U.S. speeds N.Korea attack contingency plan
Reuters - The Pentagon has stepped up contingency planning for attacks on North Korea's nuclear program in the wake of Pyongyang's October 9 nuclear test, The Washington Times reported on Friday.
Citing defense officials who asked not to be identified, the newspaper said the planning included programs for striking a plutonium-reprocessing facility at Yongbyon with commando raids or precision-guided missiles.
The planning, which has been under way several months, means only that U.S. military forces would be ready if President George W. Bush were to order attacks, the newspaper said.
Defense officials said China's condemnation of North Korea's nuclear test and Beijing's support for United Nations sanctions were a key factor in the Bush administration's decision to speed up its planning, The Washington Times reported.
The administration regards the new level of Chinese support as a "green light" for more aggressive military planning, the report said.
A Pentagon official was quoted as saying that the Defense Department was considering "various military options" for removing North Korea's nuclear program.
The Bush administration recently affirmed its commitment to both South Korea and Japan that it would use nuclear weapons to deter North Korea, another senior defense official told the newspaper.
"We will resort to whatever force levels we need to have to defend the Republic of Korea. The nuclear deterrence is in place," the official said.
U.S. says Iran, Syria plotting Lebanon coup
In an unusual statement, the Bush administration charged Wednesday that there is "mounting evidence" that Iran, Syria and the militant group Hezbollah are trying to engineer the overthrow of the elected government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora.
American officials said they have evidence that the two countries are seeking to create a "unity" government that would give greater influence to their Hezbollah allies.
They contended that Syria is also trying to block legislation that directs Lebanese cooperation with an international tribunal investigating the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syrian officials have been implicated in the February 2005 attack.
U.S. officials declined to provide details, saying they could not disclose information from intelligence sources. Sean McCormack, the chief State Department spokesman, said there were "strictures" on what he could say because "we collect a lot of information I can't talk about."
He said Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, recently warned in a speech that the Saniora government "take certain steps, or Nasrallah and his compatriots would see that it falls."
Hezbollah officials have been pressing for Shiite Muslim parties to be given control of eight Cabinet ministries, up from five, to reflect their 40 percent share of Lebanon's population. Hezbollah also has called for mass demonstrations to press for a "unity" Cabinet that would give Islamic militants and their allies vetoes over key decisions.
McCormack noted that Emile Lahoud, the pro-Syrian president of Lebanon, recently has spoken about taking steps to block formation of the tribunal to bring Hariri's killers to justice.
McCormack said the Bush administration put out its statement to show support for the Saniora government and to make clear that "we, as well as others, are watching closely."
At the same time, he insisted, "We're not going to interfere in Lebanon's domestic politics."
In Beirut, Hezbollah spokesman Hussein Rahhal said on al-Arabiya television that the U.S. statement was "just one more American interference in Lebanese affairs" designed to prop up the Saniora government.
In recent days, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, have warned Syria and Iran not to interfere in Lebanese affairs. In an interview with the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. last Thursday, Rice said Lebanon has a history of intimidation and assassinations and that "we've heard that there are people who'd like to intimidate or assassinate again." She offered no details.
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