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THE MIDEAST IN BRIEF

Bush reasserts view Hezbollah lost war

UNITED STATES

CAMP DAVID, Md. -- President Bush said yesterday that it would take the world time to view the war between Israel and Hezbollah as a loss for the Islamic militant group. ``The first reaction, of course, of Hezbollah and its supporters is, declare victory," Bush said. ``I guess I would have done the same thing if I were them, but sometimes it takes people a while to come to the sober realization of what forces create stability and which don't. Hezbollah is a force of instability." (AP)

GAZA STRIP

Journalist's wife makes tearful plea
GAZA CITY -- The wife of a kidnapped Fox News cameraman made a tearful plea yesterday for information about the whereabouts of her husband and a fellow Fox journalist. Cameraman Olaf Wiig, 36, of New Zealand, and American reporter Steve Centanni, 60, were taken Monday from their television van near the Palestinian security services headquarters. ``If somebody knows any information, can you please tell us because I want him home so much," Wiig's wife, Anita McNaught, a freelance journalist, said in her televised appeal. ``He and his colleague, Steve, don't deserve this. They are good men, they are good men and they should be allowed to come home," McNaught said. In the past two years, kidnappers have seized at least 26 foreigners, including nine members of the media, either to protest Israeli or American policies, use them as leverage with the Palestinian Authority for jobs and money, or to win the release of family members from prison. Most of those kidnapped were released after a few hours. (AP)

LEBANON

Damage from war estimated at $3.6b
BEIRUT -- A month of Israeli bombardment has inflicted a ``disastrous" $3.6 billion worth of damage on Lebanon from which it could take years to recover, the country's reconstruction chief said yesterday. Al-Fadl Shalaq, head of the Council for Development and Reconstruction, compared the devastation from the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas to the damage from the 1975-1990 civil war that tore the country apart. Shalaq said 30,000 homes had been hit, a quarter of them in the crowded southern suburbs of Beirut, a Hezbollah stronghold that was battered by Israeli airstrikes. (Reuters)

Israeli warplanes fly over Bekaa valley
CHTAURA -- Israeli warplanes flew over Lebanon's Bekaa valley and the north of the country yesterday but did not launch an attack, witnesses said. Military jets, helicopters, and drones had circled over the area, 35 miles east of Beirut, and had come under antiaircraft fire but were not hit and did not open fire themselves, as some media had reported. Israeli warplanes frequently fly over Lebanese airspace. During the 34-day war with Hezbollah they attacked targets across the country, including in the Bekaa valley. (Reuters)

ISRAEL

Justice minister plans to resign
JERUSALEM -- Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon, facing indictment on allegations of sexual misconduct, plans to resign, his spokesman said yesterday. The departure of Ramon, a key ally of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, could weaken the Israeli leader's hand as he tries to weather criticism over the handling of the Lebanon war. Ramon has denied accusations by a former government employee that he forcibly kissed her. Ramon is a close supporter of Olmert in the centrist Kadima party, which he joined after leaving the center-left Labor party before the March general election. (Reuters)

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