KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has irked Washington with his frequent criticism of U.S. military operations in his country, said Thursday that his government is now ready to let the U.S. have nine bases across Afghanistan after most foreign troops withdraw in 2014.
A border spat with Pakistan and a desire to test public opinion led Mr. Karzai to break months of public silence on this issue, according to Afghan analysts. They said he is concerned that Pakistan is using the Taliban to give it greater leverage, and that he wants to find out if Afghans, tired of 12 years of war, will support that size of a U.S. military footprint.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday that the U.S. "does not seek permanent military bases in Afghanistan." The U.S. military presence in Afghanistan after 2014 would be "only at the request of the Afghan government," Mr. Carney said.
Bangladesh plant fire
NEW DELHI -- A deadly fire at a garment factory in Bangladesh raised new cries for improvements to the country's industrial safety conditions Thursday, two weeks after a massive building collapse killed at least 950 people.
A fire swept through a factory in Dhaka, the capital, killing eight people, including its managing director and a top police official. Initial police reports suggested that the fire in the 11-story building late Wednesday was caused by a short circuit on the second floor that spread to the third and fourth floors, where the factory was located.
TRIPOLI, Libya -- Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zaidan said a purge of Moammar Gadhafi-era officials will force a Cabinet reshuffle and delay efforts to rebuild the country.
"For sure there will be a Cabinet reshuffling," Mr. Zaidan said during a news conference late Wednesday. "This will delay the implementation of projects," he said, noting that foreign companies are reluctant to open offices in Libya, while others have left the country.
BEIJING -- China's most celebrated film director, Zhang Yimou, is being investigated for a potential violation of family planning laws, an official said Thursday, confirming reports in state news media.
Family planning officials are examining discussions on the Internet that say Mr. Zhang has fathered up to seven children with four women. If he is found to have violated the laws, he could be fined nearly $27 million because the fines are based on the offender's income, according to a report in the online edition of People's Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party.
Family planning laws generally restrict families to one child, and fines are levied for additional children.
2 missing from cruise ship
SYDNEY, Australia -- Authorities were searching Thursday for two passengers who were believed to have gone overboard while traveling on a cruise ship off the east coast of Australia.
The couple, a 30-year-old man and 26-year-old woman traveling with family and friends, were discovered missing when the Carnival Spirit docked in Sydney after a 10-night cruise, according to a statement from Carnival Cruise Lines.
Police said footage from the ship's surveillance cameras showed that the couple, who are from the Australian state of New South Wales, went overboard from the ship's mid-deck Wednesday night, according to The Associated Press.