Defense Secretary Gates ran into a wall of opposition Monday as he urged Russian leaders to drop their opposition to the proposed US missile defense system that would be built inside the former Soviet sphere of influence. His counterpart, Anatoly Serdyukov, said Russia's objection to the shield "remains unchanged." Such a system would threaten "regional and global security," Serdyukov said. Before Gates's visit to Moscow, his first since assuming the post, other Russian officials rejected a US offer to share information and technology on the system.
NATO spokesmen in Afghanistan sought to downplay claims that Taliban military commander Mullah Dadullah and as many as 200 of his followers were trapped in the siege of a town in southern Uruzgan Province. But the province's police chief said Afghan and NATO troops were "trying to get him to surrender without fighting." Killing or capturing Dadullah, a close ally of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar, would be a major coup for the Afghan government.
Fighting turned fierce again Monday in Somalia's capital after easing over the weekend. Human rights groups said the number of dead had risen to at least 230, on top of the more than 1,000 who were killed at the end of March in an earlier effort to rid Mogadishu of the remnants of the Islamist militiamen who had controlled much of the nation. Prime Minister Ali Mohamad Gedi said the combat would go on "until the terrorists are wiped out."
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey reportedly is signaling that he won't run for president, news outlets there reported Monday. The New Anatolian newspaper said Erdogan has told crowds in the streets that "it is for the best" that he remain in his current post. Last week in Ankara, hundreds of thousands of Turks protested a possible Erdogan candidacy on grounds that he is suspected of harboring an Islamist agenda. His Justice and Development Party, which dominates parliament, is expected to announce its candidate by Wednesday.
New controversy swirled around last weekend's presidential election in Nigeria, with an international observer mission saying it fell far short of basic democratic standards. Incumbent Olusegun Obasanjo conceded that the vote was flawed but accused his opponents of "fanning the embers of hate." Ruling party candidate Umaru Yar'Adua, the Muslim governor of Katsina State, was declared the winner in a landslide. Vice President Atikyu Abubakar, a candidate to succeed Obasanjo, demanded annulment of the election.
A month of negotiations on the largest banking merger in history ended Monday with ABN Amro of the Netherlands agreeing to be acquired by Barclays PLC of London for $91.2 billion. The combined company will be based in Amsterdam and will have a customer base of 47 million depositors and borrowers. But reports said the deal will cost 12,800 employees their jobs.
Police in eastern China arrested an activist once hailed as a hero for his efforts to stem pollution in the nation's third-largest lake. Wu Lihong was charged with blackmail and his computer was seized, his wife said. The lake is a source of drinking water for Shanghai, China's financial capital, although it is surrounded by chemical plants and other industries. Word of the arrest came as the government reported that pollution took 760,000 more acres of farmland out of production in the first 10 months of last year.
Round-the-clock efforts to stop the escape of raw sewage from a pumping station in central Scotland succeeded Monday, but not until after tens of millions of gallons flowed into a nature conservation area. The plant serves 800,000 people near Edinburgh. The operator apologized for the "catastrophic failure," which began last Friday night, but rejected complaints by area residents that the plant was using "third world technology."