Mideast Report

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JERUSALEM (JPS) — The Palestinian Authority has significantly improved relations with Iran, Israeli intelligence sources said Monday.

The improved Palestinian-Iranian ties come only one year after the Palestinian Authority attacked Tehran for supporting terrorism and trying to overthrow its chairman, Yasser Arafat.

The sources said the change began in March, before the May election of Mohammed Khatami as the new president of the Islamic republic.

The sources said the rapprochement comes as Arafat is also quietly stepping up contacts with Iraq.

Israeli prices climb, but less than thought

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Israel's consumer price index for May rose by a lower-than-expected 0.5 percent to 148.6 points, the Central Bureau of Statistics announced last week.

The data was welcomed by economists and has fueled speculation on a possible cut in interest rates for July.

The annual inflation rate based on the CPI in the first five months of the year is 9.5 percent, within the government's target of 7 percent to 10 percent.

The principle price rises were felt in clothing and footwear, fruit and vegetables, and communications. With the exclusion of the latter, these increases are explained as seasonal. The major factor offsetting the rises was considerable decline in housing prices.

Israeli gets U.S. OK on nuke safety patent

TEL AVIV (JPS) — The U.S. Patent Office has granted a patent to Tel Aviv University nuclear scientist Prof. Alvin Radkowsky for an invention that could greatly reduce the global threat of nuclear terrorism.

Radkowsky, who immigrated to Israel in 1972 after serving as chief scientist of the U.S. Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program for 24 years, invented a technology that uses thorium instead of uranium for much of the fuel in the core of nuclear reactors, and does not produce any byproducts that could possibly be used for making weapons.

At present, all the approximately 400 commercial light-water reactors in the world discharge more than 70 tons of plutonium annually. Only four kilos of plutonium are needed to make a nuclear bomb.

The invention is known as the non-proliferative light-water thorium reactor, or the Radkowsky Thorium Reactor (RTR).

Thorium is much more plentiful and cheaper than uranium — it can even be mined in Israel — but until now, no practical method was found to exploit its potential in nuclear energy production.

Ex-collaborator gets jail term for spying

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel has sentenced a former Palestinian collaborator to just under three years in prison for spying for the self-rule authority's security services.

The man, whose name the court barred from publication, was also convicted of contact with a foreign agent and being an accomplice to a crime.

According to the charge sheet, the man received an Israeli identity card three years ago and moved to Israel. Last year, he met with Palestinian security officials and passed on information.

The sentence of two years and nine months was relatively light because of a plea bargain.