MIDDLE EAST HOURGLASS:

26 January, 1998: UNSCOM chief Richard Butler tells NY Times editors Iraq has enough biological weapons to "blow away Tel Aviv."

27/1: Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat rejects phased pullback plan; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu charges PA with failing to crack down on terrorism.

27/1: First Lady Hillary Clinton blames "right-wing conspiracy" for sex-scandal plaguing US President Bill Clinton.

28/1: Israel Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai urges calm over possible conflict with Iraq; Israeli "inner cabinet" meets to assess Iraqi nonconventional threat.

28/1: General Security Service agent Avishai Raviv talked of killing Rabin, according to new testimony.

28/1: Israel Finance Minister Yaakov Ne'eman discusses US aid reductions with key congressional leaders.

29/1: US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright begins tour of Europe, Middle East to explain US views on Iraqi interference with UN inspections; Mordechai in "hot-line" contact with the Pentagon.

30/1: Lebanese Army clashes with breakaway Hizb'Allah faction in Beka'a Valley; 10 dead, 50 wounded.

31/1: Secretary Albright arrives in Israel to assure PM Netanyahu of early warning of Iraqi attacks; also "looking for leadership and answers" on Clinton proposals in talks with PA.

31/1: Jordan's King Hussein discloses months of treatment for viral infection.

1 February: Albright in Kuwait: US "weeks" away from use of force against Iraq; cites "minimal progress" with Israel, PA on latest shuttle.

1/2: Israel police release details on detention of 3 Israeli Arabs with suspected ties to Hamas.

2/2: IDF deploys Patriots as over 20,000 Israelis in one day update gas-mask kits at distribution centres.

2/2: Albright reportedly "sick and tired" of Netanyahu and Arafat "squabbles" in negotiations.

3/2: Israel Home Front Command assures public chances of attack are low, preparedness high.

3/2: Russia, UN report progress in talks with Iraq; Secretary Albright claims support of key Arab states.

4/2: Clinton reaffirms threat of military action against Iraq while calling for diplomatic solution.

4/2: Palestinian reports say Arafat approved early release of two Islamic Jihad terrorists convicted for 1995 Beit Lid bombing.

4/2: PA officials deny Foreign Report story Arafat named Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) as his successor in meeting with Clinton.

5/2: US makes clear Israel has right of self-defense in case of Iraqi attack, but Secretary of Defense William Cohen urges restraint.

5/2: More reports surface of Egypt trade bans in violation of peace and trade agreements with Israel.

6/2: Yeshiva student stabbed to death inside Jerusalem's Old City in early morning terrorist attack.

7/2: British PM Tony Blair ends three-day Washington visit with tough message on Iraqi defiance of UN.

7/2: IDF, Palestinians clash during pro-Iraq demonstrations at Rachel's Tomb, Bethlehem.

7/2: IDF soldier/Russian immigrant Sgt. Nikolai Rappaport killed, seven others wounded in Lebanon after ambush by Hizb'Allah.

8/2: US Defense Secretary Cohen endorses Israel's right to respond to Iraqi attacks in meeting with Mordechai.

8/2: PM's Office reports King Hussein gave $1 million to families of Naharayim shooting victims.

8/2: EU President Jacques Santer says it wants bigger role in peace process, but is split over Iraq policy.

9/2: US plans to increase ground forces in Kuwait as UN diplomacy continues over Iraqi weapons inspections.

9/2: Thousands of Palestinians demonstrate in support of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in Gaza, Ram'Allah, and Jenin.

9/2: Likud picks MK Shaul Amor to face Ezer Weizman in Knesset vote for President's office.

10/2: Russia conveys Iraqi assurances it will not attack Israel; Gas masks and protective equipment arriving from Europe, but children, tourists still vulnerable.

10/2: PA orders ban on pro-Iraq rallies.

11/2: US rejects Iraqi offer to open presidential palace sites for 60 days.

11/2: Israeli officials reveal US intends to suspend its mediation of Oslo pullback if stalemate continues.

11/2: Recent French immigrant stabbed to death in north Jerusalem in apparent early-morning terror attack.

12/2: Arafat threatens new intifada if talks falter; PM Advisor David Bar-Illan labels it an Oslo violation.

12/2: PM Netanyahu expresses doubts over Iraqi promise not to attack; US dismisses latest Russian proposal to resolve Iraq crisis.

13/2: Arafat calls for emergency Arab summit to discuss Iraqi crisis, stalled peace process.

14/2: Jordan's Crown Prince Hassan denies Israel use of airspace to respond to Iraqi attack.

14/2: US National Security Adviser Sandy Berger declares Saddam's weapons a direct threat to Americans; cautions to expect casualties if US uses force.

14/2: PA military court gives 10-year sentence to accomplice in terrorist murder of 17-year-old David Boim in 1996.

15/2: Israel's Home Front Command announces extra reserve training against chemical, biological attacks.

15/2: UN Secretary General Kofi Annan sends special team to survey 8 palace sites in dispute in Baghdad.

