His rough treatment at the hands of Palestinian extremists Monday will only strengthen Egypt's resolve to help bring peace to the Middle East, Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said on returning home. But state-controlled news media took a tough line on the incident, and a senior Palestinian flew to Cairo to convey "our extreme apology" for the attack on Maher in a Jeru-salem mosque. The attackers accused Maher of collaborating with Israel and of failing to call on Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

With only two days until Christmas, the West Bank city of Bethlehem was all but empty of tourists, and the few there were limiting their visits to quick stops at the Church of the Nativity. Before the current intifidah began in September 2000, as many as 6,000 visitors a day came to the site where Jesus is believed to have been born and sought souvenirs. Palestinians blame Israeli checkpoints for the situation.

US forces in Iraq hoped the arrest of eight more insurgents would bring them closer to Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the suspected organizer of terrorist attacks and the highest-ranking of Saddam Hussein's former aides still on the run. A US commander said the captives were significant because they indicate a link between Hussein loyalists and militants infiltrating from other countries to conduct the attacks. Those arrested come from the the three cities that have been the fiercest in opposing the US presence, he said.

"Come and see; we don't want to hide anything," Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi told CNN, saying his government is abandoning its nuclear weapons program. But he acknowledged a public relations challenge in trying to stop "rumors, accusations, propaganda against us," calling them a form of terrorism. As Qaddafi spoke, the chief of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamad ElBaradei, said he'd lead the first inspection of Libyan nuclear facilities as soon as next week.

The number of deaths from last week's devastating floods and landslides in the Philippines rose to 209, and a tour of the region by President Gloria Arroyo had to be cut short because of unsafe conditions. Meanwhile, the Coast Guard said 20 Filipinos were rescued from a ferry that sank Sunday; dozens of others are missing.

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