World

Israel's new government was to be sworn in late Thursday after a major policy address by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledging control by the Jewish state over large settlements in the West Bank "forever." He also repeated his refusal to meet the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority for peace negotiations under any circumstances and warned Iran - whose president has called for Israel's destruction - that his nation "is not helpless" and has the capacity to defend itself "against any threat."

The No. 1 customer for natural gas from Bolivia canceled plans for a new joint pipeline project and said it will turn to other countries to meet its import needs. Brazilian state-owned energy giant Petrobras said the nationalization by President Evo Morales of the oil and gas sector in Bolivia means there no longer will be sufficient return to justify increased investment. While Morales's move has alarmed investors and Bolivia's neighbors, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said "there is no crisis" and pledged to resolve difference "around a negotiating table."

A power failure was identified as the reason residents of some South Pacific islands weren't alerted to a possible tsunami after Wednesday's powerful underwater earthquake. The temblor, with a magnitude of 7.9, caused only minor damage across the region and a water surge of less than two feet. But Tongans, who were closest to its epicenter, did not receive the warning, nor did all but one of Fiji's 110 inhabited islands. The devastating Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami in the Indian Ocean led to a review of the warning systems in 23 countries as well as a simulated reoccurrence that is scheduled for later this month.

Employing such terms as "grave" and "despicable," the Vatican excommunicated two Roman Catholic priests in China who'd been elevated to bishop without its consent. It also said the ordinations by the communist government-sanctioned church in China "create new obstacles" to reestablishing diplomatic relations that were broken in 1951. China doesn't allow the Vatican to appoint its own bishops or permit Catholics there to recognize the authority of the pope.

The June 4 presidential runoff in Peru will be between front- runner Ollanta Humala and ex-chief of state Alan Garcia, elections officials said. Both are leftists. Humala, a former Army officer, won the first round of voting April 9, but not by a majority. Meanwhile, Garcia, who led Peru from 1985 to 1990, had been in a tight race with conservative legislator Lourdes Flores for second place. With only 0.02 percent of the ballots still to be counted, Flores can't hope to overcome Garcia's lead, the officials said late Tuesday.

Bowing to US pressure, Mexican President Vicente Fox decided not to sign legislation that would decriminalize the possession of narcotics. Aides said earlier in the week that the measure was misunderstood and wouldn't make Mexico a welcome mat for "drug tourism." But Fox returned it to Congress Wednesday, saying it needed "corrections" to make "absolutely clear in our country [that] the possession of drugs - and their consumption - are a criminal offense."

Members of parliament in the Solomon Islands chose a new prime minister who favors close ties with China rather than with Taiwan. The election of opposition leader Manasseh Sogavare was the second in 16 days. The earlier choice of Snyder Rini, who was seen as having Taiwanese financial backing, triggered a violent backlash against the Chinese business community and brought a new deployment of hundreds of foreign peacekeepers to the islands.

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