At least 18 more people were killed and dozens of others were wounded in car bomb explosions in Baghdad in the second successive day of major terrorist violence. A third car bomb was detonated in a controlled explosion by US experts after it failed to go off with the others. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for both attacks and said their target was Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib. In a worrisome new development, another terrorist group, Ansar al-Sunnah, said in an Internet posting that it had teamed up with Al Qaeda in one of Wednesday's attacks. The claim couldn't be verified but suggested a level of cooperation between rival groups not previously seen.

Amid the biggest diplomatic row in more than 30 years, Japan's foreign minister is due in Beijing Sunday for scheduled meetings with Chinese leaders. Nobutaka Machimura's visit comes as his government announced it will allow drilling for oil and gas in an area of the East China Sea that both nations claim. China called that move "a provocation" for which Japan "will bear the consequences." But it also appeared ready to defuse tensions, saying it is "trying to cool down" protesters to prevent a repeat of last weekend's anti-Japanese violence in several major cities.

Prospects for peace between India and Pakistan are "fairly irreversible," the latter's president said as he prepared for this weekend's visit to New Delhi. In an interview with Reuters, Pervez Musharraf also used the word "fairly" when asked whether he's optimistic that the two sides can find a solution to the Kashmir dispute. But Indian leaders, who invited him to a cricket match between their countries Sunday, said they "remain unsure what [he] wants" on the Kashmir issue. They predicted "neither a breakthrough nor a breakdown" as he meets with them.

The 151 votes necessary for ratification of the proposed European Union constitution appear guaranteed in Greece's parliament Friday after the government rejected calls by leftists for a national referendum. A "yes" vote will make Greece the fifth EU member to approve the charter. In France, which votes next, prospects appeared far less sure, however. President Chirac was to push for approval in a nationwide TV appearance Thursday night. But results of three new opinion polls showed a majority opposed to passage. Thirteen successive polls in France have produced that outcome.

Army troops took over the search for survivors of Monday's garment factory collapse in Bangladesh, but hope faded that any more would be found. Emergency crews have rescued 123 people from the rubble of the nine-story building, but more than 100 others remain unaccounted for. The industry is one of the nation's most vital, but reports said foreign textile buyers have expressed concern about safety standards there following the collapse.

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