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IN BRIEF: UNRWA Chief Hansen Pushed Out

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IN BRIEF: UNRWA Chief Hansen Pushed Out
In Brief

UNRWA Chief Hansen Pushed Out - UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has decided not to reappoint Peter Hansen as head of UNRWA, the one-of-a-kind agency for Palestinian refugees, after the Bush administration blocked another term for the controversial Danish figure. The move comes after Israel joined American conservative and Jewish groups in an opposition campaign, accusing Hansen of being an "Israel hater" and soft on terrorists. Some European and Arab governments were keen for Hansen to stay on at the end of his nine-year tenure on March 31. Hansen miffed Israeli officials with his repeated criticism of IDF defensive measures over recent years, but may have sealed his fate after telling a Canadian radio station in the fall that UNRWA likely had Hamas members on its paid staff. "It would have been outright dishonest to say that among a population with about 30% support for Hamas that none of them worked for us," he told The Guardian on Wednesday.

Rice Ready to Pursue Mideast Peace - Grilled at confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, US Secretary of State nominee Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday she expects "to spend an enormous amount of effort" to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but cautioned, "we are not going to get very far if there is terrorism from the Palestinian militants." Rice reaffirmed President George Bush's "vision" of an economically viable, democratic Palestinian state, saying its territory cannot be "so broken up that it can't function as a state." She called the election of Mahmoud Abbas as head of the Palestinian Authority and Israel's withdrawal plan from Gaza "a really good opportunity" for peace, but said there are no immediate plans to send a special envoy to the Middle East. Finally, Rice stressed that, "Arab states have responsibilities too."
Sharansky Book Plugged By White House - The new book by Israeli cabinet minister and former Soviet Jewish refusenik Natan Sharansky, entitled The Case for Democracy, continues to receive endorsements in high places, as both US President George W. Bush and Secretary of State nominee Condoleezza Rice plugged his work on Tuesday. In a CNN interview, Bush enthused that Sharansky's book meshes with his own previously held views on promoting democracy. "[Sharansky] talks about freedom and what it means and how freedom can change the globe. And I agree with him... This is a book that... summarizes how I feel. I would urge people to read it." Bush's Inauguration speech on Thursday also reflected these themes. Rice, meanwhile, opened her Senate confirmation hearings to urge adoption of the book's "town square test: If a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society." The book is available at - Click Here.

EU May Ban Swastika - The European Union is considering whether the 25-nation bloc should ban the use of Nazi symbols after Britain's Prince Harry caused a furor by wearing a swastika armband to a costume party. Germany already forbids the display of Nazi symbols, but the latest British royal scandal has prompted discussions of a Europe-wide ban that would need agreement from all EU governments. The ban could be made part of a proposal introduced two years ago but stalled so far that aims to set EU-wide standards on how to fight racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination.

In Brief - Disengagement
More Jail Time For Refusing Disengagement Orders - The Israeli government is planning to stiffen the punishment for reserve IDF officers who call on soldiers in their units to refuse to carry out orders, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said Wednesday. Facing calls for soldiers to oppose disengagement, the Knesset is rushing to increase the maximum penalty from six-month to one-year prison sentences for using a rank to encourage others not to carry out a duty. Meantime, the population of the northern Samaria community of Sa Nur, slated for evacuation under the disengagement plan, has doubled since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced the withdrawal initiative, Israel Radio reported Thursday. A family from Haifa was scheduled to move into the settlement on today.