- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 19, 2001

$100 million donated to Nile water diversion

CAIRO Zayed bin Sultan Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates, has granted $100 million for Egypt's Toshka water project for turning desert into farmland, the government daily Al-Akhbar reported yesterday.

Hydraulic Resources Minister Mahmood Abu Zeid was quoted as saying the grant from the Abu Dhabi development fund would cover part of the vast project, estimated to cost billions.

Saudi billionaire businessman Prince Walid bin Talal has poured nearly $500 million into the project, begun in 1997 to transform much of the Tochka desert of southern Egypt into fertile land.

Water is to be diverted from the Nile to irrigate nearly 10 million acres.

The goal is to increase the country's agricultural exports to Europe while easing population pressure on the Nile Valley, where most of Egypt's 66.5 million people live.

Israeli warplanes buzz south Lebanon

SIDON, Lebanon Israeli warplanes overflew south Lebanon again yesterday, a day after the most intense overflights of the region in a year, drawing protests from Beirut and the United Nations.

"The command of the U.N. Interim Forces in southern Lebanon [UNIFIL] has lodged a severe complaint to the Israeli army leadership for yesterday's big violation of Lebanese airspace," UNIFIL spokesman Timor Goksel told reporters.

Mr. Goksel said Monday's overflights by Israeli jets, helicopters and drones were "the most serious violations of Lebanese airspace since the May 2000 Israeli withdrawal" from southern Lebanon after 22 years of occupation. "UNIFIL did not witness any justification on the ground for this," he added.

Snowstorm strands Turkish passenger train

ANKARA, Turkey A train carrying as many as 1,000 people was stranded near Istanbul in freezing temperatures yesterday after a heavy snowfall cut electricity, officials said.

The 10-car train traveling from Edirne province to Istanbul was stopped near the town of Catalca outside Istanbul during the snowstorm early yesterday, a state railway official said.

"We are short of food on the train, and there's no heat," one passenger told the private NTV news television by mobile phone. "There are many children on board, and people are very cold. We are in a miserable state."

The train originated in Greece, Turkish CNN television said, and several of the passengers were Greek.

Meanwhile in Greece, soldiers there rescued 108 passengers yesterday in another train stranded in snow.

Weekly notes

Arab League chief Amr Mussa said yesterday that an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers today in Cairo will go ahead as planned despite differences among members over Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's call for an end to anti-Israeli attacks. The number of Jewish settlers living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip grew this year at the slowest pace in a decade, according to official figures issued yesterday. But Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics indicated that settler births and new arrivals in the West Bank and Gaza Strip still raised the population there by 4.4 percent in the first nine months of 2001 to 204,900.

The figures do not include Israelis living in parts of Jerusalem occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war.

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