World briefs 12/23/02

Monday, December 23, 2002

Israel closes newspaper for supporting terrorism

JERUSALEM -- Israel ordered the closure of a newspaper put out by the radical branch of the Israeli Arab Islamic Movement, charging that the paper supports terrorism. The editors have 15 days to appeal.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai said the newspaper expresses the views of Hamas, the violent Islamic Palestinian movement responsible for dozens of suicide bomb attacks against Israelis.

The paper, Sawt Al Haq Wal Hurrieh, or "Voice of Freedom and Justice," in Arabic, is "a loudspeaker for grave incitement against Jews, Zionism and the state of Israel," Yishai said in a statement.

Editor Tawfiq Jabbarin defended his newspaper, which is the official newspaper of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, considered more militant than the southern branch.

"We cover what is happening on the Arab Israeli street and in the occupied territories," Jabbarin said. "If the interior minister disagrees with what we've written, he is free to. But as journalists we must report what we see."

Israel plans for possible U.S. strike on Iraq

JERUSALEM -- Israel and the United States will stage a joint exercise this week to integrate two different anti-missile systems as part of Israel's final preparations for a possible Iraqi attack, Israeli officials said Sunday.

Israel is concerned Saddam Hussein might attack in retaliation for a possible U.S. offensive against Iraq. The Iraq crisis has deepened since last week, when the United States said Iraq's weapons declaration was full of lies and omissions. President Bush has also given the go-ahead to double the 50,000 U.S. troop deployment in the Persian Gulf region in early January.

Zalman Shoval, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said Sunday that "Israel will also increase its activities in the coming weeks because the Americans and the other parties, based on their announcements, are speeding up their preparations for a possible attack on Iraq."

Israel TV reported Sunday that Israeli soldiers have been training with chemical agents, learning how to detect them to warn the public in case of an attack.

Montenegro elections fail due to low turnout

PODGORICA, Yugoslavia -- A popular politician who wants to move Montenegro toward a full break from Serbia conceded Sunday that his presidential election bid failed because of low voter turnout.

Former Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic appeared to have won most of the ballots cast and he said an opposition boycott was to blame for a turnout that was lower than the 50 percent of voters required by law.

"Because of the huge destructive influence of those who called for a boycott, this round of voting has not succeeded ... but Montenegro will get a president in January, and I'm sure it will be me," he said.

A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said balloting would likely be repeated Jan. 12.

Ivory Coast town vacated amid fears of more fights

DUEKOUE, Ivory Coast -- Ivory Coast government troops refueled tanks and vehicles and manned positions near a strategic western town Sunday, prepared to drive back rebel forces repelled a day earlier by French troops.

Fearful residents fled Duekoue, an important crossroads for the insurgents seeking to reach the commercial capital of Abidjan, about 200 miles to the southeast.

Loyalist soldiers gathered Sunday on the main road of Duekoue.

"We are in action, and we will remain in action until there are no more rebels left," Ivorian army spokesman Lt. Col. Jules Yao Yao said Sunday.

Rebel leader Sgt. Felix Doh said government helicopters bombarded villages in the Duekoue region and around the town of Blolequin, further west, on Sunday. The claims could not immediately be independently verified.

The day before, the French halted the insurgent advance outside the town by firing tank-mounted cannons at a rebel convoy. The rebels had ignored warning shots.

-- From wire reports

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