A day after refusing to bow out of his bid for a new term, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari of Iraq agreed that his fellow Shiite politicians should reconsider his nomination. A meeting for that purpose was scheduled for Saturday, with analysts saying it opens the door to replacing Jaafari with a candidate who would be acceptable to Kurdish and Sunni leaders. President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, went so far as to say, "We will have very good news on Saturday - news that will please all Iraqis." Parliament, which has met only once since being elected last December, also is expected to convene Saturday following the Shiite gathering.

Protests for a return to democracy in Nepal met with the most violent response to date Thursday when police fired into the ranks of marchers outside Kathmandu, killing at least three of them and wounding about 100 others, many of them critically. Twenty-six more were wounded in a similar incident in a town in western Nepal. King Gyanendra's government also extended the curfew in the capital by seven more hours. But there were indications that the deeply unpopular monarch was seeking a way to end the two-week-long confrontation. Visiting Indian legislator Karan Singh, who is related by marriage to Gyanendra, left a meeting with him saying he expected an announcement "very shortly ... which will help considerably [to] defuse the situation."

Intense diplomatic negotiations were under way Thursday to try to head off a showdown at sea between armed South Korean Coast Guard units and two teams of Japanese surveyors sent to map a group of small, rocky islands that both nations claim. As the talks were being held in Seoul, the South Korean capital, demonstrators outside Japan's embassy burned the rising sun flag and photographs of Prime Minister Junichiro Koi-zumi. Japan's government said it would cancel the surveying mission if South Korea dropped a plan to register Korean names for the area around the islands. Analysts said the dispute bears overtones of Japan's harsh colonial rule over the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

The provisional pullout by Tamil separatist rebels from next week's scheduled peace talks with Sri Lanka's government became official Thursday. A senior member of the leadership of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam said they wouldn't agree to the negotiations until "normality" returned. He blamed the government for "pushing us toward war." The talks already had been postponed by a week. In the meantime, there has been no letup in violence. Dozens of people, many of them military personnel, have died in ambushes or in ethnic rioting that each side blames on the other.

Despite a promise earlier this week of hundreds of new jobs in the state-owned petroleum company, militant tribesmen in southern Nigeria exploded a car bomb late Wednesday, killing at least two civilian employees at an Army base. The attack was the first of its type by the Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta, which called it "symbolic rather than strategic" since it demonstrated the Army's inability to protect itself, let alone employees of oil producers across the vast region. The group demands autonomy over the delta's wealth, has warned all oil industry workers to leave, and has threatened to bring exports of crude to a halt.

In secret, the prime minister-designate of the Solomon Islands accepted his oath of office Thursday as hundreds of new peacekeeping troops and police braced for a possible resumption of mob violence in retaliation. The swearing-in of Snyder Rini had to be postponed the previous day due to the rioting that has destroyed most of the capital's Chinatown. Bitter protesters, who thought they had voted out Rini's forces in legislative elections earlier this month, appear to believe allegations that Chinese merchants paid bribes to ensure that he would be named to the post after all.

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