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CHINA

Google gets OK to operate in China

BEIJING | China confirmed Sunday that it renewed Google's license to operate after a monthslong standoff over Internet censorship, saying the company has pledged not to provide "lawbreaking content."

The California-based giant said Friday it had received approval to operate in the world's most populous country, after it agreed to stop automatically rerouting users of Google.to its site in Hong Kong, which is not subject to China's online censorship.

Search requests at Google.cn from within mainland China will now require an extra click that then takes the user to the Hong Kong site. That small concession by Google comes as the company tries to uphold its anti-censorship principles while protecting its economic interests.

The Mountain View, Calif., company wants to remain in China because its online advertising market has the potential to grow as high as $15 billion to $20 billion annually in just a few years. From China's point of view, renewing Google's license also mutes a high-profile dispute at a time when American and European companies have said China has become a less-friendly environment in which to do business.

IRAQ

Four killed in sporadic violence

MOSUL | Gunmen fatally shot two policemen in the main northern city of Mosul on Sunday while a soldier and a pro-government militiaman were killed in separate attacks, security sources said.

Gunmen opened fire at the policemen in the central Zangili neighborhood of Mosul and fled, the police said. Outside the city, on the road to Baghdad, another soldier was wounded when a bomber blew himself up.

Meanwhile, a soldier was killed in Tal Afar northwest of Baghdad when unidentified assailants threw a hand grenade at a patrol, the military said.

A fourth person was killed when a bomb exploded in Baqouba, the capital of Diyala province north of Baghdad, police there said.

The victim was a member of the anti-Qaeda Sahwa militia, police said. Another member of the militia, which had joined with U.S. and Iraqi forces in 2006 and 2007 to fight the Islamist militants, was hurt in the blast.

Although overall levels of violence in Iraq have fallen markedly since their peak in 2006 and 2007, deadly attacks against civilians and security forces in Baghdad occur almost every day.

CUBA

First freed dissidents headed for Spain

MADRID | The first of a group of 52 political prisoners ordered released by the communist regime in Cuba could arrive in Spain as early as Monday, the Spanish foreign ministry said.

The ministry confirmed Sunday a statement by Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos that "the government hopes that the freed prisoners will travel to Spain from Monday."

However a source at the ministry stressed that the date was an "idea" and that for now there was no fixed date for the first group of 17 prisoners to head for Spain after the landmark church-brokered release deal.

Sources close to the release process in Cuba said the first departures for Spain could happen on Monday, while Spanish national radio (RNE) quoted prisoners' relatives as saying that they could depart Tuesday or Wednesday.

If all 52 activists are freed, it would be the largest prisoner release since President Raul Castro took Cuba's reins permanently from his brother Fidel in 2008.

IRAN

Woman's stoning halted 'for time being'

TEHRAN | Iran's judiciary says the controversial stoning sentence for a woman convicted of adultery will not be implemented for now.

Malek Ajdar Sharifi, the top judicial official in the province where the woman was convicted has told the state news agency the sentence "will not be implemented for the time being."

He added in Sunday's report that the death sentence for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani would still be implemented if the judiciary wanted, despite protests from the West.

He added that her crimes were "various and very serious" and not limited to adultery.

The outcry over the death sentence is the latest thorn in Iran's relationship with the international community, with the United States, Britain and international human rights groups urging Tehran to stay the execution.

WEST BANK

Abbas: No point in talks with Israel

RAMALLAH | The Palestinian president, who is under U.S. pressure to resume direct talks with Israel, said that doing so under the current circumstances would be pointless.

Mahmoud Abbas sounded determined not to return to the table unless Iraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commits to an internationally mandated settlement freeze and agrees to pick up talks where they left off under the Israeli leader's predecessor in December 2008.

However, it could become increasingly difficult for him to stick to his position as the Obama administration pushes harder to revive the negotiations.

Mr. Netanyahu hasn't agreed to either demand, and has so far curbed but not frozen settlement activity. He insists negotiations should be held without any preconditions.

Later this week, White House envoy for Middle East peace George Mitchell is to meet with Mr. Abbas and is expected to lay out some gestures Israel is prepared to make to bring Abbas back to the table, said an Abbas aide.

The Palestinians were not informed about the nature of the gestures, said the aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to brief reporters on the issue.

BRAZIL

Air France jet lands after bomb threat

RIO DE JANEIRO | An Air France passenger jet from Rio to Paris that made an emergency landing in northeastern Brazil with 405 passengers aboard due to a bomb threat was scheduled to take off again Sunday night after no explosive was found on board.

The delay in the plane's departure from the northeastern city of Recife was necessary because regulations require that the crew receive a certain amount of rest, an Air France spokesman in Brazil told the Associated Press by telephone Sunday. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.

Solange Argenta, a spokeswoman with the Brazilian government's airport authority, Infraero, said Sunday that authorities inspected the plane and its luggage "and no explosive was found."

The Air France spokesman said takeoff from Recife was scheduled for 8:10 p.m. local time.

All 405 passengers and 18 crew members were safely evacuated from Air France Flight 443 on Saturday night, said Infraero spokesman Jorge Andrade.

The bomb threat was phoned in to Rio's international airport by a female voice about 30 minutes after the plane took off, the Air France spokesman said. The control tower contacted the jet and the decision was made to land in Recife, he said.

CHILE

Easter Island sees rare total eclipse

HANGA ROA | Thousands of excited stargazers waited on mysterious Easter Island Sunday to watch an almost five-minute total eclipse of the sun, as earlier stormy weather gave way to bright sunshine.

The are eclipse casting its shadow over the island's ancient strange stone statues lent a mystical air to the event.

An estimated 4,000 tourists, scientists, photographers, filmmakers and journalists flocked to the Chilean World Heritage site of only 60 square miles, doubling the barren island's population.

Chilean weather forecasters had cast doubts on how visible the seventh total eclipse of the century would be, warning of clouds and rain.

Umbrellas and raincoats had been de rigueur attire for those arriving on by boat and airplane for the last few days.

But as the sun rose Sunday, there were bright blue skies bringing hopes that, despite a brisk wind, the eclipse would be clearly visible.

Many visitors came equipped with solar eclipse glasses, hoping to be able to stare into the skies at the exact moment that sun, moon and Earth align for a fleeting four minutes and 41 seconds.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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