North Korea's government confirmed Wednesday that it will return for another round of multilateral talks on its nuclear weapons program. But the official KCNA news agency said the decision to rejoin the negotiations came because the US had agreed to discuss "the issue of lifting financial sanctions" imposed by the UN Security Council following the North's test of a nuclear weapon Oct. 9. In Washington, however, White House press secretary Tony Snow insisted that no promise had been made to link the financial penalties to the issue of nuclear weapons. No date or site have been announced for the next round of talks, which also will involve China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea, but signs pointed to late this month or in December – probably in Beijing.
Peace negotiations between the Islamist militia that controls much of Somalia and the nation's transitional government appeared beyond salvaging Wednesday, with the two sides unable to agree even on a compromise mediator. Sudan, which is the host of the talks and was proposed as a substitute for the Arab League, was rejected by government negotiators. The Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), in turn, rejected Kenya as a mediator and said Sudan was not enough of an incentive for it to participate. Meanwhile, UIC militiamen seized a coastal town in central Somalia, an area over which neither side had held control previously. The UIC has said it will attack the government's base at Baidoa as soon as the negotiations end.
Hundreds of soldiers were deployed around the Bajaur region of Pakistan, where angry tribesmen staged antigovernment demonstrations Tuesday. The security cordon was set up despite calls by Human Rights Watch for an independent investigation into the airstrike earlier this week on an Islamic school that the government said was training terrorists for operations in neighboring Afghanistan. Eighty people died at the school, which intelligence officials said had been visited by No. 2 Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, but the protesters said all the victims were religious students.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas blasted Israel's latest raid in the Gaza Strip as "despicable" after at least six militants were killed, 45 other people were hurt, and several houses were razed Wednesday. An Israeli soldier also died in fighting aimed at taking out Palestinian rocket-launching sites and increasing pressure on Hamas to release Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped last June. But although the operation was one of the largest since Israel began a four-month counteroffensive in Gaza, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's cabinet decided against the use of even greater force, reports said.
Not enough money is available to nationalize Bolivia's mining industry after all, leftist President Evo Morales conceded on the day his government had said the process was to begin. But while analysts said his announcement represented a tactical retreat, Morales insisted that the government has "a complete package waiting" for the appropriate time to bring the minerals sector under its control as it did the oil and natural gas industry last spring. Zinc, tin, gold, and silver exports earned Bolivia $485 million in the first six months of the year, second in value only to hydrocarbons.
The first two black presidents of South Africa led tributes to P. W. Botha, a white predecessor who'd overseen some of the most notable excesses of apart-heid rule. Botha, who died Tuesday, served from 1978 to 1989. Nelson Mandela, whose 27 years in prison coincided with much of Botha's term in office, said, "We ... remember him for the steps he took to pave the way toward the eventual peacefully negotiated settlement in our country." Thabo Mbeki, who succeeded Mandela as head of state, said Botha "in his own way ... realized that South Africans had no alternative but to reach out to one another."