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Floods Kill Hundreds in Southeast Asia

Massive floods have left 500 people dead across Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, officials said Monday, as authorities stepped up efforts to reach victims of the unusually heavy monsoon rains.

In Thailand, where the death toll from the country's worst floods in decades rose to 269, thousands of soldiers fanned out across affected areas as part of a huge aid operation.

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Hurricane Jova Takes Aim at Southwestern Mexico

Hurricane Jova rapidly surged Monday to become a major category three storm, and was on course to make landfall in southwestern Mexico in the coming days, U.S. meteorologists said.

The Miami-based U.S. National Hurricane Center said in a 09:00 GMT bulletin that Jova was now packing maximum sustained winds of 195 kilometers per hour.

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AU, Somali Forces Seize Mogadishu Rebel Bases

African Union and Somali government troops said Monday they seized key positions from Islamist insurgents during an offensive to flush out the last rebel pockets in Mogadishu.

"Operations have started to take control of the northern corridor and drive the al-Qaida-linked extremists out of the city," the government said in a statement.

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EU Slaps New Sanctions on Belarus, Iran

The European Union on Monday slapped fresh sanctions on Belarus and Iran in protest at human rights violations, diplomats said.

The sanctions, agreed at talks between the EU's 27 foreign ministers, target 16 people allegedly involved in rights abuse in Belarus and 29 in Iran with an assets freeze and travel ban.

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Six Police Officers Killed in Mexico Ambush

Six police officers were killed in a suspected drug gang attack in the northern Mexican state of Zacatecas, after they were ambushed when driving home from a party, a report said Monday.

The policemen were returning to the city of Valparaiso in the early hours of Sunday after attending a festival in a nearby town, when they were held up by a group of gunmen who assaulted their vehicle with heavy weapons, said the Jornada newspaper on its website.

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Big Turnout as French Left Picks Champion to Face Sarkozy

France's opposition Socialists boasted Sunday that a strong turn-out in their primary was an early victory in the battle to oust Nicolas Sarkozy, but failed to choose a clear winner of their own.

As expected, 57-year-old former party leader Francois Hollande was in first place but, with most polling stations reporting, he had only 39 percent of the vote and was on course to face a tight run-off vote.

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Sudan Sets 'Deadlines' to Resolve North-South Issues

Sudan has set deadlines to resolve outstanding disputes with the south, President Omar al-Bashir said Sunday, as a top-level southern delegation wrapped up its first visit to Khartoum since independence.

"We have agreed to have committees and have given them deadlines to reach a solution on all the pending issues," Bashir told a news conference, standing alongside South Sudan's President Salva Kiir.

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Chinese President Urges Unification with Rival Taiwan

China's president on Sunday used the centennial of a revolution that ended imperial rule to make an appeal to further relations with Taiwan, saying they should move beyond the history that divides them and focus on common economic and cultural interests.

At a ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Hu Jintao said that China and Taiwan should end antagonisms, "heal wounds of the past and work together to achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation."

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IAEA Team Arrives in Japan as Fukushima Starts Thyroid Tests

Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency arrived in the Japanese city of Fukushima on Sunday to observe the massive decontamination effort following the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

Local doctors also began a long-term survey of children for thyroid abnormalities, a problem associated with radiation exposure. Officials hope to test some 360,000 people who were under the age of 18 when the nuclear crisis began in March, and then provide follow-ups throughout their lifetimes.

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11 Injured in 2 Blasts in Southern Philippines

Two powerful explosions believed to be from home-made bombs ripped through a motel and a cock-fighting arena in the southern Philippines on Sunday, wounding 11 people, police said.

The first explosion at noon tore through the ground floor of the two-story Red Palm inn in Zamboanga, a port city in the troubled southern island of Mindanao, where Islamist militants operate.

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