Saying, "We are saving the country, not the government," the leader of one of Israel's most hawkish political parties joined the coalition of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Monday. The move by Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu Party gives Olmert control of 78 of the 120 seats in parliament and the certainty of support on such crucial issues as the pending 2007 budget. In return, the Jerusalem Post reported, Lieberman will assume the post of minister for strategic affairs and perhaps chairmanship of parliament's Finance Committee. Olmert's coalition has been weakened by infighting over his handling of the war last summer in Lebanon and currently can count on only 67 votes in parliament. Lieberman is known for taking a hard line on Israel's Arab minority. The Post also said that in light of the development, key members of the Labor Party are to meet Tuesday to decide whether to quit Olmert's coalition.
Eyewitnesses said the Islamist militia in Somalia was back in control of the strategic town it lost Sunday to a force of government fighters and Ethiopian Army units. An all-out battle for Bur Haqaba had been anticipated, but a spokesman for the militia said it now would be turned into one of the Islamic Courts Union's biggest bases and that sharia law would be imposed there. Leaders of the courts union dared the Ethiopians to "come and fight us ... not just run" and urged a revolt against "the oppressive regime" of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
Police were questioning two teenagers in a Paris suburb who were arrested following a bold attack on a municipal bus that evoked memories of last fall's three weeks of rioting. The midafternoon violence Sunday was the latest in a series of such incidents in recent weeks. About 30 masked youths stopped the vehicle, forced passengers to get off, and then set it on fire. Firefighters responding to the blaze were pelted with rocks. Police have warned of rising tensions in the area as Friday's first anniversary of the riots that rocked France approaches.
Thousands of people held a counterdemonstration in Hungary's capital Monday, clashing with police as the nation observed the 50th anniversary of its uprising against communist rule. The latter fired rubber bullets and tear gas to push the dissidents away from in front of parliament. The state news agency said 10 protesters were arrested and others were beaten as they sought to disrupt the official celebration, which were attended by dozens of foreign dignitaries. Some veterans of the 1956 revolt refused to shake the hand of Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, whose admission that he lied about the economy to win reelection last April has led to months of protests.
Shooting off fireworks and honking car horns late into Sunday night, Panamanians celebrated the overwhelming "yes" vote in a referendum on expanding their vital canal. With ballot-counting nearing completion, elections officials said the measure attracted 78 percent support. The project, which will add new locks capable of hand-ling the world's largest ships, is projected to take eight years and to cost $5.25 billion.
Reserves of oil and natural gas have been discovered in Zambia, and the government soon will consider applications by foreign energy companies to extract them, newly reelected President Levy Mwanawasa announced. He offered few details but said the find had been confirmed in tests conducted in Germany. The discovery was made near the border with Angola, which is an oil producer. Zambia is a leading exporter of copper, but Mwanawasa has sought to diversify its economic base.
Despite a hostile reception, the prime minister of Australia arrived for a regional conference in Fiji with a blunt warning for his counterparts. John Howard said Australian aid to small island nations in the South Pacific comes with conditions. Addressing the leaders of Fiji, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea specifically, he said Australia expects greater economic growth in their countries and improvement in financial management and "governance standards." The four leaders have blasted Australia as "arrogant" for seeking the extradition of the Solomons' attorney- general, who is wanted there on child sex-abuse charges.