French officials have privately told President Jean Betrand Aristide that they want him to resign and for a new coalition government to be formed. One French official told the Miami Herald, '’He does not have our support. We will now move to support a government of national unity.'’ France also called for an international security force to be deployed. The UN Security Council is set to hold an emergency meeting today to consider a request by Jamaica that a U.N.-led peacekeeping force be sent to Haiti. The Organization of American States also planned to discuss the crisis today. A leader of the opposition Guy Philippe warned residents of Haiti to stay indoors. He said “in a few days Haiti will be free of Aristide.'’ Meanwhile Haiti's capital, Port Au Prince, is preparing for an attack by the armed gangs who have taken control of much of the North. Backers of Aristide have set up barricades throughout the city. The US has closed its embassy. Public transportation has stopped. Aristide’s wife Mildred, said Wednesday she had sent her two young daughters out of the country to stay with her mother. She told CNN “’The threat is real.”
In news from Britain, a former member of Tony Blair’s cabinet, Clare Short, has accused British intelligence agents of spying on U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in the run up to the Iraq war. She told the BBC she had read transcripts of private conversations of Annan. Last year the Observer of London reported that the US and Britain carried out a dirty tricks campaign by spying on officials from Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Bulgaria, Guinea and Pakistan in the lead up to the UN vote on Iraq. Yesterday the source of the Observer article, government whistleblower Katherine Gun was cleared of violating the country’s Official Secrets Act after the government presented no evidence against her.
One of the Pentagon’s most hawkish advisors, Richard Perle, has quietly resigned his post on the Defense Policy Board. He was a leading advocate for the invasion of Iraq and had spent 17 years on the board. He was seen by some as an election year liability to President Bush. Perle wrote in his resignation letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, “We are now approaching a long presidential election campaign, in the course of which issues on which I have strong views will be widely discussed and debated. I would not wish those views to be attributed to you or the president at any time, and especially not during a presidential campaign.” Perle has called for the expansion of the so-called war on terror to target North Korea and Iran. He has said France should be treated as an enemy. He has called for the US to pull out of the United Nations. And he has been a fierce critic of the CIA and State Department.
The president of Macedonia, Boris Trajkovski, was killed today when his plane crashed in southern Bosnia. Six other officials died with him. Bad weather was cited as a reason for the crash. He was elected in 1999. The crash came on the same day Macedonia had been scheduled to submit its application to join the European Union.
Agence France Press is reporting that Israeli forces killed two Palestinians today during a demonstration against Israel’s construction of a massive wall through the West Bank. The State Department has criticized an Israeli raid on banks in the West Bank town of Ramallah. Israel seized $8 million in the raid claiming the money was earmarked for terrorist activity.
In Washington, House Speaker Dennis Hastert told President George W. Bush that he would not submit legislation extending the deadline for an independent investigation into the September 11 attacks. Bush publicly has said he supports an extension. The commission has warned that without more time the panel would have to cut short its investigation of intelligence breakdowns in the period preceding the attacks. Also yesterday, the commission said national security adviser Condoleezza Rice had declined its request to testify at a public hearing next month. President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have also refused to meet with the full panel, only its chair and vice chair. And Former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore have agreed to meet privately with all members of the commission.
In Iraq, the BBC is reporting that 1.7 million Kurds have signed a petition demanding a referendum on the future of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq. Meanwhile in the northern city of Mosul, the city’s deputy police chief has been assassinated. And two U.S. soldiers died after their helicopter crashed west of Baghdad. There were conflicting reports as to the cause of the crash.
In a setback to supporters of school vouchers to pay for religious school, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday that states can withhold public scholarships from students preparing for the ministry. According to the New York Times the 7-2 decision was a “decisive rejection of the proposition that a government that subsidizes a secular activity must necessarily, as a matter of the constitutional free exercise of religion, subsidize the comparable religious activity as well.”
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan yesterday urged Congress to scale back retirement and social security benefits for future retirees. Meanwhile he supported making President Bush’s 2001 tax cuts permanent.
According to the New York Times, the US military is facing the gravest accusations of sexual misconduct in years, with dozens of servicewomen in the Persian Gulf area and elsewhere saying they were sexually assaulted or raped by fellow troops. The Pentagon has now received 112 reports of sexual misconduct among soldiers stationed in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. In addition at the Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, about two dozen women reported to a local rape-crisis center in 2002.
In campaign news, the New York Times today endorsed John Kerry in New York’s Democratic presidential primary scheduled for Tuesday. Democrats in 10 states vote on March 2 in what is known as Super Tuesday.