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By Compiled from wire service reports by Robert Kilborn and Ross Atkin / January 19, 2005



Terrorists in Iraq freed a Roman Catholic bishop unharmed one day after abducting him at gunpoint in an apparent effort to unnerve the nation's small Christian community as elections approach. But the Rev. Basle Georges Casmoussa of Mosul said his kidnaping had been "a mistake" and that no ransom had been paid for his release. Meanwhile, other terrorists released a video of eight Chinese construction workers seized "as they were trying to leave" Iraq. They were threatened with execution unless the Beijing government clarified their role within 48 hours.

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New Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was being pressured on two sides as he met in the Gaza Strip with the leaders of militant organizations on halting attacks against Israel. On the one hand, terrorists launched more rockets and mortars into Jewish settlements there in defiance of his call for a cease-fire. On the other hand, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said time is running out for Abbas to take action. Sharon has threatened - but not yet given the go-ahead for - a large-scale military offensive to stop the rockets. An Israeli newspaper reported, without revealing its source, that Abbas would order 1,000 Palestinian police to deploy next week in areas of Gaza near the border with Israel.

Believing that US intelligence agents are operating inside Iran "would be naive," a National Security Council spokesman said, boasting of "flexible strategies" that have led to "the greatest deterrent." "We have strength such that no country can attack us," he said, following comments by President Bush Monday that the US would not rule out military action if Iran isn't more forthcoming about its suspected nuclear weapons program. Bush, in turn, was addressing a claim in New Yorker magazine that US commandos have been conducting secret missions in Iran to identify hidden targets for possible future attack.

In a new setback for losing Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovich, the Supreme Court ruled that results of the Dec. 26 runoff election may be published even if it hasn't finished considering his appeal. The ruling means that the outcome probably will appear in print Thursday, although no firm inauguration date has been set for the winner, Viktor Yushchenko. The justices already have rejected four motions by Yanukovich to annul the results and were still meeting on his latest appeal.

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