Key Figure in Canadian

Scandal Pleads Guilty

MONTREAL -- A former advertising executive involved in a corruption scandal that nearly toppled Prime Minister Paul Martin's government pleaded guilty Tuesday to 15 counts of fraud.

Paul Coffin, the first person to be charged in the scandal, admitted that he systematically falsified bills, earning him up to $2.1 million between 1997 and 2002. He was arrested in 2003.

Members of Martin's Liberal Party are accused of having taken kickbacks from advertising agencies hired to promote federalism in the rebellious French-speaking province of Quebec. In return, the firms were awarded contracts worth millions of dollars for little or no work.

ASIA

* KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- An explosion was set off at a mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Wednesday, a police official said, adding that many people were feared to have been killed.

Few details were available, but security officials said the blast appeared to have been caused by a suicide bombing. Mourners had gathered at the mosque to offer condolences for a senior anti-Taliban cleric gunned down on Sunday, residents said.

* BEIJING -- China refused a Japanese request to suspend work on natural gas fields in a disputed portion of the East China Sea, as two days of talks ended without a settlement, a Japanese official said.

The negotiations came as relations hit their lowest point in decades because of differences over Japan's wartime past and its campaign for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

The two countries have been feuding over rights to drill for gas in the East China Sea, which lies between China's east coast and Japan's southern island of Okinawa. China has begun exploring fields along their sea border.

* TEHRAN -- Iran's leading presidential contender promised to open up his homeland to the world, a vision that appeared to contradict the goals of the country's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The candidate, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, said Iran needed "to think global, since globalization is a reality and not a foreign-made" concept. Khamenei has urged Iranians to elect an anti-Western president.

* NEW DELHI -- India said it would investigate reports that an army brigadier sold the country's battle plan before the 1965 war with Pakistan to fund his wife's hobby of canning fruits and vegetables.

Gohar Ayub Khan, the son of former Pakistani president Ayub Khan, claimed in a newspaper interview that Pakistani agents had bought the plan for the equivalent of $335.

* TOKYO -- The man who tried to arrange a meeting with two Japanese soldiers purportedly hiding in the Philippines since World War II has confirmed the story is a hoax, a Japanese newspaper reported Wednesday. The man told the national Yomiuri newspaper that he had met with them on Mindanao island and found they were not Japanese.

Africa

* TRIPOLI, Libya -- Libya delayed until Nov. 15 a ruling on an appeal by five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor sentenced to death for deliberately infecting hundreds of children with the HIV virus.

* KHARTOUM, Sudan -- The Darfur coordinator for Doctors Without Borders was detained by Sudanese officials in what aid groups call an effort to intimidate those who speak out about rape in Darfur. The group's director for Sudan was arrested Monday. The aid group issued a report in March detailing 500 rapes over a 41/2-month period, with more than 80 percent of the victims identifying their attackers as soldiers or members of a government-allied militia.

The Middle east

* GAZA -- A rerun of some Palestinian municipal elections set for Wednesday was postponed, defusing a boycott threat by Hamas. The Palestinian local elections committee said it had put off the rerun "until further notice," heeding a proposal from the Fatah political movement for easing tensions with Hamas.

The Americas

* MONTERREY, Mexico -- President Vicente Fox, citing a contested report by a former prosecutor, said more than half the cases in a 12-year string of killings of women in Ciudad Juarez had been solved. Fox said that 323 women had been killed and that 230 cases have been solved.

Fox's comments enraged many Juarez residents who say that far more women were killed than the government is willing to acknowledge and that many of those arrested were tortured into confessing.

-- From News Services