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Turkey's Parliament voted Saturday to end a more than 80-year-old ban on women wearing head scarves at universities, acknowledging the rising influence of conservative Islam in the most determinedly secular republic of the Muslim world.

Tens of thousands of secular Turks marched in the capital, Ankara, against lifting the ban. Many brandished portraits of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who founded modern Turkey in 1923 with the goal of making it a Westernized, secular republic.

"Turkey is secular and will remain secular," the protesters chanted.

"This is catastrophic," Aylin Tok, a woman with uncovered hair, said in a busy shopping district in Istanbul. "We are in a minority now," she said.

Ataturk, still revered even by many conservative Muslims, outlawed the wearing of Islamic attire at universities and in public offices.

Crucially, Turkey's military made no immediate objection to the result. Turks long have regarded generals as the guardians of Ataturk's secular vision.


U.N. wasted millions in Sudan, auditors say

The United Nations has wasted tens of millions of dollars in its peacekeeping operations in Sudan over the past three years, say findings of U.N. auditors examining the financial practices of the global body's overseas missions.

U.N. officers in Sudan have squandered millions by renting warehouses that were never used, booking blocks of hotel rooms that were never filled, and losing thousands of food rations to theft and spoilage, according to several internal audits by the U.N. Office for International Oversight Services.

One U.N. purchasing agent has been accused of steering a $589,000 contract for airport runway lights to a company that helped his wife obtain a student visa, while two senior procurement officials from the United States and New Zealand have been accused of misconduct by a U.N. panel for not complying with rules designed to prevent corruption.

Investigators also detected "a number of potential fraud indicators and cases of mismanagement and waste."


Government sets a timetable for elections

Myanmar's military government on Saturday announced a timetable for what it calls its "road map to democracy," scheduling a referendum on a proposed constitution for May and elections for 2010.

The elections would be the first since 1990, when the military ignored the results of a landslide victory for the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy leader who is under house arrest.

State-controlled media in Myanmar quoted Lt. Gen. Tin Aung Myint Oo, a top member of the country's governing junta, saying that peace and stability had been restored to the country and that "multiparty, democratic elections" would be held in 2010.


Earthquake shakes up Baja California region

A moderate earthquake rocked Baja California, shutting down factories near the U.S. border and leaving 400,000 people without power into early Saturday, authorities said.

However, no major damage or injuries were reported.

The Friday afternoon quake had a magnitude of 5.1, said the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo. It was centered 20 miles southeast of the border city of Mexicali and about 100 miles east of Tijuana. It was followed by at least 25 smaller aftershocks

Electricity and cellular services were restoredabout 4 a.m. local time, said fire Capt. Rene Rosado, director of civil defense in Mexicali.


Genetically modified corn crops are banned

The French government on Saturday suspended the use of genetically modified corn crops in France while it awaits European Union approval for a full ban.

The order formalized France's announcement Jan. 11 that it would suspend cultivation of Monsanto's MON810, the only type of genetically modified corn now allowed in the country.

Environmental groups and antiglobalization activists had long pushed for an order suspending use of genetically modified corn, but some agricultural interests opposed the push.


Fire rips though landmark market

A major fire tore through London's famous Camden market late Saturday, fire officials said.

There were no immediate reports of any casualties.