Exit routes for armored personnel carriers and other US heavy weapons deployed in Iraq over the past six years are being "tested" for their effectiveness, senior Army and Marine Corps spokesmen said over the weekend. They said convoys have been carrying battlefield equipment through Kuwait and Jordan and that routes through Turkey also are being studied. Under the status of forces agreement signed by Iraq and the Bush administration, the US withdrawal is to be completed by the end of 2011, But new President Obama pledged during his campaign to have American forces out within 16 months of his inauguration.
With Russian dignitaries attending, Iran will hold a ceremony to "precommission" its Bushehr nuclear power plant this week, the official IRNA news agency said Sunday. Russia helped to build the plant, trained 700 engineers to operate it, and supplied it with fuel, but insists that it cannot be used in the development of weapons. Still, analysts said, the startup of Bushehr is likely to dismay the US, Israel, and some European governments, which are deeply suspicious of Iran's intentions.
A dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed and government troops were patroling a northern Nigerian city after weekend fighting between Muslims and Christians killed at least five people; seriously injured 28 others; and left churches, mosques, and private homes in flames. Reports said the violence in Bauchi began when Muslims arriving for Friday prayers found their parking area blocked and sought to leave their cars at a nearby church instead. Muslim-Christian riots last November killed more than 300 people in the nearby city of Jos.
A new antigovernment protest was canceled Sunday in Madagascar's capital after President Marc Ravalomanana and opposition leader Andry Rajoelina agreed to a five-point strategy to calm tensions. Among the measures: making no more "provocative" statements to news outlets and an end to "arrests of a political nature." The rivals are expected to meet again Monday.
Families of coal miners near Gujiao City in north-central China gathered to await news after a gas explosion and fire before dawn Sunday killed at least 74 men and trapped dozens of others. A spokeswoman said 114 miners were hospitalized, many of them in critical condition, but more than 300 had escaped. The accident was the worst of its type in China since December 2007. The Xinhua news agency said the mine had had no reported safety problems in the past 10 years.
As a "gesture of sympathy," the military government of Burma (Myanmar) freed 6,313 prison inmates under a general amnesty, reports said. But only 24 are political dissidents or Buddhist monks who angered the ruling junta by refusing a donation by a senior Army commander. The release didn't include democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi or her deputy, Tin Oo. Instead, Tin Oo's sentence was extended by a year. The mass amnesty was the second in five months. Last September, the ruling junta freed 9,002 prisoners.
Leaders of Europe's strongest economies agreed Sunday that all financial activities – among them tax havens, credit-rating agencies, and hedge funds – must be regulated to reverse the global meltdown. Meeting in Berlin, they backed a proposed charter that would "ultimately lead to the establishment of a global governance structure." The resources of the International Monetary Fund also must be doubled to at least $500 billion to "swiftly and flexibly" help needy members, they said.
As many as 120,000 protesters filled the streets of Dublin, Ireland, Saturday to express their opposition to the government's handling of the once high-flying economy. The Congress of Trade Unions, which organized the demonstration, said the protesters especially were angered at plans to cut government spending and tax the pensions of civil service employees by up to $3,600 a year. Ireland, often called the economic "tiger" of Europe, sank into recession in September and its unemployment rate last month was the highest since record-keeping began in 1967.