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  • NATO seen set for "big bang" enlargement


  • Commentator ponders security for Israel via NATO


  • Justice Ministry to call on war crimes suspects to surrender to the ICTY


  • Taliban leader breaks silence
  • Bin Laden-linked group claims responsibility for synagogue explosion


  • Dutch government resigns after Srebrenica report crisis meeting




  • Based on diplomatic sources, Jane’s Defence Weekly, April 17, reports that the NATO allies appear to be coalescing around a "big bang" enlargement which would see invitations issued to six or seven new members. The article stresses, however, that no final candidate list has been drawn up by NATO, and few allies are likely to speak in terms of final decisions until later this quarter, specifically at the NATO foreign ministers’ semi-annual informal ministerial to be held in Reykjavik May 14-15. By then, adds the article, NATO foreign ministers and, subsequently, their defense counterparts, in early June hope to be well coordinated on the best way to convince member governments and populations of the logic and benefits of a major NATO enlargement at this time. The article observes that a major enlargement gives rise to several important issues: whether NATO can absorb six or seven new members; whether it can afford such an expansion, whether meaningful levels of interoperability and armaments cooperation can be achieved in an alliance of 25 or 26 nations; whether the new members can achieve a significant level of interoperability quicker than the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland have achieved over the past three years; and, whether the military might of NATO will be diluted by the influx of so many relatively weak nations.




  • With media focusing on Secretary of State Powell’s peace mission in the Middle East, commentators and experts continue to express their view that the deployment of a strong international force is the only possible solution to the conflict. Against this background, a distinguished service professor of political science emeritus at the University of Chicago, Morton Kaplan, ponders whether there can be security for Israel via NATO. In a contribution to the Washington Times, Kaplan suggests that making Israel a member of NATO as an integral part of a peace settlement, after which an attack on it would be an attack on all, might provide the assurance needed for Israel to accept a peace plan. He adds that if this were accompanied by an agreement that Israel had the right to take reprisals if terrorist attacks resumed and the Palestinian state showed less than due diligence in attempting to control it and to punish the perpetrators, Prime Minister Sharon might see a solution and be willing to face the wrath of Israeli extremists as he once did in the Sinai. He also considers that the Palestinian state could be promised future membership in NATO if it instituted democratic government and the rule of law, forbade education designed to produce hatred, and outlawed organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad while severely punishing clandestine groups for attempted or actual terrorism. Echoing the view that once some kind of accommodation is reached, a robust external military presence will be required, Frederick Bonnart, editorial director of the independent military journal NATO’s Nations, writes in the International Herald Tribune that this military presence will have to be international, highly disciplined and well-equipped. "The only organization that could rapidly supply such a force is NATO," Bonnart stresses, adding: "Consisting of Europeans as well as of Americans, it could be acceptable to both sides. But this conflict is so far removed from NATO’s treaty area, and so sensitive, that the organization is not even prepared to consider an intervention. However, most member nations would be willing to participate in an undertaking which stops the violence and provides the conditions for a peaceful solution, and which at the same time removes a threat to their vital national interests." Bonnart concludes that a coalition of the willing, under U.S. leadership could certainly be raised. NATO organizations and procedural arrangements could be used, although the assets would have to be exclusively national, he adds, noting that the chain of command is already in place: "In the Pentagon’s distribution of American worldwide military responsibilities, the Middle East falls under (EUCOM). Its commander in chief is Gen. Ralston who is also (SACEUR)." The military forces of member nations have interoperable equipment and are well practiced in cooperation and common procedures, as are many of the 30 partner countries, of which Russia is one. The NATO actions in Bosnia and Kosovo are valuable precedents in this case. The time is past for verbal strictures. Western countries must now convert them into action. Planning and preparation will take time. Agreement in principle for it needs rapidly to be obtained, and preparatory action should begin forthwith, Bonnart continues. Tel Aviv’s Yedi’ot Aharonot, April 15, stressed meanwhile that the precondition for a peace deal will not be some piece of paper signed by Yasser Arafat, but a solid agreement that would practically tie Israel with NATO and the EU.



  • AP reports the Yugoslav Justice Ministry plans to issue a list of war crimes suspects who should surrender voluntarily to the ICTY or face extradition. Justice Minister Markovic is quoted saying that in the next few days the Ministry is considering publishing a list of about 20 suspects indicted by the ICTY who are believed to be in Yugoslavia. He reportedly added that after the publication of the list, the indictees will be given a deadline to surrender or face arrest. The dispatch notes that among the most wanted suspects believed to be hiding near Belgrade is Bosnian Serb wartime military leader Gen. Ratko Mladic.




  • According to the Financial Times, the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat has published what it describes as excerpts from a statement from Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The newspaper stresses that if the statement is authentic, then Mullah Omar has chosen to break his silence at a highly emotional moment in the Middle East with rousing comments accusing Israel and the United States of "waging a losing war against Islam." The article suggests that Omar appears to be trying to play to an Arab and Islamic gallery outraged by daily televised outraged of daily televised images of Palestinian suffering. But, it stresses, Omar never had much of a constituency in the Arab world, and it is unlikely his words will have much impact. The newspaper remarks, however, that the timing of the statement seems significant. It coincides with the screening of a videotape on Qatar-based Al Jazeera TV showing one of the purported Sept. 11 suicide hijackers delivering his will and threatening to kill Americans on "their own turf."


  • AP says two Arab newspapers reported Tuesday that a group with the same name as one linked to Osama bin Laden’s terror network has claimed responsibility for an explosion at a synagogue in Tunisia last Thursday that killed 15 people. The group, calling itself the Islamic Army for the Liberation of the Holy Sites," reportedly claimed it was retaliating for "Israeli crimes" against Palestinians. The dispatch notes that the name of the group is the same as that used by a group that claimed responsibility for the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The dispatch further says that while Tunisia has described the explosion of a gas-laden truck at the synagogue as a "tragic accident," German Federal prosecutors, involved because 10 of the dead were German tourists, were investigating suspicions the explosion was a terrorist attack. It also quotes Federal prosecutors in Germany saying Tuesday that police had arrested a person in Germany believed to have been in contact with those involved in the explosion.




  • Reuters reports the Dutch cabinet resigned Tuesday over an official report condemning its failure to prevent the Srebrenica massacre. Earlier, AFP stressed that while a resignation of the cabinet would send a powerful political message, it would not severely disrupt Dutch political life as elections are planned for May 15.




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