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News Briefs

Pope’s Visit Enhances Syria’s Image


Pope John Paul II knelt Monday in the wreckage of a Greek Orthodox church, surrounded by the debris of a once-thriving market town, and implored the antagonists of the Holy Land to be as forgiving of each other as God is.

This ghost town on the Golan Heights, a deliberately preserved reminder of wars fought in 1967 and 1973, haunted the region on a day of ongoing Arab-Israeli bloodshed.

For the 80-year-old Roman Catholic leader, who followed the footsteps of St. Paul to this wind-swept battleground, Kuneitra was “a fitting place to pray for peace,'” in the words of his spokesman.

But for Syria, it was also a propaganda victory over Israel, whose occupying army left Kuneitra in ruins 27 years ago. As John Paul Tuesday winds up his first visit to this country, Syrians are jubilant over their four days in the papal limelight and Israelis seething over how it looked to the world.

Syria, which lost the entire Golan in the 1967 Six-Day War, says Israeli forces razed Kuneitra with bulldozers and dynamite before withdrawing under a U.S.-mediated armistice of the 1973 war.

Syria refuses to rebuild the town, saying it should stand as a monument to Israeli “crimes” until the rest of the Golan is back in Syrian hands.

Israel, which claims the town was destroyed by fighting, had offered to relinquish land in return for security guarantees. But peace negotiations with Syria have been stalled since last year.

Seizing on the pope's 45-minute stop in Kuneitra, the Syrian government bused in several thousand former inhabitants for the day, putting them before the cameras and reporters from around the world who are recording the papal pilgrimage.

Key Senate Official Loses Job In Dispute with GOP


Senate Parliamentarian Robert Dove, the official responsible for enforcing the chamber’s rules and procedures, has been asked to leave his post after a dispute with the Republican leadership, Senate sources said Monday.

Dove angered Republicans, especially Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), with at least two recent rulings that effectively made it harder for the GOP to push President Bush’s budget and tax-cut proposals through the evenly divided body.

Republicans declined to say why Dove had been asked to leave, but his departure will force the appointment of a new parliamentarian -- one of the Senate’s most important, if least-known, officers at a time in which the Democrats and Republicans are seeking to operate under an unprecedented power-sharing arrangement.

The office of the parliamentarian has always been one of the most important in the Senate, but Dove’s rulings have been particularly sensitive this year with the body split between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. The controversy that led to his dismissal underscores the degree of frustration felt by GOP leaders as they seek to advance the agenda of the first Republican president in eight years.

There were conflicting reports about whether Dove was fired, rehired and then told he had to go, or was simply “given notice,” as one source put it, that he would have to leave. But a senior Republican aide confirmed that Dove had been dismissed by Secretary of the Senate Gary Sisco Thursday at Lott’s behest and would probably continue to work for no more than a month.

Dove, 62, an employee of the Senate since the mid-1960s, was at his desk on the Senate floor Monday but did not return a phone call to his office. Sisco, who is Dove’s immediate boss, issued a terse statement describing the situation as an “internal matter” and declining further comment. Lott told reporters he wanted to talk further with Dove before saying anything.