15/2: Committee report on Masha'al Affair due today; Leaks indicate it faults Mossad head Danny Yatom.

16/2: Mordechai tells Israelis to buy plastic and tape, despite "low" probability of non-conventional attack; All foreign workers will get gas masks.

16/2: French President Jacques Chirac meets Iraqi Foreign Minister to defuse crisis; Urges Kofi Annan to visit Baghdad.

16/2: Israel quietly mends fences with Jordan as Masha'al Affair report leaves fate of Yatom up to PM.

17/2: Clinton says US "prepared to act" as UN Security Council approves Baghdad trip by Annan.

17/2: Hamas threatens terror attacks in Israel if US attacks Iraq; Palestinians continue pro-Saddam rallies.

17/2: Syria, Hizb'Allah reject Israeli withdrawal proposal in Lebanon pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 425.

18/2: US sceptical over UN Secretary General's mission to Iraq; Albright, Cohen, Berger face tough audience in televised "town hall meeting" on Clinton Administration plans.

18/2: Israel, PA hold "positive and serious" talks with US Ambassador Ned Walker; Gaza airport and seaport, Karni Industrial Park at issue.

18/2: Knesset Members join growing public controversy over Israel's gas mask distribution system.

18/2: IDF Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Amoral Leaven: "We can whip Syrian Army quickly."

19/2: UN's Kofi Annan leaves for Baghdad in last-ditch diplomatic effort to avert Anglo-American military action; US promises Israel more Patriots if Annan mission fails.

19/2: US State Department warns tourists to avoid PA areas due to anti-American protests over confrontation with Iraq.

20/2: Israel expresses regret over US, Canada warnings to evacuate; Annan arrives in Baghdad for talks.

20/2: One killed, three injured in Maan, Jordan as army clashes with pro-Iraq rioters.

21/2: Kofi Annan meets with Iraq Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz to discuss weapons inspection standoff.

21/2: Press reports say Clinton has approved air-strike plans for Iraq, centred on 4 days of bombing.

21/2: IDF, South Lebanese Army repel Hizb'Allah attack on key outpost.

21/2: PA orders the arrest of 200 Fatah activists for organising pro-Iraq demonstrations.

22/2: Secretary General Annan reaches deal with Saddam Hussein, expects Security Council will accept terms; US, Israel reserve judgement pending look at details.

22/2: Israel okays sale without prescription of antibiotics to combat anthrax virus.

23/2: Annan and Aziz sign accord allowing UNSCOM unrestricted access to all suspected sites; Clinton accepts compromise with conditions.

23/2: Tensions subside in Israel after news of Annan-Aziz pact, but government still cautious over Iraqi threat.

24/2: Kofi Annan returns to a hero's welcome at UN headquarters; briefs Security Council on terms of understanding with Saddam.

24/2: Mossad chief Yatom resigns over Masha'al Affair, other foul-ups.

24/2: Progress made on Gaza airport talks held at US Ambassador Walker's residence.

25/2: US receives assurances over UN-Iraq accord: Chief inspector Butler stays, force an option if Iraq reneges on deal.

25/2: As rumours fly over next Mossad head, new leaks say Israeli agent is being held by Swiss.

25/2: IDF claims new tactics in south Lebanon has Hizb'Allah off-balance.

26/2: Switzerland demands apology over Mossad "bugging" operation; Israeli source says it was already delivered.

26/2: Three IDF soldiers killed in Hizb'Allah mortar attack in security zone.

26/2: Jerusalem municipality disputes PA census estimate of 210,000 Arabs in city.

27/2: Foreign Report: Special forces from US, Britain, Israel have been operating in Iraq.

27/2: IDF captures two boatloads of weapons smuggled via Dead Sea; PA connection suspected.

27/2: Three Hizb'Allah gunmen killed in failed assault on IDF position; IDF dismisses recent Hizb'Allah claims of success to Beirut media.

28/2: PA stalling in talks to prompt US pressure, according to Israel government source.

1 March: Netanyahu offers withdrawal from Lebanon based on UN resolution 425, security conditions.

1/3: Israeli F-15 jet crashes near Nablus after hitting antenna.

1/3: Americans Jewish leaders tell Jerusalem press conference Clinton will not impose a solution on Israel in talks with the PA.

2/3: Lebanese offer cold response to Israeli withdrawal proposal, signalling Syrian veto over policy.

2/3: UN Security Council endorses Annan's agreement with Iraq over weapons searches.

2/3: Israeli Trade Minister Natan Sharansky in Moscow to seek end to Russia missile link to Iran.

3/3: Ephraim HaLevy and Maj.-Gen. Amiram Levine meet with PM Netanyahu to discuss their pending appointment as new heads of Mossad.

3/3: IDF Chief-of-Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak tells Knesset Committee Syria is blocking deal with Lebanon.

3/3: IDF destroys Hizb'Allah strongholds in response to mortar attacks.

4/3: Knesset re-elects Ezer Weizman to second 5-year term as Israel's President; vote is 63 to 4.

4/3: PM Netanyahu announces HaLevy as director, Levine as deputy and successor director of Mossad.


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