Iraq: School casualties

BAGHDAD — An explosion near a school in the Sadr City district of Baghdad wounded scores of children and killed at least one on Monday, while attacks on Iraq's security forces continued.

Government officials gave contradictory school casualty figures, with the death toll varying from 1 to 15 children and the number of wounded from 41 to 56.

There were competing theories about the explosion's cause. In a statement read on state television by Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, a spokesman for the Baghdad Operations Command, the government attributed it to an accidental detonation of a cache of explosives hidden near the school. Earlier reports from local security officials suggested that it could have been a result of an errant rocket or a planted explosive.

China: Students killed

BEIJING — Eight youths were killed and 26 injured when students descending a crowded staircase after evening classes at a school in central China lost their footing amid a crush of bodies, state media and the local government reported Tuesday.

Students were rushing out of evening study sessions at 9:10 p.m. on Monday at Xiangxiang city's private Yucai Middle School when some lost their footing and began to fall on top of one another in a stampede on the steps.

More than 400 students had been exiting classrooms via an enclosed stairwell just 4 feet wide, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Romania: Vote fraud?

BUCHAREST — Romania's main opposition party claimed Monday that President Traian Basescu narrowly won re-election through a fraudulent vote.

The Social Democrats said left-leaning former Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana actually won Sunday's run-off, an election seen as crucial to addressing a government crisis and the country's painful recession.

With 99.95 percent of the vote counted, election authorities said centrist Basescu polled 50.33 percent of the vote, while Geoana received 49.66 percent. But Liviu Dragnea of the Social Democrats said there were too many voided ballots — a total of 138,000 — more than enough to make up the approximately 70,000 vote difference between the two candidates.

Canada: Protest

TORONTO — Members of Greenpeace easily breached security and scaled two Parliament buildings in Ottawa to stage a protest on the roof Monday, the opening day of the climate conference in Copenhagen.

The 19 protesters unfurled a massive banner reading "Climate Inaction Costs Lives" as police, fire trucks and ambulances gathered below. Greenpeace spokeswoman Jessica Wilson said it was a protest against the rapid expansion of the massive oil sands mines in northern Alberta. The extraction process produces a high amount of the greenhouse gases blamed for climate change.

Brazil: $6M heist

SAO PAULO — Thieves who spent months tunneling from a rented house to an armored car company's safe made off with nearly $6 million over the weekend, making their getaway as season-ending football matches virtually shut down Brazil, authorities said Monday.

The heist was discovered Sunday night — hours after the games ended. Officers followed the tunnel from the company's safe some 110 yards underground to a house, Sao Paulo police said in a statement.

Police said the home, abandoned when they arrived, had been occupied for about four months. Its former occupants were considered suspects, but there were no immediate arrests.

Venezuela: Missiles

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez said Monday that Venezuela has received thousands of Russian-made missiles and rocket launchers as part of his government's military preparations for a possible armed conflict with neighboring Colombia.

Both Colombia and Washington deny having any plans to attack Venezuela, but Chavez argues they are plotting together a military offensive against Venezuela. Chavez says his government is acquiring more weapons as a precaution.