Hopes for an imminent exchange of Palestinian prisoners for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit appeared to dim Wednesday after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed "disappointment" at the list of men his government would have to release. Hamas, which leads the Palestinian Authority, said it was willing to negotiate changes to the list but that they could not be "based on Israeli criteria." The issue is expected to dominate Olmert's scheduled meeting this weekend with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Shalit was seized by terrorists who infiltrated from the Gaza Strip 10 months ago.
Radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's allies in the Iraqi Cabinet threatened to resign unless Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki supports a timetable for a pullout by US forces. "We are serious," they said in a statement, following huge protests on Sadr's orders earlier this week against the American presence. Their resignations would bring the embattled Maliki's government close to collapse, analysts said. Maliki, on a tour of Asian capitals to collect aid pledges, said Tuesday, "We see no need for a withdrawal timetable."
Once again, senior Russian officials blasted the proposed US missile defense system that would be built in Eastern Europe, saying they felt "deceived" in the matter. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the Financial Times that Russia reserved the right to "create alternatives" to the planned shield because it was "unacceptable for anyone to use [Europe] as their own strategic territory." Although the US insists that the system is designed to counter a threat from Iran, the Kremlin repeatedly has complained because components would be based in Poland and the Czech Republic, both former Soviet satellites.
Apparently reversing course, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said through an aide Wednesday that he's willing to suspend his order to disband parliament. The move would be a major concession by the embattled chief executive in his bitter confrontation with pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanuko-vich, whom he accuses of trying to usurp power. Yanukovich had warned of unspecified "consequences" if the order and plans for a new national election were not withdrawn.
A passing bus was caught in crossfire between Islamist militants and Ethiopian troops in Somalia's capital, resulting in the deaths of at least four people, reports said Wednesday. The violence ended almost two weeks of relative calm after the two sides had agreed to a cease-fire. A conference on reconciliation was postponed at the request of Somalia's transitional government until at least mid-May because of "security conditions," the Arab League announced.
Soldiers from Chad were exercising their "internationally recognized right of pursuit" when they crossed into Sudan and engaged in a deadly firefight with the latter's troops, the government said Wednesday. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said a delegation will go to Sudan's capital next week "to explain things." Sudan's government said it had yet to decide "how we will respond," but "we recommend a peaceful solution." Seventeen Sudanese were killed in the battle when Chad's forces chased janjaweed raiders back across the border after they'd attacked camps for refugees from Darfur.
Nearby vessels rescued all 296 officers and crewmen from the Argentine Navy's icebreaker after it caught fire in frigid waters off Patagonia, the Defense Ministry said Wednesday. The cause of the blaze was not immediately known, but flames quickly spread out of control and everyone aboard was ordered into lifeboats.