday with a nagging fear his host President Vladimir Putin will charge an intolerably high price for any help in restraining North Korea's nuclear program. Koizumi and Putin are scheduled to sign a 6-point action plan to improve trade, cultural and political ties — including an agreement in principle to settle outstanding territorial disputes before finally signing a long-overdue post-World War II peace treaty. That means settling the dispute over the Kurile Islands, seized by the Soviets as war booty in 1945. Koizumi's aides tried and failed to get an informal agreement ahead of the summit that Putin would not tie the Kuriles to the Korean crisis. Looks like the new Tsar wants to keep Stalin's loot.

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Brazil's new President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is taking as a personal snub Washington's decision to send U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick to Brasilia for his inauguration on Jan. 1. The Bush administration had sent "the subsecretary of a subsecretary of a subsecretary," Lula sniffed. In contrast, among the delegates from 191 nations present at the ceremony were Presidents Fidel Castro of Cuba, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and South Africa's Thabo Mbeki. Spain sent the Prince of Asturias, heir to the throne.

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Speaking of Lula, as he's commonly called, the CIA unit tasked to develop biographical profiles on all new international leaders to help Washington decision-makers formulate policy is going to have fun with the new Brazilian president. Among the interesting findings they have to evaluate is a July 1979 interview in the Brazilian edition of Playboy. Titled "Entrevista bomba: Lula o metalrgico" ("Explosive interview: Lula the metallurgist"), the magazine detailed Lula's political views while running the Metalworkers Union. Lula expressed admiration for Hitler and Khomeini. "There are some figures that I admire very much, taking for granted Tiradentes (an early Brazilian fighter independence) and others that did a lot for the independence of Brazil and to better the conditions of the people….As for example, Hitler, who, even though he was wrong, he had that which I admire in a man, the fire of setting himself to achieve something and to go after it…I don't know much about Iran, but the strength that Khomeini showed, the determination to bring down the regime of the Shah, that was serious business." Lula tempered his comments by noting that he solely admired their political strength and dedication, but not their ideology.

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