Hamas will not agree to a proposal that implicitly recognizes Israel's right to exist, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said, rejecting the ultimatum issued by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas had given the Hamas-led government until Tuesday to accept the proposal or he'd schedule a referendum on the issue. Haniyeh argued that "experts in international law" had advised that such votes "are not permitted on Palestinian land." Abbas has said that acceptance by Hamas would reopen transfers of aid by Western governments and allow for new peace talks with Israel. Meanwhile, under pressure from armed militants, Palestinian banks said they'd provide $13 million of their own funds Monday to pay 40,000 civil servants one month's wages.
Iraq's parliament postponed "until further notice" a session that had been scheduled to learn who would be Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's nominees for the final two slots in his cabinet. Reports said he had decided to name a fellow Shiite as interior minister and a Sunni as defense minister. But the political bloc to which Maliki belongs was threatening to reject his choices and submit different candidates, complaining that he hadn't consulted with it first. Meanwhile, despite his declaration of a state of emergency in Basra, the city experienced one of its worst days of violence in three years. Elsewhere, presumed Sunni gunmen stopped a motorcade carrying high school students north of Baghdad Sunday and executed 24 of them, all Shiites.
The embattled prime minister of East Timor summoned legislators to a special session Monday - their first in weeks - to "analyze" the gang violence that has yet to abate despite the arrival of thousands of foreign peacekeepers. Residents of the capital complained that as soon as patrols leave a neighborhood, "it starts again." At least a half-dozen more buildings were reported on fire Sunday. Interior Minister Rogerio Lobato quit late last week in a bid to quell the violence, but Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri has rejected calls for his own resignation. He is widely blamed for triggering the unrest by OK'ing the dismissal two months ago of almost half the Army for going on strike.
An American, a Canadian, and six British hostages were freed by militant tribesmen Sunday, two days after being taken hostage aboard an oil platform 40 miles off the coast of Nigeria. Unconfirmed reports said it was probable that a ransom had been paid for their release. The abduction was the latest incident in a campaign by militants in the nation's impoverished delta for a greater share of oil revenues. The fact that it happened so far from shore indicates that no oil facilities are safe from attack, analysts said.
Despite a downpour, fireworks lit the night sky in Montenegro's capital Saturday after parliament formally adopted a statement declaring independence from neighboring Serbia. Pro-union legislators boycotted the session. Voters already had decided the issue in a May 21 referendum, choosing separation by the narrowest possible margin. News outlets reported that Montenegro would apply immediately for membership in the UN, NATO, and other international organizations. No Serbian leaders attended the ceremonies, although President Boris Tadic issued a statement wishing Montenegrans "peace, stability, and overall prosperity."
Saying, "We want to change Bolivia together," new President Evo Morales handed deeds to almost 20,000 square miles of state-owned land to poor Indians Saturday, kicking off his promised redistribution program. He chose a city in the agricultural heartland for the ceremony after wealthy landowners walked out of negotiations over implementation of the program, threatening to form self-defense "committees" to defend their property. The program calls for one-fifth of Bolivian territory to be given to the poor within five years.