WASHINGTON

Specter: Abortion won’t be litmus test

WASHINGTON (AP) – The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said yesterday he will not ask chief justice nominee John Roberts whether he would vote to overturn Roe v.s. Wade, the decision that legalized abortion.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) did say he planned to ask Roberts, the president’s pick to succeed the late William H. Rehnquist as chief justice, whether there is a right to privacy in the Constitution.

Roberts’s confirmation hearing to be the nation’s 17th chief justice will begin this afternoon. The first day, however, is expected to be taken up by the opening statements of the committee’s 18 senators. Roberts is not expected to speak late this afternoon.

Specter said yesterday he was uncertain whether Roberts would favor overturning the Roe v.s. Wade decision from 1973 that established a right to abortion. Specter supports a woman’s right to choose to end her pregnancy. “I think it is inappropriate to ask him head-on if he’s going to overturn Roe, but I believe that there are many issues close to the issue, like his respect for precedent,” Specter said.

 

TOKYO

Koizumi’s party headed for landslide

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi scored a political triumph yesterday as the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party headed for a landslide win in an election touted as a referendum on his push to privatize Japan’s cash-swollen postal system.

Initial returns and exit polls by major Japanese media had Koizumi’s party on course to possibly win its biggest-ever proportion of seats in parliament’s lawmaking 480-seat lower house.

As of early Today, public broadcaster NHK gave the LDP 291 seats, far more than the 241 needed for a majority. Combined with the allied New Komei Party, the ruling coalition had more than 320 seats – a two-thirds majority that would let it override votes by the upper house, the body that blocked postal restructuring last month.

NHK predicted the LDP could win as many as 309 seats, far more than the 249 it held when Koizumi dissolved the chamber Aug. 8. The most it ever held was 300 of the body’s then-512 seats in 1986.

 

NEVE DEKALIM, Gaza Strip

Israel decides not to raze Gaza synagogues

Israeli troops lowered their nation’s flag and snapped farewell photos in the final phase of the historic Gaza pullout yesterday, as thousands of Palestinian troops, onlookers and gunmen assembled nearby, eager to take control after 38 years of Israeli military occupation.

The first army convoys left Gaza after sundown yesterday. Military jeeps and armored bulldozers drove slowly through the Kissufim crossing point, marking the beginning of the end of Israel’s presence in Gaza.

But the withdrawal, code-named “Last Watch,” was overshadowed by Israeli-Palestinian disputes, including those over border arrangements and Israel’s last-minute decision not to demolish Gaza synagogues. The army was forced to cancel a formal handover ceremony, initially set for yesterday, after angry Palestinians said they would not show up.

There also was concern about last-minute bloodshed. A 12-year-old boy was among four Palestinians wounded by Israeli army fire when a crowd got too close to the abandoned Gush Katif bloc of Jewish settlements.

 

TAL AFAR, Iraq

U.S. forces kill 150 in insurgent stronghold

TAL AFAR, Iraq (AP) – Insurgents staged a classic guerrilla retreat from Tal Afar yesterday, melting into the countryside through a network of tunnels to escape an Iraqi-U.S. force that reported killing about 150 rebels while storming the militant bastion.

With the city swept clear of extremists for the second time in a year, Iraqi and U.S. military leaders vowed to redouble efforts to crush insurgents operating all along the Syrian frontier and in the Euphrates River valley.

“Tal Afar is just one piece of an overarching operation. We are not going to tolerate a safe haven anywhere in Iraq,” said Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, deputy chief of staff for coalition forces in Iraq.

 

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