The largest cut in interest rates in 27 years was announced by Britain's central bank in a move aimed at staving off recession. The 1.5 percent drop (to 3 percent, a level not seen since 1954) surprised analysts, who called it "spectacular" but still inadequate, considering that the cost of borrowing between banks in the US was lowered to 1 percent late last month. The European Central Bank also cut its key lending rate Thursday by 0.50 basis points, to 3.25 percent.

In its official response to Iraq's proposed changes in the status of forces agreement, the Bush administration has accepted some and rejected others, reports said Thursday. No details were offered, but analysts said it is likely that a demand for the power to prosecute US soldiers under Iraqi law was among those rejected. The security pact would keep American troops in Iraq for three more years. Against the backdrop, Romania's and Bulgaria's governments announced that their units in Iraq will be withdrawn by Dec. 31.

At least 11 people were killed and 45 others were wounded Thursday when a terrorist bomber attacked a meeting of Pakistani tribesmen who were discussing ways to drive militants from their area. The attack was the second of its type in less than a month along the border with Afghanistan as the government tries to organize a local response to the militants.

Dialogue with Zimbabwe's ruling party on forming a unity government has come to "a full stop," the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party said Thursday. It claimed that widespread political violence perpetrated by President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF has "killed" the negotiations. The statement came as leaders of Southern African nations prepared to open emergency talks on the matter Sunday. A spokesman said they planned to take "quite a hard stance" with the ZANU-PF and MDC because "this is becoming a matter of extreme concern to us." The two sides signed a deal Sept. 15 to form a unity government but have made no progress since then on how to divide cabinet posts.

New skirmishes Thursday between rebel and government forces in eastern Congo were threatening to unravel the Oct. 29 cease-fire declared by dissident Gen. Laurent Nkunda . UN sources said the fighting forced Army troops to abandon the town of Nyanzale and thousands of already displaced noncombatants to seek new shelter. A regional crisis summit on the fighting is to be held Friday in Kenya, although Nkunda has not been invited to attend.

The largest gold-mining operation in Venezuela will be the government's next takeover target, reports said Wednesday. Crystallex International Corp. of Canada, which runs the mine, insisted it wasn't notified of the plan in a meeting with government officials earlier in the day, but its stock price plunged 25 percent in trading as investors reacted to the report. The mine, Las Cristinas, is estimated to hold $35 billion worth of ore. President Hugo Chávez already has nationalized Venezuela's largest telephone and electric utilities, a cement company, and the oil industry, and is negotiating the takeover of the No. 1 steel producer.

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