Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak

*Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, speaking in Berlin, expressed the view that Washington is unlikely to give Saddam Hussein more than two or three weeks to disarm. He said he himself agreed that the inspection process should not go on forever. He advised Saddam to comply. He also said Saddam would not be welcome in Egypt as an asylum seeker. He insisted that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continued to be the most important problem facing the region. It was almost as though he had written Iraq off, and looked forward to having the war over so he could hope to turn US attention back to Palestine. If Mubarak is speaking this way in Berlin, Saddam is in big trouble.

*Saudi Interior Minister Naef bin Abdul Aziz announced that 90 Saudis had been arrested for having ties to al-Qaeda, and were currently being tried by Islamic-law courts in the kingdom. He provided few details, but said these were not high-level operatives, but rather young men who got pulled in. Even so, this seems a major development, insofar as the Saudis are actually admitting they have an al-Qaeda problem and beginning to deal with it.

*Trial began yesterday in Casablanca, Morocco, of 14 individuals accused of satan worship. They were arrested Sunday after having held a Black Sabbath at which heavy metal music was played. They have been under observation by security for a year, and in January the main fundamentalist party had complained about them in parliament. This is the first such trial in Morocco. The Federation for Secularism has contacted the French embassy and the minister of culture on behalf of 11 of the young men. It maintains that this is just a heavy metal band, and has nothing to do with literal satan worship. Asharq al-Awsat reports that a satan-worshipping “cell” was begun in Casablanca in 1996 by two Portuguese youth, and that the phenomenon spread in some quarters of the city, taking on proportions that became worrisome to the establishment.

*Meanwhile at another trial in Casablanca, the prosecution asked for the death penalty against 5 accused members of an al-Qaeda cell. Three Saudis and 7 Moroccans were accused of forming a sleeper cell and planning terrorist attacks against ships entering the Straits of Gibraltar. Hint: This is what the Moroccan legal system should be concentrating on, not Kiss wannabes.

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