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Friday, January 7, 2005; Page A13

Officers Threaten To Defy Gaza Pullout

JERUSALEM -- A group of 34 Israeli reserve officers, all of them settlers, threatened in a letter published Thursday to disobey any order to evacuate settlements in the Gaza Strip.

The letter in the Yedioth Aharonoth newspaper was the strongest sign so far of possible mass dissent in the ranks over Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's intention to close all 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza and four of 120 in the West Bank this year.

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said that illegal "expressions of refusal appear to be gaining legitimacy" and that she would ask the courts to show less leniency to settlers suspected of violating the law.

Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, the military chief of staff, swiftly threatened to dismiss the officers.

The reservists, who include four battalion commanders, wrote to their brigade commander: "We demand the army not force us to take action that violates our beliefs and conscience."

The newspaper said the soldiers all lived in settlements and served with the Binyamin Brigade, deployed in the West Bank.

The military on Wednesday jailed a soldier for 28 days for urging comrades to defy orders to remove a Jewish settler outpost in the West Bank on Monday.


KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's Supreme Court rejected an appeal by losing presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych over last month's repeated runoff, bringing the former Soviet republic a step closer to resolving its political crisis.

Yanukovych has not exhausted all of his options, however. His campaign has said that his main appeal would be filed with the court after the Central Elections Commission announces the final results of the Dec. 26 vote. Preliminary results showed opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko winning by a decisive margin.

DUBLIN -- The government launched a public information campaign to prepare Ireland's drivers for the imminent arrival of metric speed limits nationwide.

Transport Minister Martin Cullen said all 35,000 existing speed limit signs in miles per hour would be taken down and replaced with metric signs in the few days before the Jan. 20 changeover. Leaflets detailing the changes were being mailed to about 1.6 million households and began to arrive Thursday.

The move was designed, in part, to end a glaring inconsistency on Irish roads. Speed limits are listed in miles, but most other road signs note distances in kilometers.


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