* Iraq 'stepping back from abyss' UN chief Ban Ki-moon has praised progress in Iraq at a UN forum in Sweden on the situation in the country.
* Olmert: I have no intention at all of resigning Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed Wednesday not to quit after Defense Minister Ehud Barak called on him to "detach himself from the day-to-day leadership of the country".
* UN warns about higher food costs Higher food prices may be here to stay as demand from developing countries and production costs rise, says an influential report.
* Rice says Bush administration was upfront about Iraq war US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday rejected allegations from a former White House spokesman who says the Bush administration misled the American public.
* Pressure grows on Israel's Olmert Israeli PM Ehud Olmert's party should prepare for possible elections, his party deputy has said, amid calls that he step down over corruption claims.
* Netanyahu: Elections needed to safeguard Golan Heights "I believe that the way to protect the Golan Heights and the Jordan Valley is to go to early elections," Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu said.
* US suspects Syria hiding nuclear facilities While American efforts to defuse the nuclear crisis with Iran have yet to bear fruit, the Bush administration now appears to be focusing on another nuclear program.
* Trying to head off an Arctic 'gold rush' Five states bordering on the potentially energy-rich Arctic Ocean have met in Greenland in an attempt to head off a new "gold rush" in the high north.
* UN: Balkans no longer hotbed of crime The Balkans, a hotbed of crime and violence during the Yugoslav wars and the chaotic transition from communism, has become one of the safest areas in Europe to live.* EU leaders unsure how to handle fuel crisis Fuel price protests threaten to spread around Europe in the run-up to the weekend following earlier action in the UK, France and Bulgaria.