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April 01, 2014 - Image 6

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-04-01

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6 - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

U.S. and Israel discuss
release of spy prisoner

Jonathan Pollard
maybe freed to
advance peace talks
inthe Middle East
United States is talking with
Israel about releasing convicted
spy Jonathan Pollard early from
his life sentence as an incentive
to the Israelis in the troubled
Mideast peace negotiations,
people familiar with the talks
said Monday. Releasing Pollard,
a thorn in U.S.-Israeli relations
for three decades, would be an
extraordinary step underscoring
the urgency of U.S. peace efforts.
Two people describing the
talks cautioned that such a
release - which would be a dra-
matic turnaround from previous
refusals - was far from certain
and that discussions with Israel
on the matter were continuing.
Both spoke only on condition of
anonymity because they were
not authorized to discuss the
talks on the record.
In return for the release, the
people close to the talks said,
Israel would have to under-
take significant concessions
to the Palestinians in Middle
East negotiations. Such conces-
sions could include some kind
of freeze on Israeli settlements
in disputed territory, the release
of Palestinian prisoners beyond
those Israel has already agreed
to free and a guarantee that
Israel would stay at the negotiat-
ing table beyond an end-of-April
Secretary of State John Kerry
met for several hours late Mon-
day with Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu before sit-
ting down with chief Palestin-
ian negotiator Saeb Erekat and
another Palestinian official.
Kerry was expected to meet
again Tuesday morning with
Netanyahu before flyingto Brus-
sels for NATO talks on Ukraine.
U.S. defense and intelli-
gence officials have consistently
argued against releasing Pollard.
Pollard, an American Jew,
was a civilian intelligence ana-
lvst for the U.S. Navy when he

gave thousands of classified
documents to his Israeli han-
dlers. The Israelis recruited him
to pass along U.S. secrets includ-
ing satellite photos and data on
Soviet weaponry in the 1980s.
He was arrested by FBI agents in
Washington in 1985 after unsuc-
cessfully seeking refuge at the
Israeli Embassy in Washington.
He pleaded guilty to leaking
classified documents to Israel
and received a life sentence.
President Barack Obama and
his predecessors have refused
to release Pollard despite pleas
from Israeli leaders.
Apart from any negotiations
in the meantime, Pollard could
be released from prison on Nov.
21, 2015 - 30 years after his
arrest. He has been serving his
sentence at a federal facility in
Butner, N.C.
White House spokesman Jay
Carney on Monday declined to
discuss any possible deal.
"He is a person who is con-
victed of espionage and is serv-
ing his sentence. I don't have any
updates on his situation," Car-
ney told reporters at the White
Ahead of his trip to the Mid-
dle East last March, Obama told
Israeli television station Channel
2 that Pollard "is an individual
who committed a very serious
crime here in the United States."
"He's been serving his time,"
Obama said. "I have no plans
for releasing Jonathan Pollard
immediately but what Iam going
to be doing is to make sure that
he, like every other American
who's been sentenced, is accord-
ed the same kinds of review and
the same examination of the
equities that any other individu-
al would provide."
The president said at the time
that he recognized the emotions
involved in the situation. But he
added, "As the president, my first
obligation is to observe the law
here in the United States and to
make sure that it's applied con-
Various suggestions for deals
for Pollard's release have been
floated over the years, and they
were raised again last week in
the Israeli press.
The long-running Middle

East peace negotiations are
snagged over several issues,
including wither Israel will
agree to release more than two
dozen prisoners. They include 14
Arab Israelis whom Palestinian
authorities consider to be heroes
and freedom fighters. Israel con-
siders them terrorists.
Israel has already released
three other groups of prison-
ers as part of the peace negotia-
tions that began last July. All had
served lengthy terms for involve-
ment in attacks on Israelis, and
scenes of them returning to jubi-
lant celebrations have angered
the Israeli public. A fourth batch
was scheduled to be released
on March 29, and the delay has
prompted Palestinian authori-
ties to threaten to end the nego-
Netanyahu has said he would
present any additional release
recommendations to his Cabinet
- where approval is not guar-
anteed. Netanyahu's coalition is
dominated by hard-liners who
have been extremely critical of
the previous releases. The final
release is especially contentious
because it is expected to include
convicted murderers and Arab
citizens of Israel.
Carney declined to offer
details when asked about that
prisoner release. "This is a
complicated issue that is being
worked through with the par-
ties," he said.
Pollard is said to be in poor
health. His case has become a
rallying cry in Israel, where lead-
ers say his nearly three decades
in U.S. prison amounts to exces-
sive punishment. Pollard enjoys
widespread sympathy among
Israelis, and Netanyahu and
other Israeli leaders have rou-
tinely pressed Obama and other
U.S. presidents for his pardon or
Stiff opposition from the
American military and intelli-
gence community has deterred
the White House. Intelligence
officials have argued that his
release would harm national
security and that the U.S. must
maintain a strong deterrent
to allies by warning them of
the consequences of spying on
American soil.

