UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council approved Thursday an African-led military operation to oust al Qaeda-linked extremists from northern Mali, but not before the training of the country's security forces and progress on political reconciliation and elections.
The resolution, passed unanimously, stresses that there must be a two-track plan, political and military, to wrest control of the turbulent north – an area the size of Texas – and reunite the West African nation.
It authorizes an African-led force to support Malian authorities in recovering the north, but sets benchmarks before the start of offensive operations, starting with progress on a political road map to restore constitutional order.
It also emphasizes that further military planning is needed before the African-led force is sent to the north and asks Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to "confirm in advance the council's satisfaction with the planned military offensive operation."
Vice president says Chavez conscious and recovering
CARACAS — Venezuela's vice president said President Hugo Chavez is conscious and progressively recovering more than a week after cancer surgery in Cuba.
Nicolas Maduro said in a televised speech that Mr. Chavez is doing well after the complicated surgery.
Mr. Maduro also reiterated that the socialist leader is "fighting a great battle for his life, for his health."
Prosecutor defies protesters, retracts his resignation
CAIRO — Egypt's top prosecutor retracted his resignation Thursday, a decision that could renew an uproar in the country after he was accused of pressuring a judge not to release protesters opposed to the Islamist president.
The prosecutor, Talaat Abdullah, who was appointed by President Mohammed Morsi, told reporters he resigned Monday "under pressure" and amid "abnormal circumstances" with prosecutors holding a sit-in in front of his office.
The protesting prosecutors accused Mr. Abdullah of pressuring a judge not to release some 130 anti-Morsi protesters taken into custody this month.
The judge had been investigating the Dec. 5 clashes between members of Mr. Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group and anti-Morsi protesters – one of Egypt's tensest moments in recent weeks. At least 10 died in clashes that day.
Mr. Morsi alleged that some of those detained during the clashes confessed that they were paid to attack his supporters, a charge the investigating judge refuted.
Polio vaccine workers get police protection
LAHORE — Under police guard, thousands of health workers pressed on with a polio immunization program Thursday after nine were killed elsewhere in Pakistan by suspected militants who oppose the vaccination campaign.
Immunizations were halted in some parts of Pakistan, and the United Nations suspended its field participation everywhere until better security was arranged for its workers.
The violence risks reversing recent progress fighting polio in Pakistan, one of three countries in the world where the disease is endemic.
The Taliban have denied responsibility for the shootings. Militants have accused health workers of acting as spies for the U.S. and claim the vaccine is intended to make Muslim children sterile.
Government's future unclear as party says it quits
PRAGUE — The Czech Republic's three-party coalition government appears to be heading toward collapse after a junior partner said it would quit.
The Liberal Democrats announced the move Thursday shortly after Prime Minister Petr Necas fired Karolina Peake from the post of defense minister, just eight days after she had been appointed.
Mr. Necas said the major reason for him to dismiss Ms. Peake was "clearly a loss of confidence."
Ms. Peake leads the centrist Liberal Democrats, the smallest member of the three-party coalition government. She said the party's leadership called on its ministers to resign from their government posts Jan. 10.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports