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Speculation that the government of Italy paid $1 million to terrorists in Iraq for the release of two women aid workers was growing. Spokesmen for Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi denied that a ransom was paid, but a key member of his ruling coalition said he suspected otherwise. The two were freed unharmed Tuesday. Meanwhile, British hostage Kenneth Bigley was seen again on videotape pleading for his life, and a mediator seeking the release of two French captives said he anticipated that they'd be freed by the end of the week. (Related story, page 6.)

The death of leading terrorist Amjad Hussain Farooqi and the arrests of 11 other suspected Al Qaeda extremists in Pakistan has "broken the back" of the network there, the government's interior minister said. A published report Saturday that Pakistani forces also had captured Al Qaeda's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was later denied, however. Farooqi was wanted for his role in the kidnapping and beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, for two assassination attempts against President Pervez Musharraf, and for car bombings and attacks on Christian churches. He was killed last weekend in a gunfight with security forces.

Investigators were trying to determine the identity of the would-be buyer after security police arrested a man carrying 60 ampules of weapons-grade plutonium to a delivery site in Kyrgyzstan's capital. Kyrgyzstan and other ex-Soviet republics are magnets for extremists trying to obtain such material for so-called "dirty bombs" from poorly guarded nuclear reactors and storage facilities left over from the communist empire. The arrest in Kyrgyzstan was the third of its type this year.

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Police in Beijing caught only one of an estimated 45 people who ran to the fence surrounding Canada's embassy and climbed over in an apparent bid for political asylum. The group was one of the largest yet to make such an attempt, and reports said several of its members appeared to be North Koreans. Despite reinforced security measures in Beijing's embassy district, such attempts have become common and are considered an embarrassment to the Chinese government, North Korea's strongest ally.

The on-again, off-again position of Russia's government with respect to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change is back on for good, news agencies reported. Citing an informed source, they said President Putin's Cabinet will OK the treaty Thursday, making ratification by parliament virtually certain. Putin had wavered on the controversial 1997 protocol but said in May he'd press for ratification in an apparent deal to win European Union support for Russia's application to join the World Trade Organization. Without Russia's OK, the treaty cannot go into effect.

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