In another tumultuous day in Iraq, terrorists exploded a car bomb in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, killing at least 10 people, and Shiites thwarted a move to fast-track a decision by parliament on the fate of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Jaafari's allies voted to delay consideration of his bid for a new term until all parties in the legislature agree on who will fill the government's other leadership posts. Meanwhile, Iraq's military announced the capture of a senior ally of Al Qaeda terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
An "absolute" deadline of Nov. 24 was set by the leaders of Britain and the Republic of Ireland for a return to a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland. "At that point," said British Prime Minister Tony Blair, "we close the chapter or we close the book" - meaning that if Protestants and Catholics can't agree to work together, direct rule from London would be ensured and the pay of Ulster's legislators would stop. Blair and his Irish counterpart, Bertie Ahern, said the Northern Ireland assembly would be recalled May 15 to come up with an administration.
Fighting back against his critics, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin offered no apologies for the new youth-employment law that has triggered unrest across France and vowed to continue trying to solve the problem "to the end." De Villepin called joblessness among young people "totally scandalous." He said he was "listening" to opponents of the new law but avoided direct answers to questions about whether it would be withdrawn. As he spoke, however, students applied more pressure for repeal of the measure by blocking roads, trains, and the shipment of parts to the vital Airbus assembly plant.
The partners in the Orange Revolution that swept to power in Ukraine in 2004 were headed for a reunion after patching up the differences that drove them apart last summer. President Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine Party, despite its third-place finish in the March 26 national election, said it had agreed to team up with former Prime Minister Yulia Tymo-shenko's forces and the Socialist Party in a new coalition that would deny power to the pro-Russian Party of the Regions. The latter, led by ex-President Viktor Yanukovich, finished first in the election, but with too few seats in parliament to form a government. It remained unclear whether the charismatic Tymoshenko would return to her old job, but reports said she intended to settle for nothing less.
Another round of peace negotiations between the government of Sri Lanka and the island nation's Tamil separatist rebels will open 12 days from now in Switzerland, mediators said. The two sides met there in February to try to shore up their fragile truce and pledged to scale back violence. Instead, they've accused each other of repeated cease-fire violations. The rebels also say the government has failed to honor its promise to disarm paramilitary units that target Tamils. At least 166 people have died since December in the latest wave of violence.
More than 170 people were arrested in Nepal's capital on Day 1 of a general strike to demand that King Gyenendra restore democracy. Except for the protesters and police, Kathmandu's streets were empty, although organizers have planned a massive rally Saturday despite a new ban on public assembly. Meanwhile, communist rebels attacked a town 220 miles southwest of the capital Wednesday night, killing 22 people and taking 28 hostages. The rebels said they won't target the capital region during the strike.
By a 4-to-3 vote, the Supreme Court of Uganda rejected an opposition leader's bid to have the Feb. 23 reelection of President Yoweri Museveni overturned. The justices said, however, that the principle of free and fair voting had been compromised. Runner-up Kizza Besigye, who filed the challenge, said his Forum for Democratic Change would not respect the ruling.