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Updated: 13-May-2004

SHAPE News Morning Update

13 May 2004

  • Middle East violence fuels Iraq bloodshed, UN needs to intervene
  • Major powers still at odds over Mideast initiative


  • U.S. hopes for early NATO role in Iraq fading


  • Spain to impose border controls for royal wedding


  • The U.S. and Europe have narrowed differences over a proposed Greater Middle East Initiative but are at odds over how it fits in with Arab-Israeli peace efforts and conflict in Iraq, U.S. officials said on Wednesday. After an initial draft provoked objections from Europeans and Arabs, the Bush administration scaled down its ambitions. The initiative still envisions creating new institutions aimed at promoting long-term democratic reforms in a region from Mauritania to Pakistan, the officials told Reuters. The effort is complicated by growing instability in Iraq, Israeli-Palestinian violence and an Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal that has damaged U.S. credibility and stoked anti-American sentiment. The latest draft would establish a "Greater Middle East Forum for the Future" to provide a regular venue for discussion of reform goals and programs and promote cooperation on reform, among states, business and civil society leaders. "This is not a Marshall Plan for the Middle East and will not involve big money," one U.S. official said. The new draft shows Washington is "no longer alone in its quest to address the region's acknowledged deficits in freedom, knowledge and women's empowerment but has engaged its European allies in a fruitful discussion" on promoting reform, according to Tamara Wittes of the Brookings Institution's Saban Center. (Reuters 122346 GMT May 04)

  • Worsening violence between Israel and the Palestinians fuels bloodshed in Iraq and elsewhere, and the UN needs to intervene, Malaysia's prime minister told a key meeting of non-aligned nations Thursday. Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said recent assassinations of leaders of the Palestinian group Hamas coupled with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's bid to unilaterally withdraw from the occupied Gaza Strip had dealt a "serious, if not fatal, blow to the road map," the paralyzed U.S.-sponsored peace plan. "I suggest that the United Nations can and must intervene effectively by establishing a UN mission or authorizing an international presence to monitor the situation, ease the tension and maintain peace and security on the ground," said Abdullah, whose country currently chairs the 116-nation Non-Aligned Movement. "The international community and the United Nations cannot afford to allow this issue to remain unresolved indefinitely," Abdullah said. "The rising tensions in the Middle East following the war in Iraq have increased the need for, and importance of, rapid positive movement on the Israeli-Palestinian track. (AP 130338 May 04)


  • U.S. hopes that NATO would agree at its Istanbul summit next month to take a greater role in stabilising Iraq have evaporated, diplomats and analysts say. "You can expect a discussion of Iraq at Istanbul, but not a decision," a senior NATO diplomat said. Washington would like NATO to take command of that division to take some burden off its overstretched forces and confer political legitimacy on its presence in the country, which has enraged the Arab world. But Iraq barely gets a mention these days at NATO headquarters, where diplomats are struggling to expand their peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan on time for Istanbul. "The notion that NATO will be involved (in Iraq) is getting kicked further and further into touch (out of play)," said Simon Lunn, secretary-general of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. "It is not clear if you could get a Security Council resolution before the handover," the senior diplomat said. "The real problem is the whole atmosphere surrounding the Iraq mission," said the diplomat, pointing to the bloodshed and prisoner abuse scandal. "The whole thing is very smelly." (Reuters 121240 GMT May 04)


  • Spain will temporarily suspend its membership of the European Union's visa-free Schengen zone and bar flights by light aircraft over Madrid for the wedding of its heir to the throne this month, officials said on Wednesday. NATO, meanwhile, agreed to provide one AWACS surveillance plane for both the May 22 Spanish royal wedding and the Euro 2004 soccer championship finals in neighbouring Portugal from June 12 to July 4. (Reuters 121634 GMT May 04)


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