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A test launch by North Korea of its most advanced missile yet appeared imminent, based on intelligence gathered by satellite surveillance. The multistage Taepodong 2 is considered to have enough range to reach the US, although with only a light payload. As of Sunday morning, the communist state's official news media had yet to mention a missile launch, but they did instruct North Koreans to raise the national flag and to watch state-run TV for an important message later in the day. Some analysts have speculated that North Korea feels ignored in the growing international concern over Iran's nuclear program.

American troops set up positions along a ridge in southern Afghanistan Sunday to cut off Taliban transportation routes, the latest phase of Operation Mountain Thrust. The offensive is the largest since the Taliban were ousted from power in late 2001 and Sunday's advance was the first into parts of dangerous Helmand Province in that time. Taliban remnants ambushed a convoy carrying a district chief, killing him and four guards. But the new US-led offensive also has scored significant successes, spokesmen say: 85 Taliban deaths so far.

Hundreds of soldiers from neighboring Ethiopia crossed into Somalia, apparently to support the fledgling national government there, the leader of the Islamic militia in Mogadishu claimed. Shekh Sharif Ahmed said the Ethiopians "are heading for us," as has happened in the past to prevent Somalia from falling to Islamic extremists. An Ethiopian official denied the claims but did acknowledge that his government had massed troops at the border and was monitoring the situation. The Somali government also called Ahmed's claims "absolutely baseless." But it remains based in Baidoa, 155 miles from Mogadishu, because it is too weak to try to exert wider authority.

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More than 100 people were killed over the weekend in the worst sustained violence in Sri Lanka since Tamil separatist rebels and the government agreed to a cease-fire in 2002. In one incident, residents of a town in the northwest of the island said soldiers killed five Tamils seeking shelter inside a Roman Catholic Church. But the residents also blamed the rebels for starting the trouble with an attack that invited re- taliation. As many as 31 others died in a battle at sea between the two sides on Saturday.

Rebel chief Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev died in a shoot-out with police Saturday in a new blow to Chechnya's quest for separation from Russia. Reports said an associate provided information about the location of his hideout, nine miles east of Grozny, the Chechen capital. Sadulayev, a former Muslim cleric, assumed the leadership of the separatist movement in March 2005 after Russian troops killed his predecessor, Aslan Mask-hadov. Sadulayev, in turn, will be succeeded by warlord Doku Umarov, a rebel spokesman said.

With special guest Vladimir Putin looking on, the ex-Soviet republic of Kazakhstan launched its first satellite into space at dawn Sunday. The Russian president already was in Kazakhstan to attend a meeting on security issues. The $100 million communications satellite is Step One in an ambitious plan that calls for Kazakhstan to invest much of its oil wealth in a program that would include designing, building, and launching such vehicles and training cosmonauts for space exploration.

Voters rejected eight years of austere economic reform in Slovakia Saturday and put the former communist nation back on a leftist track. But the Smer Party, led by populist Robert Fico, failed to win a majority in parliament and, analysts said, will have the difficult task of trying to forge a coalition with center-right factions that have been allied with outgoing Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda.

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