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AROUND THE WORLD

> IVORY COAST

Gunmen block access to possible mass grave

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) -- Masked gunmen with rocket launchers are blocking access to what officials believe may be a mass grave site in Ivory Coast, the United Nations said.

The U.N. reported that heavily armed forces allied with Laurent Gbagbo and joined by masked men, were preventing people from getting to the village of N'Dotre, where the global body said "allegations point to the existence of a mass grave."

The U.N. did not elaborate on the possible victims, though it has expressed concerns about hundreds of arrests, and dozens of cases of torture and disappearance during the political turmoil since the presidential runoff vote was held nearly a month ago.

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> FRANCE

Snow, ice confine travelers to airport

PARIS (AP) -- Travelers faced the prospect of spending Christmas Eve in Paris' main airport instead of at a feast-laden family table, after new snowfall and shortages of deicing fluid revived travel troubles across Europe.

A scare about the security of a snow-laden terminal roof at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport made matters worse, with crowds asked to clear out of a section of Terminal 2E.

On the upside, the Paris airport got a holiday gift flown in from the United States on Friday -- a supply of precious deicing fluid to get planes off the snowy ground. Authorities had halved the numbers of takeoffs from Charles de Gaulle throughout the morning.

Cancellations and delays continued in the afternoon, with flights reduced by 35 percent.

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> SOUTH KOREA

Warning about North comes on anniversary

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korea could be planning another nuclear test for next year, a South Korean think tank warned Friday, as Pyongyang celebrated the anniversary of leader Kim Jong Il's elevation to military chief.

The 19th anniversary of Kim's being named supreme commander of the Korean People's Army came a day after South Korea held massive drills near the world's most heavily armed border -- part of a series of exercises that have angered the North and prompted it to threaten "sacred" nuclear war.

On Friday, the North lauded Kim Jong Il and his "songun," or "military-first," policy.

"Kim Jong Il is the benevolent father and a mainstay for the faith of the army and people," Pyongyang's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said.

North Korea is expected to continue to work on its atomic weapons programs in 2011, a South Korean Foreign Ministry-affiliated think tank reported. "The possibility is always open for a third nuclear test to improve" its atomic capabilities, the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security said.

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> FRANCE

Russia agrees to buy pair of assault ships

PARIS (AP) -- Russia agreed Friday to buy at least two French assault ships in a deal that would boost Moscow's deployment abilities -- shrugging off opposition from the United States and some of Russia's neighbors.

It's one of the largest, if not the largest, military deal between a NATO country and Moscow and a key part of Russia's efforts to modernize its military. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is mindful of the economic and strategic payoffs in closer ties with Russia, despite diplomatic concerns about Russia's intentions. The Kremlin said Friday that it "has made its choice" to buy two Mistral-class ships, which cost about $525 million to $655 million each.

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