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BRAZIL

Landless peasants take farms, buildings

RIO DE JANEIRO | Landless activists have invaded three farms and several government buildings in Brazil and vow more seizures to pressure Brazil's new president into speeding redistribution of land.

Nearly 2,000 members of the Landless Rural Workers Movement have occupied the farms and offices in Sao Paulo and Bahia states, and the group's officials said they were preparing actions all over the country in the next few days, without elaborating.

"At the beginning of this new political era in our country, our occupations are meant to publicly demand the carrying out of land reform," spokeswoman Joana Tavares said in an e-mailed statement. "The old agrarian structures are still alive in our country, and with them the inequality, injustice and violence they perpetrate."

The landless movement is allied with the Workers Party of outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and President Dilma Rousseff, who took office on Jan. 1. But the activists complain that the pace of redistribution has been lagging.

The movement often starts a wave of takeovers in April to mark the 1996 killing of 19 landless activists in Para state, but is acting earlier this year to grab the new president's attention.

Brazil's agrarian-reform laws allow the government to seize fallow farmland and distribute it to landless farmers. Nearly 50 percent of arable land belongs to 1 percent of the population, according to the Brazilian government's statistics agency.

LEBANON

Leader says no deal on Lebanon

BEIRUT | Regional powers Syria and Saudi Arabia have failed to reach a deal to ease political tensions in Lebanon over the ongoing international investigation into the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a Lebanese leader said Tuesday.

The effort by the two countries — who have backed rival camps in Lebanon in the past — had been touted by Lebanese and Arab leaders as the best hope to defuse tensions in one of the most volatile corners of the region.

"The initiative has ended with no result," Christian leader Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, said Monday during a news conference. "We have reached a dead end."

A U.N.-backed tribunal investigating Mr. Hariri's killing is widely expected to name members of the militant group Hezbollah in upcoming indictments, which many fear that could reignite hostilities between Lebanon's rival Shiite and Sunni Muslims. In the worst-case scenario, the indictments could cause the collapse of Lebanon's fragile unity government.

NIGERIA

Machete attacks leave 19 dead

JOS | Men armed with rifles and machetes killed 19 people in attacks on three villages in volatile central Nigeria, authorities said Tuesday.

Three homes were attacked in the Christian village of Kuru Station about 18 miles from the central Nigerian city of Jos, a flash point of sectarian tension between Christians and Muslims, a community leader said.

Riyom local government Chairman Simon Mwaekwom said villagers told him armed men woke up the houses' occupants around midnight with gunshots and forced them out before setting their homes ablaze and attacking them with machetes.

In total, 19 people, including women and children, died in the assaults, and at least three others were injured, police say.

"Those that escaped said they saw military men; the military men were shooting, and the other people burning the houses and macheteing the villagers," Mr. Mwaekwom said.

He said the villagers claimed to have picked up two identification cards left behind by military attackers, but the military disputed their claim and said villagers attacked the soldiers in retaliation.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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