Arafat, Qureia dispute over financial reform


A disagreement over financial reform erupted into a major
dispute between Yasser Arafat and his prime minister, Ahmed Qureia,
and threatens to hold up vital foreign aid to the Palestinian
Authority, officials said yesterday.

The confrontation, which centered on salary payments to
Palestinian security forces, is seen as a key test of
Qureia’s ability to clean up his government’s finances.
International donor countries are becoming increasingly impatient
with what they see as Palestinian foot-dragging on reform, and are
scaling back aid.

Financial reform is one of the Palestinian obligations under the
U.S.-backed “road map” peace plan. The road map has
been stalled for months, with both Israel and the Palestinians
failing to carry out the first steps.

The Arafat-Qureia dispute is perhaps their most serious since
the prime minister took office late last year. In general, Qureia
has been trying to accommodate Arafat, rather than challenge


Judge: Gay marriage licenses may be illegal


A judge said yesterday that San Francisco appears to be
violating the law by issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian
couples, but he declined to order an immediate halt to the

A conservative group had asked Judge James Warren to immediately
stop the weddings and void the 2,464 same-sex marriages performed
in the city since Thursday. Instead, Warren issued a nonbinding
cease-and-desist order and told the city to return on March 29 and
explain its legal position. “We are extremely happy and
gratified that a stay was not issued,” City Attorney Dennis
Herrerra said.

Mayor Gavin Newsom said through a spokeswoman that the city
would keep performing the marriages despite the court order.
“We will continue to issue marriage licenses until the court
rules we can no longer do so,” spokeswoman Darlene Chiu said
shortly after the ruling. The Proposition 22 Legal Defense and
Education Fund had asked the Superior Court judge to issue an order
commanding the city to stop issuing the licenses, or show cause
explaining why it would not.


U.S. compiles list of Iraqi rebel leaders


The U.S. military yesterday issued for the first time a wanted
list of dozens of key figures suspected of leading the anti-U.S.
insurgency in Iraq, including a $1 million reward for a senior
Baath Party figure believed to be running guerrilla cells.

In Tikrit, three Iraqis, including a 10-year-old, were killed
yesterday when a 120 mm mortar fired by U.S. soldiers landed on
their house. The U.S. base at Tikrit has been receiving fire from
insurgents over the past few nights, the military said.

The list of 32 wanted people included suspected cell leaders,
former members of Saddam Hussein’s military and regional
Baath leaders thought to be helping the insurgency, said Brig. Gen.
Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations chief.


Bush visits military base to gain support


Snapping a sharp salute before cheering soldiers, President Bush
put his credentials as wartime commander in chief on display
yesterday against suggestions he ducked his military duty as a
child of privilege during the Vietnam War.

Cheers of “USA, USA” and enthusiastic applause
greeted Bush as he took an outdoor stage at this military base that
has trained and deployed more than 10,000 troops to Iraq and
Afghanistan since America was struck by terrorist attacks on Sept.
11, 2001.

“My resolve is the same as it was on the day when I walked
in the rubble of the twin towers,” Bush said. “I will
not relent until this threat to America is removed. And neither
will you.”

Bush’s appearance provided a TV-ready opportunity to
emphasize his national security responsibilities and leadership of
the war against terror, a role the White House wants to emphasize
with voters as he heads into a re-election battle.


Federal court upholds do-not-call registry


Handing a victory to consumers who loathe telemarketers, a
federal appeals court yesteday upheld the popular do-not-call
registry, dismissing claims it violates free speech rights and is
unfair to business.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals called the registry of
more than 56 million phone numbers a reasonable attempt by
government to safeguard personal privacy and reduce “the
danger of telemarketing abuse.”

“Just as a consumer can avoid door-to-door peddlers by
placing a ‘No Solicitation’ sign in his or her front
yard, the do-not-call registry lets consumers avoid unwanted sales
pitches that invade the home via telephone,” the court


— Compiled from Daily wire reports

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