Plans dropped for referendum on U.S. pullout
Plans to hold a referendum that could have accelerated the withdrawal of American forces have quietly been shelved as Iraqi politicians pushing for the poll conclude that it would no longer be a useful exercise. "The political blocs are no longer interested in this issue. They want to ignore it because they are busy with the elections. They don't see it as something they could use to their advantage," said Salim Jabouri, spokesman for the Iraqi Accordance Front, the largest Sunni bloc in Parliament, which had previously insisted that the referendum be held. Perhaps more significantly, the political will to hold a referendum appears to have evaporated amid the realization that U.S. troops are leaving anyway.
Security Council gets new members
Bosnia, Lebanon, Brazil, Nigeria and Gabon won two-year terms Thursday on the U.N. Security Council. The five countries, nominated by regional groups, won easy election in voting by the 192-member General Assembly. The Security Council has five permanent members — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France. The 10 nonpermanent members, representing regional groups, serve two-year terms. The five newly elected members will replace Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Libya and Vietnam on Jan. 1. The five countries elected last year — Austria, Mexico, Japan, Turkey and Uganda — will remain on the council until Jan. 1, 2011.
Auschwitz gets Facebook page
To try to reach young people around the world, the memorial museum at Auschwitz has launched a page on Facebook. The page aims to be a forum for discussion, reflection and learning about the Nazi death camp, and many people have left a simple message in English, Hebrew and Polish: "Never again." Since opening this week, the page has drawn more than 1,800 "fans," who have subscribed. About 1,000 signed up on Thursday alone.
China warms to Iran: Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said Thursday in Beijing that China would maintain high-level exchanges with Iran, saluted the two countries' increasing cooperation and said they would work closely together on international affairs, remarks that appeared to undercut America's effort for international cooperation on stricter economic sanctions over Iran's nuclear program.
Iran urged to free hikers: Relatives of three American hikers detained in Iran are appealing to authorities for their quick release. A petition, signed by 2,500 people, was submitted Thursday to the Iranian Mission to the United Nations in New York. Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27, were detained in late July after straying over the border during a hike in northern Iraq.
North Korea Irked: The North Korean military on Thursday accused South Korean warships of trespassing near its west coast. The North's state-run news agency warned that "a naval clash may break out between the two sides in these waters." South Korea denied the allegations.
Mexican protest: Tens of thousands of people, including many of the 44,504 employees of Luz y Fuerza, which provided electricity to the Mexico City area, marched to protest Mexican President Felipe Calderon's decision to disband the public utility.