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Briefs (left)

Israeli Premier Reaches
Out to Far Right

By Greg Myre

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reached a deal Monday to broaden his shaky coalition by adding a far-right party that seeks to annex parts of the West Bank and to eventually reduce Israel’s Arab population.

Olmert’s coalition has been struggling for months, and the latest move was seen as an attempt to stabilize the faltering government. But the new right-wing partner — Israel Beiteinu, or Israel Is Our Home — strongly opposes concessions to the Palestinians.

The prime minister’s decision signals that he is now more concerned with internal Israeli politics than with initiatives to deal with the Palestinians.

The prime minister has already indicated that the central theme of his election campaign, a withdrawal from some Jewish settlements in the West Bank, has been put on indefinite hold. The latest development further reinforces that notion.

Also on Monday, Israeli forces killed six Palestinians, at least three of them militants, in clashes in the northern Gaza Strip, an area that has been the scene of repeated fighting in recent months.

White House Says Bush Ends Use Of Phrase, ‘Stay the Course’

By Jim Rutenberg
and David S. Cloud

The White House on Monday said that President Bush was no longer using the phrase “stay the course” when speaking about the Iraq war, in a new effort to emphasize flexibility in the face of some of the bloodiest violence there since the 2003 invasion.

“He’s stopped using it,” said Tony Snow, the White House press secretary. “It left the wrong impression about what was going on and it allowed critics to say, ‘Well, here’s an administration that’s just embarked upon a policy and not looking at what the situation is,’ when, in fact, it is the opposite.”

Bush used the slogan in a stump speech on Aug. 31, but has not repeated it for some time. Still, Snow’s pronouncement was a stark example of the complicated line the White House is walking this election year in trying to tag Democrats as wanting to “cut and run” from Iraq, without itself appearing wedded to unsuccessful tactics there.

Syrian Artifacts Hint at Ancient Burial Rituals of Elite

By John Noble Wilford

Six years ago, archaeologists uncovered a solitary, undisturbed tomb in the ruins of an ancient city in northern Syria. Now, in subsequent excavations, they have exposed seven more tombs at the site, making this the only known elite, possibly royal, cemetery in Syria in the Early Bronze Age, from about 2500 B.C. to 2200 B.C.

The discoverers said the tombs contain skeletons of adults and some infants and children, several of them embellished with jewelry of gold, silver and lapis lazuli. Of special interest, they said, was the evidence of ritual animal sacrifices, including the bones of puppies and decapitated donkeys.

“Animal sacrifices were certainly a big part of this culture,” said Glenn M. Schwartz of Johns Hopkins University, leader of the excavations. “Nowhere else in the region have we seen this elaborate example of animal sacrifices as part of burial rituals.”

Schwartz said in interviews last week that the signs of sacrifices, the wealth of the grave goods and the cemetery’s setting — at the highest place in the center of the community — signified the importance of the tombs in the society of one of the most ancient cities in Syria.