World

Praise mixed with skepticism over North Korea's agreement to give up its nuclear weapons program in return for new economic aid, guarantees of security, and the right to develop a nonmilitary atomic energy capacity. The reclusive communist nation, the US, and Japan also committed themselves to normalizing diplomatic relations. The deal came on the final day of six-sided negotiations in Beijing on the North's nuclear status. But critics cautioned that the language of the agreement is vague. And while neighboring nations welcomed the pledge as an important turning point, the US and other Western governments said the North now must follow through with implementation. "That means dismantling their nuclear programs and allowing for verification," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

A definitive outcome in Germany's national election may be weeks away, analysts said, after voters failed to give the Social Democrats (SDU) of Chancelor Gerhard Schröder or the Christian Democrats of opposition leader Angela Merkel a clear majority. With her party and its Christian Social Union ally winning three more seats in parliament than the SDU, Merkel called on her rivals to concede defeat and discuss a unity coalition that she'd head. But SDU leaders refused, insisting that Schröder remain as chancellor. Voting in one district was postponed until Oct. 2 due to the death of a candidate.

A cache of explosives was discovered by police in the Iraqi holy city of Kerbala as hundreds of thousands of Shiite Muslim pilgrims defied a declaration of war by Sunni terrorists. The Shiites were descending on the city for a festival marking the birth of Mohamad al-Mahdi, one of their most revered saints. Previous such gatherings have resulted in terrorist bombings that killed at least 231 people. Meanwhile, a nephew of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein was sentenced to life in prison for his role in funding terrorism.

With his security police finally in control of the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said it would remain closed until a multilateral deal is reached on how to operate the key Rafah crossing point. Israel sealed the gate as part of its pullout from Gaza last month and has said it wants a new customs terminal that it alone would control.

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