The widower of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and his onetime political rival, Nawaz Sharif, signed a pact to form a coalition government. In what analysts called an ominous sign for President Pervez Musharraf, they vowed to reappoint the judges he dismissed when he imposed emergency rule last November. Asif Ali Zardari (above, l.) of Bhutto's People's Party and Sharif (r.), also a former prime minister and leader of the Muslim League, said the reinstatement of the judges would come via a parliamentary resolution within 30 days of the formation of their government.
Elections monitors will be allowed into Zimbabwe later this month only from other African countries and allies such as Iran and Venezuela, the Foreign Ministry said. President Robert Mugabe is seeking to extend his 28-year rule in the vote, but he faces a stiffer-than-usual challenge from ex-Finance Minister Zimba Makoni and longtime opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Mugabe blames Western countries for the nation's deep economic problems. Over the weekend, he signed into law a measure requiring that all foreign- or white-owned businesses yield majority control to blacks.
A UN proposal to send observers for both the constitutional referendum and 2010 national election in Burma was rejected by the ruling junta. Official news outlets quoted a senior junta member as saying the referendum, scheduled for May, "is within state sovereignty" and that the military had "enough experience" in conducting elections and did not need technical assistance. The rejection, while expected,"shows that the regime has lost its appetite for cooperating with the UN," diplomats said.
Although acknowledging that there were some irregularities, Armenia's Constitutional Court rejected an opposition claim that the Feb. 19 presidential vote was rigged. Losing candidate Levon Ter-Petrosian alleged massive fraud after Prime Minister Serge Sarkisian was declared the winner by a 53 percent to 21 percent margin. Eight people died in the resulting protests.
Voters in Malaysia handed the ruling National Front coalition its worst defeat since independence from Britain 51 years ago in an election that took place against a backdrop of racial tensions, rising inflation, and alleged corruption. The front lost control of five state governments and its two-thirds majority in parliament was reduced to 83 seats. The outcome raised questions about the political future of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (below, reaching to shake the hand of a well-wisher), but aides said he had no plans to step down.
Torrential rains and gale-force winds were bearing down on the British Isles Sunday, raising worries over severe coastal flooding. Meteorologists, calling the impending transatlantic storm the worst of the winter, also warned of disruptions to travel and electrical service.
In a major setback to leftist President Evo Morales of Bolivia, the nation's Electoral Court postponed indefinitely the May 4 referendum he scheduled on the rewritten Constitution. The judges ruled that "no technical ... legal, or political conditions exist to allow it to go forward." The proposed new charter would give the poor indigenous majority increased political power – a key campaign promise by Morales. But it is fiercely opposed by right-wing politicians. The court ruled against them as well, however, suspending their own proposed referenda on greater autonomy for resource-rich states.
Rescue helicopters lifted 775 fishermen to safety off Sakhalin Island in the Russian Far East Sunday after pack ice onto which they'd ventured, drifted out to sea. Authorities said they had ignored warnings that the ice wasn't safe. Ice fishing is a popular pastime during long Siberian winters, but this was the second year in a row that hundreds of anglers had to be rescued off Sakhalin.