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World in brief

Leaders reach deal for Ottawa to spend much more on health care

By wire services
Published September 17, 2004

TORONTO - Prime Minister Paul Martin gained a major victory for his flagging government early Thursday by reaching an agreement with provincial and territorial leaders that would substantially increase federal spending for Canada's ailing $60-billion national health care system.

After three days of contentious negotiations, the officials agreed to send $14-billion in federal money over six years to the 13 provinces and territories that administer health care, with guarantees of 6 percent annual increases through 2015.

Still, the agreement will fall short of fulfilling Martin's pledges in the recent campaign to "fix the system for a generation," since the increases will barely keep up with rising costs.

GAY MARRIAGE: Manitoba became the fourth Canadian province to legalize same-sex marriage when a judge on Thursday declared the province's current definition of marriage unconstitutional. Courts legalized gay marriage in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec in 2003 and in the Yukon territory in July.

Gitmo detainee deal reported

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - A lawyer for an American-born terror suspect said Thursday that a deal had been tentatively reached with the U.S. government that will send the man to Saudi Arabia and spare him prosecution after being held more than two years without charge.

Yaser Esam Hamdi, who grew up in Saudi Arabia, could become the first American classified as an enemy combatant to renounce his citizenship to avoid prosecution. John Novatsky, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, said negotiations were still under way.

Sherpa to keep Everest record

KATMANDU, Nepal - A Sherpa guide who sprinted up Mount Everest in eight hours and 10 minutes will keep the record for the fastest climb up the world's highest peak, Nepalese mountaineering officials said Thursday.

Rival mountaineers had challenged Pemba Dorjee's claim that he beat the previous record by more than 21/2 hours, saying the weather was poor the day Dorjee scaled the peak. On Thursday, Tourism Ministry official Shanker Pandey said a government committee concluded that Dorjee, 26, had produced enough evidence to back his claim.

The climb is more than 2 miles: from Everest's 17,380-foot base camp to its 29,035-foot summit. It usually takes about four days.

In diplomacy . . .

SUDAN: The United States on Thursday toned down a resolution on Sudan to win support from China, Russia and other U.N. Security Council members who fear the threat of sanctions against Khartoum could complicate efforts to end the looting and killing in the Darfur region. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for urgent action to stop the attacks.

NORTHERN IRELAND: Northern Ireland's rival politicians face "a moment of decision" in their six-year struggle to forge a stable Catholic-Protestant government, Prime Minister Tony Blair declared Thursday as he launched a high-stakes round of talks. Negotiations scheduled to last through Saturday at England's Leeds Castle are supposed to establish whether the outlawed Irish Republican Army will disarm and disband in support of the Good Friday peace accord of 1998.

[Last modified September 17, 2004, 02:35:25]

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