President Shimon Peres 85 years old on Thursday

Aides to President Shimon Peres say he will spend his 85th birthday in southern Israel's Negev desert as part of his crusade to promote growth in the sparsely-populated arid region. A statement from Peres' office said he would celebrate Thursday with a visit to the Negev town of Dimona, home to Israel's main nuclear reactor but blighted by high blue-collar unemployment. Among the events scheduled in a program lasting around 10 hours in searing summer heat, the energetic octogenarian will be serenaded by a blind people's choir and a woodwind orchestra and greeted by children from local summer camps and the town rabbi. He will also give radio and TV interviews to local media students and visit leaders of a Beduin tribe in a tent set up in the town center.