Facing mounting Palestinian frustration at the pace of peace talks, the United States leaned on Israel on Sunday to lift restrictions that chafe West Bank residents and stifle an already limping economy. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice emphasized that a year-end goal for a peace deal is still achievable, even though both sides question whether the target is realistic. Both face new obstacles unrelated to the substance of peacemaking. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, 73, underwent an unannounced heart test last week, raising new questions about his health and the lack of a clear succession plan within the moderate West Bank government he leads. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has become the subject of a new police investigation, the fifth since he took office two years ago. He pledged Sunday to push forward with his agenda.
United States will give $40M in food aid
The United States on Sunday announced $40-million in food aid for Bangladesh, which is facing shortages after floods and a devastating cyclone last year.
James F. Moriarty, the U.S. ambassador to Dhaka, said about $10-million in aid would be used to meet emergency food needs while the rest would be distributed over the next three years, mainly through school programs.
The emergency aid will primarily benefit people who lost their property in last year's Tropical Cyclone Sidr, Moriarty said.
Sidr hit Bangladesh on Nov. 15, killing about 3,400 people and destroying crops across the southern coastal region. Two earlier floods displaced millions and washed away crops in the central and northern regions.
The government, faced with food shortages and rising world food prices, is struggling to feed the country's 150-million people.
Russia and Georgia argue over spy planes
Forces from Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia shot down two unmanned Georgian spy planes over the territory Sunday, an Abkhazian official said.
Georgia denied the claim and traded accusations with Russia, which is struggling with the West for influence in the country. Each says the incident indicates the other is preparing for war over the breakaway region.
Strained relations between Georgia and Russia, which has close ties with Abkhazia, have worsened since Georgia accused Moscow of shooting down a pilotless Georgian reconnaissance plane over the breakaway region two weeks ago. Russia denied involvement.
Abkhazia and another Georgian separatist region, South Ossetia, seek either independence from Georgia or absorption into Russia. They have had de-facto independence since breaking away from central government control in the early 1990s.
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast
First thousand rebels disarm over weekend
Rebels in Ivory Coast have begun to disarm, a crucial step toward long-awaited presidential elections that many hope will secure an end to years of war, officials said Sunday.
About 1,000 rebels have arrived since Friday at a demobilization center in the northern city of Bouake, a former rebel stronghold. In all, about 43,000 rebels are expected to lay down their arms over a five-month period at six demobilization sites in the north and west. Some 26,000 will be reintegrated into civilian life, and the remainder will be integrated into the national army.
Rebels took up arms in 2002, seizing the northern half of the country. Though the nation was officially reunited last year, former rebel soldiers have retained de facto control of the northern half of the world's leading cocoa producer. Rebels have promised to lay down their arms several times in the past, but previous attempts have failed.
Chinese meet with Dalai Lama's envoys
The Dalai Lama's envoys and Chinese officials plan a second round of talks after holding their first meeting since violent antigovernment protests erupted in Tibet in March, China's state-run news agency reported Sunday.
The Xinhua News Agency, which quoted unidentified sources, did not say when or where the next round of meetings would be held. The report said that Chinese officials had answered questions raised by the Dalai Lama's envoys at the meeting in Shenzhen.
China says 22 people died in violence in Tibet's capital of Lhasa, while overseas Tibet supporters say many times that number died.
The Dalai Lama says he is seeking meaningful autonomy for Tibet rather than independence from Chinese rule.