The Israeli prime minister and opposition leader failed to resolve a key dispute in coalition talks, and an alliance between them, seen as a prerequisite for an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, remained out of reach yesterday. \nPrime Minister Ariel Sharon and opposition leader Shimon Peres, long-time rivals but also occasional political partners, met late Sunday to try to work out disagreements over next year's proposed state budget. No deal was reached, but Peres' Labor Party agreed to attend another round of coalition talks. \nSharon needs the moderate Labor for his planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements by the end of next year. Earlier this summer, he lost his majority in parliament, with some coalition allies quitting over the Gaza plan. \nSharon and Peres have reached preliminary agreement on the terms of the Gaza pullback, but remain stuck on economic issues. One Labor Party member described the government's economic policies as "piggish capitalism." \nIn the Sharon-Peres meeting late Sunday, a key issue was the timing of the Cabinet's vote on the budget. Labor has asked that the vote be postponed until it has joined the coalition. \nHowever, Peres said Sharon told him he could not put off the vote, scheduled for Sunday. Instead, the prime minister suggested they rush to form a coalition by that date, something the Labor leader said he doesn't rule out. \nStill, it appears unlikely the two sides will resolve all differences and meet the procedural requirements, such as a parliament vote, in such a short period. \nPeres said his party wants big-ger budget allocations for pensioners and regional councils, which suffer from severe deficits and have not been able to pay their employees for months. \nPublic radio reported yesterday that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has blocked plans drawn up by the housing ministry to build 1,300 new homes in four of the largest West Bank settlements. \nThe ministry had asked Sharon to give the final green light after completing preparatory ground work for the construction and obtaining the necessary authorization from the defense ministry. \nThe houses would have been built in Maale Adumin, Ariel, Kiryat Arba and Beitar Elite. \nAccording to the Haaretz daily, the freeze is only temporary and is designed to ensure that all building work is within the municipal boundaries of the settlements and does not breach agreements between the US and Israel. \nUnder the terms of the US-backed roadmap peace plan, Israel is obliged to freeze all settlement activity although Israeli officials have argued that this does not rule out natural growth in existing settlements. \nThe US State Department told Israel last week that "the roadmap calls for an end to all settlement activities, including natural growth", a point taken up by visiting White House envoy Elliott Abrams in talks with Sharon last Thursday. \nIn the Gaza Strip, an Israeli helicopter fired three missiles Sunday near the Gaza-Egypt border in what the army said was an attempt to deter "hostile activity" in the area. The strike caused no casualties. \nAlso Sunday, the Palestinian daily Al Quds quoted Palestinian President Yasser Arafat as saying continued Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movement make it impossible to hold presidential and parliamentary elections. \nHowever, Ali Jarbawi of the Palestinian elections commission said voter registration would begin early next month, despite the hardships. "If we do our job properly, it will increase pressure for elections," he said. Many feel the Palestinian leadership is using the Israeli presence as an excuse to delay voting. \nPalestinians had hoped to hold elections in January this year and then in June, but each time put them off, blaming Israeli restrictions.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete