In the first free election in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, voters in Mosul chose an interim mayor and a 24-man council to run local affairs while US troops provide security. The city, Iraq's third-largest, and its surrounding area are mostly Arab, but the council also includes Kurds, Assyrian Christians, Turkmen, and other ethnic minorities.
In a new set of signs that India and Pakistan are edging closer to meaningful dialogue on their deep disputes, the New Delhi government responded positively to an invitation to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to come for a visit. But no date for a trip to Islamabad was announced, and Indian officials said "careful preparations" must be made "on the ground" first. India's Foreign Ministry also did not react immediately to a Pakistani offer to rid itself of nuclear weapons "if India is ready." Pakistan has made the offer before, along with a proposal for a nuclear-free South Asia, only to be rebuffed by India.
The leaders of neighboring South Africa, Malawi, and Nigeria called on hard-line Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his chief rival in an effort to encourage "internal dialogue" that might ease the political chaos that has hamstrung the country for three years. But there was no immediate indication that their mission was successful. Foreign journalists were barred from covering the meeting. And when the leaders later met with Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, demonstrators outside their hotel were arrested. The MDC has helped to organize two damaging antigovernment strikes since mid-March. Mugabe has said he'll meet with Tsvangirai only if the MDC recognizes his controversial reelection last year.
The first of 23,000 suspects accused of taking part in the Rwandan genocide were released from "solidarity" camps that were to teach reconciliation with survivors of the 1994 ordeal. Another 20,000 are scheduled to be sent home from the camps later this year. The program is aimed at easing the pressure on Rwanda's prison system, where many of the suspects had been held for almost a decade without being formally charged. While in the camps, the detainees built homes for genocide survivors, repaired roads, and performed other tasks. But they still are subject to trial in local courts.
For the first time, a sitting prime minister in Italy appeared at his own trial. Silvio Berlusconi quickly came to his own defense against charges that he and four other defendants bribed judges in 1985 to influence the sale of a state-owned food-marketing company. He told the court his involvement was only to serve the best interests of the state because the original sale price was less than the company was worth. A conviction could trigger a constitutional crisis and affect Italy's assumption of the presidency of the European Union in July.