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The second test-firing of a high-speed torpedo in two days was conducted by Iranian Navy units and the Islamic republic promised more missile launchings Tuesday during war games in the Persian Gulf. A spokesman said, "We are going to have very important news that will make our nation proud in the next few days." Iranian officials boast that the new torpedo is so fast it can't be tracked or escaped by enemy submarines or warships. Meanwhile, Britain's Defense Ministry denied a published report that it was to meet Monday with officials of the government on participating in a possible US-led military strike against Iran's nuclear facilites.

A dispute arose between Hamas and French officials over whether they have discussed recognizing the militant organization as the legitimate government of the Palestinians. France's ambassador to Israel said Monday: "We don't have any contact with the Hamas [and] we won't" until it renounces violence, recognizes the Jewish state, and abides by interim peace agreements. But a Hamas spokesman said such talks had been held in the Gaza Strip "two months ago," and The Jerusa-lem Post also reported that secret contacts between France and Hamas had been established. The newspaper said Israeli officials suspect that India, Japan, and China soon will recognize the Hamas-led Palestinian government formally.

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Four more people died in clashes between police and Kurdish demonstrators in Turkey as rioting spread to Istanbul, the nation's largest city. The latest casualties occurred there Sunday night when protesters threw a Molotov cocktail at a bus, causing it to crash, and a bomb went off in a crowded square. Istanbul is home to hundreds of thousands of ethnic Kurds, many of them relocated there in a "forced migration" that grew out of the violent campaign for separatism in the 1990s by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Newspaper editorials Monday blamed the new trouble on the PKK, claiming that to ensure its own survival it must keep tensions high.

With the clock winding down until his first appearance before a special war-crimes tribunal, ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor and defense attorneys were finalizing plans to argue that the court has no jurisdiction over him. The tribunal is in neighboring Sierra Leone, where Taylor is accused of exporting his own nation's civil war. But as head of state at the time he was immune from indictment, the lawyers said. Another aide said Taylor felt betrayed by Nigerian leaders who'd granted him exile, but then encouraged him to flee their country and abandoned him to be arrested last week.

Organizers of Tuesday's protest against the new French youth-employment law said they expect a turnout of at least 1 million people, despite the imminent spring break for students. "We are on the verge of victory; the determination of youth is at a high level," one leader said. Student representatives, he said, were willing to meet with members of parliament on proposed amendments to the law but any talks must go beyond the concessions offered by President Jacques Chirac: cutting by half the length of time in which an employee under 26 may be fired and requiring that he or she be told the reason for dismissal. In a poll taken since Chirac spoke to the nation on the matter last week, 62 percent said they found his address unconvincing.

Despite a five-day absence from public view, newly reelected Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko "is alive and feels fine," an aide said. But opponents suggested that the authoritarian leader is ill and still rattled by the vehemence of protests against his one-sided March 19 victory - and "they are trying to hide it." Luka-shenko has been seen only twice since then on TV broadcasts, which usually carry long daily reports on his activities. His inauguration, scheduled for last Friday, was postponed without explanation until this weekend.


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