It appears increasingly unlikely that North Korea will meet next week's deadline for shutting down and sealing the plutonium-producing reactor at Yongbyon and other nuclear facilities, diplomats close to the situation said Wednesday. North Korea agreed in February to close those facilities in return for economic aid and political concessions. But the North has demanded that $25 million of its funds be transferred from a Macao bank first, and unspecified legal and technical problems preventing that have yet to be resolved.

Although incidents of sectarian violence have dropped by 26 percent in Baghdad, US military officials said Wednesday they remain "extremely concerned" because "too many still occur" in as well as outside the Iraqi capital. The government eased its 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew by two hours, but announced the extension of security measures outside Baghdad to meet rising violence there.

A joint force of Indonesian and Australian police prevented a terrorist attack that would have been twice the size of the first bombing on the island of Bali, the Melbourne Age newspaper reported. More than 200 people died in that October 2002 incident. In raids conducted in central and eastern Java, the police arrested seven men (one of them above in yellow) with connections to the Jemaah Islamiyah militant network and confiscated 20 bombs, almost 200 detonators, sizable quantities of TNT and other explosives, guns, and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych refused to accept the order by Ukraine's president to dissolve parliament and hold a new national election. Yanukovych said Wednesday he would wait for the Constitutional Court to rule on the legality of the order. A decision by the court is not expected for about a month, reports said.

A nationwide general strike in Zimbabwe was on the verge of collapse Wednesday, with the government increasing security patrols and many businesses reopening. The two-day walkout was called by the Congress of Trade Unions to demand that the government rein in the 1,730 percent inflation rate. But with 4 in 5 Zimbabweans out of work, analysts said few people could afford to lose even one day's pay.

Emergency help may not reach thousands of people in the Solomon Islands until Friday, the government warned, saying strong aftershocks are keeping many of them in makeshift shelters without food, water, or adequate sanitation. In Gizo, the main town in the disaster zone, the Red Cross said it had distributed all the aid stockpiled there and was waiting to be resupplied. Officials raised the number of deaths from Monday's magnitude-8.0 earthquake and tsunami to 28 but had no accurate estimate of those still missing. Above, islanders carry corrugated metal to use as roofs for a shelter.

Tamil separatist rebels confirmed a new airstrike against them by Sri Lanka's Air Force Wednesday, but denied that it had destroyed the headquarters of their Sea Tigers naval unit. The military, however, said bombs had hit a fuel storage dump, causing a massive fire that burned for hours. The Sea Tigers have fought numerous battles with the Sri Lankan Navy in recent months, using small, swift boats armed with machine guns.

Dozens of people were hurt as supporters of rival candidates for next week's presidential election in East Timor fought in the streets of Dili, the capital, Wednesday, the deadline for campaigning. UN peacekeepers had to fire into the air to keep the combatants apart, and outgoing incumbent Jose "Xanana" Gusmao appealed for calm, saying Timorese "need to show that we are not a failed state." Eight candidates are vying to succeed him in Monday's voting, the first since the small, impoverished nation achieved independence from Indonesia in 1999.

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