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World datelines


SYDNEY — As the government squared off against lawyers representing detained illegal immigrants, Prime Minister John Howard announced a plan to offer money and assistance to Afghan asylum seekers if they agree to return home.


PHNOM PENH — A member of a family prominent in Cambodia's ruling political party has become the country's youngest general, attaining his promotion at the age of 28. Yim Leang was promoted from colonel to brigadier general last month and he will lead the bodyguard unit of Chea Sim, president of the Cambodian People's Party and also Senate leader.


SANTIAGO — The government is buying 10 F-16 combat planes for $660 million, brushing aside criticism that such a purchase could trigger an arms race in the region. Defense Minister Michelle Bachelet said the decision to buy the planes from U.S.-based Lockheed Martin Corp. "aims at replacing obsolete equipment, and should not be seen as form of starting an arms race."


BOCHUM — A couple who killed a friend by stabbing him 66 times in a Satanic ritual were given long prison sentences in a case that has fascinated Germany with bizarre details of devil worship. Daniel Ruda, a 26-year-old former car parts salesman, and his 23-year-old wife Manuela had confessed to the killing in their apartment, surrounded by human skulls, cemetery lights, scalpels and incense. A judge here found the local pair guilty of murder and sentenced Daniel to 15 years in jail and Manuela to 13 years, but said the possibility they may kill again meant they might never be released.


CALCUTTA — A fifth Indian policemen died Thursday of injuries received when motorcycle-riding gunmen attacked the U.S. cultural center in Calcutta last week. Four policemen had died during the Jan. 22 attack at the American center.


JAKARTA — The government installed 11 judges who will oversee the much delayed trials of military officers and militiamen allegedly responsible for the destruction of East Timor in 1999.


JERUSALEM — Israeli researchers said they had made progress toward developing what could be a test to detect the gender of a fetus only 16 days after conception. They said a blood test just over two weeks after conception showed significant hormonal variations according to whether the fetus was male or female, but more indicators were needed before their test could be used as a reliable guide.


ROME — The civil aviation authority urged airlines to undertake urgent checks to see if fraudulently certified or sub-standard spare parts had been installed on their aircraft. The move by ENAC followed a large-scale investigation into the suspected fraudulent sale of second-hand aircraft parts to major airlines.


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — President Bush will visit Mexico for the International Conference on Financing for Development on March 22 to hold talks with Mexican President Vicente Fox on border security and other issues, the White House said.


LAGOS— Four days after explosions at a munitions depot here left 600 dead, confusion surrounded the whereabouts of some 1,000 people who Nigerian Red Cross officials said may — or may not — be missing. The Red Cross said it could not account for up to 1,150 people, including many children who had been reported missing since the blasts rocked the northern part of the country's largest city late Sunday.


ANGELES CITY — Philippine troops recovered the body of an American man believed to have been ambushed by communist guerrillas as he and his German companion were climbing a volcano, officials said. The American and his wounded German companion, who was rescued, were believed to have been shot by the guerrillas on Wednesday, perhaps in protest at the joint U.S.-Philippine military exercises in the south.


WASHINGTON — President Bush will hold his next round of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 23 in Moscow and the next two days in St. Petersburg, Russian officials said. Putin repeated Thursday that Moscow wants a new arms control agreement with the United States to be legally binding, irreversible and verifiable.


BASEL — The new national airline will be known simply as SWISS, the company over the financially troubled Swissair said. Crossair Chief Executive Andre Dose announced the new corporate identity at a news conference here. The company will be officially known as Swiss Air Lines Ltd., but it will fly under the trademark SWISS.