Ugandan officials and rebel commanders are negotiating a cease-fire that is expected to open the way to political talks on ending an 18-year civil war in which thousands have been killed and more than a million forced from their homes. Religious and political leaders in northern Uganda, who have been pressing the government to open peace talks with the elusive rebels, welcomed the prospect for an end to the conflict.

Ariel Sharon's deputy repeated a call for a wider withdrawal from the West Bank after a planned pullout from parts of the occupied Palestinian territory and Gaza. Ehud Olmert argued that the move was necessary in order to retain Israel's Jewish character and relieve international pressure. Also on Thursday, Sharon reached a deal with Shimon Peres to name the opposition leader his senior deputy, clearing a key obstacle to forming a unity government able to withdraw from the occupied Gaza Strip.

Efforts to end the Darfur conflict, which has taken 70,000 lives, could be spurred by a cease-fire to be signed Friday between Sudanese government and southern rebel officials. They will also endorse a detailed plan on how they would implement an agreement to end a 21-year civil war in southern Sudan, the Kenyan foreign ministry said Thursday.

The United Nations prepared what could be its largest appeal ever for donations to coordinate relief efforts for the estimated 5 million survivor of the Indian Ocean tsunamis in need of food, fresh water, and basic sanitation. Financial costs, estimated at up to $14 billion, are tiny relative to the human costs. The death toll in the disaster soared above 125,000 on Thursday. Aid agencies warned many more, from Indonesia to Sri Lanka, could die in epidemics if shattered communications and transport hampered what may prove history's biggest relief operation.

Election officials rejected Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich's complaints about Sunday's presidential revote, which he lost to opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko. International election monitors found no mass falsifications in the voting, but Yanukovich contends nearly 5 million people were disenfranchised by election reforms introduced after the first run-off vote Nov. 21, which he won but which was declared fraudulent.

Insurgents bombed two security headquarters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, late Wednesday in what appeared to be the latest blow by Al Qaeda-linked militants against the Saudi royal family.

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