Militants in Baghdad exploded more bombs Thursday, killing at least 28 people. But Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki insisted in a speech to parliament that his new security plan will yet yield results and implored politicians on all sides to support it. "There will be no safe haven – no school, no home, no ... mosque," he said. "They will all be raided if they are turned into a launchpad for terrorism." Meanwhile, the mayor of Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood said he has reached agreement with political and religious groups to keep weapons off the streets of the Shiite stronghold.
Despite pressure from the Bush administration, Afghanistan's government will not allow the spraying of opium poppies with herbicides, an aide to President Hamid Karzai said Thursday. If poppy production is not cut this year by "traditional" techniques, such as scything and plowing, herbicide spray will be permitted next year, Karzai has said. Afghanistan supplies more than 90 percent of the world's opium – more than can be consumed by addicts in a year.
Powered by investments and a boom in exports, China's economy grew by 10.7 percent last year – its fastest clip in more than a decade, the government announced Thursday. In fact, the economy has grown by double digits in each of the past four years, and the National Bureau of Statistics said the fast pace will be maintained in 2007. Analysts, however, predicted interest rates would have to rise – as soon as this quarter – to prevent overheating. They said they also expect the yuan to be allowed to rise in value to throttle back on exports. China could oust Germany as the world's third-largest economy by the time the 2008 Olympic Games open in Beijing, the analysts said.
The already poor relations between Russia and Georgia deteriorated further Thursday over one of the most serious cases of smuggling in years. It involved the arrest of a Russian who tried early last year to sell weapons-grade nuclear fuel to an undercover agent for $1 million, with the prospect of more to come. In a sting operation with the help of the US Central Intelligence Agency, Oleg Khintsagov was arrested in Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, and 3.5 ounces of enriched uranium in his possession were seized. Georgian authorities accuse Russia of not cooperating in efforts to trace the fuel or confirm that more was available. Russia's nuclear agency, Rosatom, said Georgia has not provided it with a large-enough sample and has withheld other relevant information.
Five foreign communications specialists were freed by their captors in Nigeria's oil delta Thursday after three weeks in captivity. But other assailants seized at least seven employees and a large amount of cash in the latest such incident. The targets in both cases were Chinese companies. Thursday's raid, in which one of the attackers was killed, was the second in less than a week.
Bowing to one of his opponents' key demands, the president of Guinea has agreed in principle to appoint a new prime minister, reports said Thursday. But union leaders who met with Lansana Conte maintained that the open-ended general strike they organized Jan. 5 will continue until "a credible candidate" for the post in found and all their other demands have been met as well. Authorities, meanwhile, raised to 59 the number of people who were killed Monday in strike-related violence in Conakry, the capital.
A new requirement that travelers must show passports to fly to the US may entrap tens of thousands of Canadians who lost their citizenship decades ago without realizing it, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) reported. It said an obscure law automatically took away the citizenship of those aged 24 who were abroad in mid-1960 and hadn't signed a certain immigration form. Hundreds of Canadians already have learned that they were affected as they applied for passports, the CBC said. An Immigration Ministry official told the broadcaster that the policy on seeking a new grant of citizenship would be fast-tracked "to right the wrongs of the past."