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IRAQ: Al-Maliki ahead as count continues

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki edged ahead Sunday in a tight race in the parliamentary elections after partial results from all 18 provinces showed his bloc leading in seven, two more than his chief rival. The tally strengthens his chances of retaining the prime minister's post, although he is unlikely to win a majority needed to govern alone. Instead, the race could lead to months of wrangling as leaders try to cobble together a coalition that will rule as American forces leave in 2011. Al-Maliki's closest challenger is the secular Iraqiya bloc led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. The religious Shia Iraqi National Alliance and the main Kurdish coalition each leads in three.


AFGHANISTAN: Taliban challenge McChrystal

The Taliban have called their deadly bomb attacks on the southern city of Kandahar a warning to NATO's top general that the insurgents are ready for the war's next major offensive in their heartland. The series of bombings Saturday night demolished buildings and killed at least 35 people, including 10 at a wedding. Fearful residents said they had no confidence that either government or foreign troops can protect them. Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said Sunday the attacks proved the insurgents were able to operate despite the buildup of Afghan and international troops preparing for a push into Kandahar province. A Taliban-linked Web site called the attacks a "warning" to Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who has said Kandahar is the target later this year.


CHINA: Wen defends economic policy

China sought Sunday to deflate rising pressure from the United States and other powers over its economic policies and growing assertiveness in world affairs, with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao promising cooperation to bolster the global recovery. Wen, in a two-hour news conference, took on critics in the West who say Chinese policies lift China while keeping global growth anemic. He defended the yuan against charges that it is undervalued to boost exports.


CANADA: Avalanche toll remains two

An avalanche that killed two people at a snowmobile rally in the Rocky Mountains near Revelstoke, British Columbia, may have been triggered by three daredevils who apparently unleashed a wall of snow on 200 people below, witnesses said Sunday. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said an even worse tragedy may have been averted because snowmobilers had come with avalanche recovery equipment and dug people out even before rescuers arrived. After the two dead, all had been accounted for.

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