Afghan attacks leave nine dead

KABUL, Afghanistan - A roadside bomb killed a NATO soldier and wounded four others yesterday in southern Afghanistan, while a Taliban ambush left eight Afghan security personnel dead, officials said.

The NATO soldiers were patrolling in the country's volatile south when an explosion ripped through their vehicle, NATO said. It did not identify the victims' nationalities or the exact location of the blast.

In central Wardak province, Taliban militants fired rocket-propelled grenades Saturday at a convoy led by private security guards, killing six guards and two police officers, said Wardak police chief Gen. Zafaruddin, who goes by one name. This year has been Afghanistan's most violent since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion drove the Taliban from power.

- AP

Threats cancel Brussels events

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Traditional New Year's Eve fireworks in central Brussels have been canceled because of a continuing terror threat in the Belgian capital, officials said yesterday.

The popular downtown Christmas market will close at 6 p.m. today rather than staying open all night, and the adjacent skating rink will shut at 8 p.m.

Authorities warned of an increased risk of attack after police last week detained 14 people suspected of plotting to help an accused al-Qaeda detainee break out of jail. Authorities said the city would maintain heightened security until at least Thursday.

- AP

Belarus issues threat to U.S.

MINSK, Belarus - Belarus' authoritarian president threatened yesterday to expel the U.S. ambassador if Washington imposes more sanctions on the country.

Ambassador Karen Stewart said this month that the United States could add new sanctions against Belarus over its refusal to free political prisoners and allow democratic freedoms.

The United States has already imposed sanctions, including travel restrictions on Belarusian officials.

President Alexander Lukashenko, characterized in the West as "Europe's last dictator," told reporters that if more sanctions are imposed, Belarus "will respond in the most severe way in all directions - political, economic and other directions. The first person to be thrown out will be the U.S. ambassador."

The U.S. Embassy had no immediate comment.

- AP

Elsewhere:

Five former communist rebels

rejoined Nepal's government yesterday, ending a political crisis that began when the ex-guerrillas walked out of a ruling coalition in September.

A war-crimes suspect

, retired Gen. Mladen Markac, who was photographed on a hunting trip with Croatia's interior minister was transferred to the U.N. tribunal at the Hague yesterday after violating the terms of his release pending trial, his lawyer said.