World

More than 10,000 people marched through Baghdad on Tuesday in support of a national unity government of Sunnis and Shiites, while in the south of Iraq, municipal workers found remains believed to be from a mass grave dating to Saddam Hussein's rule. Preliminary results of the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections have given a big lead to the religious Shiite bloc that controls the current interim government. The secular Iraqi National List, headed by former Shiite Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, and two Sunni Arab groups have threatened a wave of protests and civil disobedience if fraud charges are not properly investigated.

The Israeli military Tuesday fired a barrage of artillery and missiles at the Gaza Strip, hitting two offices of the militant Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and a bridge the army said was used by militants to reach areas where they fire rockets. Hours later, about 40 gunmen took over an election office just outside of Jerusalem, demanding that the ruling Palestinian party, Fatah, include more representatives of the neighborhood in its list for parliamentary elections on Jan. 25, said Ziyad Al-Bakri, the coordinator of the office. Earlier in the day, about two dozen armed Al Aqsa militants took over the governor's office and two other government buildings in the northern Gaza Strip for several hours. The takeover was the latest outbreak of lawlessness that has undermined the rule of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Poland's government has asked the president to keep Polish troops in Iraq for another year, the premier said Tuesday. If President Lech Kaczynski agrees to Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz's request, it would reverse the decision by the last government to bring troops home within the next few weeks. Under Polish law, the president approves overseas military deployments as the armed forces' commander in chief. Mr. Kaczynski, who took office last week, has until the end of the month to decide. Poland's deputy defense minister announced Tuesday that Polish forces in Iraq would be reduced from nearly 1,500 to 900 in March.

Philippine prosecutors charged four US Marines Tuesday with raping a Filipino woman in early November but cleared two other soldiers who had also been accused. Washington has not responded publicly to an earlier request by the Philippine government to transfer custody of the Marines to local authorities. A statement by the US embassy, which has been holding the soldiers, made no mention of custody but said the US would cooperate under the two countries' Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). Beyond small protests, the case has caused little public outcry or anti-American sentiment in the Philippines, a major US ally in the region.

Indonesia's Aceh rebels formally disbanded their armed wing Tuesday, effectively ending their 30-year separatist insurgency one year after the tsunami destroyed their battlefield. The move is a key step in a peace plan to end the rebellion that has left at least 15,000 people dead, and paves the way for the guerrillas to transform themselves into political candidates before provincial elections in April. "We are entering a political era now, we do not need weapons anymore," says Sofyan Daud, one of the group's commanders. Under the peace accord, the government has agreed to withdraw its troops from Aceh, grant the province broad autonomy and to allow former rebels to stand in the elections.

Inmates held more than 200 people hostage at a prison in Brazil's remote Amazon jungle Tuesday, demanding the return of their leader from another prison. Armed with makeshift knives, the inmates began their uprising Sunday at the Urso Branco State Prison in Porto Velho, some 1,500 miles northwest of Sao Paulo. The same prison was the site of a bloody five-day uprising in April 2004 that left 14 inmates dead.

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