Airstrikes kill dozens of Iraqis

BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. warplanes and helicopters bombed two western villages, killing an estimated 70 militants near a site where five American soldiers died in a weekend roadside blast, the military said Monday. Residents said at least 39 of the dead were civilians.

Also, a sandstorm struck Baghdad on Monday, and that could delay ballot counting and the posting of final results from Saturday's landmark referendum on Iraq's constitution, which voters seem to have approved.

An official with knowledge of the election process cautioned that results reported by some provinces indicate unusually high numbers - including the amounts of ''yes'' or ''no'' votes - that still must be checked and audited.

Opposition leader arrested in Ukraine

BAKU, Azerbaijan - An Azerbaijani opposition leader was arrested in Ukraine and scores of his supporters were detained by police Monday, heightening tensions in the oil-rich former Soviet republic in the run-up to next month's parliamentary election.

Rasul Guliyev, who has lived in exile in the United States since 1996, was on his way back to his homeland to participate in the Nov. 6 election when his plane was diverted to Ukraine, where he was arrested on Interpol orders, said Ukrainian Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko.

In Azerbaijan, riot police in full combat gear detained scores of opposition party members and prevented protesters from gathering at Baku's international airport. Talyat Aliev, a member of Guliyev's Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, said several hundred people were detained, while a government official pegged the number at 100.

Prodi wins Italian primary election

ROME - Former Italian premier Romano Prodi won a sweeping victory in a nationwide primary, according to near-final results released Monday, and will challenge conservative Premier Silvio Berlusconi in next year's election.

The results showed Prodi, the center-left candidate who also is a former European Commission president, won 74.4 percent of the vote. More than 99 percent of votes have been tabulated.

Prodi's widely expected victory set the stage for a run against Berlusconi, who is likely to remain at the helm of the conservatives for the mid-2006 vote. The two faced each other in an election 10 years ago, which Prodi won.

Annan determined to keep report from fanning tensions

UNITED NATIONS - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Monday he is determined to keep an upcoming report into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri from fanning tensions between Syria and Lebanon.

The Lebanese opposition has accused Syria of playing a role in Hariri's Feb. 14 death in a car bombing, allegations Damascus repeatedly has denied. Annan said he expected to receive a report on the investigation into the slaying on Friday.

''I know there has been lots of political commentary and lots of discussions about it but from where I sit, I'm determined to make it as technical as possible and not allow a politicization of the process,'' Annan said.

The investigators, led by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, have named four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals as suspects and questioned seven Syrian officials, one of whom - Interior Minister Ghazi Kenaan - committed suicide last week.

Chinese cheer astronauts' return

BEIJING - An elated public celebrated the successful landing Monday of China's second manned space flight, a feat that a senior Chinese leader declared a victory for the Communist Party and a boost to the country's status as a space power.

The pre-dawn landing of the Shenzhou 6 capsule on the country's northern grasslands was shown live on television as part of a propaganda effort meant to rouse support for the ruling party.

Scenes of astronauts Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng emerging smiling and waving were shown throughout the day on television, sparking an outpouring of patriotic excitement about China's growing technological might.

Chechen warlord says he was behind last week's attacks

MOSCOW - Chechnya's top warlord said Monday he was behind last week's deadly assault in southern Russia, but added it was carried out by regional fighters - indicating an increasingly organized effort to set up militant cells in the area.

Shamil Basayev, who is the author of Russia's worst terrorist attacks, claimed responsibility for the assault in the city of Nalchik that officials say left at least 137 dead.

- From wire reports