- - Thursday, October 27, 2011


Egypt swaps U.S.-Israeli for 25 prisoners

JERUSALEM | A U.S.-Israeli citizen arrested in Egypt as a suspected spy was freed on Thursday after more than four months in jail, under a prisoner swap deal that has eased friction between the two countries.

Israel Hasson, an Israeli lawmaker who has been involved in the negotiations, told the Associated Press from Cairo that 27-year-old Ilan Grapel looked “fine” and was “smiling.”

Mr. Hasson and another Israeli official were dispatched to Egypt to escort Mr. Grapel on the one-hour flight to Tel Aviv.

Egypt traded the U.S.-born Mr. Grapel for 25 Egyptians, most of them smugglers, held in Israeli jails.

The Egyptian prisoners passed through a land crossing from Israel as Mr. Grapel prepared to take off for Israel. TV footage showed some of the Egyptian men kneeling to kiss the asphalt after crossing through a blue metal gate at the border crossing.

Israel denied the allegations against Mr. Grapel, as did his family and friends, and his release helped to ease fears that relations would sour after Egypt’s longtime president, Hosni Mubarak, was ousted in February.


Security Council votes to end military action

UNITED NATIONS | The U.N. Security Council on Thursday unanimously voted to end the mandate for international military action in Libya, ending another chapter in the war against Moammar Gadhafi’s regime.

NATO, which carried out the airstrikes that played a key role in the downfall of the now-deceased Gadhafi, says it is studying new ways to help the National Transitional Council, which had asked for an extension to the mandate.

A Security Council resolution ordered the end of the authorization for a no-fly zone and action to protect civilians from 11:59 p.m. Libyan time on Monday.

Following the vote, NATO’s decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council, is to meet Friday in Brussels to formally declare an end to its seven-month-old air war.


St Paul’s to reopen, but protest goes on

LONDON | The senior St. Paul’s Cathedral priest who welcomed anti-capitalist demonstrators to camp outside the London landmark resigned Thursday, saying he fears moves to evict the protesters could end in violence.

Other senior clergy and politicians urged the campers to leave peacefully, as the cathedral announced it would reopen to the public Friday after a weeklong closure triggered by the demonstrators’ tents.

“In the name of God and mammon, go,” London Mayor Boris Johnson said, using a Biblical turn of phrase to evoke the conflict between the spiritual and the material.

Resigning Canon Chancellor Giles Fraser said on Twitter that he had handed in his notice “with great regret and sadness.”

He told the Guardian newspaper that he had quit because he thinks cathedral officials had “set on a course of action that could mean there will be violence in the name of the church.”

Mr. Fraser’s departure reveals divisions among cathedral clergy over how to handle the protest on their doorstep. Several hundred protesters have been camped outside the building since Oct. 15.


U.S. drone strikes kill key commander

DERA ISMAIL KHAN | Two U.S. drone strikes hours apart destroyed a hide-out in Taliban strongholds in Pakistan’s rugged tribal regions Thursday and a vehicle with a number of fighters inside.

A close ally of one of the area’s top militant commanders and 10 others were killed, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

The U.S. refuses to acknowledge the CIA-run drone program in Pakistan publicly, but officials have said privately that the drone strikes have killed many senior al Qaeda and Taliban commanders.

Pakistani officials regularly criticize the U.S. attacks in public as violations of the country’s sovereignty, but the government actually has supported them in private and allowed the drones to take off from bases within Pakistan.

That cooperation has become strained this year, as the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan has deteriorated, especially following the arrest of a CIA contractor in January and the covert U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison town in May.

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