World

In an apparent attempt to upstage the Bush administration, Iran has invited the presidents of Iraq and Syria to meet for discussions on how to quell runaway sectarian violence, the Associated Press reported. Citing sources in Iraq's parliament, it said President Jalal Talibani accepted the offer and will fly to Iran Saturday. The sources spoke as 47 more people were killed in Baghdad and volatile Anbar Province Monday – one of them perhaps Iraq's most popular TV comedian. Assassination attempts against two senior government officials failed, however. Iran and Syria are seen as major players in the Iraqi theater. Iran funds, trains, and arms Shiite militias there, and Syria is believed to have done little to stop terrorist recruits from crossing into Iraq to join Sunni resistance groups.

On a visit to Indonesia, President Bush shrugged off some of the angriest protests so far against his foreign policy, calling them a sign of healthy democracy. Rain held the ranks of demonstrators to about 10,000 in the city of Bogor, some of whom fought with police as he was meeting with his counterpart, Susilo Bambang Yudhyono. Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation, and US actions against Islamist terrorism are deeply unpopular there, although it also has been a repeated target of bombings that have killed more than 200 people.

The Kremlin angrily dismissed as "sheer nonsense" allegations that Russia's government was involved in the poisoning of a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin. A spokesman refused to comment further on the case of exiled Col. Alexander Litvinenko, the former KGB officer who is hospitalized in London. Litvinenko was transferred to intensive care Monday after his condition worsened. He had been looking into the assassination last month of another Putin critic, journalist Anna Politkov-skaya, when he fell ill.

In a surprise announcement, the leader of Puntland, a semiautonomous region of Somalia, said Monday he'll rule according to Islamic sharia law from now on. Gen. Addeh Museh's decree followed two recent clashes near the Puntland boundary between fighters loyal to him and militiamen from the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC). Puntland previously had vowed to resist the rigid Islamic code. The UIC, which is consolidating Somalia under its control, has said its aims include Puntland and Somaliland, another semi- autonomous region.

At least five people died and 70 others were hurt when two bombs exploded aboard a passenger train in India's West Bengal State Monday night. Many of the injuries were serious, and police warned that the number of fatalities could rise. Other riders were trapped in the wreckage, reports said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although rebel movements operate in the area, police said.

New Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said Thailand's government won't change its "peaceful policies" toward the Muslim separatist insurgency in three southern provinces despite another weekend of violence. A wave of bombings and shootings killed five more people and wounded 16, most of them in a town near the border with Malaysia that has been targeted frequently before. Surayud is trying to address Muslim grievances, especially in the areas of job opportunity and education.

Almost five months after his narrow loss in Mexico's presidential election, leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador was to be "sworn in" Monday as the "legitimate" chief of state. The ceremony is aimed at starting the process of impeding rival Felipe Calderón as much as possible during a six-year term that begins Dec. 1. Obrador reportedly will not try to initiate legislation or collect taxes but has set up bank accounts for contributions to his parallel government.

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