Ex-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's attorneys have ended their boycott of his war-crimes trial and are expected to be present when it resumes Monday, a source close to the court said. But the account was disputed by a rival source who reported an offer of protection for the families of only three of the lawyers, not the dozen or so who agreed to defend Hussein and his co-defendants. The attorneys vowed not to continue with the trial after gunmen killed two of their colleagues in mid-October. Observers said the case ought to proceed now without interruption, barring another successful motion by the defense for delay. However, Iraq's Dec. 15 national election offers reason for such a motion, they said.

"I'm excited, but I am also humbled," President-elect Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said as the National Elections Commission of Liberia formally declared her Africa's first female head of state chosen by voters. It certified the results of the Nov. 8 runoff against soccer star George Weah, giving her a 59.4 percent to 40.6 percent victory and clearing the way for her inauguration in January. But Weah was still refusing to concede defeat on grounds that the election was "fraudulent."

A new slate of Cabinet ministers was promised within two weeks by President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya following the defeat of his proposed new constitution by the voters. Kibaki fired the entire Cabinet Wednesday. The charter was rejected by a 14 percent margin in what was widely seen as a referendum instead on how well Kibaki has kept his campaign pledges to foster democracy and root out corruption in government. To help promote the proposed charter, however, he allied himself with key members of the party of his discredited predecessor, Daniel arap Moi.

Members of Parliament appear ready to bring down the government of Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin Monday, setting up a campaign to succeed it that will intrude on the Christmas and New Year holidays. Martin all but ensured that his opponents would call for a vote of no-confidence when he rejected an opposition request earlier this week to dissolve Parliament and schedule an election Feb. 13. If his government falls, the election is expected to be held Jan. 16 or 23. Martin's Liberal Party has ruled Canada without interruption since 1993, although it lost its majority in Parliament last year as voters registered their disgust at a multimillion-dollar kickback scandal.

Roman Catholics are bracing for the official release next week of an eagerly awaited Vatican "instruction" on homosexuality. But excerpts obtained by news organizations make clear that the church will permit men to proceed toward the priesthood only if they've shown for at least three years that they have "clearly overcome" homosexual tendencies. The document comes in the wake of the 2002 scandal involving the abuse of mainly teenage boys by priests, but does not cover men who already are ordained. The US dissident group Catholics for a Free Choice, called the decree "a sad moment" and said it would exclude "faithful and good men who are called to the priesthood."

A plume of contaminated river water is expected to pass one of China's largest cities Saturday, allowing authorities to test whether it's safe to reopen the municipal supply to the public. Taps in Harbin were shut off late Tuesday after an explosion at a nearby chemical plant sent benzine and other pollutants into the Songhua River. Residents responded by fleeing to other cities or, if they couldn't, by making a run on bottled water at inflated prices. The problem for Harbin's 3.8 milion people has been exacerbated by nighttime temperatures as low as -12 degrees F.

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