AFGHANISTAN

Civilian deaths decrease

The number of Afghan civilians killed has dropped 36 percent so far this year compared with last, the United Nations said Wednesday, the first time the death toll has declined over multiple months since the United Nations started keeping track. The senior U.N. envoy for the country, Jan Kubis, called the trend promising but cautioned that too many civilians were still being caught up in the violence as insurgents fight Afghan and foreign forces. Kubis’ office said 579 civilians were killed in the first four months of this year, down from 898 killed in the same period of 2011. The number of wounded dropped from 1,373 to 1,216 in the January to April period.

IRAQ

Ouster proceedings stall

A broad alliance seeking to unseat Iraq’s prime minister on Wednesday failed to persuade the country’s president to make a first move by calling a parliamentary no-confidence vote against the government, a lawmaker said. Iraq’s Shiite-dominated ruling coalition is increasingly shaky. One coalition member, the heavily Sunni Iraqiya movement, has long complained about being shut out of decision-making. Recently, two other groups Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had courted successfully — Kurds and the hard-line Shiite followers of prominent cleric Muqtada al-Sadr — have also threatened to defect. On Wednesday, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani held a round of meetings with Kurdish, Sunni and Sadrist politicians in a resort in Iraq’s autonomous northern Kurdistan region to hear their demands. Talabani later issued a vague statement, saying he remained committed to the constitution.

RUSSIA

Chess champ keeps title

World chess champion Viswanathan Anand of India retained his title on Wednesday, defeating Israeli challenger Boris Gelfand. The victory won Anand $1.5 million, and Gelfand took home $1 million. Anand had last successfully defended his title in 2010 against Bulgarian challenger Veselin Topalov. The match was played in a room filled with about 100 people at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, one of Russia’s finest museums.

Compiled from wire reports