The following are the day's top general news stories:
1. Suleiman, Egypt Opposition Agree to Form Panel for Constitutional Changes 2. Jews in Damascus Restore Synagogues as Syria Tries to Foster Secular Image 3. Iran Starts Trial of U.S. Nationals on Charges of Espionage, Illegal Entry 4. Thin Lizzy Guitarist Gary Moore, Accomplished Blues Player, Dies Aged 58 5. Green Bay Packers Lead Steelers 14-3 During Second Quarter of Super Bowl
1. Suleiman, Egypt Opposition Agree to Form Panel for Constitutional Changes
Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman held the first formal meeting with members of the opposition today in a move toward establishing a transitional government, even as some opponents continued to urge President Hosni Mubarak´s immediate resignation. Suleiman, who met with the Wafd and Tagammu parties, as well as with the Muslim Brotherhood and billionaire Naguib Sawiris, agreed to study constitutional changes, according to a cabinet statement after the gathering. The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition faction, said it still wants Mubarak to resign immediately and that it supports the continuation of the protests in Tahrir Square. Suleiman and the opposition groups agreed to finish a study of constitutional amendments by the first week of March, according to the cabinet statement. The group agreed to ease the nation´s emergency law, in place since President Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981, if the domestic situation permits, and to defend freedom of the press after journalists were attacked and harassed at the protests in Cairo. The government´s offers don´t include an early departure by Mubarak. Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, interviewed on CNN, said Mubarak won´t leave office before September, when presidential elections may be held.
2. Jews in Damascus Restore Synagogues as Syria Tries to Foster Secular Image
Albert Cameo, leader of what remains of the Jewish community in Syria, says he´s trying to fulfill an obligation to his religious heritage. The 70-year-old is organizing the restoration of a synagogue called Al-Raqi in the old Jewish quarter of Damascus, the Syrian capital, built during the Ottoman Empire some 400 years ago. The project, which began in December, will be completed this month as part of a plan to restore 10 synagogues with the backing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and funding from Syrian Jews. "Assad sees the rebuilding of Jewish Damascus in the context of preserving the secularism of Syria," said Josh Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. "This is an effort by the regime to show its seriousness and an olive branch to the Jewish community in America, which they have been wooing." While Syria is still officially at war with Israel, the country is trying to portray itself as a more tolerant state to help burnish its image internationally. Syria´s 200 Jews are mirroring the actions of their co-religionists in Lebanon, where restoration work began on Beirut´s Maghen Abraham Synagogue in July 2009.
3. Iran Starts Trial of U.S. Nationals on Charges of Espionage, Illegal Entry
Iran began the trial of three Americans charged with espionage and illegal entry into Iran at the Revolutionary Court in Tehran. Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer were detained alongside Sarah Shourd in July 2009 for illegally crossing into Iran from Iraqi Kurdistan. The U.S. government has said the trio mistakenly wandered across the border during a hiking trip. The detentions have increased tension between Iran and the U.S., which accuses the Persian Gulf country of seeking to build atomic weapons under cover of its nuclear program. Iran rejects the claim. Iran freed Shourd in September 2010 on bail of $500,000 and she left the country within hours. Shourd was summoned last week by the Iranian judiciary to return for the trial.
4. Thin Lizzy Guitarist Gary Moore, Accomplished Blues Player, Dies Aged 58
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-0- Feb/07/2011 00:35 GMT