Iraq VP: Bush “Blackmailed”, “Brainwashed” Blair over Iraq Timetable
Iraq’s vice-president is accusing British Prime Minister Tony Blair of backing out of a pledge to push for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. Speaking in New York at the Council on Foreign Relations, Tareq al-Hashemi said Blair had been convinced by a timetable proposal and had promised to raise it with President Bush. But Hashemi says Blair backed out after meeting with the president at the White House. Hashemi says he believes Blair was “blackmailed” and “brainwashed.”
US Contractors Accused in Baghdad Jailbreak
In other news from Iraq, a group of American security contractors are being accused of breaking a prominent Iraqi-American out of jail. Ayham Sameraei – Iraq’s former electricity minister -- escaped Sunday following months of imprisonment on corruption charges. Iraqi officials told the Los Angeles Times Sameraei hired the contractors to free him from his jail cell in Baghdad’s Green Zone.
Ex-Iraq Contractor Sues Rumsfeld over Detention
In other Iraq news, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is the target of a new lawsuit alleging mistreatment in Iraq -- this time, from a Navy veteran and former security contractor. The contractor, Donald Vance, says he was detained without charge and denied an attorney for three months in a military camp in Baghdad. Vance says he was subjected to twenty-four hour artificial light, threatened with excessive force, forced to wear blindfolds and hoods, and deprived of food and water. Vance’s suit says: “[Rumsfeld’s] policies and directives are completely inconsistent with fundamental constitutional and human rights."
Annan Renews Criticism of Iraq Invasion
At the United Nations, outgoing Secretary General Kofi Annan gave his final press conference Tuesday before stepping down at the end of the month. Annan criticized the U.S. for invading Iraq without the support of the UN Security Council.Outgoing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan: "I hope that when next time one is dealing with a broader threat to the international community, one will wait and seek the approval of the Security Council. As I've said, a government, a country has a right to defend itself, but when it's an issue of broader threat to the international community, it's only the Security Council that has that legitimacy to authorize action on that basis."Annan also addressed the UN’s handling of the Oil-for-Food program.Outgoing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan: "When historians look at the records, they will draw the conclusion that, yes, there was mismanagement, there may have been several U.N. staff members that were engaged, but the scandal, if any, was in the capitals and with the 2,200 companies that made a deal with Saddam behind our backs. And of course I hope the historians will realize that the U.N. is more than Oil-For-Food, the U.N. is a U.N. that coordinates tsunami, the U.N. that deals with the Kashmir earthquake, the U.N. that is pushing for equality and fighting to implement the millennium development goals."
Poll: 73% Service Members Approve Open Gay and Lesbian Policy
And finally, in military news, a new poll shows nearly three quarters of US service members – seventy-three percent -- would accept openly gay and lesbian members in their ranks. According to Zogby international, that’s a huge jump from last decade. In 1993, just thirteen percent favored the right of gays and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces.