In Iraq, the Shiite physician Ibrahim al-Jaafari appears set to become the country’s new prime minister. The leading Shiite political coalition named Jaafari Tuesday as its candidate to be their official candidate for Prime Minister after his leading opponent, Ahmad Chalabi, withdrew from the race. Jaafari has spoken of increasing ties with Iran where he lived in exile during the 1980s. He is a member of the religious Dawa party. Patrick Lang, the retired chief of Middle East intelligence for the Pentagon said the selection of Jaafari marks the “desecularization of Iraq” that it enlarging Iranian sphere of influence in the region. Lang predicted Jaafari selection will enflame the Sunni resistance because it fears that Iraq’s new government will be dominated by hard-line religious Shiites.
In other Iraq news, European nations have pledged token additional support to help train and equip security forces in Iraq. This came following a request from President Bush during his trip to Brussels.. France pledged just one military officer to help in coordination at NATO headquarters. The NATO commitment is much smaller than the Bush administration had originally hoped.
Meanwhile President Bush met with European leaders on Tuesday and asked them not to end its embargo on Chinese arms sales. Bush warned that selling arms to China could “change the balance of relations between China and Taiwan.” The European Union has had an embargo on arms sales to China since the massacre in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
In Virginia, federal prosecutors have accused a 23-year-old U.S. citizen of plotting the of assassinating President Bush with members of Al Qaeda two years ago while he was studying in Saudi Arabia. The man, Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, had been jailed for over 20 months in Saudi Arabia where he was reportedly tortured Until Tuesday no charges had been filed against him. Law enforcement sources said the plot against Bush never advanced beyond the talking stage. One source involved in the case told the Washington Post that the U.S. government had hoped Saudi Arabia would bring charges against Abu Ali, in part because of the lack of evidence linking him to any al Qaeda activities. According to the Washington Post this is the first case in which the U.S. government would have to rely, in part, on information gathered solely by a foreign government. Abu Ali’s attorney Edward MacMahon’s said the allegations of torture promise to play a role as the case progresses. According to the Washington Post, Abu Ali is not charged directly with plotting to kill Bush but the allegation is part of a broader indictment that includes conspiracy charges. Outside the courtroom, Abu Ali’s mother accused the Bush administration of spreading lies about her son. If convicted of all charges, Abu Ali faces up to 80 years in prison.
Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, Democratic Congressman Edward Markey last week reintroduced legislation calling for a “Torture Outsourcing Prevention Act.” The legislation would formally prohibit the practice of “extraordinary rendition” by which prisoners in U.S. custody are allegedly sent for interrogation to foreign countries that practice torture. Over the past few years U.S. agents have detained or kidnapped numerous individuals and sent them to jails in Syria and Egypt without any formal legal proceeding.
In news on Afghanistan, Republican Senator John McCain has called for the establishment of permanent U.S. military bases in Afghanistan. McCain said a permanent presence is needed “Not only because of our appreciation of Afghanistan, but also we believe there will be vital national security interests in this region for a long time.”
Human Rights Watch is estimating that the Egyptian government is still holding as many as 2,400 detainees incommunicado following the Taba Hilton bombing in October. The group criticized the Egyptian state security forces for making arbitrary arrests and detentions.
In environmental news, the mayor of Seattle, Greg Nickels, has launched a nationwide campaign to convince other cities to agree to the terms of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. The treaty went into effect last week but the United States has refused to sign the agreement. Nickels said his goal is to inspire our federal government to take the action it should have done years ago.” He hopes to recruit 140 cities to match the 140 nations that have already signed the treaty. Mayors in several cities have already agreed including Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Minneapolis, Oakland and Portland Oregon.
American human rights activist Brian Avery plans to return to Israel this week for the first time since being shot in the face two years ago while he was in the West Bank town of Jenin. The shooting shattered his jaw and his nose forcing him to undergo a series of facial reconstruction surgeries. Witnesses said an Israeli Armored Personnel Carrier opened fire on Avery but Israel has denied being behind the shooting. On Feb. 28 the Israeli Supreme Court will hear Avery’s petition demanding a criminal investigation into the shooting. Avery’s shooting came several weeks after an Israeli bulldozer ran over and killed Rachel Corrie. A week after Avery was shot Israeli forces shot British peace activist Tom Hurndall. He later died from the shooting.
This news from the Vatican, in his new book “Memory and Identity” Pope John Paul has described same sex marriages as part of “a new ideology of evil” that is insidiously threatening society. He also calls abortion a QUOTE “legal extermination” comparable to attempts to wipe out Jews and other groups in the 20th century.
In environmental news, emissions from old diesel engines are killing an estimated 20,000 Americans a year. This according to a new report by the Clean Air Task Force. The environmental group criticized new governmental regulations on making diesel engines cleaner because they don’t affect millions of older trucks, buses and construction engines. The metropolitan areas of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago are most affected. Diesel pollution is blamed for contributing to asthma, respiratory diseases and heart attacks. The diesel industry criticized the report claiming it was based on old data.
And in South Africa, longtime African National Congress member Raymond Mhlaba has died at the age of 85. In 1964 he was sentenced with Nelson Mandela to life imprisonment for trying to overthrow South Africa’s apartheid regime. Mhlaba was released in 1989. Following his death Mandela said “His passing away removes from us one of the real stalwarts of our movement, a person who in his life and work embodied the highest values our struggle stood for and strove towards.”
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