FLAT EARTH

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The Independent Online
Bosnia gives US the creeps

FOR aficionados of military English, a wonderful phrase that is being bandied about from Washington to Sarajevo has caught our attention: ''mission creep''.

No, it's not a new term for sneaking up on the enemy, or an insult to hurl at a missionary do-gooder. It's Pentagon jargon for a military mission's relentless slide into ever-worsening complications, something the Pentagon says won't happen in Bosnia as it did in Somalia. Thus, new radar units to protect Sarajevo are fine, but American forces in the Nato peace implementation force won't be arresting accused war criminals - unless they happen upon them.

''If in fact we come into contact with them, they will be detained and turned over to proper authorities,'' said Lieutenant- General Howell Estes, operations director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. ''It's as clear and straightforward as that.'' The rules of engagement for Nato-led forces require that no foreign units seek out war criminals.

So what happens if, say, you're patrolling an old confrontation line near Tuzla, and you spot Radovan Karadzic or Ratko Mladic out gambolling in the new-fallen snow, wearing a wooly hat with a dangling pompon and singing ''Winter Wonderland'' in Serbo-Croat?

''If we have a chance meeting with a war criminal, [and] the forces are adequate to carry out ... the detainment of that individual, it will be done,'' said General Estes.

So, chance governing all in the lost paradise of multi-cultural Bosnia, Radovan and Ratko need not worry that US troops will pursue them like they did the Somali warlord Mohamed Farah Aideed in 1993. They never got him either.

Amo, amas, Amir

HIS PLACE in the violent history of the Middle East secured, Yigal Amir now needs a wife - or so his supporters in New York believe.

Several weeks after they set up a telephone hot line to raise funds for Amir's legal defence in the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin - and attracted a federal investigation into possible links to outlawed Jewish terrorist organisations - Moshe Gross and his group are looking for a blushing bride for the confessed killer of the Israeli Prime Minister. The woman must be aged 18 to 23 and be ''physically and mentally healthy as well as highly idealistic''.

A woman's taped voice at the hot-line number says: ''We are now implementing a marriage match and asking all eligible Orthodox young ladies who may have an interest in marrying our great Jewish hero, Yigal Amir, to leave a brief message describing yourself.''

Under Israeli law, the group says, Amir is permitted to marry and have a family. ''Selected candidates will be screened discreetly by our professional rabbinic panel,'' according to the taped message. ''Only serious candidates need apply.''

Trials and errors

JUSTICE may be blind, but in Argentina it is, unfortunately, not deaf.

Juan Jose Galeano used to be best known in the country as the magistrate leading the inquiry into the 1994 bomb attack that killed 86 people at a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires. And Adolfo Bagnasco was noted for his investigation of alleged corruption over a state bank contract awarded to IBM.

No more. The pair are now notoriously among 10 high-spirited judges who have been fined one-third of their monthly salaries - the maximum penalty a court tribunal could impose - for conduct inappropriate to the rank of magistrate.

Their crime? Hosting a wild party for more than 100 court workers (including other judges) at a courthouse on the Friday before Christmas. A party at which fire extinguishers were squirted, music was played very loudly and ''howling sounds'' emitted from the building. When another magistrate, accompanied by the police, tried to restore some semblance of judicial decorum, he was sworn at and one of his colleagues tried to punch him.

Like many defendants who have appeared before them, the judges gave ''laconic'' and ''evasive'' replies to the tribunal's questions, and ''pretended not to have anything to do with what had happened and to be ignorant of its gravity''.

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