ALL QUIET ON IRAQI FRONT: Reporter Nicholas Blanford hitched a ride with a CNN camera crew yesterday. They drove out to the demilitarized zone on the Kuwait-Iraq border (page 7) to see if there were any indication of a US or Iraqi troop buildup or other "signs of tension."
"We were met by two very polite officers an Austrian and a Brit who gave us a 45-minute PowerPoint presentation. But, much to the dismay of the CNN crew, no pictures were allowed."
Scattered along the border are 1,327 UN observers who watch for violations of the demilitarized zone. The zone stretches 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) into Iraq and 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) into Kuwait. "It was very quiet. The only violations of the DMZ, we were told, are occasional Iraqi smugglers hoping to sell some whiskey to the UN observers and the US and British aircraft that fly over on their way to patrolling the no-fly zones in Iraq. The flights are a violation of a UN resolution, which is duly noted by observers," says Nick.
DATELINE RAMALLAH: The Monitor's Ilene Prusher tried to get a look of the state of the siege at Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah, but never made it that close. She'd heard that Israeli troops were allowing journalists to be escorted in a change in policy from the last time his compound was surrounded. But when she and a couple of her colleagues tried to get past several checkpoints at the city limits, they were turned away. There were barriers blocking all the other entrances.
"We considered hiking in, but had second thoughts. We'd brought flak jackets and put them on. But the terrain was deserted because of the curfew, and it just felt too risky. We interviewed a few people and decided to race back to file."
David Clark Scott