Fierce fighting in southern Iraq has put the scheduled withdrawal of British forces on hold, Defense Secretary Des Browne told Parliament Tuesday. The government said late last year that 1,500 soldiers would be recalled this spring with the OK of their commanders. But the recent violence has forced the troops back into combat after they'd largely assumed a training role for Iraqi soldiers and police. Although the fighting ended in a cease-fire with Shiite militias, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared it a success Tuesday. He stopped short of calling off the offensive that produced a backlash against his forces, however.
Unionists and other supporters of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez vowed to show their solidarity with her taxes on farmers Wednesday via a rally in Buenos Aires, the capital. Organizers said they expected a turnout of 80,000 people. Fernandez offered some concessions to the striking farmers, but rejected their main demand: that she rescind the taxes on agricultural exports. She claims the taxes will help to control inflation and redistribute wealth.
A Taliban commander who previously has escaped from prisons in Afghanistan was recaptured following a gunbattle between his men and a police patrol Tuesday. Officials in southern Helmand Province said Mullah Naqibullah was wounded in the fighting. He is believed to have a close relationship with Taliban chief Mullah Omar. Two months ago, Naqibullah bribed his way out of a jail – the second time he has escaped in two years.
Police and hundreds of members of the Muslim Brotherhood fought in Egyptian cities Tuesday, one week before local elections that the latter are being denied permission to compete in. Election to local councils is critical because independent candidates for president need their endorsement to qualify for the ballot.
Eighty-seven more Tibetan exiles were arrested as they tried to storm the Chinese Embassy in Nepal Tuesday, bringing the two-day total to more than 370. Nepal's government had threatened Monday to preemptively arrest people believed likely to take part in such demonstrations. In a joint letter to Prime Minister G.P. Koirala, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch urged immediate restoration of freedom of expression and assembly for the more than 20,000 Tibetans living in Nepal.
Banking giant UBS of Switzerland said its losses due to the subprime lending problem more than doubled in the year's first quarter, to $37.4 billion – dwarfing those of any other financial institution in the world. UBS announced it would seek to raise $15 billion in new capital by selling new shares and that its chairman, Marcel Ospel, would resign. Previously, he'd planned to stay for one more year.
Tensions rose higher between Colombia and Ecuador as the latter's government sued in the International Court of Justice over alleged aerial fumigation of coca fields, claiming that it damaged legal crops across their common border. Coca is used in making cocaine, of which Colombia is the world's leading producer. The UN court will be asked to find the coca-eradication project a violation of Ecuadorean sovereignty and to award seven years' worth of financial compensation. Colombia's government said it long since had agreed to use only manual eradication methods along the border.
Recruiting of candidates for Japan's astronaut program resumed Tuesday for the first time since 1999, sparked by interest in recent contributions to the International Space Station. The Aerospace Exploration Agency said it will choose as many as three candidates for eventual duty aboard the station. Its program was in tatters as the 20th century came to a close after a series of failed rocket launches. But last month the first piece of a Japanese laboratory was installed on the space station, and astronaut Takao Doi was a member of the crew.