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'Old' nations take issue with age-old comments

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 15, 2003

UNITED NATIONS -- European and even Chinese diplomats took shots Friday -- some with humor -- at Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's recent branding of France and Germany as "old Europe" for their reluctance to go to war against Iraq.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, one of the first speakers in the pivotal debate at the Security Council, noted tartly:

"This message comes to you today from an old country, France, from a continent like mine, Europe, that has known wars, occupation and barbarity."

De Villepin said his "old country" hadn't forgotten that "it owes to the freedom fighters who came from America and elsewhere," but added that it hoped to "build together a better world" by working cooperatively with all nations.

Perhaps without intending to, de Villepin set off a string of references to "old" countries.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw spoke next:

"Mr. President, I speak on behalf of a very old country founded" -- laughter broke out -- "founded in 1066 by the French." His reference was to the last successful invasion of Britain, by William the Conqueror, of the French province of Normandy.

Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan made a passing reference to the "ancient civilization" that he represents, noting that "our ancestors proposed long ago the idea of peace being built as a first option."

Protesters disrobe their discontent

WEST PALM BEACH -- Two dozen men and women bared all and formed a peace symbol in the sands of MacArthur Beach on Friday to protest war against Iraq.

Organizer T. A. Wyner said the protesters stripped because it shows vulnerability and calls attention to their lack of weapons.

"In this new era of antiwar demonstrations, this has become the mode of the message," Wyner said. Similar demonstrations have taken place in recent weeks in New York and California.

The group lay on their backs to form the peace symbol, then raised their arms to make another sign of peace with two outstretched fingers.

Law enforcement officers had threatened to arrest anyone who took off their clothes at the beach, but a federal court Thursday barred the state from trying to block the nude demonstration.

U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks wrote that "nude overtly political speech in the form of a 'living nude peace symbol' is expressive conduct well within the ambit of the First Amendment."

Rome offers cooperation to effort

ROME -- Italy said Friday it has given the United States permission to use its ports, highways and other infrastructure for any transport needs in a war against Iraq. It was the latest in a series of offers reflecting Rome's pro-U.S. stance.

Defense Minister Antonio Martino said Washington asked Italy to step up security in all "military installations" where Americans are stationed.

Italy has several important NATO and U.S. bases, including the Aviano air base in northern Italy, the Camp Darby U.S. Army and Air Force base in Tuscany and the U.S. Navy base at Sigonella, Sicily. It also hosts the U.S. 6th Fleet.

Rome had already given U.S. aircraft the right to land on Italian bases for refueling and for other technical reasons in case of war. It has also agreed to a U.S. request to allow U.S. fighter planes to use Italian airspace.

Suit filed to stop war

BOSTON -- Six House members, members of the military and parents of servicemen are asking a judge for an injunction barring an Iraq invasion, saying President Bush is violating the U.S. Constitution by trying to wage war without an explicit war declaration from Congress.

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., cited the passage from the U.S. Constitution that states, "Congress shall have power ... to declare war."

The lawsuit was filed Thursday seeking an immediate injunction. The suit claims that the October 2002 congressional resolution backing military action against Iraq did not specifically declare war and unlawfully ceded the decision to President Bush.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro agreed to hold a hearing Feb. 20 on the injunction request.

A similar lawsuit filed against Bush's father before the Gulf War by 54 members of Congress was rejected by a federal judge in 1990.

Iraqi journalist expelled from U.S.

UNITED NATIONS -- The U.S. government expelled an Iraqi journalist who covers the United Nations for the official Iraqi News Agency, saying he is "harmful" to the security of the United States, the journalist and U.S. officials said.

The announcement came as Iraq informed Fox News that its four staff members in Baghdad would have to leave the country.

John Stack, vice president for news gathering at Fox News, said his network was not told why its staff would have to leave but they believed it was retaliation for the expulsion from the United States of Mohammed Allawi of the Iraqi News Agency.

"We have reason to believe that it's a tit-for-tat situation," Stack said.

Allawi, who has reported from the United Nations for the past two years, said he received the expulsion letter signed by Deputy U.S. Ambassador Patrick Kennedy at his Manhattan home on Thursday.

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