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World

February 12, 2009



Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai took his oath of office as Zimbabwe's first prime minister Wednes-day, ending the long feud with hard-line President Robert Mugabe . Tsvangirai said his first priority is "to stabilize the economy." But analysts cast doubt on his prospects for success, suggesting that Tsvangirai would be given little room to maneuver and noting that both men had stacked their power-sharing government with political allies rather than able technocrats.

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US and South Korean officials sought to play down reports that a test launch of a long-range North Korean missile is imminent. A South Korean analyst said two months of preparation for such a launch would be necessary. US Defense Secretary Gates noted that the last such test had been a failure and that, "should we deem it necessary," American forces could shoot down a North Korean missile after launch.

Residents of some burned-out towns in Australia's Victoria State made their first trips back to where their homes had stood, but police kept others from doing so on grounds that the scenes were too disturbing. In all, authorities said, last weekend's fires destroyed almost 1,000 houses and blackened 902,000 acres of land. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd vowed his government would rebuild the affected communities "brick by brick." Some new fires were reported Tuesday night, with authorities saying there was little doubt that they'd been "deliberately lit."

Terrorists exploded two car bombs at a bus station in Bagh-dad, killing at least 16 pilgrims preparing to travel to a Shiite shrine. Forty-five others were hurt in the worst such attack in weeks. On Monday in Karbala, south of Baghdad, Shiites will mark the end of the mourning period that follows Ashura, the commemoration of the death of the prophet Muhammad's grandson.

Tamil separatist rebels heatedly denied targeting civilians fleeing Sri Lanka's war zone, accusing the "military machinery" of doing so instead. A pro-rebel website said government forces were "engaged in a propaganda drive" to divert attention from international pressure to protect noncombatants. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, for one, has demanded a truce between the two sides, saying it was "outraged by the unnecessary loss of hundreds of [civilian] lives."

Drug-related violence claimed at least 35 more victims across Mexico Tuesday. Fifteen of the dead were found at a site in Chihuahua State 80 miles south of the border with Texas where pursuing soldiers fought with gunmen who'd just had a confrontation with a rival drug gang. Near Mexico City, meanwhile, an abandoned car was found with the heads of two other victims inside, plus a message threatening the local police chief.

"Religious extremists" and Tibetan separatists were warned Wednesday that China's security forces will crack down on them as part of preparations for the 60th anniversary of communist rule. The warning singled out Falun Gong, a movement based on meditation that alarmed the leadership in April 1999 when more than 10,000 followers held an unannounced silent protest outside Communist Party headquarters in Beijing. The official Xinhua news agency said the military will stage the largest parade in its history on the Oct. 1 anniversary of the founding of the people's republic.

Heavy rain was complicating the search for clues to the murder of Azerbaijan's Air Force chief. Lt. Gen. Rail Rzayev was shot as he left for work in the capital, Baku. Two years ago, he negotiated with the US and Russia on the latter's proposal to substitute an ex-Soviet radar installation in Azerbaijan for the site planned as part of a missile-defense system in the Czech Republic.

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