Reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jong Il apparently underwent brain surgery following a seizure last month, published reports said Thursday. But there were conflicting accounts in rival South Korea about whether the medical procedure left him with lingering impairment. South Korean President Lee Myung Bak's office said it had received intelligence reports that Kim was recovering and was still in control of the country. A senior North Korean official said only, "There are no problems."
Issuing a hasty retraction, the leader of South Ossetia said Thursday the breakaway region would "not relinquish our independence." Earlier in the day, Eduard Kokoity told reporters, "Yes .... we look forward to uniting with North Ossetia and joining the Russian Federation." Russia and Georgia fought last month over South Ossetia, and analysts say any attempt by the former to annex the territory would infuriate Georgians.
Two days after being ousted as prime minister of Thailand, Samak Sundaravej agreed to be renominated for the post by his party. The opposition People's Alliance for Democracy said it would abstain from voting on the matter in parliament Friday, although it controls only about 70 of the 480 seats. The move also appeared certain to anger thousands of protesters who have been conducting a sit-in outside Samak's office since Aug. 26.
A strengthening US dollar rose to its highest level against the euro in a year Thursday. It was trading at $1.3894 – up 0.0232 as investors worried about the gloomy outlook for the European economy.
Meeting a major demand of militants in Nigeria's restive oil region, President Umaru YarAdua announced the establishment of a new government ministry to address its problems. A spokesman said it would oversee development and infrastructure projects and provide jobs. A government-sponsored Niger Delta Development Commission has been in existence for eight years, but critics say it's underfunded and poorly managed. The delta remains impoverished, although it is the source of more revenue to the government than any other region. Attacks by militants on foreign-owned oil installations have cut production by 25 percent in recent years.
US Ambassador Philip Goldberg was ordered to leave Bolivia immediately amid mass protests against leftist President Evo Morales's government. Morales accused the American of fomenting political division that, among other outcomes, has shut down a pipeline that carries vital natural gas exports to Brazil. In Washington, the State Department called the accusations "baseless."
Allies of popular Colombian President Alvaro Uribe sent to Congress a proposed referendum on rewriting the Constitution, allowing him to seek a third consecutive term. The move Wednesday must survive four votes by the legislature and a review of its legality by the nation's top court before it can go on the ballot. Uribe, who enjoys 80 percent approval ratings in opinion polls, has yet to say whether he'd run again after his term ends in 2010.
Leaders of the Greek and Turkish sectors on Cyprus emerged from more than four hours of negotiations Thursday on the key issues that have blocked reunification hopes, saying only that they'll meet again late next week. The negotiations, the first of their type in four years, were held under UN auspices. Greek Cypriots, who outnumber Turks, seek a strong central government; their rivals so far have insisted on a loose federation.