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Two holdout rebel factions from Darfur were under intense pressure to sign the new peace accord with Sudan's government by the midnight Wednesday deadline, but it appeared that one of them would refuse. A spokesman for the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said his group was adamant that its demands for changes to the deal be met and wasn't worried about economic or political sanctions if it failed to sign. The African Union, which mediated the agreement, said it couldn't be changed. JEM and a breakaway faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement are believed to want better compensation for victims of the Darfur conflict and expanded roles in government. The main Sudan Liberation Movement is the only rebel group that has signed so far.

The Gaza Strip and Palestinian areas of the West Bank braced for possible new internal unrest as their Hamas-led government retreated from a promise to make long-overdue salary payments to more than 150,000 civil servants. The government said Tuesday that payments would begin soon. But the Finance Ministry conceded Wed-nesday that only enough money had been raised to cover about 40,000 of the lowest-paid employees - and then only for one month. Reports said most of those are security police. Hamas has rejected Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's call to renounce violence and recognize Israel, the steps necessary to resume the flow of international economic aid.

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An uneasy calm was reported in East Timor's capital Wednesday as hundreds more foreign peacekeepers arrived to help stem the mob violence that has flared for almost a week. But a spokeswoman for private humanitarian aid agencies operating there estimated that at least 100,000 Dili residents had fled their homes for the safety of internal refugee camps. A leader of the dissident soldiers behind much of the trouble said it wouldn't end until Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri resigns or is fired. But Alkatiri told the BBC he intended to stay in office until next year's elections for a new parliament.

Nine more police officers were hurt and a dozen cars were firebombed in a second straight night of rioting by youths in northern suburbs of Paris. The violence did not appear to be on the scale of Monday's clashes, which stemmed from the arrest of a suspect in the beating of a bus driver. But 13 people were arrested, and opposition leaders and other critics accused the government of failing to calm tensions left from last November's street violence. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said the new trouble was orchestrated rather than spontaneous.

Extending his influence wider across Latin America, Vene-zuela's controversial leftist president stepped into the vacuum in Ecuador left by US oil giant Occidental Petroleum and signed a series of energy deals with the government in Quito. Ecuador evicted Occidental last month, accusing it of violating the terms of its oil-extraction contract. The US responded by calling off negotiations for a free-trade agreement. The deals signed Tuesday by Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and his counterpart, Alfredo Palacios, call for refining Ecuadorean crude at a discount and for expanding Ecuador's own limited refining capacity. Chávez previously reached energy deals with Cuba and Bolivia.

Security police fired tear gas and water cannon at an estimated 500,000 striking high-school students in Santiago, Chile, Tuesday in one of the largest public protests there since the early 1970s. More than a dozen people were hurt, and about 600 demonstrators were arrested. The students, some of them from the same private school that President Michelle Bachelet's daughter attends, were demanding that the government spend more of its budget surplus from copper exports to repair rundown facilities, hire additional teachers, eliminate exam fees, and subsidize bus fares. Students also held sit-ins at schools across the nation and staged smaller rallies in Valparaiso and other cities.


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