World

In a bid to boost the morale and discipline of its troops, the commanding general of Congo's Army was fired Monday night and replaced by the head of military intelligence. Soldiers in North Kivu Province have been accused of cowardice for refusing to fight against Laurent Nkunda's rebel forces and then looting and raping women as they abandon their posts. A spokesman for Nkunda told the BBC that his fighters were withdrawing from two fronts in the eastern sector to open corridors for humanitarian aid to reach tens of thousands of noncombatants who've fled the fighting.

Palestinian militants fired on Israeli tanks and bulldozers that had crossed into the southern Gaza Strip Tuesday as both sides escalated the violence that has eroded their fragile cease-fire. Over the protests of international aid organizations, Israel also resealed border crossings into Gaza "because of ongoing rocket fire," a military spokesman said. The incursion was aimed at "uncovering explosive devices near the border fence," the military said. No new casualties on either side were reported.

A US-born graduate student has been freed on bail from solitary confinement in an Iranian prison, her adviser confirmed Tuesday. "I believe there are no obstacles if she wants to leave the country," a Justice Ministry spokesman said after Esha Momeni's parents surrendered the deed to their home in return for her freedom. Momeni , who attends California State University-Northridge, was arrested Oct. 15 for a traffic violation in Tehran. Prosecutors reportedly may still charge her with making propaganda against the state and require her to return for trial. She was conducting research for a film project on Iran's women's movement.

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Rival political leaders in Northern Ireland agreed Tuesday to a deal on resolving their stalemate over police powers and the courts. The accord between Protestant First Minister Peter Robinson of the Democratic Unionist Party and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein, his Catholic deputy, paves the way for the power-sharing cabinet to meet for the first time since June. It provides a temporary formula for the election of a justice minister, to be replaced by a permanent procedure in 2012. Robinson called the breakthrough "satisfactory"; McGuinness termed it "significant."

All units of Australia's Navy that are not on "operational deployment" will be shut down for two months beginning Dec. 3 to cope with manpower shortages, Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said Tuesday. He dismissed claims by opposition leaders that the move would affect national security negatively and represents a failure of recruiting efforts. The Navy is believed to be 2,000 people short of its full complement.

In some rare good news for China's troubled coal industry, all but two of 34 miners trapped underground by flooding in central Henan Province have been rescued, reports said. Eight miners escaped the flooding early Monday; another died and one remains missing. The incident was the third in the coal-rich province in less than three weeks.

Two more people were reported dead following Monday's powerful predawn earthquake off the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, and authorities estimated the number of those left homeless at about 10,000. Moderate aftershocks still were being felt in the region Tuesday.

Criminal gangs in northern Mex-ico are threatening harm to elementary school students unless teachers hand over their Christmas bonuses, the Dallas Morning News reported Tuesday. It said the extortion is centered in Ciudad Juárez, on the border with Texas, and that a coalition of local organizations has appealed to President Felipe Calderón for help. Thousands of federal police and soldiers already are deployed in northern Mexico to combat a growing campaign of violence by narcotics traffickers.

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