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U.N. says 34 killed in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — The U.N. on Monday accused militants and criminals of killing 34 aid workers in Afghanistan this year and urged armed groups to stop attacking humanitarian convoys so food can reach millions of poor Afghans.

Underscoring the country’s increasing violence, a six-hour battle in the south left more than 50 militants dead or wounded, while a roadside bomb killed a U.S.-led coalition soldier in the same region.

The U.N. plea comes as Afghanistan is in one of the most violent periods since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

Argentine first lady becomes president

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Cristina Fernandez rode into the presidency on her husband’s reputation but now must stand on her own: Argentina’s economy is overheating, voters are angry about inflation and crime, and unpopular hikes in utility rates are inevitable.

The first lady takes over from husband Nestor Kirchner on Dec. 10 as Argentina’s first elected female president, finishing 22 percentage points above her closest rival. She will become the second South American woman in as many years to take her country’s highest office.

Germany debates forced marriages

BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel has joined a growing movement to criminalize forced marriages in Germany, which is growing less tolerant of practices among Muslim immigrants that clash with the nation’s liberal social values.

Forced marriages are generally imposed by young women’s families to keep them from dating. Prosecution must take place under assault laws. Women’s’ groups have been pushing for forced marriages to be specifically criminalized, to ease prosecution and to send a signal that the practice violates German laws and traditions.

Olmert says he has ‘treatable’ cancer

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Israelis on Monday that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, but said the disease was not life-threatening and will not disrupt his work as the country’s leader.

The disclosure came at a sensitive time in Mideast diplomacy, with Olmert and another one-time prostate cancer patient — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — struggling to bridge gaping differences ahead of a U.S.-brokered peace conference. Olmert said the disease was caught early and that he would have surgery “over the next few months.”

Pakistanis flee area during cease-fire

SWAT, Pakistan — Hundreds of civilians used a cease-fire Monday between government forces and militant supporters of a pro-Taliban cleric to flee a scenic valley where violence has killed more than 100 people.

The conflict has turned the one-time tourist destination into a new front in Pakistan’s battle against Islamic extremism. Authorities sent some 2,500 extra police and troops into the Swat district last week to take on supporters of Maulana Fazlullah, a militant preacher who has set up a virtual mini-state and sought to impose strict Islamic rule.

Pope discourages ‘immoral’ drugs

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI urged Catholic pharmacists on Monday to use conscientious objection to avoid dispensing drugs with “immoral purposes such as, for example, abortion or euthanasia.”

In a speech to participants at the 25th International Congress of Catholic Pharmacists, Benedict said conscientious objection was a right that must be recognized by the pharmaceutical profession.

Such objector status, he said, would “enable them not to collaborate directly or indirectly in supplying products that have clearly immoral purposes.”

Compiled From Wire Reports

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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