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World datelines

Australia

CANBERRA — Nearly sixty detainees in one of Australia's controversial camps for illegal immigrants have sewn up their lips to protest about the length of time it is taking to process visa applications, a government official said. An Immigration Department spokeswoman said some detainees at the country's biggest and most isolated camp, Woomera, located in the South Australian desert, began a hunger strike on Wednesday and urged others to join in.

Ecuador

QUITO — Rescue teams scoured Ecuador's Amazon jungle today for a state oil company plane that disappeared a day earlier with 26 people on board.

England

LONDON — A British baby sitter who shook a baby to death in a fit of temper was jailed for three years and nine months. Linda Bayfield, 54, shook eight-month-old Joshua Osborne so forcefully that blood vessels burst in his eyes and brain, London's Old Bailey court heard. He died in a hospital six days later from severe brain damage.

Gambia

BANJUL — President Yahya Jammeh's ruling party sealed its hold on power in this tiny West African nation, capturing nearly all parliamentary seats in elections boycotted by much of the opposition, the electoral commission said today. Jammeh's ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction party ran uncontested in 33 constituencies and won 12 other seats in Thursday's race, compared to three for the opposition, said Gabriel Roberts, chairman of the independent electoral commission.

Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Haiti's Prime Minister Jean-Marie Cherestal has resigned amid mounting criticism over the government's failure to improve the poor Caribbean country's economy, a government official said today.

Iraq

BAGHDAD — A leading Iraqi newspaper attacked as arrogant President Bush's threat that Iraq would face the consequences if it did not allow United Nations arms inspectors back into the country.

Madagascar

ANTANANARIVO — Around 50,000 people took to the streets of this capital city today, reigniting protests to demand that opposition candidate Marc Ravalomanana be declared winner of presidential polls. Ravalomanana disputes preliminary official results of elections on Dec. 16, which show neither he nor rival President Didier Ratsiraka won an outright majority, necessitating a second round of voting on the island.

Nigeria

LAGOS — Offices and banks reopened and streets were crowded with buses and taxis today after Nigeria's largest labor movement abandoned a debilitating general strike over higher fuel prices. The 29-union Nigeria Labor Congress called off the two-day strike late Thursday after police arrested dozens of union members, including Labor Congress president Adams Oshiomole. He remained in police custody in the capital Abuja, accused of disrupting the peace.

Northern Ireland

BELFAST — Thousands of people took to the streets of Northern Ireland today to demand an end to religious sectarianism and guerrilla threats against workers following an intense period of unrest in the province.

Portugal

MAIA — A nurse who performed abortions in her home was sentenced to eight years and six months in prison in the trial of 42 women accused of violating Portugal's tough laws against abortion. Of a total of 17 women on trial for illegally having their own pregnancies terminated, charges were dropped against one and the remaining 16 had their prison sentences commuted to fines.

Russia

MOSCOW — A Kremlin aide denied today that his office had issued orders to underreport troop casualties in breakaway Chechnya, while rebel attacks continued with a car bombing and an assault on a Chechen mayor.

Spain

MADRID — Spanish authorities are braced for a fresh wave of attacks by Basque guerilla group ETA one day after police defused three parcel bombs sent to journalists, officials said today.

Taiwan

TAIPEI — Premier Chang Chun-hsiung said his cabinet will resign en masse next week in line with traditional constitutional procedure, but declined to say whether he would keep his post.

Zimbabwe

HARARE — White Zimbabwean farmers said violent farm attacks and looting had not stopped despite Western demands that President Robert Mugabe return the country to law and order before March presidential polls.