27 April 2006 Edition

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International News in Brief

Nepal

Nepal's opposition leaders gathered on Tuesday to discuss a formal response to the embattled king's offer to reinstate parliament following several weeks of mass protests that threatened to force him from power.

With few choices open to him Gyanendra's announcement late on Monday cleared the way for the creation of a new constitution that could leave him largely powerless, or even eliminate the monarchy.

Fourteen demonstrators have been killed by his security forces.

Nepal's three largest opposition parties welcomed the king's comments which meet their key demands according to Ram Chandra Poudel, general secretary of the Nepali Congress.

The King's address effectively handed power back to elected politicians hours before the largest planned protest yet, with hundreds of thousands of people expected to attend.

Nepal's Maoist guerrillas, who have seized much of the rural heartland in a decade-long struggle and who were part of the broad alliance to back the protests have called for the protests to be maintained until the king delivers on his latest committments.

Iraq

Prime Minister-designate Jawad al-Maliki (right) began the arduous task of forming a government on Sunday 23 April as a wave of violence - rocket attacks, bombings and the discovery of several bodies from apparent executions - underscored the challenges he faces. The US military announced that three US soldiers were also killed in Iraq on the same day.

Darfur

The African Union will end talks among warring parties in Sudan's Darfur region by 30 April if the Khartoum government and rebel factions fail to agree to a peace deal, a senior mediator said.

Sam Ibok, head of the AU team mediating peace negotiations between the Sudan government and rebels fighting in Darfur, said on Sunday 23 April that his team was still working toward a United Nations-backed deadline to achieve a final peace agreement by the end of the month.

Panamá

Panama's president Martin Torrijos (right) is asking his citizens to approve a multibillion-dollar gamble on the future of the Panama Canal: a plan to refit the waterway to accommodate huge modern cargo ships that would entail the greatest modifications since the canal opened in 1914. The plan is to expand the canal for the large cargo ships that cannot fit through its 33-meter-wide (108-feet-wide) locks, designed by US engineers about a century ago. He will need to get the plan approved in a national referendum later this year.


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