2007 becomes deadliest year of Iraq war




BAGHDAD &

The U.S. military announced six new deaths Tuesday, making 2007 the bloodiest year for American troops in Iraq despite a recent decline in casualties and a sharp drop in roadside bombings that Washington links to Iran.




With nearly two months left in the year, the annual toll is now 853 &

three more than the previous worst of 850 in 2004.




But the grim milestone comes as the Pentagon points toward other encouraging signs as well &

growing security in Baghdad and other former militant strongholds that could help consolidate the gains against extremists.




A senior Navy officer, meanwhile, announced the planned release of nine Iranian prisoners and was at pains to say that a major cache of Iranian-made weapons and bombs displayed for reporters Tuesday appeared to have been shipped into Iraq before Tehran made a vow to stop the flow of armaments.




Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last week that Iran had made such assurances to the Iraqi government. He did not reveal when the pledge was issued.




8 killed in Finland school shooting




TUUSULA, Finland &

An 18-year-old gunman killed eight people at a high school in southern Finland on Wednesday, then shot himself but survived, police said.




They said the high school's principal was among the dead.




Police said the gunman, who used a .22-caliber pistol, was taken to hospital with serious wounds and the situation was "under control" after officers surrounded Jokela High School in Tuusula, some 30 miles north of the capital, Helsinki.




It was the first known school shooting in Finland, where gun ownership is fairly common by European standards, but shootings are rare.




Medical response leader Eero Hirvensalo told The Associated Press that one person had been "severely injured" while 10 people had minor injuries.




Finnish media reports said the shooter had revealed his plans on the video Web site YouTube.




UN envoy to meet Suu Kyi in Myanmar




YANGON, Myanmar &

A U.N. special envoy will meet Myanmar's detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday, the last day of his frustrating mission to try to ease the country's political crisis, diplomats said.




But hopes for a breakthrough by the envoy Ibrahim Gambari dimmed Wednesday after the military government rejected proposed talks with Suu Kyi.




"" The Associated Press




Gambari has also failed to meet the country's most powerful figure, junta chief Senior Gen. Than Shwe.




The six-day visit is Gambari's second to Myanmar, also called Burma, since the military killed at least 10 protesters in late September and arrested thousands of people. Diplomats and dissidents put the death toll much higher.




He was sent to Myanmar to promote political reconciliation after the U.N. Security Council condemned the crackdown. He met with both Suu Kyi and Than Shwe on his previous visit.