On an unannounced visit to Iraq, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown confirmed Wednesdaythat his nation's troops will be withdrawn "no later than May 31." This appeared to accelerate the timetable for a British pullout. Earlier, it had been anticipated by next summer. As Brown conferred with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad, two bomb blasts targeted traffic police. They killed at least nine people and wounded 43 others.
A "significant" antipiracy operation was being planned by China's government to go to the Horn of Africa after four more ships were attacked at sea by armed bandits Tuesday. One of them, a Chinese vessel, was under siege for five hours before an international response drove the pirates away. Deployment of Chinese military units so far from home would be unprecedented, but the UN Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to authorize all nations to use "necessary measures" to pursue pirates in the area, including by air and on land.
With Athens and Greece's second-largest city, Thessaloniki, bracing for new antipolice protests Thursday, students hung huge banners from the Acropolis urging similar demonstrations across Europe. In addition to Greek, the lettering was in Italian, Spanish, German, and English. Seventy people have been hurt in rioting since Greek police fatally shot a teenager Dec. 6; an estimated 400 others have been arrested. Prime Minister Costas Kara-manlis has ejected calls to resign, but in Parliament Tuesday he acknowledged "long-unresolved problems" that "disappoint young people."
Tamil rebels and Sri Lanka's government traded new claims that they'd inflicted heavy casualties on each other in fighting around the separatist capital, Kilinochchi. But while the claims couldn't be verified, analysts agreed that the assault by government forces on the town has been the most successful since the civil war began and will be difficult for the rebels to reverse. In October, the military said it was within 1.5 miles of Kilinochchi. That has since been revised to 12 miles.
Legislators in Colombia's lower house of Congress passed a bill Wednesday that would prevent popular President Alvaro Uribe from seeking reelection when his term ends in 2010. The action sets up a confrontation in the Senate, where Uribe's allies are expected to try to amend it or introduce a new measure that would enable him to run again. He is barred from serving a third term and has not said whether he wants to continue in office. But supporters claim that he alone can finish a crackdown against leftist rebels and the drug trade.
Emergency crews had to evacuate 53 people from gondola cabins Tuesday night after a support tower collapsed at the ski area in British Columbia that will be cohost of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Twelve people were slightly hurt in the incident at Whistler-Blackcomb, 78 miles northeast of Vancouver. One of the cabins fell about 30 feet to the ground; the rest remained suspended for almost four hours, reports said.
Police fired into the air in Haiti's capital Tuesday to disperse hundreds of people demanding that President René Preval honor his promise to allow the return of exiled predecessor Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Two policemen were hurt, but the demonstration ended peacefully. A similar rally took place in the second-largest city, Cap-Haitien. Aristide, who fled to South Africa amid an armed revolt in 2004, has said he'd shun politics if allowed to return home.