Rejecting efforts to try again for peace talks two weeks from now, negotiators for Somalia's transitional government prepared to leave for home. In Khartoum, Sudan, where the talks never opened, the rival Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) said it was "always ready and prepared" for discussions with the government. But the UIC also was sending reinforcements to the strategic town of Bur Haqaba, about 18 miles from the government's base, sources said, and Western diplomats warned that "The international community needs to act fast" to keep the two sides from all-out war that could break out at any time.
Hundreds of federal police surrounded a university in Oaxaca, Mexico, as the Monitor went to press, answering a barrage of gasoline bombs by leftist protesters with clouds of tear gas. Two people were arrested, but there were no reports of injury and the police had yet to go beyond the gates to the campus. Since May, Oaxaca has been a hotbed of resistance to state Gov. Ulises Ruiz, whom the protesters are trying to oust. Earlier this week, police cleared the city's main square of protesters, but they regrouped elsewhere.
Already hobbled by retaliation for its arrest of Russian Army officers on spying charges last month, Georgia's government was threatened with a new rate hike on imported natural gas that would more than double its current bill. The Russian mono-poly Gazprom said Thursday it proposes to charge $230 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas next year, up from the $110 that Georgia has been paying. That would bring the impoverished ex-Soviet republic up to the same rate paid by Russia's wealthiest customers in Western Europe. The top diplomats of the two countries have been meeting this week to try to resolve their differences over the spying controversy, but without making apparent headway. The army officers since have returned home, but the Kremlin has imposed an air and sea blockade, cut postal links, and deported hundreds of Georgians who lacked proper residency papers.
In a bid to stop the separatist violence in southern Thailand, new Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont apologized to Muslims there for the policies of his ousted predecessor. He blamed himself for not opposing those policies when he commanded the Army under Thaksin Shina-watra. Surayud vowed before a gathering of Islamic leaders in Pattani Province to purge the civil service of the "bad people" put in place by Thaksin and said he wanted to meet with disaffected young men who've been in the vanguard of the separatist campaign, in which more than 1,700 people have been killed since it began two years ago.
Seventy-two Muslim employees of the busiest airport in France were relieved of their security clearances Wednesday, following a review by authorities. A dozen others remained on the job at Charles de Gaulle Airport outside Paris but face investigation for "rejecting France and our values," reports said. According to airport officials, the suspect employees visited terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and one is thought to be a friend of would-be shoe-bomber Richard Reed. Last month, authorities reportedly closed seven clandestine Muslim prayer rooms at de Gaulle and Paris's other airport, Orly.
Riot police with guard dogs kept an estimated 30,000 angry protesters at bay outside the presidential palace in Kyrgyzstan Thursday in a demonstration demanding the resignation of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Bakiyev, however, told the opposition-led parliament, "I am not leaving." But he agreed to fast-track debate over amendments to the Constitution that would put new limits on his authority while giving more power to legislators. Baki-yev won election by a landslide a year ago after rioting forced his longtime predecessor, Askar Akayev, to quit. Since then, his popularity has plunged amid accusations that he has not implemented promised reforms.