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         Voice on tape sounds like bin Laden, U.S. says; more tests needed

         Australia says alleged threats only strengthen resolve in war on terror


         U.S. adviser says Europe morally weak on Iraq

         U.S. concerned by proposed Iraqi purchase of nerve gas antidote


         NATO could have rapid response force ready by next year

         U.S. makes final pitch for Polish fighter jet contract

         Parliament committee calls for big increase in military spending in Canada


         Yugoslav minister sees Kosovo status talks in 2005

         Croatia court says cannot rule on war crimes case


         Britain says missile defence bolsters stability




         An Arab TV station broadcast an audiotape of a voice that a U.S. official said sounded like Osama bin Laden's. If confirmed, it would provide hard evidence that the al-Qaida leader was alive as recently as last month. The speaker, identified by al-Jazeera television as bin Laden and aired Tuesday across the Arab world, praised the October terrorist strikes in Bali and Moscow, and warned U.S. allies to back away from plans to attack Iraq. The audiotape was aired alongside an old photograph of the al-Qaida leader but there was no new video of him, and the official in Washington said further technical analysis was needed. Al-Jazeera said it received the tape on the day it was broadcast. (AP 130510 Nov 02)


         The government said Wednesday that threats against Australia purportedly made by Osama bin Laden would only strengthen Canberra's resolve in the war against terrorism. "These kinds of inflammatory statements just strengthen our resolve to fight and defeat terrorism," Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told CNN television in an interview from Canberra. (AP 130108 Nov 02)




         A leading U.S. adviser to the Pentagon has accused Europe of being morally feeble in its dealings with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Britain's Guardian newspaper said on Wednesday. Richard Perle, who heads the U.S. Defense Department's Policy Review Board, made the attack on France and Germany for their refusal to back U.S. proposals to strike Baghdad. "I think Europe has lost its moral compass," Perle was quoted as saying. "Many Europeans have become so obsessed by the prospect of violence that they have failed to notice who we are dealing with," he added. "Germany has subsided into a moral numbing pacifism," he said. "For the German chancellor to say he will have nothing to do with action against Saddam Hussein, even if approved by the United Nations, is unilateralism." On the subject of France, another critic of war against Iraq, Perle said: "I have seen diplomatic manoeuvre, but not moral fibre." He mentioned Iran, Syria and North Korea as countries that might merit attention after Iraq. (Reuters 130112 GMT Nov 02)


         Iraq has ordered 1.25 million doses of an antidote for nerve agents in what could be an attempt to protect its military personnel if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein uses those weapons on the battlefield, U.S. administration officials said Tuesday. At least some of the doses were ordered from Turkey, and U.S. diplomats are discussing the issue with Turkish officials. In Turkey, a Health Ministry spokesman said his agency had no record of an Iraqi request for atropine. (AP 130101 Nov 02)




         NATO could have its proposed rapid response units up and running by next year, well ahead of the original timetable planned for the elite new force, alliance diplomats said Tuesday in Brussels. The diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not link the accelerated preparations for the force to the threat of a U.S. war with Iraq. NATO leaders are expected to formally approve the plan next week at a summit meeting in the Czech capital Prague. (AP 121620 Nov 02)


         Poland accepted final bids Tuesday for a multibillion dollar order of fighter jets aimed at bringing its air force up to NATO standards, with the U.S. government lobbying heavily for the F-16 over two rival European planes. Cameron Munter, the U.S. charge d'affaires in Warsaw, said President Bush has expressed personal interest in the deal. "As a NATO ally, the United States has a special interest in ensuring Poland's ability to assume a leadership role in the alliance at this time when the alliance is evaluating new missions and new tasks," Munter told a news conference in Warsaw. (AP 121824 Nov 02)


         A Senate committee that visited 15 Canadian military bases this year has recommended that the government increase spending on its armed forces by more than a third with an additional US $2.6 billion. Although the report is not binding, it adds to a growing chorus of calls for increased military spending after years of cuts as part of federal budget-balancing.  "We don't have an effective military capability and if you don't have that, very quickly you don't have a sovereign nation," said committee chairman Sen. Colin Kenny. (AP 130111 Nov 02)




         Talks on determining the final status of the UN-run province of Kosovo could start in 2005, a Yugoslav minister predicted on Tuesday. Ethnic Minorities Minister Rasim Ljajic said it was too early to address the emotive issue, but time would help strengthen democracy and improve relations between Belgrade and Pristina. "I think it would be much more dangerous to raise this question now than in three years," he said in an interview. Ljajic declined to speculate on the outcome of the status talks but suggested both sides would need to compromise. It would be important during the next few years to establish cooperation on key issues, such as fighting crime, he said.  He also insisted on the need to ensure the right of return of Serbs who fled Kosovo in fear of ethnic Albanian revenge attacks. (Reuters 121613 GMT Nov 02)


         Croatia's Constitutional Court said on Tuesday it had no authority to rule on the merits of a war crimes indictment against a senior Croatian general, and referred it back to the United Nations tribunal. Croatia has lodged a formal complaint against the indictment, which charges General Janko Bobetko with crimes against humanity committed in a 1993 Balkans war offensive, and is awaiting a ruling from the tribunal's appeals chamber. (Reuters 121654 GMT Nov 02)




         Britain's Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said on Tuesday a planned U.S. missile defence shield could strengthen global stability and called for debate over possible British involvement in the scheme. In a strong signal that Britain will eventually embrace the project, which critics warn will trigger a new arms race and make British bases targets for attack, Hoon said it would help neutralise the threat from "rogue states." (Reuters 121930 GMT Nov 02)






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