KANDAHAR, Afghanistan

Taliban calls bomb attacks a warning to top general

The Taliban have called their deadly bomb attacks on the southern city of Kandahar a warning to NATO’s top general that the insurgents are ready for the war’s next major offensive in their heartland.

The series of bombings Saturday night demolished buildings and killed dozens – including 10 people at a wedding – and prompted the provincial governor to plead for more security in the area. Fearful residents said they had no confidence that either government or foreign troops can protect them.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said Sunday that the attacks proved the insurgents were still able to operate despite the buildup of Afghan and international troops in preparation for a push into Kandahar province.

A Taliban-linked Web site called the attacks in the south’s largest city a “warning” to NATO’s Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who has said coalition forces will target Kandahar later this year after driving the insurgents from a key stronghold in neighboring Helmand province.

JERUSALEM

Israeli premier apologizes for embarrassing Biden

Israel’s prime minister expressed regret Sunday for a crisis with the United States over plans to expand a Jewish neighborhood in east Jerusalem, even as American officials played down the apology and called for bold Israeli action to get peace efforts back on track.

With tensions rising, Israel deployed hundreds of police around east Jerusalem’s Old City and heavily restricted Palestinian access to the area – the scene of several recent clashes.

Israel’s already strained relationship with the United States hit a new low last week when the Jewish state announced plans during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden to build 1,600 homes for Israelis in east Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as their capital.

The announcement embarrassed Biden, who quickly condemned the plan, and cast a shadow over upcoming U.S.-mediated peace talks.

In his first public comments on the matter, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet on Sunday that he was sorry about the diplomatic fiasco and had ordered an investigation into the incident. Netanyahu has claimed he had no prior knowledge.

ATLANTA

Leaky heart valve repairs may not require surgery

Many Americans with leaky heart valves soon might be able to get them fixed without open-heart surgery. A study showed that a tiny clip implanted through an artery was safer and nearly as effective as surgery, doctors reported Sunday.

The device is already on sale in Europe, and its maker, Abbott Laboratories, hopes to win approval to sell it in the United States next year. Elizabeth Taylor reportedly got one last fall – the 77-year-old actress told fans about it on Twitter.

About 8 million people in the United States and Europe have leaky mitral valves – the valve between the heart’s left upper and lower chambers. Not all are so bad they need treatment, but the worst cases can lead to heart failure over time.

In the study, six times more people who had surgery suffered complications during the next month than those who got Abbott’s MitraClip. Deaths, strokes and blood transfusions were less common with the device. The clip was not dramatically less effective than surgery after one year.

Doctors called the study a watershed – the first big test of repairing or replacing heart valves through arteries rather than drastic surgery.