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WORLD IN BRIEF: N. Korea's Kim to meet Chinese heads on rare visit

N. Korea's Kim to meet Chinese heads on rare visit

BEIJING — North Korea's reclusive leader Kim Jong Il was making his way Tuesday to China's capital on a rare overseas trip meant to be so secret that Beijing refused to confirm it — despite videos shot by foreign media showing him leaving a Chinese hotel.

Kim is expected to meet with President Hu Jintao and other top Chinese leaders just as South Korea inches closer to blaming the North for the recent sinking of a navy ship that killed 46 sailors.

Kim's visits to China — North Korea's chief benefactor — are usually not officially announced until he leaves the country, but he was photographed leaving a hotel after reportedly arriving in the Chinese port city of Dalian aboard a luxury 17-car armored train.

Iraq's Shiite parties form new alliance

BAGHDAD — Iraq's two largest Shiite electoral blocs announced Tuesday they have formed an alliance that gives them a strong chance of setting up the next government, though they have yet to work out the contentious question of who would become prime minister.

The alliance of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law coalition and the conservative Shiite Iraqi National Alliance leaves them just four parliamentary seats shy of a ruling majority.

IMF plans to OK $40 billion Greek loan

WASHINGTON — The International Monetary Fund plans to meet Sunday to approve a $40 billion loan to Greece as part of a rescue package to save the country from looming bankruptcy.

The bailout includes a $105 billion loan from the 15 other European Union members who use the euro as their currency.

Ash may keep choking air travel in Europe

DUBLIN — Iceland's clouds of volcanic ash are menacing European air traffic again, but transport chiefs insisted Tuesday they are learning from last month's crisis and won't let the hard-to-measure emissions ground their continent again.

Rising volcanic activity spurred aviation authorities in Ireland, Scotland and the Faeroe Islands to shut down services Tuesday after a two-week hiatus.

Transport chiefs said Europe was learning to pinpoint the true nature of the threat versus last month's better-safe-than-sorry shutdown.