Iraq's government scored two new diplomatic victories Thursday as neighboring Kuwait named its first ambassador to Baghdad since the 1991 Gulf War. In the other, the Sunni leader of Lebanon's parliament, Saad Hariri, visited Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to discuss improved relations between Iraq and its Arab neighbors. Analysts saw significance in Hariri's visit since he is close to the royal family of Saudi Arabia, which so far has been cool toward Maliki.
Hopes for an early resolution of the deep political division in Zimbabwe hit a major snag Thursday. After week-long mediation efforts by the African Union, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai refused to sign a memorandum of understanding with President Robert Mugabe's government, saying "our demands have not been met." The memorandum would have set negotiations in motion for a power-sharing government.
Saying, "This is the most difficult day of my life," Vice President Julio Cobos of Argentina cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate at 4:30 a.m. Thursday to reject controversial tax increases on grain exports. He expressed hope, however, that President Cristina Fernandez "will understand." Opponents predicted that the defeat of the tax package would force Fernandez to rescind the executive order she issued to impose it.
A cease-fire retroactive to Monday of this week was declared by a purported umbrella group of Muslim separatists in southern Thailand. A spokesman for the separatists said anyone who committed further acts of violence in Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat provinces would be "a criminal." But commanders of government forces in the region said they'd never heard of the United Southern Underground and would "continue to be vigilant in providing security" there. More than 3,000 people have been killed since the separatist insurgency flared in January 2004.
Tensions rose higher between Thailand and Cambodia Thursday as both nations sent troop reinforcements to an area on their disputed border where an ancient Hindu temple has been designated a UN World Heritage Site. But there was greater turmoil on the Thai side of the border, where soldiers and police fought with angry local villagers and nationalist protesters trying to reach the temple. Negotiators for the two countries are to meet Monday to try to resolve the issue.
Police in Malaysia released opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on $47,000 bail Thursday but warned that he may yet be forced to give them a DNA sample. Anwar, the former deputy prime minister, previously had refused to provide a sample in connection with a new sodomy allegation against him, saying he lacks faith "in the system." He accused senior police officials of conducting "a vendetta" against him. A conviction for sodomy could bring a prison sentence of up to 20 years. Anwar already has spent time behind bars for an identical alleged offense, although that conviction later was overturned.
Investors in Karachi, Pakistan, vented their fury at plunging share prices Thursday by smashing windows and light fixtures at the nation's largest stock exchange and demanding a halt in trading. Karachi's 100 Index lost 288 points in the 15th straight day of decline, its worst streak in 18 years. Similar scenes were reported in Islamabad, the capital, and Lahore. Political tensions due to the fragility of the new coalition government are blamed for the market turmoil.
A truck that failed to stop at a grade crossing in Egypt pushed several other vehicles into the path of an oncoming train in Egypt Wednesday night, and the resulting collision killed at least 37 people. Forty others were hurt in the accident 270 miles northwest of Cairo.