BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Lebanon's pro-Syrian prime minister-designate stepped down Wednesday, saying he was unable to form a new government after nearly seven weeks of deadlock, a move heightening the country's political turmoil and making it unlikely crucial elections will be held on time. The opposition warned it could call for a new round of street protests to push the government into holding the elections on schedule, by May 31. The opposition expects to win the vote and end pro-Syrian factions' longtime domination of parliament. Prime Minister-designate Omar Karami announced that all his efforts to form a government had failed. "Today, and after many attempts ... once again we reached a dead end," he told a news conference at his Beirut residence. "That's why I am confirming my decision to excuse myself."
LONDON -- Britain's cases against nine North Africans accused of plotting to spread the deadly toxin ricin in the British capital resulted in only one conviction -- an Algerian linked to al-Qaida -- with eight others either not brought to trial or acquitted, according to details released Wednesday. Britain had forbidden reporting on the case until two lengthy trials were complete, and a judged lifted the prohibition after a court found four of the accused, all Algerians, not guilty Friday and dropped charges against four -- three Algerians and a Libyan -- on Wednesday.
TOKYO -- Japan began processing applications to let companies explore a disputed area of the East China Sea for natural gas -- a decision China called a "provocation" in a disagreement that could imperil Tokyo's bid for a permanent U.N. Security Council seat. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi denied the move Wednesday had anything to do with a feud between Tokyo and Beijing over Japan's World War II aggression.