- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 14, 2010

NORTH KOREA

More U.S. tourists to be allowed

BEIJING | North Korea said Wednesday it will begin to allow in more American tourists after years of heavy restrictions on visits to the isolated country, according a tour operator.

The United States has never had diplomatic relations with North Korea. Only about 2,000 tourists from the U.S. have visited since the country opened to Western tourism in 1987, according to the founder of a China-based tour group that says it has taken most of those visitors into the country.

But the Koryo Group, which specializes in North Korea tourism, said it received an e-mail from the state-run Korea International Travel Company on Wednesday afternoon saying the country will accept more American tourists this year.

Founder Nicholas Bonner told the Associated Press that his Beijing-based agency escorted about 280 American tourists to the country last year, but estimated those numbers could jump to about 1,000 per year if restrictions were eased. He said his agency handles about 90 percent of the Americans visiting North Korea.

MIDDLE EAST

Israel apologizes to Turkey for insult

JERUSALEM | Israel on Wednesday caved in to demands from Turkey and apologized over an insult to its ambassador, a government statement said, an attempt to defuse the latest crisis between the two nations.

On Monday, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, summoned the Turkish ambassador to complain about a TV show. The ambassador was forced to sit on a low sofa without a handshake, while Mr. Ayalon explained to local TV stations that the humiliation was intentional.

Outraged, Turkey threatened to recall the ambassador, Ahmet Oguz Celikkol.

Late Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said a letter of apology has been written, and the prime minister “hopes this will end the affair.” Israeli officials said the letter was delivered to Turkish officials in Ankara. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accepted the apology.

AFGHANISTAN

Drone attack kills al Qaeda guard

AMMAN, Jordan | A Jordanian militant who served as a bodyguard for al Qaeda’s No. 3 leader was killed in a U.S. drone attack along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border over the weekend, his brother said Wednesday.

Mahmoud Mahdi Zeidan is thought to have been killed in one of two U.S. attacks targeting al Qaeda on Saturday. Mr. Zeidan’s brother, Omar Mahdi Zeidan, told the Associated Press his brother served as a bodyguard for al Qaeda’s No. 3, Sheikh Mustafa Abu al-Yazid.

VATICAN CITY

Pope meets, forgives woman who pushed him

VATICAN CITY | Pope Benedict XVI met Wednesday with the woman who knocked him over at St. Peter’s Basilica during Christmas Eve Mass, and he forgave her, the Vatican said.

Susanna Maiolo, a 25-year-old with a history of psychiatric problems, and her family met in a private audience with the pope at the end of his general audience, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said.

Ms. Maiolo told the pontiff she was sorry for what had happened, while Benedict inquired about her health and “wanted to demonstrate his forgiveness,” Rev. Lombardi said. The Vatican said no photos or video would be released of the meeting.

TURKEY

Gunman wants to visit John Paul’s tomb

ISTANBUL | Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca wants to meet Pope Benedict and visit the tomb of Pope John Paul II, whom he tried to kill in 1981, after his release from prison next week, he said in comments faxed to Reuters news agency Wednesday.

The former far-right gangster served 19 years in an Italian prison for the assassination attempt, before being pardoned at the pope’s behest in 2000 and extradited to serve time in Turkey for other crimes.

Agca, who is to be released on Jan. 18 from his prison in the Turkish capital Ankara, said he would answer questions on the attack in the coming weeks.

POLAND

Stolen Monet found after 10 years

WARSAW | A painting by Claude Monet that was cut from its frame 10 years ago at a museum in western Poland and replaced with a copy painted on cardboard has been recovered, police said Wednesday.

Officers also have arrested a suspect who had the French Impressionist’s “Beach in Pourville” in his possession and confessed to stealing it, officials said. The 41-year-old man was arrested in the southern city of Olkusz Tuesday.

The painting, which shows the sea lapping against a beach in pastel blues and greens, was valued at $1 million at the time of its theft.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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