A resolution of the dispute between Russia and Belarus over the flow of oil through a pipeline to Europe appeared nearer Wednesday after the latter decided to drop its $45-a-ton transit tax. Russian officials denied that the flow of crude through the pipeline to Europe already had resumed. But they said the Belarussian move was "cause for restrained optimism" and that the two sides would hold further discussions. The cutoff of oil also affects Ukraine, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.

Airstrikes by US forces were reported against four more suspected Islamist militant encampments in Somalia Wednesday, amid indications that one of the FBI's most-wanted fugitives had died in an earlier raid. He was identified as Fazul Abdullah Mohammad, an Al Qaeda operative who allegedly planned the 1998 terrorist attacks on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Visiting New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) failed to persuade Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir that a UN force is needed to maintain order in volatile Darfur Province. But they issued a joint statement on a 60-day cessation of hostilities in Darfur. Critics noted that Bashir has a history of breaking such commitments, however. The Sudanese leader repeated his assertion that African Union peacekeepers are "sufficient" to keep Darfur calm. He claims a UN force would be "colonialist."

Tens of thousands of soldiers empowered to make arrests without warrants fanned out across Bangladesh as the opposition alliance announced a new series of protests aimed at postponing the national election 11 days from now. Alliance members already are planning to boycott the vote, arguing that it won't be free or fair. They appeared to win the support of two US-based monitoring groups, which said Wednesday that they were suspending plans to send observer teams. Forty-five people have been killed and hundreds of others been have been hurt in election-related violence so far.

Terrorists exploded bombs in two cities in the southern Philippines Wednesday, killing at least six people and wounding more than 20 others amid preparations for the weekend conference of leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but police had warned that Islamic militants might try to disrupt the conference to embarrass the Philippines government, a US ally in the counterterrorism effort.

Nine more foreign oil-industry employees – all of them South Koreans – were kidnapped before dawn Wednesday in the latest raid by armed militants in Nigeria's delta region. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the raid, the second in the area in less than a week. Last year, more than 80 foreigners were seized in the delta, which remains impoverished despite its vast oil and natural gas resources. Most were soon released in exchange for ransom payments.

Almost all unionized employees in Guinea began an open-ended strike, grinding most of the west African nation to a halt in a protest against the high cost of living and the alleged favoritism by President Lansana Conte to two prominent men involved in a corruption case. The capital, Conakry, was reported calm, in contrast to a similar strike last June in which 10 people were killed. Conte is accused of freeing wealthy businessman Mama-dou Sylla and a former Central Bank official from jail before they could be tried on charges of stealing $22 million from the state. Guinea is impoverished despite being the world's leading exporter of bauxite.

At least eight laborers died and dozens of others were trapped in the rubble of a collapsed five-story building in Allahabad, India, Wednesday. Army units were rushed to the site to help in rescue efforts. Police said they would file criminal charges against the contractor.

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