UPI hears ...

Jan. 28, 2002 at 2:19 PM
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Insider notes from United Press International for Jan. 28 ...

The friends of Jonathan Pollard, the former U.S. naval intelligence officer serving a life sentence for spying for Israel, never give up. Former (and probably next) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, scheduled to be in Washington this weekend for a conservative conference, will be lobbying hard for Pollard, and wants to take up the matter with President Bush in person. Now 47, Pollard was arrested in 1985 outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, where he was heading to claim political asylum. Two years later he was sentenced for passing thousands of pages of classified data, including satellite pictures, raw intelligence and material that help Israel counter U.S. electronic surveillance techniques. Despite repeated pleas to the White House by Israel to free him, Pollard has always found his release blocked by strong objections from U.S. intelligence agencies, but Netanyahu apparently hopes that the intense U.S.-Israeli intelligence cooperation in the war on terrorism could change that. Unlikely. There's a lot of talk about an Israeli role in that Chinese intelligence operation at the Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory, all being made public in a new book by Gordon Thomas, author of "Gideon's Spies," an acclaimed history of the Mossad. The new book, "Seeds of Fire," is said to have "explosive implications" for U.S. relations with Israel.

The dashing and much-married German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who turns 58 in April, has brought in his lawyers, threatening to take out an injunction against irreverent German newspapers that repeat the claim that he is dying his thick, dark hair. Furious at the popular tabloid Bild for mocking his "very modern" appearance by comparison with gray-haired politicians, Schroeder said "anyone who insinuates that I dye my hair insinuates that I always lie." His lawyers are already moving in on fashion and image consultant Sabine Schwind von Egelstein, who told a German news agency that the chancellor would be more credible "if he did not color his graying temples."

Although formal approval has yet to come from the Indian government, Indian naval sources claim to be confident that they will get the go-ahead for an agreement to take over two of Russia's state-of-the-art nuclear-powered hunter-killer submarines. Construction of the two Type 971 subs, known as Akula (Shark), began in the 1990s but was then frozen for budgetary reasons. Once New Delhi makes the first $100 million payment, says Russia's Rosoboronexport arms sales agency, the fitting-out resumes and India will be able to deploy the subs in 2004 and then lease them for the rest of the decade. The original Akula carried SS-16 missiles with a range of up to 100 miles, but the Indian version is to be fitted with the Brahmos cruise missile, a joint Russian-Indian development with a range of 150 miles and carrying conventional warhead of up to 400 pounds.

Serious embarrassment in Paris at the revelation in Monday's Le Figaro that seven French citizens are among the al Qaida and Taliban fighters detained at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The French government has been trying to keep it quiet, not wanting to be forced into an open row with Washington over the treatment and status of the detainees -- an issue already provoking outrage in the French media and National Assembly. A compromise was reached within the French government to keep silent at least until an official delegation could go to Cuba to confirm the prisoners' identities. All seven are French-born of North African descent.

Frantically trying to shore up its diplomatic contacts before the Bush administration's attention turns from Afghanistan, Iraq is courting Tehran. Foreign Minister Naji Sabri took a big delegation, including senior military and Mukhabarat intelligence top brass, on his trip to Iran that was supposedly focusing on restoring communications. The talks went well. Iran says that a formal commercial air link will be re-opened "soon" after a suspension that has lasted for 22 years. What else did they agree? Kurdish sources say they are nervous; Sabri's delegation included some of Baghdad's top officials on dealing with the Kurdish problem. When Iran and Iraq start getting together, the Kurds usually pay the price.

This may come as news to the Turks, who were supposed to be taking over the command of the international security force in Afghanistan from the British, but Brig. Gen. Carl Hubertus von Butler is claiming that his German troops will be taking over the "lead nation" role in Kabul.

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