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Iraqi Shiite leaders pleaded with their followers to exercise restraint after terrorists exploded car bombs in the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf Sunday. At least 60 people were killed and more than 100 others were hurt. The blasts appeared coordinated, and the attack in Karbala was the second of its type in five days. A call for calm came even from firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who said Shiites should not allow themselves be lured into a civil war with Sunni Muslims that could disrupt the Jan. 30 national election. The weekend violence also extended to Baghdad, where terrorists stopped a car carrying three members of the commission that is organizing the election, dragged them onto the street, and executed them.

A unity government comprising Israel's Likud and opposition Labor parties appeared about to be finalized and its new cabinet ministers could be sworn in Thursday, The Jerusalem Post reported. It said the deal hinged on creation of a special vice premiership for Labor Party leader Shimon Peres, who was still in negotiations with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. But the authority of Sharon's deputy, Ehud Olmert, would not be undermined, the report said.

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Crucial negotiations on admitting mostly Muslim Turkey to membership in the European Union will open Oct. 3, 2005, the latter's government chiefs decided in a weekend summit in Brussels. But although Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan returned home to a hero's welcome for the achievement, he must orchestrate a reversal of Turkey's policy of refusing to recognize the Greek government on the divided island of Cyprus, before the talks can begin.

Effective March 1, the belief in religion will be considered a basic human right, according to new rules adopted by China's communist government. Calling the rules "comprehensive," the official Xinhua news agency said religious sites and the "legitimate rights" of religious groups and individuals "are protected." China has denounced criticism of its policy toward believers by sources such as the US and the Vatican. The Xinhua report said government officials no longer interfere in religious life, yet Roman Catholics remain forbidden to recognize the authority of the pope and must register with "patriotic" associations if they wish to worship openly.


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