2A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, February 14, 2005
Mlilitants agree to de facto truce NEWS IN BRIEF
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* Hamas, Islamic Jihad
stop short of agreeing to
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -
The Palestinian militant groups Hamas
and Islamic Jihad said Saturday they
were adhering to a de facto truce with
Israel, but stopped short of committing
to the official cease-fire that Palestin-
ian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon agreed on
at their summit.
Israel agreed to repatriate about 55
Palestinians it deported to the Gaza
Strip and Europe on terror accusations.
The majority were exiled after a month-
long siege of the Church of the Nativity
in Bethlehem in 2002.
In fast-paced moves to cement the
truce, Israel said it will transfer control
of the West Bank town of Jericho to
Palestinians this coming week. As part
of the cease-fire, Israel has pledged to
return five West Bank towns - the oth-
ers are Tulkarem, Qalqiliya, Bethlehem
and Ramallah - to Palestinian control
within three weeks.
Leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad
met Saturday with Abbas, who is trying
to keep the fragile cease-fire intact and
end more than four years of fighting.
The two groups had already agreed to
halt attacks before the cease-fire agree-
ment at Tuesday's summit in Egypt.
A Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar,
told The Associated Press the group
will wait to see whether Israel stops its
military activities and targeted kill-
ings of Palestinian militants before
deciding whether to sign on to the
Zahar, after meeting Abbas, said
Hamas was "committed to what is
called 'quietness' " until it determines
whether Israel meets its truce obliga-
tions, including disclosing the criteria
for releasing Palestinian prisoners.
"Up to this moment, we are commit-
ted to the previous agreement with Mr.
Abbas, and we are going to see how the
Israelis" act, Zahar told the AP.
Hamas was behind dozens of suicide
bombings and attacks that killed hun-
dreds of Israelis. On Thursday, it upset
the Sharon-Abbas truce by training doz-
ens of rockets and mortars on Jewish
settlements in the Gaza Strip.
Though Israel gave no timetable for
the return of the deported Palestin-
ians, one of the exiles, Ghanem Swei-
lem, told reporters in Gaza City on
Saturday that they expect to go home
within a week or two.
"Today, we received good news that
an agreement was reached with the
Israeli side to allow us to return to our
cities ... each to his home, each to his
city, within a short period of time," said
Sweilem, who was exiled from his home
in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus
more than two years ago.
The repatriation of the deportees is
part of a larger dispute over the release of
Palestinian prisoners. Israel has agreed
to free 900 of the estimated 8,000 Pal-
estinian prisoners, but the Palestinians
want a broader release.
Five hundred of the 900 prisoners are
expected to be released soon. A minis-
terial committee on prisoner releases is
to meet Sunday, Israel Radio said.
Israel has also agreed to lift travel
restrictions in parts of the West Bank
and abandon several major checkpoints
as part of the handover. That would be
a major dividend from the cease-fire
for ordinary Palestinians, because the
restrictions have caused them severe
The cease-fire has coincided
with renewed U.S. attempts to get
an internationally backed Mideast
peace plan known as the "road map"
back on track.
The new U.S. security coordinator
for the Middle East, Army Lt. Gen. Wil-
liam E. Ward, is to make his first trip to
the region later this month.
In Munich, Germany, NATO's top
diplomat said Saturday the alliance
should be ready to play a major role in
supporting the peace efforts if asked.
Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Schef-
fer said he planned to go to Israel next
week, the first such visit by a NATO
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Norfti Korea: No more six-party talks
North Korea's deputy U.N. ambassador said there would be "no more" six-nation
talks on the country's nuclear program and maintained the real issue is whether the
United States intends to attack the reclusive communist nation.
Han Song Ryol made clear his country's announcement Thursday that it is a
nuclear power and that it would indefinitely suspend its participation in six-party
negotiations was the result of Pyongyang's belief that the United States is bent on
invading North Korea to topple Kim Jong II's authoritarian regime.
Han went further in an interview Friday with Associated Press Television News
when asked what it would take to get North Korea to come back to the talks. "Six-
party talks is old story. No more," the North Korean envoy replied in English.
The United States, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia have struggled to
arrange a fourth round of talks aimed at persuading Pyongyang to abandon its
nuclear weapons programs. The last round was held in June.
