PAKISTAN: U.S. allegations denounced
Pakistani political leaders denounced U.S. allegations that the country's spy agency assisted insurgents in attacking American targets in Afghanistan. But they stressed the need to keep lines of communication open with Washington. The meeting Thursday of more than 50 politicians, along with military and intelligence chiefs, was meant to convey unity in the face of fears that the United States might attack tribal areas along the Afghan border. In recent days, U.S. officials have tried to tone down the rhetoric coming from Washington, after Adm. Michael G. Mullen's blunt charge last week that the Haqqani network, which has ties to the Taliban, was "a veritable arm" of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
CUBA: Fidel scoffs at Obama
Fidel Castro mocked President Barack Obama on Thursday for saying he's open to changing U.S. policy toward Cuba if there is change on the island first, calling the U.S. leader "stupid." Writing in one of his semiregular essays that appear in state-run media, Castro reacted with sarcasm to reported comments that Obama would be open to a different relationship when there is political and social change. "How kind! How intelligent!" Castro said. "Such kindness still has not allowed him to understand that 50 years of blockade and crimes against our country have not been able to bow our people."
SAUDI ARABIA: An election, but for men only
The kingdom held its second nationwide vote ever Thursday, a male-only election for powerless municipal councils. The balloting comes just days after King Abdullah decreed that women will be able to participate for the first time in the next local elections in 2015, a step seemingly aimed at heading off any Arab Spring-style dissent. Sunday's decree to give women the vote is an example of the baby steps the king has been taking to reform and modernize his oil-rich nation since he ascended the throne in 2005. They are significant steps by the standards of his ultraconservative country.