World briefs: Monti keeps options open

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ROME -- Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said he won't run in the country's elections in February, though he would consider being the candidate for a coalition backing his economic agenda.

"For the forces that are willing to convincingly and coherently adhere to the Monti agenda, I am ready to give my appreciation, encouragement, and if requested, my guidance, and I'd be willing to assume one day, if the circumstances lend themselves to it, the responsibilities that could be bestowed by parliament," he said Sunday at a news conference in Rome.

In Italy, voters don't choose a prime minister candidate directly. They cast ballots for a party list or coalition, which picks its premier. So Mr. Monti, while not running for Parliament, could still be a designated candidate for prime minister.

Some among Europe's political leaders and Italy's business elite had called on Mr. Monti to end his status as a nonpartisan independent and run in the elections to safeguard his revamp of the Italian economy.

Yemen army retaliates

SANAA, Yemen -- Yemeni security officials say the military launched a new round of strikes Sunday against armed tribesmen with links to attacks on oil pipelines and electricity stations. There was no immediate report on casualties.

The military killed two tribesmen earlier this month in a similar offensive in Marib province, east of Sanaa, the capital. after an attack on an oil pipeline just after it was repaired.

Also Sunday, security officials say a police officer guarding an Interior Ministry facility was shot dead by unknown assailants in Sanaa.

Troops rescue hostages

NAIROBI, Kenya -- In a siege that lasted nearly two weeks, forces of Somalia's semiautonomous Puntland region raided a hijacked ship Sunday and safely rescued 22 hostages who had been held captive for nearly three years, authorities said.

"After two years and nine months in captivity, the hostages have suffered signs of physical torture and illness. The hostages are now receiving nutrition and medical care," a statement from the Puntland government said.

Hassan Abdi, a pirate commander, who was in touch with the ship's hijackers, said eight pirates on board the vessel were able to escape as Puntland soldiers closed in.

Fire ruins Kabul market

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Firefighters battled through the night to contain a raging blaze that swept through a market in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

No injuries were reported, but the blaze destroyed hundreds of stores and millions of dollars worth of merchandise, Afghan police and firefighters said Sunday at the scene.

Col. Mohammed Qasem, general director of the Kabul fire department, said he suspected an electrical short-circuit was to blame for the fire.

Protesters block highway

FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Thousands of protesters demonstrated Sunday in Iraq's western Sunni heartland following the arrest of bodyguards assigned to the finance minister, briefly blocking the main highway linking Baghdad with neighboring Jordan and Syria.

The dispute threatens to exacerbate tensions with Iraq's Sunnis, who accuse Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of targeting and marginalizing them. The sectarian conflicts have largely paralyzed the government and have often turned violent.

-- Compiled from news services

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