President Bush yesterday backed Israel’s decision to attack targets deep inside Syria saying “Israel’s got a right to defend herself… Israel must not feel constrained in terms of defending the homeland.” The U.S. stands almost alone in backing the Israeli strike, the first inside Syria in 30 years. And the U.S. has vowed not to support any UN Security Council resolution condemning the attack.
In his first public comments, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said, “[The raid] is an attempt by the Israeli Government to extract itself from its big crisis by trying to terrorize Syria and drag it and the region into other wars because this [Israeli] government is one of war and war is the justification for its existence.”
Tensions have also flared on the Israeli-Lebanese border. An Israeli soldier was shot dead there Monday. Israel said a member of Hezbollah carried out the attack but Lebanese security officials denied the charge. Meanwhile a member of the UN peacekeeping force reported that one of its water trucks near the border came under fire from Israel.
And Yasser Arafat swore in new Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia and an eight-member Cabinet today in an emergency session. The government will serve for a limited one-month term. The emergency government was quickly set up in part to make it harder for Israel to try to expel Arafat.
The Turkish government voted yesterday to send soldiers to Iraq to aid the U.S.-led occupation force. The decision still has to be approved by the Turkish parliament. Polls show nearly two-thirds of Turks oppose the sending troops.
In Baghdad, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry today came under either a grenade or mortar attack. No injuries were reported. Meanwhile in southwest Baghdad, hundreds of Iraqis protested Monday’s arrest by US forces of a Shiite Imam Sheikh Mohammed al-Sudani. Supporters of the cleric shouted today “America equals Saddam”. In the northern Iraqi town of Baiji, 300 members of the US-appointed police force have fled the town fearing for their lives as opposition to the US occupation grows. Iraqi protesters also set the local police headquarters and mayor’s office on fire.
A British father whose son died in Iraq called on Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday not to attend a national memorial service set for Friday. Gordan Evans’ 24-year-old son Llywelyn died on the first day of the invasion. His father said yesterday, “I think Mr Blair got it all wrong from the very beginning. He’s just a puppet of Mr Bush, and the rest of Europe did not want to get involved… He’s the one who sent out troops in the first place. We wouldn’t be having a memorial service if it wasn’t for him.”
And California voters go to the polls today to cast votes in the state’s contested recall election. Officials say the results of the vote may not be known for days in part because more than 2 million people have already cast absentee ballots. Voters will be asked to vote yes or no on whether to recall California Governor Gray Davis as governor. And then voters will choose one of 135 candidates to replace Davis if he is recalled. Davis yesterday described the race as a “a dead heat.” Polls show support dropping for actor Arnold Schwarzenegger following allegations that he sexually harassed and molested 16 women and that he had a record of speaking admiringly of Hitler.
The New York Times reports that fears are growing within the Bush administration that U.S. interpreters working at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, may have purposely mistranslated interviews with detainees in an effort to sabotage the U.S. efforts in the so-called war on terror. Three members of the U.S. military who worked at the detention facility have been arrested over the past month.
President Bush yesterday urged his staff to comply with the Justice Department investigation over who within the White House outed the identity of an undercover CIA operative to the press. Bush said “I want there to be full participation because I am most interested in finding out the truth.” Although the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame was revealed in mid-July, yesterday’s comments marked Bush’s first extensive statement on the matter. Meanwhile suspicion that Bush’s senior advisor Karl Rove may be behind the leak is increasing again. Newsweek is reporting that Rove personally called MSNBC host Chris Matthews to tell him that Plame was “fair game.” The call was made shortly after conservative columnist Robert Novak named Plame in his syndicated column. And the Washington Post examines today how Novak has long relied on foreign policy hardliners for classified information. The Post recalls that in 1975 then Congressional aide Richard Perle revealed to Novak that President Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger were prepared to make nuclear concessions to the Soviet Union. It was a move opposed by then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
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