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Israel Bans 15 Members from Palestinian Parliament

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel has banned 14 Palestinian parliament members from attending the first parliamentary session to be held in the past two years. The Palestinian Legislative Council is to meet Monday, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, in its first full session since the beginning of the Intifada, the Palestinian uprising.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gave the go-ahead for the meeting last week, but warned that members believed to be involved in terrorism would be barred.

The Secretary of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Ibrahim Abu al-Najar, said the remainder of the 86-member parliament will go ahead with the meeting despite the ban in order to swear in a new cabinet. The parliament has not met since September 2000, when clashes began that have left more than 2,000 dead, most of them Palestinians.

The speaker of the parliament said Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat plans to deliver a major policy speech at Monday's meeting. Arafat is under pressure from the United States and Israel to reform the Palestinian Authority as a first step to reviving peace talks.

Sharon said training and preparation of a new Palestinian security apparatus would begin this month, which he described as a "good beginning." He demanded that the Palestinian security forces halt attacks by Palestinian groups and that this would pave the way for Israeli troops to withdraw from Palestinian self-rule areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

French Jewish Lawyer to Represent Barghouti

By VOA News and News Sources

A French Jewish lawyer, born in Tunisia, said she would represent Marwan Barghouti, a top lieutenant of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat's Fatah group, who is on trial in Israel on charges of murder and terrorism.

The attorney, 75-year-old Gisele Halimi told a news conference in Jerusalem that she is convinced her client is - in her words - a man of peace who believes in the need for a negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Halimi is co-president of a group called Lawyers for Justice in the Middle East, which she said is trying to move forward the cause of peace in the Middle East.

Halimi told the reporters that she met Friday with Barghouti in prison for an hour and he agreed that she should defend him at his next court appearance, on Oct 3.

Halimi, who is French, said the Israeli charges are not backed by evidence. "Who is Marwan? What has he said? What has he written?" she asked. "We can't talk here of any real proof or facts."

Barghouti, 43, a member of the Palestinian parliament, was captured April 15 two-weeks after Israeli troops stormed the West Bank in the wake of a series of bloody suicide bombings. He went on trial in Israel last week, charged with abetting the murders of 26 Israelis and with heading the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade, a militant wing of Fatah.

Barghouti has denied personal involvement in the attacks.

On Friday, MK Mohammad Barakeh (Hadash) asked the President of the Supreme Court, Justice Aharon Barak, to disqualify the head of the panel of judges who are presiding over Barghouti's trial. Barakeh asked Barak on Friday to disqualify Judge Sara Sirota because of comments she made Thursday at the start of the trial.

According to Barakeh, Sirota's comment that, "Peace activists do not turn children into bombs and kill people," effectively passed judgement on Barghouti even before his trial had begun. Sirota made the comment in response to a statement by Barghouti that, "the Israeli government is waging a war of genocide, and I am a freedom fighter for peace between the two peoples."

U.S. and Israel Agree on Libyan Nuclear Threat Ze'ev Schiff & Nathan Guttman (Courtesy of Ha'aretz)

The U.S. agrees with Israeli assessments that Libya has renewed its efforts to acquire a nuclear bomb, and that those efforts have been stepped up since 1999, when the U.N. sanctions on the country were removed.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had said that Libya is energetically seeking to develop a nuclear weapon and that the Jewish state believes that although Libya is trying to acquire fissionable material for nuclear weapons through centrifuges, it has proven to be a slow process.

Experts said that Libya may be cooperating with North Korea and Pakistan in the effort. Sharon mentioned the same assessment, though he also raised the possibility the Libyans are getting aid from Iraqi experts. He told the news media that it's possible that Libya will achieve nuclear status before Iraq.

The Libyan efforts came up in discussions between Israeli and American officials six months ago, when it became apparent to the Israelis that the Americans had acquired similar information to what Israel knows about Libya's nuclear ambitions.

Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton said in Washington on May 5 that the U.S. "has no doubt" that Libya is continuing its efforts to acquire a nuclear weapon. He said the administration believes that with the sanctions lifted in 1999, Libya's access to nuclear technology was increased.

But he added that while Libya needs foreign assistance to achieve its nuclear goals, there is reason to be concerned about the strengthening of Libya's nuclear infrastructure. Bolton noted that on March 25, Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi told Al Jazeera TV that "we demanded the dismantling of Israel's weapons of mass destruction, otherwise the Arabs have the right to be equipped with the same weaponry."

He described Libyan chemical weapons development, and spoke about their purchases of chemical materials in the Middle East, Asia and Western Europe, and noted that the Libyans had developed a ground-to-ground missile with the help of Serbia, India, North Korea and China. But he also said that Libya condemned the terror attack on the U.S. last year and that there had been great progress in the state's reduction of support for terror.

Libya has been prominently listed on the State Department list of states that support terrorism but there was talk about removing it from the list this year to prove that the U.S. has a carrot and stick policy and that those countries that cease support for terror will benefit.

Israel's concern is that Libya, which doesn't have long-distance missiles capable of reaching Israel, could use one of its planes, a ship - or perhaps most dangerous - a terrorist organization to deliver a nuclear weapon, if it does acquire one.

Putin Vows to Fight anti-Semitism
IsraelFaxx News Sources

President Vladimir Putin said his government was committed to fighting anti-Semitism and other forms of extremism.

"I am convinced that only through democratic principles and tolerance of all faiths can we guarantee a worthy future for Russia."

Russia's troubled relationship with Jews date to czarist days, when Jews were limited in their movement and faced brutal pogroms that sparked a wave of emigration.

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