In this aerial photo, the Williams Northwest Pipeline plant is seen after a natural gas pipeline ruptured at the plant in Plym-
outh, Wash., Monday.
Gas plant explodes near
Oregon-Washlngton border

400 citizens forced
to evacuate area in
wake of disaster
large explosion rocked a natu-
ral gas processing plant on the
Washington-Oregon border Mon-
day, injuring four workers, caus-
ing about 400 people to evacuate
from nearby farms and homes,
and emitting a mushroom cloud
of black smoke that was visible for
more than a mile.
The 8:20 a.m. blast at the Wil-
liams Northwest Pipeline facil-
ity near the Washington town of
Plymouth, along the Columbia
River, sparked a fire and punc-
tured one of the facility's two
giant storage tanks for liquefied
natural gas.
Benton County Sheriff Ste-
ven Keane said a relatively small
amount of gas leaked from the
tank to the ground in a moat-like
containment area. But it then
evaporated, blowing away to the
northeast, he said.
"I think if one of those huge
tanks had exploded, it might have
been adifferentstory," Keane said.
The fire at the facility about 4
miles west of Plymouth was extin-
guished within a couple of hours.
One of the four injured work-
ers was transported to a Port-

land, Ore., hospital specializing
in burns, he said. The other three
were taken to Good Shepherd
Medical Center in Hermiston,
Ore., where spokesman Mark
Ettesvold said they were treated
in the emergency room for inju-
ries that did not appear to be life-
More than a mile away across
the Columbia River, the explosion
shook Cindi Stefani's home:
"It was just a very loud boom,"
she said. "I looked across the river
and saw a giant mushroom cloud
and flames at least a couple hun-
dred feet high."
Animals on neighboring farms
were running around, she added.
"At that point we were pretty
scared. I was thinking, 'We need
to get out of here."'
Deputies went door to door to
homes and farms within a 2-mile
radius, evacuating about 400 resi-
dents as a precaution.
Buses were provided for those
without cars, and a shelter was set
up across the river in Oregon at
the Umatilla County Fairgrounds.
As part of the evacuation, High-
way 14 and railroad tracks were
shut down.
Deputy Joe Lusignan said the
voluntary evacuation could last
overnight. No one was being pre-
vented from returningto the evac-
uation area, which was calculated
based on the damage expected if

one of the two storage tanks blew
The facility provides supple-
mental gas during times of high
demand for a 4,000-mile pipeline
stretching from the Canadian bor-
der to southern Utah. Its two stor-
age tanks for liquefied natural gas
each have a capacity of 1.2 billion
cubic feet, Williams spokeswom-
an Michele Swaner said. The one
that punctured was about a third
of the way full.
Swaner said the 14 employees
working at the time were all evac-
uated and accounted for. A total of
17 or 18 people work at the facility.
She added it was too early to
determine the extent of the dam-
age or the cause of the explosion.
The pipeline was shut down in the
area of the storage facility, but was
still carrying gas on other stretch-
Video taken by a Washington
State Patrol bomb squad robot was
being evaluated, and plans were
being developed to send up aheli-
copter for an aerial assessment of
the facility, authorities said.
. A pipeline engineer with the
Washington Utilities and Trans-
portation Commission will inves-
tigate the cause of the explosion
and communicate with the western
region of the U.S. Department of
Transportation Pipeline and Haz-
ardous Materials Safety Adminis-
tration, the commissionsaid.

