Angry Islamist militants condemned the unanimous vote by the UN Security Council Wednesday that authorizes a force of foreign peacekeepers for Somalia. The vote also OK'd the lifting of a 1992 embargo on weapons sales so that Somalia's weak transitional government can arm itself against the Islamic Courts Union (UIC). The government, whose territorial holdings essentially are down to just its base in Baidoa, thanked the US for promoting the resolution. But a UIC spokesman called it "evil" and said it "will massively increase ... the number of graves in this country." The UIC, he warned, "will never accept the deployment of foreign troops."
Results of a new opinion poll in Afghanistan reveal fading confidence that the country is on the right track politically and economically, ABC News and the BBC reported Thursday. They said optimism among Afghans fell 22 points this year, although it still stood in the 55 percent range. A majority of respondents cited the Taliban as the greatest danger to stability, and almost half reported Taliban-inspired violence in their local areas. Against that backdrop, terrorists exploded a car bomb Thursday in southern Kandahar Province, killing or wounding 15 more people. The attack was the seventh of its type there in less than two weeks.
Eight US military personnel were questioned Thursday about their roles in the fatal shooting of a civilian truck driver at the air base leased by the Air Force in Kyrgyzstan, and the president of the ex-Soviet republic called for American troops stationed there to be stripped of diplomatic immunity. Kurmanbek Bakiyev told US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch that all servicemen involved in the incident must remain in Kyrgyzstan until the matter is resolved and that he planned to monitor the investigation into the incident closely. The guard who fired the shots testified that he'd been threatened with a knife, and the Interior Ministry acknowledged that such a weapon was found at the scene. The base supports US operations in Afghanistan.
Embattled Prime Minister Fuad Siniora warned pro-Syrian opponents that he, too, could call "hundreds of thousands" of people to the streets of Lebanon in support of his anti-Syrian position. But he said the nation did not need "a contest in numbers" and called for the pro-Syrians to return to negotiations on rebuilding the war-weary nation. Neither he nor pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud has been willing to resign to help resolve the political crisis. Meanwhile, Siniora's opponents were in Day 7 of a mass sit-in in Beirut to try to topple him.
A split opened in the ranks of the European Union Thursday over the offer by Turkey's government to open some port facilities to trade with Cyprus. The offer, widely seen as a last-minute attempt to avoid the partial suspension of its negotiations for EU membership, was hailed by the bloc's executive commission as "welcome" and "an important step." But Cyprus's closest ally, Greece, said the move – which reportedly would involve one seaport and one airport – was not enough. The leaders of the EU's member governments are due to meet next Thursday and Friday and could vote on the proposed suspension at that time.
The new prime minister of Fiji confessed that he accepted the post only because he was ordered to do so by Army commander Frank Bainimarama. As both domestic and international condemnation of the coup led by Bainimarama grew Thursday, Jona Senilagakali acknowledged that the ouster of the previous government "is illegal." But he said, "To me, it's better that you do this to clean up a much bigger ... mess." Senilagakali said Fiji does not need Western-style democracy and suggested that the "eventual" new election promised by Bainimarama might not be held for "the next two years, or more."