Despite the recent spike in violence in Iraq, 3,500 US troops will be withdrawn over the next several weeks, military spokesmen said Tuesday. One-third already have left in line with President Bush's plan to extract all of the 30,000 "surge" forces sent to Iraq last year, the spokesmen said.
The ex-Soviet republic of Georgia is "very close" to war with Russia, a senior government official said, citing the arrival of fresh troops in the breakaway Abkhazia region. Tensions between the two have been mounting steadily since Georgia claimed one of its unmanned drones was shot down over Abkhazia last month. The tension rose higher still Tuesday as Abkhazian separatist leaders said they were ready to hand over military control there to Russia.
An unidentified foreign witness will be subpoenaed to testify in a new corruption investigation against Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, reports said Tuesday. A gag order is keeping details of the case from being published, but analysts said it raises questions about Olmert's ability to continue peace efforts with the Palestinians and could embarrass him as world leaders arrive to help Israel celebrate its 60th anniversary next week. Olmert has been investigated four other times since taking office but never indicted.
Foreign Ministry officials in China would neither confirm nor deny published reports of a secretly built nuclear submarine base off the southern Hainan island.At a news briefing Tuesday, a spokesman said only: "China's defense policy is defensive. Other countries have no reason to fear." High-resolution images of the site show a vast facility that would thwart spy satellites because it's partially underground. London-based defense analyst Jane's Intelligence Review said the growing dependence by China on imported oil has intensified concern about defending its access to vital sea lanes.
Losses due to the subprime mortgage problem originating in the US will cause Swiss banking giant UBS to lay off 5,500 employees, or 7 percent of its workforce, the company said Tuesday. UBS reported $10.97 billion in red ink for the first quarter, compared with a net profit of $2.8 billion in the same period a year ago. Executives said the company would seek to sell off $15 billion in mortgage-based securities from its portfolio.
Oil wells in Indonesia "are drying," and the government must decide whether to quit OPEC, President Susilo Bambang Yudhyono said Tuesday. He said domestic output has dropped to less than 1 million barrels a day, while consumption is rising. Thus, production must be increased just to meet Indonesia's own needs, which could take up to three years, Yudhyono said. Indonesia is the only Asian member of the 13-nation cartel.
News crews and all remaining residents were ordered to leave the vicinity of southern Chile's Mt. Chaiten volcano immediately Tuesday after lava began flowing from its cone. Agriculture is the region's main income-earner, and local leaders were expressing concern for livestock that have had to be left behind, since the thick blanket of ash spewed by the volcano since late last week has contaminated their sources of water and food.
Adoptions of infants by foreigners were halted Monday by the government of Guatemala to allow checks into whether their birth mothers genuinely want to give them up. The suspension will last at least a month while authorities review 2,286 pending cases "one by one," Attorney General Baudillo Portillo said. In questionable cases, DNA testing will be used to authenticate parenthood, he said. After China, Guatemala has been the leading supplier of adoptive babies to the US, but the system has been riddled with fraud and corruption.