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Canadian drug plan would hurt U.S. consumers

Canadian health officials are drafting a proposal to prevent Internet pharmacies from selling mail-order prescription drugs to U.S. consumers, a spokesman said Wednesday, a move that would essentially kill a $700-million industry that has become increasingly popular with patients south of the border.

The three-pronged measure being considered by Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh would prevent Canadian doctors from countersigning prescriptions for U.S. patients without examining them in person, spokesman Ken Polk said.

It also would prohibit prescriptions for foreigners who are not present in Canada and create a list banning certain drugs that are widely used by Canadians from being exported, Polk said.

A proposal was expected to be presented to Prime Minister Paul Martin's cabinet this month.

Official: Israel willing to hand off security

TEL AVIV, Israel _ Israel is prepared to hand responsibility for security in the Gaza Strip and the main population centers of the West Bank to a newly elected Palestinian leadership as soon as it is able to handle the task, Israel's defense minister said Wednesday.

"The moment they can take responsibility over certain areas I am willing to give them this responsibility _ it could be Gaza, it could be areas in the West Bank, population centers like Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin and Hebron," Shaul Mofaz said.

"We're willing to do it as soon as they are ready," he said, which could be months before Israel dismantles its settlements in Gaza by the end of 2005.

What Israel wanted in return, he said, was "100 percent effort to break the cycle of terrorist activity and dismantle the terrorist groups." It could not happen all at once, he conceded freely, but it was the consistent effort by a committed Palestinian partner that really mattered. "I believe they can do it step by step, not in one day or one week," he said.

9-year-old boy in Vietnam dies of bird flu

HANOI, Vietnam _ A 9-year-old boy in Vietnam has died of bird flu, bringing the number of people in the country killed by the virus to 21, a doctor said Wednesday.

The boy from the southern Mekong Delta province of Tra Vinh was admitted to the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City early Tuesday morning and died later that day, hospital deputy director Tran Tinh Hien said.

Avian influenza is caused by a flu virus that normally infects only birds. In people, the symptoms of the H5N1 bird flu range from those typical of the flu _ fever, cough, sore throat and muscle aches _ to eye infections, pneumonia, acute breathing problems and other severe complications.

Colombian rebel leader held without bail

WASHINGTON _ A Colombian rebel leader in U.S. custody on federal drug and terrorism charges was ordered held without bail Wednesday pending a trial.

Ricardo Palmera, 54, the first leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia to face prosecution in the United States, appeared in U.S. District Court.