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DC Suburb Opens Trade Office in Israel

By Washington (D.C.) Business Journal

The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority has opened an office in Tel Aviv, to work with technology companies interested in expanding into the United States. Fairfax County is the first U.S. county to open a marketing office in Israel. FCEDA President Jerry Gordon says over 4,800 technology companies are located in the county and being near the nation's capital make Fairfax County a natural location for expanding Israeli firms. FCEDA has international locations in England, Germany, Japan and India.

Iran: Some Generals Favor Pre-emptive Strikes Against U.S., Israel

By VOA News & AFP

Iran said Thursday it is deeply concerned about the U.S. military presence in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan, and said some Iranian generals favor pre-emptive strikes against U.S. and Israeli forces if they sense an imminent threat. Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani told al-Jazeera television that Tehran would not stand by idly if it believed U.S. or Israeli forces were preparing an attack.

A spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. troops in Iraq, said the military has not changed the way it is operating in the region as a result of the Iranian remarks. The comments came amid heightened U.S.-Iranian tensions over Iran's fledgling nuclear program.

Tehran said its first nuclear power station would generate electricity. But the Bush administration said it suspects Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons, and Israel said it would not allow that to happen.

The Islamic state also warned Israel it would be responsible for the "terrifying consequences" of any attempt to knock out the facilities, which it insists are solely for peaceful purposes such as electricity generation. "We will not sit to wait for what others will do to us," Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said in an interview with the Qatar-based satellite broadcaster.

On Wednesday, Under Secretary of State John Bolton said the International Atomic Energy Agency report should refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible economic sanctions. He said the Islamic nation; a member of George W. Bush's "axis of evil" could make enough bomb-grade material in 12 months to produce a nuclear weapon. "We cannot allow Iran, a leading sponsor of international terrorism, to acquire nuclear weapons," he said.

But Shamkhani said: "Some military commanders in Iran are convinced that preventive operations which the Americans talk about are not their monopoly. "America is not the only one present in the region. We are also present, from Khost to Kandahar in Afghanistan; we are present in the Gulf and we can be present in Iraq. "The U.S. military presence (in Iraq) will not become an element of strength (for Washington) at our expense."

Asked about the possibility of a U.S. or Israeli strike on Iran's atomic power plant in Bushehr, he said: "We will consider any strike against our nuclear installations as an attack on Iran as a whole, and we will retaliate with all our strength. "Where Israel is concerned, we have no doubt that it is an evil entity, and it will not be able to launch any military operation without an American green light. You cannot separate the two."

Earlier, a commander of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards was quoted in the Iranian press as saying Tehran would strike the Israeli reactor at Dimona if Israel attacked the Islamic republic's burgeoning nuclear facilities. "If Israel fires one missile at Bushehr atomic power plant it should permanently forget about Dimona nuclear center, where it produces and keeps its nuclear weapons," General Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr said. "Israel would be responsible for the terrifying consequence of this move."

Iran's controversial bid to generate nuclear power at Bushehr is seen by the U.S. and Israel as a cover for nuclear weapons development, and Tehran clearly fears a repeat of Israel's missile strike against Iraqi nuclear facilities at Osirak in 1981.

Dimona, in the Negev desert, is allegedly where Israel produces weapons-grade plutonium for its estimated 200 nuclear warheads. Israel has a policy of neither confirming nor denying its nuclear program.

Sharon's Settler Withdrawal Plan Suffers Major Setback

By Larry James (VOA-Jerusalem)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has suffered a major setback to his proposed withdrawal of Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip, after his Likud Party voted against forming a new coalition government to push the plan forward. A majority of the members of Sharon's Likud Party voted against inviting the opposition Labor Party to form a national unity government.

The vote, at the party convention in Tel Aviv, is non-binding and there is at least a suggestion that it may still be possible for Sharon to go ahead with his plan to try to bring Labor into the government. His proposal to begin that process was approved by a large majority at a polling station reserved for Likud members of parliament and cabinet ministers. These are the people who would actually vote in the parliament for a Labor deal. Whether they would go against the wishes of the party majority and still support the plan when a real parliament vote comes remains an open question.

In a speech before the convention vote, Wednesday night Mr. Sharon called for his party's support. "There are moments in a nation's life when it has to make difficult decisions." He asserted, "Israel has reached such a moment."

Sharon began negotiations with Labor, aimed at bringing them into his government, after Likud lost its parliament majority in May. Sharon's chief opponent in Likud, Uzi Landau, said the vote against the plan was not a rejection of the Likud Party, but, rather, of the path the prime minister wanted to follow.

Palestinian Lawmakers Accuse Arafat of Stalling on Reforms

By VOA News

Palestinian lawmakers say Yasir Arafat is refusing to sign a package of anti-corruption reforms demanded by parliament.

Lawmakers said Arafat spurned a committee of legislators who urged him to act on his pledge to reform the Palestinian Authority. The reform proposals include giving the prime minister authority to make changes at a dozen Palestinian security agencies widely seen as corrupt and inefficient.

In a speech to lawmakers Wednesday, Arafat made a rare admission of mistakes, and said he supports reforms. But he did not make any specific promises. Palestinian critics have accused Arafat of stalling on the reforms, and have recently launched a series of anti-Arafat protests in the Gaza Strip.

Israel's Judo Champion Wins a Bronze


Israeli judoka Arik Zeevi won Israel's first metal of the 2004 Olympic games Thursday in Athens, Greece. Zeevi, Israel's Judo champion, lost a match earlier Thursday to an opponent from South Korea - costing him the gold medal.

The South Korean took the gold medal at the end of the day. Zeevi went on to defeat opponents from Cameroon and France in the semi-final and final of the secondary group, taking the medal against a Dutch opponent and finishing the day with five wins and one loss.

"I couldn't imagine this could really happen," Zeevi told Voice of Israel radio following his win. "I tried to imagine how this would feel, but it does not compare." Zeevi added that although he was under intense pressure to succeed on behalf of Israel, he greatly appreciated the outpouring of support from his fellow Israelis.

Zeevi's bronze medal is the fifth in Israel's Olympic history. In 1992, Yael Arad and Oren Smadja won silver and bronze medals respectively in the Judo competition, in 1996, Gal Friedman won a bronze metal for windsurfing in and in 2000, Michael Kolganov won a bronze medal for kayaking. Zeevi is the reigning European Judo champion and ranks second place worldwide. He carried Israel's flag at the Olympics' opening ceremony.

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