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News Briefs

Middle Eastern Countries Ready to Weaken Iraq

The Washington Post

The governments of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Kuwait privately have assured the United States they are eager to exploit new cracks in the authority of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, but they said imposing concrete measures such as new trade embargoes will take time, according to senior U.S. officials.

The Arab governments told a high-level U.S. delegation that visited the capitals of their countries last week they agree with Washington that Saddam's continued control of Iraq is a threat to their security and an impediment to the region's stability, the officials said.

The officials said the governments had asked Washington not to provide details about the steps they are considering. But they said the trip had proved that King Hussein was determined to maintain his anti-Saddam stance and noted that the Saudi Arabian foreign minister is expected to visit Jordan soon for further direct talks.

According to U.S. government estimates, about 80 percent of the world's imports and exports to Iraq now go through Jordan, making its cooperation essential in the U.S. drive to step up pressure on Saddam. Trade with Iraq technically has been embargoed by the United Nations since Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, but the Iraqi-Jordanian border is notoriously "porous," as one official put it.

Palestinian Police Accused of Rights Violations

Los Angeles Times

Even before Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has reached agreement with Israel on extending his authority throughout the West Bank, his security forces are terrorizing West Bank residents, Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups assert.

Btselem, an Israeli human rights organization that in the past has harshly criticized Israel's human rights record in the West Bank, issued a report Thursday accusing the Preventive Security Service, a branch of the Palestinian Authority's police force, of "gross violations of human rights" in the West Bank including illegal detentions and torture.

Bassam Eid, a field worker who took the testimony of 15 Palestinians who alleged that they were harassed, arrested and sometimes tortured by Preventive Security, said that the security force is using tactics similar to those used by Shin Bet, the Israeli force responsible for West Bank security.

In many instances, "Palestinian interrogators were in the past the victims of the Israelis," Eid said. "They learned these methods (of interrogation), and this is what they are now applying to their nation."

Preventive Security officers rejected the report's findings. "It is impossible for a freedom fighter, a Palestinian who has been in the struggle for freedom, to play the role of an occupation soldier," said Rashid Abu Shubak, a senior officer of Preventive Security in Gaza. "We are here to protect our people. We are nothing like the Israelis."

Wu Expulsion Clears Way for Mrs. Clinton's Beijing Trip

The Baltimore Sun

China's expulsion Thursday of Harry Wu, the Chinese-American human rights activist, all but clears the way for first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton to attend a showpiece United Nations conference on women in Beijing next week.

"The president welcomes the Chinese government's decision and is pleased that Mr. Wu will be reunited with his family and friends," Mike McCurry, the White House spokesman, said in a statement.

Administration officials said publicly that the issue of Mrs. Clinton's attendance was still being weighed. "This was one major factor in the decision process, but it wasn't the only one," said a White House official, who asked not to be identified.

Should Mrs. Clinton attend the conference, it would be a major boost for the Chinese, who want the prestige of having the first lady among up to 40,000 foreign women expected in Beijing.

If Mrs. Clinton boycotted the meeting despite Wu's release it would be an affront to Beijing, which appeared to bow to U.S. pressure in releasing Wu just after he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for spying.

Women's Political Caucus Report Plays Down Gender Gap

The Washington Post

The National Women's Political Caucus Thursday provoked a minor furor in the political community by issuing a report seeking to play down the intensity and scope of the gender gap, warning that "talk of a chasm' or war between the sexes' implies that all women vote one way and all men the opposite."

Reversing traditional emphasis by liberal women's groups on the gender gap, Jody Newman, executive director of the caucus, argued that the "gender gap is in danger of being blown out of proportion." She presented data showing that the partisan "gap" between men and women is smaller than the Republican-Democratic divide between married and unmarried, rural and urban, Protestant and Jew, rich and poor, and black and white.

The caucus study showed that while the Democratic-Republican gap between men and women in 1994 was 11.1 percentage points, it was 12.5 points between married and unmarried voters, 28.9 points between urban and rural voters, 37.6 points between Jews and Protestants, 19.4 points between poor and affluent, and 49.7 percent between white and black voters.

Mark Gersh, Washington director of the National Committee for an Effective Congress, a Democratic organization, argued that most of the findings about race and income are not new, but the gender split has become "a huge cleavage in the electorate," especially when the focus is on gender differences between white men and women.