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The Media Line Daily News Focus

1. RUSSIA, EGYPT DISCUSS FREE-TRADE AREA…The Russian and Egyptian leaders Vladimir Putin and Hosni Mubarak have launched talks on the creation of a bilateral free-trade area between their countries. That was one of several areas of economic cooperation discussed when the presidents met in Cairo on Tuesday. Putin arrives in Israel on Wednesday, the first ever visit by a Russian head of state. Israeli sources say they will stress their dissatisfaction at the recently approved sale of Russian missiles to Syria. The Russian delegation is also expected to exchange views on counterterrorism while in Israel.

2. ISRAEL REQUESTS LASER-GUIDED BOMBS FROM U.S.…The United States Congress is reportedly ready to consider an Israeli request to purchase laser-guided bombs to the tune of $30 million. The 100 missiles could be used as bunker busters. The bombs could be used to target Iranian nuclear facilities, according to experts.

3. PALESTINIANS LAUNCH STRIKES AGAINST ISRAELI TOWN…Palestinian missiles have once again hit the southern Israeli town Sderot. Two Qassam rockets are said by Israel to have landed in the town without causing injuries or damage. A group not party to the Palestinian self-declared cease-fire said it was behind the attacks. Meanwhile, at least one mortar was fired at an Israeli village in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday. There too, there were no reports of injuries.

4. ANNAN: WAITING FOR SYRIA-WITHDRAWAL CONFIRMATION…The United Nations will not formally announce Syria has fully withdrawn from Lebanon until it hears from a team of U.N. monitors sent to the region to confirm the pullback. That is according to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a report he has presented to the U.N. Security Council. Syria held a ceremony on Tuesday to mark what it says is its withdrawal of all military personnel from Lebanon after a 29-year occupation. However, a leading member of the Syrian opposition in exile, Farid Ghadry, has told The Media Line thousands of Syrian officers have taken on Lebanese citizenship in order to remain in the country and ensure Syrian domination of Lebanese affairs.

5. ISRAELI POLICE, RELIGIOUS PROTESTERS CLASH IN JERUSALEM…Hundreds of rioting Israeli demonstrators clashed with police officers in the religious Meah She’arim neighborhood of Jerusalem on Tuesday night and early Wednesday. The protest began with police permission in opposition to a highway, which they say is being constructed over ancient graves. However, eyewitnesses say the masses soon ran out of control and began emptying garbage in the streets and throwing stones at passersby. Seven police officers were injured in the fighting that followed.