World

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld drew resounding applause from American troops in Iraq as he and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff paid a surprise visit. Although the purpose of the trip appeared to be to provide reassurance that public support for the mission remains strong, they headed quickly to Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison, scene of the mistreatment of inmates by American soldiers. Rumsfeld described the scandal as "a body blow" to the US and predicted it would worsen as more details and pictures emerge. But he told the troops that their mission to build a democratic and stable Iraq would succeed and that, "One day you're going to look back and ... be proud of your service and you're going to say it was worth it."

Six years in power ended for Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee as his Hindu nationalist party conceded defeat in India's parliamentary elections and resigned. Victory went instead to the Congress Party of Sonia Gandhi, who stands to become the first foreign-born leader. She quickly pledged to continue Vajpayee's peace efforts with rival Pakis-tan. Analysts said Vajpayee miscalculated in scheduling the election six months before it was necessary and basing his hopes on an economic boom that has yet to benefit many people in rural areas.

Nine Supreme Court justices are scheduled to issue their widely awaited ruling Friday on whether impeached South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun should be ousted or reinstated. Expectations appeared to favor the latter - an outcome that would override the historic March 12 vote in the National Assembly that Roh should lose his job. But that action proved unpopular and triggered a backlash by ordinary South Koreans, who defeated the majority party at the polls a month later.

In another sign of the deepening rift between Venezuela's government and the Bush administration, the US military mission was asked to leave all bases to which it has been attached for half a century. Leftist President Hugo Chávez also accused Army Gen. James Hill, the commander of US operations in Latin America, of knowing in advance of a purported conspiracy to topple his government with the help of paramilitary invaders from neighboring Colombia. But he admitted he had no such proof "at this moment." US military officers train Venezuelan Air Force pilots and have been advising on antidrug operations.

Despite the worst economy in decades and his opponent's wide lead in late opinion polls, President Hipolito Mejia predicted an easy reelection victory Sunday in the Dominican Republic. He trailed ex-President Lionel Fernandez, who led the nation from 1996 to 2000, 54 percent to 27 percent. But analysts warned that a third candidate, former public works secretary Eduardo Estrella, could force a runoff by keeping either of his rivals from winning more than 50 percent of the vote.

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