US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Iraq's foreign minister signed the security accord Monday that requires American troops to be withdrawn by the end of 2011. Amid the ceremonies, parliament opened debate on the status-of-forces deal, although legislators in the 30-man bloc controlled by radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr were expected to try to kill it. The Sadrists, who adamantly oppose the US presence, said they'd file a bill that would require passage of the accord by a two-thirds majority. Still, the outlook for approval by month's end "is positive," Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said.
Supply convoys through the Khyber Pass were back on the road Monday after briefly being barred by the Pakistani government. But trucks laden with fuel oil and other needs of coalition forces in Afghanistan were being guarded by Pakistani troops (some of them above) with orders to shoot on sight any would-be attackers. The suspension was ordered after suspected Taliban militants hijacked a convoy last week, looting it and taking the drivers hostage.
Despite two new stimulus packages, Japan is in recession for the second time this century, the government said Monday. The economy contracted by an annualized rate of 0.4 percent for the July-September quarter after shrinking 3.7 percent from April to June. Economy Minister Kaoru Yosano warned of a further slowdown, saying, "downward movements are expected to continue" amid a drop in demand for such exports as cars and electronics.Japan's last recession was in 2001.
Pirates seized a Saudi oil supertanker in the Arabian Sea and are diverting it to a port in Somalia, reports said Monday. The vessel's huge size "shows how successfully they are expanding their operations," a spokesman for the US Fifth Fleet said. Piracy in the waters off the Horn of Africa has more than doubled this year, maritime analysts say, as the attackers use satellite phones and the Global Positioning System to pinpoint their targets.
A remote-controlled car bomb explosion Monday in Tel Aviv killed Israel's best-known crime boss. The blast occurred as Yaakov Alperon was leaving a court hearing involving his son. Police called his death "an extremely serious event" and suggested that it opened a new front in an increasingly violent battle among organized crime families for control of gambling and protection rackets.
At least four people were killed, dozens more were hurt, and hundreds of houses collapsed before dawn Monday as a powerful underwater earthquake jolted the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, early reports said. The magnitude-7.5 quake also triggered a tsunami warning, although it was lifted later. Authorities said they'd be able to assess the damage better as the day wore on.
Postelection violence in Nica-ragua spread to a second city Sunday, injuring eight more people, six of them policemen. Supporters of the leftist Sandinista Party blocked a highway to León from Managua, the capital, and fired on and hurled rocks at protesters from the opposition Constitutional Liberal Party. The latter is claiming fraud in the Nov. 9 local elections, in which the Sandinistas won all but 43 of 146 mayoral races.
All work on a $5.1 billion subway tunnel in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou was suspended Monday after a huge section collapsed and inspections revealed more extensive damage than was first thought. The accident occurred Saturday, killing at least seven workmen; 14 others were still trapped under the rubble. Nearby houses and a school were evacuated as a precaution. More than a dozen Chinese cities are building or developing plans for subway systems. Hangzhou's was projected to open in 2011.