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THE KOREAS: Defiant South lights tree

Troops stood guard and a choir sang carols Tuesday as South Koreans lit a massive steel Christmas tree that overlooks the world's most heavily armed border, within sight of atheist North Korea. The tree lighting after a seven-year hiatus marked a pointed return to a tradition condemned in Pyongyang as propaganda. The ceremony was a sign that President Lee Myung-bak's administration is serious about countering the North's aggression with measures of its own.

BRITAIN: Landmarks seen targets

A large-scale terror attack was aimed at British landmarks and public spaces, security officials said Tuesday as police searched the homes of 12 British suspects held for questioning. The men, from ages 17 to 28, were arrested Monday. Five were of Bangladeshi origin.

IRAQ: New cabinet sworn in

Parliament swore in a new government Tuesday after nine months of bitter political haggling, solidifying the grip that the Shia have held on political power since Saddam Hussein's ouster while leaving open the question whether the country's disgruntled Sunni minority will play a meaningful role.

VATICAN CITY: Clarifying view on condoms

The Vatican sought Tuesday to clarify the pope's controversial comments about condoms and HIV, saying he by no means suggested condom use could be condoned as a means of avoiding pregnancy. The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith said commentators had misrepresented the pope's remarks in a book-length interview released last month titled "Light of the World." Confusion had been widespread about whether Benedict was breaking with church teaching.

ISRAEL: Heavy airstrikes hit Gaza

Israel launched an unusually heavy series of airstrikes on Gaza on Tuesday in retaliation for Palestinian rocket attacks. The military said the strikes hit seven different targets. Palestinian officials said eight militants were wounded.

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