BBC news with Nick Kelly.

The chairman of the West African regional grouping ECOWAS, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, has said the new military authorities in Niger have assured him that they intend to return the country to democratic rule. He was speaking during a visit to the capital, Niamey, for talks with the soldiers who took power last Thursday after ousting Mamadou Tandja as president. Caspar Leighton reports from Niamey.

Mohamed Ibn Chambas said the military authorities would include all of Niger's political and civil society in a transition period that would see a return to constitutional order. However, no time frame was given for this transition. A high-ranking member of the military authority, Colonel Djibrilla Hamidou Hima, said that President Mamadou Tandja, who was captured during the coup, was being held in a service quarters of the presidential palace, in what he said were very good conditions.

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced a controversial plan to add two major religious sites in the West Bank to Israel's national heritage list. The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem were not initially included, but the prime minister changed his mind following protests from right wingers in the governing coalition. Opponents of the move have expressed dismay. The former Palestinian cabinet minister, Mustafa Barghouti, said the decision amounted to a declaration from Israel that there was no hope for peace negotiations.

"This act in addition to the annexation of Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem is nothing but a declaration from the side of Israel that it will impose facts on the ground, annex the land, and prevent any possibility for real peace. This is a very serious declaration from the side of Netanyahu that there is no hope for negotiations and no hope for the peace that in Israel and today there is no peace partner."

Reports from Afghanistan say American Marines and Afghan troops are closing in on a Taliban stronghold in the southern town of Marjah. And in an interview on American television, General David Petraeus, the commander of all US forces in the Middle East and Central Asia, desCRIbed the Taliban response as formidable but a bit disjointed.

A big rescue and recovery operation is continuing on the Portuguese island of Madeira after Saturday's devastating floods that killed more than 40 people. About 120 more were injured by the torrent of water, mud and rocks that tore through the capital, Funchal, and other parts of the island. Sarah Rainsford reports.

Rescue teams in Madeira are still hunting for survivors and for bodies following the worst storm to hit the island in many years. Torrential rain triggered landslides and sent walls of floodwater surging through city streets, tearing up trees, smashing cars and destroying houses. Local media reports say some parts of the south coast remained cut off with access roads blocked by piles of debris. There are fears that landslides there may have claimed more lives.

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The government of Honduras says that it has restored diplomatic ties with 29 countries following its isolation after a military-backed coup last year. The Foreign Minister Mario Canahuati said Germany, France and neighboring Guatemala were among those to have re-established diplomatic relations since the swearing-in of the new president, Porfirio Lobo, at the end of last month.

The office of the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has responded to claims that members of his staff have contacted an anti-bullying charity. The spokesman said that at no time had the charity, the National Bullying Helpline, approached Downing Street about the allegations. The claim by the charity follows newspaper allegations that Mr.Brown abused members of his staff in the months after coming to office in 2007. Nick Robinson reports.

It is one thing to be accused of bullying by a journalist with a book to sell; it is another though, for someone who runs an anti-bullying helpline to allege that they have been called by staff working directly with the prime minister. Gordon Brown doesn't of course pretend to be easy to deal with. In recent days and weeks, he's admitted to losing his temper, shouting at people and even to throwing things when frustrated. However, the attempt of his close political ally Peter Mandelson to justify this behaviour as that of someone who was - in his words - emotional, passionate and demanding, has now backfired.

The music company EMI says it believes that it should retain ownership of the Abbey Road recording studios in London. Reports last week suggested that EMI was planning to sell the studios, famous as the place the Beatles recorded their album Abbey Road, as part of a plan to pay off debts.

And a Nepali teenager, who's just 56 cm tall, is heading for Europe in a bid to be recognized as the world's shortest living man. The family of Khagendra Thapa Magar, who's 18 years old, first submitted an application to the Guinness Book of World Records four years ago, but it was rejected because he was not an adult and might grow.

BBC news.

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