At a news conference, Afghan leader Hamid Karzai said he'll ask President Bush for a long-term security commitment to his country. But, appearing alongside visiting Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Karzai sidestepped questions about whether that meant permanent US military bases there. His government previously has said any such consideration would require the OK of the new parliament, for which elections are scheduled in September. Rumsfeld's visit came amid a new spike in terrorist violence by Taliban remnants, almost 3-1/2 years after their domination of Afghanistan ended.

In one of the most difficult days for coalition forces in Iraq in months:

• Terrorists exploded a second bomb near Kirkuk, killing 12 policemen who'd been lured into dismantling another device that apparently was a decoy.

• Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for a car bomb attack on a US Defense Department convoy in Baghdad that killed five Iraqis and wounded four Americans.

• The satellite news channel Al Jazeera showed footage of an American civilian begging for his life after being kidnapped Monday by an unidentified group. The captive, identified as Jeffrey Ake, also called on US forces to leave Iraq "swiftly."

Deepening their diplomatic row, the Japanese government began processing applications for oil and gas exploration in an undersea area that also is claimed by China. Leases, which will go to Japanese companies, are expected to be approved within three months, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said. China's government offered no immediate comment, although Premier Wen Jibao criticized Japan Tuesday for World War II atrocities and said the Tokyo government needed to reconsider its bid for a seat in the UN Security Council. Relations between the two nations are at their lowest ebb in decades.

For the second time in six weeks, the prime minister of Lebanon resigned, conceding "after many attempts" that he could not cobble together a cabinet in the face of anti-Syrian opposition. Omar Karami said he wouldn't accept another invitation from President Emile Lahoud to try. His announcement deepened the political crisis in Lebanon, which effectively has been without a government since the end of February. He also said he'll quit the group of pro-Syrian factions that had backed him, although he would not join the anti-Syrian opposition.

Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes on the slopes of Mount Talang, a volcano on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, as it spewed ash high into the air for a second straight day. The volcano is one of several in Indonesia that regularly belch gas or smoke, but anxiety is extra-high because of the recent earthquakes that have rocked Sumatra. Two other volcanoes were placed off-limits to hikers after sensors registered increasing levels of gas and other activity.

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