New pressure was heaped on President Mahmoud Abbas to dismiss the Hamas-led Palestinian government after unidentified gunmen killed three young sons of Gaza Strip intelligence officer Baha Balousheh on their way to school Monday. Their deaths triggered an outpouring of fury among Fatah loyalists, thousands of whom turned out for the funeral. Abbas called the attack "an ugly crime ... perpetrated by a bunch of lowlifes." Hamas denied any involvement and promised an investigation. But analysts warned of new confrontations between the two factions, which have been unable to agree on a unity government despite repeated negotiations. Abbas is expected to deliver a speech Saturday calling for an early election that could result in Hamas losing power.
Six-sided negotiations on North Korea's nuclear weapons program will resume in Beijing next Monday, the host government announced. But only rival South Korea said publicly that it expected "substantial progress" to be made. The other participants will be the US, Russia, and Japan, but the North Korean official newspaper Rodong Sinmun said Japan "is nothing but an impostor" that will "bring to the table irrelevant issues." The two have been at odds over the abduction of Japanese nationals, the North's nuclear test in October, and a subsequent ban on North Korean imports.
Despite the condemnation of Israel, the US, and other Western nations, dozens of researchers opened a conference in Iran on the Holocaust, which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called a "myth." Notable by their attendance at the two-day meeting were members of the Orthodox group Jews United Against Zionism, who said they were from the US, Britain, and Austria. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki brushed off criticism of the meeting in Tehran, adding, "If the official version ... is thrown into doubt, then the identity and nature of Israel will be thrown into doubt." Ahmadinejad, who initiated the conference, repeatedly has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map."
Four members of the caretaker cabinet in Bangladesh resigned Monday, dealing a body blow to President Iajuddin Ahmed in his efforts to hold the volatile political situation together until next month's national election. The four said they were protesting his deployment of troops over the weekend to quell ongoing demonstrations for reform by a 14-party opposition alliance. Ahmed maintained that move would not harm the democratic process, but a spokesman for the four said "no situation" warranted calling out the troops.
Just under 99 percent of voters in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh endorsed a draft constitution that considers it a "sovereign" state. The vote Sunday was rejected as illegitimate by the government of Azerbaijan, and the European Union announced that it would recognize "neither the referendum nor the outcome." Nagorno-Karabakh is an enclave within Azerbaijan but is controlled by ethnic Armenians. Its status remains unresolved despite six years of war between Armenian separatists and Azerbaijani troops that killed an estimated 30,000 people and drove as many as 1 million others from their homes.
Moving to consolidate power, the leader of last week's coup in Fiji warned ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase that any attempt to return to the capital won't be tolerated. Qarase, who was banished to his home island, has called for passive resistance to the new, Army- installed government and said he wants to meet with Commander Frank Bainimarama to discuss a return to democracy. Bainimarama also lashed out at Australia's Foreign Ministry, which has issued a similar call. Such comments, he said, "could incite people, and ... turn into a situation where the military could be forced to confront them with force."