A US diplomat and at least three other men were killed in an apparent car-bomb explosion in Karachi, Pakistan, Thursday. Fifty-two more were hurt, some of them critically, reports said. Suspicion fell on Al Qaeda or a group with close links to it that attacked a motorcade carrying a senior Army commander in the city two years ago. The American was identified as David Foy, who was stationed at the US Consulate there. Karachi has experienced dozens of violent incidents in recent years, many of them blamed on Islamic radicals who oppose President Pervez Musharraf's support for the US-led counterterrorism campaign. President Bush is expected to arrive in Pakistan Saturday, but a stop in Karachi is not planned, reports said.

Amid the latest wave of violence in Iraq's "Sunni triangle," Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari canceled a meeting with other political leaders after learning that they'd agreed to try to deny him a second term in office. An aide said the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance would not withdraw his nomination, as requested by Sunni, Kurdish, and secular politicians "for the good of the country." Al-Jaafari won renomination by one vote last month. But his opponents say they lack confidence in his leadership. Meanwhile, at least 36 more Iraqis died Thursday in violence that has surged since the bombing of a Shiite shrine Feb. 22.

Israel's defense forces will use all possible measures, "with no restrictions," to meet the new spike in violence by Palestinian militant organizations, acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday. His warning appeared to refer to attempts to influence the outcome of Israel's March 28 general election. But he also cautioned against regarding all Palestinians as enemies of the Jewish state. "Hamas is the enemy," he said. Hamas leaders, meanwhile, began their official visit to Russia and announced a new invitation from the government of South Africa. Analysts called those a serious blow to Israel's efforts to isolate the militant organization internationally.

Thirty-five leaders of rival factions in Lebanon met in Beirut Thursday for the first time since the end of Syrian occupation to consider ways to heal the nation's deep divisions. They spanned the religious (Christian and Muslim) and political (anti- as well as pro-Syrian) spectrum. The meeting was closed, and sources said it could last until the end of next week. But analysts predicted an uphill struggle to reach a consensus on such matters as whether pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud should be ousted and how relations with the government in Damascus should be defined. Lahoud, who wasn't invited, has resisted all calls to resign.

Negotiations over the political future of Kosovo were thrown into new uncertainty after a former Albanian rebel leader was invited to serve as the province's prime minister. Serbian leaders, anticipating the appointment of Lt. Gen. Agim Ceku, had called the likelihood a signal that "ethnic Albanians have turned away from possible compromise ... toward a radical stand" in the negotiations on autonomy, which are in their early days. A career soldier, Ceku turned against the army of Yugoslavia in 1991 to fight for independence for the republic of Croatia, later returning home to command the Kosovo Liberation Army in its war against Serb forces. Serbia views him as a criminal and has issued a warrant for his arrest.

More than 2,000 convicted or suspected Islamist militants are to be pardoned or have their sentences reduced, the government of Algeria announced Thursday. The move is effective immediately. It is an element of the plan for national reconciliation that won overwhelming backing in a referendum last September as a way to bring closure to more than a decade of insurgency that has taken 150,000 lives. It applies to those who supported or financed attacks but not to those who participated directly in them.

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