WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Insider notes from United Press International for Sept. 30...
Preparations are under way in Jordan for multinational military exercises next month that special forces from Britain and the United States and a handful of selected Arab countries. Jordanian officials deny any connection with the military build-up against Iraq, insisting the exercises are "routine" and "scheduled in advance." They made the same denials of the joint exercises with U.S. troops in southern Jordan between Aug. 12-Sept. 4, even though it is an open secret in the region that the exercises were a cover for the insertion of British and U.S. spotter teams into Iraq for the latest wave of air attacks on Iraqi air defenses. Jordanian denials and repeated statements against war on Baghdad -- Jordan's only oil supplier -- are clearly aimed at public consumption. But chatter on the street indicates the public is not buying the tale. And senior sources at Amman's international airport privately confide that hundreds, if not thousands, of American troops have been flying into the country in recent weeks to "finalize the details of the war against Iraq." The sources insist that Jordan was not allowing the use of its territories to launch attacks, but that the kingdom was providing "communications support."
Iran's elected government, as opposed to the Mullahs who run the security establishment, seems to be trying to shed the "axis of evil" label. President Mohammed Khatami on Sunday rebuffed an Iraqi "reconciliation" offer, including a promise to stop supporting Iranian opposition groups, saying that Iraq had comply with U.N. resolutions, get rid of weapons of mass destruction and accept U.N. inspectors. More to the point, the Iran government helped transfer intelligence on Iraqi chemical weapons from Ayatollah Baqer al-Hakim's Shia opposition organization to the British Prime Minister Tony Blair used some of the material in the dossier he delivered to the British parliament last week.
New York cultural grandees were startled by the unusual display of manners by ex-President Bill Clinton at a big event on Sept. 20 to celebrate Czech President, playwright and former dissident Vaclav Havel. Clinton was there along with author Toni Morrison, Novel laureate Eli Wiesel, actor Harvey Keitel, banker and ex-Ambassador to Paris Felix Rohatyn and singer Judy Collins. After Havel's moving speech, that was to be followed by a reception for the Czech leader, Clinton's staff began handing out invitations to a separate cocktail party Clinton was hosting immediately afterward -- but they pointedly failed to include Havel and the Czech president's wife Dagmar. Most of those present chose to join Havel anyway, whose reception featured a special performance of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven" by rock star Lou Reed, a longtime Havel favorite.
At least Clinton is one American politician who remains hugely popular in Germany. He has the honor of unveiling the restored Brandenburg Gate in Berlin next month, before heading on to pick up $500,000 for two speeches in Frankfurt and Munich. What Clinton doesn't know is that the Germans first invited George Bush the Elder, who cried off pleading tiredness and "too much foreign travel." That didn't stop Bush from a visit to Britain's World War II aviation museum last week.
Did he? Didn't he? Uday Saddam Hussein, the elder son of the Iraqi president Saddam Hussein has denied Arab media reports claiming that he had visited Moscow in a discreet search for political asylum for his family. Other family members have supposedly made similar trips. Uday's own Al- Shabab" (Youth) TV channel patriotically noted, "one who has a father and a leader like 'the father of Uday Saddam, has no greater honor but to be with him." Uday did voice an opinion of President Bush's true war aims: "Iraqi oil reserves are greater by 25 percent than Saudi oil reserves. And they do not say that we are No. 1 in the world in oil. They do not say it in order not to say that the war is for the sake of oil."
The hot topic at the round of receptions and dinners for international finance officials and bankers attending the International Monetary Fund's annual talks in Washington was not the world's economic woes but the D.C. police's massive security measures. Europe's two top financial heavyweights, the European Central Bank's Wim Duisenberg, and the Bank of England's Eddie George, were forced to go through the security checkpoints at the Blair House reception when their U.S. counterpart Alan Greenspan was waved obsequiously through. One European finance minister grumbled, "I didn't know I was coming to a police state." Participants traveled around town in small buses escorted by police cars with sirens blaring. Conference officials said marshalling the bankers into their assigned busses was as chaotic as round-up time on a Western cattle ranch. One banker said Sunday his one memory of the conference was a tunnel of metal detectors. When an American banker pointed out to the European finance minister that it was all done for his protection, the reply was, "I feel more protected traveling in an unmarked car."