(JTA) Ariel Sharon underwent a tracheotomy. In Sunday night's operation, a breathing tube was inserted through the Israeli prime minister's throat so that his respirator mask could be removed. Doctors were quoted as saying that the procedure would help in Sharon's recovery from his January 4 stroke, but there was still no sign of him emerging from a coma that was medically induced during surgery. According to one medical expert quoted by Haaretz, if the prime minister does not come around by next week, he may be pronounced as being in a permanent vegetative state.

(JTA) Allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons would bring it closer to its objective of destroying Israel, President Bush said. "I want to remind you that the current president of Iran has announced that the destruction of Israel is an important part of their agenda, and that’s unacceptable," Bush said Friday after his first meeting with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. "And the development of a nuclear weapon, it seems like to me, would make them a step closer to achieving that objective."

The European Union and the United States now agree that Iran should be referred to the U.N. Security Council for its failure to cooperate with nuclear inspectors, and European and American diplomats are to meet next week with their Chinese and Russian counterparts to achieve a consensus on what to do. Bush and Merkel stopped short of saying the Security Council should impose sanctions, but said Iran’s current refusal to allow full inspections is unacceptable.

Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful, but Western nations believe it is close to developing a nuclear bomb.

(JTA) A new study found that 40 percent of Ashkenazi Jews are descended from just four women. The study, produced by the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, determined that the four women lived somewhere in Europe during the last 2,000 years, but not necessarily in the same place or the same country. The four women left a genetic signature that is detectable in some 3.5 million Ashkenazi Jews today.

(JTA) The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations reportedly asked Secretary General Kofi Annan to explain why he posed in front of a map that leaves out Israel. The New York Sun reported Friday that John Bolton wrote to Annan asking him why he attended a U.N. event, "The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People," that featured the map. "Given that we now have a world leader pursuing nuclear weapons who is calling for the State of Israel to be wiped off the map, the issue has even greater salience," the Sun quoted Bolton's Jan. 3 letter as saying.

Annan's speech at the Nov. 29 event noted that Palestinian terrorism against Israelis was an obstacle to Palestinian progress. Bolton wants funding to be cut to the U.N. groups that organized the event, which are solely devoted to promoting the Palestinian cause.

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