An audiotape suggests Osama bin Laden has united with Iraqi insurgent leader Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi in his crusade against the West. The statement, which the CIA is "moderately" confident came from bin Laden, said Iraq is now the main battlefield of this "third world war," but that Al Qaeda was not operating in the nation before the US invaded. In it, the speaker calls for all Muslims to boycott Iraqi and Palestinian elections, saying the interim governments running them are aiding the US in its fight against Muslims.

A leading European human rights watchdog urged Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich on Tuesday to accept defeat as official preliminary results showed his West-leaning rival Viktor Yushchenko winning the presidency by over two million votes. Yanukovich, who won 42 percent of the vote compared to his rival's 51.99 percent, said his campaign team received nearly 5,000 complaints about how the voting was conducted, adding that almost 5 million were unable to cast ballots. Terry Davis, secretary general of the Council of Europe, the organization that called on Yanukovich to accept defeat, called for all parties to "refrain from rhetoric which may fuel division in Ukraine."

Assailing Russian President Vladimir Putin from prison, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, warned in a letter Tuesday that Kremlin moves to limit economic competition and free speech would ruin the nation. Once Russia's richest man but now jailed on tax and fraud charges, Khodorkovsky accused the government of stealing his Yukos oil empire by manipulating the law.

Sri Lankans broke barriers of caste and religion to help one another in the wake of Sunday's tsunami, in a landmark easing of long-standing tensions between separatist Hindu Tamils and the Buddhist majority. The Sri Lankan government and Tamil rebels, however, refused to work together to coordinate relief efforts. Over 18,000 of the 50,000 killed in the weekend disaster were on the island just to the east of India when the tidal waves hit.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan and India said on Tuesday they had narrowed some differences and agreed to a rough schedule for their slow-moving peace process but reported no significant breakthrough after two days of talks in Islamabad. A joint statement reported no progress towards a solution on Kashmir, the divided Himalayan state at the heart of their rivalry. The two countries expect to address counterterrorism, drug trafficking, and economic cooperation later this year.

Syria responded with a mixture of bravado and denial to mounting accusations it serves as a staging ground for the Iraqi insurgency. But it also tried to defuse tensions with a powerful foe - the United States - in extensive comments given by the foreign minister Monday.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.