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Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has admitted he would not have ordered last month’s capture of two Israeli soldiers had he known Israel would have responded as it did. In an interview with Lebanese TV, Nasrallah said: “We did not think, even one percent, that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude… Had we known that the kidnapping of the soldiers would have led to this, we would definitely not have done it.”
Nasrallah’s comments come amid increased speculation of an imminent prisoner exchange with Israel. The Hezbollah leader says Italy and the United Nations have made overtures to help negotiate a deal. Meanwhile, the Egyptian state newspaper Al-Ahram is reporting the German government has brokered a deal between Israel and Hizbullah for a prisoner exchange within two or three weeks. Hezbollah officials did not confirm or deny the report but Israel says it’s untrue. Israel has acknowledged it holds 13 Hezbollah prisoners and the bodies of dozens of guerrillas that it could swap for the two captive soldiers.
Meanwhile, the US civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson is in the Middle East as part of ongoing talks for a hostage exchange. In Damascus Sunday, Reverend Jackson said Syria was prepared take part in a negotiated solution.
The British Parliamentarian George Galloway is also in Lebanon this week. Speaking in Beirut Saturday, Galloway hailed what he called Hezbollah’s “great and historic victory.”
The European Union has pledged up to seven thousands troops for an expanded UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon. The decision came out of an international conference in Brussells.
Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig have been freed. The Fox News journalists were kidnapped two weeks ago by a previously unknown militant group in the Gaza Strip. All of the major Palestinian factions had called on the captors to let them go. Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig spoke on Sunday just hours after their release.
Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig were freed after appearing in a video announcing their conversion to Islam. They say their captors forced them to convert at gunpoint.
Meanwhile in Gaza, two other journalists were wounded when an Israeli gunship bombed their vehicle on Saturday. Witnesses say the car was hit despite being clearly marked as a media vehicle with markings on all sides, including the roof. Sabbah Hmaida, a journalist for a local Palestinian news site, was left with serious leg injuries. A camera operator working for Reuters was also wounded.
In Iraq, a suicide attack outside the Interior Ministry in Baghdad earlier today has killed at least fourteen people. The bombing follows the weekend deaths of at least eighty Iraqis and eight US troops in violence around the country.
Iraqis in the city of Ramadi are expressing outrage over a US attack on a mosque Friday that left at least three people dead and twenty-two injured. The mosque suffered major damage to its dome and minaret. The Pentagon says it was responding to fire coming from inside.
In other Iraq news, a major review by the Washington Post has concluded most US service members charged in the killings of Iraqi civilians have either been acquitted, convicted of minor offenses or given light punishments. Just over three dozen US troops have been accused in the deaths of twenty Iraqis since the US invaded Iraq three years ago — despite the deaths of an unknown thousands of Iraqis at the hands of US forces. Just twelve troops have served time in prison.
Meanwhile, the Reuters news agency is calling on the US military to investigate the killing of television sound technician Waleed Khaled. The 35-year old Khaled died one year ago today. He was working for Reuters in Iraq when US troops shot him in the face and chest. U.S. soldiers were heard joking around when Waleed Khaled’s family came to the scene of the shooting. An independent inquiry by a former British military investigator has concluded the shooting was unlawful. The Pentagon has also been criticized for claiming it lost crucial video footage taken by Khaled’s passenger after he was shot.
In Mexico, results are expected today of a partial recount of last month’s presidential election. Second-place candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has demanded a full recount of all polling stations. But the recount will cover just nine percent. Lopez Obrador told supporters in Mexico City Sunday he will continue his campaign for a full recount.
In Turkey, more than two dozen people have been injured in a series of blasts in the resort town of Marmaris. The explosions targeted areas popular among foreign tourists.
In Pakistan, the government’s killing of a rebel tribal chief has set off major unrest. Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti died Saturday in a bombing in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan. Pakistan says the killing was unintentional and the result of clashes with government forces. Bugti’s death has led to protests across the province. Three demonstrators and at least one police officer have died.
Here in the United States, new figures show increasing economic growth has not led to a rise in real wages for American workers. The New York Times reports the median hourly wage has declined by two percent in the last three years. Economists say the drop is unprecedented because overall productivity has risen over the same period of time. Wages and salaries now account for the lowest share of the US economy in over half a century. Corporate profits have reached their highest share over the same period.
There is new controversy over the Bush administration’s illegal military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay. The Boston Globe is reporting the White House is limiting input from career military lawyers who say detainees should have the right to see the evidence used against them. The administration has been forced to re-draft its rules for military commissions after the Supreme Court ruled they were illegal in June. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has assured Congress the administration will consult with military legal experts. But in several meetings over the last two months, the issue of secret evidence has been discussed on just one occasion.
In Maine, a wedding in President Bush’s family received an unexpected presence this weekend — anti-war protesters. On Saturday, about 700 people marched past the seaside church where President Bush was attending his second cousin’s wedding. The marchers denounced the war on Iraq and called for the withdrawal of US troops.
In education news, the New York Times is reporting evolutionary biology is no longer listed as an acceptable field of study for low-income recipients of federal study grants. The omission would mean students studying evolutionary biology could not receive federal money without declaring another major. That is causing concern among scientists who say their field is under attack from opponents of evolutionary theory. A government spokesperson said the omission was unintentional and will be corrected.
And finally, a chief prosecutor of Nazi war crimes at Nuremberg has said President Bush should be tried for war crimes. Benjamin Ferencz, who secured convictions for 22 Nazi officers involved in the killings of more than one million people, told OneWorld.Net both President Bush and Saddam Hussein should be tried for starting “aggressive” wars — Saddam for his 1990 attack on Kuwait and Bush for his invasion of Iraq thirteen years later.