Mubarak discusses with Saleh, Abu Mazen developments of security in Yemen, Palestinian issue

Abbas: We claim our rights, our stand is one of international legitimacy, U.S.

Netanyahu criticizes U.S. president, insists on East Jerusalem settlements

Palestinian government observes peaceful resistance

Syria denies it gave Hezbollah Scud missiles

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Sunday met with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sharm el- Sheikh, the first summit since his return to Egypt in March after a gallbladder surgery in Germany, state-run MENA news agency reported.

The two presidents held an expanded meeting attended by senior statesmen from both sides, MENA said without giving any further information about issues discussed during the summit.

The Yemeni president offered congratulations on the safe recovery of his Egyptian counterpart.

The latest summit Mubarak attended was with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin before undergoing the surgery in March.

On April 15, the Egyptian president resumed his work by holding a ministerial meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh.

Mubarak, 81, received a successful surgery to remove the gall bladder and a benign tissue on March 6 in Germany. He had been suffering from acute gall bladder inflammation, accompanied by gall stones.

Mubarak also received Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday to discuss the political situation between Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Abbas said in a press conference that he had stressed Palestinian demands that Israel stop building settlements in order to facilitate a return to the negotiating table.

"Palestine's position is the same as that of the international community and the United States," he said.

Abbas said the Palestinian Authority had begun to act against a recent Israeli military order which allows the expulsion of any Palestinian without a residency permit from the West Bank.

"Our basic agreement with Israel is that Gaza and the West Bank are one geographic entity under the Palestinian Authority, and so this decision was meant to anger Palestinians," Abbas said.

Abbas said that if other options were exhausted and Palestinian-Israeli negotiations had not resumed, the Palestinian Authority would consider taking the case to the UN Security Council.

Israel's prime minister reiterated on Thursday that there will be no freeze on Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem, as the US Middle East envoy arrived for talks to press the peace process.

"There will be no freeze on construction in Jerusalem," Benjamin Netanyahu told Channel Two television. "Everyone knows it."

"There is perfect agreement on the fact that there cannot be preconditions to negotiations," he added, an apparent reference to Palestinian demands that settlement construction be halted before direct peace talks can resume.

He sought to downplay the chances of conflict on Israel's northern border, despite Israeli and US fears that Syria may be sending missiles to Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah movement.

"We do not want war. But weapons have been transferred to Hezbollah across the border between Syria and Lebanon, and this is unacceptable," he said.

Netanyahu spoke as US envoy George Mitchell arrived for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, which a US official said would take place on Friday.

Mitchell is to meet Palestinian President Abbas in the West Bank town of Ramallah on efforts to re-launch peace talks with Israel, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said.

Israeli government spokesmen would not immediately confirm whether Mitchell would also meet Netanyahu.

Washington has for months been pressing both sides to revive negotiations suspended in December 2008, but its efforts have hit a dead end over Israeli settlement construction in occupied and annexed east Jerusalem.

On ties between the two staunch allies, Netanyahu said "we do not agree with the United States on everything. There are ups and downs... but the fact that our relations have a solid base allows us to overcome the problems."

Washington had managed to convince the two sides to engage in indirect talks that would be run by Mitchell, but they got sidetracked in early March after Israel announced plans to build 1,600 new homes in east Jerusalem.

Israel captured the largely Arab-inhabited eastern part of the city during the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed it, claiming the holy city is its "eternal and indivisible capital."

The Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that there will be no halt to settlement construction there.

On Iran, the premier said tough sanctions were the way to thwart Iran's controversial nuclear program of uranium enrichment.

"The United States could prevent Iran from equipping itself with nuclear weapons by imposing severe sanctions, without having to go through the UN Security Council where there are always problems," Netanyahu said.

On Thursday the US Congress took a critical step towards imposing new economic sanctions on Tehran, with the House of Representatives voting 403-11 to huddle with the Senate and meld rival versions of sanctions legislation into one compromise bill.

President Barack Obama's administration has pressed lawmakers to hold off on US sanctions until it can try to win new UN sanctions against the Islamic republic, which denies Western charges that it wants a nuclear arsenal.

Palestinian premier Salam Fayyad vowed on Wednesday to step up "peaceful resistance" against Israeli occupation by boycotting settlement goods throughout the West Bank.

