President Bush wound up his Middle East tour Wednesday, saying the region's leaders had told him they're willing to help Israel and the Palestinians reach a peace accord by the end of his term next year. Appearing with him at a final news conference in Cairo, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said his government is "keen on supporting peace efforts ... to open new horizons" for the region.Skip to next paragraph
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Hamas ruled out the return of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit – even in an exchange of prisoners – after two days of fighting that killed more than 20 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Among the dead: the son of powerful Gaza leader Mahmoud Zahar and Islamic Jihad's top commander in the West Bank, Walid Obeidi. The Israeli offensives came in response to 46 rocket and mortar attacks on Israel by Palestinian militants Tuesday and Wednesday.
Hundreds of Islamist militants in northwestern Pakistan overran a military outpost Tuesday night, their first seizure of a strategic target since early last fall. The post, on the border with Afghanistan, was still under the militants' control by late Wednesday, their spokesman said. Pakistan's military put the number of dead soldiers at seven and listed 20 others as missing. It said 40 attackers died. The militants' spokesman claimed only two attackers were killed versus 16 defenders and said 12 other soldiers were taken hostage.
President-elect Lee Myung Bak of South Korea announced plans to close the Unification Ministry, the agency at the forefront of efforts to reach out to rival North Korea. Lee said agency staffers would be absorbed into the Foreign Ministry. There was no immediate reaction by North Korea, which so far has not commented publicly on Lee's victory, but analysts said the plan would "be viewed in a negative way" there.