Assassins murdered the pro-American mayor of a northern Iraqi city and one of his sons, and US forces braced for still more violence Thursday, the anniversary of the 1968 coup that brought Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to power. Until this week, the anniversary was a national holiday, but Iraq's new Governing Council canceled it. Attackers also killed another US soldier, equaling the number of American deaths in the 1991 Gulf war.

If the Bush administration would guarantee the survival of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's regime, the Pyongyang government would be open to multilateral discussions on its nuclear weapons program, a leading Japanese newspaper reported, citing an unidentified diplomat. Previously, the North has insisted the standoff over such weapons could be ended only in bilateral talks, a demand the US rejected again Tuesday. The US seeks discussions that also would include Japan, China, and South Korea.

In a symbolic gesture, the president of Colombia temporarily moved the capital from Bogotá to the zone where government forces are fighting leftist rebels. Alvaro Uribe said he wanted to show who was in control of the country. At the same time, a notorious outlawed right-wing militant group and Uribe's government announced they'd agreed to unprecedented peace negotiations. The United Self-Defense Forces, which claims 10,000 followers, pledged to disarm by 2005.

Whether controversial Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa will weather Hong Kong's deepest political crisis in years appeared in question after two top cabinet members resigned. Security chief Regina Ip, the highest-ranking woman in the government, had pushed hard for passage of unpopular legislation that would declare basic forms of expression subversive and punishable via life sentences. The measure has triggered huge protests in the streets. Financial Secretary Antony Leung also quit. He, too, was unpopular, largely for raising taxes on new-car purchases after he'd just bought his third luxury vehicle.

A state of emergency was declared in the small African island state of São Tome and Principe after soldiers seized power from Prime Minister Maria das Neves and President Fradique de Menezes. The coup appeared to have been triggered by political feuding over contracts for extracting billions of barrels of crude oil that are believed to be under the impoverished nation's territorial waters.

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