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RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP)
- Visiting German Foreign Minister
Joschka Fischer said yesterday that Pal-
estinian presidential elections and an
end to violence could lead to renewed
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, but lead-
ers of the Islamic group Hamas dis-
missed the possibility of a truce.
Fischer's visit was part of an intense
flurry of diplomacy aimed at reinvigorat-
ing long-stalled peace efforts after Yas-
ser Arafat's death last month. U.S. and
European mediators have expressed rare
optimism at ending more than four years
of Israeli-Palestinian fighting. Elections
to replace Arafat are set for Jan. 9.
"I think the present situation with the
coming election is a great opportunity
- if there is responsible behavior by all
parties on the ground and by the inter-
national community - to move toward
a resumption of the peace talks which
will lead to two states living peaceful-
ly side by side," said Fischer, who met
with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed
Qureia and interim Palestinian leader
But in Gaza yesterday, Hamas leader
Mahmoud Zahar said a truce was not on
"Not a singleaword was said aout a
truce," Zahar said. "We are defending
ourselves and our people, pushing the
Israelis out of our land."
In Lebanon, Moussa Abu Marzouk,
deputy head of Hamas's political bureau,
expressed hope the United States and
European Union would be "fairer" in
mediating the Palestinian-Israeli con-
flict, but he said his group would con-
tinue its resistance even ifa Palestinian
state was established.
Abu Marzouk told The Associated
Press a Palestinian state was a right
"stipulated by all international accords"
but was not a reason for Hamas to stop
"There are other rights for the Pales-
tinian people that cannot be forgotten or
be conceded," Abu Marzouk said with-
CANCUN, Mexico (AP) - Behind
the glitzy playgrounds of Cancun is
a growing drug war, fueled by wide-
spread police corruption, the partial
disruption of once-popular trafficking
routes through Haiti and a sudden turf
battle between two of the country's
main drug gangs.
Three years after authorities thought
they broke up the cocaine trade here,
nine people have turned up dead,
revealing a smuggling ring involving
corruption at all levels of government
and taking even federal investigators by
The discovery brings back memo-
ries of the dark days of the 1990s, when
one gang - the Juarez cartel - moved
huge amounts of cocaine along Mexi-
co's Caribbean coast, allegedly with the
protection of the state's former gover-
nor, Mario Villanueva, arrested in 2001
on drug charges.
But now, a shadowy chain of events
involving several gangs has led to the
killing of three federal agents and two
police informants, the kidnapping and
wounding of two federal investiga-
tors and the discovery of four as yet
unidentified bodies in the trunk of a
More than a dozen local and federal
police agents have been arrested -
including the wounded pair - adding
to mounting evidence that police, busi-
ness and local power figures are linked
to the drug trade.
"It's like a little game to see who can
get the drugs first" between the army,
the navy, or traffickers in speed boats,
said Donald Morgan, a fisherman and
tour guide who moved to the coast from
Washington state in 1976.
Insurgents attack bus, kill 17 civilians
Gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying unarmed Iraqis to work at a U.S. weap-
ons dump near Tikrit yesterday, killing 17 and bringing the toll from three days of
intensified insurgent attacks to at least 70 Iraqi dead and dozens wounded.
The attacks, focused in Baghdad and several cities to the north, appeared tobe aimed
at scaring off those who cooperate with the American military - whether police,
national guardsmen, Kurdish militias, or ordinary people just looking for a paycheck.
The violence came just weeks after the United States launched major offensives
aimed at suppressing guerrillas ahead of crucial elections set for Jan. 30. Later yes-
terday, several small Sunni Muslim groups joined more influential Sunni clerics in
demanding that the vote be postponed by six months.
Yesterday's bloodshed began when gunmen opened fire at the bus as it dropped off
Iraqis employed by coalition forces at a weapons dump in Tikrit, 80 miles north of
Baghdad, said Capt. Bill Coppernoll, spokesman for the Tikrit-based U.S. 1st Infan-
try Division. Coppernoll said 17 people died and 13 were wounded in the attack.
Survivors said about seven guerrillas were involved, emptying their clips into
the bus before fleeing. The bodies of the victims were brought to a morgue too
small to fit all of them; some were left splayed on a street outside.
Israel and Egypt relations begin to warm
In a series of dramatic steps capped yesterday by a high-profile prisoner swap,
Israel and Egypt are moving rapidly to improve relations, seizing the opportunity
for a Middle East peace deal presented by Yasser Arafat's death.
A year ago, Egypt's president dismissed Israel's prime minister as incapable of
making peace. Today, he calls Ariel Sharon the region's best chance for an end to
hostilities. The change in attitude is also apparent in Syria and across the Gulf,
as Arab nations signal they are ready to work with Sharon, a man they long have
described as a butcher.
But it was yesterday's Israeli-Egyptian prisoner swap that provided the most
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's decision to free Azzam Azzam, an
Israeli Arab convicted of spying for Israel, in exchange for six Egyptian stu-
dents held by Israel reversed his government's long-standing policy - and
eliminated a central point of friction between the two countries over the past
Israel may also release Palestinian prisoners in the future, Sharon said.
Gays to challenge "don't ask, don't tell" policy
The Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy is being challenged by 12 people who
have been separated from the military because of their homosexuality.
They plan to file a federal lawsuit today in Boston thatwould cite last year's landmark
U.S. Supreme Court ruling banning state laws making gay sex a crime as ground for
overturning the policy. Other courts have upheld the 11-year-old policy, but C. Dixon
Osburn, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which is advis-
ing the plaintiffs, said those decisions came prior to the 2003 Supreme Court ruling.
"We think the gay ban can no longer survive constitutionally," he said.
Justin Peacock, a former Coast Guard boatswain's mate from Knoxville,. Tenn.,
who is among the plaintiffs inthe planned U.S. District Court lawsuit, was kicked out
of the service after someone reported he was seen holding hands with another man.
"I would love to rejoin, but even if I don't get back inat least I could say I tried to
get the policy changed," Peacock said.
Opposition leader prepares for new election
Ukraine opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko began campaigning for the Dec. 26
presidential election rerun yesterday with a call for quick passage of anti-fraud legisla-
tion. Supporters signed up by the thousands to monitorpolls and ensure a fair vote.
"We are witnessing a struggle between forces of good and forces of evil," Ynsh-
chenko told throngs of chanting supporters gathered at Kiev's main square and
waving his campaign's orange flags. "The entire world is applauding our victory.
The entire world is proud of Ukraine."
While thousands of pro-Yushchenko demonstrators marked two weeks of a
round-the-clock vigil in downtown Kiev, supporters of his rival, Prime Minister
Viktor Yanukovych, were largely out of sight in eastern regions near Russia -
- Compiledfrom Daily wire reports
I E iYC t ttn + ttilv
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After the attacks Vietnam Vet-
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phrase was "We have learned to
attack the war, not the warrior." I
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