World

At least 41 more people were killed and 142 others were hurt as terrorists in Iraq set off two car bombs Thursday, stepping up the pace of violence as the handover of authority nears. The victims all were identified as members of the domestic security forces or poor Iraqis seeking to join because of limited job opportunities elsewhere in the postwar economy. New Defense Minister Hazim al- Shalaan vowed a crackdown against the terrorists in "the coming days" and said assistance by US forces would be limited to logistical support. If necessary, the operation would involve "all-out assaults," an aide added.

With the deadline nearing for the execution of hostage Paul Johnson by Muslim radicals in Saudi Arabia, law-enforcement units were on a mission to try to reach him in time. Meanwhile, a Saudi friend and colleague sought to intervene in the matter, posting a message on militant websites that said - as a devout Muslim - he had bestowed his protection on Johnson and "will never forgive" the radicals if they kill him. Members of an Al Qaeda cell vow to execute the civilian helicopter expert if Saudi authorities don't release all the militants in their prisons by Friday.

Amid warnings that their task won't be easy, 25 leaders of European Union states opened a meeting in Brussels to try to resolve differences that caused the failure of their first attempt to draft a constitution. Among the issues: whether the charter should contain references to God and to Europe's Christian heritage and the insistence by smaller members that larger members not be permitted to lord it over them. A Center for European Studies analyst said, "The costs of them failing will be very serious indeed."

A 12-member jury found Belgium's Public Enemy No. 1 guilty of murder and kidnapping in the "trial of the century." Marc Dutroux is expected to be ordered to spend the rest of his life in prison, but sentencing was delayed to give him and three codefendants - one of them his ex-wife - the opportunity to address the court. All were charged with abducting, raping, torturing, and starving young girls to death in the mid-1990s. The 3-1/2-month trial cost the state $5.5 million.

Thanom Kittikachorn, who died in Bangkok, ruled Thailand as prime minister from 1963 to 1973 and was a staunch ally of the US during the Vietnam War, allowing military jets and thousands of troops to be based on Thai soil. But the former Army chief's government tolerated no dissent, and after 77 people died and hundreds of others were hurt in an uprising led by students, he was forced into exile by King Bhumibol Adulya-dej. His return in 1976 inspired more violence and a coup. He spent most of his final years trying to rehabilitate his image.

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