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Russia plans to ask U.N. to broaden its terror list

Russia plans to introduce a Security Council resolution today that could expand the definition of terrorist organizations to include Chechen and Palestinian groups.

The resolution would enlarge a list of terrorist individuals and groups beyond those linked to al-Qaida and the Taliban who now face a travel ban, a freeze on their assets, an arms embargo and expedited extradition. The resolution states that terrorist acts "are under no circumstances justifiable by consideration of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other similar nature."

Security Council diplomats interpret that to mean no exemption for violent acts by Palestinian groups fighting for territory they consider occupied by Israel, or attacks by Chechen groups in the name of self-determination.

Arab nations said they would fight the move, and previous attempts have failed.

N. Korea threatens Japan

with nuclear annihilation

SEOUL, South Korea _ In an unusually explicit threat to its neighbor, North Korea on Thursday warned that Japan would be turned into a "nuclear sea of fire" if the United States were to launch an attack against the North.

The threat came as Japanese and South Korean government officials expressed fears that North Korea was preparing to test a ballistic missile. Intelligence satellites have detected unusual movements of vehicles and personnel massing around missile bases on the east coast, South Korean and Japanese officials reported.

South Korea said Thursday that it believed that the movements were connected with annual military games taking place near the missile bases.

Afghan poppy production soars, U.S. officials say

WASHINGTON _ Afghans significantly increased their poppy crop in the past year, fueling a narcotics trade that endangers U.S.-led efforts to stabilize the country, officials said Thursday.

A report expected soon from the CIA and United Nations is expected to show Afghans planted 247,000 acres with the crop, up from 198,000 acres last year, said assistant secretary of state Robert Charles, head of the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

Ex-Costa Rica president

takes helm of OAS

WASHINGTON _ Former Costa Rican President Miguel Angel Rodriguez took office Thursday as head of the 34-nation Organization of American States, declaring that the foremost challenge facing the Americas is to fight pervasive poverty.

Rodriguez assumed his new duties before 11 hemispheric heads of state and government, the largest such gathering at the OAS since the signing of the Panama Canal treaties in 1977.

BBC cancels "offensive'

cartoon about pope

LONDON _ The British Broadcasting Corp. has scrapped a cartoon featuring Pope John Paul II on a pogo stick, following a wave of protests by Roman Catholics.

Popetown, featuring the voices of comedian Ruby Wax as the pontiff and model Jerry Hall as a fame-hungry nun, was commissioned for the digital channel BBC3. The animation featured corrupt cardinals and an infantile pope who bounced around the Vatican on a pogo stick.

BBC chiefs said Thursday that it was too offensive to broadcast. More than 6,000 Roman Catholics had signed a petition demanding Popetown be scrapped, after excerpts of the planned show appeared on the Internet.