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KABUL — A panel investigating allegations of fraud in Afghanistan's landmark presidential election met Monday with representatives of runaway winner Hamid Karzai's opponents, who accuse him of cheating his way to victory. Although the U.S.-backed incumbent is assured of clinching a clear majority of the votes, election officials say they won't call the result until the investigation is complete and the small number of outstanding votes tallied.


BARISAL — A river ferry capsized Monday in southern Bangladesh after colliding with a bigger ship, and at least 15 people were missing, a government official said. About 35 survivors swam ashore or were rescued by residents of nearby Phulhuri village on the Bishkhali River, administrator Faruk Ahmed said.


HAVANA — Cuba announced Monday that U.S. dollars will no longer be accepted at stores or other businesses on the communist island starting next month in a move that will radically change the way business has been done there over the past decade.


PARIS — Allegations that French companies illicitly reaped financial benefits from the U.N. oil-for-food program are "inaccurate" and unsubstantiated, France said Monday in a sharp response to a U.S. arms inspector's report. The report by Charles Duelfer, which alleged that French companies and individuals participated in a secret oil voucher program that helped Saddam Hussein circumvent U.N. sanctions, lacks proof to back up the charges, the Foreign Ministry said.


NAGAOKA — Rain pelted a weary region recovering from powerful weekend earthquakes, creating fears of mudslides, as 100,000 people took refuge in shelters Monday, too afraid to go home as aftershocks delivered new jolts. Saturday's magnitude 6.8 earthquake and a series of strong aftershocks killed 26 people, tore up roads, upended homes and derailed a high speed train in rural Niigata prefecture about 160 miles northwest of Tokyo.


WARSAW — Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry thanked Poland in a newspaper interview published Monday for its military involvement in Iraq and promised Polish businesses a chance for lucrative reconstruction contracts there should he win the Nov. 2 election.


ABUJA, Nigeria — Sudan's government and rebels wrapped up a first day of new peace talks Monday, trying to break a deadlock over security issues keeping aid workers from reaching hundreds of thousands of refugees in Sudan's western region of Darfur. The rebels said they were calling for a security agreement before signing a humanitarian accord. That demand led to the failure of talks in Nigeria a month ago.


TAIPEI — Typhoon Nock-ten lashed northern Taiwan with powerful winds and driving rain Monday, disrupting international flights and closing financial markets, schools and government offices. Flash floods killed three people, including a TV cameraman and a firefighter.


BANGKOK — Security forces firing guns and tear gas quashed a riot by about 2,000 Muslim youths in southern Thailand on Monday, leaving six people dead and dozens injured. The trouble in Narathiwat province began with a protest at the district police station demanding the release of six men accused of stealing weapons belonging to the local self-defense volunteer force, even though officials said they had been transferred to the provincial capital


MONTEVIDEO — Uruguay and the United States signed a bilateral trade agreement Monday to safeguard foreign business investments in each other's countries while promoting trade and exports. U.S. Deputy Trade Representative Peter F. Allgeier praised the treaty as a key step toward lowering trade barriers and opening new markets to businesses in both countries.

Vatican City

A Vatican handbook released Monday laid out Roman Church teaching questioning preventive war and denouncing the "horrendous crime" of abortion. But Vatican officials sidestepped questions on whether the war in Iraq was illegal or if Catholics can vote for candidates who back laws permitting abortion.