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Arab leaders back Palestinian Authority president on Israel talks

Friday, July 30, 2010; A08

MIDDLE EAST

Arab leaders back Abbas on Israel talks

Arab nations on Thursday backed the Palestinian president's refusal to immediately restart direct talks with Israel despite heavy U.S. pressure.

U.S. and European officials have been pushing a reluctant Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to dive back into face-to-face negotiations with Israel, which broke off in 2008.

The Arab foreign ministers endorsed the idea of direct talks, Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani said, but left the timing up to Abbas, who has laid down several conditions, including progress in indirect talks that have been taking place since May under U.S. mediation.

"We haven't discussed when and how the direct negotiations will start -- this is a matter for the Palestinian side to decide," Hamad said at the foreign ministers' meeting in Cairo. He said the ministers had originally opposed endorsing direct talks but were willing to relent because of the serious situation in the region.

-- Associated Press

PAKISTAN

Anger over remark by British premier

British Prime Minister David Cameron narrowly escaped a full-blown diplomatic crisis Thursday when Pakistan reluctantly buried its outrage at his warning to stop "promoting terror" during a visit to arch-rival India.

Cameron's remark that Pakistan was "looking both ways" on exporting terrorism had threatened to trigger a breakdown in relations before a planned visit by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to Britain next week.

Cameron's blunt language stung Pakistani officials, who have become accustomed to public praise from U.S. officials, who often visit Islamabad to apply more discreet pressure for action against militants.

The prime minister later stressed that he had not meant to accuse the government of promoting terrorism but had been referring to elements in Pakistani society that sympathize with extremists. Even so, the damage was done.

Furious Pakistani officials had considered recalling Pakistan's top diplomat in London for consultations and postponing Zardari's planned trip indefinitely, a Pakistani official said.

Islamabad settled for saying it was "saddened" by the accusations.

-- Financial Times

MEXICO

Drug-cartel leader killed by soldiers

One of the top three leaders of Mexico's most powerful drug cartel, Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel, was killed Thursday in a gun battle with soldiers, the Mexican army announced.

The death of Coronel, 56, is the biggest strike yet against the Sinaloa cartel, led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman -- Mexico's top drug lord -- since President Felipe Calderón launched a military offensive against drug traffickers in late 2006.

Gen. Edgar Ruiz Villegas said an army raid was closing in one of Coronel's safe houses in an upscale suburb of the western city of Guadalajara when the drug lord opened fire on soldiers.

-- Associated Press

SPAIN

3 U.S. soldiers sought in death of journalist

A Madrid judge reissued arrest warrants Thursday for three U.S. servicemen over the death of a Spanish journalist killed by American tank fire in Iraq in 2003.

Judge Santiago Pedraz acted in response to a recent order from the Spanish Supreme Court that the case -- twice shelved by a lower court -- be reopened.

Cameraman José Couso was one of two journalists killed when the U.S. soldiers -- members of a tank crew -- responded to what they said was hostile fire from a Baghdad hotel that housed Western journalists during the invasion of Iraq.

The soldiers -- Sgt. Shawn Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip DeCamp -- were all from the 3rd Infantry Division, based at Fort Stewart, Ga., and have never appeared in Spain in connection with the case.

-- Associated Press

Jerusalem building seized by Jewish settlers: Jewish settlers took over a building Thursday in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City and evicted dozens of Palestinian tenants, residents and police said, prompting a sharp protest by the top regional U.N. envoy.

Private funds sought to restore Colosseum: Italian officials are seeking to raise about $32 million in private money to finance the restoration of one of the country's iconic landmarks, the Colosseum. The Culture Ministry says the government will accept bids from possible sponsors from Wednesday to Sept. 15. Dutch fooled by fake stamps: The Netherlands' Royal Post was red-faced Thursday in conceding that it had been delivering mail with counterfeited stamps carrying an anti-royalist message. -- From news services

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