Libya is ready to sign a protocol allowing surprise UN inspections of its nuclear sites. This follows Friday’s announcement of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s decision to abandon all efforts to develop any chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. The decision reportedly followed nine month of secret negotiations with Britain and the United States. Libya is already a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but the protocol allows for tougher, short-notice visits of nuclear sites by IAEA experts. Several states in the Middle East including Egypt and Iran welcomed Libya’s announcement and urged Israel to follow suit by eliminating any banned weapons it may have. Several papers are reporting Libya hopes to gain lucrative oil contracts blocked by U.S. sanctions as well as reap other economic benefits form the decision.
Following Libya’s announcement to get rid of its weapons of mass destruction, calls for Israel to do the same intensified this weekend. Agence France Press is reporting that Egypt, Qatar, Bahrain, Algeria and Iran have all called on Israel to scrap its nuclear arsenal. Although Israel has never confirmed or denied that it possesses weapons of mass destruction, it has been considered a nuclear power for 30 years. Egypt’s government newspaper Al-Ahram today called for an international conference aimed at ridding the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction, including Israel’s nuclear weapons.
A British newspaper, the Sunday Express, and the Kurdish news agency in Iraq are reporting that Saddam Hussein was found last week not by the United States but by Iraqi Kurds. The reports claim that Hussein was captured in Tikrit after he was tracked down by a Kurdish militia comprising members of the Patriot Union of Kurdistan. He was then drugged and handed over to the U.S. The Kurdish news agency reported the U.S. insisted that his capture be made to look like an American arrest because U.S. officials worried that such a coup for the Kurds might provoke an Arab-Kurd civil war.
Meanwhile the Pentagon is reporting that the U.S. has arrested more than 200 Iraqis based in part on intelligence gained from Hussein’s capture.
Oil storage tanks and pipelines in Iraq have came under repeated attack in Iraq over the weekend. In southern Baghdad, about 2.6 million gallons of oil were destroyed after oil storage tanks were bombed. Pipelines near Baghdad and Kirkuk were also targeted. Iraqi officials say there have now been over 85 attacks on Iraqi’s oil infrastructure since April leading to a massive fuel shortage. The Iraqi Oil Ministry has announced a new rationing system that bars drivers from buying more than seven gallons of gas at a time and drivers are allowed to buy gas only on alternate days.
In Kirkuk, local Iraqis are reporting U.S. forces have shot dead three Iraqi police officers who were mistaken to be bandits. Over 115 Iraqi police and security officers have died since April.
On Sunday Homeland Defense Secretary Tom Ridge announced the government had raised the national threat level to high risk or orange. According to Ridge that intelligence gathered by the U.S. shows that the possibility of another attack by Al Qaida is as great as at any point since September 11.” Ridge went on to warn “extremists abroad are anticipating near-term attacks that they believe will either rival, or exceed, the attacks that occurred” two years ago.
A major Israel newspaper Yediot Aharonot is reporting that President Bush told its correspondent that “we must get rid of” Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Bush’s comments reportedly came at a Christmas party in Washington shortly after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called for the further isolation of the Palestinians.
In other news from Israel, 15 members of Israel’s top army commando unit have written to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to declare that they are refusing to carry out missions in Palestinian territories. The soldiers’ letter wrote: “We will no longer give our lives to the rule of oppression in the territories and to the denial of human rights to millions of Palestinians and we will no longer serve as a defensive shield for the settlements,”
In other news from Israel, Haaretz is reporting that the Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has begun publicly discussing a possible Israeli attack on Iran to destroy Iran’s nuclear capability. The Defense Minister first discussed the attack on Israel radio. UPI reports that last month a top official in Israel’s spy agency Mossad described Iran’s nuclear program as the biggest threat to Israel since its 1948 creation. This comes as Iran has agreed to sign a protocol of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is expected to allow in UN inspectors.
Meanwhile the U.S. officials are reporting that Iran and North Korea have both received technology to enrich uranium from Pakistan. Evidence has emerged that implicated several of Pakistan’s top nuclear scientists. Two weeks ago, the Pakistani government detained three of them for questioning.
For the second time in a month, the U.S. military’s case against a Muslim accused of spying at Guantanamo Bay has largely fallen apart. Senior Airman Ahmad al-Halabi who works as a translator for the Guantanamo detainees originally faced 30 charges including the capital crime of “aiding the enemy.” But 13 of the more serious charges have now been dropped. The main charges now deal with improperly transporting classified documents. Al-Halabi’s lawyer said the military attempted to claim almost every document his client had was classified. One document which was classified as “Secret, not to be viewed by non-Americans” was a photograph of al-Halabi’s fiancée who lives in Syria. This comes weeks after the government’s case against another Muslim working at Guantanamo Bay, James Yousef Yee, largely fell apart. Yee, A West Point graduate who worked as a Muslim chaplain, was held for 76 days on suspicion of spying and aiding the enemy. When charges were finally filed in October the charges had little to do with national security. The most serious was taking classified material to his home and wrongfully transporting classified material without the proper security containers or covers. At a recent court hearing Yee’s attorney charged that the government arrested him for transporting classified material although it has yet to rule that the material in question was even classified.
A judge in Miami has said in open court that he personally saw police officers commit at least 20 felonies during protests last month in the city. The judge, 60-year-old Richard Margolius, said he would have been arrested himself at the demonstrations against the Free Trade Area of the Americas had a police officer not recognized him as a judge. Margolius’ comments came during the trial of two protesters after he asked state prosecutors how many police officers had been charged so far for their actions on the street. When the prosecutor said none, Margolius, said that was a “Pretty sad commentary.” Margolius continued that it was '’Pretty disgraceful what I saw with my own eyes. And I have always supported the police during my entire career. This was a real eye-opener. A disgrace for the community.'’ The AFL-CIO, American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have announced plans to use the city and Miami Police Chief John Timoney for their actions during the protests. Over 200 protesters were arrested, scores were beaten by police and shot with rubber bullets and tear gas. In related news, Miami police chief Timoney has begun working for the city of Boston as a security consultant for the upcoming Democratic National Convention this summer.
In Bulgaria, the parliament on Friday voted to allow the U.S. to build permanent bases inside the country for the first time. The U.S. has being using a Bulgarian airport as a base for some warplanes used in Iraq and Afghanistan.
An investigation by the New York Times that the federal agency that monitors workplace safety, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, seldom seeks to prosecute employers whose willful neglect lead to the death of an employee. Over the past 20 years, over 1200 deaths have been reported and OSHA has declined to seek prosecution in 93 percent of the cases.
In Paris, some 3000 people, mostly Muslim women, took to the streets to protest the French government’s decision to ban from state schools religious clothing, including Islamic headscarfs.
The Federal Communications Commission approved Friday the $6.6 billion purchase of satellite tv giant DirectTV by Rupert Murdoch who runs News Corps and Fox News. According to the Los Angeles Times the deal will make Murdoch the nation’s only media titan with satellite, cable and broadcast assets in the U.S. Murdoch owns the Fox network, the Fox News channel, 20 regional sports channels, 35 other TV Stations, the New York Post and the 20th Century Fox movie studio.