Fulfilling new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's campaign promise, Australia ordered its troops to halt all combat operations in Iraq Sunday. Roughly 550 soldiers will be brought home over the next several weeks, although some will stay to guard diplomats, and surveillance aircraft and one warship will remain to keep watch over offshore oil rigs. Australia was one of the first US allies to commit forces to Iraq, but Rudd claims that deployment has made his country more of a target for terrorism.
The Palestinian Authority will lodge a "major protest" over Israel's announced plan to build 884 new housing units in disputed sectors of eastern Jerusalem, an aide to President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday. Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are to hold another in their series of meetings Monday. The plan, announced in conjunction with annual "Jerusalem Day" celebrations, is to build only in areas Israel intends to keep in a final peace accord, the Housing Ministry said.
Despite being blasted with water cannon, an estimated 40,000 South Koreans extended an overnight protest into Sunday morning because of the government's decision to resume imports of beef produced in the US. At least 228 people were arrested (one of them above) and dozens of others were hurt. Koreans have protested over the issue almost every day for the past month, but this was the biggest so far. Opponents say the government has ignored their concerns that the beef may be tainted with so-called mad cow disease.
Shootouts with police and accusations of fraud threatened to wreck Sunday's critical parliamentary election in ethnic-Albanian areas of Macedonia just as the small Balkan nation sought to prove itself a worthy candidate for membership in the European Union (EU) and NATO. At least one death was reported, and 17 polling places were closed due to irregularities and voter intimidation. The violence was blamed on rival parties vying for the vote of the Albanian minority. In April, Greece blocked Macedonia's path to EU membership because the former shares its name with a Greek province.
Three hundred more Russian troops were sent to the breakaway region of Abkhazia over the weekend, deepening tensions with Georgia's government. The latter denounced the move as "yet another aggressive step ... against the territorial integrity of Georgia." But the Russian Defense Ministry said the troops are unarmed railway security personnel who will help to restore freight service to Sochi on the Black Sea, site of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
Voters in two more of Bolivia's eastern states, Beni and Pando, appeared likely to say "yes" Sunday to referenda on auton-omy, following the lead of wealthy Santa Cruz, where such an initiative passed overwhelmingly last month. Tarija, a state with plentiful natural gas reserves, is scheduled to hold an autonomy vote June 22. Above, "vote yes" slogans bracket a resident in Trinidad, Beni's capital.
Disgruntled soldiers in Guinea released the Army's second-in-command three days after taking him hostage, and loyalist troops guarding the presidential palace and other government buildings returned to their barracks, apparently signaling that last week's mutiny was over. The two sides never engaged in fighting, but bullets fired into the air by mutineers wounded at least 28 people.
A new landing strip for commercial jets will be built in Honduras, the government announced, after Friday's crash of a flight from Los Angeles killed five people and injured others. Two of the dead were in a car hit by the plane when it skidded off a runway and broke into three sections. Toncontin Airport in the capital, Tegucigalpa, is regarded as one of the world's most dangerous because of its nearby hills, short runways, and primitive navigational equipment.