The $5.6 billion target for new aid to the Palestinian Authority appeared within reach as a conference of 90 international donors opened Monday in Paris. Pledging $555 million from the US, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the meeting was the authority's "last hope to avoid bankruptcy."
Iran accepted delivery of the first shipment of nuclear fuel from Russia for the Bushehr reactor that the latter is building. The Iranians have agreed to use the fuel only for generation of electricity. But critics, among them the US, suspect that the plant is part of a program to develop nuclear warheads.
For the ninth time, voting for Lebanon's new president was postponed by parliament after opposition legislators boycotted Monday's session, preventing the mandatory quorum. Speaker Nabih Berri said he'd try to hold the election Saturday. While the pro- and anti-Syrian forces have agreed on a compromise candidate, Gen. Michel Suleiman (whose portrait adorns a poster in central Beirut, above), they have yet to decide on how to amend the Constitution so that a military officer may accept the post.
All militant groups in Nigeria's restive oil region were urged to join forces and "cripple" the petroleum industry "once and for all." The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, which has resisted a peace initiative by President Umaru Yar'Adua and rescinded its own unilateral truce, issued the call Monday, hailing another militant group's withdrawal from peace talks with the government.
Tough laws that have hobbled political opposition and shut down independent news outlets in Zimbabwe since 2002 were amended Monday by President Robert Mugabe's government. Among the changes: The media will be opened to foreign ownership and magistrates may be asked to overturn police orders banning opposition rallies. But the opposition Movement for Democratic Change called the moves to ease the restrictions "piecemeal" and "not done with full sincerity."
Influential clan elders were sent to negotiate for the release of an award-winning French news cameraman kidnapped by gunmen in Somalia. Gwen Le Gouil was seized Sunday in a semiautonomous region while working on a report about trafficking in illegal migrants. His captors appear to be demanding a $70,000 ransom, the group Reporters Without Borders said.
Despite the prevailing calm, Sunday's election for a new parliament in Kyrgyzstan was "a missed opportunity" to show a commitment to international standards, Western monitors said. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the vote represented "a backsliding" in the democratic process. With vote-counting nearing completion, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's party claimed to have won every seat contested. Opposition leaders said they'd refuse to recognize the outcome and warned of mass protests. Kyrgyzstan usually has been considered the most democratic of the ex-Soviet republics in central Asia.
Amid intense security measures, an estimated 1.6 million Muslims from around the world donned white robes Monday and began the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The government also was taking extra precautions to try to prevent the high casualty counts that frequently occur during the hajj, an obligation that every Muslim is required to fulfill at least once if he or she can afford it. Last year, 364 people died in a stampede. Above, pilgrims wait for a bus outside the Grand Mosque in Mecca.
"In the public interest," Saudi King Abdullah pardoned a rape victim whose case caused a flood of international condemnation because she'd been sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in prison for traveling alone with a man to whom she was not related. For daring to appeal her conviction, a court more than doubled the penalties.