Insider notes from United Press International for Dec. 11 ...
Well, did he or didn't he? All Germany is talking about Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's so-called resignation offer -- which opinion polls suggest three-quarters of Germans would like to see. At a meeting with restive Social Democratic Party chiefs, a testy and arrogant Schroeder asked if any of them thought they could do a better job. Nobody offered to step into the breach, not even Wolfgang Clement, economy and labor minister, who is being touted by the party as the obvious replacement. But Schroeder's worst problem may not come from his own party. A delegation of German members of the Bundestag from the Green Party, visiting Washington, has told both Bush administration and German Embassy staff they are convinced that Germany's Red-Green coalition government will fall by the end of February. Schroeder faces humiliation in state elections on Feb. 2 when his Social Democrats look doomed to lose his own province of Lower Saxony. And the new Green co-chair Angelika Beer has opened a new row by saying that Schroeder's decision to allow U.S. forces to use German airspace or bases for the Iraq war would breach the constitution, unless the war had the blessing of the United Nations. "The constitution comes before the obligations of the federal government," Beer said.
The Middle East is bracing for a harsh Israeli military operation in retaliation for the Mombassa bombing. Western diplomatic sources expect the operation to take place in advance of the general elections expected on Jan. 28 to give Prime Minister Ariel Sharon an electoral bounce. Kuwaiti officials say privately they expect Israel's biggest strike since the successful bombing of Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in June 1981, under Menachem Begin. But since al Qaida is boasting of responsibility for the Kenyan attacks, the question remains -- what will be Israel's target?
The Turkish military began a heavy reinforcement of its military and paramilitary units on its eastern border with Iraq over the weekend, doubling the usual contingent of some 10,000 troops. Three infantry brigades, with logistics and support units, were moved into the border region from the southern bases near Adana and Galiantep, concentrating around Silopi. All the reinforcing units have experience operating in Northern Iraq.
After long delays in the testing program, the world's best anti-missile system is about to go into production. Russia's S-400 "Triomf" anti-missile and anti-aircraft system is going through its final trials at Kapustin Yar, and Air Force officials have promised the first customers in the United Arab Emirates that they can take delivery next year. Reckoned to be twice as effective as the U.S. Patriot PAC-3 system, the S-400 has an over-the-horizon range of up to 250 miles. The Almaz Central Design Bureau claims the missile is effective against medium-range ballistic missiles with an incoming speed of over 3 miles per second, which means a missile with a 2,000-mile range. Thanks to advance payments by export customers, funding problems have been overcome, says Air Force chief of staff Gen. Boris Cheltsov, and it will be integrated into Moscow's own air defense system over the coming year. Designed for easy export sales, the Triomf missiles can be fitted to the popular S-300 air defense system. It comes in two versions, a 'heavy' anti-missile missile, and a lighter anti-aircraft missile based on the SAM-12 'Gladiator.'
It's that time of year to remember the needy, especially if they live in a country that has defaulted on its International Monetary Fund loans. The Saudi King Fahd Cultural Center in Buenos Aires has distributed food to 500 poor families in the capital to commemorate Eid al-Fitr, the feast marking the end of the Ramadan fast. Argentina has the largest Muslim population in Latin America, estimated at more than 1 million. Former President Carlos Menem is of Syrian descent, and the King Fahd Center is the largest Muslim religious and cultural institution outside of the Middle East. Buenos Aires has three mosques, but the largest mosque in Latin America is in the Argentinean city of Ciudad del Este, an epicenter of Western intelligence focus since the Sept. 11 attacks. The Saudis built the mosque. Argentinean intelligence has also reported sighting a number of Saudi al Qaida operatives there.