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AROUND THE WORLD

Leader gets ultimatum to step down, leave

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) -- West African leaders who came to deliver an ultimatum to Laurent Gbagbo met with him late into the night Tuesday after threatening a military ouster if he doesn't accept an offer to go into exile a month after the disputed election.

The regional delegation led by presidents from Sierra Leone, Cape Verde and Benin held meetings with both Gbagbo and internationally recognized winner Alassane Ouattara, then returned to meet with Gbagbo a second time late Tuesday.

Gbagbo, the incumbent leader who has been in power for a decade in Ivory Coast, has so far shown no interest in stepping aside despite the calls for him to go.

While Ouattara has been endorsed by most of the world, Gbagbo still maintains control of Ivory Coast's military and security forces. Weeks of postelection violence have left at least 173 people dead, according to the U.N. The toll is believed to be much higher.

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Two men, one accused of spying, executed

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Iran on Tuesday executed a man accused of spying for Israel and another for allegedly distributing CDs and leaflets promoting an outlawed opposition group. The hangings come amid a crackdown on activists that has coincided with unpopular economic austerity measures.

Ali Akbar Siadat was accused of peddling military secrets to Mossad, the national intelligence agency of Israel. Ali Saremi was an alleged member of the militant group Mujahedin Khalq. Both were hanged at dawn in Tehran's Evin Prison, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Both men were arrested and accused of their crimes years ago, and activists said they were likely executed now as part of an attempt to send a message to the opposition. Public discontent is growing in the wake of a drastic reduction in fuel and food subsidies that has sent prices skyrocketing.

-- Los Angeles Times

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Ruling party loses partner in coalition

ISLAMABAD (AP) -- Pakistan's U.S.-allied ruling party suffered a fresh blow to its fragile hold on power Tuesday when a coalition partner said it will quit the Cabinet, deepening the nation's political turmoil and potentially distracting Islamabad from helping American forces target militants. New elections could lead to the emergence of a government not as friendly to U.S. interests and less vocal in opposing the Taliban.

Still, even if the government changes -- a prospect that is not at all certain -- the country's new leaders will be faced with the same seemingly intractable challenges as their predecessors: a feeble economy, chronic power shortages and rebuilding after this year's horrendous flooding. The decision by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement to leave the Cabinet showed the willingness of members of the governing coalition to challenge the unpopular, ruling Pakistan People's Party.

The MQM said it will pull its two ministers, though it insisted it was not yet joining the opposition.

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Second conviction of tycoon defended

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia's Foreign Ministry on Tuesday fired back at U.S. and European criticism of the second conviction of jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, telling Western leaders to mind their own business.

Khodorkovsky, a billionaire oligarch who posed a challenge to Vladimir V. Putin early in his presidency, was convicted Monday of stealing oil from his own company and laundering the proceeds.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton led a chorus of political figures in the United States and Europe in condemning the ruling, saying that it raised "serious questions about selective prosecution and about the rule of law being overshadowed by political considerations."

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the claims were unfounded and accused the West of trying to put pressure on the court.

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