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WORLD IN BRIEF: Iraqi parties both claiming leads in election

BAGHDAD -- The Iraqi prime minister's coalition and its main secular rival both claimed to be ahead in the vote count Monday, a day after historic parliamentary elections that the top U.S. commander said would let all but 50,000 American troops come home by the end of summer.

Sunday's election, which took place against a backdrop of violence in Baghdad, marked a turning point for the country's nascent democracy. The winner will help determine whether Iraq can resolve its sectarian divisions and preserve the nation's fragile security as U.S. troops leave.

Initial results for some provinces, as well as for Baghdad -- an area essential to determining any winner -- were to be announced today.

Somali doctor: British yacht couple reunited

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- A British yachting couple seized by Somali pirates and held in separate locations have been temporarily reunited after weeks apart, a doctor who treated the two said.

Paul and Rachel Chandler were suffering from severe anxiety brought on by their separation and captivity in war-ravaged Somalia, Dr. Abdi Mohamed Elmi Hangul told The Associated Press during an interview at Medina Hospital on Sunday. The two were seized from their yacht, the Lynn Rival, in October and have been held apart for most of their captivity. Hangul said the pirates had phoned him on Sunday and said the couple had been temporarily reunited.

Commander pledges to retake symbolic Kandahar

KABUL -- The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan pledged Monday to retake the symbolic Taliban home ground of Kandahar in a campaign that builds on early signs of progress from the huge infusion of American and foreign forces.

''We're absolutely going to secure Kandahar,'' Gen. Stanley McChrystal told reporters traveling with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who arrived Monday to talk with his commanders and Afghan officials.

The recent three-week military offensive by coalition and Afghan troops to evict insurgents from the strategic south Afghanistan town of Marjah is a model in spirit if not in practice for the larger, more complicated task of squeezing the Taliban in Kandahar and persuading Afghans to support the Kabul government instead.