New Turkish premier to push for U.S.

ANKARA, Turkey

Governing party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a seat in parliament by a huge margin yesterday, a crucial victory that opens the way for him to become prime minister and strengthens his hand in uniting the government behind deployment of U.S. troops for an Iraq war.

The charismatic Erdogan – already the nation’s de facto leader – has advocated the U.S. troop deployment in Turkey, and analysts say one of his first moves as premier could be to purge ministers who oppose it.

Prime Minister Abdullah Gul is expected to resign Wednesday to make way for Erdogan to take over the government, after Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party overwhelmingly won by-election balloting in the southern town of Siirt. Gov. Nuri Okutan of Siirt said Justice captured 84.7 percent of the vote. Justice is likely to have won all three seats that were contested yesterday.

It was unclear when parliament would be ready to take up a new resolution on U.S. troop deployment, after lawmakers failed to approve a resolution March 1.

Turkish media say a vote could come as early as Thursday, but members of the Justice Party said it might be two weeks before a new government is in place.

“Our task is hard, our path is long but my peoples’ trust is total,” Erdogan told supporters after the vote.

Hamas leaders vow to continue retaliation

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip

Hamas remains defiant despite absorbing painful blows in Israel’s three-week-old offensive – the most sustained campaign yet against the Islamic militant group in the Gaza Strip.

Leaders have not gone into hiding and footsoldiers continue rocketing Israeli towns. After Israel killed a top Hamas leader Saturday, the group promised revenge and threatened to target Israeli politicians.

Hamas’ confidence is nurtured by religious zeal, popular support and the expectation that Israel will not dare reoccupy Gaza, a nest of armed militants and angry, impoverished civilians.

And with the group using its setbacks to rally even more supporters, the conflict is likely to persist and shape prospects for resuming Israeli-Palestinian peace talks after an expected U.S. attack on Iraq.

Theoretically, a weakened Hamas would be less able to sabotage negotiations with shooting and bombing attacks on Israelis, as it has done repeatedly in the past. However, the cycle of attack and response could just as easily accelerate, making it even more difficult to end fighting that has dragged on for 29 months.

Travel to U.S. slows down after Sept. 11


The U.S. foreign-born population has reached a record high, though the rate at which people came to America has slowed considerably, the government reports.

Experts suggest that downward trend may be due partly to the faltering economy and fallout from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Census Bureau estimates released today show there were about 32.5 million foreign-born residents in the United States in March 2002, 2 percent more than the 31.8 million in the previous March.

The growth rate had been three times greater between March 2000 and 2001.

About 1.2 million people arrived in the country in the 12 months ending in March 2002, compared with 2.4 million the previous year, according to demographer William Frey, who analyzed the figures.

Businesses anticipate post-war prosperity


The prospect of war in Iraq has cast a pall over most of the Arab world. But here in frontline Kuwait, it has fueled a roaring stock market, with businessmen dreaming of a postwar boom.

As war between U.S.-led forces and neighboring Iraq draws near, Kuwaiti businessmen are confident that the United States will remove Saddam Hussein swiftly and painlessly – and open the door for lucrative commercial deals.

Cement and construction companies are planning to help rebuild Iraq from the devastation of a third war in two decades.

Banks hope a new, friendly government in its northern neighbor will need massive loans to fund a rebirth. Food wholesalers are getting ready to feed hungry Iraqis.

Broadway musical strike still unresolved


Tempers were rising and so were the costs, but negotiations were at a standstill yesterday in the effort to end a walkout that shut down 18 of the 19 musicals on Broadway.

Everyone is looking toward today, and the hope that talks would resume between the League of American Theatres and Producers and Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians. By yesterday afternoon, after two dark nights at the theaters, neither side had made the first move.

“We are sitting by the phone (waiting),” said league President Jed Bernstein. “It’s very difficult to engage in a negotiation when you don’t have a negotiating partner … somebody who wants to bargain toward a compromise.”

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