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Nov. 13, 2002 at 12:13 PM

Insider notes from United Press International for Nov. 13


The Israeli delegation in Washington this week to discuss the prospects of war against Iraq and its aftermath was originally said to include National Security Adviser Ephraim Halevy, acting Foreign Ministry Director-General Yoav Biran and Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, head of the Israel Defense Forces' Planning and Policy Directorate. It was to be led by Dan Meridor, minister without portfolio, responsible for national defense and diplomatic strategy in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office. But the key figure turned out to be the head of Sharon's office, Dov Weisglass, who quietly agreed with White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to "put on hold" President George W. Bush's road map to Middle East peace until the Israeli elections in January. This will infuriate the Europeans, who thought they shared ownership rights in the road map. Weisglass was also tasked with securing for Israel $10 billion in loan guarantees. Partly an effort to undercut Benjamin Netanyahu, Sharon's rival for the Likud party leadership, the money is also needed because Israel's economy is tottering. About 25 percent of Israeli children are reported to be "poor" and unemployment is approaching 12 percent. Most important, Israel's high-tech industry is cratering as investors transfer funds to other countries. Netanyahu is regarded as troublesome in the White House so Israeli sources feel confident that Sharon will get the money.


Japan has discreetly promised naval and logistics support to the Bush administration in an attack on Iraq. The Indian Ocean mission of Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and due to expire Nov. 19, is to be extended for another 6 months. Defense Agency Director General Shigeru Ishiba has assured U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Douglas Feith that Japan would provide refueling and other support to U.S., British and other allied warships. More controversially, and sure to trigger rows in Japan's parliament as the parties gear up for local elections in April, Ishiba said he also expected to send an Aegis destroyer and P-3C surveillance aircraft to help with command and control for air missions.


Iran has told Pakistani officials that it has developed a range of cruise missiles and will soon be ready to sell them. Based on the design of the Chinese C-802 anti-ship cruise missile, the Nur missile was successfully test-launched earlier this year and both naval and ground versions of the Nur are being manufactured. Russian designers, already helping Iran's ballistic missile development, were brought in to help on problems of the Nur engine's reliability.


Russia is planning to close its traditional launch facility for space flights at Baikonur, in what is now the separate state of Kazakhstan, and build two new centers in Plesetsk (near Archangel) and Svobodny in the Amur region of Siberia, close to the Chinese frontier. The plans were first revealed by Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, on a tour of the Russian Far East, who said Baikonur was now too expensive. "One space launch center is not enough for Russia. Three would be too many, but two will do," Ivanov said in a speech in Amur. On the same trip, which was supposed to include a trip to the disputed Kurile islands that Japan wants to reclaim, Ivanov announced a big new military exercise near the Kuriles next summer, part of a beefed-up naval presence in the northern Pacific that will also focus on protecting Russian fisheries and the new oil rigs. Bad weather stopped Ivanov reaching the islands, but his aides said the new coastal protection measures against fishery poachers would save Russia $500 million a year.


The opposition to Turkey's membership of the European Union is hardening fast. The European Peoples' Party, a coalition of right-of-center parties that is the largest block in the European parliament, is throwing its weight behind the controversial insistence of former French President Giscard d'Estaing that "Turkey is not a European country." EPP leaders Wilfried Martens of Belgium and Elmar Brok of Germany, presenting their own draft constitution for the EU, said their party "had come to the same conclusions as Giscard." They spoke as Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of Turkey's new AK (Justice and Development ) party that will form the next government after a sweeping election victory, was preparing a European tour to urge Turkish membership. The Bush administration is also strongly pressing the EU to give Turkey a firm date to start accession talks. But Martens, EPP chairman, said that Turkey should be content with a "partnership agreement" that falls far short of EU membership.

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