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Iraqi authorities said Thursday that they've detained two security guards with the Crescent Security Group based in Kuwait for questioning in an investigation of Saddam Hussein's execution. According to a key government adviser, investigators are also interrogating an official who supervised the hanging to determine who may have taunted Hussein and leaked cellphone footage of the proceedings. The unauthorized video, unlike a less inflammatory official version, has ignited protests by Hussein's fellow Sunni Arabs. A spokesman for the US military said Hussein was dignified and courteous to his US jailers up to the moment they handed him over to the Iraqis.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair ended his Florida vacation a day early in order to be back at his Downing Street office Thursday, where he was to focus on shoring up support for a power-sharing deal in Northern Ireland. Blair was expected to speak to Protestant Democratic Unionists and Catholic members of Sinn Fein in hopes of ironing out differences between the opposing groups. He wants Sinn Fein to drop its decades-old hostility to the police and for Northern Ireland to install a new national assembly.

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Somalia's interior minister said Thursday that 3,500 Islamist militiamen are in hiding in Mogadishu and pose a threat to security in the capital city. A proposed African peacekeeping force has not yet been organized since transitional government and Ethiopian forces routed the Islamists during the past two weeks, but diplomatic efforts are under way to provide one.

Seeking to ease the Lebanese political crisis, Saudi King

Abdulluh made his first-ever personal contact late last month with Lebanon's Hizbullah party, a Saudi diplomat told the Associated Press Thursday. The sides discussed how to resolve Lebanon's internal conflict between Hizbullah and the Saudi- and US-backed government.

Although there are no specific terror threats, the Philippine government said Thursday that 5,500 police officers and 3,000 troops will be deployed next week when 16 Asian heads of state hold their postponed summit in the central city of Cebu. The annual meeting was originally scheduled for mid-December, but was delayed because of reports of an approaching typhoon, an explanation that puzzled some delegates.

Taiwan will begin limited service Friday on its $15 billion high-speed rail system. Bullet trains will cut travel time between Taipei and the southern city of Kaohsiung from four hours to 90 minutes. Ticketing glitches and safety concerns have delayed the project's completion.

Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar, in an e-mailed response to questions from Reuters, said Wednesday he has not seen Osama bin Laden, his ally and fellow fugitive, since US-backed forces ousted the Taliban in Afghanistan in late 2001. Bin Laden was last seen on videotape in late 2004, although audio recordings of his voice were circulated last year.

Despite reports that Saddam Hussein's two codefendants were to be hanged on Thursday, the Iraqi government said Thursday that no date has been set for executing Hussein's half-brother and a former chief judge for their roles in the killings of 148 Shiite men in the 1980s.

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While retaining military control in Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, the South Pacific nation's military strongman, restored power to President Ratu Josefa Iloilo on Thursday. The act sets in motion plans to appoint an interim government that will steer the country to its next general election.


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