82nd Airborne Paratroops Learn to Hot-Wire Cars

CHAMPION MAIN, Kuwait -- Paratroops of the 82nd Airborne Division could find themselves without wheels when they eventually land in Iraq, so they're learning to hot-wire civilian vehicles parked on the street.

"Take the screwdriver and just smash it up in there, try to break all the tumblers and start it up," said Sgt. Kenneth Meserve of the 307th Engineer Battalion, instructing about 30 soldiers on hot-wiring techniques. "If that doesn't work, we'll have to go under the hood."

Hot-wiring won't just solve a transport shortage, the instructor said. It will also enable soldiers to quickly clear away parked cars that are hindering a military operation, without incurring the liability of bulldozing them out of the way.

The division's contracting officer, Maj. John Kopp, said he went shopping in Kuwait City recently, buying hot-wiring kits from middlemen he had contacted during scouting missions starting in January.

Meserve stood in front of a Ford Explorer from a rental agency in Kuwait to demonstrate. He clutched a few wires from one of the hot-wiring kits and popped the hood.

He bent over the engine to demonstrate. "Take the wire like this, touch the red, then touch the white and -- there."

He told the soldiers to look for old cars first, because they're easier to start. Knock on the gas tank to make sure there's fuel, and watch for booby traps. "And before you do anything," Meserve told them, "check to see if the keys are in it. No need to go through all this if you don't have to."

Monte Reel

Policy Experts Back Bush

A group of 22 foreign policy experts, ranging from senior officials in the Clinton administration to conservatives who strongly back President Bush, released a statement yesterday supporting the attack on Iraq but calling on the Bush administration to invest in a democratic Iraq.

"Regime change is not an end in itself, but a means to an end," the experts said. While some of the signers had criticized the administration and its diplomatic initiatives, all agreed that "any early fixation on exit strategies and departure deadlines will undercut American credibility and greatly diminish the prospects for success."

The signers included Ivo H. Daalder, Martin S. Indyk and James B. Steinberg, all veterans of President Bill Clinton's National Security Council staff, and a number of other senior Democrats. Others who signed the document included William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard; foreign policy analyst Robert Kagan; Danielle Pletka, a vice president of the American Enterprise Institute; and former CIA director R. James Woolsey.

The statement also urged the United States to gain international support for the rebuilding of Iraq. Ultimately, if the effort is successful, it could "contribute decisively to the democratization of the wider Middle East," the statement said.

Glenn Kessler

Grenades Turn Up in Kuwait

KUWAIT CITY -- U.S. military officials discovered a container filled with grenades near a base used by U.S. Marines in northern Kuwait and are investigating whether the explosives could have been intended for a terrorist attack, authorities said.

The grenades, in a metal container the size of a large coffee can, were found Wednesday near Camp Commando. Word of the discovery was sent to other U.S. bases in the vicinity as a precaution.

Military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were not sure if the grenades belonged to would-be assailants or to U.S. forces, and that the matter was under investigation. "Maybe there's a gung-ho Marine who wants to save some hand grenades" and left them in the container, one official said.

U.S. forces in the region have been on alert because of the potential for al Qaeda militants to strike at U.S. military personnel and facilities in the Persian Gulf region.

Staff report

France Finds Deadly Poison

PARIS -- The French Interior Ministry said traces of ricin were found in the Gare de Lyon railway station in Paris. Two small flasks containing traces of the deadly poison were discovered in a luggage checkroom at the station, which serves southern France, a spokesman said.

In January, British anti-terrorism police arrested several people in connection with the discovery of ricin in a north London apartment.

Ricin, one of the deadliest naturally occurring poisons, is derived from castor plant beans, which are grown worldwide to produce castor oil. The chemical is considered a likely bio-warfare agent and is on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "B" list of agents, or those considered a moderate threat.

Reuters

Venezuela Promises Oil

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela promised to supply the United States with oil during the war with Iraq despite sometimes testy relations between the two nations and Venezuela's slow recovery from a two-month oil strike.

"We are and will continue to be the most secure supplier of oil to the United States," Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel said this week. Washington recently criticized President Hugo Chavez for arresting strike leaders and obstructing efforts to hold early elections. Chavez told the United States to keep out of Venezuelan affairs.

Questions have been raised about how soon Chavez's government can stabilize exports after firing nearly half of the state-owned oil monopoly's 40,000 employees. Some customers have complained of problems contracting tanker shipments with new personnel. The government is not releasing export figures, but pre-strike exports averaged 2.5 million barrels a day, including 1.5 million barrels a day to the United States.

U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham has said it could take at least two months before Venezuelan exports stabilize. While its crude quality is lower than many Middle Eastern grades, Venezuela can ship quickly to the United States compared to 40-day tanker shipments from the Middle East.

Associated Press

Norway Detains Iraqi Kurd

OSLO -- Norwegian police detained Mullah Krekar, the leader of a group of radical Iraqi Kurds, and expressed concern he would flee the country while under investigation.

Krekar was later released from custody, but his passport was confiscated to prevent him from leaving the country, officials said.

Krekar, who lives in Norway, is under investigation for his activities with Ansar al-Islam, which the United States has called a terrorist organization linked to al Qaeda. Krekar is also wanted by Jordan on drugs charges.

Krekar was given refugee status in Norway in 1991, but the government has said it wants to expel him based on unspecified national security concerns. Krekar told Dutch television Wednesday that U.S. troops were facing the threat of suicide bombers from his group's guerrillas in Kurdish-held northern Iraq.

Reuters

The French police found traces of ricin, which is much more deadly than cyanide, at the Gare de Lyon train station in Paris.Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, center, talks to Sens. Carl Levin, left, and John McCain before testifying about oil supplies.