RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas fired the top West Bank security chief, Ismail Jaber, Saturday and said he would retire hundreds of senior officers, serving notice of a shakeup of security forces long demanded by the United States. Abbas had been criticized for not moving fast enough to reform his flabby security apparatus, seen as largely ineffective in reining in Palestinian militants. Saturday's decision sent the strongest signal since Abbas took office in January that he is serious about cleaning house. The Palestinian Authority has 45,000 to 50,000 security officers on its payroll. Abbas had come under growing pressure at home to take action after gunmen shot up his offices and rampaged through Ramallah on Wednesday.
GUNUNG SITOLI, Indonesia -- An Australian helicopter on a relief mission crashed Saturday on earthquake-devastated Nias Island, killing nine people on board, while workers searching for quake victims rescued a man who survived for nearly five days pinned under a mountain of rubble. Also Saturday, aid finally reached thousands of homeless and hungry victims of Monday's 8.7-magnitude earthquake on remote islands still reeling from the Dec. 26 tsunami disaster. Tens of thousands have been made homeless and at least 548 killed by last week's quake, which devastated Nias, Banyak and Simeulue islands off the coast of Sumatra.
SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea said Saturday it remains committed to international negotiations on ending its nuclear weapons program, but demanded Japan withdraw from the six-nation talks. The comment came a day after the regime repeated that it would stay away from the stalled talks until the United States apologized for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calling North Korea one of the world's "outposts of tyranny." The talks, which also involve China, Russia and South Korea, have been suspended since June. On Saturday, North Korea said the Japanese government should not be a part of the talks because of Japan's "cunning and vulgar" intention to exploit the process for its self-interest.