Iraq's armed forces banned all vehicular traffic from the streets of Baghdad Monday, the fourth anniversary of the capture of the capital by American troops. But on the orders of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, thousands of his supporters (some of them above) left Baghdad for the holy city of Najaf, where they planned to protest the US presence. Iraq's government said over the weekend that it and neighboring countries will participate in another regional peace conference May 3-4 in Egypt.
Fifteen British Navy personnel began two weeks' leave Sunday after being freed by Iran, and the Defense Ministry said they were free to sell the story of their ordeal to the news media and keep any money they received. But in an interview with the Financial Times newspaper, Iran's ambassador said, "Now it is up to the British government" to reciprocate with a gesture of goodwill "to establish sensible lines of communication." By that, Rasoul Movahedian said he meant Britain's help in recognition by the West of Iran's right to a nuclear program.
The Taliban claimed Sunday to have beheaded the Afghan translator who was kidnapped in early March with Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo. When Mastrogiacomo was freed March 19, the Afghan government traded five imprisoned Taliban for him at the request of Italian officials. But in the case of translator Ajmal Naqshbandi, a spokesman for the militants said, "The government did not care for our demands." The driver of the vehicle carrying Mastrogiacomo's party was later found beheaded.
Through mediators from Egypt, Hamas provided a list of prisoners in Israeli jails it wants freed in exchange for Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who was captured in a cross-border raid last June. The list included 1,000 people, among them high-profile militant leader Marwan Barghouti. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Cabinet is expected to meet this week to decide whether to loosen restrictions on freeing Palestinian prisoners if there is to be an exchange. Last Friday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Shalit "cannot remain imprisoned all this time; [he] must be released."
ETA, the Basque separatist movement in Spain, reiterating its "firm commitment" to peace with the government "if attacks [on us] disappear." But it questioned whether the government had the political will to give it "equal terms" in peace talks, which went nowhere after ETA exploded a bomb at Madrid's airport Dec. 30, killing two people.
In an Easter address to the nation, embattled President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine upped the ante late Saturday in hisconfrontation with Viktor Yanukovych, the prime minister. Yushchenko accused followers of his bitter rival of trying to impose tyranny on the rest of Ukranians and vowed to press ahead with the May 27 election he called last week after dissolving parliament. The Constitutional Court is expected to take up the legality of Yushchenko's moves later this week. Analysts said its ruling could take up to a month, leaving little time for an appeal before the scheduled vote.
Armed militants "intercepted" a car carrying two foreign employees in Nigeria's oil-producing delta and took them hostage. Both were identified as Turks who work for a company that maintains the telecommunications system aboard an offshore oil rig operated by Agip, an Italian producer. They are thought to be the only two foreigners currently in the custody of militants in the Niger Delta. Four others were freed last week.
Tourism officials in Greece insisted they aren't worried about the impact of a sunken cruise ship last week off the island of Santorini, one of the nation's prime attractions. The captain was charged Saturday with negligence, breach of regulations, and other offenses after it ran aground in a well-marked channel. He blamed the accident on a strong current. More than 1,100 tourists and a crew of 391 had to be rescued, many of them losing their possessions in the process. Two passengers remain missing.