Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe left the sanctuary of the Dutch Embassy in Harare Wednesday to hold a news conference calling for UN peacekeepers in his politically troubled nation. Such a force, he said, "would separate the people from their oppressors and ... shield the democratic process for which Zimbabwe yearns." But the Electoral Commission announced that Tsvangirai's withdrawal from the presidential runoff Friday had been filed too late and cannot be recognized. It said the runoff will be held as scheduled.

Leaders of other southern African countries met in emergency session Wednesday to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe, amid perceptions that they alone can influence developments there. There was no early word on concrete decisions, but analysts said it was significant that South African President Thabo Mbeki, who has been the designated moderator between Zimbabwe and its neighbors, did not attend. Mbeki has been criticized for being too soft on his Zimbabwean counterpart, Robert Mugabe.

Israel closed border crossings into the Gaza Strip Wednesday, saying they'd be reopened only "in accordance with security considerations." But a Palestinian source said he had learned that leaders of the Jewish state told Egypt that the crossings would be reopened Thursday to allow for delivery of vital supplies. Israel took the step in retaliation for the firing of rockets from Gaza Tuesday that wounded two people and breached the cease-fire that began late last week But while Hamas, which controls Gaza, said it wanted the truce preserved, Islamic Jihad militants vowed to retaliate for the shooting of a Palestinian farmer near the border.

Efforts to restore diplomatic relations between Colombia and Ecuador collapsed Tuesday, apparently due to critical comments by the latter's president in a newspaper interview. Rafael Correa's government also said it may impose trade restrictions on its neighbor. The two sides had been set to resume their ties at the chargé d'affaires level under a deal brokered by former US President Carter. Their feud began March 1 with a cross-border raid on a leftst rebel camp by Colombian forces.

Police easily dispersed one of the smallest protests to date in Seoul, South Korea, over the government's decision to resume imports of US beef as soon as Thursday. Only about 100 demonstrators gathered outside President Lee Myung Bak's residence, 30 of whom were arrested for obstructing traffic. Under a new agreement, only cuts of beef for younger cattle will be imported. But activists are demanding a complete renegotiation of the deal. Above, a demonstrator continues to protest from inside a police van.

Embattled Prime Minister G.P. Koirala was keeping Nepalis in suspense Wednesday over whether he'll resign, as published reports have suggested. Sources in his Congress Party said he'd make such an announcement only after the nation's new Constituent Assembly elects a president. The assembly is dominated by former communist rebels and has yet to reach agreement on power-sharing.

An unidentified buyer paid a record $80.5 million at auction in London for "Le Bassin aux Nympheas" ("Water Lily Pond"), a painting by impressionist master Claude Monet. The 3.28-foot-by 6-1/2-foot work, painted in Giverny, France, in 1919, has been seen in public only once in the past 80 years. Its last previous auction price: $320,000.

Author Margaret Atwood of Canada was awarded the prestigious Prince of Asturias Prize in letters for writing "with sharpness and irony [in] defending the dignity of women and denouncing social injustice." She has published dozens of volumes of fiction and poetry and previously won Britain's Booker Prize.

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