Communist North Korea had no immediate reaction to a firmly worded appeal by Pacific Rim leaders that it live up to its earlier commitment to stop developing nuclear weapons. The North has agreed, however, to return to six-nation discussions on its nuclear program, which informed sources say could resume as early as next month. The urging came Sunday from the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum meetings in Hanoi, Vietnam. North Korea is not among APEC's 21 members. As the forum was ending, however, senior North Korean officials were in Iran to discuss how their two governments could work more closely together on issues of mutual concern. President Bush has identified both countries as parts of an "axis of evil." The US suspects Iran also is developing a nuclear weapons program.

A terrorist posing as a contractor lured poor Shiite day laborers to his van in a city south of Baghdad Sunday, then exploded a bomb, killing himself and at least 21 of them. Forty-four others were hurt in the attack in Hilla, a predominantly Shiite city that had been relatively peaceful in recent months. Eight farm workers also died aboard a bus in a separate attack northeast of Baghdad, and a deputy government health minister was kidnapped. The latest incidents came as Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem arrived in Baghdad for consultations with Iraqi leaders on the reported proposal that his government and Iran become involved in the search for a peaceful solution to the growing sectarian violence. On average, almost 100 Iraqis die each day in tit-for-tat attacks between Shiites and Sunnis, the BBC reported.

Hizbullah followers should be "psychologically ready" for massive protests in the streets of Lebanon, the movement's leader said Sunday. Sheikh Hassan Nasrullah did not announce a date for the demonstrations in favor of a national unity government in which Hizbullah would have veto power over policies it doesn't like. But he specified that they should be peaceful and denied that they'd be an attempt to overthrow Western-leaning Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. Siniora's cabinet last week endorsed a UN tribunal to prosecute suspects in the February 2005 assassination of a predecessor, the anti-Syrian Rafik Hariri. Much of Hizbullah's support comes from Syria.

An outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin was hospitalized under heavy police guard in London after apparently being poisoned. The Sunday Telegraph (London) said Alexander Litvinenko, a colonel in the Russian secret police who defected to Britain in 2000, was in serious condition with major internal injuries from a substance chemically similar to rat poison. He'd been lured to a restaurant by an unidentified contact who purportedly was offering information on the shooting death last month of another prominent Putin critic, investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya. A spokesman for Scotland Yard said it is investigating the incident but has made no arrests.

Political gatherings were banned in Bangladesh as the nation braced for a resumption Monday of the transportation strike sponsored by an alliance of 14 opposition parties. Organizers said only an agreement by the interim government to their demands for electoral reform would forestall the blockade that immobilized most highway, rail, and sea travel last week. In particular, the organizers seek the dismissal of four elections commissioners, whom they accuse of bias in favor of ex-Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. They suspect Zia of plotting to rig the national election in January.

Police and Army reinforcements from Australia and New Zealand restored order to Tonga, and its main airport is expected to reopen Monday to allow hundreds of trapped foreigners to leave. But the center of Nukualofa, the capital, was reported to be in "utter devastation" after mobs went on a rampage last week on the expectation that parliament would adjourn for the rest of the year without acting on demands for democratic reform. At least eight people were killed before Prime Minister Fred Sevele announced sweeping changes.

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