As soon as possible, the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will send experts to Iran at the latter's invitation, it said Monday. The mission: to "develop an action plan" aimed at clearing up suspicions about Iran's nuclear program. Iran previously has said it was ready to cooperate with the IAEA on erasing concerns that its nuclear activities are aimed at developing weapons, as alleged by the US and other governments. But it has yet to follow through and has continued to enrich uranium in defiance of UN Security Council demands that it stop.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert left for his summit with Arab leaders, cautioning that a breakthrough on prospects for regional peace "will take time." The talks at Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, also were intended as a boost for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (above, besieged by reporters as he arrived) in his power struggle with Hamas. But as participants gathered, Hamas stole some of the thunder by releasing a first audiotape of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, whom it captured a year ago Monday. He is heard claiming to be ill and lamenting that Israel hasn't met terms for his release.
Hamas was urged to put the Gaza Strip under Islamic sharia law by Al Qaeda's No. 2 leader Monday. In an audiotaped message, Ayman al-Zawahiri also called on Muslims everywhere to "provide [Hamas] with money" and to "facilitate weapons-smuggling from neighboring countries" so Israeli and US interests can be attacked. Analysts saw the message as a significant shift since Al Qaeda previously had condemned Hamas for joining Fatah in a coalition government.
BBC correspondent Alan Johnston appeared in a new video issued by his Palestinian captors Monday, wearing a vest believed to hold explosives. Johnston, who was kidnapped March 12, warned that any attempt to free him by force will result in his hideout being turned into "a death zone." The BBC said it was aware of the video and appealed again for his immediate release.
UN peacekeepers are "more committed" than before to their mission in southern Lebanon, their commander said, after a car bomb blast Sunday killed six members of a patrol and wounded two others. The dead were on loan from Spain's Army. The attack, for which there was no claim of responsibility, was the first of its type against the UN Interim Force in Lebanon since it was expanded last year after the Israeli-Hizbullah war.
Thirty-seven years of patrolling the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic ended for British troops Monday. Their departure from the Bessbrook Mill base in heavily Catholic County Armagh, was another step in the normalization of Northern Ireland, where Protestants and Catholics are forming a power-sharing government. At the height of sectarian violence there, the Army used helicopters exclusively to monitor the region, an Irish Republican Army stronghold, because bombs, booby traps, and snipers made the roads too dangerous to travel. The mission, known as Operation Banner, was the longest in British Army history.
In a major boost to opposition parties in Argentina, millionaire soccer team executive Mauricio Macri won a runoff election for mayor of Buenos Aires. The lopsided outcome Sunday was seen as a blow to leftist President Nestor Kirchner, who'd encouraged his education minister to seek the post. Macri has hinted that he'll be a candidate for the presidency four years from now. While Kirchner remains popular nationally, he hasn't yet said whether he will run for reelection in October.
A plane ferrying foreign vacationers between popular tourist sites in Cambodia disappeared from air-traffic control screens Monday, and searchers were en route to a remote forested area where it is believed to have crashed. At least 27 people were aboard the Russian-built plane, which was en route to a beach resort area from the famous Angkor Wat temple complex.