PALESTINIAN LEADER ARRESTED IN IRAQ
In Baghdad, U.S. special forces have captured Abul Abbas, the mastermind of an Italian cruise-ship hijacking in 1985, a senior American official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The State Department says Iraq provided support to Abbas' group, a faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The capture of Abbas, who led the gang that took the Achille Lauro and executed an elderly American passenger, came to light Tuesday. Abbas had been found Monday night on the outskirts of Baghdad. His band had moved its base from Tunisia to Iraq after the hijacking.
The Achille Lauro was commandeered as it sailed from Egypt to Israel. Passenger Leon Klinghoffer was shot while in his wheelchair and tossed overboard.
The hijacking ended when the militants surrendered to Egyptian authorities. After Egypt put them on a plane to Tunisia, U.S. fighters intercepted the plane and forced it to land in Sicily. But Italy allowed Abbas to leave, saying it had insufficient evidence to hold him. An Italian court later sentenced the defendants to prison, with Abbas convicted in absentia.
OTHER DEVELOPMENTS IN IRAQ
In Nasiriyah, Iraqi political and religious leaders began discussions Tuesday with U.S. and British sponsors in an effort to plan a new government. Iraq's main Shiite Muslim opposition group refused to participate because the leader of the talks is Jay Garner, a retired American general. And Ahmad Chalabi, the former Iraqi exile who has the backing of some Pentagon officials, merely sent a representative. There will be another meeting in 10 days.
In Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, U.S. forces worked to disarm residents, and set up cordons around the city to make sure no important regime members slip away.
In Mosul, military officials are investigating reports that Marines fired on a crowd of civilians, killing at least 10 and injuring 16.
In Doha, Qatar, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command conceded that the ransacking of Iraqi museums took coalition forces by surprise. The intense military action when troops entered the capital left "a vacuum" for those who stole antiquities from sites including the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said. "I don't think anyone anticipated that the riches of Iraq would be looted by the Iraqi people," he said. Brooks added that while "it may be after the fact," it remained important to restore institutions and retrieve as many items as possible.
CASUALTIES TO DATE
U.S. military: 121 dead.
British military: 31 dead.
Iraqi forces: Coalition officials estimate 2,300 killed in the defense of Baghdad.
From Paris, French President Jacques Chirac spoke by phone with President Bush for the first time since early February, when Chirac was leading opposition to a war in Iraq. Chirac, perhaps trying to repair relations with Washington, said Tuesday that France was prepared to adopt a "pragmatic approach" to the administration of postwar Iraq. Chirac has advocated that the United Nations coordinate reconstruction, an effort now being led by the United States.
In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the foreign ministers of six moderate Arab nations also called for the United Nations to have a major role in re-establishing a government in Iraq. Those countries—Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman—hope for a strong economic relationship with post-Saddam Iraq.
In Kabul, Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai warned that the United States faces a Herculean task in helping to rebuild Iraq. It has been 18 months since the Taliban regime collapsed under a U.S.-led assault, but security remains a huge concern in his country, Karzai said. The development of a national army and police force has been slow, he said, and regional warlords are gaining power.
"They are stronger today than before, and that has to change," Karzai said.
President Bush, speaking to a group of small-business owners visiting the White House, said he would seek at least $550 billion in tax cuts over 10 years, a sharp reduction from his original proposal of more than $700 billion. Congress, which now is in recess, opposed his initial plan. The House of Representatives favored a $550 billion cut, but the Senate approved a reduction of $350 billion.
WEATHER IN BAGHDAD
Wednesday: Partly cloudy
High temperature: 82
Low temperature: 62
"We have concerns about Syria. . . . We also have concerns about some of the policies of Iran. But there is no list; there is no war plan right now to go attack someone else, either for the purpose of overthrowing their leadership or for the purpose of imposing democratic values."
_ Secretary of State Colin Powell
(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.