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Members of Iraq's parliament loyal to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr ended their five-week boycott Tuesday, but said they can't support legislation on sharing oil revenues.The leader of the 30-member Sadrist bloc saidit was returning because parliament had agreed to the rebuilding of the Shiite mosque in Samarra that twice was bombed by suspected Sunni extremists. But the revenue-sharing bill "is dividing Iraqis," he said, "and we ... want the wealth of our country to unite them."

"At this stage," Israel isn't ready for negotiations on the boundaries of a future Palestinian state, the government said Tuesday in response to President Bush's call for a new peace conference. Syrian leader Bashar Assad also dismissed the proposal as "just words." Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, however, is prepared for immediate talks on all related issues, his spokesman said.

Tough punishments were handed out Tuesday to the defendants in China's slave-labor scandal. An enforcer at a brick kiln that has become the focus of the scandal was sentenced to death for fatally beating one of its workers. The kiln foreman drew a life sentence in prison, and its manager was ordered to spend nine years behind bars. The scandal emerged last month after hundreds of parents complained that their children were being forced to work 18-hour days at kilns in Shanxi, Henan, and other provinces. More trials are expected in the case.

Declaring, "the Ice Age is over," First Minister of Northern Ireland Ian Paisley led a delegation from its new self-rule administration into a meeting Tuesday with top Irish Republic government officials. Analysts said the discussions of the North-South Ministerial Council, focusing on transportation issues, were the final piece of the political transformation in Ulster to fall into place. Paisley, the Protestant leader of Northern Ireland had long rejected cooperation with the republic and once threw snowballs at its visiting prime minister.


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