U.N. urges pause to let civilians flee

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Sri Lanka agreed to stop firing heavy weapons into the country’s northern war zone to safeguard thousands of trapped civilians, but resisted a cease-fire with Tamil Tiger rebels. U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes pleaded for a “humanitarian pause” to allow the civilians to escape or at least forage for food.

Officials backpedal on data access plan

The British government on Monday said it wants communications companies to keep records of every phone call, e-mail and Web site visit made in the country. But it has decided not to set up a national database of the information, a proposal that had been condemned as a “Big Brother”-style invasion of privacy.

Leftist victor faces revenue challenges

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa won re-election with 51.2 percent of the vote, according to official results Monday, making him the country’s first president elected in 30 years without a runoff. But now the leftist economist faces juggling his social services pledges against revenues from a distressed petroleum industry whose revenues plunged 67 percent in the first quarter.

‘Last dictator’ meets with pope

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko met with Pope Benedict XVI on Monday on his first trip to Western Europe since the European Union lifted a travel ban imposed a decade ago for his dismal human rights record. The ban was lifted to allow Lukashenko, whom some have called “Europe’s last dictator,” to allow him to attend an East-West summit in Prague, Czech Republic, in May.

Militants say attacks negate peace deal

Taliban militants declared their peace deal with the Pakistani government “worthless” Monday after authorities deployed helicopters and artillery against hide-outs of Islamist guerrillas seeking to extend their grip along the Afghan border. On a visit to Afghanistan, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called the border region a “crucible of terrorism.”

Settlement freeze demanded for talks

Palestinians won’t be pressured into resuming peace talks with Israel as long as construction in Jewish settlements continues, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday. He said a complete construction freeze is a prerequisite for resuming talks.

Archbishop warns of religious terror

Iraqi Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako on Monday said the slaying of three Christians on Sunday in the northern city of Kirkuk was an act of religious terrorism that could signal more sectarian violence. The attackers shot the victims at point-blank range at their homes in the oil-rich area 180 miles north of Baghdad, where a power contest between the majority Kurds and Arabs also includes ethnic Turks and various Christian groups.

Another nation outwits pirates

Yemeni coast guard forces have freed a hijacked Yemeni oil tanker and arrested 11 Somali pirates, the first time the country has successfully retaken a seized vessel. The oil tanker Qana, rescued Sunday, had been hijacked earlier in the day while heading between the southern Yemeni ports of Mukalla and Aden.

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