Many of the 23,700 lives lost to tidal waves in Southeast Asia could have been saved, Asian governments conceded, if they had issued broad public warnings immediately after an underwater earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia, triggering massive waves that pummeled the coastlines of nine countries. But the governments' primary concern is getting emergency aid for survivors, many of whom are now homeless.

Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko looked certain to win the presidency, garnering over half of the ballots cast in a third round of voting Sunday. International observers declared the repeat election much fairer than a previous run-off between Yushchenko and rival Viktor Yanukovich, who won 43 percent of the latest vote. Yushchenko has made clear his desire to align Ukraine with the West, ending Russia's historical dominance of the former Soviet republic.

Monday, Israel released 159 Palestinian prisoners as part of a swap with Egypt and as a gesture to the new Palestinian leadership. Palestinian leaders welcomed the move, but called for a "serious release process" for all prisoners. An Israeli spokesman said further releases are possible if the Palestinians make progress on stopping terrorism and instituting reforms. Many of the 7,000 Palestinians still in jail are detained - some indefinitely and without trial - for involvement in suicide bombings or suspected support roles.

Despite their Baghdad offices being bombed, a key Shiite Muslim group remains committed to nonviolence, party leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim said Monday of his Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Later Monday, the Iraqi Islamic Party, a leading Sunni party, withdrew from the electoral race, citing the rapidly deteriorating security situation and the lack of public awareness about the vote. Though surveys have indicated that most Iraqis, including Sunnis, want to vote, Sunnis may be deterred in greater numbers, since most of the violence sweeping Iraq is in Sunni Arab areas.

China warned Taiwan Monday that any major initiatives toward independence by the self-governing island will be crushed by China's military. The warning, issued in a government policy paper, came amid discussions of antisecession legislation aimed at Taiwan.

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