Israel Agrees to Freeze

Plans for Settlement

JERUSALEM -- Under U.S. pressure, the Israeli government has agreed to freeze plans to build the controversial next phase of the Maale Adumim settlement east of Jerusalem. But a senior Israeli official said the government would eventually proceed with the project that could link the Jewish area with East Jerusalem.

"It is absolutely clear that at a certain point in the future Israel will create continuity between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim, and so there is not even an argument that in the end we will have to build the project," Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in an interview Friday in the Jerusalem Post. "When the conditions are ripe, we will raise the issue with the Americans again."

Roughly 31,000 Israelis live in Maale Adumim, which sits on land Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East war. The government recently ordered the confiscation of 400 acres of Palestinian land in the area to proceed with a barrier along the community's southern border.

The Bush administration has opposed the next phase of construction, which calls for 3,500 houses and apartments in an area dubbed E-1. U.S. officials fear that the construction would undermine the viability of a future Palestinian state by cutting off East Jerusalem from the West Bank.

Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital.

-- Scott Wilson

THe Americas

* LIMA, Peru -- Peru's anti-terrorism court sentenced a group of Shining Path rebels to up to 30 years in prison for a 2002 car bombing near the U.S. Embassy in Lima that killed 10 people, a judge said.

The four rebels -- one man and three women -- planted the bomb in a taxi across the street from the embassy days before a visit by President Bush, the first official visit by a U.S. president to the Andean nation.

* SAO PAULO, Brazil -- The top aide to the architect of Brazil's market-oriented economic policy resigned after denying involvement in a corruption scandal shaking the government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the Finance Ministry said.

Juscelino Dourado, chief of staff to Finance Minister Antonio Palocci, submitted his resignation Thursday night without explanation, but said he always acted ethically. The move came a day after Dourado testified in Congress that he never participated in a kickback and illegal campaign finance operation with Palocci, the former mayor of Ribeirao Preto, a city in Sao Paulo state.


* MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin faced angry mothers who lost children in the Beslan school siege and sought to assure them that a probe into the bloodbath would not gloss over official incompetence.

The three-hour meeting between Putin and members of the outspoken Beslan Mothers' Committee took place a year and a day after the crisis began. The three-day siege in which pro-Chechen guerrillas stormed into the school in southern Russia left 331 people dead, 186 of them children.


* PENGKALAN KUBOR, Malaysia -- Walking a diplomatic tightrope, Malaysia said it would not immediately hand back 131 Thai Muslims who fled across the border this week from troubled southern Thailand.

Malaysia, which is mostly Muslim and has cultural and religious links to Thailand's predominantly Muslim south, has detained the 64 men, 24 women and 43 children and is studying claims that they fled in fear of Thai security forces.

* SHANGHAI -- Torrential rains and flooding from Typhoon Talim killed at least 10 people and left 15 missing in eastern China, the government said. The deaths occurred in Fujian province, the official New China News Agency said. Talim caused $450 million in damage, the agency reported.

* SEOUL -- An apparent gas explosion sparked a fire at a public bathhouse in South Korea, killing at least five people and injuring 43, police said. At least two people were missing following the fire at the five-story building in the southern city of Daegu, and the number of casualties could rise because a search for victims was underway, a police officer said.

-- From News Services