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Soldiers try to kill Afghan minister

By wire services
Published September 11, 2005

KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan soldiers botched a brazen attempt to assassinate the defense minister at the capital's airport Saturday, while fighting in southern Afghanistan left 30 suspected militants dead, officials said.

The violence came as U.S. military commanders warned in an interview with the Associated Press that Taliban insurgents might try to disrupt the Sept. 18 legislative elections with "spectacular" assaults using car bombs and suicide attackers.

But Maj. Gen. Jason Kamiya, the top operational commander in Afghanistan, said he was confident that enough American troops and other forces were in place to ensure the balloting succeeds.

Nine Afghan soldiers were arrested in the attempt to shoot Defense Minister Rahim Wardak at the airport, said ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammed Saher Azimi.

Meanwhile, a helicopter carrying Afghanistan's army chief and three Cabinet ministers crashed and burst into flames while taking off, but all on board escaped with only minor injuries. The government called it an accident.

Unrest builds in Gaza as Israel prepares to leave

DEIR EL-BALAH, Gaza Strip - Palestinian gunmen briefly abducted an Italian journalist and attacked government buildings Saturday in the Gaza Strip, signs of the lawlessness that threatens to intensify in the territory after Israel hands it over to the Palestinians early this week.

The last Israeli soldiers were to leave on Monday, or a day later if the Israeli Cabinet decides to raze more than two dozen synagogues still standing in demolished settlements. The Cabinet was to vote on the emotionally charged matter on today, and Israeli media reported that momentum was gaining against demolition.

A Palestinian official, meanwhile, said the Palestinian Authority wouldn't take part in a ceremony today marking the handover, in part to protest Israel's failure to conclude a critical agreement on the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, which Israel shut down temporarily last week.

Two hundred Egyptian border guards took up position along the volatile Gaza border Saturday to prevent arms smuggling and illicit crossings after the Israelis end their 38-year occupation of the coastal area.

Bush calls to encourage Ukrainian president

KIEV, Ukraine - President Bush called Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko on Saturday to urge him to stick to democratic principles as he rebuilds his government.

When Yushchenko picked his first Cabinet after the Orange Revolution, he looked no further than Independence Square - those rallying the thousands of protesters and those writing the checks.

The result was a fragile and mismatched coalition.

On Thursday, Yushchenko sacked all of them.

Analysts were divided over whether Yushchenko would emerge from the most tumultuous week of his presidency strengthened or crippled.

Yushchenko assured Bush that "the changes in Ukraine are aimed at strengthening democracy" and will not alter Ukraine's pro-Western course, his office said.

Widespread riots erupt in Belfast after parade

BELFAST, Northern Ireland - Protestant extremists threw homemade grenades Saturday and seven police and two civilians were wounded in the latest fury over a restricted Belfast parade.

Protestants clashed with police, British troops and Catholic crowds in several parts of Belfast after authorities blocked the Orange Order, the territory's major Protestant brotherhood, from parading past the hard-line Catholic end of disputed Springfield Road.

On the Shankill Road, more than 1,000 people confronted police, who responded with plastic-bullet volleys and water jets.

Also ...

RUSSIAN SPACE SHIP DOCKS: A Russian cargo ship carrying food and supplies docked at the international space station Saturday. The unmanned Progress M-54 ship, which lifted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan two days ago, hooked up with the orbiting station at 10:42 a.m. EDT, said a Russian spokesman. Once the Progress is secured, the station's two-man crew - Russian Sergei Krikalev and American John Phillips - will unload nearly 2.8 tons of fuel, food and water, along with a replacement cartridge for the orbiter's oxygen generator. The crew is in its last month on the station.

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