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Digest

Monday, November 30, 2009

ISRAEL

Prosecutor outlines prisoner-swap plan

Israel's state prosecutor on Sunday provided a broad outline of a plan to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for a kidnapped Israeli soldier who has been held by militants in the Gaza Strip for more than three years.

Under the plan, which is still being negotiated, Israel would free roughly 1,000 prisoners to win the freedom of Cpl. Gilad Shalit. According to Israeli press reports, the state prosecutor said that more than 400 prisoners may be let go in exchange for Shalit, while more than 500 others would be released in what was termed a "gesture" to Palestinians.

Israel's state prosecutor divulged those details at a Sunday court hearing. A group representing relatives of victims of violence by Palestinian militant groups had challenged the state in court to provide more details of the proposed deal.

Negotiations between Israel and the militant Hamas group, held indirectly through a German mediator, are considered to be nearing a conclusion that would lead to the release of Shalit. The captivity of the soldier, now 23, has figured into Israel's continued blockade of the Gaza Strip, and his release would remove one of several stumbling blocks to renewed Israel-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Some Israeli officials have been hesitant to approve the deal for fear that it would strengthen Hamas fighters and other Gaza-based militants.

-- Howard Schneider

URUGUAY

Former guerrilla leads in runoff

A former guerrilla fighter who has pledged to take a moderate path led Uruguay's presidential runoff election on Sunday, according to exit polls and early projections.

Jose Mujica, 74, who waged an armed revolt against a democratically elected government in the 1960s and 1970s and was jailed for 14 years, was ahead with 51.2 percent of the vote, according to Factum polling group. Rightist former president Luis Lacalle was trailing. A Mujica victory would keep in power the ruling Broad Front coalition credited by many Uruguayans with lifting the country out of an economic slump.

-- Reuters

Change in AIDS therapy: People who have the virus that causes AIDS should start treatment earlier than currently recommended, the World Health Organization said Monday. The U.N. agency issued new guidelines advising doctors to start giving patients AIDS drugs a year or two earlier than usual. The advice could double the number of people worldwide who qualify for treatment.

Berlusconi denounces Mafia: Italian Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi on Sunday defended his record in fighting the Mafia and vowed to hit back at the opposition press that reported he was being investigated in connection with a 1993 Mafia bombing campaign. "If there's a person who by nature, sensitivity, mentality, background, culture and political effort is very far from the Mafia, it is me," he said.

Swine flu kills five in Saudi Arabia: Five people died from the H1N1 flu virus during the hajj, the Saudi health minister said Sunday -- a relatively small number considering the event is the largest annual gathering of people in the world.

Equatorial Guinea's president to retain power: Elections in Equatorial Guinea on Sunday were certain to extend the 30-year rule of Teodoro Obiang Nguema, a man accused of draining his nation's oil wealth to enrich family and cronies. Opposition parties complain campaigners have been attacked and harassed, Obiang gave only six weeks' notice for the election and coverage in the state-controlled media is skewed.

-- From news services

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