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developments in the region and abroad
Thai PM gets mixed reception in Muslim south

          NARATHIWAT, Thailand, Oct 7 (Reuters): Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra went to the homes of alleged guerrilla leaders in the Muslim south on Friday, telling their families and friends that militants would be treated fairly if they surrendered.
However, his mixed reception from non-Thai-speaking locals, who either failed to understand him or who were too intimidated to talk, emphasised the problems faced by Bangkok's Buddhist government in the restive Muslim- majority, ethnic Malay region.

Five killed in clash in central Nepal

KATHMANDU (Xinhua): Three anti-government guerrillas and two security personnel were killed and some injured during a clash between the security forces and guerrillas in central Nepal, local police office said Friday.
The clash happened at Dandakharka village of Makawanpur district, a neighbouring district of Kathmandu, local police office said in a statement.
The incident occurred after the guerrillas hurled socket bombs to the patrolling security personnel, according to the statement.

US troops kill four Afghan police in ‘friendly fire’

KABUL (Reuters): US troops killed four Afghan policemen and wounded another after mistaking them for militants during an operation in southern Afghanistan in which two Afghan soldiers died, officials said on Friday.
The incident happened on Thursday in Helmand province's Girishk district when troops spotted a vehicle carrying five armed men approaching an area where they were in contact with militants, said spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jerry O'Hara.
He said the police officers had not been in the uniform of the Afghan National Police and the vehicle had tried to drive away quickly.
A senior police officer in Helmand, Haji Mohammad Rahim, said the friendly fire incident occurred after Taliban guerrillas attacked a convoy of and Afghan troops in the same district, killing two Afghan soldiers.

German leaders set for prolonged haggling

BERLIN (AP): Conservative challenger Angela Merkel is still pressing hard to replace Gerhard Schroeder as Chancellor of Germany after the two opponents held another meeting to try to hammer out a coalition accord.
The nearly three-week battle of wills between Schroeder and reform-minded Merkel over who will lead the country continued on Thursday evening with a with a face-to-face meeting, amid signs they might be in reach of a coalition deal to end the stalemate from last month's inconclusive election.

Merkel and her Christian Democrats pushed her demand hard to become the country's first female chancellor before a meeting with Schroeder, whose Social Democratic party clings to its competing claim that Schroeder should extend his seven years in office.
Analysts and politicians said Schroeder's party is likely driving a hard bargain, demanding cabinet seats or even the parliamentary chairmanship, if he agrees to step aside.

As leadership battle intensifies, Britain's Tories grapple for sense of direction

BLACKPOOL (AP): Britain's Conservative Party is searching for a new leader capable of propelling it back to power after three successive election fiascos.
But after its annual convention this week, members of the once formidable party were even less sure who they would choose to take the helm, and were still yearning for the strong direction they last had under Margaret Thatcher.
The four-day conference in this decaying English seaside resort was a sort of political beauty pageant for the five leadership contenders. And after front-runner David Davis failed to inspire the gathering, the race was thrown wide open.
The contenders didn't visibly disagree about much; the difference was nuance. Did Tories want an experienced former government minister, or a fresh face? Someone to hammer on traditional obsessions of immigration, crime and lower taxes, or a softer voice?

A politician like Prime Minister Tony Blair, or somebody completely different?
Kenneth Clarke, 65, the rambunctious cigar-smoking former Treasury chief, stalked to the podium in his battered, brown suede shoes and declared he was the party's "biggest beast," ready to maul Blair.
Young moderniser David Cameron, 38, strolled the boardwalk of Blackpool's once majestic pier with his wife Samantha promising to win over a new generation of voters.
Right-wing euroskeptic Liam Fox, 43, a chirpy former family doctor, called for looser ties with the European Union, while former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, 59, demanded the party stop lurching to the right.
The Conservative Party dominated 20th century Britain. Its last 18 years in power, 11 of them under Thatcher, transformed Britain's economic and political landscape as the "Iron Lady" privatised national industries, smashed the trade unions and encouraged even the working classes to embrace her free market ethos by allowing them to buy their public housing.


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