Furious Palestinians staged protest strikes Wednesday to vent frustration at Israel's seizure of militants accused of murdering a cabinet minister. But they also released all of the foreign hostages who were taken Tuesday in a backlash against the Israeli raid on a prison in Jericho. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rushed home from an official trip to Europe on hearing the news, calling the raid an "unforgivable crime." However, critics in his own ranks said the incident made Abbas appear weaker than ever. For their part, senior Israelis said they intended to try the six militants seized in the raid for the 2001 assassination of Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi. They were in the Jericho jail because in 2002 a hastily convened Palestinian court sentenced them to terms of up to 18 years for Zeevi's murder.
The court in Baghdad that is hearing Saddam Hussein's trial closed it to the news media Wednesday after he tried to ignore orders not to make political speeches. The chief judge then recessed the trial until April 5. Testifying for the first time, Hussein called the proceedings "a comedy" and called on Iraqis to "resist invaders." But he was interrupted when he referred to himself as "the head of state." Said Justice Raouf Abdel-Rahman, "You used to be [but] you are a defendant now." Meanwhile, reports said US troop strength in Iraq may be reinforced temporarily for pilgrimages connected to the Shiite Muslim holiday of Ashura, which have been the object of violent attacks in the past.
The late Slobodan Milosevic will be allowed a "respectable" burial in his Serbian hometown Saturday, his legal adviser said. But a state funeral with full honors, as demanded by the Socialist Party he once led, was denied by government officials. In Moscow, where the former Yugoslav president's widow now lives, an informed source said she wouldn't attend the memorial because of "insufficient" guarantees for her security. Meanwhile, authorities in the Netherlands, where Milosevic died, were to release a toxicology report Wednesday aimed at clarifying whether he had taken an unprescribed medication that induced his passing.
No criminal charges will be filed against the newspaper that first published caricatures of the prophet Muhamad, Denmark's Director of Public Prosecutions announced Wednesday. Henning Fode's ruling, upholding an earlier decision by a lower jurisdiction, cannot be appealed. But the Foreign Ministry warned that it could lead to more "negative reactions" against Danes, especially in Islamic countries. The Jyllands-Posten, whose printing of the drawings last fall led to violent protests across the Muslim world, has apologized but said it stands by its action as an exercise of freedom of speech.
The state-owned oil company of Mexico has tapped an undersea field that's estimated to hold as many as 10 billion barrels of crude, President Vicente Fox announced. But while the discovery in the Gulf of Mexico could be among the world's largest in years, skeptics quickly challenged the announcement, noting that the cost of recovering the oil could push production at least a decade into the future and strain Mexican engineering capabilities to the limit. Mexico is the world's fifth-largest oil-producer, but its proven reserves are projected to run dry in about 11 years.
"An attempted coup" against the leader of Chad was uncovered before it could be carried out, the nation's communications ministry said. It said two senior Army officers had been arrested and loyal troops were chasing some followers who were on the run. N'djamena, the capital, was reported calm, and it was not clear whether President Idriss Deby had returned yet from a trip abroad. Deby, who seized power himself 16 years ago, has had an uneasy relationship with his military. Two generals and two of his own nephews reportedly have joined the rebellion against him.