North Korea's leader reviewed a massive military parade in Pyongyang Wednesday featuring missiles that could be armed with the nuclear warheads his government has pledged to abandon. State-run news agencies quoted Kim Jong-Il as saying North Korean forces "will wipe out US imperialists if they infringe our sovereignty even a [little]." The North missed the April 14 deadline for shutting down and sealing its nuclear facilities, and a senior US negotiator warned Tuesday that patience is running out over the failure to comply.
Al Qaeda's "security emir" in Iraq has been killed, a US military spokesman said. Mohammad Abdullah Abbas al-Issawi died in a firefight with US and Iraqi forces last Friday in Baghdad, the spokesman said. He was believed responsible for sending children as young as 12 on car-bomb missions and was linked to recent poisonous chlorine gas attacks. The announcement came as the UN said in its first human rights report since the security crackdown went into effect in Baghdad Feb. 14 that civilian casualties because of sectarian violence remain high. It blasted Iraq's Health Ministry for refusing to release accurate statistics on the death rate.
For now, Israeli forces will carry out only a limited offensive in response to new Palestinian rocket attacks, government officials said Wednesday. Despite a Hamas declaration that its five-month truce with the Jewish state is over, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ruled out a large-scale offensive in the Gaza Strip, the sources said. Olmert authorized continued "pinpoint" operations to try to stop the launching of rockets, they said.
New peace negotiations opened in Somalia's capital to try to quell eight straight days of fighting between Islamist militants and Ethiopian-backed government forces. The number of dead in the violence was estimated by human rights groups at more than 350, many of them civilians. Reports said Somali soldiers were being used to flush the Islamists from hiding in Mogadishu's neighborhoods so Ethiopian forces could pound them using tank-mounted guns.
Choosing to preserve his independence, third-place finisher FranĂ§ois Bayrou refused Wednesday to endorse either of the two candidates who will face off in Round 2 of France's presidential election May 6. Both conservative Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist SĂ©golĂ¨ne Royal had sought his support, Bayrou said, but he did not speak with either. Instead, he announced plans to form a new centrist party.
Jubilant supporters of abortion chanted "We did it!" after Mexico City's legislative council voted 46-19 Tuesday to legalize the procedure in the first three months of pregnancy. But opponents vowed to appeal the vote to the Supreme Court. The Roman Catholic Church, which had campaigned vigorously against such a vote, said it would not comment until Sunday.
Confusion reigned in Ecuador after 24 opposition legislators fled into exile rather than face treason charges for opposing leftist President Rafael Correa. Other colleagues were expected to follow them in seeking asylum in neighboring Colombia. The dissidents were among a group of 51 who were reinstated to Congress Monday by the Constitutional Court. But an angry Correa sent police to bar them from reclaiming their seats, and their replacements helped to vote to oust the high court's justices on grounds that their terms had expired.
The largest takeover fight in the history of the financial industry loomed Wednesday as a consortium led by the Royal Bank of Scotland weighed in with a $98.5 billion offer for ABN Amro of the Netherlands. The bid is 13 percent higher than the offer accepted earlier this week from Barclays PLC of London, and some analysts speculated that despite their initial action ABN's directors would have no choice but to recommend it to shareholders.