UPI Hears...June 28

June 28, 2002 at 6:36 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 28 (UPI) -- When Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah spent the week-end discussing his Middle East peace plan with President Bush at the Crawford, Texas ranch last month he committed his government to halting -- or at least reducing -- the suicide bomb attacks against Israelis.

It was not a promise on which the Saudis could themselves deliver, but they knew someone who could. Which is why U.S. intelligence sources in Washington are saying that the job of taking out the suicide bombing infrastructure of the extremist Hamas group will be done by Egyptians.

Under the guise of helping the Palestinian Authority with their reforms so called Egyptian experts will begin to appear in the West Bank and Gaza. Only they'll be intelligence operatives, and soon designated suicide bombers and their support teams will begin to disappear. The United States has extracted a promise from Egypt not to station forces permanently in the Palestinian enclave. "(The Egyptians) are absolutely ferocious" one U.S. intelligence officer says admiringly.

In the estimation of Zahi Hawass, head of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities only 30 percent of Egypt's archeological treasures have so far been discovered. Hawass ought to know: he is one of Egypt's leading archeologists.

"We are finding things all the time, and there's always more to discover," he said in Washington Friday where he is attending the opening of a blockbuster exhibition of ancient Egyptian antiquities from the Cairo museum. The show, which will spend the next five years touring United States cities, focuses on ancient Egypt's perception of the after-life as seen in drawings on ornate sarcophagi, in tombs, and in artifacts. Not included in the exhibition is Hawass' latest discovery -- a plain stone sarcophagus painted with limestone and standing in its own small niche. The sarcophagus hasn't been opened yet but Hawass believes it contains the remains of a building supervisor connected with the construction of a royal tomb. The find is significant he said, because it's probably the first sarophagus of an "ordinary" Egyptian not connected with the royal court. "It means the end of those theories that the pyramids were the work of some other culture," he said. Or builders from outer space...

Wednesday was International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. Afghanistan and China observed the occasion, but in somewhat different ways. First, Afghanistan, which still produces 75 percent of the world's opium. President Hamid Karzai, who heads the Afghan transitional government, used the occasion to confirm his commitment to -- as he out it -- "fight against poppy cultivation, drug production, trafficking and use. We can assure the international community that we are able to eradicate narcotics in the country." A tall order since, according to U.N. figures current production will yield between 1,900 and 2,700 metric tons of opium, a level only slightly below the record production years of 1999 and 2000, when the now ousted Islamic militant Taliban regime encouraged production. Neighboring China, which has adopted a sterner "zero tolerance" approach, marked the day by executing 32 people sentenced to death for drug-related crimes at public rallies held nationwide. U.N. officials said they do not condone the


Peruvian congressman Edgar Villanueva thinks he has an answer to those financially crippling software licensing fees. He wants to ban Microsoft products from from government departments, replacing them open source software. His draft legislation will require the government to use alternative software, from server operating systems to databases, word processors and e-mail. If Villanueva's legislation passes next week, it will be the first of its kind in the world -- and the first legal restriction aimed at Microsoft's dominant operating systems worldwide.

Latin America and other Third World governments have great difficulty finding fees for software licenses from industry giants like Microsoft: Peru owes $30 million in overdue fees. Villanueva is hoping that open source programs will generate massive savings while preserving functionality. Microsoft is fighting back, arguing that the proposed legislation is based on misunderstandings and unproven theories. Microsoft Peru expects $27 million in sales legitimate sales this year, which the software giant estimates would generate about $70 million additional revenue for local businesses.

Despite strong opposition from conservative Muslims, Turkey's female population scored a significant victory Thursday when the parliament in Ankara passed an amendment to the civil code effectively giving women equal rights in the family. The amendment -- unique in an Islamic country -- is significant for what it removed rather than added to the law: it no longer states that the male is "the head of the family."

Turkish women's groups have been campaigning for the chance for nine years. It will allow a woman to get jobs without first having to obtain her husband's permission, and will share with him decisions about their children's schooling. The new law also introduces community property in the event of divorce. For a country that officially considers itself secular an amendment giving women equal footing in the family could be considered overdue. But in the climate of the times, with militant Islam gaining influence in Turkey, the vote was touch and go.

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