The United States is seeking Middle East state support for possible airstrikes against Iraq, while Russia launched a last-ditch round of diplomacy to prevent another Gulf War. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright arrived in Saudi Arabia and denied suggestions she was getting no Arab support for possible military action. A U.S. official in Kuwait earlier told reporters that Albright was assured that Kuwait, invaded by Iraq in 1990, would back armed action if this proved necessary. Albright, on a hastily arranged tour of European and Middle East capitals to gather support for possible military action, was due to meet with King Fahd’s heir apparent, Crown Prince Abdullah, but Washington seemed unlikely to be able to forge the kind of broad military coalition of Arab and Western armies it led in 1991.
Apart from the emirate, only Britain has so far thrown its weight unconditionally behind Washington. Six Sea Harrier jump jets left their base at Yeovilton, southwest England, to join the carrier Illustrious in the Mediterranean. The Illustrious is to replace a second British carrier, the Invincible, in the Gulf. British Prime Minister Tony Blair angered Iraq at the weekend when he said Saddam was an evil dictator who must be stopped from terrorizing the world with chemical and biological arms.
In Baghdad, the Russian envoy held talks with Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz on a diplomatic solution to Baghdad’s dispute with the United Nations over weapons inspections. Paradoxically, Washington may face the situation of launching attacks while considering how to increase food supplies. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has proposed Iraq be allowed to increase its oil sales from $2 billion to $5.2 billion over the next six months to avoid a humanitarian disaster. In a report sent to Security Council members yesterday, Annan said the so-called Oil-for-Food scheme, started a year ago, was inadequate to prevent further deterioration in humanitarian conditions.
President Clinton officially unveils his 1999 budget proposal this morning, the first to propose a surplus in 30 years. The $1.7 trillion plan calls for more spending for child care, education and medical research and a big hike in cigarette taxes. It also proposes a $270.6 billion military budget, including $48.7 billion for high-tech arms and increased spending for defense against biological and chemical attack.
This news from Los Angeles: Prosecutors have appealed the judge’s decision that overturned the murder conviction of former Black Panther leader Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt, claiming prior evidence of his guilt is overwhelming. At issue is testimony given at Pratt’s murder trial by a man who claimed he heard Pratt confess in jail to killing Caroline Olsen in 1968. Pratt served 27 years in prison for the crime, which he said he did not commit. Controversy over the testimony by Julius Butler erupted after Pratt’s 1972 conviction when it was discovered that Butler was a police informant, and prosecutors were aware he was, although he testified that he was not. In overturning Pratt’s conviction in June, Orange County Superior Court Judge Everett Dickey said jurors might have seen the case differently if the prosecution had not suppressed evidence bearing on Butler’s credibility.
Dozens of federal agents searched the area around Franklin, North Carolina, for a man they believe could help them locate the bomber of an abortion clinic. The man being sought, Eric Robert Rudolph, was wanted as a witness and not as a suspect in Thursday’s fatal bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. A pickup truck registered to Rudolph was seen near the site of the bombing that killed an off-duty police officer and critically injured a nurse. The bureau said the mail bomb was intended to maim and kill, not cause damage to the building. The homemade mail bomb blew up the New Woman All Women clinic a week after the 25th anniversary of the court ruling that legalized abortion. The funeral for the off-duty police officer who served as a security guard at the clinic is today.
Nearly 1,000 Puerto Ricans protested yesterday against NASA plans to launch research rockets filled with chemicals at an abandoned U.S. Army base next week. NASA plans to launch at least one rocket February 12 from the Tortuguero base in the northern coast town of Vega Baja. A total of 11 rockets will be launched over a period of one month. The rockets will disperse the chemical aluminum trimethyl into the atmosphere before crashing back to sea about 60 miles north of Puerto Rico, this according to the newspaper Primera Hora.
In a grim commemoration in Northern Ireland, more than 10,000 Catholics yesterday retraced the path where British soldiers shot and killed 13 protesters on January 30, 1972.