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World briefs

HAITI / One of U.S. detainees' lawyers fired

The Haitian lawyer for 10 U.S. Baptists charged with child kidnapping tried to bribe the missionaries' way out of jail and has been fired, the attorney who hired him said. The Haitian lawyer, Edwin Coq, denied the allegation and said the $60,000 he requested from the Americans' families was his fee. Jorge Puello, the attorney in the Dominican Republic retained by relatives of the missionaries after last week's arrest, said he fired Coq on Friday.

JAPAN / Strong quake hits southern coast

A strong earthquake shook several small islands off Japan's southern coast Sunday, rattling buildings over 100 miles away in Taiwan. There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties. Japan's Meteorological Agency said the earthquake hit at 2:10 a.m. and registered magnitude 6.6. The U.S. Geological Survey measured it at 6.4.

AFGHANISTAN / Residents flee ahead of offensive

Minivans piled high with mattresses and clothing lined up at checkpoints Sunday as hundreds of civilians fled a Taliban-controlled area ahead of a planned NATO offensive in southern Afghanistan. The militants, meanwhile, dug in for a fight, reinforcing their positions with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy weapons, witnesses said. The U.S. military has not given a start date for the operation to clear insurgents from the town of Marjah, but has said fighting will start soon and many residents weren't taking any chances.

AFGHANISTAN / NATO arrests Afghan police official

NATO-led forces arrested a deputy provincial police chief they accused of helping place roadside bombs north of Kabul, officials said, in the latest sign of concerns about weaknesses in Afghan security forces. The Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, is looking into the arrest, ministry spokesman Zamary Bashary said.

UKRAINE / Pro-Russian leader claims win

Pro-Russian opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych declared victory in Ukraine's presidential runoff but his opponent rejected the claim, saying the vote was too close to call. Exit polls showed Yanukovych, the main foe of protesters in Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution, with a narrow lead in Sunday's vote over Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

ARGENTINA / Ex-prez Kirchner OK after surgery

Former President Nestor Kirchner, husband of current President Cristina Fernandez and a hopeful to resume the office, emerged successfully from emergency surgery on a key artery to his brain Sunday, his doctors said. Cabinet ministers shared the news after the operation on Kirchner's right carotid artery.

- Combined news reports

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