Russia must upgrade its arsenal of nuclear weapons as well as its conventional military forces because of NATO's eastward expansion, President Dmitry Medvedev said Tuesday. In a meeting with senior commanders, he said large-scale modernization of both the Army and Navy would begin in 2011. The declaration came despite his stated wish for improved relations with the US under President Obama and deep budget cuts in other areas that were announced earlier this week due to the economic downturn. But Medvedev insisted the Kremlin had the financial resources to carry out such an undertaking.
President Nicolas Sarkozy of France was considered likely to survive a vote of no confidence late Tuesday in Parliament over his decision to rejoin the NATO military command. As Sarkozy toured an industrial plant elsewhere, his defense minister sought to allay the concerns of legislators on both the left and right that a return wouldn't compromise France's independence or result in French troops coming under the command of officers from other countries. Four former prime ministers, two of them conservatives, have opposed the return publicly.
Negotiators for Israel's government returned empty-handed from talks on a prisoner swap with Hamas. But the latter said Tuesday "there was some movement on this issue" and held out hope that a deal still is achievable. It was unclear, however, whether Egyptian diplomats would be willing to continue as mediators of further talks. Hamas has demanded the freeing of 1,400 Palestinians from Israeli jails in exchange for kidnapped Army Sgt. Gilad Shalit.
The bitter power struggle on Madagascar took a dramatic turn Tuesday as President Marc Ravalomanana surrendered power to the highest-ranking military commander, a Navy admiral. But the admiral's Army counterpart and other officers said they preferred that opposition leader Andry Rajoelina assume power to avoid "throwing ourselves into another crisis." Rajoelina, meanwhile, set himself up in the president's palace and said through aides that he'd organize a national election within two years. He also wanted the Constitution rewritten to create a "fourth republic."At 34, Rajoelina is six years too young to be president under the current charter.
Ex-President Mohamad Khatami of Iran confirmed reports that he'll end his campaign to regain the office, announcing support for another challenger considered as a moderate alternative to incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In a statement published Tuesday, Khatami said he didn't want to be responsible for splitting the vote for so-called reformers. Analysts, however, predicted his withdrawal would only enhance Ahmadinejad's prospects for reelection in June.
Long lines of commuters' cars and trucks hauling vital raw materials streamed into North Korea Tuesday after the communist state reopened its border crossing with rival South Korea for the first time since late last week. The closure, apparently in protest against the annual South Korean-US military drills, blocked employees at the jointly operated Kaesong industrial park from reaching their jobs and left electronics, kitchenware, shoe, and watch factories unable to continue production.
A Tamil rebel disguised in a Sri Lanka Army uniform killed only himself in a suicide bombing mission a few yards from government troops in the last town still in separatist hands, the military said. The incident apparently came amid new fighting around the town, where an Army spokesman said at least 14 other rebels died. The government, meanwhile, said it would accept no conditions on $1.9 billion worth of emergency loans from the International Monetary Fund to help cope with the economic downturn.