- The Washington Times - Monday, September 15, 2003

ITALY

Pope returns home with health concerns

ROME — Pope John Paul II arrived back in Rome yesterday after a grueling four-day visit to Slovakia dominated by fresh concerns over his health and doubts about his ability to keep traveling.

Looking drained, the increasingly frail pope celebrated Sunday Mass for 200,000 faithful in Slovakia, honoring two clerics imprisoned and tortured under Slovakia’s former communist regime.



He slurred his words and turned over his homily to a cardinal to complete. Bidding farewell at the airport before departing for Rome, the pope struggled to catch his breath.

His Parkinson’s disease, and the hip and knee ailments that keep him from standing, clearly are taking a toll and forcing major changes in the pope’s routine as he approaches the 25th anniversary of his pontificate.

COLOMBIA

Rebels kidnap eight tourists

BOGOTA — Suspected rebels kidnapped eight foreign tourists who were headed to archaeological ruins in the mountains of northern Colombia, authorities said yesterday.

Four Israelis, two Britons, a German and a Spaniard were seized late Friday in the snowcapped Sierra Nevada mountains, about 465 miles north of the capital, Bogota, said Gen. Luis Alfredo Rodriguez, head of Colombia’s police operations.

The kidnappers are believed to be members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which is blamed for most of the 3,000 kidnappings that take place every year in Colombia, Mr. Rodriguez said.

PAKISTAN

Israeli aid to India won’t go unmatched

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Pakistan warned yesterday that it would do whatever was needed to match any advanced weapons systems Israel may sell to nuclear neighbor India.

A visit to India last week by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon raised prospects of closer defense ties between the two.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri, on a visit to Sri Lanka, called on the United States “to prevent Israel from trying to introduce newer weapons systems into South Asia because we will match, we will create a credible deterrence come what may.”

JORDAN

King Abdullah leaves for Washington talks

AMMAN — King Abdullah, a key Middle East U.S. ally, flew to the United States yesterday to try to salvage a U.S.-backed “road map” for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

A source at the royal court said the king, on his first visit to Washington since the U.S.-led war on Iraq, plans to meet President Bush at Camp David.

“His majesty intends to rally support for the road map, which we in Jordan view as the best way to achieve peace in the region,” the source said.

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