"There has been progress in the boycott of settlement products, which comes from the idea of popular peaceful resistance, and I hope we will rid our markets of all settlement goods by the end of the year," he told an international conference in the West Bank village of Bilin.

The village has been the scene of weekly protests against Israel's controversial separation barrier, during which youths chant slogans and hurl stones at Israeli troops, who respond with tear gas and rubber bullets.

The conference in support of non-violent struggle was attended by hundreds of Palestinians as well as 250 foreigners and 150 Israelis, according to organizers, who said many foreign delegations were absent because of European flight cancellations.

Fayyad renewed a pledge to carry out development projects in so-called Area C, parts of the West Bank under complete Israeli military control that account for more than 60 percent of the territory.

"We will keep working on our project to build our state in Area C and on the other side of the wall, because we consider that all land occupied in 1967 is Palestinian land and not disputed territory," he said.

Israel says the barrier is necessary to protect its citizens from attacks, while the Palestinians view it as part of a land grab aimed at carving off key swathes of their promised future state.

To date, Israel has completed 413 kilometers (256 miles) of the planned 709-kilometre (435-mile) barrier. When completed, 85 percent of it will have been built inside the West Bank, according to UN figures.

Syria warned Thursday that Israel was paving the way for new military action by alleging that that Damascus is providing Scud missiles to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Israeli defense officials have said they believe Hezbollah has obtained Scud missiles capable of hitting anywhere in Israel and earlier this week, Israeli President Shimon Peres directly accused Damascus of providing the weapons.

If the Lebanese militants have acquired Scuds, it would mark a powerful boost to their arsenal and a breach of a U.N.-brokered cease-fire that ended the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.

Israel has not offered proof to back up the claim, and Syria's Foreign Ministry strongly denied the charge, saying it "believes that Israel aims through these claims to further strain the atmosphere in the region" It added that Israel could be setting the stage for a possible "aggression in order to run away from the requirements of a just and comprehensive peace."

Speaking earlier this week, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak insisted his country has no aggressive intentions. "We expect and recommend that everyone keep the current calm but as we've said, the introduction of systems that disturb the balance endanger the stability and the calm," he said.

The allegation comes at a sensitive time in U.S.-Syrian relations.

Washington has reached out to Syria in recent months by nominating the first U.S. ambassador to Damascus since 2005 and sending top diplomats to meet with President Bashar Assad. Washington is hoping to draw Syria away from Iran and the Islamic groups that Iran backs — Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian Islamic group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The U.S. said Wednesday it was "increasingly concerned" about the transfer of more sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah.

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah has said his militants have more than 30,000 rockets and are capable of hitting anywhere in Israel. Those claims match Israeli intelligence assessments.

Some Scud missiles have a range of hundreds of miles (kilometers), meaning that guerrillas could launch them from deeper inside Lebanon and farther from Israel's reach. Scuds can carry a warhead of up to 1 ton, making them far larger than the biggest rockets previously in Hezbollah's arsenal, and are also more accurate.

During the month-long 2006 conflict, Hezbollah fired nearly 4,000 rockets at northern Israel, including several medium-range missiles that for the first time hit Israel's third-largest city, Haifa.

The war, sparked by a Hezbollah ambush of an Israeli patrol along the border, left 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis dead.

Swaths of south Lebanon were devastated. If the estimates of Hezbollah's arsenal released by Israeli intelligence and the Hezbollah militants themselves are correct, it would mean that the international effort to halt arms smuggling to Hezbollah, which was part of the 2006 cease-fire, has failed.

The cease-fire also saw the deployment of a U.N. force along the border, which has been relatively quiet since the end of hostilities nearly four years ago.

Scuds are potentially deadlier than smaller rockets, but their size and the fact that they are launched from large trucks makes them easier to spot and destroy. Israeli aircraft successfully eliminated most of Hezbollah's longer-range rockets in the 2006 conflict before they were launched, while finding far less success against smaller, more mobile projectiles.

Israel's military has U.S.-manufactured Patriot missile batteries that could offer a defense against the Scuds, as well as the Arrow, which can intercept long-range rockets. A new system under development in Israel, known as David's Sling, is specifically designed for rockets like Scuds but will not be ready for several years.

Hezbollah fought a guerrilla war against Israeli forces occupying parts of southern Lebanon from the early 1980s until May 2000, when the Israelis withdrew.