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Newsdesk September 5, 2003

Crash Victims Plan Suit

Relatives of passengers on the Libyan jetliner shot down by Israeli fighters in 1973 say they intend to demand financial compensation from Israel equivalent to the sums Libya has agreed to pay the families of the Lockerbie disaster, according to an Egyptian report quoted in the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot.

The demand was announced by Muhammad Sharif, the son of an Egyptian journalist who was among the 106 passengers killed in the incident. “Egyptian blood is not worth less than American, French or British,” Sharif was quoted as saying. He said he would demand payment of $10 million per victim, similar to the amount Libya recently agreed to pay in a $2.7 billion settlement over the 1988 crash of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Sharif said he expected to have the support of 32 other families of victims to open legal proceedings against Israel.

The jet, Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114, a Boeing 727 with a French crew, was en route from Tripoli to Cairo when it strayed off course in a sandstorm and passed into Israeli-controlled airspace over Sinai on February 21, 1973. It was shot down by two Israel air force jets that reportedly suspected it of hostile intentions. Both the United Nations and the International Civil Aviation Organization declined to take action against Israel, despite Libyan protests.

Iranian Denied Bail

An Iranian diplomat arrested in England in connection with the 1994 bombing of Argentina’s main Jewish community center was denied bail.

The Iranian government, which denies involvement in the bombing and has threatened sanctions over the arrest of Hadi Soleimanpour, offered nearly $800,000 in bail, and Soleimanpour’s family offered another $300,000, according to Reuters.

The Argentine government accuses Soleimanpour, 47, of involvement in the car bombing of the AMIA center that killed 85 people and wants him extradited from Britain.

Deportation Order Upheld

A federal board upheld the deportation to Romania of a former concentration camp guard.

The U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals found that Michael Negele, 82, served as a guard in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, near Berlin. A native of Romania, Negele had been living near St. Louis since entering the United States in 1950.

Morocco To Explore Ties

Morocco may re-establish some diplomatic ties with Israel. The two countries established a team to work toward reinstating bilateral ties, which were curtailed after the launching of the Palestinian intifada in September 2000. The agreement came after a meeting Tuesday between Moroccan King Mohammed VI and Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. Morocco played a major behind-the-scenes role in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts during the 1990s.

Report: Arad May be Alive

Ron Arad, the Israeli navigator captured when his plane was shot down over Lebanon in 1986, is probably still alive, a new report says. There is no evidence to refute the assumption that Arad is still alive, Israel’s Channel One reported, citing a study presented to the Israeli army’s chief of staff, Lieutenant General Moshe Ya’alon. After Arad bailed out of his fighter plane, he was believed to have been captured and held by pro-Iranian troops in Lebanon. The last time a message was received that he was alive was in October 1987.

Nazi Program To Expand

The Simon Wiesenthal Center plans to expand its program offering rewards for information on suspected Nazi collaborators. The Operation Last Chance program, which was started in the Baltics, will be expanded to Poland, Romania and Austria in September, the center said. This week, the center announced that information gathered during the first year of the program in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia helped the center submit 55 suspects’ names to prosecutors.

Conversion Post Filled

The Israel Cabinet is expected to approve the appointment of Rabbi Haim Druckman to head a new conversion bureau in the hopes of reducing the demands by Orthodox-controlled rabbinical courts on people undergoing conversions.

In 2002, only 848 of Israel’s 300,000 non-Jewish immigrants converted to Judaism.

The appointment of Druckman, a former Knesset member with the National Religious Party who supports easier conversion requirements, comes following pressure from Prime Minister Sharon. Sharon also has the backing of the heads of the institutes that train converts and Jewish Agency Chairman Sallai Meridor. Officials within the Chief Rabbinate, however, oppose the move, claiming that immigrants are not interested in converting.

Druckman’s appointment was agreed upon during a recent meeting at the office of Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar.

It appears that Druckman will be limited in his new post: He will have no formal role apart from signing the conversion certificates.

Despite these limits, one person present at the meeting said, Druckman “will serve as a spiritual and educational figure who will influence the entire system to convert as many people as possible.”

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