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Egypt to Rebuild Lighthouse of Alexandria

Egypt’s Supreme Antiquities Council has approved the rebuilding of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The Lighthouse, which was built by the Ptolemaic Kingdom in 280 BC, once stood at approximately 450 feet tall and was one of the world’s tallest man-made structures for hundreds of years.

Now, centuries after it was badly damaged by a number of earthquakes, Egypt is seeking to rebuild the lighthouse near its original location.

“Members of the Permanent Committee of the Egyptian Antiquities have approved an old project, submitted previously by the Alexandria governorate, aiming to revive the lighthouse,” Antiquities Council Secretary General Mostafa Amin told Egyptian newspaper Youm7.

According to Amin, the comprehensive studies and a final plan have been submitted to Alexandria’s governor for final approval.

The Lighthouse, also known as the Pharos Lighthouse, was commissioned shortly after Alexander the Great died in the 3rd Century.

The structure was badly damaged by a series of earthquakes that hit Alexandria and the Mediterranean area between the 3rd and 12th centuries, Greco-Roman archaeology professor Fathy Khourshid told the Cairo Post.

He described the building as having three stages: a lower square section with a central core; a middle octagonal section; and a circular section at the top with a mirror to reflect sunlight during the day. At night, sailors entering the harbor at Alexandria would have been guided by a fire at the top of the tower.

After finally being destroyed in 14th Century, remnant stones of the structure were used to build the Citadel of Qatibay in 1480, which still stands in Alexandria.

Along with being one of the world’s tallest structures for centuries, the Lighthouse was also the third longest-surviving Wonder after the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus and the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Iranian general: War with the US would be ‘no big deal’
by Stuart Winer

Revolutionary Guard Corps commander says if West thought it could attack Iran it would have done so already

Two top Iranian generals on Thursday taunted the United States, saying the much-discussed military option to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities is “ridiculous,” that Washington knows it can’t be done, and that their country “welcomes war with the US.”

The saber rattling came as Western powers prepared to sit down for another round of negotiations with Iran to reach an agreement on putting curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.

“We welcome war with the US as we do believe that it will be the scene for our success to display the real potentials of our power,” he said, according to a report by the semi-official Fars news agency. “We have prepared ourselves for the most dangerous scenarios and this is no big deal.”

Salami threatened that Iran would strike any airbase used as a launch-pad for a strike on his country.

“We warn their pilots that their first flight [to attack Iran] will be their last one and no one will be allowed to go back safe and sound,” he warned.

The commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, gave a similarly belligerent warning during a ceremony in the city of Semnan, in the north of the country. Jafari reasoned that if the West really thought it could attack Iran at will, it would have done so already; instead world powers “kneel” before Iranian might, he boasted.

“The military option that the Westerners speak of constantly is ridiculous and they know that if the military option could have produced any result, they would have already used it many times, and today they have shifted their focus to other types of threats and to the soft war front,” Jafri said.

“Today, the Islamic Iran’s pride and might has made the world’s biggest materialistic and military powers kneel down before the Islamic Republic,” he proclaimed.

Iranian officials have recently ramped up their war of rhetoric in what local media said is a response to threats by US officials to bomb their country.

Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei bragged Wednesday that the US “can’t do a damn thing” to harm his country’s nuclear facilities.

Although Iranian media reports have not made clear to which US officials they have been referring, last month The Washington Post reported that Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) called for a limited military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities similar to the four-day bombing campaign of Operation Desert Fox in 1998 against Iraq, over Saddam’s failure to comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions.

US Secretary of State John Kerry also said that the US could still strike at Iran, in an interview with Israel’s Channel 10 aired this week.

Negotiations between Iran and six world powers — the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany — were scheduled to resume on May 12 in Vienna, the European Union and Tehran said earlier this week. The political leaders of the other world powers involved in the negotiations are to join the talks on May 15.

Iran and the world powers want to turn a framework accord reached in Switzerland on April 2 into a full agreement by June 30.

Following a marathon of negotiations in Switzerland, Iran agreed on April 2 to what US President Barack Obama called a “historic understanding… which, if fully implemented, will prevent (Iran) from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Under the agreed parameters, Iran, which denies seeking the atomic bomb, is set to scale down its nuclear program for 10 to 15 years or more, and allow closer UN inspections.

In return, the United States and five other major powers committed to lift certain sanctions that have caused the Islamic Republic major economic pain by strangling its oil exports and financial system.

However, Israeli officials, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have harshly criticized the framework agreement, saying it leaves Iran with the ability to develop nuclear weapons in the future.

Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.

Rulers Snub Arab Summit, Clouding U.S. Bid for Iran Deal
by Jay Solomon and Carol E. Lee in Washington and Ahmed Al Omran in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Saudi monarch’s decision signals that the Arab states aren’t on board with nuclear accord

WASHINGTON—Saudi Arabia’s monarch pulled out of a summit to be hosted by President Barack Obama on Thursday, in a blow to the White House’s efforts to build Arab support for a nuclear accord with Iran.

