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If North Korea is frustrated by a US refusal to resolve their financial dispute, it "will have no choice" but to announce another nuclear weapons test, a source close to the government in Pyong-yang told Reuters. Representatives of both countries were meeting on the dispute Wednesday, prior to the resumption of six-way negotiations Feb. 8. The North demands an end to the freeze of its accounts in a MaƧao bank over alleged counterfeiting, money-laundering, and drug-trafficking. The source contended that the US has no proof of wrongdoing. Treasury Department officials say otherwise.

NATO forces inflicted heavy new losses on Taliban remnants in a firefight in southern Afghanistan, spokesmen said Wednesday. They said as many as 30 militants were killed, 15 others were wounded, and sophisticated weapons were seized at a base in Helmand Province. On Jan. 11, NATO units killed an estimated 150 Taliban as they tried to infiltrate from Pakistan.

Martial law went into effect in areas of Somalia Tuesday night as the government warned that remnants of the ousted Islamist militia have returned to key towns bent on destabilizing public order. Extremists vowed on their website that they'll try to kill any peacekeepers sent to Somalia, despite President Abdullahi Yusuf's offer to participate in a conference on national reconciliation.

Arrest warrants were issued in Germany for 13 CIA "agents" alleged to have kidnapped and abused a German citizen, prosecutors said. Khalid al-Masri, who's of Lebanese descent, claims he was seized in late 2003 and flown to a detention center in Afghanistan, where he was subjected to bodily harm as a suspected terrorist. He says he was freed five months later after the CIA realized it had the wrong man. US officials haven't commented publicly on the matter, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said they have admitted mistaking al-Masri for someone else.

Criminals may well be among the thousands of Arabs who obtained passports from Iraq's embassy in Sweden, immigration authorities there said. The embassy, which also serves Norway, has "nearly nonexistent" screening procedures for the identification documents that asylum-seekers present, an official said. He alleged that some then sell their new passports to fellow Iraqis or other Middle Easterners seeking entry to Europe. Roughly 9,000 such people arrived in Sweden last year, triple the number for 2004.

All five remaining elections commissioners in Bangladesh quit Wednesday, a major demand of the opposition alliance that led weeks of strikes and other anti-government protests. Commission chief M.A. Aziz already had resigned. A new chief and two deputies are expected to be appointed by week's end. The election for a new parliament was to have been held Jan. 22, but the alliance claimed the commission was biased and could not organize a fair vote. No new date has been set, and earlier this week, the high court ruled that the election cannot be held until at least May. Forty-five people died in protest-related violence.

Brandishing sticks, bottles, and rocks, supporters of new leftist Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa forced their way through police lines Tuesday and chased opposition legislators from the halls of Congress in a demand for a referendum on rewriting the Constitution. At least four people were hurt. Correa won a runoff last November on a pledge to reform Ecuador's political system through amending the Constitution. But he was dealt a setback last week when a senior court ruled that Congress must approve his plan.

Between 1977 and 2002, Japan's largest utility falsified data for its nuclear reactors so they'd pass mandatory inspections more easily, it admitted. But such actions on almost 200 occasions did not compromise safety, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said. The statute of limitations has expired, so the company likely won't be punished, news agencies reported. It has been under fire since being caught in a cover-up four years ago.

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