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Forty-two million people are eligible to vote in today's presidential election in Iran, and late opinion polls showed the heaviest turnout is likely in the 16-to-20 age bracket, making its first trip to the polls. In a sign of that age group's significance, the powerful conservative Guardian Council accused incumbent Mohamad Khatami's campaign of "massive irregularities," such as encouraging young people to engage in street protests. Khatami is expected to win a second term with ease.

A survivor of the shooting spree that killed most members of Nepal's royal family blamed the attack on a heavily intoxicated Crown Prince Dipendra. But Army Capt. Rajiv Shahi, a member of the family by marriage, didn't comment on speculation that the attack was prompted by a row over Dipendra's marriage plans. Dipendra died later of a self-inflicted wound.

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In a backlash against ethnic-Albanians, rioting Macedonian Slavs burned and looted a Muslim mosque and dozens of business and homes - among them the residence of a low-level government minister. Reports said at least 14 people were hurt, some of them as Albanians used guns to defend their property. The violence in Bitola, a southern city, deepened tensions as the government considered a declaration of war against the insurgents. Above, gypsies carry off belongings from one of the targeted houses.

Unless outside mediators are allowed into negotiations between hostage-takers and the Philippine government by Sunday, three Americans will be beheaded, the captors warned. The Abu Sayyaf rebel demand was rejected by President Arroyo. The rebels want two Malaysians who participated in similar negotiations last year. Previous threats against American hostages weren't carried out, but the rebels have killed Filipino captives in that fashion.

In overwhelming numbers, refugees from East Timor have chosen to stay in the Indonesian half of their divided island rather than return home, reports said. The refugees were obliged this week to declare their preferences in a UN-supervised registration in camps in West Timor where many of them have lived for almost two years. East Timor remains under UN administration until independence is fully achieved, probably early next year.

In its first public comment since its political wing absorbed a stinging election defeat last month, Spain's ETA Basque separatist movement vowed to redouble attacks against "all politicians" and journalists who "participate in the oppression" of the ethnic group's "homeland." ETA spokesmen said the Euskal Herritarrok Party lost half of its seats in a regional legislature due to "fear and weakness" among opponents of Basque independence.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor


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