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Around the world

VOTE: Belarussians seeking relief from a worsening economic crisis voted for a president Thursday as their country became the last former Soviet republic to elect its leader by popular vote. Six candidates, ranging from communist-era technocrats to ardent reformists, were competing. Pollsters predicted a turnout of at least 70 percent of the nation's 7.3 million eligible voters. Belarus, a nation of 10.3 million people wedged between Russia and Poland, has no president. It has been led since the 1991 Soviet collapse by the speaker of its communist-dominated, anti-reform parliament.

VIOLENCE: Lebanese militiamen allied with Israel killed two guerrillas and captured a third Thursday when they tried to slip into northern Israel to take hostages, security sources said. In other violence, a roadside bomb killed an official of the Iranian-supported Hezbollah movement and an artillery shell fired from an Israeli-occupied zone in southern Lebanon killed a Lebanese army soldier. The security sources said the slain guerrillas were members of the Syria-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The raiders were intercepted at daybreak about two miles north of the Israeli border, the sources said.

BEACHING: Queen Elizabeth's personal liner, the royal yacht Britannia, will be taken out of service in 1997, British Defense Secretary Malcolm Rifkind said Thursday. He told parliament the Queen would be consulted on finding another use for the 5,700-ton liner, but it would no longer go to sea. The government would consider whether the luxuriously appointed vessel should be replaced. Britannia, launched in 1953, costs about $11 million a year to run.

Across the nation

EXECUTION: A killer was executed early Thursday in Smyrna, Del., for two murders that he claimed were committed by a drinking buddy. Andre Deputy was executed by injection at 12:35 a.m. Thursday, said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gail Stallings. Deputy was convicted of repeatedly stabbing Byard Smith, 68, and Alberta Smith, 69, with a butcher knife and bayonet in their home in Harrington in 1979. "No matter what has been said, I did not commit the murders of the Smiths," Deputy said in a letter to the News Journal of Wilmington that was published Wednesday.

LINE OF FIRE: A drunken driver with her 18-month-old son in the car pulled onto a firing range as prison guards took a break from target practice, Attica, N.Y., police said. Bonnie Wantuck, 31, of Cheektowaga was charged Tuesday with driving while intoxicated, drug possession, trespassing and endangering the welfare of a child. Guards were taking a break when the car drove into their line of fire, deputies said. The firing range is about 100 yards off a road and is marked with "No Trespassing" signs. Wantuck's son was turned over to social workers.

CRITICISM: U.S. Catholic bishops say a U.N. proposal to curb population growth should concentrate on economic development instead of morally objectionable policies on abortion and contraception. The bishops, who were to end their eight-day spring meeting Thursday in San Diego, unanimously passed a policy statement calling on the inter-national community not to reduce poorer nations "to mere objects of the ideological policies of wealthier nations."