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  • Pentagon sends mission to Afghanistan to investigate apparent killing of civilians


  • Russia and NATO eye closer cooperation in the air
  • Spain expects progress in Gibraltar talks


  • U.S. taking hostage UN Bosnia mission says Solana
  • UN asks Europeans to consider filling Bosnia gap
  • Russia says UN pull-out could destabilise Bosnia
  • Bosnians are alarmed by potential closure of UN police mission


  • Russia blames torpedo fuel for Kursk disaster


  • President Chirac wants French military to be modernised
  • U.S. intelligence says no sign of bin Laden ‘letter’
  • U.S. to discuss differences over Arafat with Europeans and Russians
  • Syrian president says he will keep backing Hezbollah



  • The U.S. command in charge of the war in Afghanistan said Monday it is sending a fact-finding team to investigate what could be one of the war’s deadliest attacks on civilians. From its headquarters in Tampa, Florida, Central Command issued a brief statement on Monday that said officials from the U.S. military, the Afghan government and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul would conduct an onsite assessment of the U.S. bombing in the village of Kakarak. It said news reporters would accompany the team. (AP 012323 Jul 02)



  • NATO’s top general in Moscow said on Monday the alliance and Russia were looking to work together on giant transport aircraft and mid-air refuelling to get closer defence cooperation off the ground. Major-General Peter Williams, head of the newly-opened NATO Military Liaison Mission in Moscow, told reporters he was cautiously optimistic about cooperation on air transport. "I think from the indications we have received it is the air-to-air refuelling aspect that may be what the Russian Federation authorities are interested in," Major-General Williams said. "These are areas in which both the Russian armed forces and NATO have a lot of experience, although it’s not clear whether they are capable of acting together." (Reuters 011723 GMT Jul 02)


  • Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique said on Monday he hoped for significant progress in talks with Britain next week on the future of Gibraltar. "I hope there are advances, notable advances, which will allow us to reaffirm the political will of the two governments to close an agreement as soon as possible," Pique told a news conference in Madrid when asked what he expected from next week’s meeting. (Reuters 011609 GMT Jul 02)




  • European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana accused the United States on Monday of taking hostage the UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia but said he hoped a deal could be reached over the spat. "The (U.S.) position is very tough," Solana said in an interview on French LCI television. "I didn’t expect such a hard reaction, of taking hostage the operation in Bosnia." (Reuters 012027 GMT Jul 02)


  • The United Nations has asked European nations to consider taking over the police-training task force in Bosnia if Washington refuses to extend its mandate for the mission, a European Commission spokesman said on Monday in Brussels. In Berlin, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer declined to speculate on German participation should no compromise be found or on whether the EU could take command of the mission sooner than had been planned. (Reuters 011514 GMT Jul 02)


  • Washington’s threat to kill off UN peace missions in a row over the powers of a new global war crimes court could destabilise Bosnia, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on Monday. "We consider it necessary to resolve this situation, as the absence of international forces could destabilise the situation in Bosnia," Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters after talks with his Swiss counterpart in Moscow. (Reuters 011811 GMT Jul 02)


  • Bosnia appealed to the United States on Monday to reconsider threats to withdraw support from the UN police mission, fearing it would erode efforts to establish a lasting peace in the troubled country. "All the progress made so far will be endangered," said Amer Kapetanovic, the spokesman for the Bosnian Foreign Ministry. "The U.S. needs to help us to finally stand on our own two feet." (AP 011726 Jul 02)




  • The final report into Russia’s August 2000 Kursk submarine disaster said on Monday a torpedo fuel leak had caused the massive explosion which sank the nuclear-powered vessel with the loss of all 118 crew. "A thermal explosion of components of the class 298A PV torpedo caused the disaster," Ilya Klebanov, the senior government minister who headed the commission which compiled the report, told the Interfax news agency. "It happened as a result of a leak of hydrogen peroxide and the ignition of materials in the torpedo tube." Last month he cleared NATO and other foreign vessels of any role in the sinking of the Kursk, a suggestion the alliance had always denied. (Reuters 012003 GMT Jul 02)




  • President Jacques Chirac said on Monday he had asked his government to prepare a bill to modernise and improve France’s military hardware. French warships, military aircraft and other equipment are ageing and hard to maintain, President Chirac said at a ceremony in the Mediterranean port of Toulon to mark the return of the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle from the Indian Ocean. "I’ve asked the government to prepare a military planning bill for the years 2003-2008," he added. President Chirac did not say whether he would push for the construction of a second French aircraft carrier - a project he had proposed before his re-election in May. (Reuters 011947 GMT Jul 02)


  • U.S. intelligence officials on Monday denied a report that a letter from al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, suggesting he was alive in late December, had been found among papers carried by a top lieutenants who is now in U.S. custody. Time magazine reported a letter found among papers that Abu Zubaydah was carrying when he was arrested in Pakistan in March. Time cited a source who had seen a French intelligence analysis of a note from bin Laden urging Zubaydah to continue fighting the United States if something happened to him. (Reuters 012109 GMT Jul 02)


  • The United States will try to resolve differences with its Mideast peace partners over Yasser Arafat in talks this week, the State Department said Monday in Washington. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns will meet in London on Tuesday with UN, European Union and Russian officials on Arafat’s future and how to support Palestinian reform, department spokesman Richard Boucher said. A senior official said Burns would continue talks in Paris before returning to Washington. Spokesman Boucher said the United States agrees the choice is up to the Palestinians but there is no hope of a Palestinian state "with the present leadership and present direction of the Palestinian side." (AP 012105 Jul 02)


  • Shrugging of U.S. calls to cut ties with Hezbollah, Syria’s president vowed to support the Lebanese militant group in "liberating" Arab lands from Israeli occupation." "Syria supports the Lebanese national resistance, including Hezbollah ... in resisting Israeli occupation and liberating land, politically and in the media," President Assad told Al-Liwaa, a Lebanese paper. Excerpts of the interview were carried by Syria’s official news agency. The interview marks Assad’s first public comments on militant groups since U.S. President Bush last week demanded Syria close terrorist training camps, stop supporting Hezbollah and expel militant organizations. The U.S. State Department regards Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. (AP 011853 Jul 02)


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