Today's Story Line

Middle East leaders meet today in Cairo in an attempt to fashion a truce. Any progress on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be a bonus. The Palestinians are in no position to wage a direct war with Israel with the best-trained and equipped forces in the region. But militants and suicide bombers may be a threat.

The attack on the USS Cole raises questions about the trade-offs the US makes when it "engages" some countries as friends. Yemen is a supporter of Iraq's Saddam Hussein. But other US friends have questionable practices, too: Israel's unacknowledged nuclear weapons program is overlooked by US officials, and Egypt represses political groups that want a strictly Islamic state.

David Clark Scott World editor


RAMALLAH SHORT CUT: The Monitor's Peter Ford was stopped by an Israeli road block on his way to the West Bank city of Ramallah. But the soldiers weren't too determined to keep Peter out. "How can I get into the city," Peter asked. The Israeli soldier replied: "Your [Palestinian] taxi driver will know." The driver backed up 50 yards and turned down a dirt path. "We were still within sight of the Israeli roadblock," says Peter, laughing at the absurdity of the situation.

In Ramallah, Peter was struck by how normal life was, considering the scenes of fighting prevalent on television in recent days. "The falafel sellers were out. Children in uniforms were going to school. Some shopkeepers were cleaning up the broken glass near the police station hit with Israeli missiles last week. But it was a normal Saturday at the West Bank," he says.

EARLY MORNING READERS: Tokyo-based correspondent Ilene Prusher was up late recently, probably waiting to talk to an editor. She visited a 7-Eleven store at 3 a.m. and saw eight men hovering around the comic book racks, reading but buying nothing. Some, no doubt, were reading the popular Kintaro books (page 1). A friend explained that it's not an uncommon sight. Men can often be spotted in the conbeni (convenience stores) at that hour because they stay out too late and missed their trains home to the suburbs. They're waiting for the trains to start again sometime around 5 or 6 a.m.

PACIFIC ISLAND PEACE: Rival militias in the Solomon Islands signed an accord yesterday to end two years of fighting, according to Reuters. As reported on June 6, the conflict between two ethnic groups was over access to land and jobs in the Pacific archipelago.

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