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Experts: Image Shows Possible Nuclear Construction Site in Syria

By VOA News

Experts at a Washington-based research institute say commercial satellite imagery of Syria show construction that resembles the early stages of a small nuclear reactor.

The experts at the Institute for Science and International Security speculate that the site was the target of an Israeli air strike on September 6. A report released Wednesday says the imagery, which was taken about a month before the Israeli air strike, shows a tall building that may house a reactor under construction. They say it is similar in design to a North Korean nuclear reactor.

Rice: Window for Israeli-Palestinian Peacemaking Must Be Exploited

By David Gollust (VOA-State Department)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is warning Arab politics could become more radical unless the current window of opportunity for Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking is fully exploited.

At a congressional committee hearing, Rice also said the Bush administration remains committed to diplomacy in dealing with Iran's nuclear program. She defended the administration's effort to convene a Middle East peace conference as early as next month in the face of skeptical questioning from members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Democratic committee chairman Tom Lantos said the plan may be premature, given the political weakness of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and the fact that Palestinian Hamas radicals control Gaza.

Lantos also raised the idea Rice might be driven by concern about her legacy as chief U.S. diplomat in an administration that will otherwise be remembered for the conflict in Iraq.

"How do you answer the skeptics who feel that it is an attempt by the administration to embellish its record, you have about 14 months left in this administration, and you are reaching out for the Israeli-Palestinian issue as one faint hope to leave a positive diplomatic record for this administration, that the timing is inappropriate, that the move to convene the conference is ill-advised," asked Lantos.

She said the timing of the U.S. effort is propelled by the need to give moderate forces in the Middle East a boost and to deal a blow to extremists:

"Our concern is growing that without a serious political prospect for the Palestinians that gives to moderate leaders a horizon that they can show to their people that indeed there is a two-state solution that is possible, we will lose the window for a two-state solution, that you will see the further radicalization of Palestinian politics, of politics in the region."

Rice said the conference, to be held in Annapolis, Md., near Washington, would occur before the end of the year, but said she has yet to issue invitations to potential participants.

She expressed agreement with committee members that key Arab moderates like Egypt and Saudi Arabia need to participate. She said a Palestinian leader, no matter how politically strong, cannot make the compromises necessary for peace without strong Arab support.

In more than two hours of testimony, Rice also stressed the United States' continued reliance on political means to resolve the Iran nuclear issue, amid recent tough rhetoric from Vice President Dick Cheney, who said flatly earlier this week Iran would not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons.

In response to questioning from Democratic committee member Sheila Jackson-Lee, who called the Cheney remarks dangerous, Rice said the entire Bush administration including the vice president, believes in pursuing a diplomatic course.

"The key is that the Iranians do have to know that the international community is going to be tough, to prevent an unpalatable decision later on about an Iran armed with a nuclear weapon," she said. "And when we say consequences, we do mean that we also - while the president does not take any options off the table - we do have economic ways that we can go after this, and we are doing precisely that."

Rice said Iranian policies, on the nuclear issue, in Iraq and elsewhere, constitute perhaps the single greatest challenge to U.S. security interests worldwide. At the same time, she said Iran is vulnerable to concerted international pressure.

She said the fact that the latest U.N. Security Council-sanctions resolution against Iran was approved unanimously stunned the Iranian leadership, and touched off an internal policy debate in Tehran that the United States would like to see continue.

Gaza Terrorist Leader: Kill Jews Everywhere


A senior leader of the Popular Resistance Committee in Gaza encouraged terrorists at a press conference Wednesday, "Kill Jews everywhere without waiting for permission."

Terrorist leader Abu Al-Sa'id also called for the disbanding of the Palestinian Authority government, which he said should be replaced by a "Resistance Authority." He called for the murder of Jews as retaliation for the death of an Islamic Jihad terrorist who was killed in a massive riot at the Ketziot prison in the Negev earlier this week.

U.S. Oversaw Uprooting of Small Jewish Communities


The evacuation of five makeshift Jewish communities in the West Bank was micromanaged behind the scenes by the U.S. government, WND has learned.

Israeli police, backed by the Israel Defense Forces, clashed recently with Jewish activists and West Bank Jewish residents while destroying the five small outposts the government deemed illegal, because construction was not coordinated with proper housing authorities. The outposts, erected alongside existing legal West Bank Jewish communities, were first built Sept. 30, during the Jewish Sukkot holiday.

Israel strictly enforces regulations against Jewish building in the West Bank while hundreds of thousands of illegal Palestinian outposts have been constructed the past few years. That includes massive apartment complexes and refugee camps on hundreds of acres of land in Jerusalem owned by the Jewish National Fund, a Jewish nonprofit that uses donor funds to purchase property for Jewish settlement.

Israel National News reported the Israeli police brutalized several Jewish activists while attempting to evacuate the small community. Orit Struk, a spokesman for Israel's Yesha Civil Rights Organization, said two teens were brutally beaten during an interrogation inside a police station. The teens had been arrested for resisting orders to leave the Shvut Ami community.

