In an about-face, the government of South Africa said the political situation in neighboring Zimbabwe "is dire" and that results of the March 29 presidential election "need to be verified and released as soon as possible." The region's only major power previously had said there was no crisis in Zimbabwe and that the electoral process there must take its course. Despite increasing intimidation by police against hard-line President Robert Mugabe's opponents, the South African government also said it will not prevent a shipment of millions of rounds of small-arms ammunition and rocket-propelled grenades from reaching Zimbabwe. The shipment is aboard a cargo vessel that docked at the Port of Durban Wednesday.

The State House in Kenya rang with applause Thursday as opposition leader Raila Odinga accepted the oath of office as prime minister in a historic power-sharing government. Analysts, however, said its early priorities will be daunting, especially the resettling of tens of thousands of people displaced in the violence that followed the nation's disputed Dec. 27 presidential election.

President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia appeared to reopen his dispute with neighboring Ecuador, telling interviewers that cross-border raids against leftist rebel camps are still necessary. At a regional economic forum Wednesday, Uribe said he does not regret ordering the March 1 attack on a Revolutionary Armed Forces camp inside Ecuador that killed 25 people because guerrillas from there were responsible for the deaths of Colombian soldiers. Ecuadorean Vice President Lenin Moreno, who also attended the forum, said Uribe's remarks represented another backward step in bilateral relations.

Seven police officers were hurt and a building that houses the local office of Spain's ruling Socialist Party was heavily damaged early Thursday as a bomb exploded in the city of Bilbao. A caller claiming to represent ETA, the Basque separatist organization, had warned of the bomb in a telephone call to the city's traffic department 30 minutes earlier, and the police were trying to evacuate residents when it went off. ETA declared a truce in March 2006 but ended it after peace talks with the government produced no concessions.

A military parade and thousands of well-wishers greeted East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta Thursday as he returned home (above) from more than two months of medical treatment after the attempt on his life by rebel gunmen. The cowinner of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize was rushed to a Darwin, Australia, hospital Feb. 11 with severe wounds. Among those in the turnout for his homecoming was opposition leader Mari Alkatiri.

Martial law was lifted Thursday by Thailand's National Security Council for all but three southern provinces where Muslims are conducting a violent campaign for autonomy. Over international objections, the law was imposed in the wake of the September 2006 coup that toppled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Although it was eased selectively in various provinces later, angry Thais swept Thaksin's political allies back into power in a national election last December.

A tsunami warning system with the potential to save lives all along the heavily populated Mediterranean seacoast should be ready for its first tests later this year, spokesmen for the project said Wednesday. The $63 million system is expected to be in place by 2011. Sicily, Greece, Turkey, and the nations of northern Africa are considered to be most at risk in case of a tidal surge. Local warnings should be forthcoming within three minutes of collecting seismic data from an undersea earthquake, the spokesmen said. Broader warnings, such as for the entire Mediterranean Basin, would take up to 15 minutes, they said.

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