After three weeks of rancorous debate, Afghanistan's constitutional convention agreed on a compromise charter for the war-ravaged nation. It reportedly meets demands by US-backed President Hamid Karzai for a strong presidential system. An impasse over official status for the languages of Uzbek and Turkmen ethnic minorities threatened to derail the gathering near Kabul, but UN Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi and US Ambassador Zalmay Khalizad reportedly brokered a resolution late Saturday night. The accord paves the way for elections in June, although the UN has said they may be delayed three months due to security concerns. Above, an Afghan ex-fighter adds to a pile of weapons turned in Sunday under a demobilization program.
In what was hailed as a gesture of rapprochement, the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers met privately for the first time since their rival nuclear-armed states narrowly avoided another war over disputed Kashmir in 2002. The talks, between India's Atal Behari Vajpayee and Zafarullah Khan Jamali of Pakistan, occurred on the sidelines of a regional summit. After calling for a "bold transition from mistrust to trust" during the opening of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Islamabad, Vajpayee reportedly requested a meeting Monday with President Pervez Musharraf.
Voters surged to the polls in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, with Mikhail Saakashvili, a Western-educated lawyer and protest leader, the overwhelming favorite among five candidates. Hours before the polls closed, election officials declared the vote valid with a turnout of about 70 percent. Saakashvili, who led huge street protests that compelled longtime President Eduard Shevardnadze to resign in November, said he was "quite amazed" at the turnout. "People are longing for a better future," Saakashvili said.
All 148 people on board were killed when an Egyptian charter jet crashed into the Red Sea Saturday. The Flash Airlines flight to Paris went down shortly after takeoff from the resort city of Sharm el-Sheik, and was carrying French tourists. France's Transport Minister told French radio that the crash probably was due to a power failure, not a terrorist attack. Swiss aviation authorities said they had banned the carrier more than a year ago due to technical concerns, a claim that Egypt's aviation minister spurned as "baseless."
An explosion in the southern Philippines killed at least eight people and injured more than 40 others, police in Manila said. The blast occurred outside a basketball game in the Muslim-dominated town of Parang on the island of Mindanao, and may have been aimed at its mayor, a Christian, local authorities said. Vivencio Bataga's car was heavily damaged in the attack. Bataga has survived three previous assassination attempts, officials added.