German official steps down early

BERLIN - President Horst Koehler stunned Germans by resigning Monday after being criticized for appearing to link military deployments abroad with the country's economic interests - creating a new headache for Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The resignation came a year into Koehler's second term as the largely ceremonial head of state.

He cited a week of criticism over a radio interview he gave after visiting German troops in Afghanistan. In that broadcast, he said that for a country with Germany's dependency on exports, military deployments could be "necessary . . . in order to defend our interests, for example free-trade routes."

That was taken by many as relating to Germany's unpopular Afghan mission, but his office later said he was referring to antipiracy patrols off the coast of Somalia. - AP

Al-Qaeda's No. 3 is believed dead

WASHINGTON - U.S. officials believe al-Qaeda's No. 3, Sheikh Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, is dead, killed by a U.S. Predator drone in Pakistan's tribal areas within the last two weeks.

A U.S. official said that word of his death was spreading in extremist circles and that U.S. officials had "strong reason" to believe it's true.

Yazid is the group's prime conduit to Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri and is key to day-to-day control. - AP

A bid to censure Thai government

BANGKOK, Thailand - The Thai House of Representatives began debate Monday on a censure motion against the coalition government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, focusing on its deadly crackdown on antigovernment Red Shirt demonstrators last month.

The opposition Puea Thai Party alleges the army used excessive force that resulted in civilian casualties when it moved in and used live ammunition to end the two-month protest.

The thousands of Red Shirts camped in the heart of the Thai capital have been calling for Abhisit to dissolve parliament immediately and call new elections.

Because the government holds a House majority, it is virtually certain to win a no-confidence vote. - AP

Russia: Katyn probe is closed

MOSCOW - There is no legal basis for reopening an investigation into the Katyn massacre, when thousands of Polish officers were killed by Soviet secret police, a top Russian official said Monday.

Interest in reopening the investigation into the 1940 killings has grown amid a recent Russia-Poland rapprochement. The Soviet Union acknowledged responsibility for the killings in 1990, but a criminal probe was ended in 2004 after officials said the killings were not genocide.

Chief military prosecutor Sergei Fridinsky said Monday that "by law, it cannot be restarted, given the expiration of the statute of limitations period," Russian news agencies reported. - AP

Pakistan lifts ban on Facebook

LAHORE, Pakistan - Pakistan lifted a ban on Facebook on Monday after officials from the social-networking site apologized for a page deemed offensive to Muslims and removed its contents, a top information-technology official said.

The move came almost two weeks after Pakistan imposed the ban amid anger over a page that encouraged users to post images of Islam's Prophet Muhammad. Many Muslims regard depictions of Muhammad, even favorable ones, as blasphemous. - AP