Bush, Iraqi leader discuss agreement between countries
WASHINGTON - President Bush and Iraq's president expressed cautious optimism Wednesday about prospects for completing a complex agreement that would keep U.S. troops in Iraq after a U.N. mandate expires at year-end.
Bush said the U.S. was working on an agreement that 'suits' the Iraqi government. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, speaking in the Oval Office after meeting with Bush, cited recent progress and said he hoped it could be finished 'very soon.'
U.S. and Iraqi authorities are trying to meet a July target date for completing the security agreement. Talks bogged down over several key issues, which Iraqi lawmakers said violated the nation's sovereignty. Recently, however, Iraqi authorities said prospects for a deal had brightened after the Americans submitted new, unspecified proposals.
Bush wants the agreement in place before he leaves office. If not, major decisions about how U.S. forces operate in Iraq could be left to the next president.
Saudi ministry: 701 suspected militants arrested this year
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Saudi authorities arrested 701 suspected al-Qaida-linked militants in 2008, some of whom planned a car bomb attack on an oil installation, the Interior Ministry said Wednesday.
The kingdom has previously reported arrests of large numbers of militants, including those linked to al-Qaida, but the figure released Wednesday was the highest to date.
Al-Qaida has called for attacks against the Saudi government, criticizing its alliance with the U.S. and hoping to disrupt the flow of oil to the West. The group has also labeled the government un-Islamic, even though the kingdom follows a strict interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism.
State Department spokesman Tom Casey said the reports of the arrests were an indication 'a lot more' needed to be done to combat terrorism worldwide.
Opposition leader briefly leaves Dutch embassy
HARARE, Zimbabwe - Zimbabwe's opposition leader briefly emerged from his refuge at the Dutch Embassy Wednesday and called for African leaders to guide talks to end Zimbabwe's crisis, saying a presidential runoff this week was no solution.
Some 300 of his supporters sought refuge at South Africa's embassy in Zimbabwe.
Ronnie Mamoepa, a spokesman for the South African Foreign Ministry, says the ambassador is talking with the group and the situation is under control.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said talks could not begin until there was an end to attacks on his supporters blamed on President Robert Mugabe's government and a release of 'political prisoners,' including top opposition figure Tendai Biti, jailed on treason charges.
Afghanistan official blames Pakistan for attempt on Karzai
KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan official on Wednesday accused Pakistan's premier spy agency of organizing a recent assassination attempt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the most serious in a string of allegations against Pakistan.
The charge bodes ill for American efforts to get Pakistan's new government to work with Karzai's embattled administration to counter Islamic militants on their common border.
Karzai escaped unharmed when assailants fired guns and mortars toward the president, senior officials and foreign diplomats during a military parade in downtown Kabul on April 27. Three Afghans were killed.
Bodies wash ashore as search for ferry survivors continues
SAN FERNANDO, Philippines - Bodies in life jackets washed up on islands and drifted at sea Wednesday as more than 100 divers probed deeper inside a Philippine ferry that capsized during a powerful typhoon.
While the divers have only found bodies so far, officials were not willing to give up hope of finding more survivors among the more than 800 people missing since the seven-story ferry listed and went down Saturday.
Iran issues warning over nuke program
TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's parliament speaker on Wednesday warned that the West could face a 'done deal' if it provokes Iran, in a rare hint by an Iranian official that Tehran could build nuclear weapons if attacked.
Iran's leaders have long been adamant that the country's nuclear program is and will always be aimed only at generating electricity. Ali Larijani did not directly contradict that stance, but his veiled warning comes amid increased Iranian fears that the U.S. or Israel could strike its nuclear facilities.