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WORLD IN BRIEF

Monday, December 20, 2004; Page A24

2 Soldiers in Kuwait Killed in Traffic Incident

KUWAIT -- Two U.S. soldiers were killed and two were injured on Sunday in a traffic hit-and-run incident in southern Kuwait, the U.S. Army and Kuwaiti security sources said. The Kuwaiti sources said an Egyptian had driven into a parked U.S. truck as the soldiers were fixing a flat tire on the road to Nuwaiseeb.

"The Egyptian man then drove off, left his car in a roadside ditch and turned himself in to Ahmadi police station," one security source said. One soldier died immediately and another died after arriving at a hospital, a U.S. military spokesman said.

ASIA

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan -- Polling stations were nearly empty during the election for parliament in Turkmenistan, forcing officials to carry ballot boxes door to door. But the government announced a nearly 80 percent turnout in the former Soviet republic, which is ruled by a former Communist.

AFRICA

KHARTOUM, Sudan -- Sudan said that it would immediately and unconditionally halt military operations in its remote Darfur region and asked the United Nations and African Union to request that rebel forces do the same.

THE AMERCIAS

SANTIAGO, Chile -- Gen. Augusto Pinochet was conscious and mobile but remained hospitalized after suffering a stroke, the Army Hospital said.

The former dictator's family insisted that he is too ill to be tried on human rights charges.

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Police said they found a cache of explosives in the coastal city of Cartagena that rebels planned to use to assassinate President Alvaro Uribe.

It was the second time in four days that police have announced they foiled a plot to kill the president.

THE MIDDLE EAST

JERUSALEM -- Israel approved the release of 170 Palestinian prisoners in a goodwill gesture toward Egypt and the new Palestinian leadership, officials said. A Palestinian official dismissed the Israeli move as "cosmetic."

EUROPE

VATICAN CITY -- Pope John Paul II warned against rampant materialism that he said had suffocated the spirit of Christmas. Speaking to thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter's Square, the 84-year-old pontiff urged Christians to keep the symbols of Christmas, the nativity crib and the tree, at the center of their celebrations.

KIEV, Ukraine -- A convoy of supporters of Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko moved deeper into the hostile eastern strongholds of his rival, who has ignored their requests for safe passage. The convoy -- dubbed the "friendship journey" -- of 50 cars draped with Yushchenko's orange campaign colors headed to the industrial city of Zaporizhzhya, said Natalya Shypovalova, a journalist traveling with the convoy.

MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin reaffirmed his commitment to a stronger government and said that religious and ethnic extremist groups pose a threat and must be stopped.

-- From News Services


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