Shiite, Sunni groups forge peace on eve of battle

Sunday, May 29, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Two of Iraq's most influential Shiite and Sunni organizations agreed Saturday to try to ease sectarian tensions pushing the country toward civil war as the government prepared to take its battle against the insurgency to Baghdad's streets. "We are all Muslims, and usually problems happen between one family. We want to solve them on the basis of Islamic brotherhood," said one Sunni official, Isam Al Rawi. In an Internet message, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Al-Qaida in Iraq on Saturday launched a tirade against Shiites, accusing them of targeting Islam and especially Sunni Muslims in what appeared to be an attempt to stoke hatreds and sectarian violence. Meanwhile, Iraqi police and army units prepared to launch a crackdown today in Baghdad that will include helping cordon off the city and erecting hundreds of checkpoints in and around the capital, according to defense and security officials.

Saudi's King Fahd suffers pneumonia, remains stable

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- King Fahd was in stable condition Saturday with an apparent case of pneumonia, officials said, as Saudis prayed for the health of the ruler who brought the oil-rich kingdom closer to the United States during more than two decades as monarch. The elderly king's health was the main topic of discussion wherever people gathered in the Saudi capital, a day after he was hospitalized for officially unspecified reasons. The king's half brother, Crown Prince Abdullah, has been Saudi Arabia's de facto leader since Fahd, king since 1982, suffered a debilitating stroke in 1995 that confined him mainly to a figurehead role. He is expected to be king if Fahd dies.

U.N. chief: Peacekeepers need authority in Sudan

KHARTOUM, Sudan -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Saturday called for widening the responsibilities of African Union peacekeepers in Darfur, as he visited a refugee camp and a tense, rebel-held area in the restive region of Sudan. Annan said African Union troops were doing a competent job, but would need a broader mandate and more resources to provide protection to the hundreds of thousands of civilians displaced by more than two years of ethnic violence in Darfur. The United Nations has called Darfur the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Twin bomb explosions in central Indonesia kill 20

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Suspected Muslim militants set off two bombs Saturday in a Christian-dominated town on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, killing at least 20 people and wounding 40, police said. Witnesses said both bombs in the town of Tentena struck a busy meat and produce market near a police station. The first was followed 15 minutes later by a much larger one that flattened food stands. Later Saturday police found an unexploded bomb outside a church in the same town, part of an area where Muslim-Christian clashes have claimed hundreds of lives since 2000.

Pope to make first pilgrimage in Italy

BARI, Italy -- Pope Benedict XVI is making his first pilgrimage since becoming pontiff, following in the much-traveled footsteps of his predecessor by visiting this seaside Italian city today. The trip to Bari will last only a few hours, but it marks Benedict's first pastoral visit in Italy since his April 19 election as the 265th leader of the Catholic Church. The city is home to the relics of the St. Nicholas, the fourth-century saint who remains one of the most popular in the Catholic and Orthodox churches. "When John Paul II came to Bari in 1984, he called Bari the 'bridge to the East' precisely because of the relics of St. Nicholas," Archbishop Francesco Cacucci of Bari said. "So if Sunday is the central day in the life of Catholics, we know that it's also so for the Orthodox world."

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