US and Iraqi troops occupied the western Iraqi town of Haditha on Wednesday morning in a major anti-insurgent operation. Around 1,000 US marines, sailors, and Iraqi troops swept through the city, searching homes and seizing suspects in an effort to uproot local militants and foreign fighters who have killed more than 620 people since a new Iraqi government was announced on April 28.

Egyptians headed to the polls on Wednesday to vote on a referendum that would clear the way for Egypt's first-ever multi-candidate presidential elections. Police, plainclothes security officers, and government supporters clashed with small groups of protesters who oppose Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek. The referendum was expected to pass easily as the Monitor went to press.

European foreign ministers and Iranian negotiators have opened another round of talks on Iran's nuclear ambitions. Wednesday's last-ditch negotiations were arranged after the EU warned Tehran that it is moving toward the US position that Iran should be brought before the UN Security Council for suspected activities in violation of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Iran's President Mohammad Khatami told reporters that Iran is willing to compromise regarding its threat to resume enriching uranium.

African Union security chief Said Djinnit warned that Africa's efforts to end the humanitarian crisis in Sudan's western Darfur region will fail if donors do not give $723 million, military hardware, and other aid to support the peacekeeping mission. A conference seeking to raise funds for the AU force opens Thursday in Ethiopia.

In its an annual report on global human rights failures, Amnesty International called for the US prison camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to be closed. Some 540 prisoners from about 40 countries are being held there. Many have been held for three years without being charged.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov on Wednesday made his first trip abroad since a violent crackdown on protesters, arriving in China a day after it voiced support for the authoritarian leader. Although the courtesy trip was scheduled last year, the visit gave Karimov a way to underline that China, which is eager to tap into Central Asia's energy resources, is on his side.

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