Shiite militants were blamed for the bombings of two Sunni Muslim mosques south of Baghdad Wednesday. Damage was heavy, but there were no casualties. The attacks appeared to be in revenge for the powerful explosion that killed at least 87 people the day before at a Shiite mosque in the Iraqi capital.
Except for crude oil shipments, most of Nigeria was at a standstill Wednesday as unions mounted a strike over the new increase in fuel prices. Last-minute negotiations with the government to avert the strike failed, and union leaders rejected a series of concessions by new President Umaru YarAdua, among them an offer to cut the tax hike on gasoline by almost half.
In a move seen as securing his hold on power, President Nursultan Nazarbayev dissolved Kazakhstan's parliament and scheduled an election for Aug. 18 to choose a new legislature. The new vote wasn't due until 2009, and analysts said moving up the date gives opponents little time in which to campaign. The last election produced a parliament without one opposition legislator. Nazarbayev is widely credited with guiding the oil-rich former Soviet republic to prosperity. But he also has ruled uninterrupted for 17 years and is constitutionally free to continue for as long as he desires.
Protests by Muslims spread to Malaysia Wednesday over the conferring of knighthood on controversial author Salman Rushdie. They come on top of angry demonstrations in Iran and Pakistan (above), whose governments summoned British envoys to register disapproval. A Pakistani government minister was quoted as saying that the award by Queen Elizabeth II last weekend could justify suicide bombing attacks. Many Muslims view Rushdie's 1988 novel, "The Satanic Verses," as blasphemous, and a fatwa against his life by the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini has never formally been rescinded.
If voters in Thailand approve a new draft constitution, elections leading to a restoration of democracy may be held Nov. 25, Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said. That would be almost a month earlier than previously envisioned by the military-backed government. The referendum is scheduled for Aug. 19. Surayud's ousted predecessor, Thaksin Shinawatra, was ordered by the government Tuesday to return from exile to face corruption charges.
July 11 was announced as the date of a ruling by Libya's Supreme Court on the appeals of foreign medical personnel accused of infecting children in the 1990s with the virus that's believed to cause AIDS.Fifty-six of the 438 affected children have died, and the Palestinian doctor and five Bulgarian nurses (one of them, above, behind a guard at her trial) in the case have been sentenced to be executed. The high court is expected to confirm the sentences, although Libya is under strong international pressure to release the defendants.
No breakthroughs were achieved by negotiators for Morocco and the Polisario Front rebels on the political future of Western Sahara. But they wound up two days of UN-sponsored talks – their first in seven years – late Tuesday by agreeing to return "in good faith" in mid-August. The two sides have been in dispute over the phosphate-rich territory for 32 years, although they agreed to a cease-fire in 1991.
Members of the Senate in Colombia used a last-minute procedural vote to back away from their earlier approval of what would have been the first nationwide homosexual rights law in Latin America. Its sponsors said they'll reintroduce it in the next legislative session. The move came as opposition lawmakers in Costa Rica sponsored a bill to legalize same-sex civil unions. They acknowledged, however, that its prospects for passage in a predominantly Roman Catholic country were uncertain.