Bickering between Palestinians and Israelis caused their first peace negotiations in almost seven years to get off to a fitful start Wednesday. The Palestinians blasted a construction project planned for disputed eastern Jerusalem. Israel complained about daily rocket attacks coming from the Gaza Strip. Still, an Israeli spokesman insisted his side is "ready to move forward for a historic compromise."
A series of car bombs exploded at five-minute intervals in Amarah, Iraq, Wednesday, killing at least 41 people and injuring 150 others. The police chief was fired following the attacks, and an immediate ban on driving was imposed. The Shiite city largely had escaped sectarian strife but has been wracked by violent power struggles between rival militias.
A six-year prison sentence was ordered for ex-Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori following the first of his three scheduled trials. He also was fined $135,000 after being convicted of abuse of power near the end of his rule. His lawyers filed an immediate appeal. Fujimori (above) was due back in court Wednesday to be tried for ordering a military "death squad" to execute suspected leftist rebel sympathizers.
A former Serb general who commanded the siege of Sarajevo in the 1990s was sentenced to 33 years in prison Wednesday by the UN war-crimes tribunal for the Balkans. Dragomir Milosevic (above, lifting an earphone at his trial) was convicted of terrorizing the Bosnian city by directing mortar and sniper attacks that killed thousands of people between April 1992 and November 1995.
In a recorded speech to Hong Kong residents, Chief Executive Donald Tsang said he has "asked" China's communist government to allow the territory "to be further democratized." But he said he proposed no timetable for voters to elect their own leaders, other than noting that choosing the chief executive directly "would stand a better chance of being accepted" by China in 2017. In opinion polls, a large majority of Hong Kong residents say they want direct elections not later than 2012.
Although his party set a national record for the most votes in Switzerland's election two months ago, fellow members of parliament ousted Justice Minister Christoph Blocher from the cabinet Wednesday. Analysts interpreted the move as payback for Blocher's strong anti-immigrant views. His right-wing People's Party serves in a governing coalition with leftist and centrist partners, who reelected the other members of the cabinet by comfortable margins.
Twenty-two crewmen aboard a Japanese merchant ship appeared unharmed Wednesday after pirates freed them off the coast of Somalia. The ship, a tanker carrying benzine, was being escorted to an undisclosed port. It was seized Oct. 28, and earlier this week the captors demanded a $1 million ransom. It wasn't immediately clear whether the demand was met and, if not, why the pirates abandoned the ship.
By an overwhelming margin, legislators in Guatemala passed a new law giving government full control over the adoption of children. The measure will go into effect Dec. 31. Until now, the process has been handled by lawyers and notaries acting as intermediaries between wealthy foreigners – mostly from the US – seeking babies and birth mothers. Critics say the latter often seek to profit from such transactions.
Saying, "We called you to action exactly a year ago, and you responded beyond our dreams," 2004 Nobel Peace Prize-winner Wangari Maathai hailed a UN report announcing that the goal of planting 1 billion trees around the world had been reached. The tree that completed the effort "probably" went into the ground in Ethiopia, which did the most to help reach the goal. Mexico finished second.