An unusual personal letter from President Bush to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il insists that the latter's government must keep a promise to reveal all details of its nuclear activities, the White House said Thursday. Under its 2005 deal with five negotiating partners, the North is required to provide such an accounting by Dec. 31, although there have been hints that the US could accept some slippage of that deadline. Bush famously included North Korea in the "axis of evil" of which he spoke in his 2002 State of the Union address.
Another delay appeared possible in voting for president in Lebanon as pro- and anti-Syrian political leaders failed Thursday to agree on a power-sharing plan that would include the makeup of a new cabinet. They were expected to meet again later; the election – which parliament already has postponed seven times – is scheduled for Friday. An "extremely concerned" UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon contacted the rivals to urge a swift end to the political vacuum that opened when pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud's term ended Nov. 23.
Tamil rebels were blamed for a new bus bombing Thursday in northern Sri Lanka, the latest in a series of attacks that the government said proves "they are weak and desperate." It said its goal was to "make sure that they are wiped out." The attack, carried out despite intense security precautions in the area, killed 16 people and wounded 22 others. Government forces have been engaging the rebels almost daily in recent months. Above, a policeman waves the curious away from the damaged bus.
Leaders of Kosovo's Albanian majority said there would be no immediate declaration of independence following the report that is due to the UN Monday on negotiations with Serbia for the province's future. The report by mediators of the talks is expected to say that the two sides haven't resolved their differences. The Albanians demand statehood; Serbia has offered autonomy while insisting that Kosovo remain one of its provinces. Serbia's allies on the UN Security Council have called for further negotiations.
Leftist President Evo Morales of Bolivia called for a referendum on whether he should keep his post in the face of violent opposition to his reform agenda. The proposal came in a speech to the nation Wednesday night. Morales (above) said the referendum also should cover the nation's nine regional governors. Six of them oppose the rewriting of the Constitution to give the majority indigenous population more say in government. Work on the document is supposed to be completed next week.
Members of a rescue crew were among those trapped underground after a gas buildup exploded in another Chinese coal mine, killing at least 70 men, reports said Thursday. The accident took place in northern Shanxi Province, whose mines are considered the most dangerous in a nation with the world's worst safety record. Casualty figures from another mining explosion last weekend in Yunnan Province were still not complete.
A secretary died and a lawyer was seriously hurt when a parcel bomb exploded Thursday in their office in central Paris. Others were less seriously injured. The building also houses a Holocaust research foundation and the law firm of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, although the latter changed its name following his election. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
The most generous infusion of money to date – $306 million – was announced by Britain's Labour government to help local communities deal with homelessness. The funding, in the form of grants that must be applied for, will be allocated over three years with the aim of focusing especially on teenagers. In September, the government said new cases of homelessness had dropped to the lowest level since the early 1980s.