Syria okays U.N. border personnel

Published September 10, 2006

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said Saturday that Syrian President Bashar Assad has agreed "in principle" to the deployment of European Union personnel along Lebanon's border with Syria.

The positioning of European Union guards could help allay Israel's concerns about the smuggling of weapons from Syrian to Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, which the U.N. Security Council has demanded be stopped under the nearly month-old cease-fire it brokered to end the war between Israel and Hezbollah.

Prodi spokesman Silvio Sircana said EU personnel without arms or uniforms could be deployed along the border. Until now, Syria has vehemently rejected the deploying of armed U.N. peacekeepers on the Lebanese side of the border. Assad has said he would consider such a move hostile toward his country.

Elsewhere ...

Gaza: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Saturday he would meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and work closely with him to advance peace efforts, without specifying when. He said the meeting was not conditional on the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier being held captive by militants with links to the ruling Hamas Party. But Olmert said no progress would be made in the peace process until Shalit is released, indicating the talks with Abbas could help gain his freedom.

Sudan: A judge in the war-torn Darfur region dropped espionage charges against American Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Paul Salopek, 44, and released him Saturday. Salopek was on assignment for National Geographic magazine when he was arrested last month.