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World

August 16, 2004



Mortar shells fell not far from where Iraq's leaders were picking a new interim parliament Sunday, killing two people and wounding 17 others. The three-day meeting in Baghdad is aimed at choosing a 100-member council that will function until a national election is held in January. Meanwhile, in Najaf, peace talks broke down and fighting with Shiites loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr resumed. But US and Iraqi forces were ordered not to attack the mosque where many of the loyalists are believed to be hiding, and police told all journalists to leave the city or be arrested.

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In huge numbers, voters in Venezuela turned out for the historic referendum on leftist President Hugo Chávez, despite having to wait up to five hours to cast their ballots. For the recall effort to succeed, the "yes" vote must exceed the 3.8 million ballots cast for Chávez when he was elected in 2000. Then his vice president would head an interim transition government for 30 days while a new election was organized.

The first soldiers from another country arrived in Sudan's troubled Darfur region with instructions to use force if necessary to protect civilians from marauding Muslim militiamen. About 150 Rwandans will be assigned to five areas, among them the camps in neighboring Chad where thousands of Darfur residents have sought refuge from the violence. Nigeria is scheduled to send a similar number of troops to Darfur next week.

Women and children appeared to be the majority of victims in a massacre of Tutsi refugees from Congo at a camp run by the UN across the border in Burundi late Friday. At least 150 were killed by gunfire, explosives, or machetes, and a UN spokeswoman said 108 others were hurt. A rebel group, the Hutu Forces for National Liberation, claimed responsibility for the attack but said it had been aimed at rooting out Burundian Army troops and Congolese Tutsi militiamen hiding in the camp. Survivors told of seeing leaflets before the raid warning them to leave.

Intensive security precautions failed to prevent a powerful terrorist bomb explosion that ripped though Independence Day ceremonies in India's tea-growing Assam State, killing at at least 15 people - most of them children. Dozens more were hurt. Separatist guerrilla groups had called for a boycott of the festivities. In disputed Kashmir, 15 people were hurt when separatists fired a rocket into a crowd gathered for similar festivities.

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