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LONDON — British Prime Minister Tony Blair's hopes of regaining the political high ground with a public spending bonanza were dashed Wednesday by the leak of a memo saying his government was out of touch and rudderless.


JAKARTA — At least 547 East Timorese refugees sheltering in squalid camps throughout Indonesian-controlled West Timor have died in the past nine months, the province's governor said Wednesday.

JAKARTA — Forest fires raging on the Indonesian island of Sumatra are spreading, and a thin blanket of smog has reached as far north as Thailand, officials said Wednesday.


MADRID — An explosion rocked the Basque regional capital and a bomb was found planted on a Socialist politician's car in southern Spain on Wednesday in escalating violence blamed on the Basque separatist group ETA.


NEW DELHI — India Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on Wednesday turned down the resignations of two Cabinet colleagues and a junior minister belonging to the hardline Hindu Shiv Sena party.


MOSCOW — Russia's war in Chechnya raged on two fronts Wednesday as the military attacked mountain rebel hideouts and the province's two Moscow-appointed Chechen leaders stepped up their private war of words.


SARAJEVO — NATO Secretary-General George Robertson opened a new peacekeeping base in Bosnia on Wednesday almost five years after the end of the war.


NAIROBI — Kenya's government has removed a list of corrupt politicians from a parliamentary report on graft after winning a rowdy vote in the assembly, MPs said Wednesday.


STOCKHOLM — Two Cuban doctors who spent a month in jail in Zimbabwe after defecting while on a medical mission have been granted asylum in the United States, ending an odyssey spanning three continents.

South Africa

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa stepped up security at the country's 10 airports Wednesday following a bomb blast outside Cape Town's departure terminal Tuesday. No one was injured in the explosion.


BUCHAREST — One man died after being infected with anthrax and six members of his family are believed to have contracted the disease after it killed dozens of livestock in a Danube Delta village, a health official said Wednesday.


CARACAS — Oil workers and college professors staged strikes over their separate disputes with the federal government less than two weeks before national elections.


BEIJING — China has sentenced a senior customs official to die for taking bribes worth $217,400, the official Xinhua news agency said Wednesday.


MANILA — A moderate earthquake, magnitude 5.5, shook the northern Philippines early Wednesday, but authorities reported no serious injuries or damage.


TEGUCIGALPA — A 13-year-old Honduran boy allegedly shot and killed an 8-year-old classmate Tuesday when the teen allegedly shot and wounded the teacher for calling on him in class.

Costa Rica

SAN JOSE — At least 14 elderly people were burned to death and 17 were missing after a retirement home in northern Costa Rica caught fire, police said Wednesday.