NATO's secretary-general rejected American concerns that some member countries are unwilling "to fight and die" to protect Western security interests. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer of the Netherlands disputed the suggestion by Defense Secretary Gates that NATO was becoming a two-tiered alliance. But he agreed that more forces are needed in Afghanistan, where Taliban and Al Qaeda militants have posed an increasing challenge to NATO forces, most of them from the US, Britain, Canada, and the Netherlands.
A ban on wearing Islamic head scarves by female college students in Turkey appears likely to fall Saturday when parliament votes for the second time on an amendment to the Constitution. In a preliminary ballot Thursday, the legislators approved the proposed amendment 401 to 110, over the objections of protesters (some of them above) massed outside. The issue is divisive, with secularists regarding the scarf as a political statement that ultimately could lead to pressure for female students to cover themselves completely.
A dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed on Chad's capital and six provinces by President Idriss Déby "to restore calm and deal with the damage" last weekend by rebel units whom his government claims were backed by Sudan's Army. Déby also appealed to the European Union to deploy peacekeepers "as quickly as possible to lighten the load we are carrying." The rebels have retreated halfway to the border with Sudan, whose government denies aiding the offensive.
Citing "unacceptable" restrictions imposed by the Kremlin, the main election-monitoring group in Europe canceled plans to observe Russia's March 2 vote for president. The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and Russia's Election Commission have been in a dispute over the size and duration of an observer mission. Dmitry Medvedev, the protégé of President Vladimir Putin, is considered certain to win easily. But some would-be challengers have been denied listing on the ballot, and the absence of outside monitors is expected to raise doubts about the legitimacy of the election.
A radical Muslim cleric who has defended terrorist bombings in Iraq and against Israelis was denied a visa for medical treatment in Britain. A government spokeswoman said the decision to ban Egyptian Youssef al-Qaradawi was "based on the impact of a visit" by one who might "disburse views that could foster inter-community violence." Britain's Muslim Council accused the government of caving in to pressure from right-wing interests.
Members of parliament in the Czech Republic are to vote Friday in an election that will return President Vaclav Klaus to office or replace him with challenger Jan Svejnar. Both are economists and favor basing part of a proposed US missile defense shield on Czech soil. Klaus, however, is a strong critic of the European Union and disputes claims that human activity helps cause global warming. Svejnar, who holds dual US citizenship, advocates vigorous efforts against climate change and an embrace of the euro.
Thousands of people living near Ecuador's Tungurahua volcano were ordered to evacuate as it shot red-hot lava and columns of ash as high as six miles into the air. But many quickly returned home despite the danger, reports said. The volcano last erupted in 2006, killing at least four people and leaving thousands of others homeless. Above, residents of a village leave for a temporary shelter.
Confronting a growing shortage of caregivers to the elderly, Norway may to turn to household robots for tasks as varied as washing clothes, cleaning floors, and medical tests, administrators said. They declined to predict how soon such devices would be employed and said the aim wasn't to replace human attention but, rather, to ease the burden on the dwindling ranks of healthcare personnel.