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The Media Line Daily News Focus

1. U.N. NAMES SUSPECTS IN AL-HARIRI KILLING…The United Nations has named four senior Lebanese officials as suspects in the assassination earlier this year of the country’s former prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri. The U.N. launched an independent investigation after it decided Lebanon’s own probe was seriously flawed. Three of the suspects are ex heads of the country’s security and intelligence agencies, with the fourth a former member of parliament. The three military figures are being questioned, but the politician, Na’sir Qandil, is said to have left Lebanon for Syria. Some 20 people were killed in the car-bombing attack, which claimed Al-Hariri’s life.

2. BORDER ATTACK FOILED…A Palestinian woman unsuccessfully attempted to stab Israeli security officers as she crossed from Jordan into Israel, according to local media reports. Eyewitnesses say she walked through a metal detector at the Allenby crossing in the Jordan Valley. As she triggered the alarm mechanism she pulled a knife and attempted to stab the closest officers. She was overpowered and taken for questioning.

3. NETANYAHU TO CHALLENGE SHARON…Israel’s former prime minister, foreign and finance minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has announced he intends challenging incumbent Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for the leadership of the Likud party. During his declaration speech, Netanyahu described Sharon as being bad for the party and bad for the country. Sharon’s office has now gone on the offensive, accusing Netanyahu of unilaterally making concessions to the Palestinians in the form of the Hebron Agreement signed when Netanyahu was premier.

4. BARAK EFFECTIVELY WITHDRAWS FROM LABOR RACE…Another former Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, says he will not run in the Labor Party primaries if three other candidates also pull out of the race, leaving Shimon Peres uncontested. Peres is currently the leader of the party. Barak says only Peres is currently capable of uniting all the forces and bringing victory over the Likud party of Ariel Sharon and Binyamin Netanyahu. The Media Line analysts say Barak’s statement is part of a bid to give him legitimacy as he seeks to leave the Labor leadership race. The polls currently suggest Barak is highly unlikely to win.

5. U.S., CHINA, ISRAEL ROW CLAIMS VICTIM…The director general of Israel’s Defense Ministry has announced he is resigning. Amos Yaron’s decision comes months after senior Washington officials reportedly told Israel Yaron must be fired. The argument came after a series of military deals were signed between Israel and China and subsequently canceled because of pressure from Washington on Jerusalem. Israel’s Defense Ministry is denying Yaron’s decision has anything to do with the Chinese deals, however, The Media Line understands privately many involved in the package with China admit there is a clear linkage.