UAE calls for Saddam’s resignation

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates won support yesterday from several Persian Gulf nations in its call for Saddam Hussein to quit power to avert a war, while Iraq poured scorn on the Emirates, calling it a tool of Israel.

The king of Bahrain said he backs the call for Saddam to go, according to the Emirates state news agency. Kuwait’s Cabinet also backed the measure, the official Kuwaiti news agency said.

Kuwait has allowed tens of thousands of U.S. troops to deploy in its territory ahead of a possible invasion of neighboring Iraq. The tiny Gulf island of Bahrain also is a key U.S. ally, hosting the base of the American 5th Fleet.

The Emirates’ proposal – first made Saturday at an Arab summit – further highlighted the deep divisions in the Arab world over how to deal with the Iraq crisis and U.S. threats of war.

Arab leaders Saturday refused to discuss the proposal, which was the first open call by an Arab nation for Saddam to go into exile.

The Emirates yesterday sought backing among its fellow Gulf nations, the most receptive audience in the Arab world for the Iraqi leader’s removal. Other Arab nations, however, have rejected the idea of pressuring Saddam to quit, saying they cannot interfere in Iraq’s domestic affairs.

Nightclub re death toll reaches 98

PROVIDENCE, R.I.

Church bells throughout Rhode Island and Massachusetts pealed 98 times yesterday, once for each person killed in one of the country’s worst nightclub fires.

The remembrance came as the death toll from the Feb. 20 inferno at The Station nightclub in West Warwick rose by one.

Kelly Viera, who had been hospitalized with burns suffered in the blaze, died Saturday at Shriners Hospital, hospital officials said. Viera’s age and hometown were not immediately released.

In Providence, Viera’s uncle, William Kelly, drove to Grace Church, where he and Viera worshipped. “I keep asking the Lord, ‘why?'” said Kelly, 57, a retired truck driver from Warwick. “She was such a sweetheart.”

Viera was among several hundred people who had packed into The Station to hear the heavy metal band Great White.

Fire investigators suspect sparks from a pyrotechnic display used by the band ignited the nightclub’s soundproofing material. That triggered a fire that swept through the one-story wooden building in minutes as panicked concertgoers tried to flee.

NASA accident board questions top ofcials

WASHINGTON

NASA’s administrator rejected a formal request by the accident board looking into the Columbia disaster to reassign top agency officials from participating in the investigation, the first serious dispute over the integrity of the probe since the space shuttle’s breakup killed seven astronauts.

Administrator Sean O’Keefe, promised instead that over the next several days NASA will make changes so that professionals outside shuttle management lead cooperative efforts with the investigating board.

O’Keefe said reassigning managers would be viewed as prejudging whether they were culpable in Columbia’s loss, and he wrote, “I will not submit anyone to this treatment.”

The investigating board, led by retired Adm. Harold Gehman, disclosed the correspondence on its website Saturday.

Families of Gulf War veterans back action

ARLINGTON, Va.

Mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters paid tribute yesterday to loved ones killed in the first Persian Gulf War and said they supported President Bush’s efforts to again send Americans against Saddam Hussein.

“I’m behind our president 100 percent,” said Sally Minich of Hawthorn, Pa., at a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery remembering the more than 400 men and women who died in the Gulf War.

Her 20-year-old son, Frank Walls, died in an Iraqi Scud missile attack.

Joyce Wilbourn of Huntsville, Ala., said armed service families generally are more supportive of a war in Iraq. She lost her son, Marine Capt. James “Trey” Wilbourn III, in February 1991. “My son told me in a letter in 1991 … ‘Mom, we either do it now or we do it later.’ So 12 years later we’re doing it,” Wilbourn said.

Carnival parade met with high security

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil

Army tanks, 3,000 troops and 35,000 police officers patrolled Rio’s streets yesterday for the start of the city’s glittering Carnival parades.

Security was tight after four people were killed and dozens of cars and buses torched last week in violence blamed on drug gangs.

But there have been few reports of violence involving the revelers themselves.

One exception was an American tourist shot in the leg yesterday in a traffic dispute. He was not killed.

Brazilians were making last touches on their sumptuous floats and sewing the last sequins onto skimpy bikinis as the first seven of 14 top samba “schools” prepared to parade down the famous Sambadrome stadium last night.

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