VATICAN CITY-- Doctors have advised Pope John Paul II to extend his hospital stay a few more days, but he will return to the Vatican by the start of Holy Week on March 20, the pontiff's spokesman said Thursday. Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls stressed that extending the hospital stay was not a sign of problems. He said the pope was speaking and would make another appearance at a hospital window this Sunday, but that it was not known whether his voice would be strong enough to greet the faithful.
MADRID, Spain -- Muslim clerics in Spain issued what they called the world's first fatwa, or Islamic edict, against Osama bin Laden on Thursday, the first anniversary of the Madrid train bombings, calling him an apostate and urging others of their faith to denounce the al-Qaida leader. The ruling was issued by the Islamic Commission of Spain, the main body representing the country's 1 million-member Muslim community. The fatwa said that according to the Quran "the terrorist acts of Osama bin Laden and his organization al-Qaida ... are totally banned and must be roundly condemned as part of Islam."
BEIRUT, Lebanon-- The Lebanese prime minister who was forced to resign by a wave of popular opposition was returned to his post Thursday, riding a counterwave of this week's huge pro-Syrian demonstration. Omar Karami's reappointment, which ensures Damascus' continued dominance in Lebanon's politics, is a slap to the opposition and forces it to evaluate how to recoup the momentum that had forced his Feb. 28 resignation. Karami rejected suggestions his reappointment was inspired by Syria.
HONG KONG -- Hong Kong's leader said he tendered his resignation Thursday because of failing health and repeatedly denied speculation China pushed him out in a bid to tighten its grip on the former British colony and halt a movement toward greater democracy. After ignoring 10 days of rumors that he was quitting, Tung Chee-hwa called a news conference and announced he wanted to step down with two years left in his term. He denied wide speculation that China pushed him out. China has "repeatedly affirmed the work that I and my colleagues and the government has done. That [a forced resignation] is not the case at all," he said.