Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Argentina's foreign minister has said his country will not go ahead with a deal to sell a small nuclear reactor to Syria if Israel objects.

Foreign Minister Guido di Tella, on a visit here this week to meet with Israeli leaders, was asked to clarify his country's position in the wake of media reports that Syria had sought to purchase a reactor from Argentina.

Although the reactor would reportedly be used for medical research, di Tella told Israel Radio, "We will not do anything that will compromise in the eyes of the main actors, the peace process and the peace in this part of the world."

"We haven't signed anything, we haven't committed ourselves to anything, so I am a bit surprised the Israeli press speaks about negotiations that are going on," he added.

Di Tella, speaking about his country's ongoing investigation of the bombing of the Jewish community headquarters in Buenos Aires on July 18, 1994, said the hunt for suspects would continue.

"There is no intention whatsoever of interrupting" the investigation, he said.

But he cautioned against building too much hope on every new development.

On Sunday, Paraguay extradited to Argentina five Lebanese men and a Brazilian man and woman in connection with the bombing.

They were wanted in connection with a separate investigation into illegal stocks of weapons found near Buenos Aires in April 1994.

Settlers deliver Palestinian baby

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Jewish settlers performed an emergency delivery of a Palestinian baby this weekend, when a West Bank demonstration prevented the mother from reaching a hospital.

The demonstrators were protesting an Israel Defense Force redeployment in the West Bank, which resulted in an army roadblock that interfered with the trip to a Nablus hospital.

The woman and her husband were headed for the hospital so she could have a cesarian section.

But the couple became stuck in traffic along the way because of the protesters' activity.

When soldiers noticed that the woman had gone into labor, they called Magen David Adom personnel, as well as doctors and nurses from the Kedumim and Karnei Shomron settlements.

The settlers carried out a breech delivery. The baby, a girl, was taken to Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba.

Both the mother and baby were listed in stable condition.

Jerusalem rejects Michelangelo's nude

JERUSALEM (JPS) — The Jerusalem Municipality recently turned down the gift of a replica of Michelangelo's David because of pressure from ultra-religious city councilors, who said the statue's nudity was offensive.

The gift was offered by officials in Florence, Italy, where the original statue stands, to mark the upcoming 3,000th anniversary celebrations of Jerusalem — "The City of David."

"We are not talking about a work of art that was to be placed in the Israel Museum, which we of course would have expressed no opposition to," Mayor Ehud Olmert told Israel Radio Saturday night.

"The statue was to be placed outside, and it was legitimate for us to consider how the population would react," Olmert said.

After Jerusalem rejected the David, officials in Florence reportedly agreed to give another, clothed, statue of David, by the 15th century artist Andrea del Verrocchio.

Searchers recover bodies of 2 officers

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The bodies of two Israeli air force officers killed in a training accident off the coast of Nahariya last week have been recovered from the sea, Israel Radio reported.

Lt. Col. Roni Shlomi and Capt. Yuval Binyamin were killed when their F-16 plane collided with another during the July 18 training exercise.

The crew of the second jet fighter bailed out safely into the sea and were picked up by a navy rescue craft shortly after the accident occurred.

Peres unwelcome at Rachel's Tomb

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Foreign Minister Shimon Peres was forced to leave the site of Rachel's Tomb on Monday when a group of worshippers protested his presence there.

Peres, who was accompanied by the chief rabbi of Jerusalem, Yitzhak Kolitz, came to Rachel's Tomb to study future access to the site for Jewish worshippers.

The tomb, located north of Jerusalem, may fall under Palestinian stewardship in the next phase of self-rule in the West Bank.

Peres was briefed by Israel Defense Force officers about the various possibilities for ensuring the safety of Jewish worshippers at the site if and when the IDF redeploys from the area.

The issue of Rachel's Tomb recently became a point of contention in Israel's talks with the Palestinians, after some Israeli groups protested that the holy site should remain under Israeli authority in any future agreement with the Palestinians.