President-elect Barack Obama must put an end to civilian casualties in Afghanistan, its leader said Wednesday after a reported attack by US jets killed 37 people, many of them children. "This is my first demand of the new president," Hamid Karzai said after the incident in southern Kandahar Province. The US military said the report was being investigated, but "if innocent people were killed ... we apologize and express our condolences."

"If necessary," Russia will deploy short-range missiles near the border with Poland to "neutralize" the defensive shield planned by the US, President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday in his first State of the Nation address. He said the Kremlin hopes for better relations with Obama than it has had with President Bush but warned that if the US shield is built in Poland and the Czech Republic, Russia will jam it electronically.

Hamas and Israel's government both said they want to restore calm Wednesday after fighting broke out in the southern Gaza Strip. Hamas militants fired dozens of rockets across the boundary with the Jewish state after troops crossed into Gaza and collapsed a tunnel apparently being dug as a means of invading Israel on kidnapping forays. No one was hurt in the rocket attacks, but six militants died when an Israeli airstrike hit the mortar they were preparing to fire. The violence was the worst since Egypt brokered a cease-fire between them last June.

For the second time in less than a week, North Korea's government released photos of Kim Jong Il, apparently seeking to show that he remains in control of the communist regime. The pictures were undated, although some show him in front of fall foliage, suggesting they were taken in recent days. Speculation that Kim has undergone an operation on his brain has been rife, and a leading French surgeon confirmed Wednesday that he visited North Korea's capital last month. He denied treating Kim, however.

More than 360 tons of food are being distributed to refugees displaced by the fighting in eastern Congo, the Red Cross said Wednesday. That is enough to meet the needs of 65,000 people for 10 days, a statement said. An estimated 250,000 refugees fled the regional capital, Goma, as rebels under Gen. Laurent Nkunda closed in on the city. Nkunda said his fighters were observing a cease-fire around the city, but acknowledged combat operations against a pro-government militia further north.

A state of emergency was imposed on southern Peru Tuesday, with soldiers taking control of the region's principal city, Tacna. New Prime Minister Yehude Simon said the move will be in effect for 30 days. It became necessary, he said, because of rioting against a vote in Congress to redistribute tax revenues from Southern Peru Copper Co., a mining giant, to a neighboring province. One person has died in the violence, at least 20 others have been hurt, and 35 have been arrested.

Lagging in opinion polls and coming off a lackuster performance in her final TV debate, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark offered a cabinet post to a minority party of indigenous Maoris in hopes of staving off defeat in Saturday's election. Only one-third of viewers who saw Wednesday night's debate with opposition leader John Key told pollsters they thought Clark had won. She is seeking a fourth three-year term, but her Labour Party is 12 points behind in a composite of the latest voter surveys.

Careless smoking by a passenger appeared to be responsible for a fire that roared through a tour bus near Hanover, Germany, late Tuesday, killing 20 people. A dozen others incurred serious burns. Police credited the driver with steering the vehicle out of the middle lane of a busy autobahn and stopping so that at least some passengers could escape.

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