Insider notes from United Press International for March 27
What an unholy mess in Beirut, where the Arab summit degenerated into farce Wednesday. The Palestinian delegation walked out because the summit organizers would not broadcast Yasser Arafat's speech. (He gave it over Al Jazeera TV instead.) As exclusively predicted in Monday's UPI Hears, Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah decided not to attend. Then the Saudis left early, allegedly because one of their number -- Prince Nawaf -- was taken ill. He was taken to hospital in Beirut, accompanied by the rest of the Saudi delegates, a useful opportunity for the effective Saudi ruler Prince Abdullah to make an early exit from the stricken field. Lebanese organizers were still trying to persuade the Palestinians to return, promising to broadcast Arafat's speech to the summit conference "later." The Palestinians, detecting the malign hand of Syrian influence (and Syria had consistently been lukewarm on Prince Abdullah's peace plan for "normalization"), told the Lebanese they had heard too many Beirut promises.
Denmark is determined to pull out all the stops to ensure that the three Baltic countries, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, are brought into the NATO alliance at this November's NATO summit in Prague, Czech Republic. Danish premier Anders Fogh Rasmussen told President George Bush in his Washington trip this week that the three Baltic states were now taking part in Operation Enduring Freedom. Ten soldiers from each country have been brought into the Danish force in Afghanistan, in the support units for the 100 Danish Special Forces.
It would seem that well-meaning Europeans just can't resist going to Colombia to help train terrorists. First the Colombian authorities detained three Irish Republican Army members. Now Gen. Arcesio Barrero, head of the 4th Army Division, has announced that the army has detained Rudolf Yethon in the jungles of Guaviare province. Yethon, a German national, is suspected of training Revolutionary Army of Colombia guerrillas in terrorist tactics. Yethon is an expert in explosives and communications according to Barrero. Yethon obviously liked the country, as he has lived there for the last 24 years. Foreigners playing terrorist frequently get stiff sentences from the courts; in neighboring Peru Lori Berenson received a 20-year sentence for associating with Tupac Amaru. Despite discreet appeals from President Bush, President Toledo told the Chief Gringo that he considers the case closed.
After a prolonged internal argument between Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and Serbia's premier Zoran Djindjic, the Serbian military bodyguard that has long protected Gen. Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb commander wanted on genocide charges at The Hague tribunal, has been withdrawn. NATO sources say an arrest is now expected soon -- unless derailed by the same kinds of leaks that allowed former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karazdic to elude the last two snatch squads sent to get him.
The good news is that the Pakistan Air Force has finally phased out its 36-year-old U.S.-supplied F-6 aircraft and inducted a fleet of 22 F-7PG jets, newly acquired from China over the past three months. The bad news is that China's F-7 (although much modernized, and beefed up with a MiG-29 engine) is basically a venerable Soviet-era MiG-21 Fishbed, which first flew in 1955. With more than 8,000 produced, the MiG-21 remains by far the most popular combat aircraft of the jet age. China has been producing the F-7 for even longer than the Pakistanis have had the old F-6 jets. The problem was that the F-6s were simply wearing out. Pakistan has just 40 left of the original order of 180 -- and only China was prepared to replace them. "We owe a debt of abiding gratitude to the government of the People's Republic of China for keeping the Pakistan Air Force flying fit in difficult times," Pakistan's Chief Air Marshal, Mushar Ali Mir, told the ceremony at Quetta. What he did not say was that the new jet's weapon stations are patterned after those on the American-built F-16s Pakistan bought before they were hit with U.S. sanctions in 1990. How did the Chinese know how to match the F-16 fittings? Because Pakistan secretly transferred one to China for reverse engineering.
Former British foreign secretary Robin Cook claims that the British national dish is now Chicken Tikka Masala -- and now Queen Elizabeth II has broken with all royal protocol to pen an introduction for a curry cookery book, titled "Favorite Recipes Of The Raj." It's in a good cause, with proceeds going to Britain's Cancer Research Campaign, and includes recipes from singer Tom Jones, the prime minister's wife, Cherie Blair, actress Glenda Jackson and veteran soccer star Kevin Keegan.