Lebanese factions took another major step toward calming a flare-up of sectarian and political violence Thursday by agreeing to immediately resume long-stalled talks over a new government.
The deal, brokered by a visiting delegation of Arab diplomats, appeared to be a victory for the Shiite militia Hezbollah, which leads the opposition to the U.S.-backed government and the so-called March 14 movement behind it. Hezbollah fighters occupied parts of Beirut last week, forcing concessions from the administration of Prime Minister Fauod Siniora.
"Politically, it's obvious that the opposition won the first round," said Karim Makdisi, a professor of international relations at the American University of Beirut. "March 14 is in a state of strategic retreat. They will come back, but they recognize that they lost for now."
Aiming at foreigners, Italy arrests 400
Italian police have arrested nearly 400 people — mostly foreigners from Romania and North Africa — in a weeklong crackdown on street crime and illegal immigration, authorities said Thursday. The sweep was one of the first actions taken by conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's new government, which has pledged to improve safety after a spate of crimes in recent months blamed on foreigners.
President expected to be re-elected
Dominican President Leonel Fernandez, who has led the nation out of economic crisis and turned the capital into a huge construction zone, is expected to win a third term in today's elections.
Despite widespread concern about long-serving politicians in a country with a history of strongman rule, polls show Fernandez is likely to win at least 50 percent of the vote against six challengers and avoid a runoff.
Fernandez, a lawyer who grew up in New York and has warm ties to the U.S. government, has overseen a flurry of spending on roads, universities and the Caribbean's first true subway, even though a quarter of the country still lives below the official poverty line.
U.N. official alleges secret Afghan killings
Foreign intelligence agents are leading secret, deadly raids on suspected insurgents in Afghanistan and shirking responsibility when innocent civilians are killed, a U.N. official alleged Thursday.
Philip Alston, a special investigator for the U.N. Human Rights Council, referred to three such recent raids in the country's south and east. While he didn't specifically mention any intelligence agencies, he appeared to imply U.S. involvement. U.S. military officials declined to comment.
Canada moves to OTC sales of Plan B pill
Canada's National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities is recommending that "morning-after" contraceptive pills be sold over the counter. The agency decided Wednesday to support sales of the drug known as Plan B from drugstore shelves instead of from behind the counter.
The agency advises Canada's provincial authorities, which will have final say in their own regions. Under current rules, women who want to buy Plan B have to ask pharmacy staff for it, the same system as in the United States.