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By Compiled from wire service reports by Robert Kilborn and Ross Atkin / September 15, 2004



Saying "Thanks to the grace of God alone," Musab al-Zarqawi's terrorist organization claimed responsibility for one of the most horrific car bombings yet in Iraq. The blast, in Baghdad, killed at least 47 people. Health Ministry officials said 114 others were hurt. Zarqawi's Tawhid and Jihad group also said its "heroes" were responsible for ambushing a minibus carrying policemen home from work in Baquba, killing 11 of them plus a civilian. Meanwhile, other terrorists blew up a pipe-line in northern Iraq, halting crude oil exports and causing the shutdown of a vital power plant nearby because of the intense heat. Despite the escalation in violence, interim President Ghazi al-Yawar said the national election planned for January should be held "unless the UN says it is impossible."

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Intelligence officials said they're waiting for spy satellite pictures taken in clear weather to help determine the nature of the massive explosion last week in North Korea. But defense experts from the US and other nations were continuing to maintain that they don't believe the blast was a nuclear weapons test - although a Bush administration source said there are indications that the North Koreans want to conduct one. The Pyongyang government has said the explosion leveled a mountain to make way for a hydroelectric project, calling all other speculation "a preposterous smear campaign." It said it has invited Britain's ambassador to visit the site.

Wasting no time in implementing Russian President Vladimir Putin's plan to combat terrorism, finance ministry officials announced almost $6 billion in new spending on defense, intelligence, and other security purposes. Supporters were fanning out Tuesday to praise the plan through the news media. It calls for a central antiterror agency and a radical restructuring of the electoral system, giving Putin the power to appoint governors and eliminating the practice of legislators representing specific districts. Terrorist attacks have killed 430 Russians over the past three weeks.

Three weeks of peace negotiations on Sudan's Darfur region appeared on the brink of collapse unless their host, President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, could suggest a way to keep them going. Obasanjo was to meet with negotiators for Darfur's non-Arab rebels late Tuesday because the latter and representatives of the Sudanese government are deadlocked on how to return security to the troubled region. Meanwhile, Sudan's humanitarian affairs minister disputed UN estimates of the numbers of non-Arab Muslims killed and displaced in Darfur, calling them disturbingly high.

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