Brazil, Argentina send a rocket up

SAO PAULO, Brazil - Brazil and Argentina successfully launched a rocket into space yesterday in the first joint space mission by the two South American nations.

The VS30 rocket, which carried experiments from both countries, blasted off from Brazil's Barreira do Inferno launch center in northern Rio Grande do Norte state, Brazil's space agency said in a statement. The rocket reached an altitude of 75 miles and its journey - which lasted 9 minutes, 25 seconds - was considered "perfect," the agency said.

The mission was the fruit of a 1998 accord between space agencies in Brazil, which has launched rockets into space before, and Argentina, which has relied on other nations to send up satellites.

- AP

Al-Qaeda threat exaggerated?

LONDON - Britain is in danger of exaggerating the threat from al-Qaeda, the former top adviser on terrorism to Prime Minister Gordon Brown was quoted yesterday as saying.

Richard Mottram, who retired last month from his post as an adviser on intelligence and security, said focusing too tightly on the terrorist movement risked underplaying other important threats such as climate change or a possible flu pandemic, a British newspaper reported.

"What we shouldn't do is play into al-Qaeda's hands by exaggerating the extent and nature of the threat they present globally," Mottram said, according to the Observer.

- AP

Kyrgyz leader's party sees gains

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan - President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's party looked headed for an overwhelming victory in parliamentary elections in this strategically important Central Asian nation, the election authority said today, based on early results.

With nearly 70 percent of ballots counted from yesterday's vote for the 90-seat legislature, Bakiyev's Ak Jol party was leading with 46 percent, an election commission spokesman said. Allegations of vote rigging dogged the vote, causing worries about the stability of the nation.

Kyrgyzstan is militarily and economically important to several leading global powers. Russia has an air base here and the U.S. military base outside the capital Bishkek helps support operations in Afghanistan.

- AP

Elsewhere:

Millions of Muslims

from around the world gathered in Mecca yesterday for the start of the annual Islamic hajj pilgrimage as the Saudi Interior Ministry announced tough security precautions.

Almost 300 prisoners,

many of them Maoist rebels, staged an armed jailbreak that left five people injured in the eastern Indian state of Chhattisgarh.

Talks between

the Philippine government and Moro Islamic separatists suffered a setback over the weekend after the insurgents accused the government of unilaterally changing a draft agreement on ancestral homelands.