World

Sensational new allegations were emerging about the plans of 17 Islamist terrorist suspects arrested earlier this week in Toronto. According to reports, some of them intended to invade Parliament, take hostages, and behead Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other leaders unless Canada withdrew its troops from Afghanistan and Muslim prisoners were freed. Plans also called for the suspects to seize the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., the reports said. Lawyers for the suspects complained that they were denied private consultations with their clients.

Leaders of key European nations either heaped scorn on a new report implicating their governments in the secret transfers of terrorist suspects by the US Central Intelligence Agency - or dismissed it as "nothing new." The document was released Wednesday by the Council on Europe. It admits to having found "no formal evidence" of secret CIA detention centers yet still accuses Poland and Romania of operating them and claims Ireland, Britain, Portugal, Greece, and Italy were "stop-overs" for flights transporting suspects to such centers. Other accusations involve Germany, Spain, Sweden, Cyprus, Bosnia, Macedonia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan. Polish Prime Minister Kazmierz Marcinkiewicz called the report "slanderous." In Dublin, the Foreign Ministry said Ireland had "absolutely" not colluded in the alleged transfers.

For the second time in two weeks, Hamas agreed to withdraw its 3,000-member militia from public view in the Gaza Strip in a bid to end its power struggle there with rival Fatah. But the black-clad force could still be seen in the streets Wed-nesday. There also appeared to be no change in Hamas's refusal to accept a proposal that could restart the flow of international aid to the Palestinians in exchange for agreeing to recognize Israel. Without that acceptance, President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to announce as soon as Thursday a referendum on the matter. A new opinion poll found that 77 percent of Palestinians would vote for the plan, an outcome that analysts said could deeply embarrass Hamas.

Almost 600 inmates were freed from prisons across Iraq Wed-nesday in a gesture by the fledgling government to defuse the sectarian strife that has brought the country to the brink of possible civil war. In all, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki promised to release 2,500 prisoners, many of whom are held on suspicion of involvement in Sunni Muslim resistance to the new government. Maliki said the release would not include loyalists of Saddam Hussein's former regime or "terrorists." An estimated 28,700 people are in detention in Iraq.

Tribal militants claimed responsibility for another attack on an energy installation in Nigeria's delta early Wednesday that killed at least four government soldiers. Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) gunmen also kidnaped five employees of the natural gas plant, which is owned by Royal Dutch/Shell. A MEND spokes-man said they'd be freed if the government released one of its leaders who is charged with treason. The Shell plant was closed following the attack. MEND already is responsible for cutting one-quarter of Nigeria's crude oil output over the past four months and it vows to stop energy production entirely unless more oil wealth is shared with residents of the impoverished delta.

Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri of East Timor refused demands that he step down to end the violence that has racked his tiny nation. But he agreed Wednesday to an international investigation into the source of the trouble, even though the UN special envoy to East Timor told news organizations that such a probe "could bring down the government." Many Timorese blame Alkatiri for the unrest since he forcibly put down a revolt of dissident Army troops. The leader of the revolt said he was open to a dialogue to "correct the problem" but that Alkatiri should not be part of any solution.

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