World

Hamas offered Israel's government a new cease-fire Sunday in what analysts said may be a sign that months of economic isolation in the Gaza Strip are taking a toll. The offer, dismissed as a ploy by an Israeli spokesman, came as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas were preparing to meet again Tuesday to try to narrow differences over the coming conference on Palestinian statehood.

To the "great relief" of the Red Cross, four of its staffers who'd been kidnapped late last week by the Taliban in southern Afghanistan were freed unharmed. But the Taliban also claimed responsibility for the bombing of a bus in Kabul, the capital, that killed 28 soldiers and two civilians. And its spokesman rejected a new offer by President Hamid Karzai of peace negotiations and positions in his cabinet. As long as foreign troops are in Afghanistan, the Taliban "will never" talk with Karzai, the spokesman said.

At a projected cost of $16 million, the al-Askari Shiite shrine in Samarra, Iraq, will be rebuilt once Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, ends in two weeks, the UN announced. The shrine, one of the most revered in Shiite Islam, was targeted in two attacks blamed on Sunni extremists. The first, in February 2006, destroyed its golden dome and triggered tit-for-tat sectarian violence that killed thousands of people. The second attack, last June, toppled its minarets. Financing for the project will come mostly from the European Union.

Unidentified attackers killed 10 African Union peacekeepers in Sudan's Darfur region Saturday night in the worst violence involving the troops since their mission began in 2004. Eight others were wounded and 50 were reported missing. The Sudanese Army and the rebel Justice and Equality Movement blamed each other for the raid. It came as Nobel Peace Prize-winners Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu and other dignitaries were due to arrive in Sudan on a new peace initiative.

Kurdish separatist rebels were blamed for the ambush of a minivan in southeastern Turkey Saturday that killed all but two of its 14 passengers. The violence, reportedly the worst in years, appeared to be in revenge for the death of a rebel leader the day before. It also followed the signing of a pact by Turkey and Iraq aimed at curbing the activities of the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party on both sides of their border.

Worries grew over the future of the vital tourism sector in the Maldives after a bomb packed with nails exploded in the capital Saturday, wounding 12 vacationers. The incident is believed to be a first in the Sunni Muslim Indian Ocean archipelago, whose economy is heavily dependent on spending by foreign visitors. All but the most seriously hurt victims quickly left for home. Police detained two men for questioning but declined to characterize them as militants.

More than 3,000 candidates were seeking seats in Ecuador's Congress Sunday, with late opinion polls indicating that allies of President Rafael Correa would win a majority. The outcome is vital, since the 130-member legislature must OK a new draft constitution before it can be put to a nationwide referendum. With a rewritten charter, Correa seeks a strong new foundation for his leftist agenda.

Running without any serious challenger, Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia broke the world record for the marathon at Berlin Sunday, finishing the 26.2-mile race in 2:04:26. His time was 29 seconds faster than the previous record, set in 2003, also in Berlin. The Ethiopian holds two Olympic gold medals and 24 previous world records, all in distance events.

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