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>JN July 3, 2000, Vol. 8, No. 114

Egyptian Press Blames Mossad for Assad's Death

By IsraelWire

The Egyptian weekly "Aharam al-Aravi" claims that the Mossad Intelligence Agency is responsible for the death of Syrian President Hafez al-Assad. The paper claims that during Assad's telephone call with Lebanese President Emil el-Hoss, at which time he died, Israeli agents from atop Mount Hermon introduced deadly radioactive rays into the phone, killing the Syrian leader.


World Protests Conviction of 10 Iranian Jews

By VOA's Ross Dunn, Jerusalem; Larry Freund, New York; and Laurie Kassman, Cairo

Israel condemned Iran for convicting 10 Iranian Jews of spying for the Jewish State. The Israeli government said its citizens will not rest until their fellow Jews in Iran are set free.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry says it is shocked by an Iranian Court's decision to sentence 10 Jews to prison terms ranging from four to 13 years after they were convicted of taking part in a spy ring.

The Foreign Ministry broke with protocol and issued a statement on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath -- normally a strict day of rest in Israel for government authorities.

The statement describes the sentences as harsh and says the Iranian Jews committed no wrongdoing. The statement adds that the sentences issued by a court in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz will deprive these innocent Jews of their freedom for many years.

The Ministry statement said: "Iran cannot be accepted as a member of the international community as long as Jewish prisoners are rotting away in prison when they have done no wrong. Israel will not rest until all the prisoners are released."

Many Jewish leaders had feared the Iranian Jews would not receive a fair trial and would face execution under Iran's system of Islamic law. Lawyers for the convicted Jews in Iran say they are confident the prison terms will be reduced following an appeal.

The coordinating organization for American Jewish groups says it is outraged at what it calls the injustice of the verdicts. Malcolm Hoenlein said it was Iran that was found guilty of "gross violations of human rights and rejecting the rule of law."

He said the verdicts put the lie to what he described as the mythology of moderation in Iran. "Iran, we declare to you today that the world is watching. You have seen the statements of world leaders. They have declared that future relations with Iran will be dependent upon the outcome of this trial. And we assure you we will re-double our efforts and pursue every avenue to help bring an end to this injustice."

Iranian newspapers and television stations rejected Western criticism of the verdict. Iran's state-run news agency quoted its foreign ministry spokesman as denouncing what he calls "interfering remarks" by foreign officials.

Hamid Reza Asefi told Iran radio no country would have an impact on the independent judicial process of Iran's courts. He calls for other states to respect the right of sovereignty and refrain from interfering in Iran's domestic affairs.

The conservative Persian-language daily Jomhouria Eslami and the English-language Iran News dismiss the international criticism and blame what they call - Zionist manipulation - of the world media. Iran News complains that most of the foreign news reports have focussed on the Iranian Jews on trial and neglected to mention the Muslims who were also charged with spying for Israel.


Unilateral Declaration of Palestinian State in Works

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

Palestinian Liberation Organization leaders have convened a special meeting in Gaza to discuss preparations for establishing an independent Palestinian State. The conference comes amid threats by Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat to unilaterally declare independence for his people later this year.

This is the first time in two-years that the PLO's Central Council, its second-highest policy making body, has met to discuss strategy for the founding of an independent state.

The 129-members of the council are being briefed by Arafat on his promise to declare Palestinian statehood later this year. The Palestinian leader says an independent Palestinian state will come into being, even in the absence of an agreement with Israel.

Israeli officials have warned Arafat against making a unilateral declaration, saying this could force Prime Minister Ehud Barak to retaliate by annexing parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Barak is hoping for a trilateral meeting in the United States with Arafat and President Clinton to negotiate a peace treaty which would set out the mutually agreed borders of a future Palestinian state.

Israel and the Palestinians have set Sept. 13 as the deadline for reaching a final peace agreement. Before that can happen, they must resolve such key issues as what to do about Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Palestinian refugees and the future of Jerusalem, which both sides claim as their capital.

Israeli military officers are warning that violence could break out in the Palestinian territories unless more progress is made in the negotiations before the September deadline.



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