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World datelines


BEIJING — As China confirmed two more SARS cases Thursday, the World Health Organization called for reducing the number of virus samples around the globe to prevent laboratory infections like the one apparently responsible for China's latest outbreak. The mother and aunt of an infected nurse are the latest confirmed SARS cases, the Ministry of Health said.


LONDON — Prime Minister Tony Blair's senior colleagues on Thursday sought to crush speculation that he's planning to quit, insisting that he wants to serve another term. Rumors that Blair intends to step down after the next election have circulated for months and are routinely dismissed by his office.


PARIS — Ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries are likely to discuss a possible increase in their targeted prices for crude when they meet next in June, Qatar's oil minister said Thursday.


JAKARTA — Police re-arrested a militant cleric Friday who allegedly heads the al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah terror group, whisking him away to question him about a series of deadly bombings. Indonesian authorities said earlier this week that Abu Bakar Bashir would be freed Friday after serving an 18-month term for minor immigration offenses. But around 6:30 a.m. local time, police grabbed him from his cell and brought him to police headquarters.


KOSTANAI — A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying a U.S.-Russian-Dutch crew returned to Earth on Friday from the international space station, landing on target in the steppes of Kazakhstan. The snug Soyuz TMA-3 capsule carried American astronaut Michael Foale and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri, who spent some six months on the ISS, and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers of the Netherlands, who was returning after a nine-day mission on the station.


TILALI — Just days after Indians in Peru's Andes beat their mayor to death, 800 people in Tilali near Lake Titicaca took five aldermen hostage Thursday after their mayor fled in fear of his life. On Monday, hundreds of villagers from Ilave — near the highland lake and about 565 miles southeast of the capital, Lima — killed Mayor Cirilo Fernando Robles after accusing him of corruption. Rioters then rampaged through the town, attacking a police station with fire bombs.


WARSAW — About 3,000 anti-globalization activists marched Thursday against a European economic summit, protesting capitalism, unemployment and the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Police barriers kept protesters several hundred yards away from the hotel where hundreds of business and political leaders, including some 20 heads of state or government, attended the second day of a conference on the future of the expanded European Union. No arrests were reported.

South Korea

SEOUL — South Korea's Red Cross will send medicine, blankets and other aid to North Korea in the first cargo flight ever allowed into the communist state from the South as part of relief efforts following last week's deadly train blast. The government also said Thursday it will send a separate shipment next week with $25 million in building materials and other goods for the northern town of Ryongchon, where the April 22 train explosion killed at least 161 people and destroyed thousands of homes.


PATTANI — Thailand sent reinforcements into the Muslim-dominated south on Thursday to guard against retaliatory attacks after suicidal raids on security outposts by Islamic militants killed 113 people in the kingdom's bloodiest carnage in years.


ANKARA — Ignoring the pleas of his 14-year-old daughter to spare her life, Mehmet Halitogullari pulled on a wire wrapped around her neck and strangled her — supposedly to restore the family's honor after she was kidnapped and raped. Nuran Halitogullari, buried Thursday in a ceremony attended by women's rights advocates, is the latest victim in a long history of "honor" killings.

Vatican City

Pope John Paul II told American churchmen Thursday that bishops must strive for personal holiness and a lifestyle imitating "the poverty of Christ. The pursuit of personal holiness must be central to the life and identity of every bishop," he said.