The largest Sunni political bloc in Iraq called for a conference of all religious and political leaders to try to stop the "horrible escalation of violence." The Iraqi Islamic Party appealed for people of all sectarian groups "to come to their senses instead of slipping into the abyss." As it did so, however, 59 more people died in the Shiite city of Kufa when a bomber lured day laborers to his van with an offer of work, then triggered explosives. Ninety others were wounded. Not counting Tuesday's casualties, the Associated Press said Iraqi dead this month numbered 617 and that more than 1,850 have been killed since the unity government took office May 20.

Despite the successes of Operation Mountain Thrust, Taliban guerrillas have seized two towns in southern Afghanistan and raised their own flag, the Interior Ministry conceded. But a spokesman for US-led coalition forces said "decisive operations" to retake the towns in Helmand Province, near the border with Pakistan, "will begin soon." He said the Taliban have been able to assert themselves only in areas without government control. Violence, mostly in southern Afghanistan, is at its highest level since the ouster of the Taliban in late 2001. More than 800 people have died there since May.

In an about-face, the weak transitional government of Somalia said it would join peace negotiations after all with the Islamist militia that has seized power in much of the country. President Abdullahi Yusuf's spokesman said Tuesday that doing so would be "the last hope and chance for ... stability." Yusuf previously said he'd boycott the talks, scheduled to open Saturday. But he was pressured to change his mind by the International Contact Group on Somalia, which has been meeting in Brussels. The group undercut Yusuf's position by rejecting a proposed force of foreign peacekeepers in favor of training and equipping a Somali army and police. Western governments see the peace talks as a vehicle for winning international recognition for the Islamist militia.

Acts of civil disobedience are "imminent" but won't always be announced in advance, aides to leftist presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador said in ratcheting up the pressure on Mexico's top electoral court to order a recount by hand of all ballots in the July 2 national election. López Obrador himself told a left-wing radio station Monday that the resistance campaign would have a high profile," although he refused to say what form it would take. His supporters already have staged two huge protests in Mexico City. López Obrador claims massive fraud in the election, which appears to have been won by rival Felipe Calderón by about 240,000 votes out of more than 41 million cast. The court must declare an official winner by Sept. 6. Monitors from the European Union have said they saw no significant instances of fraud.

Political tensions rose higher in Ukraine Tuesday as the party of President Viktor Yushchenko rejected an invitation to join a coalition of leftists and declared it would sit in opposition. The move means ex-President Viktor Yanukovych's pro-Russia Party of Regions and the Socialists can file a new application to form a government. It also suggests that Yushchenko will not exercise his option to dissolve parliament and call a new election. But his Orange Revolution ally, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, proposed that her party and Our Ukraine quit the legislature, rendering it illegitimate and forcing another election. Ukraine has been without a government since March, when the Party of Regions won the most votes in the national election – but not enough to rule without partners.

By a 144-to-0 vote, members of Georgia's parliament demanded that neighboring Russia withdraw peacekeeping troops from the volatile regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Russian soldiers are widely perceived as siding with separatists in those regions. Analysts said the action almost certainly would increase tensions between the two governments, which have been feuding over natural gas supplies, wine and mineral water exports, and Russian membership in the World Trade Organization. Opposition legislators abstained from voting on the measure Tuesday, calling it weak because it set no deadline for the Russian pullout.

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