President Bush arrived in Israel Wednesday on the first leg of a Middle Eastern trip to take part in the Jewish state's 60th anniversary celebrations. He said Israel's experience with democratic government was cause for optimism "everywhere" in the region. In contrast to Bush, Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sought to depress the celebrations, saying in a speech: "The Zionist regime is dying" and "if given the smallest and briefest chance," the nations of the Middle East would destroy it.

Arab League foreign ministers descended on Lebanon's capital Wednesday to try to mediate an end to the latest violence that has killed at least 54 people and wounded 200 others. Beirut was calm, largely because government troops were deployed between anti- and pro-Syrian elements with orders to use force to maintain order. The BBC reported that the government was expected to announce it would reverse the two decisions that triggered the violence: outlawing Hezbollah's telephone network and firing the security director at Beirut airport for his alleged ties to the militant group.

Despite growing criticism that aid money is being wasted, advisers to Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Wednesday he'll ask for $50 billion more at an international donors conference next month. They said the aid would go to a five-year development plan, with most of it earmarked for reviving the agricultural sector. Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, donors have pledged $25 billion in aid but delivered only slightly over half that amount, according to an Afghan relief alliance.

Armed militants hijacked a supply boat belonging to US oil giant Chevron in southern Nigeria Tuesday night, taking its 11-man crew hostage. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of $260,000 for their release, authorities said. The incident was the second of its type in the Niger Delta in two weeks. Last year, more than 200 foreign oil workers were kidnapped there, most of them quickly freed upon payment of ransoms.

A powerful bomb explosion killed a Civil Guardsman and wounded four others in Spain's Basque region Wednesday in an attack blamed on the ETA separatist organization. Their barracks, where wives and children also lived, was heavily damaged. ETA's practice has been to telephone warnings of such attacks, but none was received this time, officials said.

Almost 3,000 troop and police reinforcements were taking up positions in Mexico's Sinaloa State as the government stepped up its campaign against drug-related violence. The state is the home of a federation of narcotics traffickers, some of whom are believed to have ordered the fatal shooting last week of the acting director of the federal police force. Since President Felipe Calderón took office in 2006, more than 3,500 people have died in the violence.

Saying, "Life [there] will never be the same," Chile's Interior Minister promised financial aid and tax relief for the thousands of people forced to leave the vicinity of Chaiten volcano. He said each family would receive a one-time payment of $430, plus $43 for each child, moving expenses, a month's rent, and funding to reestablish small businesses or farms left behind in the mandatory evacuation.

A life-sized marble bust of Roman ruler Julius Caesar that may date to 46 BC was found by archaeological divers in the Rhone River, France's Culture Ministry announced. If authenticated, it would be the oldest of its kind known to exist. Other objects found in the same area also are ancient, among them a statue of the god of the sea in Roman mythology. Archaeologists will try to determine "in what context" the treasures were thrown into the river.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.