- The Washington Times - Monday, March 29, 2004

ISRAEL

Intelligence services criticized over Iraq

JERUSALEM — Israel overestimated Iraq’s military capabilities, but the miscalculation in no way influenced the U.S. decision to topple Saddam Hussein, a parliamentary inquiry panel said yesterday.

“The military and political echelons are responsible for an intelligence foul-up regarding Iraq” and for failing to detect Libya’s recently abandoned nuclear-weapons program, the panel said in an 80-page report.

Israel shared intelligence with Washington before the invasion last year but played “a very minor role” in the prewar planning, said Yuval Steinitz, a Likud party lawmaker who led the inquiry.

The report noted that some Israeli assessments, analyzed by U.S. counterparts, found their way back to Israel in repackaged form.

GEORGIA

President’s supporters lead in vote

TBILISI — Supporters of Georgia’s president dominated parliamentary elections yesterday, according to an exit poll, giving him crucial backing as he tries to crack down on corruption and rein in one of the country’s restive provinces.

The voting commission said intimidation marred balloting in Adzharia, the restive province where the leader has challenged the authority of President Mikhail Saakashvili. But it wasn’t enough to invalidate all results from the region.

GAZA STRIP

Bush is declared an enemy of Islam

GAZA CITY — The new Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip yesterday called President Bush an enemy of Islam and said “God declared war” on the United States and Israel, but stopped short of saying that the group would strike U.S. targets.

Addressing a Hamas rally at Gaza City’s Islamic University, the group’s chief, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, said it was no surprise that the United States had vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution on Thursday condemning the killing of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, Hamas’ spiritual head.

“We knew that Bush is the enemy of God, the enemy of Islam and Muslims,” Mr. Rantisi told the crowd. “America declared war against God. [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon declared war against God, and God declared war against America, Bush and Sharon.”

IRAQ

Coalition closes Shi’ite newspaper

BAGHDAD — The U.S.-led administration shut down a newspaper yesterday that speaks for radical Shi’ite cleric Moqtada Sadr, accusing it of publishing articles that incite violence against American troops.

A letter to the newspaper from civil administrator L. Paul Bremer cited a series of articles it said had incited hatred, including an editorial titled “Bremer follows the steps of Saddam.”

Hundreds of Shi’ites gathered to protest the ban after dozens of U.S. troops ordered the newspaper’s staff to leave and padlocked its offices.

TURKEY

Ruling party triumphs in local elections

ANKARA — The ruling party won a strong mandate in local elections yesterday to press ahead with economic and political reforms aimed at taking the country of 70 million people into the European Union.

Unofficial early results showed the Justice and Development Party winning nearly 45 percent of the vote compared with 14 percent for its nearest rival, the left-leaning Republican People’s Party.

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