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Any attempt by South Korea to help enforce UN sanctions against rival North Korea will produce a harsh retaliation, the latter warned Wednesday. The warning came as a task force formed by South Korea held its first meeting on how to implement the travel, trade, and other financial sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council Oct. 14. But the North's official news agency said carrying out the measures would be seen as "a declaration of confrontation" leading to "a crisis of war." UN members must state within 30 days how they intend to comply with the sanctions, which were adopted after the North's Oct. 9 test of a nuclear weapon.

The Associated Press photographer seized by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip Tuesday was freed 24 hours later, "tired but happy." Emilio Morenatti said he'd been forced to wear women's clothing and was blindfolded and moved frequently without explanation by his captors. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas issued a statement Wed-nesday saying the identities of the kidnappers were known and that they would be "pursued."

With another vote about to take place at the UN Wednesday, Venezuelan diplomats proposed Bolivia as a compromise candidate for the Latin American seat on the Security Council. But the move didn't satisfy rival Guate-mala, which has won 34 of the 35 previous ballots for the seat, although not by the necessary two-thirds majority. Guatemalan Foreign Minister Gert Rosenthal told reporters, "We have not pulled out and have no intention of doing so." Bolivia's leftist President Evo Morales is a close ally of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez. The US backs Guate-mala in the tense struggle.

A battle for Baidoa, the home of Somalia's interim government, appeared imminent, despite the repeated pledges by the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) not to attack. Witnesses reported fighters loyal to the government – and Ethiopian troops who back them – digging defensive trenches at the entrance to the government's base. UIC forces, in turn, reportedly have been intercepting shipments of fuel to the defenders. A UIC spokesman said, "I want to make it clear that we will attack Baidoa ... because our aim is to implement Islamic rule throughout Somalia." In Ethiopia, meanwhile, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said, "Technically, we are at war."

Tanks were guarding the presidential palace and other strategic places in Chad's capital amid reports that rebel units had advanced to within a five-hour drive of the city. The government accused neighboring Sudan of arming the rebels, citing as proof a missile attack at a surveillance plane flying over rebel positions in eastern Chad. Such a weapon could only have been provided by Sudan, a government spokesman said. A rebel chief admitted that the missile had been fired but called the attack "a mistake." The plane was not hit. In April, the rebels advanced into the capital but were driven back by French troops supporting Chad's government.

Two more men were killed, at least a dozen others were hurt, and several houses were destroyed Wednesday as the simmering tensions in East Timor erupted into violence for the second time this week. Despite the presence of a UN peacekeeping force, the nation's airport had to be closed because of fighting between rival gangs. Two other people were stabbed to death Sunday outside a church that was holding services. Divisions remain deep between Timorese who relish independence and those still sympathetic to Indo-nesian occupation, which ended seven years ago. Last spring, 33 people were killed and more than 100,000 others were driven from their homes, a situation that resulted in the arrival of the peacekeepers.

In a new blow to widely unpopular President Gloria Arroyo, the Supreme Court of the Philippines rejected her bid to amend the Constitution. The ruling invalidates a petition signed by 6.3 million people that calls for a referendum on changing the system of government from a two-house legislature to a unicameral parliament. Arroyo has argued that because of gridlock the current system hinders efforts to address such issues as poverty and economic development. Critics say the proposal is aimed at eliminating the Senate, which is dominated by her opponents.

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