The death sentence against Saddam Hussein's former vice president was upheld unanimously by an Iraqi appeals court, clearing the way for him to be hanged. Taha Yassin Ramadan originally was sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the 1982 massacre of Shiites at Dujail. But that penalty later was upgraded to death on grounds that it was too lenient.

Communist rebels overran a security outpost in central India early Thursday, killing 55 policemen and members of a tribal militia in one of the worst attacks since their insurgency began in 1967. The rebels gathered up weapons and ammunition, planted land mines, and set fire to the facility before leaving. Experts on security warned of more such incidents "over the coming weeks." The rebels, known as Naxalites, are so powerful in some areas that they operate their own justice system.

The deadline for forming a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland can still be met, interested parties insisted despite the refusal of Protestant leader Ian Paisley to commit to it. Paisley left a meeting Wednesday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair still citing the "ambiguity" of Sinn Fein, the Catholic political party allied with the Irish Republican Army, on whether it would meet its requirements for sharing power. But Sinn Fein chief Gerry Adams, who met separately with Blair, said Britain accepted that his side has done enough to merit a share in self-rule. Unless a government is formed by March 26, Blair says he will disband the province's legislature.

A mosque and a tea shop in southern Thailand were bombed late Wednesday, hours after the execution-style slayings of nine Buddhists. Eleven Muslims were hurt in the blasts, but Army commanders sought to dispel suggestions of a retaliatory campaign. They blamed Muslim separatist militants for the bombings, saying the latter "want to trick people." The Army imposed an overnight curfew to dampen violence in the region.

New condemnation rained down on Zimbabwe's government over the beating by police of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. The US said it was considering further sanctions against President Robert Mugabe's regime. Other criticism came from Britain, South Africa, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The African Union called the incident "very embarrassing." But Mugabe fired back, saying his critics "can go hang."

With one day to go before the threatened execution of Italian newspaper reporter Daniele Mastrogiacomo, a voice purporting to be his pleaded with authorities in Rome to meet Taliban demands. A recording of the appeal, however, could not immediately be authenticated. Mastrogiacomo and two Afghan companions were seized more than a week ago and were threatened with death unless Italy announces the pullout of 1,900 troops serving with NATO forces in Afghanistan. Prime Minister Romano Prodi said his government would spare no effort to free Mastrogiacomo.

More than three months after their kidnapping, a pair of Italian oil company workers were freed Thursday in Nigeria's delta region. They said militants of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta had treated them "better than they treated themselves." But the group said it now would "take more hostages and concentrate on locations believed to be secure." Future captives, it said, will be held "for as long as the Nigerian government refuses to address our demands."

Optimism that North and South Korea finally would set a date for the first trial of cross-border train service ended Thursday as talks on the matter collapsed. South Korean officials said the sides couldn't agree on when development projects associated with the rail service should begin. A trial run also was scuttled last May because of objections by North Korean military chiefs. No train has crossed the border since 1951.

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