WORLD: Iraqi PM may lose election

Iraqi PM may lose election

BAGHDAD -- The man who has led Iraq for the past four years is battling for his political survival just as U.S. troops are getting ready to pack up and go home.

With about 83 percent of the votes counted from parliamentary elections, it's not at all clear that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will emerge the winner because a secular challenger is showing surprising strength. And a drawn-out battle of negotiations with rival coalitions is inevitable.

''Al-Maliki is fighting for his political life,'' said Joost Hiltermann, an analyst at the International Crisis Group. ''He may well come out of this no longer prime minister. He may lose the elections, that is how close it is.''

Israel opens West Bank

JERUSALEM -- Israel on Wednesday lifted its tight restrictions on Palestinian access to Jerusalem's holiest shrine and called off an extended West Bank closure after days of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.

Despite moving to end the lockdown, Israel still kept thousands of police officers on alert as an uneasy calm settled over the holy city.

Wrong religion: Israel ruins re-identified

JERUSALEM -- Israeli archaeologists have announced that ruins long thought to be of an ancient synagogue are actually the remains of a palace built by Arab caliphs 1,300 years ago.

The site, on the banks of the Sea of Galilee, was identified as a synagogue in the 1950s because archaeologists found a carving of a menorah, a seven-armed candelabra that is a Jewish symbol. But scholars said in a report published this week that the identification was an error, and that the site was a winter palace used by the caliphs of the Umayyad dynasty.

Couple jailed over sexy texts

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- A string of steamy text messages has resulted in a jail sentence for an Indian couple, local media announced Wednesday, in the latest case of passions clashing with the law in the cosmopolitan, yet occasionally conservative, Gulf city of Dubai.

The conviction said the sexual content of the texts suggested the unnamed pair planned to ''commit sin'' -- a reference to an extramarital affair, which is illegal in the United Arab Emirates.

The pair each were sentenced to three months in jail.