A military outpost overrun by Islamist militants in northwestern Pakistan was quickly abandoned again, and government forces were preparing to retake it Thursday. But a search was under way for 15 soldiers who remained missing, and the situation in the area remained tense (as seen by the empty street in a nearby town, above). The militants claimed to have scared troops at a second base into evacuating with a threated attack, but that was denied by the Army.

The UN and the International Monetary Fund forecast significant progress for Iraq this year and next, although both cautioned that their optimism was based on expanding oil production and an improving security situation. IMF official Mohsin Khan said rising prices for oil exports should help the Iraqi inflation rate decline to 12 percent. A senior UN official said his misgivings on Iraq had "substantially changed" and he'd present a "complimentary" report to the Security Council.

Antigovernment demonstrations in Kenya appeared to be losing steam, although organizers vowed they'd continue until President Mwai Kibaki's representatives "sit down with us to seek a solution." Opposition leader Raila Odinga claimed at least seven more protesters had been shot to death in confrontations with police, but that could not be verified. Kibaki is "very open to dialogue," his spokesman said, but he believes the opposition should "take its grievances to court." Above, police fire into the air to chase protesters in a Nairobi neighborhood.

Tens of thousands of dwellings were under water in Mozambique alone as flooding in southern Africa worsened because of rains that have fallen relentlessly since early December. At least 40 deaths have been reported. Zambia's government appealed for $13 million in emergency aid, without which it said it "cannot manage to respond." In 2001, flooding in the region was blamed for 800 deaths.

If the Albanian leaders of Kosovo declare independence, Russia will ensure that the province never is admitted to the UN, the latter warned. Russia, with a permanent seat on the Security Council, will veto any attempt by Kosovo "to come to this building as a full-fledged member of the international community," Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said. Russia is a close ally of Serbia, from which Kosovo's Albanian majority seeks autonomy. A declaration of independence is expected by early March.

A Roman Catholic party that has been a critical ally of Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi quit the coalition government, further weakening the latter's tenuous hold on power. Going forward, the Udeur Party will consider backing Prodi only on a case-by-case basis, leader Clemente Mastella said. That leaves Prodi with a one-seat majority in parliament. Mastella resigned as justice minister earlier this week because he is under investigation for graft.

In a bid to end a standoff at sea, Australia's government said it will send a ship to pick up two environmental activists from the Japanese whaling vessel on which they're being held for interfering in its work. One of the activists is Australian. The leader of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said he wanted the two back but wouldn't accept any conditions that required its harassment of the whale hunt to cease.

In the wake of a fatal accident that has shaken Canada, operators of two hotels in Saint John, New Brunswick, offered free rooms to sports teams and other traveling school groups during threatening weather. A spokeswoman for both hotels said she hoped others would follow suit. Seven basketball players and a teacher from a high school in the province died Sunday when the van in which they were returning from an away game collided with a truck on an icy highway.

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