Fake-bomb device rattles Italians

ROME - Police said Tuesday a suspicious package full of wires and powder that prompted a terror scare in Rome's subway during the Christmas season was a fake made out of cement-like powder, not explosives.

The device was found around 10 a.m. inside a train at the Rebibbia station, on the outskirts of Rome. The subway car was at the end of the line and empty when the package was found.

Bomb-disposal experts checked the powder and concluded that it was inert and that there was no trigger mechanism, police said.

Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno told reporters the device was "a fake," even if it looked threatening. He added that the city could "breathe a sigh of relief." - AP

Leader steps down in Montenegro

PODGORICA, Montenegro - Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, who has led Montenegro for almost 20 years, resigned abruptly Tuesday but insisted it was not due to international pressure over his alleged criminal past.

Opposition parties swiftly called for new elections, contending Djukanovic resigned under pressure.

Djukanovic, 49, led Montenegro through the turmoil of the 1990s Balkan wars and its postwar quest for independence from Serbia, which was finalized in a referendum in 2006. He said he was stepping down because he had fulfilled his task of bringing Montenegro closer to the European Union and NATO.

Italian authorities investigated Djukanovic for allegedly being part of a Balkan cigarettte-smuggling ring in the 1990s but dropped the probe in 2009. - AP

Thailand eases security controls

BANGKOK - The Thai government agreed to lift a state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding provinces Wednesday, eight months after it was imposed during sprawling and sometimes violent antigovernment protests in the capital.

However, the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will retain extraordinary powers, including the right to hold suspects without charge for up to a week, under a new security act that it says is needed to control antigovernment groups.

Deputy government spokesman Supachai Jaisamut said the security situation no longer justified the strict control imposed during April riots by protesters, who camped for weeks in a zone fortified by wooden stakes and tires in the heart of Bangkok.

But the government has said it feels that Thailand's continuing political turmoil justified another strict, though less powerful, security law. - AP

Elsewhere:

Rescue teams managed to pull all survivors from under the rubble after a magnitude-6.5 earthquake struck a remote area in southeastern Iran late the previous night, killing seven people and injuring 33. Iranian state TV said the strong quake hit Hosseinabad, a small town in the southeast.