Mideast Report

BAGHDAD (JTA) — Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is suffering from endocrine cancer and his son Qusay has assumed many of his duties, according to news accounts.

Saddam appointed Qusay, who is reportedly in charge of the government's security apparatus, to head a leadership committee if Saddam dies or is unable to rule.

Saddam's health has visibly deteriorated in recent days, according to the reports.

Barak allaying fears of Iraqi missile attack

JERUSALEM (JPS) — There is no reason to be concerned that Iraq might attack Israel during the coming months, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said, but the government is monitoring the situation.

"We are following everything that is going on. We are ready for any development," Barak said while touring a school in Ramle last week. "I am not sure that we need to be concerned now, and I am not sure that the Patriot missile battery [in Germany] needs to be bothered."

Barak's comments came in response to a report that the U.S. military put a Patriot antimissile battery on alert because Iraq has been known to threaten Israel during U.S. presidential campaign years.

However, the danger of an Iraqi attack cannot be discounted, said Efraim Inbar, an analyst with the Begin-Sadat Strategic Studies Institute at Bar-Ilan University. Inbar noted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is unpredictable and also has an account to settle with the United States.

An official in the Prime Minister's Office said Barak has not taken any "special measures" in light of the development.

Prof gets copyright on Dead Sea Scrolls

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel's Supreme Court recognized an Israeli scholar's claim to the exclusive copyright over the ancient text known as the Dead Sea Scrolls because of his effort in filling in the gaps in the fragmented text.

Ben-Gurion University Professor Elisha Qimron sued a U.S. magazine publisher, Hershel Shanks, after he printed Qimron's reconstruction in a book without seeking his permission or crediting him.

Shanks argued that the copyright belongs to the original author of the 2,000-year-old text.

Jerusalem mayor backs a compromise

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The mayor of Jerusalem supported for the first time the idea of declaring the area around the Temple Mount to be under "divine sovereignty."

The Likud Party's Ehud Olmert said that as long as Israeli police have the right to enter the site, he is not opposed to the idea, which would give Muslims complete access to holy sites in the area.

Meanwhile, under another plan reportedly put forth by Egyptian mediators seeking to help broker a final peace settlement, Israel and the Palestinians would jointly administer Jerusalem during a trial period of five to 10 years.

The proposal would grant Israel control of the Western Wall, and the Al-Aksa Mosque would be in Palestinian hands. Israeli-Palestinian police squads would patrol and supervise security in areas used by both groups.

Peace negotiators are offering possible ways of resolving the contentious dispute over control of Jerusalem and the Old City, as Prime Minister Ehud Barak reportedly told U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan this week that Israeli-Palestinian peace talks must be concluded within a matter of weeks.