A huge rally was expected in Tel Aviv Thursday to demand the resignation of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert over his handling of last summer's costly war with Hizbullah. But on another front, the embattled Olmert appeared to be gaining the upper hand against efforts to oust him. Parliament chose not to schedule a vote of no-confidence in his leadership, and other key members of his Kadima Party did not follow Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in calling for him to quit. Olmert reportedly was holding off firing Livni, although he warned that she couldn't threaten him and expect to remain in her post.

By unanimous vote Thursday, members of Turkey's parliament approveda new national election as a way out of the growing dispute over the role of Islam in government. The vote was scheduled for July 22, despite opposition protests that many Turks take vacation then and would be unprepared for an election. Earlier this week, parliament failed to elect the Islamist-based ruling party's candidate to the presidency because of a boycott by secularist legislators.

Tens of thousands of Japanese protested in Tokyo and other cities Thursday over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's call to amend the pacifist Constitution. The demonstrations, which came on the 60th anniversary of the charter, were peaceful, and no arrests were made, reports said. Abe has said he intends to bring Japan into a "new era" in which its military plays a wider role and "instills confidence and pride," especially among the nation's young people.

Protesters brought a large inflatable tank to Estonia's embassy in Moscow Thursday and pointed its gun barrel at the building, helping to stoke tensions even further between the former Soviet republic and the Kremlin. Senior Russian officials also brushed off protests on Estonia's behalf by the European Union and NATO and warned of "serious negative consequences" over the relocation of a Soviet-era war memorial from the center of the Estonian capital last week. In addition, some Russian politicians have called for a boycott of Estonian products.

Muslim separatists were blamed Thursday for the shooting deaths of a soldier, a policeman, and a civilian and the wounding of a village chief in southern Thailand Thursday, despite a decision by the government to offer amnesty to persons involved in the regional violence. The amnesty was announced earlier this week in talks between officials of the military-backed government and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), on condition that those involved are not otherwise sought on criminal charges. The OIC is the world's largest Muslim body.

In a surprise move, the outlawed Ulster Volunteer Force announced Thursday that it has renounced violence and "will assume a nonmilitary role" in Northern Ireland. The move came as Protestants and Catholics prepare to form a new power-sharing government. Previously, the feared UVF, blamed for the deaths of hundreds of Catholics, had refused all demands that it match the Irish Republican Army in disarming.

With voters across Britain headed to the polls for local elections, Prime Minister Tony Blair's office issued a denial of reports that he plans to leave government entirely. Blair is expected to announce next week that he's stepping down as head of government and of the ruling Labour Party. He has represented Sedgefield, 225 miles northeast of London, in the House of Commons since 1983.

The coup-prone Comoros appeared on the verge of yet another attempted government takeover. Soldiers loyal to a former regional chief executive seized the capital of Anjouan, one of three islands in the Indian Ocean archipelago. They hadn't yet moved against the national capital, Moroni, but the Information Ministry was appealing for international help. The Comoros have had 19 coups since gaining independence from France in 1975.

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