Government leaders and the public in two countries braced for the release Friday of the findings of the UN investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The long-awaited report is expected to implicate senior government officials there and in neighboring Syria, although the latter's president insisted in an interview with the German news magazine Die Zeit, "We are 100 percent innocent." Lebanese authorities already have arrested four pro-Syrian security chiefs and charged them with murder.

US forces in Iraq confirmed the death of another senior Al Qaeda leader, saying he was killed in fighting last weekend in the Sunni triangle city of Ramadi. Meanwhile, Iraqi police arrested a nephew of Saddam Hussein, whom they described as the No. 1 financier of Sunni-dominated terrorist attacks. Yasir Sabhawi Ibrahim had been expelled from Syria earlier this year. The developments came as Iraqis awaited the results of last weekend's referendum on their proposed new constitution.

Tens of thousands of chickens were slaughtered in China, Vietnam, and Russia and a mass vaccination program was under way in the latter country as worldwide concern over a possible bird flu pandemic increased. In Thailand, authorities reported the first death of a human from the virus in a year. Public health officials in Taiwan confirmed the first case of infected birds there. Austria and Germany both ordered all chickens confined to cages as a precaution.

Late opinion polls showed Sunday's presidential runoff election in Poland probably will be close, as the first round of voting was Oct. 9. Front-runner Donald Tusk, a pro-business legislator, held a six-point edge over Warsaw Mayor Lech Kaczynski, 53 percent to 47 percent, but a week ago his lead was 14 points.

Only one obstacle stands in the way of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe seeking a new term next May after the nation's highest court upheld a law overturning the ban on reelection. The court, however, still must rule on a related law that's designed to ensure that incumbent office-seekers don't abuse their powers for political gain. That ruling could come as soon as next month, analysts said.

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