King Salman’s decision appeared to ripple across the Persian Gulf. Bahrain said on Sunday that its ruler, King Hamad bin Isaa Al Khalifa, had opted not to travel to Washington.

The only two monarchs from the six countries confirmed to attend the summit at the White House and the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., were the emirs of Qatar and Kuwait.

At stake for the White House is Mr. Obama’s key foreign-policy initiative, an Iran pact that is proceeding toward a June 30 deadline without support from regional powers. King Salman’s decision signals that the Arab states aren’t on board and could continue to act on their own to thwart Tehran, as Saudi Arabia has done in leading a military coalition against Iran-backed rebels in Yemen.

Senior Arab officials involved in organizing the meeting said not enough progress had been made in narrowing differences with Washington on issues like Iran and Syria to make the Saudi ruler’s trip worth it.

“There isn’t substance for the summit,” said an Arab official who has held discussions with the Obama administration in recent days.

Senior U.S. officials said as recently as Friday that they expected King Salman, who took power in January, to travel to Washington.

The Obama administration planned the summit as a way to build Arab support for the Iran nuclear deal by giving more arms and security guarantees to members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council—Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman.

The White House on Sunday sought to play down any rift with Riyadh or the other GCC countries, stressing Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and his deputy would be at the meetings.

“We look forward to the attendance of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, with whom the president has met on several occasions, including in the Oval Office in December 2014 and January 2013,” said Bernadette Meehan, spokeswoman for the National Security Council.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, said King Salman was staying in Riyadh to focus on the Yemen cease-fire and humanitarian aid effort.

“Minister Al-Jubeir reiterated King Salman’s commitment to achieving peace and security in Yemen and his eagerness to the speedy delivery of humanitarian aid to the brotherly people of Yemen,” Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said.

The Obama administration has cited the GCC summit as crucial for building regional support for the U.S.’s Middle East policies, particularly its diplomatic engagement with Iran.

Saudi Arabia has been sharply critical of the White House’s efforts to curb Tehran’s nuclear capacity in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.

Riyadh has also pressed the U.S. to take more-aggressive steps to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Iran’s closest Arab ally, and to push back the Tehran-supported insurgency in Yemen.

Secretary of State John Kerry met with King Salman on Thursday in Riyadh to discuss the Camp David agenda, U.S. officials said. He then met with the GCC’s foreign ministers in Paris, where he offered to give the GCC countries non-NATO major-ally status, said a senior U.S. official. But the Arab diplomats showed “very, very tepid interest,” the official added.

“It’s something we’re prepared to consider, and we had raised it with them,” the U.S. official said. “But they seemed to think it was not that critical or even important a step.”

Last Monday, French President François Hollande met in Riyadh with King Salman and other Gulf Arab leaders to discuss regional security matters. Within the international bloc of countries negotiating with Iran, France has emerged as the most critical of the effort.

Saudi officials told Mr. Kerry on Friday that King Salman would attend the Camp David summit, U.S. officials said, and that the overall message in Paris was positive.

The White House said that day that the Saudi monarch would meet President Obama on Wednesday ahead of the dinner.

“We have heard nothing negative about what we are trying to do,” the U.S. official said on Sunday.

In Paris, Messrs. Kerry and al-Jubeir agreed on a plan to forge a cease-fire in Yemen and to promote a political transition in the Arab country.

The Obama administration also pushed for better integrating the U.S.’s and GCC countries’ missile defense systems as a way to contain Iran.

“Whoever comes will be empowered to speak in the name of their government and will sign onto whatever‎ is agreed to at Camp David,” the administration official said. “So the dynamics may change based on who’s there and there will have to be maybe some adjustments.”

Some Arab officials said they didn’t believe the agenda at Camp David would go far enough to address their concerns about Iran.

Some of the Arab states said they were hoping the GCC could sign a mutual defense treaty with Washington, similar to South Korea’s and Japan’s.

Such treaties would bind the U.S. to defend the Persian Gulf states if they faced Iranian aggression.

The White House, however, didn’t believe it could win congressional approval to back such a treaty, said U.S. and Arab officials involved in the discussions.

Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and Qatar also are seeking more-advanced weaponry to counter Iran, including surveillance equipment, cruise missiles and drones.

These countries also have expressed interest in buying the Pentagon’s more-advanced jet fighter, the F-35.

Sales of such military gear are complicated by the U.S.’s strategic alliance with Israel, these officials said. Congressional legislation mandates the Jewish state must maintain a “qualitative military edge” over its neighbors, including Saudi Arabia.

Two people briefed on the presummit negotiations said the Saudis ultimately decided the agenda wasn’t substantive enough to require the attendance of 79-year-old King Salman.

The Sultanate of Oman, which hosted secret negotiations between the U.S. and Iran in 2012 and 2013, said its deputy prime minister, Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud al-Said, would lead his country’s delegation. The country’s ruler returned home in March to Muscat from Germany, where he had received months of receiving treatment for an undisclosed illness.

The U.A.E. is sending a delegation led by Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Write to Jay Solomon at, Carol E. Lee at and Ahmed Al Omran at
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