Defense officials in Russia would not confirm reports that its observer posts in Georgia are being closed. Such a move would be the first sign that Russia is following through on its promised withdrawal. Georgian sources said the posts are near the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Kremlin did say, however, that "notes" had been exchanged on opening diplomatic relations with both regions "at the embassy level" and that Russian troop strength would be increased from 3,500 to 7,600 between the two.

Speculation that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is in poor health intensified as reports said he failed to attend Tuesday's ceremonies marking 60 years of communist rule. Kim, a fixture at previous anniversary celebrations, hasn't been seen in public since mid-August. The centerpiece of Tuesday's festivities was expected to be a massive military parade. Instead, it consisted largely of civilian militia units, the reports said.

In formal ceremonies Tuesday, Asif Ali Zardari was sworn in as Pakistan's new president, pledging to "stand with our neighbors ... and tell the world that we are bigger than [our] problems." Zardari, the widower of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, later appeared at a news conference with President Hamid Karzai (l.) of Afghanistan, who frequently has accused Pakistan of harboring terrorists.

Powerful winds and heavy rain from hurricane Ike pounded western Cuba Tuesday as the storm made its second landfall on the island. It was blamed for at least four deaths, and streets in the capital, Havana, were strewn with rubble from aged buildings near the sea. Evacuations aren't mandatory except for pregnant women and small children, but an estimated 1.2 million Cubans obeyed official urgings to seek refuge in government shelters or with relatives and friends.

With vote-counting from last weekend's election nearing an end, the opposition in Angola conceded defeat Tuesday. The former rebel Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) trailed the ruling MPLA by an 80 percent to 10 percent margin. A formal UNITA challenge of the results was rejected by the national election commission, and monitors from both the European Union and African Union said voting had been transparent.

Tamil rebels carried out another in a series of bold raids on a Sri Lankan military base Tuesday, killing at least 22 people. But the raid also may have cost the rebels one of their light attack planes, the first to be shot down since bombing runs by the Tamil "air wing" began embarrassing government forces in March 2007. A military spokesman said Air Force jets intercepted two rebel planes after the attack and downed one of them. A website allied with the rebels denied that any planes had been lost.

The US dollar officially was eliminated as the currency of trade between South American powers Brazil and Argentina. Presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Cristina Fernandez, respectively, signed an agreement Monday to use their nations' own currencies in the conduct of bilateral commerce, effective Oct. 6. Brazil and Argentina sell each other about $25 billion worth of goods and services per year.

Fire destroyed another of Britain's most historic seaside piers Tuesday – the second in less than six weeks. The Fleetwood Pier in Lancashire was discovered ablaze about 4:30 a.m., and a massive effort by firefighters couldn't save it. Although it had fallen into disrepair and recently was closed, the 98-year-old pier long had been a premier attraction for visitors. The 104-year-old Grand Pier at the Somerset resort of Weston-super-Mare burned in late July.

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