Mideast Report

Bioresearch center's safety investigated

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Knesset committee has decided to investigate work practices at a scientific research center that reportedly is researching and developing biological weapons.

Labor Knesset member Rafi Elul, who is chairman of a parliamentary committee on scientific and technological research, initiated a discussion this week about the activities of the Ness Ziona Biological Research Institute in central Israel.

Elul, who lives near the heavily guarded institute, said many area residents were concerned that an accident at the institute or a missile attack during wartime could ignite a disaster.

The institute, which was established in 1952 to conduct basic and applied biological and chemical research, has become involved in the research and development of defense systems against chemical and biological warfare, according to foreign news reports.

Reports also have speculated that work is being done there to develop biological weapons.

Red Army members detained in Lebanon

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Lebanese security agents this week detained at least five people suspected of membership in the Japanese Red Army, including one involved in a 1972 attack at Ben-Gurion Airport.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Faris Bouez confirmed Tuesday that the five were arrested in raids over the weekend.

The Japanese Red Army, an ultraleftist group sympathetic to Palestinian causes, was formed in 1971. It claimed responsibility for violent attacks and hijackings in the 1970s, including a 1972 shooting attack at Ben-Gurion Airport that claimed 26 lives and left more than 70 people wounded.

One of the Lebanese detainees was reportedly Kozo Okamoto, the sole survivor among the three gunmen who carried out the airport attack.

Okamoto was arrested by Israeli forces and sentenced to life in prison, and was freed in 1985 as part of a prisoner and soldier swap between Israel and the Palestinians.

Kach activist's term for disorder is cut

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel's Supreme Court has reduced the three-month prison sentence of a former Kach activist to three months of community service.

Baruch Marzel was convicted by the Jerusalem Magistrates Court of causing public disorder when he called Palestinian official Faisal Husseini a murderer.

After the Jerusalem District Court upheld the conviction in an appeal, Marzel obtained permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

A three-justice panel, headed by Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, decided Monday to ease the sentence after the prosecution agreed to the motion.

Conflict with Iran inevitable: Laborite

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Confrontation between Israel and Iran is inevitable, Labor Party leadership candidate and Knesset member Ephraim Sneh said Sunday.

Speaking to several dozen senior reserve officers at the Tel Aviv Hilton Hotel, Sneh said that within a few years Iran will have nuclear weapons and will pose an existential threat to Israel.

He noted that recent Russian aid to Iran meant the fundamentalist Muslim state can become a nuclear power within a few years.

Israel must build a new Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian axis in the region, to balance the Syrian-Iranian axis, he added.

Israeli AIDS course taught in Tripoli

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli educational program about AIDS is being presented in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, Israeli media reported.

The Arabic-language program, "Youth Learns About AIDS," is based on a program used in Israeli high schools since 1987.

Two doctors from Libya who took part in an international course on AIDS education had become familiar with the Israeli program, "The Immune System and the Disease of AIDS."

One of the doctors said he was already using the program in Tripoli.

New bill gives vote to Israelis abroad

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Knesset bill that would allow Israelis living abroad to vote in national elections has sparked a political storm.

The bill, which has passed a preliminary Knesset reading, would allow Israelis abroad who hold valid passports to cast ballots in elections for prime minister and the parliament.

The bill's sponsor, Likud Knesset member Reuven Rivlin, said the bill served a Zionist cause by strengthening ties between Israel and world Jewry and by perhaps drawing expatriates back to the country.

But strong condemnations of the bill came from the leftist opposition, whose members said such a law would encourage Israelis to emigrate.

Labor Knesset faction chair Ra'anan Cohen said the bill was anti-Zionist because it would allow people who do not live in Israel to decide the country's fate.