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Palestinians give US a month to talk Israel out of building settlements

Palestinians, backed by Arab powers, have said they will give the US one month to persuade Israel to halt the building of settlements in the West Bank or risk the collapse of peace talks.

The message, issued at an Arab League meeting in Libya on Friday, represented a reprieve for Washington as it tried to salvage five-week-old talks -- stalled over Israel's refusal to extend a settlement freeze on occupied land where Palestinians seek statehood.

Diplomats said Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian National Authority, and Arab foreign ministers had mooted "alternatives" to a future resumption of face-to-face negotiations with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a closed session.

Mr Abbas' proposals included seeking US and UN pledges of recognition for a future Palestinian state taking in all of the West Bank, and a threat by the president to step down over the impasse, diplomats said.

Key Pakistan border crossing reopens

Pakistan will reopen a key border crossing used to transport supplies to Nato troops in Afghanistan, authorities said yesterday -- the 10th day of a blockade that has raised tensions with Washington and left stranded trucks vulnerable to attack.

In a short statement, the foreign ministry said it decided to reopen the border after assessing security and that authorities on both sides of the border were co-ordinating to resume the supply traffic smoothly.

Pakistan closed the north-west crossing at Torkham on September 30, the same day a Nato air strike killed two Pakistani soldiers along the border.

On Wednesday, the US apologised for that strike after an investigation concluded the "tragic event could have been avoided with better coalition force co-ordination with the Pakistan military".

Police keep rival protests in check

A huge British police operation kept violence largely at bay as rival protest groups gathered in Leicester yesterday.

Around 2,000 officers were on duty to keep rival factions apart as the English Defence League and Unite Against Fascism held demonstrations in Leicester.

Police said there were 13 arrests. In what the force said was its largest policing operation in 25 years, officers from 12 other forces were drafted in to help keep the peace.

Time to celebrate, not mourn, Lennon

John Lennon's son Julian and first wife Cynthia unveiled a monument to the late singer on the 70th anniversary of his birth, and said the time for mourning the former Beatle was over.

Yesterday's presentation of a €251,350, 18ft structure, designed to promote peace, was one of several events being held around the world to celebrate one of pop music's most influential singers and songwriters who was murdered in New York in 1980 at the age of 40.

Manhattan planned a benefit concert and Lennon's widow Yoko Ono was to perform alongside their son Sean as the Plastic Ono Band in Reykjavik.

Cynthia, 71, and Julian Lennon, 47, looked on in Lennon's birthplace, Liverpool, as a choir performed his music. "I think the mourning is over for John," said Cynthia -- married to Lennon between 1962 and 1968. "I think it's time to celebrate, which is what we're doing."

Moss drug scandal 'did not harm fees'

The boss of Kate Moss's modelling agency yesterday revealed the furore over the beauty's alleged drug use did not harm her fees in any way.

Sarah Doukas, who founded the agency Storm, admitted that as the Moss cocaine scandal erupted, she told clients: "All press is good press."

The model was pictured apparently using the drug in 2005, and at the time there were fears the incident would destroy her career. She has since continued in the top-flight of her profession.

In an interview to be broadcast today on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, Doukas said Moss's price had not been adversely affected by the storm.

Sunday Independent