Plutonium extracted from 8,000 spent fuel rods is being used "in the direction of increasing" North Korea's nuclear weapons program, the foreign ministry in Pyongyang said. It added: "We will reprocess more spent fuel rods ... in an unbroken chain." Analysts suggested that the reprocessing to date, if the North Korean assertion is true, would be enough to make up to six more nuclear warheads, at least one of which could be sold abroad. But Vice Foreign Minister Choe Su Hon said his government has "no intention of transferring any means of that nuclear deterrence to other countries."

At least 12 militants were killed and 12 others were captured in Pakistan's largest counter- terrorism offensive to date, a military commander said. Those arrested were described as suspected members of Al Qaeda and appeared to be foreign. The offensive took place in South Waziristan, a region along the border with Afghanistan that's believed to be sheltering key Al Qaeda members, possibly including Osama bin Laden.

Voters go to the polls Sunday in Chechnya to choose a new president, with the winner almost certain to be the candidate favored by the Russian government. The Kremlin's appointed administrator, Akhmad Kadyrov, faces six challengers, but the candidate favored in opinion polls as recently as June was disqualified via a court ruling that his nominating petition contained many forged signatures.

Political opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez were given four days to collect 2.4 million signatures on new petitions calling for a national referendum to remove him from office. But the National Electoral Council (CNE) also OK'd 46 requests by Chávez supporters for recall drives aimed at elected officials against whom they seek to retaliate, and the leftist leader told a news conference that up to 700 more such requests could be submitted. The anti-Chávez forces hope to launch their petition drive Oct. 31. Last month, the CNE rejected a recall effort that had gathered 3 million signatures, ruling that organizers had begun their drive too soon.

A novelist described as "ruthless in his criticism of ... Western civilization" was awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize for literature. John Mazwell Coetzee of South Africa will collect $1.3 million in recognition of his writing, which includes such titles as "Disgrace" and the nonfiction work "Giving Offense: Essays on Censorship." Fellow South African Nadine Gordimer was awarded the prize in 1991.

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