World

No casualties were reported after a machine-gun exchange between North Korean and South Korean border guards across the Demilitarized Zone, the first such incident since November 2001. It reportedly was started by North Koreans. The exchange came as efforts were under way to coax North Korea's communist regime into multilateral discussions on its nuclear weapons ambitions.

Iraqis generally ignored the anniversary of the 1968 coup that ultimately brought Saddam Hussein to power, and the day appeared free of violence involving US troops. The anniversary had been a national holiday for 35 years. But Arab-language TV stations broadcast an audiotape purportedly recorded by Hussein that calls for a holy struggle to drive Americans out of the country. The tape refers to recent developments, and listeners familiar with Hussein's speech patterns said the voice sounds authentic, suggesting he's still alive.

Another meeting between the prime ministers of Israel and the Palestinians is set for Sunday, amid new hints that the three-month truce called by militant organizations could be extended indefinitely. But Hamas and Islamic Jihad slammed Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas for his planned trip to Washington later this month to meet with President Bush and demanded that he resist all pressure to try to disarm them, Israeli news outlets reported.

The shaken chief executive of Hong Kong is due in China's capital Saturday to explain to government leaders the deepest political crisis since since the territory reverted to Chinese control in 1997. But the furor over unpopular antisubversion legislation appeared unlikely to cost Tung Chee-hwa his job, at least for now. Tung, who wasn't popularly elected, told journalists Thursday that the turmoil left him "sleepless." He pledged to pay greater attention to public opinion.

The leaders of neighboring African countries were meeting to discuss possible military intervention to restore the government of São Tome and Principe despite the pledge of Wednesday's coup leader to "create the conditions for free elections." Maj. Fernando Pereira said his soldiers acted to stave off further decline in the impoverished island nation but, "We don't want power." Overthrown President Fradique de Menezes, who was abroad at the time, has appealed for help.

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