Fourteen leaders from across southern Africa are to open a conference Wednesday whose focus is expected to be the worsening crisis in Zimbabwe. A senior official in Zambia, the host nation, called Zimbabwe "a very dicey situation" and said the Southern African Development Community "cannot impose its will" on hard-line President Robert Mugabe, "but we can whisper to each other our concerns." Although thousands of Zimbabweans have been streaming into neighboring countries to escape the dire economic conditions, Mugabe's counterparts acknowledge his argument that he has been unfairly demonized by Western sanctions.

To be viable, the new peacekeeping mission for Darfur must include non-Africans, a key rebel leader said. Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur of the Sudan Liberation Movement appeared to contradict African Union chairman Alpha Oumar Konare, who said last weekend that troops from outside the continent weren't needed because African nations already had pledged enough manpower to fill the ranks of the 26,000-strong force authorized by the UN. Nur said "troops of all colors" need to be in the mission.

As expected, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu easily won reelection to the leadership of Israel's opposition Likud Party. He said that "as of tomorrow" the party's focus would shift to taking back control of the government even though it lost a one-sided election for a new parliament last year. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert must call a new election by 2010, although analysts say his approval rating is so low that it may come sooner.

Sweeping changes to the Constitution were to be proposed formally by leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Wednesday. He said he had faith that "the immense majority" of Venezuelans would support the proposals, among them one that would end term limits, allowing him to be reelected indefinitely. The National Assembly is dominated by his allies, and its president estimated that debate on the proposals would take less than two months.

Nine cabinet ministers traded jobs in Canada's minority government in a shake-up aimed at raising the Conservative Party's approval ratingbeforevoters go to the polls for a new general election. Opinion surveys have yet to give Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government more than 36 percent support since it was elected in January 2006. Meanwhile, it has battled a perception that its handling of Canada's military mission in Afghanistan has been riddled with missteps.

A feud between rival mafia clans was blamed for the execution-style murders of six Italians Wednesday outside a restaurant in Duisburg, Germany. Law-enforcement officials called the attack unprecedented because it took place in a foreign country even though the mafia "has a significant presence" in Germany.

A ban on smoking in public places finally went into effect in Denmark Wednesday, adding to the list of European countries that are cracking down on the habit. Implementation was to have begun April 1, but it was delayed to allow owners of restaurants and bars to build separate facilities for their patrons who smoke. Britain, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Italy, and Malta also have such bans.

Voters in Fiji will not choose a new government until mid-March 2009, coup leader Frank Bainimarama said. The date, if kept, would barely meet a deadline set by the European Union, which has warned of a cutoff of financial aid to Fiji unless an election was called by the end of that month at the latest. Bainimarama seized power last Dec. 5.

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