CORRECTION: This news brief on page 2 of last Tuesday’s edition of the Daily should not have said ‘Israeli parliament rejects Gaza pullout,’ as the parliament supported moving forward with the pullout.

KABUL, Afghanistan

U.S. bases get $83 million upgrade

The United States is pouring $83 million into upgrading its main military bases in Afghanistan, an Air Force general said yesterday in a sign that American forces will likely be needed in the country for years to come as al-Qaida remains active in the region.

Meanwhile, in a reminder of the instability still facing the 25,000 foreign troops in the country, a roadside bomb hit a Canadian Embassy vehicle and another car in Kabul, injuring at least four people.

U.S. Brig. Gen. Jim Hunt said the millions were being spent on construction projects already under way at Bagram, the main U.S. base north of Kabul, and Kandahar in the south. Both are being equipped with new runways.

“We are continuously improving runways, taxiways, navigation aids, airfield lighting, billeting and other facilities to support our demanding mission,” Hunt, the commander of U.S. air operations in Afghanistan, said at a news conference in the capital.

Afghan leaders are seeking a long-term “strategic partnership” with the United States, which expects to complete the training of the country’s new 70,000-strong army next year, but it remains unclear if that will include permanent American bases.

 

JERUSALEM

Israeli parliament rejects plan for Gaza pullout

Israel’s parliament rejected a last-ditch attempt to torpedo Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip yesterday, vetoing a proposed national referendum. The plan now goes to the nation’s Supreme Court.

Demoralized by the defeat, settlers said they would move their fight into the streets, promising to bring 100,000 protesters to the settlements slated for evacuation to prevent the withdrawal.

They also pinned their hopes on the Supreme Court, which agreed Monday to hear a challenge to the law providing the legal framework for the withdrawal from the entire Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements.

Approval of a referendum would have almost certainly delayed the withdrawal, scheduled for this summer, and could have brought down Sharon’s government and forced new elections. Sharon has repeatedly rejected calls for a national vote as a stalling tactic. Opinion polls show a large majority of Israelis back the withdrawal plan.

 

WASHINGTON

Top court will not prevent newspaper lawsuit

The Supreme Court refused to step into a lawsuit against a newspaper yesterday, leaving the media in Pennsylvania legally vulnerable when it reports defamatory comments by public figures.

The case could chill news coverage of political campaigns where charges and countercharges are commonplace, First Amendment advocates say.

The justices’ decision not to consider the case was a victory for the former mayor and current council president of Parkesburg, Pa., who sued when the Daily Local News in West Chester, Pa., reported that a council member claimed they were homosexuals. The newspaper reported the councilman also had issued a statement strongly implying that he considered the two officials to be “queers and child molesters.”

 

BISHEK, Kyrgyzstan

Interim leader backs part of parliament bids

More political leaders threw their support behind Kyrgyzstan’s newly elected parliament yesterday in a bid to restore stability to this impoverished Central Asian nation following the dramatic ouster of President Aska Akayev.

It remained to be seen whether the move would be accepted by opposition supporters, whose violent protests over alleged voting irregularities in parliamentary elections chased Akayev from the country Thursday.

But a crowd of protesters dispersed peacefully after interim leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev, a former prime minister who joined the opposition to Akayev, promised that allegations of electoral abuses would be dealt with.

Bakiyev, who urged Akayev to formally resign, spoke to the demonstrators after recognizing the new parliament as legitimate, which he did after that body named him prime minister.

-Compiled from Daily wire reports

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