Political opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he should tone down his strident anti-Western rhetoric after final results showed his allies were drubbed in last week's local elections across Iran. But analysts expected no immediate changes in policy on such problems as high unemployment and financial shortages. In a rare public admission Wednesday, Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri-Hamaneh said foreign lenders "have decreased their cooperation" with Iran, making the financing of key projects in that sector difficult. Ahmadinejad, however, remained defiant, saying Iran's pursuit of nuclear technology serves as a source of inspiration to other countries.

"A large cache" of guns, explosives, detonators, and timers was confiscated by police in a raid on houses owned by members of a pro-Syrian group in northern Lebanon Thursday. Police said they also arrested suspects and had encircled the Syrian Social Nationalist Party's offices in Beirut, the capital. In the past two years, Lebanese politicians and journalists, most notably ex-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, have been killed or severely injured in 16 separate attacks by suspected Syrian agents or sympathizers.

A fiery Muslim cleric who spent 2-1/2 years in Indonesian prisons for conspiracy in the 2002 terrorist attacks on Bali nightclubs won his appeal of the verdict. The Supreme Court issued its ruling on Abu Bakr al-Bashir after testimony by dozens of witnesses. He has denied involvement in the attacks, although he admits knowing many radicals who trained at Al Qaeda terrorist camps. More than 200 people died in the Bali bombings, many of them Australian tourists, and Thursday's ruling was considered certain to anger their government as well as the US. Both nations have accused him publicly of being a leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, the Al Qaeda affiliate that carried out the Bali attacks.

Thousands of antigovernment protesters were back on the streets of Bangladesh's capital Thursday, smashing vehicles and bringing commerce to a standstill in a new general strike. It came despite the government's agreement on two reforms to the election system that the 14-party opposition alliance had demanded. But the Awami League, which leads the alliance, said the reforms weren't enough to ensure that the Jan. 22 parliamentary election will be fair.

Armed militants struck again in Nigeria's oil region Thursday, killing three police guards and wounding four employees at a pumping station operated by French energy giant Total SA. The incident was the second in the Niger Delta in three days. Rival Royal Dutch/Shell said it was evacuating all dependants of its foreign employees there due to the worsening situation.

In another sign that Fidel Castro may not return to the leadership of Cuba, his brother said he plans to encourage "more debate and more disagreement" on public policy matters. Raul Castro, who has served as acting leader for almost five months, told a gathering of students in Havana that he doesn't intend to imitate Fidel because "those who imitate, fail." He did not mention his brother's health. Fidel Castro hasn't been seen in public since undergoing major surgery July 29 and is widely believed to be near death.

Flags were lowered to half-staff in the capital of Turkmenistan Thursday as the former Soviet republic learned of President Saparmurat Niyazov's death. He had ruled for 21 years, reserving every top governmental post for himself and tolerating no dissent. He also was at the center of one of the world's most curious cults of personality. Portraits, statues, and busts of him in gold leaf decorate the cities, and he renamed Turkmenistan's highest mountain and the month of January after himself. Parliament planned to meet Wednesday to designate his successor.

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