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News Briefs

House, Senate Approve Resolutions Supporting Israel

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

The House and Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly approved resolutions to support Israel and condemn Palestinian suicide bombers, but only after a debate that exposed some sharp divisions over the congressional intervention in Middle East diplomacy.

The votes allowed lawmakers to express collectively the outrage many have voiced individually as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has escalated.

Approval of the two resolutions, legally nonbinding but politically significant, puts President Bush in a somewhat awkward position as he reaches out to Arab allies of the Palestinians in an attempt to defuse the Middle East violence.

The House voted 352-21 for a lengthy, tough-worded resolution sponsored by Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, that condemns “the ongoing support of terror” by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, suggests that his actions “are not those of a viable partner for peace” and supports additional U.S. aid “to help Israel defend itself.”

Threats Prompt Change of Venue In Pearl Murder Trial

THE WASHINGTON POST -- ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN

The trial of four men charged with the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl moves to a new city Friday, after prosecutors complained of death threats from inside and outside the courtroom.

Testimony will resume before a new judge -- the third in the trial’s short life -- in the city of Hyderabad, 110 miles northeast of Karachi, where Pearl was kidnapped Jan. 23. Prosecutor Raja Qureshi requested the change after four law enforcement agencies reported uncovering plans to blow up the Karachi City Jail, where the trial convened last month.

Qureshi also complained that two of the defendants had made threatening gestures from behind the bars that separate court officers from prisoners in the makeshift courtroom.

“In our Eastern world, when we just put a hand on the chin and slide it down and make a box of your fist, that is understood to be a threatening gesture,” Qureshi said in a telephone interview.

Rumsfeld Scolding Casts Doubt Over White’s Future

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

U.S. Army Secretary Thomas E. White’s tenuous grip on his job appeared to slip further Thursday after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld scolded Army leadership for going behind his back to Congress to save an endangered weapons program.

Rumsfeld said the Pentagon is “looking into” reports that Army leaders lobbied lawmakers in recent days to salvage a weapons system that the defense secretary and his top deputy are poised to scrap.

In characteristic language, the defense secretary said he would have “a minimum of high regard” for such behavior, a swipe aimed at least in part at White, who is fighting to save the Crusader artillery system from budget cuts.

And even as top lawmakers vowed to “work with leaders” in the Pentagon to save the $11-billion program, Rumsfeld made it clear he expects Army leaders to fall in line.

A defense secretary ought to “be able to expect that the leadership and overwhelming majority (of the Army) will in fact be supportive,” Rumsfeld said.