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Russia pulls back a battalion.
from the Ukrainian border

Thousands of troops
leave Crimea, but
many remain in place
- Russia said Monday it was
pulling a battalion of several
hundred troops away from the
Ukrainian border but kept tens of
thousands in place, prompting a
worried response from the Kiev
government about what the U.S.
warned was still a "tremendous
Russia moved quickly to
strengthen its economic hold on
Crimea, with Prime Minister
Dmitry Medvedev arriving in the
newly annexed peninsula with
promises of funds for improved
power supplies, water lines,
education and pensions for the
Russia's takeover of the stra-
tegic Black Sea region, its troop
buildup near Ukraine's border
and its attempts to compel consti-
tutional changes in Ukraine have
markedly raised tensions with
the West and prompted fears that
Moscow intends to invade other
areas of its neighbor.
However, Russian Presi-
dent Vladimir Putin told Ger-
man Chancellor Angela Merkel
in a phone call Monday that
some troops were being with-
drawn from the Ukraine border,
Merkel's office said. The with-
drawal involved a battalion of
about 500 troops, Russian news
reports said.
The U.S. reacted cautiously
to the Russian troop movement,
with Secretary of Defense Chuck
Hagel saying that "tens of thou-
sands" of Russian forces still
remained along the Ukrainian
border, a situation he called "a
tremendous buildup."
The new government in

Ukraine said the action only
increased its uneasiness about
Russia's intentions.
"We have information that
Russia is carrying out incompre-
hensible maneuvers on the bor-
der with Ukraine," Ukrainian
Foreign Ministry spokesman
Yevgen Perebyinis said. "Troops
in some places are moving back-
ward, some of them are moving
forward. Which is why, obviously,
we are worried by these move-
ments of armed forces. We have
no clear explanation from the
Russian side about the aim of
these movements."
Russian Foreign Minister Ser-
gey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of
State John Kerry also discussed
Ukraine by phone Monday, a day
after holding talks in Paris, the
Russian foreign ministry said.
A senior U.S. official said Lav-
rov had promised Kerry that a
division of Russian troops would
be pulled back; a division general-
ly consists of thousands of troops.
"Now there have been reports
of possible drawdowns of Russian
military forces from the border.
We haven't seen that yet, but if
they turn out to be accurate, that
would be a good thing," White
House spokesman Jay Carney
Concerns of a possible inva-
sion of eastern Ukraine - home
to many ethnic Russians - were
stoked by the large numbers
of troops Russia had along the
Ukrainian border for what Mos-
cow said were military exercises.
One Russian battalion - about
500 troops - that had been sent to
the Rostov region next to Ukraine
was being withdrawn to its per-
manent base in the central Sama-
ra region, Russian news agencies
quoted the Defense Ministry as
saying Monday.
Alexander Rozmaznin, deputy
chief of the Ukrainian armed

forces command center, also con-
firmed a drop in Russian troop
numbers along the border.
In Kiev, meanwhile, Ukraine's
acting president flatly rejected
escalating Russian pressure to
turn Ukraine into a loose federa-
"Russia's leadership should
deal with problems in the Rus-
sian Federation, and not with
Ukraine's problems," Ukraine's
acting president Oleksandr
Turchinov said. "It is Ukrainians
that should dictate the form of
the new constitution and how the
country is structured."
Medvedev, who led a delega-
tion of Cabinet ministers on a sur-
prise visit to Crimea, pledged
that Russia would quickly boost
salaries and pensions and pour in
resources to improve education,
health care and local infrastruc-
But making no mistake about
Russia's view of the peninsula,
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry
Rogozin tweeted a photo of him-
self upon arrival with the words
"Crimea is ours, and that's that."
Russia's defense minister,
meanwhile, announced that all
Crimean men of conscription age
will get a deferral from the draft
for one year.
Russia annexed Crimea from
Ukraine in March after a hastily
called referendum just two weeks
after Russian forces took control
of the Black Sea region. Ukraine
and the West have rejected the
The annexation came after
Ukraine's president, Viktor Yan-
ukovych, was ousted in Febru-
ary and fled to Russia following
months of protests. Russia claims
the ouster was a coup and that
the new Ukrainian authorities
are nationalist fascists who will
abuse Ukraine's large ethnic Rus-
sian population.


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