Tourist site raises Jerusalem worry

JERUSALEM - A hard-line Israeli group said Tuesday that it was launching plans for a new tourist center at the site of a politically sensitive archaeological dig in a largely Arab neighborhood outside Jerusalem's Old City, drawing fire from Palestinian officials.

The project's sponsor, the Elad Foundation, said the new visitors center and parking garage would be built above a section of the excavation area known as the City of David, leaving the ruins below accessible. The foundation said that no additional land beyond the current excavation site would be used and that construction, which must pass several zoning committees, was still several years away.

Israeli archaeologists at the City of David, named for the biblical monarch thought to have ruled from the spot 3,000 years ago, are investigating the oldest part of Jerusalem. Finds there linked to life and ritual in ancient Jerusalem regularly make international headlines, and the dig has become one of Jerusalem's most popular tourist attractions.

Critics say the new plan will cement Israel's hold on Silwan and could destabilize the volatile neighborhood, where Palestinian residents clash on occasion with Jewish residents and police.

- AP

Russia reassigns central strategist

MOSCOW - Facing a swelling wave of public anger over fraud-tainted elections, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin on Tuesday rejected demands for a rerun of the vote, while the Kremlin reassigned the architect of his tightly controlled political system to a job with no apparent domestic political duties.

The order by President Dmitry A. Medvedev to make Vladislav Surkov a deputy prime minister in charge of economic modernization was variously interpreted as a sign that leaders recognize the need for significant reform and as a cosmetic move with little meaning.

Allegations of fraud in the Dec. 4 national parliamentary election sparked a wave of protests unprecedented in post-Soviet Russia. Putin, who was president from 2000 to 2008, seeks to reclaim the post in elections in March, and the protests have undermined his image as the inevitable winner.

- AP

Prince Philip, 90, is out of hospital

LONDON - Prince Philip returned to the royal family's country estate Tuesday, after a spell in the hospital undergoing treatment for a blocked coronary artery.

Philip, Queen Elizabeth II's husband, spent four nights in the hospital recovering from a coronary stent procedure. He was taken to Papworth, a specialist heart hospital in Cambridge, on Friday after complaining of chest pains.

It was the most serious health scare suffered by Philip, 90, who is known to be active and robust. He was forced to miss the royal family's traditional Christmas festivities, which include attending a morning church service, viewing the queen's annual Christmas broadcast together, and a shooting party on Boxing Day.

- AP