The shipment of 15 hidden Scud missiles intercepted at sea off Yemen "is meant for defensive purposes," the Sanaa government said, demanding that it be returned. It said the weapons had been bought under contract with North Korea "some time ago." But Spain's Defense Ministry said the shipment, seized by one of its warships, was being taken to the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. The effect of the incident has been magnified because of recent attacks in Yemeni waters against a US Navy ship and a French supertanker, because a missile strike there killed six Al Qaeda suspects, and because the country is the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden. (Related story, page 1; related opinions, page 9.)

The room for maneuver by embattled Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez appeared to be narrowing as almost half of the Supreme Court joined the nationwide strike against his leftist rule. Eight of the 20 justices cited harassment by his government after the Chávez-dominated Congress fired their vice president. New opinion polls, however, showed Chávez still could win an election if his opponents fail to field a strong candidate against him. Above, one of the soldiers assigned to guard gas stations during the strike, directs the next car in line in Maracaibo.

Hundreds of potential troublemakers were in police custody in India's Gujarat state, which holds an important election today amid a climate of sectarian tensions. At least 1,000 deaths there earlier this year were due to rioting between Muslims and Hindus, and the state's location - on the border with Muslim-dominated Pakistan - is seen as increasing its vulnerability to further violence. The election is expected to be a test of the strength of Hindu fundamentalism, the key issue for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in its bid to keep power. (Story, page 7.)

Two more governments, Canada's and New Zealand's, joined the ranks of Kyoto Protocol endorsers, over the protests of skeptics who argued that the cost of compliance with its terms will be paid in lost jobs. Their moves bring to more than 80 the number of countries ratifying the controversial 1997 pact, and Russia is expected to follow soon. But its rejection by the US means that virtually all other industrial nations must agree to meet its call for deep cuts in so-called greenhouse gas emissions. (Story, page 7.)

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