Israel freed 400 Palestinian prisoners on Thursday in a long-delayed gesture it said was meant to bolster moderate President Mahmoud Abbas but which Palestinians said was not enough to advance peacemaking. Buses carried the prisoners from Israeli jails to West Bank crossing points. The release, first pledged by Israel when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Abbas declared a truce in Feb. 8 talks, followed the announcement on Wednesday of a second summit planned for June 21 in an attempt to revitalize deadlocked peace moves. Palestinians demand amnesty for all 8,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Three suicide car bombings killed 20 people in northern Iraq on Thursday. At least 12 people were killed in an explosion targeting a restaurant in Tuz Khormato, where bodyguards of Iraq's Kurdish deputy prime minister, Rowsch Nouri Shaways, were eating. In Kirkuk, an explosion that targeted a convoy carrying civilian contractors killed four Iraqi bystanders, while in Baquba, in a similar bombing, Hussein Alwan al-Tamimi, deputy head of Iraq's northeastern Diyala provincial council, was killed, along with three bodyguards.

Latvian lawmakers voted Thursday to ratify the European Union Constitution, rejected earlier in the week by France and the Netherlands, and challenged other European nations not to give up hope that the charter can be implemented. Latvia is the 10th EU member country to approve the Constitution.

Samir Kassir, a prominent anti-Syrian journalist, was killed Thursday when a bomb exploded in his car in Beirut in an attack the opposition blamed on Syria and its Lebanese security allies. The killing four days after the start of Lebanon's staggered parliamentary elections shocked the country that is only just coming to terms with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in February.

Japanese patrol craft pulled out of waters inside South Korea's exclusive economic zone on Thursday, ending a tense two-day standoff over suspected illegal fishing by a South Korean boat. Patrol boats from both countries had been lashed to the South Korean craft since early Wednesday, with each side refusing to back off.

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