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Updated: 24-Mar-2004

SHAPE News Morning Update

24 March 2004

  • President Bush plans ceremonies, meetings marking NATO expansion


  • Sheikh Yassin letter urged Arabs to resist Israel and the U.S. in Iraq
  • German president warned of assassination plot


  • Serbia rows back on Kosovo “cantons” as EU scowls


  • The White House plans an elaborate celebration next week for the entry into NATO of seven former Soviet bloc countries. Secretary of State Colin Powell will travel to NATO headquarters in Brussels for an April 2 meeting. The White House decided to also mark the expansion of NATO with a March 29 South Lawn ceremony and meeting of the new members’ prime ministers, as well as NATO Secretary-General de Hoop Scheffer. President Bush will also host the leaders of Albania, Croatia and Macedonia (sic), which are still seeking to join NATO, at the events. The U.S. has strongly supported the bids of the three Balkan countries to integrate fully into Europe, including membership in NATO. (AP 231920 Mar 04)


  • Hamas founder Sheikh Yassin appealed to Arab leaders to do all they could to help oppose Israel and the U.S forces occupying Iraq in a letter written soon before he was killed by an Israeli missile. Yassin’s message, obtained by the Reuters news agency on Tuesday, was addressed to the upcoming Arab League summit in Tunis. Hamas officials said it would still be sent. Ahmed Yassin urged Arab countries to give whatever help they could to Iraqis “until they are liberated from the American occupation.” Hamas says it has no direct links to the Iraqi resistance, but sympathises with what it sees as a common cause. (Reuters 231649 GMT Mar 04)

  • German President Johannes Rau cancelled a planned visit to Djibouti on Wednesday after German security services said there was a plot to kill him, his office in Berlin said in a statement. The statement on Tuesday night said the security services had received information that an Islamist group planned to assassinate him during a visit to the Horn of Africa state to meet German troops stationed there. German navy personnel are serving in Djibouti as part of the U.S.-led Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa operation against “trans-national terrorism.” (Reuters 232251 GMT Mar 04)


  • Serbia rowed back from a proposal to divide the ethnically torn province of Kosovo into “cantons” on Tuesday after the EU’s foreign policy chief Javier Solana said it was a non-starter. Serbian Prime Minister Kostunica said following the first of several meetings with senior EU officials that creating “sub-regions” in Kosovo would help prevent a repeat of last week’s clashes between ethnic Albanian and Serb communities. But, emerging from talks with Mr. Solana few hours later, Mr. Kostunica spoke only of “decentralisation” and “new institutional devices” and insisted that Belgrade was not in favour of carving up Kosovo. (Reuters 231616 GMT Mar 04)


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