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Allies of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki swept to easy victories in last weekend's local elections in Baghdad, Basra, and six other provinces, according to final, official figures. The election was the first since December 2005 and was seen as an indication of how voting may go when Iraqis elect a new Parliament at year's end. Against that backdrop, however, a suicide bomber killed himself and at least 13 other people in an ethnically volatile city near the border with Iran. All the victims were Kurds, reports said .

Israel's navy intercepted another cargo ship bound for the Gaza Strip Thursday and sent it to the port of Ashdod. The vessel, reportedly carrying 60 tons of supplies for Palestinians plus eight peace activists, but no weapons, had been warned before leaving Lebanon that it wouldn't be allowed through a blockade of Gaza. The captain set a course for Egypt instead, but then tried to double back, the reports said. The navy turned away similar attempts to reach Gaza by sea during the offensive, but this appeared to be the first since the fighting ended there two weeks ago.

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