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Tensions between the US and Iran rose higher with word that the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis was leaving its home port in Washington State and would arrive in Middle East waters in about a month. It is intended to join the carrier Eisenhower in significantly boosting US air power in the region. The Stennis previously had been scheduled for deployment to the Pacific Ocean, where North Korea is a major strategic concern. Against that backdrop, Russia's defense minister said his government has delivered "modern antiaircraft systems" to Iran and would consider requests for further "defensive equipment."

Bomb explosions and a drive-by shooting killed at least 35 more people in Baghdad Tuesday as the US and Iraqi governments prepared to open a new security crackdown to halt violence. In a related development, however, radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr instructed cabinet ministers and members of parliament loyal to him to end their 1-1/2-month boycott of the political process. But their return was described as conditional, giving the government 30 days to set timetables for a withdrawal of US forces and for Iraqi troops to assume nationwide responsibility for security.

TV and radio stations were back on the air in Somalia one day after the government ordered them to stop broadcasting, complaining that they slanted news reports toward the ousted Islamic Courts Union. Station representatives denied that accusation and said international pressure had convinced the government that the order was an affront to democracy. At the same time, Prime Minister Ali Mohamad Gedi said the first contingent of African Union peacekeepers is expected to arrive in Somalia "by the end of January." Only Uganda is known to have committed troops to the mission so far.

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Only skeleton crews remained at Royal Dutch/Shell oil pipeline stations in Nigeria's delta region after armed militants attacked, killing a dozen people. All of them were village or clan elders, reports said. The incident occurred late Sunday night, and the government rushed military reinforcements to the area. Attacks by militants have been increasing, especially with the approach of national elections in April, in which many members of the national government are constitutionally barred from seeking new terms.

"Torture chambers" used by Tamil separatists were found at a captured rebel base, the government of Sri Lanka said Tuesday. It said they were used to punish informants for the government as well as would-be deserters. But few details were provided other than photos, and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) denied the claim. The LTTE also disputed reports that government troops had seized some of its forward defenses in the eastern district of Batticaloa, killing more than 30 rebels and recovering a cache of weapons and ammunition. Independent confirmation of the conflicting claims was not immediately available.

Hundreds of thousands of people were without electricity and authorities said numerous homes were expected to be lost in Australia's Victoria State as brush fires compounded by summer temperatures of 103 degrees F. "really hit us hard." Utility customers who still had power were urged to unplug all appliances other than refrigerators and radios until full service could be restored after the fires knocked out Victoria's connection to the national power grid.

Structural engineers gave the go-ahead for retrieval efforts to resume in São Paulo, Brazil, for a minibus and its passengers and driver trapped under tons of rubble at a collapsed construction site. Work had been suspended Monday out of concern that the site, an underground subway station, might cave in a second time. At least two passers-by are known to have been killed in the accident last Friday. Five other people are believed to be buried. An investigation into the cause is under way, reports said.

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