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Israel blows up bomber's house

Israeli forces briefly raided the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Friday and blew up the home of a Palestinian suicide bomber, an uncharacteristically restrained response to a Jerusalem bus bombing that killed 10 Israelis and wounded more than 50.

Israeli officials said they were tempering their reaction because any retaliation that worsens the plight of Palestinians "is not effective." The restraint also appeared to be an effort by Israel not to anger U.S. officials or invite international criticism ahead of a court case on its West Bank security barrier.

The suicide bombing Thursday ripped apart a bus as it passed near Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's official residence. The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, initially claimed responsibility.

However, Hamas said Friday it sent the bomber, a Palestinian police officer from the Aida refugee camp on the outskirts of Bethlehem. If true, it could mark the beginning of a new round of attacks by the Islamic militant group, which had not carried out a bombing in Israel in nearly six months amid discussions of a possible Palestinian cease-fire with Israel.

Afghanistan blast appears to have been an accident

KABUL, Afghanistan _ The explosion of a weapons cache that killed seven _ and perhaps eight _ U.S. soldiers in a remote village south of Kabul on Thursday was probably an accident, Lt. Col. Matthew Beevers said Friday.

There were no indications of enemy activity in the area, and no explosive device or booby trap had been found, he said.

Seven soldiers were killed and three soldiers and an Afghan interpreter were wounded in the blast. An eighth man is listed "whereabouts unknown," said Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty.

Iran hard-liners reinstate disqualified candidates

TEHRAN, Iran _ Iran's hard-line Guardian Council on Friday reinstated a third of the candidates it disqualified from next month's legislative elections but rejected calls by liberals to postpone the vote.

A leading reformist said the vote would still be undemocratic with the limited reinstatements and threatened a mass boycott by liberal politicians.

"The council statement means there is no option left for us but to boycott this sham election," said Saeed Shariati, a leader of the biggest reformist party, Islamic Iran Participation Front.

Pakistanis warn they might fire on U.S. troops

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan _ A hard-line Islamic coalition warned Friday that Pakistani tribesmen might fire on American troops if the United States extends a planned spring offensive against Afghan rebels into Pakistan.

Such a move would be a "historic mistake," said Riaz Durrani of the opposition coalition Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal, which controls two Pakistani provinces bordering Afghanistan.

A U.S. official hinted this week a planned effort to step up the hunt for Taliban or al-Qaida fugitives at the end of winter could go into Pakistan. For the past two years, thousands of U.S. forces have been operating in Afghanistan but say they haven't crossed the frontier.

Elsewhere . . .

CANADA COURT BACKS SPANKING: Parents can legally spank their children, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Friday. By a 6-3 vote, the justices upheld Section 43 of the Criminal Code, which allows parents and authority figures to use "reasonable force" on children under their care.

PERU'S VICE PRESIDENT RESIGNS: Peru's Vice President Raul Diez Canseco resigned Friday, two months after a scandal erupted on allegations he gave a tax break to a girlfriend's father.

Diez Canseco, 55, was elected as one of Peru's two vice presidents on President Alejandro Toledo's 2001 ticket.

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