Angry community leaders on the Golan Heights were meeting in emergency session Thursday following reports that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had offered the strategic territory to Syria in exchange for peace. The Committee of Golan Heights Community Heads released a statement saying "the Jewish people will never agree to relinquish it" and that a handover "constitutes a grievous threat to national security and is predestined to fail." Syrian President Bashar al-Assad confirmed that Turkey was playing mediator between his country and Israel but that no direct talks would be held until after the next US administration takes office. Above, a student on the Syrian side of the Golan waves to her mother in a village on the Israeli side.

New global anxiety over the availability of rice surfaced Thursday as prices in Thailand, the world's No. 1 exporter, rose to $1,000 per ton. Traders there projected the price could climb by another $300 in the months ahead as buyers compete for remaining supplies. The concern began last week when India imposed export curbs to conserve its supply for domestic needs. Brazil and Vietnam, two other major producers, quickly followed suit. Above, rice is off-loaded from a ship in the Philippines, the world's largest importer.

Despite its heavy losses in Wednesday's battle with Tamil rebels, Sri Lanka's government said it remains on course to "end terrorism by the end of the year." The Army acknowledged that 43 soldiers died in the fighting on the Jaffna Peninsula, 120 others were wounded, and 33 remained unaccounted for. It said 100 rebels were killed; the latter claimed only 16 casualties. Warplanes were bombing rebel positions in the area Thursday

Credit Suisse became the latest financial giant to report a major loss due to subprime mortgage problems originating in the US. The bank posted a $2.1 billion loss Thursday for the year's first quarter and said it had written down $5.3 billion worth of mortgage securities and buyout loans. UBS, its Swiss rival, said Wednesday its losses would force cutbacks in its investment portfolio.

Only a 12-day supply of coal remains to meet China's insatiable demand for electricity, the Xinhua news agency reported. In more densely populated provinces, such as Hebei in the north, reserves are down to less than a week's worth, it said.Analysts said the admission means that a 15 percent increase in coal production in the year's first quarter hasn't been sufficient. About 70 percent of China's electricity is generated by burning coal.

Saying, "this strike is essential," members of Britain's National Union of Teachers set up picket lines Thursday, closing 8,000 public schools in England and Wales for the first time in 21 years. About 1 million students attend those schools. The walkout was to last one day as the teachers' opening move in a lengthy dispute with the government over pay. The government has offered a new three-year contract calling for a 2.45 percent increase in salary; the union has demanded 4.1 percent. Other teachers unions are not participating.

The Cato Institute announced it has awarded its $500,000 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty to a Venezuelan student who led protests credited with thwarting leftist President Hugo Chávez's bid to hold power indefinitely. Yon Goicoechea gave a voice "to millions of Venezuelans who believed in democracy ... and felt they were being left out of politics," a spokesman for the institute said. Goicoechea reportedly plans to donate the prize money to his university and to a foundation he is helping to set up to train young Venezuelans interested in a future in politics.

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