Sharon, Netanyahu disagree on proposal

JERUSALEM

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his new foreign minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had their first dispute, arguing over a U.S.-backed peace proposal on the eve of the arrival of an American envoy.

In a speech to business leaders yesterday, Sharon alluded to the issue when he stressed he would do nothing to endanger “the deep strategic understandings with the United States and the special relationship that has been woven with the American government.”

Netanyahu has suggested he considered the so-called “roadmap” to peace irrelevant as long as U.S. military action in Iraq is pending. Aides said the two met Wednesday night to resolve their differences on policy and the timing of Likud Party primaries, and the Yediot Ahronot daily and radio stations said Sharon complained about Netanyahu’s dismissal of a U.S.-backed plan for a provisional Palestinian state by next year and full independence by 2005.

Sharon himself has expressed serious reservations about the plan, but has been more diplomatic than Netanyahu, saying Israel would study it carefully and present its response at the appropriate time.

Netanyahu, who will battle Sharon for the Likud leadership in primaries to be held within the next few weeks, was formally sworn in as foreign minister on Wednesday.

Bali nightclub bombing suspect in custody

JAKARTA, Indonesia

In the first major break in the inquiry into the Bali nightclub bombings, Indonesia’s police chief said yesterday that a suspect in custody has admitted to taking part in the attack that killed nearly 200 people. Police said they were looking into possible connections between the suspect and a regional terror group with links to al-Qaida.

The announcement came as President Megawati Sukarnoputri submitted a draft bill to parliament intended to replace an emergency anti-terrorist decree issued immediately after the Oct. 12 attack.

In another sign that her administration – criticized for its lenient treatment of Islamic militants – is getting tough with extremists, a notorious gang of religious vigilantes unexpectedly announced yesterday that it would disband.

The developments appeared to signal that the investigation was gaining momentum and offered hope the world’s largest Muslim nation is making headway in its fight against terrorism.

Gen. Da’i Bachtiar, the national police commander, said the suspect, an Indonesian man identified only as Amrozi, owned the L300 Mitsubishi minivan laden with at least 110 pounds of explosives that blew up outside a packed nightclub on Bali.

China’s communist party modies ideas

BEIJING

Preparing for a landmark congress that is expected to install a new generation of leaders, China’s communist party pledged yesterday to modernize its ideology to keep pace with a fast-changing, increasingly capitalist society.

“China has entered into a new phase of development, in which we are to build a well-to-do society,” said Ji Bingxuan, spokesman for the party’s 16th National Congress, which opens today in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

In keeping with the secrecy surrounding the event, Ji gave no details of the personnel changes planned at the congress, where President Jiang Zemin, 76, is expected to hand over the title of party leader to his 59-year-old vice president, Hu Jintao. But Ji indicated that a key theme would be Jiang’s personal campaign – known awkwardly as the “Three Represents” – to bring entrepreneurs into the party and to amend its constitution to give them a formal role.

Bush makes security Republican priority

WASHINGTON

President Bush, charting an agenda for the new Republican Congress, said yesterday that homeland security comes first and an economic-recovery plan with new tax cuts will wait until next year.

“There’s going to be a huge laundry list of things people want to get done and my job is to set priorities and get them done,” the president said in a jovial 45-minute news conference, his first appearance after Tuesday’s election, when his GOP captured control of both the House and Senate. Bush’s insistence that the Senate deliver him a Department of Homeland Security in its postelection session put him awkwardly at odds with newly empowered Senate Republican leader Trent Lott, who said Wednesday he doesn’t intend to resolve the homeland security fight in the “lame-duck” session convening next week.

Catholics name top FBI ofcial to ofce

WASHINGTON

The U.S. Roman Catholic bishops yesterday named the FBI’s No. 3 official to monitor the church’s new policy on clerical sex abuse and help prevent future scandals.

Kathleen McChesney will be the first executive director of the church’s Office for Child and Youth Protection, a critical post as the bishops seek to re-establish their credibility after a year in which at least 300 of the 46,000 American priests have been removed because of allegations of molestation.

“Even one case of child abuse is intolerable. Our churches need to be safe havens for everyone,” McChesney told a news conference at the bishops’ headquarters, where she begins work Dec. 2.

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