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Hospital staffs, their patients, and prison inmates became the first Iraqis to vote on the nation's proposed constitution, and officials said the early turn-out was high. But terrorists continued trying to deter others from voting in Saturday's referendum, exploding a bomb that damaged the offices of the Iraqi Islamic Party in Fallujah after the latter broke ranks with other Sunni groups and agreed to support the charter. Meanwhile, a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew went into effect nationally and Iraq's borders are to be closed Friday, with all travel between provinces banned until the referendum is over.

At least 63 people died in simultaneous attacks by Chechen separatist rebels on police stations and other government buildings in Nalchik, a city in the neighboring Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkariya. The fighting erupted in response to an attempt by security forces to capture suspected Islamist militants, and 10 of the dead were said to be police officers. President Vladimir Putin ordered an immediate blockade of the city and authorized the shooting of any resister.

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Lebanon's government asked the UN to extend its probe of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri for two more months. The move came after the news of the apparent suicide of the Syrian official who'd served as intelligence chief in Lebanon for 20 years. His death came as the UN investigators were on the verge of reporting their findings.

As weeping villagers looked on, government officials in eastern Romania destroyed entire flocks of ducks, hens, and geese - their livelihood - to try to control the spread of so-called bird flu. Romania is the latest country on the fringes of Europe's major population centers with confirmed cases of the virus, which also has been detected in Turkey.

Playwright Harold Pinter was named as recipient of the 2005 Nobel Prize in literature Thursday and told reporters outside his London home he was "overwhelmed" at the news. Pinter is famous for the sparse dialogue in such works as "The Homecoming," "The Birthday Party," and "The Caretaker."


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