More than 46,000 Iraqis returned from exile last month, government officials said Wednesday, attributing the influx to "the improving security situation." In a separate briefing, the commander of US forces in Baghdad said terrorist acts there had dropped to a "sustainable" level. Skeptics noted, however, that Jordan and Syria, where an estimated 1.9 million Iraqis fled to escape violence, both have tightened border security and have been denying most applications for visas.
Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto issued an ultimatum to Pakistan's president Wednesday: Quit as Army chief and end emergency rule by Friday or she'll lead a "long march" on the capital. She planned to address supporters in neighboring Rawalpindi on that day, but the city's mayor said police would prevent people from coming to hear her. In Islamabad, the capital, security forces fought with Bhutto followers Wednesday, reportedly beating several women protesters.
By unanimous vote, Russia's parliament suspended compliance with a treaty that limits conventional forces in Europe. The vote was sought by President Vladimir Putin, who accuses the US and NATO of using the 17-year-old pact to undermine Russia's western defenses. Defense Ministry sources said "work is being done" on increasing Russian troop deployments along its western border as a contingency, although there were no immediate plans to issue such orders.
Police in Georgia's capital struggled to contain a sixth straight day of antigovernment protests, firing tear gas, water cannon, and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators. An estimated 250 people were hurt, but the protesters (some of them above) only regrouped, calling President Mikhail Saakashvili corrupt and a "terrorist." His government blamed Russia, with which Georgia's relations have sunk to an all-time low, for instigating the turmoil and ordered its ambassador to Moscow home for consultations.
Special UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari prepared to leave Burma (Myanmar) Thursday after another meeting with leading democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi. But he was denied talks with Gen. Than Shwe, chief of the ruling junta, which also rejected his proposal to mediate discussions between its representative and Suu Kyi. The junta's information minister complained that Gambari's last previous mission "did not bear fruit" and was followed by imposition of new sanctions by the US and other governments plus a condemnation by the UN Security Council.
Air pollution and fog reduced visibility in Beijing to 500 yards (above) Wednesday, forcing the closure of four expressways and delaying both inbound and outbound flights. Authorities raised the pollution index to the second-highest level, drawing new attention to the slow progress in cleaning the air with the 2008 Olympic Summer Games due to open in exactly nine months.
Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen of Finland convened an emergency meeting of his cabinet Wednesday after a shooting rampage at a public high school killed eight people and wounded 11 others. The gunman was identified as a teenager who'd posted a video on the Internet warning of his plans. Reports said the incident, in a town 30 miles north of Helsinki, was the first of its type in Finnish history.
Saying, "It could well be the largest mammal migration on earth," a Wildlife Conservation Society director estimated that more than 1.3 million antelope and gazelles have returned to southern Sudan since 2005 due to the relative peace that has followed decades of civil war. An unofficial census by wardens of Nimule National Park, near the border with Uganda, put the number of returning elephants at 7,000 and giraffes at 1,500. Lions also have been spotted, a spokesman said, adding, "It's like magic."