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Lebanon's pro-Syrian president refused Saturday to endorse a draft accord sent to him by the Cabinet for creating an international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of a former premier. President Emile Lahoud said the Cabinet of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora had lost its constitutional legitimacy. Lahoud's action was likely to intensify political and sectarian tensions that have worsened since mass protests over the 2005 slaying of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which many have blamed on Syria. The Syrian-backed Hezbollah group and its allies were in the ninth day of street protests launched after talks with Saniora's government failed to produce a national unity government. The groups called for a huge demonstration today.


Mayoral victory may help president

Taiwan's ruling party narrowly won a crucial mayoral election in the southern city of Kaohsiung on Saturday, while the opposition candidate won comfortably in the capital of Taipei in a pair of votes seen by many as a referendum for President Chen Shui-bian. The result in Kaohsiung is likely to boost the position of the corruption-tainted Chen, who has been on the defensive for months over allegations his family and inner circle benefited financially from their proximity to him.


3,000 flee fighting, government says

A daylong artillery exchange Saturday between Sri Lanka's military and Tamil Tiger guerrillas in the island's east drove 3,000 Sinhalese from their villages, a government official said. Rebels said 30 soldiers died in the clashes; the military said two troops had been killed. Both sides accused the other of causing civilian casualties. It was impossible to reconcile the conflicting casualty figures.


New militia killings reported by U.N.

Progovernment janjaweed militiamen killed a shopkeeper and a demonstrator Saturday in a northern Darfur city where the situation remained tense after several days of violence, a U.N. official said. At least 10 people have been killed in El Fasher since the janjaweed looted a market and clashed with former rebels on Monday. The latest violence underscored the worsening situation in Darfur, where 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5-million driven from their homes since fighting erupted in 2003.


Philippines: Thousands of people in an area devastated by a powerful typhoon last week in the eastern Philippines were told to evacuate Saturday after another storm slammed into the central part of the country.

Finland: Alcohol is now the leading killer of Finnish adults, officials said Friday. More than 2,000 people between 15 and 64 were killed by alcohol poisoning or illnesses caused by alcohol consumption last year. Nearly 1,000 died in accidents or violent incidents caused by alcohol.