Afghan government troops reached the center of Musa Qala, the only sizable town in Taliban hands. But a spokesman for coalition forces said Taliban or perhaps Al Qaeda remnants still were putting up resistance, so he could not confirm that the town "has been captured." Musa Qala, in southern Helmand Province, was vacated in October 2006 by British troops and taken over by the Taliban in February. Coalition units surrounded it last Friday. As the center of heroin production, it is of vital importance to the militants.
Only a divided Cyprus appeared to be blocking unanimous European Union recognition of Kosovo's campaign for independence from Serbia. The matter is considered critical. Kosovo's majority-Albanian leaders have said they won't issue an independence declaration without the approval of the EU or the US. For its part, the EU seeks unanimity on the issue so that it doesn't lose credibility in the Balkans. Mediators were due to report formally to the UN Monday that they couldn't win agreement between Albanians and Serbs on Kosovo's future.
There will be yet another delay in voting for Lebanon's president because of disagreement over how to amend the Constitution, reports said. Members of parliament were to choose thenew chief executive Tuesday after six delays, but senior sources said it appeared the vote might not be possible until early next year. The compromise candidate is Army Gen. Michel Suleiman, but the Constitution bars civil servants from holding the post until two years after they've retired.
As long as he remains its president, Taiwan will not declare independence from mainland China, Chen Shui-bian (l.) told the Associated Press in an interview Monday. His second two-year term ends next May, but Western governments have worried that a referendum scheduled for March on whether the island should join the UN might be a precursor to declaring independence. The government in Beijing has warned that such a move would trigger war. By law, the US would be obliged to help Taiwan defend itself.
In new signs of a thaw in relations between the Koreas, a freight train was to cross their heavily guarded border Tuesday, hauling construction materials to an industrial complex in the North. Plans called for it to return later in the day with finished goods such as shoes and clothing, and round trips each weekday were to continue indefinitely, the South's Unification Ministry said. There was no word on when passenger service might begin. The two Koreas did not sign a peace treaty after the war on the peninsula ended in 1953.
Banking giant UBS of Switzerland said Monday that it will need to write off another $10 billion because of losses in the subprime mortgage market in the US. The announcement was the second of its type in three months; UBS said in October that the problem had cost it $3.5 billion. In a statement, the bank said it was raising new capital to offset the losses by selling $9.5 billion worth of shares to the government of Singapore and to an unnamed investor in the Middle East.
A jury in British Columbia returned a guilty verdict Sunday in the trial of a farmer accused of being Canada's worst serial murderer. Robert "Willie" Picton is accused of killing 49 women in or near Vancouver, most of them drug users or prostitutes. But he was being tried only for six whose remains were found on his pig farm. Police still are investigating 40 of the cases. His conviction carries an automatic sentence of life in prison.
At least 43 illegal migrants drowned when their boat capsized and sank in the Aegean Sea off Turkey, authorities said Monday. Six others were rescued, two of them Palestinians. Turkey is on a major human-smuggling corridor between Asia and the Middle East and Europe. Most such immigrants attempt to reach Greece or Italy in search of jobs.