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World datelines


TORONTO — Nearly two dozen homosexual couples applied for marriage licenses Wednesday, taking advantage of a court ruling that led to Canada's first legal same-sex wedding the day before.


BEIJING — The jailed leader of an evangelical Christian sect has severe health problems as a result of beatings and mistreatment in prison, according to his relatives and supporters. Pastor Gong Shengliang, head of the outlawed South China Church, is suffering from internal bleeding, hearing loss and other problems, an informant inside the Jinzhou prison in Hubei Province told his relatives at the end of May.


LONDON — Burglars have stolen more than 100 gold boxes and other valuable items from the Rothschild Collection of art at Waddesdon Manor in southern England. Neither the police nor Waddesdon would indicate the value of the stolen art. Thames Valley Police said as many as five men, driving a blue van, are believed to have broken into the manor early Tuesday.


EVRY — An Ariane-5 rocket lifted off from its South American base Wednesday and placed two telecommunications satellites into orbit. The rocket placed into orbit an Australian defense and commercial satellite and a Japanese television satellite.


TBILISI — Four U.N. employees kidnapped last week in a secession-minded region of the country were released by their abductors on Tuesday night and returned to the capital on Wednesday. The four — two Germans, a Dane and a Georgian — spent nearly six days in captivity after being taken at gunpoint last Thursday by a group of unknown men in the Kordari Gorge, a remote area divided between Georgian forces and those loyal to leaders of the breakaway region known as Abkhazia.


SCHROZBERG — Two trains collided head on in rural southwestern Germany on Wednesday, killing six people, including a mother and her three children. As many as 25 people were injured when the two trains crashed shortly after noon between the towns of Schrozberg and Niederstetten, west of Nuremberg, according to police and firefighters at the scene.


TEHRAN — Riot police and hard-line vigilantes clashed with teenage demonstrators who denounced supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Wednesday, as protests mushroomed into Iran's biggest in months. Dozens of the hard-liners riding motorbikes chased down about 300 protesters, beating them with sticks in the streets outside a Tehran University dormitory. The protesters chanted "Death to Khamenei" and threw stones at police, who threw them back.


LIMA — President Alejandro Toledo denied Wednesday that terrorism was on the rise, a day after a band of guerrillas released 71 hostages seized at a pipeline construction camp. The president also rejected criticism that the nation's ability to fight insurgencies has been weakened by the recent reform of harsh anti-terrorism laws decreed a decade ago by Peru's authoritarian former President Alberto Fujimori.


WARSAW — Poland's finance minister quit Wednesday in a power struggle over economic reforms, a fresh blow to Prime Minister Leszek Miller's struggling government two days before parliament holds a confidence vote on his government. Grzegorz Kolodko was the 11th minister, and the second finance minister, to quit Miller's 20-month-old left-leaning administration.


DOHA — OPEC producers agreed Wednesday to maintain their current production levels through the end of next month, when they plan to meet again to assess the impact of rising Iraqi oil exports and whether to change output targets.


MOSCOW — A military court sentenced a former Russian intelligence officer on Wednesday to 18 years in prison for espionage on behalf of a U.S. intelligence service. Alexander Zaporozhskiy was arrested in Russia in 2001 and charged with state treason in the form of passing on information about Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service and its officers, said Yevgeniy Komissarov, a spokesman for the Moscow military district court.