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WORLD IN BRIEF

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Two men opened fire on government troops destroying opium poppy crops in Afghanistan's central Uruzgan province, killing one soldier before both gunmen were fatally shot, an official said. President Hamid Karzai has vowed to clamp down hard on Afghanistan's booming narcotics industry.

HANOI -- Malaysia declared itself free of bird flu, but another death prompted Vietnam to step up its fight against the virus that has killed 34 people across Asia and ravaged the region's poultry industry.

Vietnam's Health Ministry urged consumers to exercise caution in buying chicken after tests showed that bird flu killed a 6-year-old boy on Dec. 30, raising the number of Vietnamese deaths from the virus to 22.

BEIJING -- A baby boy delivered in a Beijing maternity ward became China's 1.3 billionth citizen, the government said, using the occasion to tout its contentious one-child policy. China would have reached 1.3 billion citizens four years ago if not for its family planning policy, according to the official New China News Agency.

AFRICA

KHARTOUM, Sudan -- Southern Sudanese rebels will release all prisoners of war within one week of a deal to end more than two decades of civil war, a Sudanese minister said.

State Minister of Foreign Affairs Najeeb Kheir Abdul Wahab said the International Committee of the Red Cross had told the government that the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army would release all 750 prisoners of war in the days after the deal is signed Sunday.

"This is all the prisoners of war they have," he told reporters in Khartoum, adding he was not aware if the government had made plans to reciprocate.

However, a rebel spokesman, Samson Kwaje, disputed the time frame and number of prisoners to be released.

"There's an agreement that the prisoners of war will be released 30 days after the signing of the final peace deal, but we haven't talked of numbers," Kwaje said in Nairobi.

The final protocols clearing the way to end the war, which has claimed more than 2 million lives, were agreed on Dec. 31 in Kenya.

the americas

SANTIAGO, Chile -- A judge backed by eight detectives searched the office of Gen. Augusto Pinochet as the former dictator remained under house arrest at his country estate west of Santiago on charges of kidnapping and homicide.

The search of Pinochet's Santiago office was part of a separate investigation conducted by Judge Sergio Munoz of multimillion-dollar accounts kept by the retired general at Riggs Bank in Washington.

The judge did not comment on the raid, but Chilean media reported that he seized some documents.

Pinochet, 89, is recovering from a stroke he suffered in December, according to his doctors, and his attorneys are expected to appeal his house arrest, ordered Wednesday, on health grounds.

-- From News Services


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