Reacting with fury to the probable halt in construction of two nuclear power plants, the North Korean government said it will seize all "equipment, facilities, materials, and technical documents" related to the project. The initiative for suspending the program for at least one year came from the Bush administration, which argues that the communist-led nation shouldn't be supplied with cheap electricity unless it dismantles its nuclear weapons program. Analysts noted, however, that the North did not rule out a resumption of talks on the nuclear issue.

At least one Muslim radical killed himself in Islam's holiest city, as police closed in, in their second raid this week. A similar raid in Mecca on Monday resulted in the deaths of two men identified as members of Al Qaeda and the capture of six others in what Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry said was a foiled plot to attack religious pilgrims. Meanwhile, in Riyadh, the capital, a militant was killed and eight policemen were wounded in a shootout.

Over the protests of civil rights activists, Indonesia's government announced a six-month extension of martial law and its military offensive against separatist rebels in volatile Aceh Province. The campaign, which began in May, has resulted in about 1,000 rebel deaths, the military said. But it also acknowledged hundreds of civilian casualties and that key rebel leaders have eluded capture.

Saying, "We have a duty to take action to help elderly people," French Premier Jean-Pierre Raffarin asked those with jobs to work an extra day each year to help finance expanded healthcare. The plan is aimed at raising $10.3 billion by 2008 for hiring 15,000 nurses and expanding nursing-home capacity. Elder care became a major political issue last summer, when a prolonged heat wave was blamed for 15,000 deaths. The opposition Socialist Party called the initiative "insufficient and unfair."

As expected, the opposition Conservative Party in Britain installed a former home secretary as its leader. Michael Howard succeeds Iain Duncan Smith, who was ousted last week for his inability to restore the once-powerful party to parity with the ruling Labourites of Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Voter turnout is projected to be about 80 percent for Sunday's national election in Japan - a potential danger for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), analysts said. Koizumi has said he'll resign if the LDP-led coalition doesn't win a majority of seats in the lower house of parliament. The main opposition has campaigned on the theme of turning Japan into an effective two-party state. The LDP has ruled for all but eight months of the past 50 years.

Five candidates are vying for the presidency of Guatemala in Sunday's election, but political observers were focusing on how much of the vote will go to ex-dictator Efrain Rios Montt. He was trailing in late opinion polls, with 11 percent support, to 37 percent for former Guatemala City Mayor Oscar Berger. Rios Montt, attempting a political comeback despite being accused of genocide, says the polls don't reflect his strong support in rural areas.

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