- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 23, 2010

ISRAEL

Officials: Palestinians will mull compromise

JERUSALEM | Hopes of averting a breakdown in Middle East peace talks grew Thursday as senior Palestinian officials said their side would consider an expected U.S.-brokered compromise on Israeli settlement-building in the West Bank.

At issue is the 10-month-old Israeli slowdown on settlement building - a near-halt to new projects aimed at coaxing the Palestinians into talks with the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The restrictions expire Sunday, only weeks after U.S.-sponsored talks were finally launched amid much fanfare. As the deadline looms the region has grown increasingly tense, fearing not only a collapse of the brittle peace effort but perhaps a return to violence - fears stoked by a bout of Palestinian rioting Wednesday near key Jerusalem holy sites.

FRANCE

Strikes continue over retiring age

PARIS | Tens of thousands of French workers took to the streets Thursday for the second day of nationwide strikes this month to protest President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan to raise the retirement age to 62, with union walkouts crippling plane and train travel and schools across the country.

The strikes are seen as a test for the conservative Mr. Sarkozy and are being watched elsewhere in Europe, as governments struggle to rein in costs with unpopular austerity measures after the Greek debt crisis scared markets and sapped confidence in the entire 16-nation euro currency.

Protesters brandishing flags, balloons and signs gathered at Paris’ Place de la Bastille, the iconic site of the French Revolution and starting point for the French capital’s demonstration, which snaked through east Paris to the Left Bank.

INDIA

More athletes abandon Commonwealth Games

NEW DELHI | Workers sprayed for mosquitoes, mopped up the just-opened athletes’ village and planted flower beds Thursday as India rushed to complete long overdue work less than two weeks before the Commonwealth Games are to begin.

Several teams have delayed their arrival in New Delhi because of hygiene and security concerns, and four more athletes withdrew from the competition. The first occupants of the unfinished village - Indian athletes and Australian officials - moved in Thursday as the prime minister met with officials to discuss the troubled games.

The games, which start Oct. 3 with about 7,000 athletes from 71 countries and territories, were meant to showcase India’s emergence as a regional powerhouse. But long delays in getting facilities ready and a list of scandals have turned them into an embarrassment.

IRAQ

Gunmen ambush army officer

BAGHDAD | Gunmen opened fire on the car of an army officer assigned to protect Iraqi Cabinet members, killing him and wounding his wife and son in the second attack Thursday targeting staff from Iraq’s government offices, officials said.

Earlier, a bomb attached to the car of a government worker exploded with his family and relatives inside, killing four children.

The attacks are the latest round of violence in the capital, which has seen isolated strikes and major car bombings in recent weeks, including blasts Sunday that claimed at least 30 lives.

The ambush against Lt. Hazim Abdullah occurred on a road in northern Baghdad, said police and hospital officials. Lt. Abdullah worked with protection units for Iraq’s government officials.

The bombing, meanwhile, tore through the car of Anmar Taha Ridha, who worked on the maintenance crew of Iraq’s government headquarters. Mr. Ridha and his wife were wounded, but their two children - aged 6 and 8 - and two young nephews were killed, police officials said.

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