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THAILAND / Thousands protest regime

Thousands of red-shirted anti-government protesters converged on the Thai capital of Bangkok Saturday, giving the government an ultimatum to dissolve parliament or face mass marches on key spots in the city. Although protest leaders stressed they would not resort to violence in their quest to oust the government, many businesses closed down and social events were canceled. A force of 50,000 soldiers, police and other security personnel was mobilized. A protest leader, Jatuporn Prompan, said he expected 1 million to gather by noon Sunday, when the demonstration formally begins.

IRAN / Opposition under fire

Iran says it has dismantled several U.S.-backed cyber warfare networks that were gathering information on nuclear scientists and provoking unrest in the country. A judiciary statement says the networks were set up by Iranian opposition groups, including the armed People's Mujahedeen, and that 30 of their members were arrested. Iran has repeatedly accused the U.S. and Britain of provoking the unrest that followed June's disputed presidential election - charges both countries have denied.

PAKISTAN / Bomb kills at least 13

A suicide bomber driving a motorized rickshaw blew himself up at a security checkpoint in northwestern Pakistan Saturday, officials said, killing at least 13 people and injuring 52. The blast in the small town of Saidu Sharif in Pakistan's violence-battered Swat Valley was the second major attack in the country in less than 24 hours, raising fears of a new wave of violence by militants.

IRAQ / A shift to secular rule?

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's political coalition took an early vote lead Saturday in Baghdad, pulling away from its two closest rivals in the latest indication that Iraqis want a moderate government instead of Shiite fundamentalists leading the postwar nation. The chairman of the electoral commission, Faraj al-Haidari, said preliminary nationwide results could be released as early as Sunday.

Compiled by wire reports

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