A rare meeting between senior North Korean military chiefs and the UN command in rival South Korea Monday failed to defuse rising tensions on the peninsula. The meeting at the Panmunjom border village was the first in seven years. It lasted just 30 minutes and ended after the North Koreans demanded that the US call off the annual joint exercise with South Korean forces. North Korea routinely condemns the drills as preparation for an invasion of its soil, but this year's comes as the communist state appears ready for the test launch of what may be its longest-range ballistic missile.
With tens of thousands of mourners looking on, Bangladesh Army officers killed in the mutiny by border guards were given a full state funeral Monday. Seventy-seven officers are known to have died in last week's mutiny, but 71 others remain unaccounted for and also are presumed dead. More than 1,000 border guards have been charged with murder. The Home Ministry said Army units were conducting a manhunt for "fugitive rebels" involved in the mutiny and the mission will continue for "as long as necessary."
Israeli authorities sought to play down reports that plans for at least 73,000 new housing units in the West Bank will be available for Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu to act on. The officials said only a small number of the units had been approved. The Palestinian Authority maintains that Israel must choose between peace and expansion of West Bank settlements, but cannot have both.
In five phases, India will hold a national election beginning April 16, the government said Monday. The voting is the world's largest exercise in democracy, with 714 million people eligible to cast ballots. The election will test the ruling Congress Party's popularity, which has diminished both because of the faltering economy and since it signed a controversial nuclear deal with the US under President Bush. Balloting is staggered largely for logistical reasons, since there will be more than 800,000 polling stations.
HSBC, the largest bank in Europe, said it must raise $17.7 billion in new capital after profits plunged 62 percent last year. But rather than ask for a bailout by the British government, the company said it will offer investors five new deeply discounted shares for every 12 they hold, the largest such cash call in the nation's history. Executives also said they'll shut down HSBC's consumer loan operations in the US, a move that will cost 6,100 employees their jobs.
Hutu rebels in eastern Congo have reoccupied villages and other positions they held before Rwandan troops freed them over the past five weeks, the BBC reported. The Rwandans began returning home last Wednesday after conducting a joint offensive with Congolese troops against the rebels. Congo's Information Ministry disputed the BBC report, saying it believes the rebels are only "conducting hit-and-run operations."
Despite an impending tough new law, the safety of China's food supply remains "grim," the Ministry of Health acknowledged Monday. The existing regulatory system has "high risks and contradictions" that allowed the recent scandals involving tainted infant formula, toothpaste, medicines, pet food, and other products not fit for consumption, the ministry said. The new law, passed last weekend, takes effect June 1. It aims to ensure quality standards while imposing a risk-monitoring system.