- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2003

Insider notes from United Press International for March 13, 2003 …


British Prime Minister Tony Blair called in Ian Duncan-Smith, head of the Conservative party and thus leader of the opposition, to inform him Thursday that French President Jacques Chirac was "completely intransigent…(and) that second resolution is now probably less likely than at any time before." More than that, Blair now believes this has become so personal that Chirac is out to destroy his political career. The two men have never got on, and had a furious exchange late last year with Chirac spluttering "I have never been spoken to like that." But the feud has now become white hot.


It was not just courtesy that led Blair to call in Duncan-Smith, a loyal and patriotic former Guards officer who will tell his party to vote for Blair over Iraq even if half the Labor party looks like abandoning the prime minister who led them to two successive landslide election victories. If his votes are required to keep Blair in office, Duncan-Smith will ask for — and probably get — a seat on the British war cabinet that is now being formed. There is, after all, a vacancy on the war cabinet of the Afghan campaign — Development Minister Clare Short, who is pledged to resign if Blair goes ahead without a second U.N. resolution.


The U.N. crisis over Iraq could not have come at a worse time for Pakistani leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Islamabad is awash with rumors that Musharraf imminent is preparing a sweeping purge of the armed forces and the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence, ISI, — all disguised as a reshuffle. The commanders of the main army corps at Rawalpindi, Mangla, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta are all facing transfer or the ax, and Lt. Gen. Javed Alam Khan, currently corps commander at Mangla, is expected to replace Lt. Gen. Ehsan ul Haq as the new boss of ISI. Such changes in the high command always carry the risk of a pre-emptive coup by the victims, so this is a grim moment for Musharraf to face Islamic massed demonstrations and army unrest by bowing to President George Bush's demand for Pakistan's vote at the U.N.


There is a lot at stake in the claim, made under parliamentary privilege Wednesday in Britain's House of Commons, that Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness are "incriminated" in the secret police inquiry into the IRA break-in at Northern Ireland's Castlereagh police intelligence HQ last St Patrick's Day. Among the loot taken from the Special Branch files were transcripts of phone conversations between President Bush and Tony Blair — and not just the bits about Northern Ireland but about the war on terrorism in general. That brought the CIA into the act — and there is now "something a lot more than speculation" suggesting the IRA has sold the material on to its old friends in Libya and its new chums in Hizbollah.


Somali informants tell security officers in Nairobi to expect a bomb blast from an al Qaida cell in Kenya if war starts in Iraq — and maybe even if it doesn't. Places patronized by foreigners, including cinemas and a shopping mall with ground floor arcades wide enough for a car, are the target, says a British security source who declines to be named. Western aid workers in Somalia are also feeling the heat — they have been ordered to leave by Friday, one of them told UPI. Threats in Kenya and Somalia certainly are not idle talk — suicide bombers thought to have come through Somalia blew up a car at a tourist hotel on Kenya's coast on Nov. 28, killed 11 Kenyans, three Israelis. And it's similar "chatter" to that heard by security officers in places like Rome and Pristina, Kosovo, before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York.


Estonia is joining NATO next year, and bringing as a dowry; a powerful new radar station for eventual inclusion into NATO's aviation reconnaissance system. Three days ago Estonia's Defense Ministry began operational tests of a aviation radar near Rakvere, purchased from Lockheed Martin for $16million. The radar, which is making the Russian military nervous, is due for its ceremonial opening next month. The system's three story-high antennae can scan up to 280 miles (450 km), allowing it to peek at Russian fighters based at Gdov, 62 miles (100 km) distant all the way to St. Petersburg, 170 miles (274 km) away. The system will first be connected to BALTNET, a unified air control system for the Baltic countries. BALTNET will eventually be integrated into NATO's air control and intelligence system.

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