World

Nobel Peace Prize-winner Shimon Peres said he'll decide Wednesday night whether to defect from Israel's Labor Party and join the new government if Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is reelected next March. But most signs pointed toward his departure from Labor, his political home for 60 years. Peres lost the party's leadership earlier this month, and a protégé - member of parliament Dalia Itzik - announced Monday that she is joining Sharon's new Kadima Party. The founder of the influential centrist Shinui Party also accepted an offer of membership in Kadima.

Unidentified gunmen in Iraq kidnapped a German humanitarian aid worker and threatened in a videotaped message to kill her and her driver unless her government stops cooperating with its counterpart in Baghdad. Susanne Osthoff, who also is an archaeologist and longtime resident of Iraq, has been missing since Friday. The act is believed to be the first against a German national in Iraq and poses a stern test for new Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has said she'll continue with her predecessor's policy of helping to train Iraqi forces. She also is under domestic pressure to find out from the US whether its CIA has been operating secret prisons for terrorists in Europe.

At least nine people died and 66 others were hurt - many of them critically - in a new wave of terrorist bombings in Bangla-desh that appear to be part of a campaign to impose harsh Islamic law. There was no claim of responsibility for the blasts, which targeted courthouses in the port of Chittagong and a suburb of the capital, Dhaka. But suspicion fell on the banned militant group Jumatul Mujahi-deen Bangladesh, several of whose members have been arrested recently. Two weeks ago, two judges died in a similar attack, and bombings last month and in August killed four people and wounded dozens of others.

Tensions between the US and the Venezuelan government of leftist President Hugo Chávez rose further as a delegation of congressmen was denied permission to leave their plane in Caracas for a meeting with senior officials Monday. After two hours, the plane left Venezuela. The airport director disputed the account of the incident. Also Monday, over US protests, Chávez signed a $2 billion deal to buy arms from Spain, among them military planes built with American-made components that require export licenses.

Residents of cities downriver from the toxic chemical slick making its way across the border between China and Russia were urged not to panic even though a leading environmental group warned of an "ecological catastrophe" for plants and fish. The World Wide Fund for Nature said only evaporation will rid the Songhua and Amur rivers of the 50-mile-long plume of contamination, but the water is far too cold for that, meaning the carcinogen benzene will remain in the ice until spring. In Harbin, China, schools reopened Tuesday for the first time since the contamination threatened the city and the water supply was cut. Authorities there pronounced the water safe again for human use, but few residents appeared to take them at their word.

A Pentecostal clergyman was cleared on charges of inciting hatred against homosexuals in Sweden by declaring from the pulpit that their orientation is a "cancerous tumor on all of society." The Supreme Court upheld an appeals court, which had overturned the Rev. Ake Green's 2004 conviction under Swedish hate crimes law in a case that has drawn international attention. Disappointed homosexual rights groups, however, warned of "growing religious agitation" that could spread to Muslims and Jews.

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