Baghdad bombing kills two amid relative peace

BAGHDAD - A bomb hidden inside a minivan exploded near the Baghdad governor's office on Monday, killing two people and wounding six others in the latest violence to mar a relatively calm holiday season in the capital.

The bomb exploded near the heavily guarded Green Zone, which houses the Iraqi government, the U.S. and some other Western embassies. It was unclear if it was detonated remotely or just went off.

Baghdad has been living through some of its most peaceful moments since the U.S. invasion in 2003. Violence has dropped by 60 percent in the past six months, mostly due to a surge by thousands of American troops, the help of Sunni Arab irregulars on the U.S. payroll and a cease-fire by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army.

French tourists killed by gunmen in African nation

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania - Four members of a French family were killed by gunmen during a robbery in eastern Mauritania on Monday, police said.

The four were robbed at gunpoint and then sprayed with automatic weapons fire, said Mohamed Ould Lemine, the police chief of Aleg, the town 150 miles east of Mauritania's capital, Nouakchott.

The father of the family survived the attack, but was seriously injured and is being treated at a nearby hospital, said Lemine. Two children were among the dead.

According to Lemine, the family had stopped on the side of the highway to have a picnic when the gunmen approached them. The gunmen demanded money and then opened fire with automatic weapons. The robbers then sped off in an old Mercedes-Benz.

Nepal's former rebels agree to rejoin government

KATMANDU, Nepal - Nepal's king will step down under an agreement reached between the country's major political parties to bring former communist rebels back into the government, party officials and the one-time insurgents said Monday.

The deal sets the stage for Nepal's transition to a full republic less than two years after the country's king was forced to cede his near-dictatorial powers following weeks of unrest.

King Gyanendra's reign has been filled with turmoil that began on his ascent to power in 2001 following the death of his brother, King Birendra, in a bizarre palace massacre apparently committed by Birendra's son.

Thailand's top parties scramble to find partners

BANGKOK, Thailand - Thailand's leading parties wooed possible partners for a coalition government on Monday, a day after allies of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra came out on top in the country's first election since he was ousted in a September 2006 military coup.

The pro-Thaksin People's Power Party won just under half the seats in the 480-member lower house of parliament, delivering a powerful message that the exiled prime minister's mostly rural supporters would be happy to see him return despite allegations he was corrupt and abused power.

Uzbek leader wins new term

MOSCOW - Uzbekistan's authoritarian President Islam Karimov won a new term in office with 88.1 percent of the votes in an election dismissed by critics as a sham, according to figures released by the Central Elections Commission on Monday.

Karimov faced three other candidates in the Sunday vote, but all of them publicly supported Karimov. The election-monitoring arm of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the election failed to meet an array of democratic standards.

Uzbekistan is a member of the OSCE, which aims to promote democratic standards, but is one of the most politically repressive of the former Soviet states.

- From wire reports