Hamas and Fatah welcomed an offer by Saudi Arabia's king for an emergency meeting in Mecca to "discuss the contentious issues" that "undermine the Palestinian cause." But there was no word on when it might be held. Hamas currently is in discussions with Egyptian mediators as it and Fatah edge closer to all-out civil war. Seven more people died in fighting Sunday night and Monday in the Gaza Strip, bringing to 30 the number who have been killed in the past four days.

Because of the unresolved Darfur situation, the 53-member African Union voted to deny Sudan their rotating chairmanship for the second straight year. It went instead to Ghana at the bloc's annual summit. Leaders of rebel groups in Darfur had vowed to stop considering the AU as an honest broker if Sudan won the chairmanship. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir reportedly agreed with the choice of Ghana to avoid a damaging dispute at a time when Africa is challenged by other pressing issues, such as raising a peacekeeping force for Somalia.

A shield against possible attack from space will be assembled by India, its chief air marshal announced Monday. At the heart of the system will be an aerospace defense command under military control but using civilian expertise, Shashi Tyagi said. According to other sources, it will seek to replicate the system used by the US and Canada to detect and track threatening manmade objects in outer space. Those sources said the system would integrate radars, satellites, fighter aircraft, and other assets. The announcement came two weeks after neighboring China caused international alarm by destroying one of its own orbiting satellites with a guided missile.

An estimated 50 heavily armed militants raided a police lockup in Nigeria's oil region, freeing a leader who'd been arrested only hours before, news outlets reported Monday. Sobomabo George, who heads a faction of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), is wanted for murder. As many as five people reportedly died in the confrontation. MEND has claimed responsibility for many of the kidnappings of oil-industry employees in the region.

From ambush, suspected Muslim gunmen killed three rubber plantation employees and severely wounded a fourth as they were en route to work in southern Thailand Monday. The victims all were Buddhists. The incident alarmed authorities because it took place in a province north of those where Muslim-inspired violence has led to more than 1,900 deaths in the past three years, suggesting that the separatism campaign may be spreading.

The worst drought on record has forced a decision by the government of Queensland State to supply residents with recycled drinking water, Australian news outlets reported Monday. Premier Peter Beattie told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that the plan will be phased in beginning next year. He predicted that all other Australian states would be forced to resort to the practice if the drought continues, but his fellow premiers rejected the idea. Israel, Singapore, and parts of the US and Europe recycle waste water for human consumption.

Rescuers were searching for the only man believed to have survived a gas explosion in a coal mine in southwestern China, the official Xinhua news agency reported Monday. The blast in Guizhou Province killed 15 miners. Nine others made their way to safely.

British Airways was scrambling to reinstate 1,300 canceled flights Tuesday and Wednesday after reaching agreement with unionized employees in a pay and sick-leave dispute. The latter called off a planned two-day strike, but the accord came too late for tens of thousands of ticket-holders who had to change their travel plans.

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