Netanyahu voices plan to oust Arafat

JERUSALEM

Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday that if he becomes prime minister in January elections, his top priority would be to force Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat into exile.

Netanyahu’s remarks, which drew cheers at the Likud party convention yesterday night, put him at odds with his boss, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has sought to marginalize Arafat but has not made any public statements about driving him out.

“The first order of business of the next government needs to be to expel this man,” Netanyahu said in the televised speech.

“I promise you that as prime minister I will expel Arafat,” he said. “I think this is an absolute condition to eliminate terror.”

Netanyahu is challenging Sharon for the party leadership and has long called for Arafat’s expulsion. His remarks have taken on added significance since he joined Sharon’s caretaker government last week.

Sharon’s Cabinet has discussed the possibility of sending Arafat into exile, but has refrained from taking such action.

Sharon spoke immediately after Netanyahu and did not specify any steps he might take against Arafat.

Covert operations will expand in Iraqi war

WASHINGTON

The secret side of the U.S. military’s war on terrorism is quietly growing.

The Pentagon is planning to expand its use of special operations troops, including those that operate covertly in tandem with the CIA’s paramilitary force, officials and private experts say.

Special operations forces played a critical role in toppling the Taliban regime in Afghanistan last fall and they almost surely would figure prominently in the earliest stages of a U.S. military action in Iraq, coordinating with local forces opposed to Saddam Hussein and hunting for Scud missile launchers.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld believes the military needs to improve its ability to find and track terrorists around the globe and to take decisive action against them. His moves toward that goal have caused some friction with the CIA and led to concern among some that the Pentagon’s civilian leaders will only gather and act on those pieces of intelligence that they want to hear and deliver to the Bush White House. Officially, the Pentagon does not discuss its covert capabilities, but indications of Rumsfeld’s interest in this shadowy area are apparent in a recent study by an advisory group.

High Court reviews library Internet case

WASHINGTON

The Supreme Court said yesterday it will decide if the government can restrict Internet surfing at public libraries, the third case pitting free-speech concerns against efforts to shield children from online pornography to reach the justices.

The court will resolve whether federal funding can be stripped from libraries that don’t install filters on computers to block sexually explicit Web sites.

The decision would affect more than 14 million people a year who use public library computers to do research, send and receive e-mail, and, in some cases, log onto adult sites.

A three-judge federal panel in Pennsylvania ruled last spring that the Children’s Internet Protection Act violates the Constitution’s First Amendment because the filtering programs also block sites on politics, health, science and other nonpornographic topics.

DeLay’s hard style may soften to change

WASHINGTON

Soon to take over the House majority leader’s office, Republican Tom DeLay is moving up to a position where his hard-nosed, take-no-hostages approach to politics may not fit his job title. Even friends say DeLay, already viewed by some as the most powerful Republican in Congress, will need to adopt a softer style.

“You are going to see a kinder, gentler Tom DeLay,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans For Tax Reform and a conservative movement leader.

DeLay, 45, is unopposed in his effort to succeed retiring Majority Leader Dick Armey, another Texas Republican. DeLay will officially become No. 2 in the House GOP leadership behind Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois when the party caucuses today.

“It’s a different role,” DeLay said in an interview.

Butler thief scandal drags Prince Charles

LONDON

After more than a week of silence, Prince Charles waded into the controversy that followed the abrupt end of former royal butler Paul Burrell’s theft trial, ordering an investigation of his household’s role in the affair.

Charles’ private secretary Sir Michael Peat announced yesterday that Charles told him to review questions raised by the trial. The news came as Burrell’s tabloid story, the latest in a string of royal servants’ tell-alls, continued to provide grist for gossip.

Peat also plans to examine whether the palace covered up allegations that a former member of the prince’s staff raped a male colleague.

“The Prince of Wales has instructed me to undertake this inquiry without fear or favor,” Peat said. “Concerns have been raised in the newspapers.

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