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A new spike in casualties from the relentless violence in Iraq was acknowledged by US military officials, despite efforts to pacify Baghdad. Thirteen more people died Monday and 62 others were hurt when a car bomb exploded near the government's Interior Ministry. The dead all were Iraqi police, reports said. But the day's worst violence occurred in Diwaniya, 110 miles south of the capital, where fierce fighting between government troops and Shiites belonging to the so-called Mahdi army of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr killed at least 25 soldiers. A spokesman for Sadr said his side had lost three men, but military sources put the number of militia dead at 50. More than 60 Iraqis and five US soldiers were killed in incidents Sunday.

On his mission to Lebanon, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan met for the first time with Hiz-bullah leaders and demanded that their movement turn over two Israeli military hostages to the Red Cross. Their capture by Hizbullah raiders July 12 touched off 34 days of fighting in Lebanon, and Israel's government has said that unless the soldiers are returned, "the whole thing is of little significance" – a reference to the cease-fire there and the new peacekeeping force authorized by the UN Security Council. Annan also called on Israel to end its air and sea blockades of Lebanon. Israel has said they will remain in place until a weapons embargo on Hizbullah is enforced.

Purportedly speaking for the Taliban, a caller to the Associated Press claimed responsibility for a bomb explosion Monday that killed at least 17 people in one of the worst terrorist incidents in Afghanistan in months. Forty-seven others were wounded, six of them critically, when an attacker walked into a crowded bazaar in southern Helmand Province and triggered the explosives he was carrying. Fifteen of the victims were children. The blast also littered a street with debris from wrecked storefronts. The caller expressed sadness "about the civilian casualties" and said the attack was aimed at a former police chief, who was among the dead.

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A decision on whether to extend the offer of amnesty for Islamist militants in Algeria is expected later this week, reports said Monday as the deadline for acceptance expired. The offer, which took effect Feb. 28, was a key part of the national peace and reconciliation plan OK'd by voters in a referendum last year. It was to last six months and be open to any rebel who hadn't been involved in massacres, rapes, or bombing attacks against public places. But fewer than 300 have surrendered in exchange for immunity from prosecution. President Abdel-aziz Bouteflika, who reportedly favors an extension, has been quoted as saying the program is "of such worth that it's exempt from all time limits." Fifteen years of Islamist violence that began in 1992 took the lives of an estimated 150,000 people.

A senior US envoy was being kept waiting Monday for a meeting with Sudan's leader, to whom she planned to deliver a letter urging acceptance of a UN peacekeeping force for volatile Darfur Province. Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer already had encountered a hostile crowd on arriving in Sudan, demanding that she return home. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has rejected all calls for a UN force. His government also failed to send a high-level delegation Monday to a UN Security Council meeting to discuss the planned 20,000-man contingent. An estimated 3 million people in Darfur have been killed or displaced in fighting between government-supported forces and mostly non-Arab rebels.

Across Mexico, people waited Monday for their top electoral court to announce the results of a partial recount it ordered of votes in the hotly disputed July 2 presidential election. By mid-morning, the Federal Electoral Tribunal had dismissed several of the more than 200 challenges to the official tally, which gave conservative Felipe Calderón a razor-thin victory. The winner must be certified by Sept. 6. But leftist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador alleges that the election was marred by fraud and has demanded a full recount of 41 million ballots. Alternatively, he seeks to be declared the winner or to have the election annulled. He told supporters at a rally Sunday that he's prepared to lead a "parallel government" if Calderón is certified as the winner.

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