The state of emergency in Iraq was extended for yet another month by parliament Monday, amid the discovery of at least 50 more victims of violence between suspected Sunni and Shiite death squads. Fourteen other people were seized at their jobs in Baghdad computer stores by gunmen dressed as soldiers, following the kidnapping of 26 employees of a food processing plant Sunday night. Worries about violence also were heightened by the announcement that Syria plans to transfer military guards from its border with Iraq to its border with Lebanon – potentially making access to Iraq easier for would-be terrorists.
Fatah and Hamas leaders both appealed for calm after the worst violence in months between their followers spread from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. Nine people died Sunday in Gaza over the Hamas-led government's inability to pay Palestinian civil servants – many of them from Fatah – their wages. In the West Bank, where Hamas is the weaker of the two, Fatah imposed a general strike Monday and someone shot a bodyguard of Hamas Deputy Prime Minister Naser al-Shaer. The violence has sidelined negotiations between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh over forming a unity government.
The brigadier general commanding the first Lebanese Army forces to deploy along the border with Israel in 36 years ordered them to "confront any aggressions and violations" by troops from the Jewish state. Under the truce brokered by the UN after last summer's Israeli-Hizbullah war, hundreds of Lebanese soldiers arrived in the area on the heels of Israel's withdrawal Saturday. But some Israelis remain in a border village, backed by Air Force units that patrol Lebanese airspace – both of which are seen as potential sources of friction. The Lebanese troops also are mandated to prevent any attacks against Israel, such as by Hizbullah rockets.
Aides to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil sought to put the best possible face on his first-place finish in Sunday's voting. But analysts were calling his failure to win outright victory a stunning outcome after reelection had appeared virtually certain. Lula took 48.6 percent of the ballots and must face Geraldo Alckmin in a runoff Oct. 29. Alckmin, a former governor of São Paulo State, finished with 41.6 percent. The analysts said the cumulative effect of scandals in Lula's first term and the fact that he failed to show up for the final televised debate of the campaign fed a growing sense of disgust among voters.
Some of the tension drained out of the latest confrontation between Russia and the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia with the handover to intermediaries of four soldiers accused of spying. But although the officers were placed in the custody of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili was not backing down from claims that "we have a very solid case of espionage [and] subversion" against them. For its part, Russia had yet to respond to a call by the OSCE to restore transportation and postal links to Georgia, which were cut earlier Monday.
Embattled Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany of Hungary asked for an unprecedented vote of confidence in parliament Friday after voters dealt his coalition government humbling losses in local elections over the weekend. Analysts predicted he'd pass the test easily since his leftist coalition holds a sizable majority of seats. But the legislators also were under pressure from President Laszlo Solyom to consider dismissing Gyurcsany, who triggered weeks of public protests and rioting by admitting he lied about Hungary's weak economy to ensure his own reelection in April. Conservatives vowed to stage a huge anti-Gyurcsany rally in Budapest if he isn't ousted by Thursday afternoon.