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BEIJING — Song Renqiong, a veteran of the Communist Party of China, has died, the government said. He was 96. Born in central Hunan province in 1909, Song became a general in China's People's Liberation Army in 1955. A year later, he was elected to the party's central committee. In 1982, he became a member of the all-powerful politburo.


LONDON — Britain and the United States will send a team to Iraq to reassess security in the face of spiraling violence, Prime Minister Tony Blair said in a televised interview Sunday. "In the key area around Baghdad there is no doubt about it at all, we have got to deal these people a blow," Blair told British Broadcasting Corp. "What President Bush and myself have agreed is that we are sending a team there just to review the situation because the key thing there is to build the capability of the Iraqi security forces themselves."

LONDON — Powerful winds and heavy rain swept across northern Europe over the weekend, leaving at least 13 dead and two missing and disrupting air and sea transport. Hundreds of thousands of homes lost power. The storm was one of the worst to hit Scandinavia in years, with winds clocked in some areas at more than 75 mph, meteorologists said. At least six people died in Sweden, including two whose cars were hit by falling tree branches, police and rescue officials said. One motorist died in Denmark when a tree crashed onto his car in Odense, and three others were killed by debris and falling trees.


TEHRAN — Iran's president called Sunday for an investigation into journalists' allegations they were tortured into confessing to charges such as insulting sacred beliefs and endangering national security after publishing articles critical of conservatives in the government. About 20 journalists from print, Internet and other media outlets have been detained in Iran since a crackdown on the pro-reform press was launched in September. Several of those journalists told a presidential commission last month that they were tortured. President Mohammad Khatami said Sunday he would meet with the head of the country's judiciary about the allegations.


AMMAN — Jordan charged 16 Islamic militants on Sunday with plotting terror attacks, including strikes against the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Amman. The suspected cell members were detained between August and September, but details about the allegations against them, surfaced only after they were charged at the office of Jordan's military prosecutor. One of the suspects remains at large. The men, led by 50-year-old Jordanian Abed al-Tahawi, were charged with conspiring to carry out the attacks and illegal possession of automatic weapons, a court official said.


BEIRUT — Hezbollah guerrillas detonated a roadside bomb that destroyed an Israeli military vehicle Sunday in southern Lebanon, killing an Israeli soldier and wounding three others, Lebanese security officials said. Israeli warplanes retaliated, firing missiles twice at Hezbollah's Tal el-Hamamseh observation post near the Israel settlement of Metullah, seven miles west of the attack area, and shelling another position at Rweisat, Lebanese security officials said. A French U.N. peacekeeper was reportedly killed in the attack.


QUETTA — Assailants fired rockets at wells and a gas pipeline in southwestern Pakistan, killing a woman and wounding 14 other people, officials said Sunday. One rocket struck the pipeline, sparking a fire and temporarily disrupting gas supply to a power generator late Saturday in Sui, a tribal town about 215 miles southeast of Quetta, said Mohammed Akbar, a local government official.

South Korea

SEOUL — President Roh Moo-hyun apologized Sunday for the appointment of an education chief who stepped down after three days amid accusations of using funds improperly. Roh's office has been accused of failing to review Lee Ki-jun's record thoroughly before his appointment as deputy prime minister in charge of education.


BANGKOK — A six-story building caught fire and collapsed in the Thai capital Sunday, trapping five firefighters inside the wreckage, police said. The fire started on the fourth floor of the Union Saenthong commercial building, near Bangkok's main Hualamphong train station, police said. The fifth and sixth floors were residential quarters.