With OPEC members expected to announce a cut in production Friday, crude oil was trading as low as $67.80 a barrel on international markets, a level not seen since June of last year. Russia, the largest non-OPEC producer, said it wouldn't reduce its output but would "set aside" an unspecified reserve to "reach efficient pricing parameters."
Donors led by the US and the European Union pledged more than $4 billion Wednesday to help rebuild parts of Georgia that were damaged in its brief war with Russia last summer. Among the facilities bombed, shelled, or set on fire in the fighting: apartment buildings, airfields, railroad tracks, highways, orchards, forests, and naval vessels.
Two days after suggesting that Russia's Navy would leave a strategic Black Sea port if its lease isn't renewed, the Kremlin said it will offer "specific proposals" for an extension. But Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made clear that Russia expects to negotiate the matter "with the Ukrainian government which will be in office at that moment" – an indication that it hopes pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko will be out of power by then. Yushchenko has said Russia's Navy must leave the port of Sevastopol when the lease expires in 2017.
At least 17 people died and 30 others were hurt – some of them critically – when a bomb hidden on a motorbike exploded outside a police compound in Imphal, India, reports said Wednesday. The city is the capital of northeastern Manipur State, where 19 different groups of rebels operate. Most of them accuse the national government in New Delhi, 1,000 miles west, of exploiting the region's natural resources but otherwise ignoring its development.
With their land base under assault by government troops, Tamil rebels in northern Sri Lanka hit back Wednesday against two cargo ships bringing supplies to the region. A military spokesman said the rebels rammed the ships with small explosive-laden boats, damaging both but failing to sink them. Meanwhile, monsoon rains and heavy resistance by rebel defenders have slowed the operation to take the base at Kilinochchi, the military said.
Angry protesters cornered Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat in a parking garage outside Bangkok Wednesday and pelted him with shoes in the second direct threat to his safety in three weeks. Guards shielded him from the objects and pushed him into a waiting car, which sped away. The incident also was notable because the protesters all were civil servants, analysts said, a sign of how deep Somchai's unpopularity has become. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court convicted deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Somchai's brother-in-law, of corruption and sentenced him in absentia to two years in jail.
Share prices plunged 11 percent on the Argentine stock exchange Tuesday after President Cristina Fernandez proposed legislation to nationalize all of the nation's private pension funds. If passed by Congress – where her party holds a majority of seats – it will put the government in control of $29 billion worth of investments that she said must be shielded from the global financial crisis.
President Evo Morales of Bolivia scored another political triumph Tuesday night as members of Congress OK'd legislation to enable a referendum on his proposed new constitution. With tears in his eyes, he quickly signed the measure for a plebiscite next Jan. 25. Morales had tried to impose it by decree but was thwarted by the courts, which ruled that only the legislature had that authority. The congressional vote followed a compromise between the president and dissident governors, who agreed to support the plebiscite if Morales pledged to seek only one more five-year term.