World

Infighting among Hamas and Fatah followers in the Gaza Strip is worse than living under Israeli rule, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday. Palestin-ians, he warned, are "on the verge of civil war" despite the Hamas-Fatah coalition government. He also said militants only harm the Palestinian cause by launching rockets into Israel that provoke stern retaliation. Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are expected to meet later this week, and the BBC reported that Abbas will present a proposed new cease-fire calling for a simultaneous halt to cross-border attacks.

Calm – and residents – returned to a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon Tuesday where Army troops and Al Qaeda-style militants had battled earlier. But the Army was shelling the Nahr al-Bared camp in the north for a fifth straight day, and the leader of militants there vowed to expand the conflict. The violence also reached Beirut, where a bomb exploded aboard a public bus in a Christian neighborhood, wounding seven people.

For the second time in less than a week, dozens of Taliban militants drowned in a river in southern Afghanistan while fleeing coalition forces, reports said. The Taliban, however, claimed to have beheaded one of five hostages they'd agreed to trade for the remains of slain military commander Mullah Dadullah when government officials did not keep their end of the deal. They warned that the other four also would be executed if the handover failed again.

Basque separatists called an immediate halt to their "permanent" cease-fire with Spain's government. An ETA statement Tuesday said Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero had not met "minimum conditions to continue the process of negotiations." ETA declared the truce in March of last year, and the two sides made an attempt at peace talks. But the government broke it off after ETA exploded a bomb at Madrid's airport in December, killing two people.

Effective immediately, political parties in Thailand may resume meetings and other preparations for the expected national election in December, the military-backed government said. But the move doesn't apply to members of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's Thai Rak Thai Party, which has been ordered to disband. They may form a new party, but not until after parliament passes enabling legislation. The ban on political activity was imposed last September when the military overthrew Thaksin.

A police crackdown on a banned religious group in Nairobi, Kenya, erupted in gunfire Tuesday, and reports said at least 21 followers were killed. The Mungiki sect, inspired by Mau Mau opposition to British rule in the 1950s,has been linked to murders, extortion, and political violence. Police said they found leaflets calling on youths to join an uprising against the government.

With power outages already widespread, Zimbabwe's largest electrical utility announced a 50 percent rate hike, effective immediately. Further increases can be expected in line with inflation, the Electricity Distribution Co. said. Zimbabwe, whose 3,714 percent inflation rate is the world's highest, imports one-third of its electricity, but the availability of surplus power from suppliers such as South Africa and Zambia is expected to decline as their own consumption rates grow.

A trucker who may have had the sun in his eyes failed to stop at a grade crossing in southeastern Australia Tuesday, and his rig collided with a passenger train, killing at least 11 people. Twenty-four others were hurt – six of them critically – and 13 reportedly were missing.

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