Palestinian and Israeli diplomatic sources speaking to WND recently said the evacuation of the five West Bank communities was heavily micromanaged by officers of the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem.

One Palestinian official said that at one point, Palestinian Authority officials were calling into the U.S. consulate several times per hour to report on the Israeli evacuation. "We don't credit [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert for destroying these illegal outposts. This was done under the strict orders of the U.S. government," said a Palestinian official involved in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Secretary of State Condoleezza stated at a recent press conference outside the compound of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that the U.S. was deeply invested in an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

"The United States sees the establishment of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution as absolutely essential for the future, not just of Palestinians and Israelis but also for the Middle East and indeed to American interests. That's really a message that I think only I can deliver."

Israel Plans Arrow-3 Defense

By UPI (Analysis)

Hard-charging Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is determined to add a new tier to Israel's already formidable ballistic missile defense system: He has given the go-ahead to develop a new anti-missile interceptor to operate at higher levels against possible incoming, nuclear-capable ballistic missiles from nations such as Iran.

The proposed new missile has been named the Arrow-3, and it will operate at higher altitudes than Israel's existing Arrow-2s and lower-altitude U.S.-built Patriot PAC-3s, Defense News reported.

Defense News quoted an Israeli general, speaking on condition of anonymity, as saying the goal for the Arrow-3 would be to improve the probability of kill-interceptions of incoming intermediate-range ballistic missiles, or IRBMs, from its current estimated 80 percent to "the very high 90s" percent range.

Even more than other countries facing a ballistic missile threat, Israel desperately needs BMD systems that can prevent any nuclear-armed missile getting through because some two-thirds of the country's 6 million Jews are concentrated in a single 60-mile strip 5 to 15 miles deep from Ashdod in the south to Hadera in the north. Virtually all the country's booming IT and high-tech sectors and 80 percent of its national infrastructure are in that single potential thermonuclear kill zone.

Defense News said that Israeli planners stressed they were happy with the double-tier protection that the currently deployed Patriot PAC-3s and Arrow-2s already provide against the existing threat posed primarily by Iran.

The paper cited Arieh Herzog, director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization, as saying that the latest Block 3 and new Block 4 upgrades of the Arrow-2 had sufficiently good performance parameters to deal with what the report described as current and projected near-term threats.

However, Defense News said that the Israelis were also concerned that eventually their enemies might have enough missiles and expertise in rapidly deploying and launching them to fire a salvo of them simultaneously, stretching the current system to the limits of its capabilities. That was why they deemed it crucial to develop and deploy an entire third tier of ABMs capable of intercepting and destroying incoming attacks at higher altitudes and earlier in their flight trajectories, Herzog told the paper.

The report said the Israelis opted for a bold new Arrow-3 program after studying, but finally rejecting, the prospects for simply developing new block upgrades of the existing Arrow-2, or purchasing the U.S. Theater High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, which is launched from aircraft.

"What we discovered is that THAAD is an excellent system, and I'm sure whoever uses THAAD will derive great benefit from it. But in our specific case, it cannot fit our requirements," Herzog told Defense News. Herzog said Israeli BMD experts were already at work trying to persuade the U.S. Missile Defense Agency of the viability of a new Arrow-3 system, the report said.

The MDA has been strongly backing THAAD and is optimistic about its recent technological development. And its support for a rival Arrow-3 could be crucial as the new system, like Israel's previous Arrow-2s, can only be built with major financial support and technological and industrial cooperation from the United States.

Herzog told the paper he hoped the details of annual funding and data-sharing agreements could be worked out in less than three months by the end of this year. But he said it would be at least five years and "several hundred million dollars" before the first Arrow-3s could be actively deployed.

While the Arrow-3 would be a new system, it would still employ and integrate the existing Arrow-2s radar, battle management and other systems, the report said. Israel Aerospace Industries, which builds the Arrow-2, would be the prime contractor on the new program, Herzog said. Defense News said Boeing Missile Defense Systems, which already makes almost 40 percent of Arrow-2s working with IAI, would perform the same role in producing the Arrow-3.

Stink Over Smelly Kosher Fish


United Air Lines has apologized to an observant Jewish passenger who was threatened with being thrown off the plane if he did not throw away the kosher fish he had brought with him to eat.

A flight attendant, responding to complaints of passengers about the smell from the fish, told Robert Blum, "If you don't trash the food, I'll trash you. You'll get off the plane--you and your wife and your kids."

The pilot then joined in and made the same threat. "Are you going to give us any more trouble because I have to worry about 220 passengers smelling your stinking food," the pilot asked. Blum relented and threw away the food, leaving his nine-year-old daughter crying.

Blum claimed he was singled out because he was wearing a skullcap (kippah) and that the fringes of his undergarment were hanging out, as is traditional among orthodox Jews. The airline said the pilot and flight attendant did not act properly towards Blum.

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