Almost simultaneous car-bomb explosions in Baghdad killed at least 78 people and injured 156 others Monday in Iraq's worst day of violence since late November. The attacks, in a mainly Shiite section of the city, appeared to be the work of Sunnis bent on resuming sectarian vengeance despite US and Iraqi efforts to impose lasting security measures. Implementation of the new security has not yet begun, however. In other developments, six government ministers loyal to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr attended their first cabinet meeting since ending a seven-week boycott at his instructions.
Another meeting between the exiled leader of Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas may be held in the next two weeks, their aides said Sunday night after talks that "achieved major progress" but no deal on forming a unity government. The aides said Abbas and Khalid Meshaal still differ on the wording of the document that will set out the policy for an eventual unity government. Abbas wants it to say that such a government will "abide by" accords that Israel has reached with the Palestinians. Meshaal insists on using the term "respect," because "abiding by means recognizing Israel – and that's a free gift to Israel," a Hamas spokesman said.
Thirty-eight inspectors with the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have been denied entry into Iran, reports said Monday. The IAEA also said access to Iran's nuclear facilities is being limited to other inspectors already in the Islamic republic as it conveys its anger at sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council. Against that backdrop, Iran's most senior dissident cleric slammed hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for harming the economy by his confrontation with the West over the nuclear issue. Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri said: "One has to deal with the enemy with wisdom – not provoke it. This only creates problems for the country."
Police "will do what they must" to prevent disruption of public order in Lebanon Tuesday, Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said, as another general strike called by Hizbullah is to begin. Saniora, who plans later this week to attend an international conference of donors interested in rebuilding his battered nation, blasted the strike organizers for wanting to give the world only "a disturbing picture of Lebanon." The strike is Hizbullah's latest attempt to topple Saniora and win for itself an effective veto over government decisions it opposes.
A senior leader of Somalia's ousted Islamist militants has surrendered to authorities in neighboring Kenya, reports said Monday. Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed fled Somalia, where remnants of the Islamic Courts militia are being hunted by government forces and the Ethiopian military units backing them. However, he is seen as a relative moderate who could yet help reconcile the two sides. Meanwhile, Malawi agreed to join an African Union peacekeeping force for Somalia, its defense ministry announced.
A source of irritation in US-Russian relations opened wider Monday: the plan for an antimissile system that would be based partly in Poland and partly in the Czech Republic. The chief of Russia's space forces, Lt. Gen. Vladimir Popov-kin, called it "a real threat to us" and said it "is very doubtful" that the shield is "aimed at Iranian missiles, as has been stated." The State Department, however, defended it as a significant boost to the defense of a united Europe and said, "It is not aimed at Russia."
Communists in Nepal joined an emergency meeting with the ruling coalition to come to grips with unrest that a 15-hour-a-day curfew hasn't succeeded in stopping. There are two problems: the refusal of communists to allow local police stations to reopen without their permission after last year's political crisis, and protests in southeastern Nepal that led to the fatal shooting late last week of a high-school youth. The violence stems from complaints of discrimination by residents of the southern plains that they are being left out of development and policymaking decisions.