The strongest reactions among financial markets in the wake of the North Korean nuclear weapons test came in rival South Korea and in China, the North's No. 1 ally. The Korea Composite Stock Index fell 3.6 percent on news of the explosion. It recovered to close down 2.4 percent, but analysts suggested there could be a further sell-off as investors monitor international responses to the test. China's Shanghai Composite Index reached a five-year high, although that was due, in part, to the impending initial public offering by a major bank. Japan's financial markets were closed Monday. In New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 21 points in early trading. At midday, most major bourses in Europe were up fractionally.

Gunmen disguised as soldiers assassinated the brother of Iraq's Sunni vice president Monday, the third time in a year that he has lost a close relative to violence. Gen. Amir al-Hashimi had been an adviser to the Defense Ministry. The ministry also accused journalists of exaggerating reports that hundreds of members of a National Police unit had been poisoned and that at least seven died. A spokes-man denied there were any deaths and said four cooks were arrested on suspicion of tampering with the food at a Ramadan fast-breaking meal.

NATO forces in southern Afghanistan said Monday they killed 52 more Taliban militants without taking any casualties of their own. The report came as the NATO commander, Gen. David Richards of Britain, traveled to neighboring Pakistan to raise with government officials there new accusations that their intelligence agency, ISI, has been helping the Taliban. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has denied the allegation.

"Jihad" was declared against neighboring Ethiopia Monday by the Islamist militia that now controls much of Somalia. A spokesman for the Supreme Islamic Council said his forces had been driven from a town called Bur Haqaba by Ethiopian troops backing Somalia's weak interim government, in what is believed to be the latter's first offensive action to date. But "we will recapture the town," he said. Ethiopia's Foreign Ministry issued the latest in a series of denials that its forces have been in Somalia, although journalists and diplomats have reported seeing them there.

Both sides reacted positively to the historic first meeting between the Rev. Ian Paisley, the hard-line leader of Northern Ireland's largest Protestant political party, and the head of the 4 million Catholics in Ireland. Paisley, who has refused to return to a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland with Sinn Fein, the Catholic party allied with the Irish Republican Army, and Archbishop Sean Brady discussed their shared hopes for a stable government in Ulster and such social issues as stem-cell research and euthanasia. Brady called the session "very helpful" and said "a lot of progress has been made." Paisley said, "We have had a very good and useful exchange of views .... [and] look forward to further discussions."

Any opposition to the drafting of a new constitution in Burma (Myanmar) "will be crushed," the military government warned. With a new session of the long-delayed constitutional convention scheduled to open Tuesday, Brig. Gen. Kyaw Hsan said there no longer is any need to discuss the charter with the National League for Democracy (NLD), the political party led by Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi. The NLD, which is boycotting the process, has placed partisan benefit above the national interest, Kyaw Hsan said. The convention is supposed to be the first of seven steps to democracy. Western governments have called the process a farce.

Despite their scheduled peace talks later this month, Tamil separatist rebels and Sri Lanka's government each warned of more war if the other attempted a major offensive. A rebel spokesman said his side had "reliable intelligence" that government forces were preparing scorched-earth operations "into our territory," especially targeting civilian settlements. Meeting with international peace monitors, President Mahinda Rajapakse said "appropriate countermeasures" would be taken if rebel attacks do not stop. New rebel assaults were reported Sunday and Monday.

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