VATICAN CITY - Pope John Paul II was strong enough to turn the pages of written greetings Saturday and speak in a clear voice, a visitor said. But, still hospitalized and recovering from the flu, the pontiff sent an emissary to read a speech in his name at the Vatican.
In a hopeful sign that the 84-year-old pontiff would be well enough today to say a few words to a public apprehensive about his health, giant video screens were ordered to be set up in St. Peter's Square, where thousands of faithful were expected to gather to pray for his recovery.
Vatican broadcast technicians were told to prepare for a possible video or audio connection with Gemelli Polyclinic, the hospital where the pope was rushed Tuesday after he developed breathing problems during a bout with the flu.
Whether the hookup with the hospital takes place depends on the pope's condition, Vatican officials indicated.
Bishop Vincenzo Paglia, who, with three other clerics, visited John Paul in his 10th floor hospital apartment, described the pope as alert, communicative and grateful for prayers of support.
"You can understand him easily," Paglia said. He said the pontiff turned the pages of a letter of well-wishes signed by dozens of Christian clerics who had prayed for the pope in a hospital chapel.
Another churchman, the Vatican's No. 2 official, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, expressed hope that the ailing pontiff would be back at the Vatican in a few days.
President of Togo dies; his son takes over
LOME, Togo - The president of Togo, Africa's longest-ruling leader, died Saturday as he was being rushed to Europe for treatment of a heart attack, officials said. His son was named the new leader.
President Gnassingbe Eyadema, 69, suffered a heart attack early Saturday in his hometown of Piya in southeastern Togo and later died, said Barry Moussa Barkue, special adviser to the president.
Hours later, Togo's military high command announced on state television that Faure Gnassingbe was the West African nation's new president.
The station later broadcast images of army chief of staff Gen. Zakari Nandja and other generals swearing an oath of allegiance to Faure Gnassingbe as "the acting president."
According to Togo's constitution, the speaker of parliament, Fanbare Tchaba, succeeds the president in the event of his death. Nandja said Tchaba was out of the country and the military had declared Eyadema's son president to ensure stability. Nandja did not say whether the move was a temporary measure, and it was not known where Tchaba was.
Speaking on state radio, Prime Minister Koffi Sama called upon the security forces to keep law and order. He also announced all land and air borders had been closed.
Eyadema has ruled Togo since 1967, when he came to power in a coup. Only Cuba's Fidel Castro has been in power longer.
He was considered one of Africa's last "Big Men" - rulers holding power through patronage, the loyalty of their ethnic and regional groups, and military force.
In rare move, Palestinian faction members detained
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Palestinian security forces on Saturday briefly detained three top members of a faction that claimed an attack that wounded two Israelis, officials said, marking the first such move since Mahmoud Abbas was elected leader last month.
The detained men, who were members of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, were held for five hours by Palestinian security forces, then released, according to the DFLP.
Last week, Palestinian forces deployed throughout Gaza as part of an effort to prevent rocket attacks on Israeli targets, but Israel has complained they have not made any moves to disrupt the militant networks.
On Saturday, Palestinian security officials in southern Gaza refugee camp Khan Younis arrested three members of the DFLP central committee - Issam Abu Daqqa, Talal abu Zarifa and Ziyad Jarjhoun - the DFLP said. Police have asked other members to come in for questioning.
The DFLP said the arrests proved Palestinian officials were caving in to Israeli pressure.
The arrests came ahead of a Middle East summit Tuesday.
Sinai bombing suspects killed by police
CAIRO, Egypt - Police killed two suspected militants Saturday wanted in last year's Sinai bombings after clashes in Egypt's Sinai peninsula desert, the Interior Ministry said.
Police had been hunting for the two suspects for two days when they clashed with them in a mountainous region on Sinai's western coast near Ras Sudr, the ministry said. A policeman also was killed and several were wounded.
One of the slain men was identified as Hammad Gaman Gomah Tarabeen, a Bedouin tribesman suspected of involvement in the Oct. 7 bombings of Sinai tourist resorts. The other could not be identified because of the severity of his injuries.
Kuwait forces arrest five terror suspects
SULAIBIYAH, Kuwait - Security forces surrounded a house outside of the capital Saturday and arrested five terrorism suspects in the country's latest confrontation with Islamic militants, official media reported.
Kuwait Television quoted an Interior Ministry statement as saying the five were two Saudis and three Jordanians wanted by Kuwaiti authorities. The five surrendered after little resistance in Sulaibiyah, 10 miles west of Kuwait.