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By Compiled from wire service reports by Robert Kilborn / October 24, 2007



The controversial missile-defense shield that the US proposes to base in eastern Europe could be delayed if Russia "partner[s] with us" on it, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday. On a visit to the Czech Republic, where part of the system would be built, he said the US could complete the development of the system but not activate it unless there was "definitive proof" of Iranian missile-testing. Kremlin leaders stridently oppose the shield as a threat to Russian security.

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A purported new audiotaped message by Osama bin Laden warned Sunnis who've turned against Al Qaeda in Iraq to "admit their mistakes" and reunite "to champion righteousness." It scorned Sunnis tribal leaders and Al Qaeda followers alike for becoming "lax" in the fight against US and Iraqi forces and said Muslims "are waiting for you to gather under a single banner." The tape, whose authenticity could not be confirmed immediately, was broadcast Tuesday by the Al Jazeera TV channel. Bin Laden issued three other messages last month.

To help improve the prospects for success of the forthcoming peace conference on Darfur, Sudan's government will announce a unilateral cease-fire Saturday, its ambassador to the UN said. Abdelmahmoud Abdahaleem Mohamed described the declaration as "a good confidence-building measure." But analysts doubted that all rebel groups operating in Darfur will match the move. One rebel chief already is refusing to attend the talks if, as planned, they're held in Libya. Another has threatened to boycott them unless a rival group unites all of its factions beforehand.

Embattled Prime Minister Ehud Olmert won't be investigated for allegedly accepting bribes in two real estate deals, Israel's state prosecutor announced Tuesday. He said there was too little evidence to support allegations that Olmert had sold a house in Jerusalem at well above market value and then bought a trendy residence in Tel Aviv at a steep discount compared with similar units in the same complex. Olmert remains under suspicion in three unrelated investigations.

Police in the Philippines reversed course and said the powerful explosion that ripped through an upscale Manila shopping center probably wasn't due to Islamist terrorism after all. Eleven people died and more than 100 others were hurt in the blast last Friday, which heavily damaged the mall. Investigators said they now think a buildup of gas in a poorly ventilated basement may have been ignited by a switch being turned on or by the heat from a pump motor.

A law that has shielded German automaker Volkswagen from being taken over by an unfriendly rival was struck down by the European Court of Justice. It said the law inhibits "the free movement of capital" – a key tenet of the European Union. Analysts said the ruling would have wider ramifications, since other European governments have similar laws to protect companies considered vital to the economy from being bought by competitors, especially from foreign countries. Above, an employee inspects a VW Golf as it comes off the assembly line in Wolfsburg, Germany.

Despite lagging in recent opinion polls, the president of Kenya dismissed parliament Monday night, starting the countdown to a national election. Mwai Kibaki said he regretted that lawmakers had failed to produce a new constitution, although he credited them with passing measures aimed at curbing corruption. The vote is expected to be scheduled in December. Kibaki, who is a candidate for reelection, has fallen as many as 12 points behind opposition leader Raila Odinga in voter surveys.

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