With visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair on hand to lend support, Iraq's new government leader said Monday he thinks his own forces will be able to take over security for most of the nation by year's end. "This operation will be completed, except for Baghdad - and maybe Anbar," Nouri al-Maliki told a joint news conference. Anbar is the volatile western province that has been at the center of much of the terrorism and resistance to Iraq's experiment with democracy. Blair is the first world leader to travel to Iraq since Maliki's Cabinet was confirmed by parliament Saturday.

As his fellow Protestants guffawed from the sidelines, the Rev. Ian Paisley refused nomination Monday as "first minister" of Northern Ireland's self-rule Assembly. Paisley, who leads the largest Protestant political party in Ulster, cited its long-standing decision not to cooperate with Sinn Fein, the Catholic party that is the political ally of the Irish Republican Army, until the IRA renounces crime and disbands. His name was placed in nomination by Sinn Fein chief Gerry Adams. Britain, which rules Northern Ireland, has given the power-sharing Assembly six months to form a working coalition or be dissolved.

Angry at the prospect of being blacklisted by the European Union (EU) and by the "assassination" of one of their senior leaders, Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger separatist rebels said they were being "dragged into a major war" with government forces. A spokesman blamed the Army for the death of "Colonel Rama-nan," who had been in charge of intelligence for the eastern half of the island nation before being gunned down Saturday. The Army denied any involvement in his ambush and accused the rebels of targeting foreign aid organizations in three separate grenade attacks Sunday. Late last week, the EU agreed in principle to follow the lead of the US and ban the Tamil Tigers as a "terrorist" organization, a move that would result in freezing their assets.

Although announcing two months ago that he'd no longer be prime minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra is expected to chair a meeting of cabinet ministers Tuesday on stimulating the economy. Opposition leaders have yet to indicate how they'll react, but analysts warned of new protests in the streets of Baghdad by the People's Alliance for Democracy coalition, whose huge demonstrations led to Thaksin's departure. Thailand has had a caretaker government since then, but no parliament. The national Elections Commission is proposing a new round of voting Oct. 29 to form a legislature.

One of the longest-running criminal trials in African history is expected to end Tuesday with a verdict in the case of former Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam. Mengistu, a leftist, is charged with genocide and crimes against humanity during his 17-year rule, which ended in 1991. He lives in exile in Zimbabwe. His trial, in absentia, began in 1994. Critics say the proceedings have taken so long that most Ethiopians will find the verdict meaningless and that Zimbabwe's government is unlikely to return him to face execution if he's found guilty. Others defend the trial on grounds that Mengistu's successors had to show a determination to abide by the rule of law.

The number of men known to be trapped by flooding in a northern China coal mine rose from 44 over the weekend to at least 57 - and the ranks of would-be rescuers grew to 800. But the rescue effort hit a snag Monday because there was too little electricity for the pumps needed to drain the mine of water. Meanwhile, analysts said the heavy news coverage being permitted at the scene is a sign of displeasure at high levels of government. China's leaders repeatedly have announced crackdowns on the mining industry, yet explosions, cave-ins, flooding, and gas leaks continue to kill dozens of workers almost monthly.

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