A third of Afghan president's votes voided

KABUL - U.N.-backed fraud investigators on Monday threw out nearly a third of President Hamid Karzai's ballots from Afghanistan's disputed August election, setting the stage for a runoff.

The rulings dropped Karzai's votes to 48 percent of the total, below the 50 percent threshold needed for him to avoid a runoff with his top challenger, according to calculations by independent election monitors.

It was unclear, however, whether the Afghan-led Independent Election Commission would accept the findings of the fraud panel and announce a runoff. Karzai's spokesman said it was too soon to make a judgment based on the figures released by the panel.

That could mean a further delay in forming a new government that the U.S. believes is needed to help combat the growing Taliban insurgency. A protracted crisis could also lead to political unrest.

Geneva gives shoe thrower hero's welcome

GENEVA - The Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at President George W. Bush leaned back in his chair and soaked in the round of applause.

This was not Baghdad or Damascus or Beirut. This was Geneva, where Muntadhar al-Zeidi was given a hero's welcome Monday far warmer than the subdued reception in his own homeland.

'I am one of the victims of the occupation,' al-Zeidi said at a press conference alongside two local politicians, repeating his allegations that he was severely tortured, including with electric shocks, during his nine months of Iraqi detention.

Pirates seize Chinese ship with 25 onboard

NAIROBI, Kenya - Somali pirates seized a Chinese cargo ship Monday with 25 people onboard, a naval spokesman for the European Union's anti-piracy force said, in the first successful attack on a Chinese vessel since the country deployed three naval warships to the region.

Cmdr. John Harbour said that coalition forces had observed at least two pirates onboard the deck of the De Xin Hai and the cargo ship also was towing two light skiffs used by the pirates behind it. All 25 crew onboard are Chinese, he said.

The attack occurred early Monday in the Indian Ocean about 700 miles east of the lawless Somali coastline. Harbour said he believed it was the farthest afield the pirates had ever struck.