Sudan on Tuesday shut down for its first census in 15 years, a milestone in the peace deal that ended Africa's longest civil war but clouded in dispute threatening to undermine the accord further. The two-week census is crucial to prepare constituencies for national elections.
Formerly warring north and south Sudan were at loggerheads on Sunday as the south pulled out of a national census, a cornerstone of their fragile peace agreement, citing a barrage of grievances. ''We have deferred the census until sometime this year,'' the information minister in the southern government confirmed.
Gunmen have attacked police from the African Union and United Nations peacekeeping force in Darfur for the first time, injuring one officer by beating him with a rifle butt, a UN spokesperson said on Thursday. The unarmed police were stopped at gunpoint as they returned from a routine patrol.
Troop numbers are building and the threat of war looms over Abyei in Sudan. Khartoum's two ruling coalition partners are at loggerheads over what the mainly Muslim north interprets as the rival Christian and animist south's unilateral dispatch of one of its own to administer the area, without presidential approval.
The deadly conflict in Darfur entered its sixth year on Tuesday with no solution in sight, as Khartoum continued to resist the full deployment of a peacekeeping force amid a fresh wave of bombings. The anniversary coincides with visits to the country by Washington's special envoy for Sudan, Richard Williamson, and China's point man for Darfur, Liu Giujin, for top-level talks.
Hotels booked, parties planned and lights glittering, Bethlehem is preparing for tens of thousands of pilgrims to overcome Israeli occupation and give the town the best Christmas in years. ''We are hopeful this city will remain peaceful. I'm sure we'll have a wonderful Christmas,'' says mayor Victor Batarseh, determined to look on the bright side sitting next to a plastic fir tree near Manger Square.
As Iraqis queue forlornly for food and water, or swelter in homes and hospitals without electricity, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's coalition government is collapsing around him. The latest boycott brought to 17 the number of members of the Shi'ite-led coalition to have walked out, tendered their resignations or withdrawn from Cabinet meetings.
Thousands of gay Israelis are to rally in Jerusalem on Friday, defying the risk of violence from religious hard-liners outraged by what they brand an abomination to the sanctity of the Holy City. Ultra-Orthodox Jews have staged nightly violent protests, aiming to force the cancellation of an already twice-delayed event.
At least three people were killed and about 75 more injured on Monday when a train collided with a truck stuck on the line at a rail junction near the Israeli coastal city of Netanya. Four carriages, including the driver's cabin, were forced off the rails by the impact of the collision.
Israel's 12th Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, has courted early disapproval for a weak coalition few believe can redraw the borders of the Jewish state. A veteran nationalist, who like his coma-stricken predecessor Ariel Sharon, underwent a sea change in his views in late career, Olmert has vowed to guide the nation on the path to peace.
Egyptian forces on Tuesday arrested 10 suspects over the triple bombings that ripped through the Red Sea tourist resort of Dahab and killed 18 people, including foreigners. State media said preliminary investigations pointed to links between the attacks in Dahab and two previous strikes in the Sinai peninsula over the past 18 months.
Nine people were killed and dozens wounded in Israel's commercial capital Tel Aviv on Monday when a Palestinian bomber blew himself up in the deadliest suicide attack of the last 20 months. The blast took place hours before the swearing in of the new Israeli Parliament and prompted a pledge by prime minister designate Ehud Olmert that its perpetrators would not go unpunished.