GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - The planned deployment of Palestinian forces on the Gaza-Israel frontier could be a first step toward a wider return of Palestinians' security control in their areas of Gaza and the West Bank - the situation before fighting broke out with Israel in 2000, the Palestinian foreign minister said Thursday.
Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath made the assessment after Israel and the Palestinians resumed security coordination, agreeing on a Palestinian plan aimed at preventing rockets fired from Gaza into Israel.
Palestinian officials said about 1,000 police would be positioned, starting today, in the areas of northern Gaza where militants have fired dozens of rockets at Israeli communities just beyond the fence. Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz approved the deployment.
However, sporadic violence persisted: Two 13-year-old Palestinians were killed in separate clashes with the Israeli military.
6 Mexican prison workers killed
MEXICO CITY - Six employees of Mexico's maximum security prison in Matamoros were found slain Thursday morning a half-mile from the prison fence, and a few hours later the federal government moved in with soldiers and agents to seize control of the institution.
Scores of troops stood guard Thursday afternoon outside the penitentiary, which is near the Texas border, while helicopters circled overhead, Reuters reported.
The killing of the men, three guards and three clerical workers, follows a crackdown against drug gangs at jails across the nation. It was unclear if the six had been killed Thursday or a day earlier or if they had been on duty.
China to honor Zhao in small way
BEIJING - Chinese authorities will hold a low-key funeral service for Zhao Ziyang, the purged Communist Party chief, and have given permission for his burial in a cemetery reserved for senior party officials, a government spokesman and members of his family said Thursday.
The decision signals a softening of the government's position on how to handle Zhao's death. Top officials previously banned nearly all news coverage and denied Zhao the usual honors accorded to senior leaders when they die.
It remains unclear whether the party will present a eulogy at the funeral, as would be customary.
Zhao, who died Monday at the age of 85, lost power in 1989 after he opposed the use of force against democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square and spent nearly 16 years under house arrest.
SPACE FLIGHT THIS FALL: China said Thursday that its second manned space mission will take place in September or October and will involve two astronauts orbiting for up to five days. The Shenzhou 6 craft will have a flight of four to five days with two astronauts aboard, said Sun Laiyan, director of China National Space Administration, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
Guyanese await help after flooding
GEORGETOWN, Guyana - Thousands of flood-stricken Guyanese waited for food aid along a main highway Thursday, as this South American country struggled to recover from flooding caused by the heaviest rains in a century.
More than 40 inches of rain have fallen in the former British colony since Dec. 26, including 25 inches this month alone. Two people have been reported killed.
Thousands of people were forced from their homes in the flooded capital region of Georgetown, officials said. Residents braced for more rain this weekend.
Release of Chechen rebel's kin sought
MOSCOW - Two international rights organizations appealed to President Vladimir Putin to order the release of eight relatives of a Chechen rebel leader, who were allegedly abducted last month by security forces.
The relatives of Aslan Maskhadov, ranging in age from 35 to 68, were taken from their homes on Dec. 3 and Dec. 28, the International Federation for Human Rights and the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights said in an open letter published Wednesday. Chechnya authorities have denied that either Chechen or Russian forces had detained Maskhadov's family members.
The letter said security forces controlled by Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov had brought the captives to an illegal prison in Tsentoroi, Kadyrov's hometown, in an attempt to force Maskhadov to surrender.
Iran says it's ready to repel U.S. attack
TEHRAN, Iran - Iran has plans to defend itself should the United States make any aggressive moves, President Mohammad Khatami said Thursday, but he added that the possibility of an attack "is very low" because Washington has too many problems in Iraq.
Khatami's remarks in an interview with state-run television marked the most senior response to recent reports suggesting the United States may be considering military action against Iran. He did not elaborate on how Iran would respond or defend itself.
Vietnam's bird flu toll hits 6
HANOI, Vietnam - Vietnam on Thursday confirmed the sixth human death from bird flu in three weeks and neighboring Thailand recorded its first case among poultry this year as health experts expressed concern about a repeat of last year's devastating outbreak.
About 330,000 birds have died or been slaughtered because of the virus in Vietnam this year, and the World Health Organization is worried infection could spread rapidly with the Feb. 9 Lunar New Year holiday, when chicken is the centerpiece of meals.