Tensions between Christians and Muslims were high in Lebanon in the wake of Tuesday's murder of Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, and anti-Syrian colleagues in the cabinet said they expected more such assassinations. Gemayel's death caused Independence Day celebrations to be canceled Wednesday as furious Christians blamed Syria for the act, and a huge anti-Syrian turnout was expected at his funeral Thursday. A source close to Hizbullah, which is backed by Syria, said Gemayel's death would cause a revision of its plans and that its call for mass demonstrations to bring down the Lebanese government would be put on hold.
Sunday's deadline for a ruling by Congo's Supreme Court on the disputed election for president will be extended, a senior government official said. The justices had to flee for their safety earlier this week when supporters of losing candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba set fire to the court as a hearing on his challenge was beginning. Bemba alleges that the election was marred by fraud. The spokesman did not specify a new deadline for the court's decision.
Casualties mounted across Bangladesh as the week wound down despite the announced plan by senior elections commissioner M.A. Aziz to take a leave of absence. A spokesman for the interim government said Aziz verbally conveyed his intention Wednesday to leave the post for three months. But he neither put the decision in writing nor indicated when he'd start his leave, the spokesman said. The resignations of Aziz and three deputy commissioners have been demanded by antigovernment demonstrators whose strike against virtually all modes of transportation have plunged the nation into crisis. As of Wednesday, six people had died in the resulting violence; hundreds more have been hurt. Protest organizers say the four commissioners wouldn't be neutral when voters go to the polls for January's national election.
A special meeting on security was to be held in Thailand by the new government Thursday to take stock of three southern provinces where violence by Muslim separatists has surged in recent weeks. Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont has made three visits to the region since the ouster of his predecessor to apologize for the previous government's hard-line approach to the problem. But attacks on minority Buddhists and symbols of government authority haven't stopped. Analysts said Sura-yud's government should watch for changes in tactics by the separatists, such as targeting the vital tourist industry or Western-owned businesses. The Defense Ministry conceded earlier this week that meetings with influential Muslims in the region yielded no results because the latter aren't involved in the separatism campaign.
Massive security procedures were announced for next week's visit to Turkey by Pope Benedict XVI as the majority-Muslim nation strives to demonstrate its readiness for membership in the European Union. The trip is to begin Tuesday and include stops in Istanbul, Izmir, and Ankara. But several groups of Islamic radicals are active in Turkey, among them Al Qaeda. Turkey also was one of the countries that erupted in protest in September when Benedict quoted a critic of Islam who'd called the teachings of the prophet Muhammad "evil and inhuman." The pope later apologized. But on Nov. 2 a protester was arrested after firing shots outside Italy's consulate in Istanbul, and 40 others had to be evicted Wednesday from a historic building that Benedict is scheduled to visit there. In 1981, the pontiff's predecessor, John Paul II, was seriously wounded by would-be Turkish assassin Mehmet Ali Agca.