World

In an apparent reversal of its previous position, South Korea agreed Sunday to ship to rival North Korea the 400,000 tons of food aid it had said might be delayed because of the latter's failure to halt its nuclear program.The deadline for shutting down and sealing the Yongbyon reactor was April 14. The shipments are to begin late next month, reports said. South Korean negotiator Chin Dong-soo (above l., reaching to shake the hand of his North Korean counterpart) said, however, that their "timing and speed" would be linked to the implementation of the North's obligation.

Between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Israeli defense forces killed nine Palestinians over the weekend in the heaviest surge of violence in months. At least five of the dead were identified as militants, among them a bombmaker who'd been on Israel's most-wanted list for more than three years. In response, Hamas vowed revenge via "all means of resistance" and called on Arab states to drop the idea of negotiating peace with Israel.

Fighting in Somalia's capital appeared less intense Sunday than at any time early last week, although the interim government said it planned a major new offensive against the Islamist militants and allied clansmen. Residents of northern and southern Mogadishu were warned to leave before the attacks. More than 200 people were reported to have died over the weekend, with gunfire so heavy that their remains couldn't be retrieved from the streets.

Despite more violence blamed on Muslim separatists, the state rail system restored service to restive southern Thailand Sunday, a week after suspending it for safety reasons. The union representing railway employees said it had promises of improved communication and security for the trains from the military-backed government. Late last week, Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont revisited three southern provinces and said he'd consider offering amnesty to Muslims who quit the ranks of attackers. But he also said the government supports Buddhists who arm themselves against the attackers.

The highest turnout rates in decdes were being reported in France as voters went to the polls to elect a new president. More than 30 percent of those eligible had cast ballots by mid-morning. The race was expected to come down to a contest between ex-Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist nominee Ségolène Royal. But ultrarightist Jean-Marie Le Pen was predicting he'd again survive to the runoff between the two top finishers as he did in the last election five years ago. The runoff is scheduled for May 6. Below, a voter carries her ballot and a baguette in Saint-Cloud, outside Paris.

Heavily armed police kept supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez away from thousands of marchers in Caracas Saturday as the latter protested his decision not to renew the license of the nation's largest privately owned TV station. It expires May 28. Chávez has drawn heavy international criticism for the move, which he has justified on grounds that RCTV supported the brief 2002 coup against him.

Two ex-prime ministers of Bangladesh were in opposite straits Sunday as the interim government sought to exile both in a campaign to tame a climate of political corruption. A court in Dhaka issued an arrest warrant for opposition leader Sheikh Hasina, although she again was blocked from boarding a flight home from London at the government's request. At the same time, rival Khaleda Zia was contesting an apparent house-arrest order even though she and family members repportedly have agreed to go into exile.

Either of two expected takeover bids Monday for Dutch banking giant ABN Amro would, if accepted, result in the biggest buyout in the industry's history, Bloomberg.com reported. ABN Amro's market value is listed as $94 billion. The prospective bidders were identified as Barclay's Bank of London and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

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