North Korea's claim that it has nuclear weapons could not be indepen-
Americans leave no paper trail in Iraq
Destroyed Iraqi infrastructure
led Americans to use piles of cash
to pay reconstruction contractors
WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. officials in postwar
Iraq paid a contractor by stuffing $2 million worth of
crisp bills into his gunnysack and routinely made cash
payments around Baghdad from a pickup truck, a for-
mer official with the U.S. occupation government says.
Because the country lacked a functioning banking
system, contractors and Iraqi ministry officials were
paid with bills taken from a basement vault in one of
Saddam Hussein's palaces that served as headquarters
for the Coalition Provisional Authority, former CPA
official Frank Willis said.
Officials from the CPA, which ruled Iraq from
June 2003 to June 2004, would count the money
when it left the vault, but nobody kept track of the
cash after that, Willis said.
"In sum: inexperienced officials, fear of decision-
making, lack of communications, minimal security,
no banks, and lots of money to spread around. This
chaos I have referred to as a 'Wild West,"' Willis said
in testimony he prepared to give today before a panel of
Democratic senators who want to spotlight the waste of
U.S. funds in Iraq.
A senior official in the 1980s at the State and
Transportation departments under then-President
Ronald Reagan, Willis provided The Associated
Press with a copy of his testimony and answered
questions in an interview.
Head of oil-for-food program blocked audit
The U.N. oil-for-food program chief under scrutiny for alleged corruption and
mismanagement blocked a proposed audit of his office around the same time he is
accused of soliciting lucrative oil deals from Iraq, according to investigators.
A U.N. auditing team, which was severely understaffed, said running the $64
billion oil-for-food program was "a high risk activity" and a priority for review.
But Benon Sevan denied the internal auditors' request to hire a consultant to
examine his office in May 2001 - an act top investigators of the program are
now calling into question.
"I think the auditors thought they were steered away from some areas," Paul
Volcker, who's leading the independent probe, told The Associated Press. "Our
judgment is that the main office should have been audited. And that leaves the
inference that perhaps the auditors were not encouraged to do the work. I think we
draw the inference that it was at least suspicious."
U.S. soldier killed fighting in Iraq
A U.S. soldier was killed in fighting north of Baghdad and gunmen assassi-
nated an Iraqi general and two companions in a Shiite neighborhood of the capital
Sunday. Election officials said a Shiite alliance won the most votes in the Jan. 30
elections but will have to form a coalition government.
Three other U.S. soldiers were killed when their vehicle rolled into a canal
Sunday, the military said. The men from Task Force Danger were on a combat
patrol near the town of Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad, the U.S. command
said in a statement.
A fourth Task Force Danger soldier was killed and one was wounded in fighting
near Samarra, a flashpoint of the insurgency 60 miles north of Baghdad, the military
said. In the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, an Iraqi translator for Italian troops and
his son were shot to death Sunday, a spokesman for Italy's military said.
German far-right protests Dresden anniversary
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder yesterday warned Germans against for-
getting history, as far-right supporters rallied in Dresden to protest a dev-
astating Allied bombing in World War II that killed an estimated 35,000
residents 60 years ago.
The rally - and fears of street clashes - cast a shadow over a day of remem-
brance and reflection on the U.S.-British air raids, which set off firestorms and
destroyed the centuries-old city center.
Schroeder vowed to fight attempts by neo-Nazis to blur the historical context
of the Feb. 13-14, 1945, attack - part of a war started by Nazi Germany during
which Adolf Hitler's regime killed 6 million European Jews in the Holocaust.
"Today we grieve for the victims of war and the Nazi reign of terror in Dres-
den, in Germany and in Europe," he said in a statement issued in Berlin.
- Compiled from Daily wire reports
Former Coalition Provisional Authority advisers Frank Willis, left, and Darrell Trent stand in front of a pile
of money at an undisclosed location in Baghdad in this 2003 photograph provided by Willis.
James Mitchell, spokesman for the special inspector
general for Iraq reconstruction, told the AP that cash
payments in Iraq were a problem when the occupation
authority ran the country and they continue during the
massive U.S.-funded reconstruction.
"There are no capabilities to electronically transfer
funds," Mitchell said. "This complicates the financial
management of reconstruction projects and complicates
our ability to follow the money."
The Pentagon, which had oversight of the CPA, did
not immediately comment in response to requests Fri-
day and over the weekend.
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