World

In an apparent about-face, North Korea denied having a secret nuclear weapons program, accusing the Bush administration of fabricating its previous admission and threatening to unleash "a sea of fire" if challenged by the US. The statement came as Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly arrived in South Korea for talks on the North's nuclear program, the first of several stops that also include China, Singapore, Indonesia, and Japan.

Israeli helicopter gunships killed two Palestinian teens and injured a third in a strike that Lebanese television said was aimed at a car carrying Hamas militants. The Israeli military had no comment on the incident, which followed raids in Gaza that left two other Palestinians dead. One Israeli later was reported killed by a Palestinian gunman near the West Bank. Palestinian groups accused Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of stepping up operations against suspected militants to draw attention from corruption allegations in the runup to Jan. 28 elections.

Despite a shortfall due to Venezuela's ongoing oil strike and prices above $29 a barrel, other top oil producers should not change official output targets of 23 million barrels a day, Saudi Arabia's Oil Minister Ali Naimi said. He spoke ahead of an emergency meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in Vienna. Any production increase "would really flood the market," Naimi warned, because the oil wouldn't reach US markets until mid-March, when demand typically starts to wane.

Former Argentine dictator Leopoldo Galtieri, who died Sunday in Buenos Aires, was the third of four presidents in the 1976-83 military regime. He was forced to step down in 1982 after ordering the invasion of the Falkland Islands - known as the Malvinas in Argentina - touching off a brief war with Britain. Last year, Galtieri was placed under house arrest for his alleged role in human rights abuses against leftist dissidents.

British-born pop singer Maurice Gibb, who formed the Bee Gees with brothers Barry and Robin Gibb, died Sunday in Miami. The trio was best known for "Stayin' Alive," and other hits synonymous with the disco era. The group won seven Grammy Awards and is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

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