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UNITED STATES

Kerry: No START vote before elections

The Senate should put off its final vote on a landmark nuclear arms control treaty until after the November midterm elections, Sen. John Kerry said Tuesday.

"I think that to push it in the next week or two would be a mistake, given the election," said Mr. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which was set to vote on the pact on Thursday.

"Let's just get it out of the committee and hopefully set it up to do without any politics, without any election atmospherics, as a matter of national security when we come back [after the elections.]"

Mr. Kerry warned colleagues reluctant to back the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) that Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma, is watching how U.S. lawmakers handle ratification of the accord.

Ratification requires 67 votes in the Senate. Democrats and their two independent allies hold 59 seats, meaning they cannot approve START without Republican support.

The committee's top Republican, Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, worked during a six-week August break to craft a resolution addressing the party's main concerns — chiefly worries about the fate of U.S. missile defense programs and plans for modernizing the existing U.S. arsenal.

INDIA

Forces told to shoot curfew breakers

SRINAGAR | Indian police patrolled the streets of Kashmir on Tuesday, threatening to shoot anyone defying a round-the-clock curfew a day after 19 people died in clashes between troops and protesters in the disputed region.

Still, hundreds of anti-India demonstrators took to the streets of the region's main city of Srinagar and half a dozen other places in the region. Government forces responded by firing live ammunition and tear gas to disperse them, police said. At least 14 people were wounded, according to police and a resident.

ITALY

Billions in suspected Mafia goods seized

ROME | Italy's top security official says police have seized a record $1.9 billion from a Sicilian businessman suspected of Mafia association.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni called it the "the biggest seizure of assets" during an appearance on an Italian private TV station's morning show.

Investigators in Rome say in a statement released Tuesday that the businessman is suspected of laundering money for the Sicilian Mafia. The seized assets include dozens of companies operating in solar and wind energy, bank accounts, real estate, luxury cars and a 45-foot catamaran boat.

Investigators allege that Trapani businessman Vito Nicastri, 54, had close ties to Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro and involved the Mafia in renewable energy.

PAKISTAN

Air strikes intensify in northwest region

ISLAMABAD | Drone aircraft unleashed two missile attacks in a lawless tribal region on the Afghan border Tuesday, making September the most intense period of U.S. strikes in Pakistan since they began in 2004, intelligence officials said.

The stepped-up campaign is focused on a small area of farming villages and mountainous, thickly forested terrain controlled by the Haqqani Network, a ruthless U.S. foe in Afghanistan, U.S. officials say. There is some evidence the network is being squeezed as a result, one official said.

The missiles have killed at least 50 people in 12 strikes since Sept. 2 in the Pakistani region of North Waziristan, according to an Associated Press tally based on Pakistani intelligence officials' reports.

AFGHANISTAN

Fears raised over fake poll cards

KABUL | Thousands of fake voter registration cards have been found across Afghanistan, election officials said Tuesday, and observers called on the government to act to prevent widespread fraud in Saturday's election.

The parliamentary vote is seen as a key test of stability in Afghanistan, where violence is at its worst since the Taliban was ousted in 2001, before President Obama conducts a war strategy review in December.

Poor security and fraud are major concerns ahead of the voting, which the Taliban has vowed to disrupt by hitting foreign troops and then Afghan targets.

Last year's presidential poll was marred by widespread fraud, with a third of votes cast for President Hamid Karzai thrown out as fake by the U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission.

LITHUANIA

Lithuanians give Baltimore Zappa sculpture

VILNIUS | U.S. rock musician Frank Zappa is to be honored with a statue in his hometown of Baltimore created by fans from Lithuania, a former Soviet Baltic state Zappa never visited during his lifetime.

The statue, to be unveiled Sunday, is a replica of one that has been standing in the Baltic state's capital, Vilnius, since 1995, a photo artist behind the idea, Saulius Paukstys, told Agence France-Presse on Tuesday.

"We're honoring the artist who influenced the development of culture for more than a generation," Mr. Paukstys said before heading to the ceremony in Baltimore.

He said the popularity of the Zappa sculpture in Vilnius among tourists encouraged him to go ahead with idea to unveil similar bust in the U.S.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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