As many as 25 more followers of militant Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr were killed in fighting with US troops at a mosque in Karbala, Iraq, bringing to more than 130 the number of dead in the past week. But despite his heavy losses, Sadr remained defiant, telling a news conference Wednesday, "Let me remind you of Vietnam.... The means of victory that are available to us are much more than the Vietnamese had." Meanwhile, the US military announced the scheduling of two more courts-martial for soldiers accused of mistreating detainees in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison.

New US economic sanctions against Syria are "unjust and unjustified," the Damascus government protested. But it said it hopes for dialogue with the Bush administration to try to resolve the latter's concerns over support for terrorism and undermining of efforts to establish democracy in Iraq. Trade between the US and Syria amounts only to $300 million a year, and analysts said hardships that the cutoff of imports may bring could be offset by the free flow of goods through neighboring Lebanon.

Palestinian militants and Israel's government appeared to be at a new impasse over the handover of six soldiers killed in a powerful explosion earlier this week in Gaza City. Reports said Red Cross and other mediators had won agreement from the militants to surrender the remains, but only if Israel first pulls its troops out of the city. Instead, Israeli forces mounted a search for the victims and vowed to stay until their remains were recovered. Palestinian casualties in the resulting violence were heavy, hospital officials said.

Authorities pleaded for a halt to two days of new sectarian violence in northern Nigeria that killed at least 26 people and perhaps as many as 50. The trouble began as a march by local Muslims to protest the deaths of hundreds of other followers of Islam earlier this month. But it turned into a riot, and police had to drive busloads of Christians to safety in nearby Army barracks.

A comfortable victory was predicted for incumbent Philippines President Gloria Arroyo, based on exit polling from Monday's national election. But the political party of her challenger, actor Fernando Poe Jr., warned of a "people power" revolt if he loses. Poe's campaign alleged widespread ballot fraud, and he told supporters, "Victory will be ours." Popular revolts toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and Arroyo's predecessor, Joseph Estrada, three years ago.

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