Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wound up her Middle East mission Monday, declaring that peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are "moving in the right direction." But Israel's government appeared to ignore her warning that progress could be upset by new housing activity on land the Palestinians claim for their future state. After her departure, plans were announced for construction of 1,400 new houses and apartments in eastern Jerusalem and in the West Bank settlement of Betar Illit. Both are areas that Israel expects to keep under a final peace agreement.
By unanimous vote, Turkey's Constitutional Court agreed to consider whether the ruling party should be shut down for allegedly plotting to turn the nation into an Islamist theocracy. Such a finding could result in banning Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President Abdullah Gul, and other party leaders from politics for five years. The Muslim-based Justice and Development Party has presided over strong economic growth since taking power in 2002. But it's also locked in a feud with powerful guardians of secular society, led by military commanders. Above, a court official (foreground) briefs journalists on the decision to hear the case.
More than 280 Tibetan exiles (one of them above) and their sympathizers were roughed up and arrested in Nepal's capital after yet another day of anti-China protests, and exasperated government officials said sterner measures may have to be taken to preempt future demonstrations. Nepal accepts development aid from the Beijing government and has committed itself to preventing anti-Chinese activity on its soil.
In defiance of the declaration of independence by Kosovo, its minority population will be given the opportunity to vote in Serbia's May 11 national and local election, the government in Belgrade said Monday. Officials said they'll seek permission from the UN, which has run Kosovo for the past decade, to set up polling places in Serb enclaves. The vote would be the first in the province since its split with Serbia. A spokesman for the Albanian majority, which is urging that UN approval be denied, said, "Kosovo cannot be an electoral zone for anyone."
Cash rewards and a new life abroad are being offered to would-be Tamil suicide bombers who surrender to the government, Sri Lanka's Defense Ministry said Monday. Posters appearing across the capital, Colombo, say the rewards – $93,000 – can be paid in US currency and that pardons and exile in a foreign country can be arranged for the rebel's family, if necessary. Skeptics, however, questioned where the cash-strapped government would find the money and how it would determine an applicant's eligibility. Tamil rebels have been blamed for numerous recent suicide attacks in or near the capital.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from running for public office under the proposed new constitution in Burma (Myanmar) because her late husband was a foreign national, news services reported. Sources familiar with Burmese law told Reuters, however, that the ban is a carryover from previous charters rather than a new "invention" of the military government. Suu Kyi, although long confined to house arrest, remains Burma's opposition leader.
In another in an almost daily series of announcements under new leader Raul Castro, Cuba's government lifted a ban that kept ordinary citizens from staying at hotels previously reserved for foreigners. Cubans also will be allowed to rent cars from state-run agencies for the first time. Previous announcements have freed ordinary Cubans to own cellphones, computers, and other consumer electronics. In each case, however, the changes are expected to benefit only those with the means to take advantage of them.