Unless the US withdraws militarily from Iraq, there will be no early end to violence there, Iranian leaders told visiting Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. But they pledged support for his government, and he said he regarded his trip as "successful." At a related security conference in Syria, Iran's chief delegate vehemently denied US accusations that his country not only is fomenting violence in Iraq but also is behind many of the attacks on American troops there.
Despite scattered incidents of violence against Shiite pilgrims outside Baghdad, their annual procession to a shrine there appeared otherwise peaceful Thursday. Hundreds of thousands of people prayed for safety amid intense security precautions, among them a three-day ban on vehicular traffic. The procession had been marred by more than 1,000 deaths and hundreds of injuries in the past two years.
Embattled Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will not declare a national state of emergency, his spokesman said. Instead, he'll go forward with plans to hold a "free and fair" election next year, the spokesman said. Speculation that Musharraf was about to issue such a decree arose Wednesday after he pulled out of a scheduled conference with hundreds of Pakistani and Afghan tribal leaders to discuss growing violence along their border. Aides to Musharraf reportedly had argued that Pakistan cannot afford further instability.
Musharraf's absence at the four-day conference was shrugged off by Afghan leaders, although other participants questioned how effective it would be without him. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, however, told delegates that by working together their nations could defeat a resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda because "our future and our destiny [are] intertwined." Standing in for Musharraf, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said the two terrorist groups "represent pain, intolerance, and backwardness."
Widening concern over subprime mortgage losses in the US caused the European Central Bank to offer more than $130 billion in emergency loans to its members Thursday. It made the move after BNP Paribas of France blocked withdrawals from three of its investment funds. BNP Paribas, the fourth major bank to report problems caused by the subprime crunch, blamed "the complete evaporation of liquidity" in certain segments of the US securities market.
There are "strong indications" that hard-line Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change are near a deal to end their longstanding hostility, Reuters reported. Citing a confidential report obtained from South African mediators, it said "progress" had been made on various contentious matters, such as constitutional reform, and "it seems there are no real substantive issues" remaining between the two sides. South Africa entered the fray following a brutal crackdown against MDC activists in March. The report is due to be presented at a summit of the Southern Africa Development Community next week.
By unanimous vote, Mauritania's National Assembly attached criminal penalties to a longstanding ban on slavery. The measure imposes prison terms of up to 10 years for keeping slaves and two years for promoting or excusing the practice. It also calls for reparations to former slaves. Slavery was outlawed in the African nation 1981, but it has persisted despite a public declaration last year by junta leader Ely Ould Mohamed Vall that it was a problem.
Frightened residents of tall buildings in Indonesia's capital spent hours in the streets after a powerful earthquake rocked the city five minutes after midnight. No injuries apparently were caused by the magnitude-7.5 quake, and seismologists said it had occurred too far underwater to cause a tsunami.