Six-sided negotiations on North Korea's nuclear weapons program will resume Feb. 8 in Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced. The goal: convincing the North to abandon the program. But only Russia's senior representative to the talks claimed to see "small movement in the positions" of the participants, saying the North "has begun to get the message that the entire world has concerns about its provocative actions." The last round, just before Christmas, produced no breakthrough.
Choosing areas where security was less intense, bombers killed at least 36 Shiite worshipers Tuesday as the annual Ashura religious festival was ending. Almost 100 others were hurt in the towns of Mandalin, Baladruz, and Khanaqin, while security forces were on high alert in Karbala, the scene of horrific attacks on Shiite pilgrims in 2004.
Northern Ireland's 108-member Assembly was ordered closed by Britain Tuesday as a prelude to elections for a successor. The move, which was expected, came after Sinn Fein voted over the weekend to respect the province's Protestant-dominated police force. The election is to be held March 7 and the British government hopes to cede control over most affairs in the province to a new power-sharing government two weeks later. All sides also were expecting an upbeat report from an independent monitoring commission Tuesday on a retreat by the Irish Republican Army from criminality and violence.
A local Hamas chief was shot to death in the Gaza Strip Tuesday even though the new cease-fire with Fatah generally appeared to be holding. The truce went into effect Monday after five days of fighting in which at least 34 people were killed and commerce came to a standstill. But analysts warned that the cease-fire was in danger because of the potential for a further Israeli response to Monday's terrorist bombing, even though Defense Minister Amir Peretz said afterward that the Jewish state would "do everything" to preserve its own truce with Palestinian militants in Gaza.
In response to the terrorist attack, Israeli forces collapsed a tunnel that they said was to be used for other assaults against Jewish targets "in the immediate future." A spokesman said "there were secondary explosions" after an airstrike hit the tunnel near the Karni checkpoint, the main border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip. But there were no immediate reports of human casualties. Palestinian sources said members of the bomber's family were warned to leave their home in Gaza since Israel often destroys such residences in retaliation.
Legislators are expected to vote their approval as soon as Wednesday of a measure that will give Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez special powers to rule by decree for the next year and a half. It will allow him to dictate changes in 11 areas of society, from national defense to tackling corruption. The Interfax News Agency reported that Venezuela and Russia are discussing the transfer of the same air defense system that the latter has sold to Iran. It can identify up to 48 targets at a time and fire missiles simultaneously at two of them at altitudes of up to 20,000 feet.
Police were struggling to bring a city in southern Nepal under control Tuesday after new violence that resulted in another death and many more injuries. A curfew was imposed on Biratnagar, 250 miles south of Kathmandu, the capital. The trouble came despite the promise of more seats in parliament for Nepal's ethnic Madhesi people, who live in the region and have long complained of underrepresentation. Three members of King Gyanendra's former government were arrested on suspicion of inciting the violence.