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© St. Petersburg Times, published March 28, 2003
WASHINGTON -- Legislation to ease tax burdens for military personnel and their families won unanimous Senate support Thursday, with lawmakers determined to show their gratitude to the men and women risking their lives in Iraq.
"One of the best ways we can support our troops is to do everything we can to assure that they and their families are taken care of," said Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee.
The legislation, which passed 97-0, excludes military death benefits from taxable income, allows reservists and National Guard members to deduct travel expenses related to their service, and assures that service members forced to make frequent moves will not be subject to capital gains taxes on the sales of their homes.
The House passed a similar version last week, but difference must be reconciled.
APPROVAL OF FUNDING SOUGHT: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Thursday urged quick congressional approval of President Bush's request for $74.7-billion to cover the costs of war with Iraq and other antiterrorism efforts.
Testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Rumsfeld said this "great deal of money" was needed to assure the removal of Saddam Hussein and protect the nation from another terrorist attack.
Here are ways to send troops greetings and care packages:
Because of heightened security, individuals can longer send letters and packages to "Any Service Member." The Defense Department has approved Operation USO Care Package as a way for individuals to send care packages.
A tax-deductible donation of $25 buys an individual care package containing personal items, such as calling cards and shampoo, and miscellaneous items, such as cards, games and disposable cameras, that will be delivered to a service member. Check out the Web site www.usocares.org or call toll-free 1-866-876-4483. The American Red Cross is accepting donations for its Armed Forces Emergency Services, which facilitates communications between families and military personnel overseas. Call toll-free 1-888-217-9599.
Send a greeting via e-mail through Operation Dear Abby: http://anyservicemember.navy.mil.
Sign a virtual thank you card at the Defend America Web site: www.defendamerica.mil/nmam.html.
For other ways to support the troops, go to www.firstgov.gov/Topics/Help.shtml.
LONDON -- French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said Thursday that pre-emptive strikes against rogue regimes could further destabilize the world and that any decision to use force must be backed by a united international community.
De Villepin said France wants to mend its relationship with the United States. "Because they share common values, the United States and France will re-establish close cooperation in complete solidarity," he said.
But he insisted that any decision to use force must be taken collectively.
"All the countries are collectively responsible for increasing the security and stability of our world," he told the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London. "We are all bound by the law."
TORONTO -- Canada's Parliament unanimously passed a motion Thursday calling for the indictment of Saddam Hussein and other top Iraqi officials for "genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes."
It was unclear, however, if the decision was symbolic or if Canada would turn to the U.N. Security Council or other international bodies to seek an indictment.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien's government has resisted joining the U.S.-led coalition fighting to topple Saddam Hussein, though Canadian forces are providing limited logistical support in the Persian Gulf.
Financial uncertainties related to the Iraq war threaten to stymie a nascent global economic recovery, the International Monetary Fund said in a semiannual report released on Thursday.
Horst Koehler, the IMF's managing director, also told the German magazine WirtschaftsWoche in an interview published Thursday that "a global economic recession cannot be ruled out" if the Iraq war proves to be a prolonged engagement.
The IMF, a Washington-based agency that advises its 194 member countries on monetary policy and is a lender of last resort for developing economies, noted in its report that international financial markets were less risky than they were about six months ago. The IMF tempered this view with a warning.
"Normally, this would suggest the potential for a rebound in the economy and financial markets once investor sentiment turns," the report said. "However, this potential is currently overshadowed by the intensified uncertainty about the prospect of war in Iraq and its repercussions on growth and stability."
GENEVA -- The top U.N. human rights body Thursday rejected a proposal to hold an emergency meeting on Iraq, sparing the United States from criticism over its war to oust Saddam Hussein.
Wary that any debate would turn political, Canada, Japan and several countries from Europe and Latin America lined up with the United States to defeat a resolution calling on the 53-country U.N. Human Rights Commission to "consider the effects of the war on the Iraqi people and their humanitarian situation."
The resolution was sponsored by Russia, Syria, Sudan, Malaysia, Libya, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Algeria and Congo.