Reuters World News Highlights 1410 GMT Dec 29

Reuters World News Highlights 1410 GMT Dec 29

ISLAMABAD – Benazir Bhutto”s party challenged official versions of the opposition leader”s assassination and accused Pakistan”s government on Saturday of trying to cover up failures just days before planned elections. Fresh violence brought the death toll since Bhutto”s assassination in a gun and bomb attack on Thursday to 40, stoking fears a Jan. 8 election meant to restore civilian rule could be put off.

NAIROBI – Kenya”s opposition claimed victory on Saturday in the presidential election but fears of rigging after counting delays ignited ethnic violence across the east African nation. In opposition strongholds hundreds of machete-wielding youths from rival tribes fought, looted and burned homes. Police fired teargas and several people died in scenes marring what foreign observers had praised as a broadly peaceful election.

BAGHDAD – U.S. and Iraqi commanders said on Saturday there had been a remarkable improvement in the country”s security over the past year, but the top American general also warned that the gains could be reversed.

RAMALLAH, West Bank – Interior Minister Abdel-Razak al-Yahya, the top Palestinian security official, said on Saturday his government was dismantling militant groups, including those connected to President Mahmoud Abbas”s Fatah faction.

GAZA – Hamas Islamists called on Egypt on Saturday to open its shuttered border crossing with the Gaza Strip to let more than 2,000 Palestinians return to their Gaza homes from the annual haj pilgrimage in Mecca.

DUBAI – Ten Saudis returned home on Saturday from detention in the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay where al Qaeda militants are held, the Saudi Interior Ministry said.

JOHANNESBURG – South Africa”s powerful trade unions threatened on Saturday to mobilise their members against the “political prosecution” of African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma.

HONG KONG – China ruled out full democracy for Hong Kong in 2012 on Saturday, ignoring the majority opinion in the former British colony, but said it may pick its leader by universal suffrage at the following opportunity, in 2017.

VILLAVICENCIO, Colombia – Venezuelan helicopter rescue teams waited at the edge of a Colombian wilderness on Saturday for the go-ahead from Marxist rebels to pick up three hostages held for years in secret jungle camps.

BEIJING – Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda played a friendly game of catch on his visit to China on Saturday, a symbol of warming ties between the North Asian rivals despite an intractable row over gas resources in disputed waters.