World

Major cities in Pakistan were at a virtual standstill Monday due to a strike called by opposition leaders on the heels of the worst street violence in decades. In Karachi, public demonstrations were banned and security forces were ordered to shoot anyone involved in trouble. Over the weekend, 41 people died and almost 150 others were hurt in ongoing protests against the suspension of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. Among those killed: the high court's registrar, who was to be a witness in the inquiry against Chaudhry on misconduct charges.

US and Polish officials opened talks on a prospective missile defense shield Monday as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice traveled to Moscow to try to ease a strained bilateral relationship over that issue. Rice told reporters there was "no basis" for talk of a new cold war between the two nations. But Russia's Foreign Ministry warned her publicly not to "try to force [the US] point of view" on the Kremlin. Russian leaders repeatedly and stridently have denounced the proposed missile shield, part of which would be built in Poland.

Three more people were killed in the Gaza Strip Monday as fighting between supporters of Hamas and Fatah revived worries of a civil war and the collapse of their two-month-old unity government. The new violence, which began last Friday and has caused at least eight deaths, also brought the resignation of Interior Minister Hani al-Qawasmi. Qawasmi complained of a lack of authority as Hamas and Fatah competed for control of security.

The Taliban confirmed the death of field commander Mullah Dadullah in Afghanistan, calling it "a very big loss for us." But, claiming to be acting on leader Mullah Omar's behalf, a spokesman read a statement to the Associated Press by phone Monday, insisting that Dadullah's death "won't create problems for the jihad" and that "the mujahideen will carry on his same type" of attacks against "occupying countries."

On another of his visits to southern Thailand, Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont promised more government spending "within weeks" to promote economic development as a counterweight to the spread of Muslim separatist violence. He said his government remains interested in meeting separatist leaders for peace negotiations. Despite his words, militants in the region shot to death two married couples Sunday and Monday, beheaded one of the victims, and burned another school to the ground.

In an emotional speech Sunday night, ultranationalist Tomislav Nikolic quit as speaker of Serbia's parliament after only five days in office. But he warned that if the new coalition government "peacefully accepts" a UN plan for the independence of volatile Kosovo Province, his Radical Party "will not sit calmly." Nikolic's speech capped a heated debate on whether Serbia should identify with its traditional ally, Russia, or renew a push for closer relations with Western governments.

In an apparent backlash against the Mexican government's crackdown on organized crime, a senior federal antidrug officer was murdered Monday, reports said. The unnamed victim was found in his car in Mexico City. Drug traffickers have been retaliating for President Felipe Calderón's campaign by targeting soldiers, police, and others involved in it.

Parliament in Japan took the first major step in rewriting the pacifist Constitution, OK'ing rules and procedures for a national referendum on the matter. Buoyed by opinion polls, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks a charter that would give Japan a military capability that allows for an increased role in world affairs.

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