UN officials thought it necessary to qualify remarks by a senior adviser that American troops in Iraq have been "extremely overenthusiastic" in helping the nation prepare for Sunday's crucial election. Carina Perelli "misspoke" in telling a news conference that UN staffers in Iraq have had to discourage get-out-the-vote efforts by American military personnel, a spokesman said. The UN has been helping to prepare for the election from offices both in and outside Iraq.
Palestinians were banned by their own leadership from carrying weapons, unless they are in any of the security forces - another move by new President Mahmoud Abbas to improve relations with Israel. Abbas also said he'd appoint an interior minister known to be tough on militant organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Analysts said while it was unclear whether Abbas could make the order stick, it showed his intent to take control of the streets in Palestinian areas away from militants. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he was "very satisfied with what I hear is happening on the Palestinian side, and I have a serious interest in advancing the process with him."
By the end of next month, all 400,000 refugees in Indonesia's devastated Aceh Province are to be moved out of the tent camps in which they've been sheltered since the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami, the government said. About one-third are expected to accept new quarters in government-funded wooden barracks, a spokes-man said, although it's hoped that all will choose them for at least a year, which would ease sanitation, food-distribution, and census-taking. Meanwhile, new President Susilo Bambang Yudhyono offered an amnesty to Aceh's separatist rebels on the eve of peace negotiations, which are expected to open Friday.
A leading organizer of the petition drives that forced a national referendum last summer on recalling leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has been charged with treason, the Washington Times reported. The accusation against Maria Corina Machado for "conspiring to destroy the republican nature" of Venezuela claims that she and two codefendants took $31,000 from the US National Endowment for Democracy to help fund their work. Machado has said that the money was used to conduct workshops on ensuring that the referendum was "just and transparent." Chávez survived the recall via a disputed vote-count.
Heavy snow, the first of the winter, blanketed much of Europe, closing highways, airports, and schools; stranding rural communities; and canceling the kickoff of new Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's campaign for membership in the European Union. Snow fell as far south as the normally balmy island of Mallorca.