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French, US forces deploy outside capital

French troops have begun moving into rebel-controlled parts of northern Haiti while US special forces expand their presence in the center and south, the head of the Miami-based US Southern Command said yesterday. The deployment of international forces outside the capital represents a significant shift in the campaign to quash weeks of widespread political violence that led to the Feb. 29 departure of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. (Knight-Ridder)

FRANCE

Suspicious package, threat shut rail line

PARIS -- A stretch of rail line used by Eurostar trains heading to Britain was closed off yesterday after the discovery of a suspicious package, France's train operator said. Police received a threat by telephone, and a subsequent search turned up a suspicious package near a high-speed line north of Paris, said France's rail network, the SNCF. Police have called in bomb disposal specialists. Eurostar train services between Paris and London were delayed because of the alert, but no trains have been canceled, the company said yesterday. (AP)

MALAYSIA

Former prime minister backs Kerry candidacy

PUTRAJAYA -- The former Malaysian prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, endorsed Democratic contender John F. Kerry in the US presidential race yesterday, saying he would keep the world safer than President Bush. "I think Kerry would be much more willing to listen to the voices of people and of the rest of the world," Mahathir, who retired in October after 22 years in power, said in an interview. "But in the US, the Jewish lobby is very strong, and any American who wants to become president cannot change the policy toward Palestine radically," he said. In a statement last night, the Kerry campaign rejected the endorsement, describing Mahathir as "an avowed anti-Semite whose views are totally deplorable. The world needs leaders who seek to bring people together, not drive them apart." (AP)

GEORGIA

Leader lifts blockade, easing regional crisis

BATUMI -- President Mikhail Saakashvili yesterday defused the worst crisis since he came to power, lifting an economic blockade on the rebellious Adzhara region in return for more of a say in local affairs. The five-day standoff between central government and the Adzhara region had threatened to spill into armed conflict, blocked oil shipments from the port of Batumi, and highlighted strained relations with former Soviet master Russia. Washington has been watching, eager to see Georgia independent of Russia but concerned that nothing disrupt the construction of a new Western pipeline to deliver oil from the Caspian Sea directly to the Mediterranean Sea. (Reuters)

SPAIN

Incoming leader seeks to legalize gay unions

MADRID -- Spain will legalize gay unions, although it may not call them marriages, incoming prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said yesterday. He did not set a time-frame for the move. "We are going to present a bill to set gay unions on the same footing as marriage," he said in an interview on Spain's Telecinco TV channel. (Reuters)

MEXICO

Governor of Oaxaca is injured in ambush

MEXICO CITY -- The governor of Mexico's Oaxaca state escaped with minor injuries yesterday after unidentified gunmen ambushed his car in an attack that caused jitters in the country's financial markets. Governor Jose Murat came under fire as he drove to a breakfast meeting in the state capital, suffering minor injuries to his left hand and right leg. He was treated at a hospital and released. Murat, 54, is a senior member of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which ruled Mexico for seven decades before it was ousted in historic elections in 2000. (Reuters)

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