North Korea's senior negotiator suddenly pulled out of the six-way talks on nuclear disarmament and flew home Thursday. Sources said his departure was due to the still-incomplete transfer of $25 million in North Korean funds from the bank in Macao where they were frozen under a sanction imposed by the US. Negotiators for the other nations expressed frustration over the "waste" of four days that were to have been devoted to a precise timetable for North Korea to shut down its nuclear program. The talks will resume "at the earliest opportunity," China's Foreign Ministry said.

A Monday deadline looms for Protestant and Catholic leaders in Northern Ireland to forge a power-sharing government or else Britain will withdraw all financial and political backing for the troubled province. Against that backdrop, the leaders of both sides were traveling to London Thursday for separate meetings with Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown to learn how much of a "peace divident" Britain is prepared to offer if they agree to form a coalition.

Hundreds of residents were fleeing neighborhoods at either end of Somalia's capital Thursday as fighting intensified between remnants of the ousted Islamist militia and government troops backed by Ethiopian Army units. The BBC said the clashes were part of an offensive to pacify Mogadishu within 30 days as Islamist leader Sheikh Dahir Aweys was appealing to Somalis to resist the government, its Ethiopian protectors, and African Union peacekeepers.

NATO and Afghan government forces scored a victory in volatile Helmand Province, killing 38 Taliban in fighting on two fronts, reports said Thursday. A local police official said there were no allied casualties. Areas of Helmand are under Taliban control, military spokesmen admit. The province was where Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo, his driver, and a translator were abducted March 4. He was freed earlier this week, but the driver was beheaded. The Taliban are thought to still be holding his translator.

Amid a growing chorus of international condemnation, Zimbabwe's government appealed to other African nations for support over its treatment of opposition activists. The Times (London) said it had confirmed that 2,500 "ninja" paramilitary police from Angola were to go to Zimbabwe, raising concerns of an intensified crackdown against dissent. Other news outlets, however, cast doubt on such a possibility. In a victory for the opposition, a court ordered that two activists who were arrested when police broke up their March 11 rally must be freed and allowed to leave Zimbabwe for medical treatment.

A daytime curfew was imposed and riot police were patrolling two towns in southern Nepal after 27 people died in fighting between rival activists. Witnesses said supporters of the communist rebel movement and autonomy advocates had gathered for separate rallies at the same place Wednesday. Each side accused the other of starting the fight when they couldn't agree on which had priority.

Two major rail lines in eastern China were blocked for hours by protesters Wednesday before police arrived to disperse them. At least 40 people were reported hurt in the second "mass incident" in China in two weeks. Claims that the protesters numbered in the thousands couldn't be verified. The protest erupted over a planned zoning change that would merge two cities, affecting welfare benefits for those in the poorer one.

Muslims lost a lawsuit Thursday against a satirical French newspaper for reprinting caricatures of the prophet Muhammad that touched off riots across the Islamic world two years ago. A court in Paris ruled that the publication, Charlie-Hebdo, had denounced the use of terrorism by Islamists but did not insult or defame France's 5-million-strong Muslim population.

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