Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's trip to the Middle East next week may or may not involve sitting in on the next round of talks between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, informed sources said. The two leaders are expected to discuss efforts to drive Hamas deeper into political isolation. Those efforts also will bring a 22-man Arab League delegation to Israel Thursday for what the latter called "necessary contacts." The visit, confirmed by both sides, will be a first.
An inspection mission estimated to cost $5 million was OK'd Monday by the International Atomic Energy Agency for the shutdown of North Korea's nuclear reactor at Yongbyon. No date was announced for the arrival of the UN experts, however. A spokesman said that is expected once North Korea has received its first shipment of oil in return for the shutdown, perhaps later this week. Critics say the shutdown may be meaningless, however, since Yongbyon already may have outlived its usefulness.
An estimated 140,000 "fully armed" Turkish troops are massed on the border with Iraq, the latter's foreign minister claimed Monday. But so far, there have been no incursions, Hoshyar Zebari said. Turkish leaders had no comment on the claim. Turkey has been pressuring the US and Iraq to eliminate bases used by rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party and has threatened a cross-border offensive if necessary. Iraq has warned against such a strategy, although Zebari conceded that his government's forces are "over-occupied with securing the streets and ... cannot open a new front."
Three Muslims of African origin were found guilty of conspiracy to murder for plotting a repeat of the London transport bombings that killed 52 people in July 2005. A jury was still considering verdicts against three other defendants in the case. The plot was to have been carried out two weeks after the original attacks on subway trains and a bus, but the devices failed to explode. Defense lawyers argued that the bombs were duds designed only to frighten the public in a protest against the war in Iraq.
Food stores across Zimbabwe had no bread, cornmeal, or other staples to sell Monday as a crackdown on government-ordered price cuts entered its third week. But a national police spokesman said the crackdown is "not a gimmick and will be sustained at all costs," even though it has led to panic buying. Retailers complain that the order prevents their businesses from remaining viable. To date, more than 1,300 people have paid $4,600 to $6,600 each in fines for defying the order.
Three-year-old Margaret Hill, was freed by her captors in Nigeria's oil region, ending a four-day ordeal involving the first seizure of a foreign child there. Other children have been taken in the ongoing wave of kidnappings, but all were of Nigerian birth. The main militant group in the region, the Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta, said it wasn't responsible for the crime and would find and punish the perpetrators "in our own way."
Saying, "We just want the money back," prosecutors in Indonesia filed a $1.5 billion civil suit Monday against ex-dictator Suharto. It alleges that he looted $441 million from the national treasury during his 32 years in power. The remaining amount is sought in damages. Suharto was deemed too ill to stand trial when the government charged him with graft and corruption following his resignation in 1998.