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WORLD IN BRIEF: Iraq court lifts ban on political candidates

Iraq court lifts ban on political candidates

BAGHDAD -- An Iraqi appeals court Wednesday set aside a ban on hundreds of candidates for suspected ties to Saddam Hussein's regime, allowing them to run in next month's parliamentary election and offering a chance to ease political showdowns that had deeply worried the White House.

The decision could remove -- at least temporarily -- a major trouble spot in the planning for nationwide voting March 7 to pick lawmakers and the political blocs that will shape the next government in Baghdad.

The blacklist, with more than 450 names, has been widely denounced by Sunni political leaders who view it as a way for the Shiite-led government to undercut Sunni efforts to expand political clout.

Bomb kills 3 US soldiers

SHAHI KOTO, Pakistan -- A roadside bomb killed three U.S. soldiers and partly destroyed a girls' school in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday in an attack that drew attention to a little-publicized American military training mission in the al-Qaida and Taliban heartland.

They were the first known U.S. military fatalities in Pakistan's lawless tribal regions near the Afghan border and a major victory for militants who have been hit hard by a surge of U.S. missile strikes and a major Pakistani army offensive.

The blast also killed three schoolgirls and a Pakistani soldier who was traveling with the Americans. Two more U.S. soldiers were wounded, along with more than 100 other people, mostly students at the school, officials said.

Iran sends rocket to space

ITEHRAN, Iran -- Iran announced Wednesday it launched a menagerie of animals -- including a mouse, two turtles and worms -- into space on a research rocket, a feat President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said showed Iran could defeat the West in the battle of technology.

Ahmadinejad also unveiled the model of a light booster rocket that is being built and three new, Iranian-built satellites, touted as the latest achievements in the country's ambitious space program.

The Iranian space program has worried Western powers, which fear the same technology used to launch satellites and research capsules could also be used to build long-range intercontinental missiles.