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WORLD BRIEFS


IVORY COAST: Mobs attack UN vehicles

Mobs and security forces allied to defiant leader Laurent Gbagbo attacked at least six UN vehicles Thursday, setting some ablaze and injuring two people in the latest violence sparked by the nation's disputed election. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the attacks by loyalists of Gbagbo, who the UN says lost the Nov. 28 poll to Alassane Ouattara. Ban said the attacks by "regular and irregular forces" constituted crimes under international law.


TUNISIA: Conciliatory tone by leader

President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, struggling to contain deadly riots that have destabilized his authority, made sweeping pledges for political and media freedom and said he will leave the presidency when his term ends in 2014. Facing the worst unrest in his 23 years in power, an unusually contrite Ben Ali ordered prices on sugar, milk and bread slashed. Buoyant crowds spilled into the streets after his speech, many cheering his price cuts but some questioning his commitment to real change.


THE FAR EAST: Gates warns on Koreas

The United States fears that the risk of war is rising between South Korea and the heavily militarized and increasingly unpredictable regime in North Korea, which the Pentagon considers a looming threat to the mainland United States. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was meeting leaders in Japan on Thursday about the growing worry in the region. Gates sees leaders in South Korea on Friday.


CHINA: Confucius joins Mao

There's a new face keeping Chairman Mao company on Tiananmen Square. A mammoth sculpture of the ancient philosopher Confucius was unveiled this week off one side of the vast plaza. It's a jarring juxtaposition for a square the ruling Communist Party treats as hallowed ground. Placing the statue at China's political heart is the authoritarian government's most visible endorsement yet of the 2,500-year-old sage and, selectively, his teachings. Confucius is enjoying a revival, and his message of harmonious social order and deference to authority is unthreatening to the party.

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