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S. Korea minister favored in poll

South Korea’s foreign minister kept his spot as the favorite in the race to succeed U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in an informal poll Thursday, the only one among the seven candidates to get the needed majority of votes.

Ban Ki-Moon received 13 votes in favor, one against and one of no opinion, China’s U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said. He slipped slightly from the previous poll, held Sept. 14, when he received 14 votes in favor and one against.

Despite that dominating lead, the secrecy of the ballot meant no one knows whether he got the necessary approval of all five veto-wielding members of the council.

Annan steps down on Dec. 31, when his second five-year term expires. Diplomats have said they want the race wrapped up by the end of October so the next secretary-general can have time to prepare for the job.


Rice heading back for Mideast talks

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice returns to the Middle East next week for diplomatic meetings with Arab allies and Israel to test the waters for possible new moves toward peace.

Rice will travel to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and the West Bank to consult with leaders “who have a vision for a more moderate, peaceful, democratic, stable and prosperous Middle East,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Thursday.

In addition to the Israel-Palestinian dispute, McCormack said Rice will seek to move her democracy agenda forward and discuss threats to stability and moderation in the region, including Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah.

Madrid, Spain

Passengers confront professor

A Spanish university professor with a long beard and dark complexion said Thursday he was briefly forced off an airliner during a layover on the Spanish island of Mallorca by passengers who feared he was an Islamic terrorist.

Pablo Gutierrez Vega told the Associated Press that he was humiliated when three German passengers on an Air Berlin flight approached him during a layover in Palma de Mallorca on Aug. 30 en route from Seville, Spain, to Dortmund, Germany, and asked to search his carry-on luggage.

The men told him that other passengers were frightened by his appearance, said Gutierrez Vega, a 35-year-old law professor at the University of Seville. The airline confirmed the incident and called it regretful.


Typhoon’s toll climbs to 17

The death toll from a powerful typhoon that cut across the northern Philippines rose to 17 today as schools and offices in Manila remained closed for a second day.

The Office of Civil Defense and local officials reported at least 17 people were killed on Thursday, mostly from drowning and accidents involving fallen trees and billboards as Typhoon Xangsane sliced through the central Bicol region and Manila with fierce winds and pounding rains.

Xangsane, the Laotian word for elephant, is the 10th typhoon this season.


Top stories in Nation/World

Romney must compete in primary for Senate seat

UPDATED: 7:26 p.m.

updated  Mitt Romney was forced Saturday into a Republican primary for a U.S. Senate seat in Utah as he looks to restart his political career by replacing long-serving Sen. Orrin Hatch.