- The Washington Times - Friday, February 13, 2009

VATICAN

Repentant pope to visit Israel

VATICAN CITY | The Vatican said Thursday that Pope Benedict XVI would make his first visit to Israel in May, and the pontiff told Jewish leaders that denying the Holocaust is not acceptable in a message aimed at easing rancor over a bishop’s claim that the Nazis did not kill 6 million Jews.

The pope met with about 60 American Jewish leaders Thursday and assured them the Catholic Church was “profoundly and irrevocably committed to reject all anti-Semitism,” issuing his strongest condemnation yet of Holocaust denial.

The furor blew up after Benedict lifted the excommunication of a traditionalist bishop who denied the Holocaust, sparking outrage among Jews and Catholics alike. The Vatican said Benedict did not know about the views of Bishop Richard Williamson when he agreed to lift the excommunication.

RUSSIA

Clouds of debris follow space crash

MOSCOW | The collision between U.S. and Russian communication satellites this week - the first such recorded crash in space - has created speeding clouds of debris that threaten other unmanned spacecraft in nearby orbits, Russian officials and experts said Thursday.

The smashup 500 miles over Siberia on Tuesday involved a derelict Russian spacecraft designed for military communications and a working U.S. Iridium satellite, which serves commercial customers as well as the U.S. Department of Defense.

In a statement Thursday, Iridium, based in Bethesda, Md., denied that it was responsible for the crash. The collision scattered space debris in orbits 300 to 800 miles above Earth, said Maj. Gen. Alexander Yakushin, chief of staff for the Russian military’s Space Forces.

But Igor Lisov, a prominent Russian space expert, said Thursday he did not understand why NASA’s debris experts and Iridium had failed to prevent the collision, because the Iridium satellite was active and its orbit could be adjusted.

AUSTRIA

Iran’s supply of uranium dwindles

VIENNA | Iran may be close to exhausting its supplies of uranium oxide and lacks the resources to sustain processing and enrichment activities for a civilian nuclear program, a U.S. think tank said Thursday.

The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security said in a study that Iran does not seem to have obtained significant amounts of uranium oxide or “yellow cake” since it acquired 600 tons from South Africa in the 1970s.

The analysts estimate Iran has used some three-quarters of the South African supply, basing their estimates on a November 2008 report from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The lack of supply raises more doubts about the nature of Iran’s nuclear program, the analysts said, because the shortfall would be an obvious obstacle for a civilian program, but not a military one.

SUDAN

Khartoum denies Bashir ‘rumors’

KHARTOUM | Sudan on Thursday dismissed as “rumors” reports that its president, Lt. Gen. Omar Bashir, would become the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the International Criminal Court in connection with suspected war crimes in Darfur.

The ICC had been expected to make a decision on issuing an arrest warrant as early as this month after chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo in July accused Gen. Bashir of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.

But after the New York Times reported Wednesday that ICC judges in The Hague had decided to issue an arrest warrant for Gen. Bashir, a spokesman for the court said Thursday: “At this moment, there is no arrest warrant.”

“When we have something to announce, we will announce it. For now, there is nothing to announce,” ICC spokeswoman Laurence Blairon told Agence France-Presse.

“No decision has yet been taken by the judges,” the ICC later said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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