On the eve of their planned meeting Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called it off. The talks were to have been held in Jericho and would have been their first in Palestinian territory. Aides said Abbas backed out because Israel "is not responding positively" to such demands as releasing millions of dollars in Palestinian tax revenues or extending a cease-fire to the West Bank. The two agreed in March, at the request of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, to meet every other week in an effort to move the peace process forward. But they've talked only once since then.
Olmert and Abbas have been invited to talks in Cairo June 25 by the so-called Quartet of Middle East mediators, a senior Palestinian official said. Foreign Minister Ziar Abu Amr, however, offered no further details on such a meeting, and Olmert's spokesman denied that an invitation had been received. The quartet includes the US, the UN, the European Union, and Russia.
For the second time in less than three months, Iranian naval units arrested Europeans for allegedly straying intoa disputed zone in the Gulf. The detainees are Finns who work in Dubai for cellphone giant Nokia and were on a fishing trip. In late March, 15 British naval personnel were arrested and held for two weeks, causing a diplomatic storm. Also Wednesday, a judge in Tehran said two Iranian-Americans being held since early May on spying charges have "accepted that they carried out some activities."
Gunmen in Afghanistan killed a female broadcaster Wednesday, less than a week after another woman in communications was murdered. Zakia Zaki, who owned a popular radio station, had defied threats to her safety unless it ceased operating. Last Friday, TV news reader Sanga Amach was killed after ignoring a similar threat. Some religious and tribal leaders in Afghanistan's male-dominated society have reacted angrily to the content on radio and TV outlets.
Saboteurs removed hundreds of bolts from railroad tracks in Muslim-dominated southern Thailand, just as train service was about to resume following a derailment earlier this week. Railway officials said another such incident could have resulted if villagers hadn't reported seeing the saboteurs at work. Separatist militants also burned down a school, its library, and computer laboratory in Yala Province and shot a teenage boy in the head. The violence in the region resulted in 103 deaths last month.
All "key leaders" in Serbia have agreed that most-wanted fugitive Ratko Mladic must be hunted down and arrested, President Boris Tadic told a Belgrade newspaper Wednesday. Mladic, who commanded Serbian forces in Bosnia in the mid-1990s, is sought by the war-crimes tribunal for the Balkans on genocide charges. But he remains a hero to Serb nationalists and has been at large since his indictment. The fact that he hasn't been caught is stalling Serbia's bid for membership in the EU.
Tens of thousands of people were evacuated and crude oil shipments were suspended as cyclone Gonu battered Oman and Iran with heavy rain and winds of up to 71 m.p.h. Authorities were unable to mount effective rescue efforts because of flooded streets and a power outage. Tankers carrying up to 21 million barrels of crude a day pass Oman, and even a brief interruption can cause a spike in prices. Gonu is the strongest storm to hit the region in 60 years, meteorologists said.
Pope Benedict XVI was unhurt – and may not even have noticed – as a spectator tried to vault into his open car from behind Wednesday in Rome. The incident, as he was beginning his weekly audience, evoked memories of the 1981 shooting of his predecessor, John Paul II, at the same site. Guards wrestled the man, a German national, to the ground. He was described as showing signs of "mental imbalance."