JUNEAU, Alaska

Miller ends fight over Murkowski’s Senate seat

Republican Joe Miller is ending his fight over Alaska’s U.S. Senate seat, conceding the race to his bitter rival, incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

Miller’s decision, announced Friday at a news conference in Anchorage, comes one day after the state certified Murkowski as the winner.

He had the option of appealing a federal judge’s ruling or lodging a formal contest to the election results. While he said he believes he is right about the law, he said it was “very unlikely” an appeals court would side with him and that he had to accept “practical realities.”

Ultimately, Miller said, “the courts have spoken.”

Three courts ruled against Miller, who argued the state’s handling of the election and vote count for Murkowski was not in line with the law.

Miller has not called Murkowski to congratulate her on the win, said his spokesman, Randy DeSoto. To say that she’d won it fair and square, DeSoto said, “is not in his thinking.”


Bank standoff ends with no fatalities after four hours

A standoff at a suburban Houston bank where two masked gunmen took seven hostages and three other people hid in a closet ended peacefully after a negotiation of more than four hours.

The last two hostages and the second suspect inside the Chase Bank branch left the building about 4 p.m., Pearland Police Lt. Onesmio Lopez said.

Lopez called the removal of the last gunman, accomplished with the help of a diversionary device that simulated gunfire, a successful end to a long day for negotiators.

Also at the end, police brought out three bank employees who had been hiding in a closet. Lopez said police knew that the employees were hiding but never mentioned it publicly to ensure their safety.

Five hostages, including the bank manager, came out earlier, as did the first gunman.


Davis withdraws from race to unite black mayoral vote

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis withdrew his candidacy from Chicago’s mayoral race, leaving former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun as the only remaining prominent black candidate in the campaign.

Davis, who announced his decision alongside Braun at a New Year’s Eve news conference, said the decision was an act of unity for blacks in the city. The two Democrats had been under pressure from African American leaders in the city for weeks to agree on a so-called consensus candidate to unify black votes.

Some black leaders believe it is necessary for a unity black candidate to compete against former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and others.

More than one-third of the city’s 3 million people are black.

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast

Prime minister says country is in a ‘civil war situation’

A top ally of Ivory Coast’s internationally recognized leader said Friday that the country is already in a “civil war situation,” while the incumbent leader who refuses to step down after the disputed election accused world leaders of launching a coup to oust him.

The United Nations has said that the volatile West African nation, once divided in two, faces a real risk of return to civil war, but Prime Minister Guillaume Soro told reporters that the country is already at this point — “indeed in a civil war situation.”

Human rights groups accuse incumbent Laurent Gbagbo’s security forces of abducting and killing political opponents, though Gbagbo allies deny the allegations and say some of the victims were security forces killed by protesters. The U.N. has confirmed at least 173 deaths.

The United Nations had been invited by all parties to certify the results of the Nov. 28 presidential runoff vote. The U.N. declared Alassane Ouattara the winner, endorsing the announcement by the country’s electoral commission. But Gbagbo has refused to step aside now for more than a month.

Also on Friday, Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague said the U.K. would support a United Nations-sanctioned military intervention by Ivory Coast’s neighbors if negotiations fail to persuade Gbagbo to hand over power.


Car bomb kills seven at Christian church mass

A car exploded in front of a Coptic Christian church as worshippers emerged from a New Year’s Mass early today, killing at least seven people, officials said.

After the blast, enraged Christians emerging from the church clashed with police and stormed a nearby mosque, prompting fights and volleys of stone throwing with Muslims, police and witnesses said — a sign of the sectarian anger that has been arising with greater frequency in Egypt.

Nearly 1,000 Christians were attending the Mass at the Saints Church in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, said a priest at the church, Father Mena Adel. The service had just ended, and worshippers were leaving the building when the blast went off, about a half-hour after midnight. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. Alexandria’s governor, Adel Labib, immediately blamed al-Qaida.

ABUJA, Nigeria

Bomb at beer garden kills New Year’s Eve revelers

A bomb blast tore through a beer garden at an army barracks where revelers had gathered to celebrate New Year’s Eve, witnesses said, and state-run television reported Friday that 30 people died, though police immediately disputed that.

A local police spokesman said the blast occurred at about 7:30 p.m. Friday in Abuja, the capital of Africa’s most populous nation.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the explosion in this oil-rich nation where citizens remain uneasy after bombings at other locations had killed dozens of people several days earlier.