Al-Ahram Weekly Online
14 - 20 June 2001
Issue No.538
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Current issue | Previous issue | Site map

Embassy move delay

AS DID his predecessor Bill Clinton, President George W Bush has backed off from his campaign pledge to move the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and will keep it in Tel Aviv, at least for now.

The Bush administration said this week that while the president remained committed to starting a process to move the embassy to Jerusalem, which Israel claimed as its capital, the mission would stay put. Palestinians are demanding Israel's withdrawal from East Jerusalem, occupied after defeating Arab armies in the 1967 war, and consider it the capital of their future state.

Citing national security considerations, Bush notified Secretary of State Colin Powell on Monday that he was extending an administrative ban on the move for another six months.

Israeli uproar

AN ARAB member of the Israeli Knesset, Azmi Bishara, is again facing calls that he be tried and stripped of his Israeli citizenship because of his public statements affirming that Palestinians were entitled to resist Israeli occupation. Bishara's latest statements, which provoked widespread uproar in Israel, came during a speech he made in Syria on 10 June marking one year since the death of late President Hafez Assad. The celebration, held in Assad's home town of Kerdaha, was attended by scores of Arab and foreign officials, as well Sayed Hassan Nassrallah, leader of the Lebanese Islamic resistance movement, Hizbullah.

In his speech, Bishara accused Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of trying to drag the region into war. "Today, Israel offers a choice -- accept either Israel's dictates or full-scale war," he said. "There is no possibility of carrying on with a third alternative, the path of resistance, other than by enlarging this resistance sphere, so that people can carry on with the struggle."

Bishara's aides said he was not calling for war, but for widespread Arab support for the ongoing Palestinian uprising.

Infrastructure Minister Avigdor Lieberman of the nationalist Israel Beitenu Party called for Bishara to be "outlawed," and lawmaker Zeev Boim of Sharon's Likud Party said Bishara should be arrested when he returns to Israel this week. Interior Minister Eli Ishai said Bishara's Israeli citizenship should be revoked.

Defying the nukes

EVEN Israel's nuclear weapons cannot help it win its conflict with Palestinians or armed resistance groups like Lebanon's Hizbullah, researchers at an Israeli strategic think-tank said on Monday.

Professor Shai Feldman, head of Tel Aviv University's Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies, told a news conference at the presentation of the think-tank's annual study, entitled "The Middle East Military Balance," that Israel maintained its military superiority over Arab nations. However, Feldman said, the Israeli superiority "does not immediately or easily translate into conflict with the Palestinians."

Shlomo Brom, a Jaffee Centre researcher who served in the military as a brigadier general and directed strategic planning, gave what he called "a very extreme example," making a rare public reference to Israel's nuclear capacity.

"Whatever is happening in this conflict with the Palestinians or Hizbullah (guerrillas in Lebanon) doesn't make the smallest dent in Israel's nuclear capability. It is not relevant at all," he said. "But at the same time, Israel's nuclear capability is not relevant at all to what is happening in the conflict with the Palestinians or with Hizbullah, because we are talking about totally different dimensions."

Although there have been many reports abroad asserting that Israel has a large stock of nuclear bombs, Israel has never admitted possessing nuclear weapons.

Iraq adamant

IRAQ will refuse to bow to US and British proposals for "smart" sanctions even if military force is used to impose changes to the United Nations embargo regime, a senior official warned this week.

"Any resolution which Iraq refuses to accept will never be implemented, whatever the diplomatic or military measures to which the Anglo-American coalition resorts," Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Naji Sabri said.

The statement was the first time an Iraqi official had referred explicitly to the use of force, and followed a warning from President Saddam Hussein last week that Iraq should prepare for "a new confrontation" over smart sanctions.

Berber uprising

THE BERBER uprising which has shaken Algeria since April shows no signs of abating. Berber leaders told the Associated Press on Monday that a huge protest would be held in the capital, Algiers, today (Thursday) which could draw up to two million people.

"We don't need anyone's permission, we have nothing to negotiate," one leader said. "On Thursday, we will march en masse in Algiers."

If it takes place, the march will be the second large-scale demonstration in the capital over the Berber issue. On 31 May, at least 200,000 people marched through the streets of Algiers. On Tuesday, the Algerian press reported that 30 people were injured in the second day of clashes between youths and riot police in the eastern Berber town of Khenchela.

Sudan fighting

ARAB LEAGUE Secretary-General Amr Moussa plans to visit Sudan later this month for talks with officials and opposition figures on the deteriorating situation there. This week Moussa received Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail, who told reporters that Khartoum was hoping for the Arab League to intervene to contain the military confrontation between the Sudanese army and the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) rebels. Ismail said 40,000 people have been left homeless by the clashes, which also threaten oil installations in Bahr Al- Ghazal province.

"We are extremely concerned about the situation in Sudan," said Moussa, promising the League's support of all diplomatic efforts to restore peace in Sudan. In a statement issued after the talks between Moussa and Ismail, the League expressed its "support to the Republic of Sudan in its efforts to face anything that may undermine its sovereignty, stability, unity and territorial integrity."

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