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ITALY

Gadhafi touts Islam to women in Rome

ROME | Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi gave a lesson on Islam and copies of the Koran to a few hundred young Italian women Sunday as he arrived in Rome for his fourth visit in a year.

It was the second time the Libyan leader — who travels with female bodyguards and fancies himself a self-styled feminist — had staged such an event for Italian women, who were recruited by a modeling agency and paid an undisclosed sum to attend.

Michela, who asked that her last name not be used, told Associated Press Television News that three of the participants converted to Islam on the spot.

“It was a really beautiful meeting and went very well,” she said. “He is very easygoing and he gave us a copy of the Koran. Three girls converted [to Islam] during the ceremony. It was a beautiful event.”

UNITED KINGDOM

Oxford online phases out printed dictionary

LONDON | It has been in print for more than a century, but the Oxford English Dictionary — the authoritative guide to the English language — may be available only online in the future.

Oxford University Press, the publisher, said Sunday that burgeoning demand for the dictionary’s online version has far outpaced demand for the printed versions.

Publishers are doubtful that there will be a market for the printed form by the time the lexicographers behind the dictionary finish revising and updating the latest edition, a gargantuan task that will take many more years.

The online Oxford English Dictionary now gets 2 million hits a month from subscribers. About 30,000 of the current printed edition — a hefty 20-volume, 750 pound ($1,165) set published in 1989 — have sold.

“At present we are experiencing increasing demand for the online product,” a statement from the publisher said. “However, a print version will certainly be considered if there is sufficient demand at the time of publication.”

SPAIN

Socialists slash budget in bid to keep power

MADRID | The Spanish government is focused on passing its 2011 budget this autumn, a leading politician for the ruling Socialists said, playing down the risk of early elections if the budget fails to get parliamentary approval.

The budget, which will be presented to lawmakers by the end of September, will contain $12.72 billion of spending cuts and needs the backing of small, regional parties to pass.

“The government is only working under the hypothesis that it will have a budget,” Leire Pajin, leader of the Socialist party PSOE told Cadena Ser radio in an interview Sunday.

As Spain struggles to emerge from the recession and fend off worries about its ability to fund its debt, Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has promised huge spending cuts while he tries to keep his unpopular government in power until 2012 elections.

Mr. Zapatero’s Socialists have 169 seats in the lower house, seven seats short of an absolute majority. The conservative PP party, which has 153 seats of out of 350, is unlikely to support the budget, as are the CiU Catalan nationalists, with 10 seats.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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