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World datelines

Iran

TEHRAN — Iranian religious elders have lifted a ban on women leading congregational prayers for the first time in the history of Shiite Islam, the state news agency IRNA said Tuesday.

Lebanon

BEIRUT — A military court sentenced 23 people Tuesday to prison terms ranging from three weeks to five years for collaboration or contact with Israel during its occupation of parts of southern Lebanon.

Ivory Coast

ABIDJAN — Security forces firing tear gas and lashing out with whips dispersed a group of demonstrators, most of them supporters of the country's main opposition politician, witnesses said.

Philippines

DAVAO — Three people were killed and dozens wounded when unidentified attackers bombed a town fiesta and a commercial center in the southern Philippines, police said on Tuesday.

MANILA — A strong earthquake shook the northern Philippines on Tuesday, cracking the walls of the Senate building in Manila but causing no serious injuries, officials said.

Germany

WUERZBURG — In his first public statement since being arrested in January, an American soldier who admitted killing a young Albanian girl while on peacekeeping duty in Kosovo apologized Tuesday to the girl's family, saying, "I don't know what went wrong that day."

Saudi Arabia

DUBAI — Saudi Arabia Tuesday executed an Afghan convicted of smuggling heroin into the kingdom, raising the number of people put to death this year to 79.

Solomon Islands

HONIARA — Rival ethnic militias that have been fighting a bitter conflict over land and jobs postponed Tuesday's signing ceremony for a cease-fire agreement, dashing hopes that 19 months of violence would end.

Japan

TOKYO — Japan issued new coins on Tuesday to begin replacing all 2.5 billion of its 500 yen coins in circulation after finding increased numbers of forgeries in its vending machines, officials said.

Laos

BANGKOK, Thailand — An explosive device was planted at the Vietnamese embassy in Laos over the weekend, the clearest sign yet that a recent series of bombings has been politically motivated, diplomats and foreign residents said Tuesday.

China

BEIJING — Mexico expects to sign an agreement with China "very soon" on the communist nation's entry into the World Trade Organization, Mexico's foreign minister said Tuesday.

India

BANGALORE — India's most dreaded bandit is expected to seek amnesty for his crimes in return for the release of kidnapped movie icon Rajkumar, a local government official said on Tuesday.

Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO — Mudslides triggered by heavy rains plowed through homes in a town in northeastern Brazil Monday, killing eight people, local media reported.

South Korea

SEOUL — President Kim Dae-jung on Tuesday warned against anti-Americanism among a small group of activists, reminding South Koreans that the United States remained the country's "biggest supporter."

Russia

VLADIVOSTOK — Appearing weak and speaking softly, a newspaper editor was set free Tuesday after serving five days in jail for publishing alleged transcripts of conversations between top officials.

England

LONDON — The Queen Mother's favorite concert pianist is recovering after muggers slashed his hand with a knife as he returned home after performing for her, police said Tuesday.