World

Five more Palestinians were killed and at least 18 others were wounded in another day of gun battles in the Gaza Strip between Hamas loyalists and President Mahmoud Abbas's security forces. With concerns growing that the two sides are close to all-out civil war, King Abdullah II of neighboring Jordan invited Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas to Amman to discuss ways to "overcome their differences." Their two sides have been in a power struggle since January, when Hamas won control of the Palestinian legislature. The violence has worsened since Abbas called in a speech last weekend for an early election to end the impasse. Hamas has denounced his call as a coup. Above, an Abbas loyalist uses a Gaza City wall for cover from the shooting.

No signs of combat were reported around the only stronghold of Somalia's interim government Tuesday, despite the passing of a deadline for troops from neighboring Ethiopia to leave or be attacked. Instead, the Islamic Courts Council (ICC), which had issued the ultimatum, said it wanted "talks to continue" with the government while at the same time insisting that they could not "unless [the Ethiopians] pull out." The two sides have been preparing for weeks for a battle over Baidoa, the seat of government. Ethiopia admits to having only a few hundred military trainers in Somalia supporting the government, but military experts put the number as high as 20,000.

All members of leftist President Hugo Chávez's ruling coalition in Venezuela are being merged into a single political party, a spokesman announced Monday. Chávez proposed the move in his recent campaign for reelection, saying it would consolidate a loose collection of allies as he steers the nation toward socialism. Those not wishing to participate are free to go their own way but "will leave the government" if they do, he said in a speech last week. Opposition parties are not directly affected by the change, which critics compared to the consolidation of power by the communists in Cuba in the early 1960s.

Six foreign medical personnel were sentenced to death Tuesday by a Libyan court after being found guilty in a high- profile trial of infecting hundreds of children with the AIDS virus. First, however, the convictions automatically go to the Supreme Court for review. Five of the defendants are Bulgarian nurses, and their government called for international pressure to free them. The sixth, a doctor, is Palestinian, and the Palestinian Authority appealed to Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi to overturn the ruling. Dozens of the children have died. A medical study supported by Western nations concluded that the infections were due to unsanitary conditions and occurred before the doctor and nurses arrived in Libya. But it was not released in time to affect the trial. Below, one of the nurses, Cristiana Valcheva, awaits the verdict in a courtroom holding cell.

A new snag emerged in the peace process in Nepal as the communist rebel movement called a two-day general strike, complaining that it hadn't been consulted in the appointment of ambassadors to 14 other nations. It said the strike would begin Dec. 31 unless Prime Minister B.P. Koirala's government "revoke[s] these anti-people decisions immediately." The government denied it had done anything wrong. Under last month's peace accord, the communists are to join the government, but not until after their weapons have been placed in storage under UN supervision.

Police detained a second suspect in the murders of young prostitutes in Britain's most closely followed criminal case in decades. The arrest was the second in two days and came at dawn Tuesday in Ipswich, the town near which the remains of all five victims were found earlier this month. By law, the first suspect would have to be released Tuesday night unless he was charged in the case.

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