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A rebel group that has ravaged Uganda for 18 years held the first peace talks in a decade with Ugandan government officials late Tuesday. A spokesman for the Lord's Resistance Army told 32 members of parliament and senior clergymen, as well as chief negotiator Betty Bigombe, that the LRA was now 100 percent committed to peace. The group, whose only stated aim is to rule Uganda according to the Ten Commandments, has routinely targeted civilians, forcing 1.6 million into refugee camps and using kidnapped children for as porters and fighters.

A major Iraqi insurgent group told civilians to stay home this weekend, signaling it would heighten its activities in the coming days. Ansar al-Sunnah, which claimed responsibility for last week's attack on a US base in Mosul, also said it would target all those who take part in elections. The group, which claims to be working with Al Qaeda and is believed to be made up mainly of Iraqis, has mainly avoided civilian targets, apparently directing their attacks on Americans and those viewed as collaborating with them.

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Romania's new prime minister vowed to move the country toward EU membership Wednesday as his centrist government was sworn in. Press freedom, an independent justice system, and a working market economy are among Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu's top priorities. He also pledged to clean up endemic corruption. Many of the new ministers in the coalition Cabinet are young and have not been involved in politics under Communism.

The Indian Ocean tsunami has left up to 5 million people without basic essentials, including water, food, and simple sanitation, a senior UN official said on Wednesday. Western governments have pledged nearly $100 million for the relief effort. Iran, Israel, and South Korea, among other countries, have also assisted, sending forensic experts and medical help. Though the Red Cross estimates the death toll may exceed 100,000, it now stands at 76,000. But officials warn that health hazards posed by unburied bodies and high concentrations of homeless survivors could result in tens of thousands of deaths as well. (Related editorial, page 8.)

A South Korean citizen suspected of smuggling radioactive materials was detained by Russian police Wednesday. Western countries, concerned with this year's discovery of a global nuclear black market run by the Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, is pressuring Russia to step up measures to prevent radioactive materials falling into the wrong hands.


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