Jerusalem - Pope Benedict XVI's landmark visit to the Holy Land found itself overshadowed Tuesday by a dispute over his remarks at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Centre, with critics complaining that the pope's speech lacked content and fell short of expectations.
Benedict's visit to the centre hours after he arrived in Israel Monday was especially sensitive, given the tensions between Israel and the Vatican in the light of the Catholic Church's disputed actions during the Nazi era, and his own decision to readmit a Holocaust-denying bishop into the church.
Jerusalem - Israel's cabinet approved Sunday the appointment of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman as minister responsible for Israel's strategic dialogue with the United States, the Jewish state's main ally.
Set up in 1999, the dialogue is a framework for high-level discussions on issues common to both countries.
Recently, the talks have focused on Iran, which Israel sees as its biggest existential threat, given Tehran's nuclear ambitions and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's repeated statements that Israel should be wiped from the map.
Beirut - Lebanese security authorities have arrested three members of the same family on suspicion of spying for Israel, a Lebanese security source said Friday.
"A man, his wife and his brother were seized from their home in the town of Ghaziyeh, near the southern port of Sidon ... on Friday," the source said.
The source said the arrests were based on information extracted from a retired Lebanese general charged with spying for Israel last month.
So far, 19 people have been arrested on suspicion of spying for Israel since January.
Beirut - A US diplomat told Lebanese officials Friday that his country will not pursue relations with Syria at the expense of its ties to Lebanon.
"There is no deal with Damascus at Lebanon's expense and no compromise on the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon (for the assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri)," US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Hale said after meeting with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman at Baabda palace.
Amman- Middle East stock markets rallied this week, deriving impetus from improving performance at global markets and emerging prospects for a nearing end of the world's recession, financial analysts said Friday.
"We believe that regional markets are deriving momentum from gains scored by world markets and expectations that the global downturn could be bottoming out," an Amman-based portfolio manager told German Press Agency dpa.
"Rising oil prices are also sending positive signals to investors particularly in the oil-rich Gulf region which suffered the brunt of losses in the Arab area as a result of the world slump," he said.
New York - The UN Security Council failed on Thursday to agree on the procedures for a debate on the controversial investigation that held Israel accountable for causing deaths of Palestinians and the destruction of UN compounds in the Gaza Strip.
A summary of the 184-page report by an independent, three-member board was provided to the 15-nation council on Tuesday. But the board members were given no legal and court of law obligations to pursue their work and the report itself was labelled as an internal UN document.
Essar Steel, a global producer of steel, has sketched an investment plan worth Rs 1,000 crore for setting up service centers across India, North America and the Middle East.
The Rs 1,000-crore proposed for the project would include the costs incurred on expansion of the company's existing service centres, which would cater to specific steel requirement of auto, white goods and SME sectors.
Jerusalem - The Catholic Church has made a point of emphasizing that the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Holy Land is first and foremost a religious pilgrimage and non-political.
"The Holy Father comes as the head of the Catholic Church and not as the head of the Vatican State," stressed the Pope's diplomatic representative in Jerusalem, Archbishop Antonio Franco. "Don't expect a political side," he added, "Read with religious glasses."
Jerusalem - A two-state solution remains the goal in efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel's opposition leader Tzipi Livni said Sunday, ahead of a visit to the United States, Israeli media reports said.
Livni was due to depart Saturday for Washington to attend a three- day meeting of the US' pro-Israel lobby and hold talks with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden.
Tel Aviv/Gaza - For a second day in a row, Israeli warplanes struck at suspected smuggling tunnels on the Gaza Strip border with Egypt on Saturday.
An Israeli military spokesman said three tunnels were bombed in the action, coming after Palestinian militants had fired three mortar rounds against Israeli territory. The mortars caused no damage.
Earlier, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) claimed responsibility for the mortar attack.
Baghdad - Iranian helicopters struck three Kurdish villages in northern Iraq, the first air attack against the Kurdish rebels in neighbouring Iraq, al-Arabiya TV reported.
No casualties were reported in the attacks.
The Iranian attacks may have targeted the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), the station said.
PJAK is a militant Kurdish group that has previously attacked western Iran and other parts of Turkey and Syria, seeking more rights for Kurdish populations there.
Amman - Arab markets ended the week with mixed performances, but financial analysts said Friday they expected regional markets to be "indirectly affected" by swine flu.
"We believe that Arab stock markets will be indirectly affected by swine flu, particularly if swift solutions are not found for the disease," Wajdi Makhamreh, chief operating officer at the Amman-based Sanabel International Holding, told the German Press Agency dpa.
Ibril, northern Iraq - Following Iranian shelling, the government of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq on Thursday condemned Kurdish guerrilla attacks on Iranian forces near the Iraqi-Iranian border.
Iranian forces periodically bombard the Iraqi side of the mountainous, Kurdish region straddling the border between the two countries with artillery, hunting Kurdish separatist guerrillas from the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK).
Gaza/Cairo - Rival Fatah and Islamic Hamas leaders announced late Tuesday that the fourth round of Palestinian reconciliation dialogue had ended in Cairo, and they agreed to resume talks on May 16-17.
The talks were held Monday and Tuesday in Cairo on four major issues: forming a unity government, rebuilding security apparatus, reforming the PLO and agreeing on a system for new elections.
Maan news agency quoted Mahmoud al-Zahar, a Hamas negotiator, as saying that the decision to postpone the dialogue "was made to enable the two sides to consult their leaderships over the new Egyptian ideas and proposals."
Cairo - An international human rights group on Tuesday accused a member of the United Arab Emirates' royal family of brutally torturing an Afghan man and called for his prosecution. The New York-based pressure group Human Rights Watch on Tuesday accused Sheikh Issa bin-Zayed al-Nahyan, a member of the Emirati royal family, of beating, electrocuting, and driving over an Afghan grain dealer.
Jerusalem - Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday he was willing to hold peace talks with Syria, but without any prior conditions, such as a guaranteed Israeli return of the occupied Golan Heights. "I'd be happy to hold negotiations with Syria even tonight, but without preconditions, without an ultimatum," he said.
Amman - Jordanian politicians and pundits on Wednesday welcomed US President Barack Obama's strong support for the two-state solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict - but queried the pressure he would put on the right-wing government in Israel.
"We are optimistic, but we should not go too far in this optimism," Mahmoud Mhaidat, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee at the Jordanian lower house of parliament, told German Press Agency dpa.
Washington - US President Barack Obama Tuesday called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to take steps in the coming months to build confidence and establish a foundation for resuming peace talks.
Obama, meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah, said the United States plans to be deeply involved in the peace process to build a better future for Israelis and Palestinians.
"My hope would be that, over the next several months, that you start seeing gestures of good faith on all sides," Obama said.
Cordoba, Spain - Ten western Mediterranean countries Tuesday urged Israel to open the frontiers of the Gaza Strip and to stop illegal Jewish settlements.
"Israel may have rights, but above all, it has duties towards its neighbours and the rest of the international community," Moroccan Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi-Fihri said in the southern Spanish city of Cordoba.
New York, Apr 21: Iraq’s tourism industry is banking on Saddam Hussein''s “popularity” by offering the former dictator''s bedroom as the honeymoon suite for 150 pounds. However, the idea hasn’t sit well with longtime honeymoon planner Liliane Nash.
Nash, the president of Humbert Travel on Madison Ave, told New York Daily News: "In Iraq? Right now? Definitely not.”
"The first thing about honeymoons is you don''t want to be afraid. You want to make sure everything will be perfect.