Members of Iraq's parliament left Baghdad for a month-long recess Wednesday after failing to approve the controversial law on provincial elections. Kurds in northern Iraq bitterly oppose a formula that would require them to share power in their provincial council with ethnic Turkomen and Arabs. Such a move is considered vital to national reconciliation. Parliament is due to reconvene Sept. 9 but could be called into special session earlier if negotiators achieve a breakthrough on the election measure.

In another sign of progress in their negotiations, Zimbabwe's rival political parties issued a joint statement Wednesday calling on supporters to end "violence in any form." President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF movement and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change also pledged their readiness to work together "in ensuring the safety of any displaced persons and their safe return home" from the turmoil prior to and during the discredited June election. Representatives of both sides are discussing a power-sharing government.

President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan abruptly canceled plans to attend the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Summer Games Friday in Beijing. Analysts saw the move as highly unusual since Pakistan counts on good relations with China as a counterweight to its nuclear rival, India. A source close to Musharraf said the cancellation was caused by a key meeting between leaders of the new government on impeaching him. Musharraf, who angered many Pakistanis by joining forces with the US in the war of terrorism, is resisting pressure to quit. He has tried to signal his willingness to work with the new government.

Justices of Venezuela's Supreme Court sided with leftist President Hugo Chávez Tuesday and refused to allow 272 political candidates to compete in state and local elections this November. With few exceptions, they are opponents of Chávez. The high court upheld his government's claim that it has the power to block candidates suspected of corruption, even though those affected have yet to be tried.

Much of South Africa was at a standstill Wednesday as up to 2 million union members went on strike to protest soaring electricity rates as well as the costs of food and fuel. The nation's largest electric utility recently hiked its rates for the second time since December, causing an overall increase of 27.5 percent. That, in turn, helped to push inflation up to 12.2 percent in June. The strike was idling coal mines, which provide the fuel for power plants.

Prosecutors confirmed that they will indict Malaysia's opposition leader for sodomy Thursday – the second time in a decade he'll have confronted such a charge. Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi insisted that evidence supports the accusation against Anwar Ibrahim. He rejected the latter's claim that the indictment is politically motivated, although its timing appears to undermine his candidacy for parliament in the Aug. 26 election. Anwar was convicted of sodomy in 1998 and spent six years in prison before the verdict was overturned. That process, however, left him unable to run for elective office again until this year.

A new military government was moving to assert its authority in Mauritania Wednesday after overthrowing President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi. The prime minister also was in custody. There were no immediate reports of violence, but state TV and radio both went off the air after announcing the coup. Abdallahi had led the sprawling nation since an election last year in which civilians supplanted the junta that had seized power in 2005. But relations with the military were uneasy, and the soldiers acted after he tried to fire their top four commanders. Mauritania has had numerous coups or coup attempts since its independence from France in 1960.

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