Tensions rose higher in the aftermath of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's murder and burial. In the US, President Bush said Syria, which is widely blamed for the assassination, is "out of step" with other nations in the region and that his administration will help to pressure the Damascus government to remove its thousands of occupying troops from Lebanon. At the same time, neighboring Iran - which on Wednesday announced a united front with Syria - sought to expand its scope. It called for a powerful regional alliance against "US and Israeli plots."

A car-bomb explosion, believed to be the first detonated by Islamist militants in southern Thailand, killed five people and wounded dozens of others Thursday night as newly reelected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra toured the region. Thaksin began his visit by threatening to withhold government aid to towns and villages "designated as red zones" - meaning they have been deemed sympathetic to separatist rebels. The latest casualties brought to more than 500 the number of people killed since the separatism campaign erupted in January of last year.

A low voter turnout was considered entirely possible in Spain, the first country to hold a referendum on the European Union's proposed Constitution. Analysts warned that a poor showing at the polls Sunday would suggest that the charter, even if approved, is stumbling out of the starting gate - thus giving encouragement to anti-EU forces, especially in Britain. The constitution must be OK'd by all 25 member states if it is to take effect. Spain's major political parties back ratification, but voters there tend to be unenthusiastic about Europe-wide issues unless they happen to coincide with a national election.

Twenty-four more men died, 14 were hurt, and three others were missing after China's second coal mine explosion this week. Unlike Monday's disaster, which killed at least 211 people in a state-owned mine in northern Liaoning Province, the latest occurred in the southwest in an illegal, privately operated pit.

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