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The Media Line Daily News Focus

1. ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER TELLS AMERICAN PUBLIC RADIO THAT A TERRORIST EN ROUTE TO ATTACK HAS BEEN CAPTURED… Israelis learned about a failed terror attack from American radio when Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom revealed the incident during an interview on National Public Radio. Shalom said that on Monday, security forces apprehended a terrorist cell en route to carrying out an attack. Although he declined to provide additional details, security had been visibly raised in the capital, Jerusalem. Talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials over security issues and the turning-over of Palestinian towns to Palestinian security control continue to be deadlocked.

2. PALESTINAN CABINET CRISIS APPEARS OVER; APPROVAL EXPECTED THURSDAY… The crisis in forming a new Palestinian government appears to be over for the moment. After days of struggling, Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei’ received approval of the main Fatah faction for a slate of cabinet ministers. Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Legislative Council, demanded that Qurei’ not reappoint ministers that served under Yassir Arafat and are presumed to have been part of the rampant corruption. The line-up will be approved on Thursday by the entire Palestinian Legislative Council. One of the most prominent Palestinian leaders to be excluded from the new body is ‘Saib ‘Ariqat, the highly visible negotiator whose face is well known around the world. Members of the PLC had threatened that Qurei’ would lose his own job if a new cabinet failed to win approval.

3. NATO CHIEF SAYS IT WILL CONSIDER STATIONING TROOPS IN ISRAEL… NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told the Israeli daily Haaretz on Wednesday that the alliance would consider stationing peacekeeping troops in Israel in order to facilitate the peace process, but would do so only if an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty was signed, the request came from both parties, and the United Nations Security Council approved the request. Scheffer said that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process per se is not on the NATO agenda, but rather is the responsibilty of the Quartet: the U.S.; U.N.; European Union and Russia. His comments about a possible peacekeeping role for NATO were based on what he sees as a developing necessity if a treaty is signed.

4. ARMY WILL NO DOUBT BE INVOLVED IN EVACUATION; SOLDIERS BEING PREPARED… Although the role of direct contact with Israelis being forcibly evacuated from their homes during the withdrawal from Gaza and Samarian communities has been assigned to the police, army officials believe soldiers will inevitably be drawn in. Accordingly, Chief-of-Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon said that troops will begin “mental preparation” for the task. Army psychologists and education officers will oversee the preparation. Guidelines are also being drawn up to deal with soldiers who refuse to participate in the evacuation of communities.

5. IRAQIS DEMONSTRATE AGAINST SATURDAYS OFF, CALL IT A ‘ZIONIST PLOT’… Hundreds of people took to the streets in the Iraqi city of Baquba to demonstrate against Prime Minister Iyad ‘Alawi’s plan to make Saturday a day of rest for the country. Although ‘Alawi said his intention was to double the amount of leisure time available to Iraqis, Muslims denounced the move as a “Zionist plot,” because Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath. Protesters, waving Iraqi flags, called ‘Alawi’s idea “the start of Zionist plans in Iraq.” Although several Arab nations hold Saturday as a secular day of rest, Friday is the Islamic holy day. Those objecting to Saturday want Thursday to be the second day of rest.