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Olmert forecasts pullout from Palestinian lands

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday that Israel plans to separate from most of the Palestinians in the West Bank and that this would require withdrawing from some of the territory.

It was the first time Olmert, who took over from ailing Ariel Sharon a month ago, has spelled out future policy if he wins in the March 28 elections. "We will disengage from most of the Palestinian population that lives in Judea and Samaria," Olmert told Israel's Channel 2 TV, using the biblical names for the West Bank. "That will obligate us to leave territories under Israeli control today."

He listed four West Bank areas Israel would keep: Maaleh Adumim, a settlement of 30,000 next to Jerusalem; Gush Etzion, a bloc of settlements south of Jerusalem; Ariel, a settlement of 18,000 deep in the West Bank; and the Jordan River valley.

He also said Israel would retain "united Jerusalem," including the eastern section claimed by the Palestinians for the capital of the state they hope to create.


Figure from terror cell linked to 9/1 1 is freed

HAMBURG, Germany (AP) -- A Moroccan convicted of belonging to a terrorist cell that included three 9/1 1 hijackers was freed from prison Tuesday after a federal court ruled he should not be jailed with appeals still pending. Mounir el Motassadeq, 31, had been sentenced to seven years in prison in August by a court in Hamburg.

A statement by Germany's Federal Constitutional Court said the lower court had been wrong to order el Motassadeq returned to custody because appeals by both the defense and prosecutors were still pending.

In 2003, he became the first person anywhere to be convicted in connection with the 9/1 1 attacks. He was found guilty of membership in a terrorist organization that included suicide pilots Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah, and of being an accessory to murder.


About 6-hour delay cited on news of boat tragedy

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- Egypt's presidential spokesman said Tuesday that the owners of the Red Sea ferry that sank last week, drowning about 1,000 people, did not inform the government of the disaster for nearly six hours.

Suleiman Awad emerged from a Cabinet session presided over by President Hosni Mubarak to say the government first heard from owner Al Salam Maritime Transport Co. that the ship was in danger at 7 a.m. Friday and was feared sunk at 7:45 a.m.

By most accounts, the Al-Salaam Boccaccio 98 sank no later than 2 a.m., five hours earlier. Other reports say the ship sank at 1 a.m.


New president says role in Iraq may be extended

WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- Poland's new president, speaking ahead of his first visit today to the United States, said Tuesday that his country could extend its military mission in Iraq into 2007.

President Lech Kaczynski said in an interview with the Associated Press that "staying beyond 2006 is subject to consideration," although such a move "would call for a new decision."

Poland has been a staunch U.S. ally in Iraq. Shortly after taking office in December, Kaczynski approved keeping a scaled-down force of 900 soldiers in the country until the end of this year.

That was a reversal of the previous regime's decision to bring all the troops home last month.

"I have said a number of times that staying beyond 2006 is subject to consideration," Kaczynski told the AP. "There is no such decision today. Today we have the decision concerning 2006. The mission in 2007 would call for a new decision."

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