Ethiopian and Somali government troops on Wednesday drove Islamic fighters from the last major town on their approach to Mogadishu, Somalia's Islamist-held capital. Meanwhile, the 53-nation Africa Union called a meeting with other regional groups in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to try to end the fighting and resume talks between Somalia's warring parties. Somalia hasn't had an effective government since warlords ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, pushing the country into anarchy.

A spokesman for Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said Wednesday that Talabani is waiting for an appeals court ruling on whether his ratification is needed to uphold Saddam Hussein's death sentence. If Talabani's approval is not required, Saddam would lose his legal means of avoiding execution. Meanwhile, in an Internet posting, Saddam's Baath Party threatened to retaliate "with all means and everywhere, to harm America and its interests if it commits this crime."

Remains believed to be from Khaddafy Janjalani, the chief of the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group, were found in the southern Philippines, the military said Wednesday. Janjalani was a target of a months-long US-backed manhunt.

While meeting with Iran's foreign minister Wednesday at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI received a letter from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but no details were released of its contents.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan called for a review of Nigeria's fuel supply management after Red Cross officials announced Wednesday that 265 impoverished people had died when a ruptured gasoline pipeline caught fire in Lagos a day earlier. The pipeline had been tapped illegally, a common practice in Nigeria, where corruption and mismanagement at refineries lead to underproduction.

A French-led satellite project that will search for small Earth-like planets with an orbiting telescope lifted off from Kazakhstan Wednesday. A spokesman for the COROT project hopes to find planets beyond the solar system of all sizes and natures that can't be detected from the ground-based equipment.

Indonesian security officials said Wednesday that efforts to disrupt Islamic militants are evident in the absence of bombing deaths in 2006, this after major attacks occurred between 2002 and 2005. There have been 17 blasts, with four injured. Officials cite efforts to address social and economic ills as an additional factor in defusing terrorist activities.

Taiwan's largest phone company said Wednesday it could take weeks to repair undersea communications cables damaged by two powerful earthquakes off Taiwan's coast. To repair the cables, which provide telephone and Internet connections to China, Japan, and Southeast Asia, they have to be pulled up and transferred to a ship.

Belarus issued an implicit warning late Tuesday that it could stop Russian gas deliveries through its pipelines to western Europe if Gazprom, Russia's gas monopoly, insists on steep price increases in 2007.

Vice Prime Minister Zeng Peiyan, China's top economic planner, told leaders of the national legislature Wednesday that the country will speed up development of deep-sea oil and gas and newly discovered onshore fields. According to China Business News, the government intends to take advantage of its $1 trillion in foreign exchange reserves to expand its self-sufficiency. How central bank funds could be put toward resource initiatives is unclear.

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