Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denied she was told by Chinese diplomats that North Korea has no immediate plans to conduct another test of a nuclear weapon. But persistent news reports Sunday said the North's leader, Kim Jong Il, had told the Chinese last week that US policy would dictate whether there will be a new test. While pledging to abide by the 1992 treaty on keeping the Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons, Kim reportedly also said the North "would have to respond" if the US continues to pressure him.

Even greater violence in the Gaza Strip between Hamas and Fatah appeared possible after one of the latter's senior commanders was gunned down outside his home. Hamas militants were blamed for the attack, and Fatah followers set fire to cars used by Hamas security personnel in the Bureij refugee camp. The incident followed a new protest by civil servants over the nonpayment of their salaries by the Hamas-led Palestinian government. On Saturday, gunmen fired at Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, although he wasn't hurt. Amid the violence, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas brought a senior security administrator out of retirement to stop Hamas from building up its strength in the West Bank.

Residents were fleeing the main town in southern Somalia amid signs that the nation's Islamist militia would launch an all-out assault to recapture it. Bur Haq-aba fell Saturday to government troops backed by Ethiopian Army units. An initial attempt to retake the town was repulsed, with the loss of one Islamic Courts Union (UIC) fighter, reports said. Analysts warn that the fighting may be a prelude to wider confrontation in the region, since the UIC sees the loss of Bur Haqaba as a challenge to its authority and has declared jihad against Ethiopia.

An appeal for $43 million in emergency aid was issued Sunday by the the UN and Afghanistan's government, which said almost 2 million people there face severe food shortages. Prolonged drought means an almost certain shortfall in wheat production. The dry spell has been almost continuous since the overthrow of the Taliban in late 2001. The situation is made worse by the resumption of Taliban attacks in southern provinces. In June, a similar appeal was issued for $76 million, but it resulted in donations of only about half that amount.

For activities "incompatible with his mission," the UN's chief envoy to Sudan was ordered to leave within 72 hours. Jan Pronk of the Netherlands has demonstrated "enmity" toward the government and the armed forces, the Foreign Ministry said. Pronk, who writes an Internet blog, said Sudan's military had incurred losses in fighting with rebels in Darfur "that seem to have been very high." He and the government also have been at odds over efforts to replace African peacekeepers in Darfur with a 20,000-man UN mission. President Omar al-Bashir rejects the latter as a thinly veiled attempt to restore colonial rule.

A remote-controlled bomb exploded Sunday in southern Thailand as a column of Buddhist monks was passing, killing a guard and seriously wounding 12 other people. The attack capped one of the most violent weeks to date in the southern provinces, where Muslim guerrillas are waging a separatist campaign. Twenty-eight people have been killed there over the past seven days. Pledges of a new, nonconfrontational approach to the situation by the nation's military leaders and their interim prime minister have had no apparent effect on the level of violence.

Passage appeared all but certain Sunday for the first expansion in the 92-year history of the Panama Canal. Voters in a national referendum were asked to endorse the $5.25 billion project, which would add new locks capable of handling the largest ships and would double traffic through the waterway. Critics argue that its cost also could double, forcing impoverished Panama to borrow still more money. But proponents say the project will generate 40,000 new jobs, helping to ease a 9.5 percent jobless rate.

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