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Digest

8 killed as Mideast fighting persists

By TIMES WIRES
Published May 19, 2007


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GAZA STRIP 

Israeli warplanes pummeled Hamas targets Friday in a stepped-up campaign against militants firing rockets into southern Israel, while Palestinian factions battled with automatic weapons and grenades at a Gaza university.

Battles between Fatah and Hamas remained less intense than the heavy fighting two days earlier, but a truce agreement Thursday enjoyed no more success than previous cease-fires declared this week.

The infighting that began Sunday has killed more than 50 Palestinians, while the death toll from Israeli attacks rose to 20 as airstrikes killed eight people Friday. The Israeli missiles were retaliation for Hamas rocket attacks on people in southern Israel.

FRANCE

New president names smaller, mixed cabinet

President Nicolas Sarkozy unveiled a diverse, streamlined Cabinet on Friday, appointing leftists, centrists, an unprecedented number of women and France's first powerful minister of North African descent.

The center-right president had promised that his government would be run by a talented "dream team." Seven women were named to the Cabinet, reduced from 30 to 15 ministries.

Elsewhere

RUSSIA: President Vladimir Putin, emboldened by Russia's vast oil and gas wealth, bluntly rejected European criticism of his crackdown on political foes, saying Friday at a summit with European Union leaders that "like it or not" they would have to accept Russia as a partner.

CHINA: The government on Friday rejected criticism it is not wielding its influence with Sudan to stop bloodshed in Darfur and said attempts to use the conflict to politicize the 2008 Olympics in Beijing will fail.

VATICAN CITY: A Vatican official confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI plans to loosen restrictions on celebrating the old Latin Mass, reviving a rite that was essentially swept away by the revolutionary reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

INDIA: A bomb ripped through a historic mosque Friday in Hyderabad in south India, and 13 people were killed, 11 in the blast and two in subsequent clashes between angry worshipers and security forces, police said. Authorities across India were told to be alert for any signs of Hindu-Muslim fighting, and top officials called for calm.

AFGHANISTAN: Airstrikes targeted a convoy of suspected Taliban militants in western Afghanistan, killing 14, a provincial governor said Friday.

KAZAKHSTAN: Parliament approved a constitutional amendment Friday that would waive term limits for President Nursultan Nazarbayev, allowing him to seek to stay in office indefinitely. Nazarbayev, 66, has led the nation for 17 years.

[Last modified May 19, 2007, 02:05:07]


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