World

The unprecedented summit between leaders of China and African nations ended Sunday in Beijing with a pledge by the host government to double financial aid to $5 billion, a contract to build an $8.3 billion railway in Nigeria, and the signing of trade deals worth another $1.9 billion. Those deals involve other infrastructure projects, resources, finance, and telecommunications, reports said. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said the two-day summit reflects "a new type of strategic partnership [that] is both the shared desire and independent choice of China and Africa ... and will help enhance solidarity and mutual support and assistance."

A major split opened in Somalia's interim government Sunday as the speaker of parliament and 25 colleagues left their base and flew to a meeting with leaders of the Islamist militia. Reports said the talks in Moga-dishu were aimed at reviving peace negotiations as fighters for the two sides face each other across a 19-mile wide no-man's land. Scheduled peace talks last week never got off the ground. The government issued a statement Saturday, calling on Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden "not to go to Mogadishu" without consulting it first.

With thousands of people marching in Taiwan's capital to demand his resignation, President Chen Shui-bian went on TV Sunday to deny prosecutors' allegations that he and his wife had embezzled public funds. He said he'd quit only if convicted in court. Corruption rumors have dogged Chen for months, but matters came to a head Friday when first lady Wu Shu-chen was indicted on three charges, among them that she looted a special diplomacy fund of $450,000. Chen apologized for "hurting the nation's image," but said he had nothing to hide. He is immune from prosecution as long as he remains in office.

One of the most violent weekends in months across southern Thailand resulted in at least four shooting deaths, the torching of four schools, and attacks on an army post and two bars. Suspicion fell immediately on Muslim separatist guerrillas despite an in-person apology last week by new Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont for the hard-line policies of his ousted predecessor. In another goodwill gesture, 92 Muslims who'd been jailed for their participation in an antigovernment rally two years ago were freed.

The hopes of five governments in the Balkans to be admitted to the European Union will be disappointed this week, the BBC reported Sunday. It said the EU's executive commission is about to publish a recommendation that Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia, and Albania should not expect to join until the "medium to long term" and that the bloc set no membership dates for other applicants. The recommendations are expected to be approved by EU leaders next month, the BBC said.

A wide swath of western and southern Europe was plunged into darkness Saturday night and early Sunday, stranding trains, trapping people in elevators, and forcing tens of thousand of households to use backup sources of heat in the freezing weather. The blackout affected much of Germany, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Austria, Croatia, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Germany's E.On utility said the problem began when it shut down a transmission line across a river so a ship could pass safely.

Both sides in the conflict between communist rebels and the government of Nepal will announce "in the next couple of days" a deal to lock up their weapons under UN supervision, a rebel chief said. That issue had been the main hurdle in peace negotiations that began last spring, with the government insisting on such a handover before sharing power with the rebels. The deal was characterized as informal, however, and neither side would discuss it.

Political tensions appeared to ease in Fiji after its armed forces pledged not to stage a coup if civilian authorities do not "ruin" the nation. But a military commander demanded to know why police reinforcements from Australia and New Zealand were permitted to enter without security clearances, a move he called "a gross breach of sovereignty." Fiji's police are investigating whether the military's threat to remove Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase was seditious.

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