El Salvador

SAN SALVADOR — The pro-U.S. candidate in El Salvador's presidential election Sunday easily defeated a former Communist Party guerrilla leader, based on partial official returns. With about 48 percent of ballots counted, Tony Saca of the Nationalist Republican Alliance, or ARENA, had 59.8 percent of the vote, easily enough to avoid a May 2 runoff.


LONDON — Rescuers plucked 40 rowers from the River Thames in London on Sunday after boats competing in a race capsized in strong winds. About 145 boats, each with eight rowers and a coxswain, were participating in the race between Putney and Mortlake in west London when some began taking on water amid strong winds, The Royal National Lifeboat Institute said.


PARIS — Voters dealt a solid blow to France's governing conservatives in Sunday's first round of regional elections, giving the leftist opposition some 40 percent of the vote and boosting the extreme right, according to unofficial results. Exit polls showed the party of President Jacques Chirac receiving 34 percent of the vote, while the extreme right received about 17 percent.


PORT-AU-PRINCE — U.S. Marines shot and wounded two men who failed to stop at a checkpoint in Haiti's volatile capital, a military spokesman said Sunday.


KATMANDU — Nepalese government forces killed as many as 500 rebels, and at least 18 police and soldiers died in some of the fiercest fighting since a cease-fire collapsed last year, officials reported on Sunday. Hundreds of rebels swarmed into Beni, a mountain town 175 miles west of Katmandu, the capital, and battled security forces for nearly 12 hours before being chased away by reinforcements, according to Army Spokesman Col. Deepak Gurung.


LAGOS — Oil giant Royal Dutch/Shell plans to streamline its operations in this West African nation, cutting jobs in a bid to boost oil production by half a million barrels a day. Shell will close some of its Nigerian offices and create "a single corporate center," running a leaner and more efficient organization in the country, the company planned to announce Monday.


WANA — Fighting between Pakistani troops and suspected al-Qaida militants ebbed Sunday as tribal elders said they would try to negotiate an end to the largest battle yet against suspected terrorists along the Afghan frontier. A 25-member council is to begin talks with the militants today under the protection of a white flag, said Brig. Mahmood Shah, chief of security for the tribal area in South Waziristan province.

Saudi Arabia

RIYADH — Seven of 13 Saudi reformists arrested in a crackdown on dissent that brought condemnation from Washington have been released, activists said Sunday. One of those released, Najib al-Khunaizi, said they first had to pledge in writing not to petition for reform of the Saudi system or talk to reporters.


MADRID — Investigators searched Sunday for the place used to assemble the backpack bombs that blew apart four train cars during morning rush hour earlier this month, killing 202 people and wounding more than 1,400. Spain still grieves after the March 11 attacks. Thousands of people, including Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon, crowded the platform of El Pozo train station — where one train was bombed — for a funeral Mass.

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TAIPEI — Leaders of Taiwan's opposition Nationalist Party on Sunday demanded a recount and an investigation into the presidential election they had lost a day earlier, and threatened to keep supporters in the streets until their demands were met. But the government of President Chen Shui-bian rebuffed them, and there were hints that the Nationalists seemed to be losing their enthusiasm for confrontation.


KAMPALA — Government troops backed by helicopter gunships fought fierce battles with rebels in northern Uganda, killing more than 50 insurgents, the army spokesman said Sunday. The fighting took place near the border with Sudan on Saturday as rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army crossed into Uganda, said Maj. Shaban Bantariza.

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