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World dateline briefs

Afghanistan

KABUL — Butchers with long knives sacrificed 12 cows in the courtyard of Afghanistan's presidential palace Monday to atone for the delay in destroying two giant statues of Buddha. The cows were the first of 100 that were ordered killed throughout the country by the Taliban's reclusive leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar.

Benin

DJREGBE — A second candidate withdrew Monday from Benin's planned presidential election poll this week, plunging the West African country's electoral process into deeper chaos.

China

BEIJING — The suspect blamed for a series of blasts that killed 108 people in northern China was already on the run for allegedly murdering a woman in the nation's south, the government-run China Daily said Monday.

Cuba

HAVANA — In his first direct challenge to President Bush's new administration, Cuban President Fidel Castro has announced that the island was producing U.S. patented AIDS drugs and threatened to manufacture other U.S. products for export.

England

BIRMINGHAM — A British couple fighting for custody of American twins they found through the Internet returned to court Monday but expected no final decision on the future of the infant girls.

Guyana

GEORGETOWN — Some voters wore T-shirts Monday with the slogan, "My vote must count," worried that they may be kept from casting ballots in an election that has revived divisions between those of African and East Indian descent.

Iran

TEHRAN — Five convicted drug traffickers were publicly executed in the Iranian capital Monday for making and distributing heroin.

Ireland

DUBLIN — Former Irish prime minister Charles Haughey, 75, was in critical but stable condition in a Dublin hospital Monday after collapsing at his home in the early hours, officials said.

Italy

MILAN — Police said on Monday they were investigating possible political motives behind the macabre theft of the body of legendary banker Enrico Cuccia, considered the father of Italian capitalism.

Netherlands

THE HAGUE — Three Bosnian Serb former camp commanders accused of killing, torturing, raping and beating hundreds of Muslims and Croats at a notorious detention unit in 1992 went on trial for war crimes Monday.

Papua New Guinea

PORT MORESBY — Papua New Guinea's prime minister, Sir Mekere Morauta, urged rebel soldiers to surrender their weapons on Monday as local media reported an army mutiny was spreading.

Philippines

MANILA — Ousted leader Joseph Estrada appealed to the Philippines' Supreme Court on Monday to reverse its ruling that declared he is no longer president and stripped him of immunity from prosecution.

Russia

MOSCOW — A Russian official said Monday the stewardess who died in the hijacking of a Russian plane was killed by a gunshot that may have been fired by the Saudi rescuers who stormed the plane and not by the hijackers.

Taiwan

TAIPEI — A small fire closed a Taiwanese nuclear power plant, but there were no radiation leaks, officials said Monday.

Ukraine

KIEV — A Soviet-designed military helicopter crashed in southern Ukraine Monday, killing eight people on board, including the crew, the defense ministry said.

Vietnam

HO CHI MINH CITY — The elderly chairman of a dissident Buddhist sect says he was detained and beaten for 30 hours in communist Vietnam over the weekend but has been allowed to return home under police guard.