The release of two CBS News employees by their captors in Iraq appeared likely, but it was unclear whether it would come within hours or would take longer. The two, an unidentified British reporter and his interpreter, were seized from a Basra hotel, the TV network said Monday. The Basra office of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr claimed credit for arranging their release.

PDVSA, Venezuela's state-owned oil company, announced Tuesday that it has stopped selling crude to Exxon Mobil of the US. President Hugo Chávez had warned last weekend that the move might be imminent because of Exxon Mobil's efforts to freeze billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets over the nationalization of its operations by his government. PDVSA called the company's legal maneuvers "unnecessary and hostile." Other foreign oil companies operating in Venezuela have negotiated minority partnership agreements with the Chávez government.

More than a dozen newspapers in Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Spain reprinted a controversial cartoon of the prophet Muhammad a day after three Muslims were arrested for plotting to kill the Danish artist who drew it. One suspect later was released, apparently because the evidence against him was thin. The editor of Denmark's Berlingske Tidende said it had published the cartoon again "to unambiguously support the freedom of speech that we as a newspaper will always defend." But Islamic leaders in Denmark said they were considering organizing a protest against the reprints.

US Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer apologized Wednesday after an American marine was arrested for the alleged rape of a teenage girl on Okinawa. But the attempt to cool growing anger over the incident did not come until after Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima had called publicly for "fundamental revisions" in the deal that allows the US to base troops on the island. The suspect has denied raping the girl but reportedly admitted forcing her to kiss him. The incident evokes memories of massive anti-US protests on the island in the 1990s after three American servicemen raped a 12-year-old.

Police in Britain said they were treating the death of exiled Georgian opposition leader Badri Patarkatsishvili as suspicious. Patarkatsishvili, a wealthy businessman in his early 50s, had complained in December that Georgia's government under President Mikhail Saakashvili was plotting to kill him. He went on to challenge Saakashvili in the latter's bid for reelection last month and finished a distant second, but the opposition claims the vote was rigged.

The former communist rebels in Nepal opened campaigning for this spring's national election, warning that any attempt to disrupt the process will make them fight. The vote already has been postponed twice due to political bickering. It finally was scheduled for April 10 after other parties bowed to the communists' demand that the monarchy be abolished. Above, ex-rebels attend the kickoff rally Wednesday in Kathmandu, the capital.

More than a year ahead of time, the prime minister of Malaysia dissolved parliament Wednesday and said he'll schedule a new national election. Abdullah Ahmad Badawi gave no reason for the move and did not announce a date for the vote, but it is expected to come next month. Badawi's term wasn't due to expire until mid-May of next year. Analysts suggested that he hopes to win a new mandate before the economy slows down and racial and religious tensions worsen.

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