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Europeans still seeking Mars lander signal

LONDON -- Scientists at a British observatory, listening for a signal from Europe's first Mars lander, failed to determine yesterday if the Beagle 2 arrived on the Red Planet, a government agency said.

 

Queen delivers speech from military barracks

LONDON -- Britain's Queen Elizabeth broke with tradition yesterday and delivered her annual Christmas message from a military barracks to pay tribute British troops in Iraq. Buckingham Palace said it was a first for the queen, who normally makes her Christmas broadcast from inside one of her palaces. This year the queen addressed the nation standing among armored vehicles at the Household Cavalry Barracks in Windsor, southern England. "The men and women of the services continue to face serious risks and dangers as they carry out their duties. They have done this brilliantly," the queen said in her message, interspersed with footage showing her chatting with troops. (Reuters)

COSTA RICA

Temblor kills infant, leaves dozens injured

SAN JOSE -- A strong earthquake shook the border of Costa Rica and Panama early yesterday, killing an infant and leaving dozens of others with mainly minor injuries, authorities said. The magnitude-6.3 temblor struck at 2:11 a.m., disrupting some late-night Christmas parties in Puerto Armuelles and cutting electricity there. Panamanian officials said it was centered about 7 miles northeast of Puerto Armuelles, located on the country's Pacific coast. A 2-week-old girl died when part of her home collapsed in Puerto Armuelles, said Omar Smith, director of operations for Panama's National Civil Protection System. He said at least five other people were injured and three homes were destroyed in the town, which is located a few miles east of the border with Costa Rica. Across the border in the town of Neily, Costa Rica, about 40 people sustained minor injuries from falling objects. (AP)

LIBERIA

Rebels stop UN troops from deploying in area

MONROVIA -- Liberia's biggest rebel faction yesterday stopped UN troops deploying into their territory outside the capital, Monrovia -- the latest setback in a checkered disarmament process. More than 7,000 United Nations soldiers are deployed in the battered West African nation as part of a peace deal meant to end nearly 14 years of civil war, but early attempts to wrest guns from the fighters have been fraught with difficulties. Angry members of the rebel Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy said they had not been informed of the advance into their zone by Pakistani troops. They pledged to block any further attempts. (Reuters)

CHINA

Spending cuts ordered to rein in economy

SHANGHAI -- After years of breakneck growth, China announced steps yesterday to reduce a feared overexpansion in some industries that is causing energy shortages and could lead to financial problems. The Cabinet issued orders to curb spending on construction, factories, and equipment by slowing down approvals for projects, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. (AP)

SPAIN

Police hunt for bomb placed on railway line

MADRID -- Police were searching for a bomb on a railway in northern Spain yesterday, a police source said, a day after suspected Basque separatists were arrested for trying to blow up a train in a Madrid station. Spanish state radio said that according to police sources the pair arrested on Wednesday had placed the bomb on the railway line between Zaragoza and Barcelona. The mayor of Escatron, where the track passes, said police had been told there were explosives on the track and a police source confirmed they were searching the area. (Reuters)

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