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News Briefs

Israeli Missile Lands Close to U.S. Navy Cruiser

THE WASHINGTON POST -- WASHINGTON

An Israeli short-range ballistic missile splashed down in the eastern Mediterranean last month near a U.S. Navy Aegis cruiser, causing momentary fear that the ship was under attack, Defense Department officials said Monday.

The Jericho 1 missile, which can carry nuclear warheads or about 1,000 pounds of chemicals or high explosives, was launched from a missile testing facility at Yavne, Israel, on April 6 and landed about 40 miles from the USS Anzio, they said. “That’s pretty damn close for a missile that’s not the most accurate,” one of the officials said. “The warhead wasn’t live, but it still could make a hell of a hole . ... There are a lot of people pissed off.”

The Anzio was about 250 miles due west of the Israeli coast and had not received any notice that an Israeli missile test was underway, one official said. Such a “Notice to Aviators and Mariners” is customary, and even the Russians and the Chinese give notice of their tests, he noted.

Press Crackdown Quiets Iran’s Reformers Before Runoff Vote

THE WASHINGTON POST -- SHIRAZ, IRAN

A wave of newspaper closures and the arrests of numerous editors and activists have left leaders of Iran’s increasingly outspoken reform movement appealing for calm on the eve of parliamentary runoff elections, which are being held amid fear of an even more vigorous crackdown by Islamic conservatives.

The reform movement, led by President Mohammed Khatemi, is still hoping to avoid the worst in the latest cycle of repression by the country’s conservative clerical leadership. Recent rumors of a “master plan” to remove Khatemi from office are being discounted as too bold a move against the president, who enjoys wide popular support, and conservative leaders have indicated they will let legislators elected in February take their seats as expected in late May.

It remains unclear how much damage the crackdown has done to a movement that only two months ago appeared ascendant as it swept nationwide parliamentary elections in a clear endorsement of Khatemi’s call for civil reform and expanded freedoms. The ballot results appeared to be a sharp criticism of the conservative policies that have structured Iranian life since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Elian’s Father Accuses Uncle of Trying to Destroy Family

THE WASHINGTON POST -- WASHINGTON

Elian Gonzalez’s father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, accused his uncle Lazaro of using “this nation’s legal system in an attempt to destroy (his) family ... to rob Elian of a childhood at his home.” He asked a federal appeals court panel to dismiss Lazaro Gonzalez’s attempt to overturn government and court rulings that support the father’s parental rights.

In a brief filed Monday by his attorney with the appellate court now considering the issue, the father argued that if Lazaro Gonzalez succeeded in his efforts to force government consideration of political asylum for the 6-year-old boy, the process “could take as long as two years to resolve, perhaps even six years ... hav(ing) the effect of forcing Juan Miguel to choose between his country and his son.”

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has set May 11 for oral arguments in the case. The two main protagonists -- Lazaro Gonzalez and the Justice Department -- will each be allotted 15 minutes to speak.