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World datelines

Belarus

MINSK — Nine Belarusian executives, including the heads of some of the nation's largest companies, have been arrested in a government anti-corruption drive the democratic opposition has said is politically motivated.

Brazil

BRASILIA — The Brazilian government said it was investigating whether police tortured a confession from four men who said they murdered New Zealand yachting legend Peter Blake, shot dead in December while on an Amazon River expedition.

Bulgaria

SOFIA — A Bulgarian TV program in which young women disrobe as they deliver the day's top headlines has been suspended, the station said.

Canada

OTTAWA — Canada said Friday it would cut this year's June summit of leaders of the Group of Eight leading nations to two days from three, largely because of its decision to turn the meeting into more of a private retreat.

Colombia

LOS POZOS — A U.N. peace envoy met FARC guerrillas in a rebel enclave in a last-ditch attempt to stop Colombia from spiraling into all-out war when a Saturday night deadline expires.

BOGOTA — Left-wing guerrillas shot dead a mayor in northeast Colombia in the second slaying of a municipal official this year, the army said.

Ecuador

QUITO — A high school student died in Ecuadorean street protests against a government fuel price increase that student and union groups say is choking the poor, police said.

Egypt

CAIRO — A large fishing vessel sank off the Red Sea coast and 40 crew members were missing, police said. The Egyptian-registered ship had been fishing in the Red Sea waters for a few days and did not send any distress signals, police said.

England

LONDON — Hundreds of mourners packed a small church in northwest England for the funeral of a father and son who drowned on a fishing trip after being trapped by a swift incoming tide.

France

PARIS — Between 4,000 and 5,000 lawyers dressed in black robes demonstrated at the Justice Ministry, protesting parliament's failure to increase funding for court-appointed lawyers.

Germany

BERLIN — Germany's conservatives chose a state governor with a rightist image and strong economic credentials Friday to challenge Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, ending months of wavering over their political direction heading into September parliamentary elections.

BERLIN — The former leader of Germany's far-right National Democratic Party has been charged with incitement of racial hatred, prosecutors in the southern city of Mannheim said.

Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE — A Paris-based advocacy group asked countries that respect freedom of the press to put pressure on Haiti with steps including freezing the assets of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, saying his government wields an official policy of press repression.

Lebanon

BEIRUT — Lebanon rejected a call by the United States to crack down on the militant Hezbollah movement, and the guerrillas vowed to continue attacks against Israeli troops in a disputed border region.

Macedonia

TETOVO — In a fresh sign of tensions in this troubled Balkan country, a former ethnic Albanian rebel commander issued a statement saying the militants were reorganizing because of government inaction on a peace accord.

Russia

MOSCOW — Russian prosecutors released a top executive of natural gas giant Gazprom but kept two other officials in custody as they probed the shadowy finances of the country's largest company, a news report said.

VLADIKAVKAZ — Russian helicopters rocketed rebel camps in breakaway Chechnya's southeast and closed off roads to a southern district's capital to allow troops to root out militants, officials said.

Somalia

MOGADISHU — Rival armed factions fought pitched battles in a breakaway Somali region cited by U.S. analysts as a possible haven for militants linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network, witnesses said.

Zimbabwe

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Zimbabwe said it would accept international observers for a March 9-10 presidential election but strictly on its own terms, and it rejected European Union criticism of its human rights record.