The week at a glance...International


Ulan Ude, Russia

Kim wants to talk: North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il said this week that he wanted to return to the six-party talks on his country’s nuclear program and would even consider a moratorium on nuclear weapons development. He made the concessions during one of his rare trips abroad. Kim, who is afraid of flying, traveled in an armored train to a hydroelectric plant in Siberia, where he and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev discussed building a pipeline through North Korea to carry Russian natural gas to South Korea. Since the nuclear talks ended in 2008, North Korea has tested a nuclear bomb and has revealed a uranium-enrichment plant. The U.S. and South Korea say North Korea must announce a moratorium before, not after, talks begin.


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Biden visits, makes gaffe: Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to China this week to reassure the Chinese about the soundness of the U.S. economy was overshadowed by one of his trademark gaffes. Discussing the looming demographic challenges in China, which will soon have one worker supporting four retirees, Biden said he “fully understands” and was “not second-guessing” the one-child policy. Republicans back home immediately denounced the comment as an endorsement of forced abortions, and Biden’s office issued a retraction. The visit was also marred by a brawl that broke out at a goodwill exhibition basketball game between the Hoyas of Georgetown University and China’s Bayi Rockets.

New Delhi

Hunger strike: An elderly Indian activist has galvanized the nation with a hunger strike aimed at forcing the government to create an anti-corruption ombudsman. Anna Hazare, 74, was briefly jailed last week when he began his fast, but was released after a public outcry, including demonstrations by tens of thousands of people. Hazare wants an ombudsman empowered to investigate corruption at all levels of government, including the prime minister’s office. The bill that the government had put forward exempted top officials. “I’ll fight for my countrymen till I breathe my last,” said a visibly weakened Hazare on the ninth day of his fast.

Karachi, Pakistan

Gang warfare: The worst wave of unrest to hit Karachi in years worsened this week when more than 100 people were killed by ethnic gangs. The gangs are linked to rival political factions, such as the majority Urdu-speaking Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the mostly ethnic-Pashtun Awami National Party. They have been battling for months, but the swell of violence this week brought national attention. Thousands of people marched in a protest demonstration, and many called for the army to intervene. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who flew to Karachi this week to meet with local leaders, insisted that civilian authorities could handle the violence.


Americans sentenced: Two American hikers were sentenced to eight years in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison last week for allegedly spying for the U.S. Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal, and Sarah Shourd were hiking in northern Iraq two years ago when they strayed across the Iranian border and were arrested; Shourd was released last year. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged that the court go easy on the two men, but his intervention may have backfired. The mullahs who rule Iran have recently sent signals that Ahmadinejad has overstepped his authority, and the Islamic judges may have wanted to demonstrate that he can’t control them. “We are deeply disappointed” with the ruling, said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “We continue to call and work for their immediate release.”

Diyarbakir, Turkey

Bombing Iraq: Turkish warplanes bombed northern Iraq night after night this week, striking Kurdish guerrilla hideouts. Militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the main Kurdish rebel group in Turkey, had stepped up attacks against the Turkish military recently from their bases across the border in Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdish region. After the rebels killed eight Turkish soldiers in one raid last week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government had “run out of patience” and would direct the full force of the military against the PKK. The president of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, condemned the shelling, which killed seven civilians as well as at least 100 militants, but he also asked the PKK to leave his territory. “The PKK’s killing of Turkish soldiers is a big mistake. This is not serving the Kurdish cause,” he said. “Go and make your war in parliament.”

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