Insider notes from United Press International for Feb. 6 ...
The "Axis of Evil" is about to run into the Atlantic Alliance, and provoke a potentially serious row between Europeans and the Bush administration. The 15-nation European Union is planning to sign a trade pact with the mainly Arab Mediterranean countries on April 22 in Valencia, Spain, as the current holder of the EU's rotating presidency, will be the site of the event. But Spain also is lobbying hard for a new Trade and Cooperation Agreement with Iran to be signed on Spain's watch. An Iranian political delegation headed by Ali Ahani, Tehran's deputy foreign minister, has been negotiating in Madrid this week with Spain's foreign minister, Josep Pique, who leads the EU's powerful General Affairs Council. Bush's inclusion of Iraq, Iran and North Korea in the Axis of Evil has not gone down well in Brussels. EU diplomats "do not agree with that kind of policy," says commission spokesman Gunnar Weigand.
India's influence in Central Asia -- and its potential to encircle Pakistan -- is growing fast. After India's swift courtship of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, the Indian air force is moving in Tajikistan. An Indian military delegation holding talks in Dushanbe this week with Tajik Defense Minister Col. Gen. Sherali Khairulloev has signed an agreement to train personnel for the Tajik air force and contribute to modernizing the Ayni air force base. France recently rejected an offer of the use of the Avni base because the old Soviet airfield needed extensive repairs. India is prepared to pick up the tab.
A nasty tiff between Japan and South Korea is delaying the publication of the new generation of maritime charts, the first for 50 years, by the International Hydrographic Organization. South Korea wants the name of the Sea of Japan, said to smack of Japanese colonialism, changed to the less imperial and more anonymous "East Sea." Tokyo counters that the Sea of Japan has been internationally recognized for 200 years. Before that, retorts Korea, it was usually called the Sea of Korea. The IHO, an intergovernmental consultative and technical organization established in 1921, has issued guidelines for world marine charts since 1929 to ensure the safety of marine transport. Under IHO rules, if there is more than one name for a sea, the countries concerned should try to agree on one name -- and that all names will be mentioned in the chart if no consensus can be reached. Both sides want to avoid that.
He could have been called Checkpoint Charlie. A Palestinian woman, forced to give birth at an Israeli security checkpoint Tuesday because the troops refused to let her cross to nearby Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, has named the baby "Hajez" -- Arabic for "checkpoint."
Russian security forces have seized papers belonging to the late first president of Chechnya, Dzhokar Dudayev, which included a plan for hijacking a Russian nuclear submarine. The documents called for seven people to take over the submarine, attach explosive devices to a reactor and a warhead, and demand the withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya. What makes the documents intriguing is that Dudayev died in April 1996, when the Russians targeted his satellite telephone. Four years later, on Aug. 12, 2000, the submarine Kursk sank in the Barents Sea, killing its crew. Several days later Movladi Udugov's Kavkaz-Tsentr Web site claimed that Dagestani martyrs sank the boat. The Russian government has yet to give a definitive answer on what actually sank the submarine. A spokesman for Russia's Pacific Fleet says the plans were unrealistic, and that a Russian submarine "could only be hijacked in a foreign science fiction action movie -- in real life it would be a doomed plan."
In a quiet diplomatic breakthrough, the United States is rewarding Yemen for its cooperation in the war against terrorism by agreeing that Yemeni government officials will be allowed to visit and sit in on the interrogations of 21 Yemenis held at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay. A 12-man U.S. team is flying to Sanaa to help train Yemeni security forces. There is to be material aid as well; the Yemeni government is expecting a gift of 15 patrol boats to help interdict smuggling. Yemen is requesting that the United States allow it to extradite its citizens to Yemen to stand trial there for their activities, a decision that will most likely hinge on Yemen's ongoing cooperation in the investigation of the USS Cole bombing in October 2000.