Dozens of people were arrested in Tibet, and soldiers and police poured into adjacent provinces of China Thursday as antigovernment rioting spread. At an unusually tense news conference, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said, "I assure you our government is fully capable of maintaining social stability." He refused to detail evidence that the Dalai Lama was behind the protests. For his part, the exiled Buddhist leader said he was willing to meet with senior Chinese officials, but not in Beijing unless there was "a real concrete development" on Tibet.

A one-year extension of the UN's political mission in Afghanistan was approved unanimously Thursday by the Security Council. The mission works to build support throughout the war-torn country for the government, particularly in its confrontation with a resurgent Taliban. The vote came as Vice President Cheney paid an unannnounced visit to Afghanistan, telling President Hamid Karzai that the US will press its NATO partners to send more troops in addition to the 43,000 already there. "All free nations have an interest in a secure, democratic Afghanistan," Cheney said.

A new audiotape, purportedly from Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, warns of "severe" punishment for European Union members because of the republication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. The tape, posted Wednesday on an Islamist website, also accuses Pope Benedict XVI of "playing a large, lengthy role" in a "new Crusade" against Muslims. The tape appeared timed for the anniversary of Muhammad's birth, as observed by Sunni Muslims, the BBC reported..

Nine people were shot to death and three others were wounded in a firefight between security police and militants in Chechnya, Russia's Novosti news service reported Thurs-day. A local government headquarters also was destroyed in the clash, one of the worst in the volatile republic in years, Novosti said.

Hundreds of heavily armed African Union troops landed in the Comoros archipelago for an expected offensive to oust the leader of one of its three islands. Mohammad Bacar of Anjouan has refused to cede power, saying he is "outraged" at the impending invasion. But the umbrella government for the islands has sought his removal over a harsh crackdown against dissent. Each of the Indian Ocean islands has its own president and legislature.

All travelers to Bhutan must arrive at their destinations by 6 p.m. Sunday, the government said, since border crossings will be sealed until after next week's historic election to bring democracy to the Himalayan kingdom. The vote hasn't been welcomed universally, and a wave of terrorist bomb explosions since late January has killed one person and wounded two others. Bhutan has been a monarchy for 100 years. Above, a candidate for parliament seeks votes in Thimpu, the capital.

Waves as high as 30 feet were forecast for Easter weekend in the eastern Caribbean, and authorities advised coastal residents and vacationers to avoid beaches and boat owners to remain in port. "It's not a tsunami, but we need to take the same precaution," a National Weather Service official in Puerto Rico said. An intense low-pressure system was affecting conditions from Puerto Rico south to Trinidad and Tobago.

A college student was awarded $11,000 in grants to develop a new means of generating electricity for schools in Africa. Daniel Sheridan of Coventry University in England, a former volunteer on a school construction project in Kenya, designed a seesaw that sends power to underground storage units when ridden by children. His calculations show that 10 minutes of use could produce enough to light a classroom for an evening.

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