Ruling Party Claims

Win in New Zealand

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- Jockeying for potential coalition partners began Sunday after New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark's ruling Labor Party beat the National opposition by one seat in a nail-biting election.

Clark is poised to become the first Labor leader ever to win three straight terms after she came from behind to finish ahead of the conservative National Party under former central bank governor Don Brash.

Labor had 40.7 percent of the vote compared with 39.6 for National when vote counting closed late Saturday.

That would translate into 50 seats for Labor in a 122-seat parliament, down one from the previous parliament, compared with National's 49.


* TEUPIN RAYA, Indonesia -- Aceh rebels have more than met their initial commitment to hand in their weapons under an agreement aimed at ending nearly 30 years of conflict, international monitors said.

Faye Belnis, the monitoring team spokeswoman, said Free Aceh Movement fighters had handed in 279 weapons in three days, the first stage in a peace deal calling for rebels to disarm and government forces to withdraw from the province.

Three more such rounds of weapons handovers and military and police withdrawals are scheduled between now and the end of December, a key part of the agreement to settle a conflict that has taken about 15,000 lives, mostly civilian.

* TOKYO -- Japan's bruised and humiliated opposition party narrowly elected as its new leader a young conservative who wants a more assertive role for Japan's military, taking a surprising turn as it tries to rebuild from a crushing election defeat.

Seiji Maehara, 43, was chosen over charismatic but scandal-tainted veteran Naoto Kan, 58, in a 96 to 94 vote by Democratic Party loyalists at a Tokyo hotel.

The contest pitted party elders against a younger generation that sees Maehara as a fresh and feisty frontman to take on highly popular Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and the long-governing Liberal Democrats.


* MOSCOW -- Chechen militants have killed six pro-Moscow police officers and wounded another nine, local media reported, in a major blow to Russian forces in the turbulent region.

Meanwhile, rebel news sources reported the death of a top separatist in a clash with security forces -- the second prominent commander to be killed this year. Pro-Russian forces said he had died in a power struggle among the guerrillas.

Clashes occur daily in the region but large-scale battles are a thing of the past. It is rare for Russia, which has more than 100,000 troops in and around the area, to lose so many in a day.

-- From News Services