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West Bank talks held amid violence

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators held talks Wednesday against a backdrop of violence to try to iron out disagreements over the promised pullback of Israeli troops from the West Bank.

Israeli soldiers clashed with about 200 Palestinians protesting the demolition of three Palestinian homes in the West Bank just hours before the talks began. Soldiers sealed off several Palestinian villages in a hunt for suspects in the ambush-style shooting of a Jewish settler Tuesday night.

Women wearing long traditional robes screamed at heavily armed, but outnumbered, Israeli border police who guarded the workers tearing down the homes. Men scuffled with the officers, kicking and pushing them. Israeli officials said the buildings lacked the necessary permits.

The police kept their fingers on the triggers of their assault rifles but did not open fire. One officer was struck in the head by a rock and was led away, blood seeping from under a bandage.

Despite the clashes, peace negotiators said they were determined to end the deadlock over implementing the Wye River land-for-security agreement, under which Israel must withdraw from another 11 percent of the West Bank in two stages.

Negotiations have made some progress, reaching tentative agreement on starting the implementation of the Wye agreement at the beginning of September. Under this timetable, the first troop pullback would begin a month later.

But they are still at loggerheads over when the final phase of the pullback should be completed.

Clinton to visit

Canada in October

WASHINGTON _ President Clinton will travel to Canada for a working visit Oct. 8, the White House announced Wednesday.

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien invited Clinton to attend a conference on federalism in Quebec; other details of the trip were still being worked out.

Clinton paid a two-day state visit to Ottawa in February 1995.

Ship drops off immigrants

on Canadian beach

SANDSPIT, British Columbia _ A ship dropped off about 150 illegal Asian immigrants on a windswept Canadian beach Wednesday before being intercepted by Canadian authorities.

Amid choppy water and heavy fog, the ship slipped past police to an isolated beach on the southernmost island of the Queen Charlotte chain, about 500 miles north of Vancouver along Canada's Pacific coast.

The passengers were forced off and the boat sped away. "It appears that the individuals were made to load off the ship and make their way to the beach. It's likely they had to swim," said Tracey Rook of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Officials were working to try to get the group, which included women and children, off the beach quickly as the cold, windy and foggy weather worsened. The immigrants, none of whom were reported injured, were all thought to be from China.

The ship was intercepted by a military plane. A police boat seized the vessel, arresting eight Koreans on board.

German being retried

in Iranian sex case

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates _ A German businessman went back on trial Wednesday on charges of having sex with an unmarried Iranian woman, after having a previous death sentence annulled.

There were no details from the first day of the retrial of Helmut Hofer, and neither officials nor defense lawyers would comment on the two-hour session in Tehran.

Germany has maintained that Hofer should have been released, and has warned Tehran that relations will be damaged if the 56-year-old businessman is sentenced to death.

Hofer was first sentenced to be hanged in January 1998 for having sex with a 26-year-old law student. Under Iranian law, sex outside marriage is punishable by flogging, but if the man is not Muslim, he faces the death penalty.

Iran's Justice Ministry ordered a retrial after Hofer insisted he had converted to Islam before he had sex with the woman. However, he was again convicted and sentenced to death.

In February, the Supreme Court annulled the death sentence and ordered a second retrial. He was freed on bail pending trial but was rearrested at the beginning of the month when officials feared he would flee the country.