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North Korea, preparing for a major rocket launch next month, warned that it will resume making weapons-grade plutonium if the UN Security Council imposes new sanctions for the event. The US, Japanese, and South Korean governments suspect that the launch, which would be a violation of existing UN sanctions, may be a disguised test of the North's longest-range ballistic missile. North Korea says it is aimed at placing a satellite into orbit. According to intelligence sources, the rocket already is on the launching pad and could be fired even earlier than the April 4-8 time frame announced by the North.

A powerful car bomb explosion tore through a crowded outdoor market in eastern Baghdad Thursday, killing as many as 20 people and wounding dozens of others. Many of the victims were women and children. The blast occurred in a mainly Shiite neighborhood and was the sixth in Iraq this month, demonstrating the resiliency of militants, analysts said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for a bomb explosion that killed at least 11 people as they dined at a restaurant in Pakistan's volatile northwestern tribal region Thursday. Many others were hurt, some of them critically. A spokesman said the attack was revenge against fighters who'd sided with the government against Baitullah Mehsud, the senior Taliban commander in Pakistan, and "killed 35 of our people last year."The US has placed a $5 million bounty on Mehsud.

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Tens of thousands of protesters pushed through police lines in Bangkok, Thailand, Thursday, jeering Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and vowing to keep pressure on him until he resigns. Security was tight outside Abhisit's offices, but the demonstrators remained peaceful. The protesters are supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who now lives in exile abroad. Abhisit, who was appointed to the post three months ago, survived a vote of no-confidence in Parliament earlier this month, and analysts said the protests likely will not threaten his hold on power.

A fourth ballot was expected to be held late Thursday or on Friday to elect the new chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency after three earlier rounds of voting failed to produce a successor to Mohamed ElBaradei. In Vienna, where IAEA governors were meeting behind closed doors, Yukiya Amano of Japan so far has outpolled Abdul Samad Minty of South Africa 21-14, 20-15, and 20-15. But the winner needs a two-thirds majority, or 24 votes, and analysts said the governors still could turn to a compromise candidate. ElBaradei, co-winner of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize, is not seeking reelection after leading the UN's nuclear watchdog for 12 years.

A decree will be issued by France's government next week, limiting bonuses and stock options for executives of companies that have received bailouts with taxpayer money, reports said. The measure doesn't require approval by Parliament and will take effect immediately. It is seen as a response to growing public anger, much like that in the US, over generous payouts at companies that have needed to be rescued.

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