World

A huge funeral is planned for Tuesday in Beirut for a Shiite demonstrator who was killed in fighting with anti-Syrian opponents over the weekend as Lebanon's political confrontation deepened. The city was calm Monday. But its center was closed to traffic due to the sit-in by pro-Syrian protesters trying to topple Prime Minister Fuad Siniora's government, and government buildings were being guarded by soldiers and police backed by tanks. Meanwhile, Arab League chief Amr Moussa was shuttling between meetings with the two sides in search of a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

As many as 80 Taliban died in fighting with NATO units who'd been given a tip on where to find them, a coalition spokesman in southern Afghanistan said Monday. He said the force consisted of government troops backed by Danish soldiers, helicopters, and jets. Taliban attacks have dropped in recent weeks as the radical movement has announced plans to launch a major offensive next spring. But the NATO spokesman said, "[We] aren't ... waiting until springtime."

Major changes were sought by the caretaker government in Bangladesh to plans for the next national election in the hope that they'll help end the violence and transportation strike that have shaken the impoverished nation to its roots. The government asked the elections commission to set a new date for the balloting – now scheduled for Jan. 21 – and to purge rolls of persons ineligible to vote. But fighting between rival political groups killed three more people Monday and wounded 50 others.

Some of the almost 1,000 public schools that closed in southern Thailand last week due to increasing violence by Muslim separatists reopened Monday after the regional teachers union gave its members the option of returning to work. But four more people were killed and two more schools were set afire in weekend attacks that spilled over into Monday morning. Police said two of the victims were a Muslim and his daughter, who apparently were targeted because he was a suspected informant for the government.

Army troops set up roadblocks, confiscated weapons from the police, and forced Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase to leave his car and walk Monday in the first signs of an impending takeover of Fiji's government. Qarase, who had been summoned to a meeting with the president, chose to return to his own office instead. He insisted he still was in charge and would hold a cabinet meeting Tuesday as scheduled. But Fiji's Daily Post newspaper said Army chief Frank Bainimarama has chosen a 13- member interim cabinet to oversee the government once Qarase is out of the picture. Western governments have warned Bainimarama not to seize power, but the newspaper said it had learned that he is reserving one of the key cabinet posts for himself.

Charismatic business tycoon Marc Ravalomanana appeared headed for easy reelection in Sunday's presidential election in Madagascar, one of the world's poorest countries. Early returns showed him holding a 70 percent to 11 percent lead over his closest rival, former Prime Minister Norbert Lala Ratsirahonana. The election was the first since a political crisis in 2002 brought the huge island nation off Africa's east coast to the brink of civil war.

A priest administered the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church to ex-Chilean dictator Augosto Pinochet in a Santiago hospital, and supporters were calling for a full state funeral should he fail to survive major heart surgery. Critics, however, argue that such an honor would be a national disgrace. Pinochet seized power in a 1973 coup and held it for 17 years. He was stricken Sunday, just over a week after accepting "political responsibility" for the 3,000 deaths or disappearances of opponents during his rule. He said he believed they were in Chile's best interests.

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