IRAQ: Iraqi police say a car bomb exploded in a market in the Shi'ite city of Kufa today, killing at least 16 people and wounding at least 70. Officials say the death toll could climb. A series of car bomb attacks has resulted in hundreds of deaths in recent weeks, despite a U.S.-supported security crackdown in Baghdad and outlying areas. On Monday, an al-Qaida splinter group claimed responsibility for an attack Sunday that killed six U.S. soldiers and a Russian journalist.
NORTHERN IRELAND: Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland are resuming their power-sharing government for the first time in five years. Northern Ireland's Assembly has begun naming a Cabinet of 12 ministers to govern. Today the Assembly swore in as first minister Protestant leader Ian Paisley, and swore in as his deputy Martin McGuinness, a leader of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the pro-Catholic Irish Republican Army (IRA).
NIGERIA - OIL: A militant group in Nigeria's volatile Niger Delta region says it has destroyed three major oil pipelines. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) made the claim today in an e-mail sent to news media. The group said its fighters attacked pipelines in the areas of Brass and Akasa in Bayelsa state (at one a.m. Nigerian time). Oil industry sources have since reported an oil spill on the Brass river.
FRANCE POL: French president-elect Nicolas Sarkozy reportedly plans to name his closest political advisor as the next French prime minister. London's "Financial Times" newspaper (FT) reports that Mr. Sarkozy told British Prime Minister Tony Blair in a phone conversation Sunday that he will appoint Francois Fillon to succeed current Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. The FT says Fillon is one of Mr. Sarkozy's most moderate allies and is viewed by France's Socialists as the least objectionable member of his team.
US - TORNADO: The governor of the (central) U.S. state of Kansas says the government's response to a tornado that destroyed a town and killed at least 10 people has been undermined by ongoing military deployments to Iraq. Governor Kathleen Sebelius said on Monday that response efforts are being hindered by a shortage of trucks, helicopters and other equipment belonging to the National Guard. White House spokesman Tony Snow denied the claim, saying that the administration is doing whatever it can, and that equipment would arrive if it was needed.
CUBA - CASTRO - HIJACK: Cuban President Fidel Castro is blaming the United States for inspiring two soldiers who killed an officer during their failed attempt to hijack an empty airplane to the United States. In a written statement, (Monday,) Mr. Castro said "the impunity and benefits that all acts of violence against Cuba have been rewarded with for almost half a century stimulate such deeds."
KOREAS - MILITARY TALKS: North and South Korean generals have begun their first high-level military talks in a year, but differences over the agenda quickly surfaced. The North's chief delegate, Lieutenant General Kim Yong Chol, opened the meeting today by saying he wants to discuss ways of preventing naval confrontations in the Yellow Sea (between China and the Korean peninsula). Last year's talks broke down when the North demanded a new border in the sea, where the sides have clashed several times in recent years.
JAPAN - ABE - WAR SHRINE: A spokeswoman for a controversial Japanese war shrine says Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a religious offering there last month. The spokeswoman said today that Mr. Abe sent a potted (masakaki) tree labeled with the words "prime minister" to Tokyo's Yasukuni war shrine. She said Mr. Abe did not appear at the shrine in person. The Yasukuni shrine honors Japan's two-and-a-half million war dead, including 14 convicted war criminals.
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