Annan: Plan is Syria's last chance

DAMASCUS, Syria - International envoy Kofi Annan gave a bleak assessment of the crisis in Syria on Tuesday, saying violence remains at "unacceptable levels" and warning that his peace plan is the country's last chance to avert a disastrous civil war.

Annan insisted there is still hope and said the presence of U.N. observers has had a calming effect on the crisis, which has killed at least 9,000 people since March 2011.

"There is a profound concern that the country could otherwise descend into full civil war, and the implications of that are frightening," Annan told reporters in Geneva after briefing a closed-door session of the U.N. Security Council in New York by video conference. The observation mission, he said, "is the only remaining chance to stabilize the country." - AP

Taliban kills 5 Afghan officials

KABUL, Afghanistan - Taliban insurgents ambushed a convoy of Afghan education officials traveling in a southeastern province close to the border with Pakistan on Tuesday, killing five officials and wounding three, the police and the provincial governor's spokesman said.

The officials were part of a delegation visiting schools in Urgun, one of the largest districts in Paktika province, and were making the 40-mile return journey to the provincial capital when their convoy was hit by a remote-controlled bomb on a mountainous section of the road. They then came under small-arms fire for 15 minutes before the attackers escaped.

The head of the province's education department, Atta Mohammed Qani, was part of the delegation and was wounded, said Abdul Wahid Kandahari, the police chief of Urgun district.

He said there had been intelligence that the delegation was under threat but the officials had chosen to disregard the warning. "They said, 'We are education department staff, and the Taliban have nothing to do with us,' and then they left on their own decision," he said.

- N.Y. Times News Service

Militia suspected in Libyan attack

CAIRO - Truckloads of armed men attacked the Tripoli headquarters of Libya's interim prime minister Tuesday, in a new demonstration of the lawlessness pervading the capital just weeks before a scheduled national election.

Officials of the interim Libyan government said at least four people were killed. The prime minister, Abdurrahim el-Keib, was reportedly away from the building at the time.

The attackers were believed to be militiamen from the Nafusah Mountains southwest of the capital, who were demanding payment for their work in fighting the forces of Moammar Gadhafi and securing the area after his defeat. The interim government recently suspended a plan to pay such fighters because of rampant corruption, prompting protests.

Municipal elections in Tripoli that were planned for last Saturday were postponed until after the voting next month for a national assembly.

- N.Y. Times News Service

Elsewhere:

A day after stepping down as Russia's president, Dmitry A. Medvedev was confirmed as prime minister Tuesday, though nearly a third of parliament voted against him.