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Nov. 14, 2002 at 10:34 AM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Insider notes from United Press International for Nov. 14 ...

The world came dangerously close to nuclear war in late July. The nuclear standoff between India and Pakistan became dangerously hot over the Pakistani occupation of a "strategic" border post that Indian troops then recaptured. There were casualties on both sides but the conflict remained confined to the immediate vicinity of the Neelam Valley near Gurez in Kashmir. Senior officers of the Indian air force have confirmed its role in the operation now known as Kargil II. (The first Kargil operation was an 1999 invasion of Kashmiri guerrillas from Pakistan territory.) "We did what we had to. Of course, it was an operation jointly conducted with the army," one says. The crisis began when a Predator-like unmanned aerial vehicle spotted the Pakistani troops on the wrong side of the line of control - LoC -- and the air force then flew cover and air support, and airlifted Special Forces and mountain troops to the Neelam Valley. The air force confirmation was then followed by a contradictory flurry of denials and "no comments" from various sections of the Defense Ministry. The story emerged because the air force wanted to show how close it was to India new army chief, Lt. Gen. Nirmal Chander Vij, who won his spurs by planning the original Kargil operations of 1999. General Vij is about to become a heartthrob, with all the starlets of the Indian film industry vying for bit parts in J.P. Dutta's new Kargil movie "LoC."


The civil war in Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party is coming into the open ahead of next year's internal election for the party presidency. If the current Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi wins it, he can count on remaining in power until September 2006. But his enemies are gathering. "It's 100-percent certain Mr. Koizumi will not win," says Shizuka Kamei, former chairman of the LDP's influential Policy Research Council, the most public face of the anti-Koizumi faction so far. Behind Kamei, say insiders, stand former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and LDP General Council Chairman Mitsuo Horiuchi. Kamei himself is backed by Takami Eto, a former transport and construction minister, which is to say the politician with the most intimate contacts with the biggest funding groups in Japanese politics.


The Bush administration is seeking to nail down a formal agreement for long-term use of Qatar's Al Udeid air base, about 20 miles south the Gulf emirate's capital of Doha, and boasting, at 15,000 feet, the longest runway in the Persian Gulf. This makes it perfect for heavily loaded refueling tanker aircraft. So far, the basing arrangement has been temporary and limited, despite the investment of close to $100 million by the Pentagon in building accommodation for up to 10,000 troops and state-of-the-art camouflaged shelters for up to 120 aircraft. The base also houses the pre-positioned equipment for a U.S. armored brigade, whose troops can be flown in, mount their vehicles and start a combat deployment within hours. The base was built, as a kind of strategic speculative venture, by the Qatar government at a cost of almost $1 billion, in the hope that the United States would see its benefits as a base. The price they want in return is a security guarantee, whose terms are currently being argued.


Already looking like the skunk at the picnic after the allegations of selling missile systems to Saddam Hussein, Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma is going be even more unwelcome at next week's NATO summit in Prague. As a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace, he is entitled to show up at Day 2, but the Czech hosts fear that he and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko will try to gatecrash the entire event. Kuchma's latest offense is a new co-production deal for military transport aircraft with Iran. Ukraine's Kharkiv Aviation has agreed to establish a joint company with the Iranian Aeronautics Industrial Organization to build Antonov AN-140s at Isfahan.


It's not often that sailors in the Indian navy get frostbite, but 200 of them are freezing in St. Petersburg, Russia, having been told last month that they could come and collect their new state-of-the-art and stealthy frigate, Talwar. The Indians arrived with the first snows, to be told that the anti-aircraft missile system still needed work. This is not the first time this has happened. A previous crew spent four fruitless months in Moscow, also waiting for delivery of a Krivak-III class frigate, one of three bought by Indian in a billion-dollar deal that was supposed to be completed this year. As a goodwill gesture, the Russians provided the Indian sailors with complimentary fur hats.


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