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PHILIPPINES

Aquino to visit China despite tensions

MANILA — Philippine President Benigno Aquino will travel to China this year despite heightened tensions over territorial claims in the South China Sea.

“For me, it is important to talk to everyone, especially the other side,” Mr. Aquino told reporters Tuesday. “Maybe we can reach an agreement. After all, we cannot just ignore this matter when people’s lives may be at stake.”

The Philippines and China, along with Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan, each claim all or part of the South China Sea - particularly the Spratlys, a chain of islets that are believed to sit on vast mineral resources.

MEXICO

Rescuers search for 7 missing in capsizing

TIJUANA — Mexican rescuers were scouring the Gulf of California on Tuesday for seven U.S. tourists whose fishing boat capsized two days ago, saying they were extending their search because the missing tourists could still be alive in the warm, calm waters.

One American has been confirmed dead in the accident, which came after a sudden storm upended the boat before dawn Sunday, spilling dozens of tourists and crew members into the water. The identity of the dead man was not released.

By early Monday, 19 of the tourists and all 16 crew members had been picked up by the navy or fishing boats after having clung to coolers, rescue rings and life vests for more than 16 hours.

GREECE

Court orders release of U.S. Gaza boat captain

PIRAEUS — A Greek court on Tuesday released the U.S. captain of a boat aiming to breach Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, four days after arresting him for trying to set sail from Greece without permission.

John Klusmire, captain of the Audacity of Hope, had attempted to leave a port near Piraeus on Friday in defiance of a Greek ban on the flotilla of boats leaving port.

He still faces trial at a later date.

Greece banned all boats in the Gaza flotilla from leaving port, citing security concerns after a similar flotilla last year was raided by Israeli forces, leaving nine activists on a Turkish boat dead.

INDIA

Health minister calls homosexuality a disease

NEW DELHI — India’s health minister has derided homosexuality as an unnatural “disease” from the West, drawing outrage Tuesday from activists who said the comments set back the country’s campaign for gay rights and its fight against HIV.

The comments Monday by Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad at a conference on HIV/AIDS in the Indian capital echoed a common refrain in the conservative South Asian nation that homosexuality is a Western import.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi and other government ministers at the conference declined to comment on Mr. Azad’s remarks.

EUROPE

Seeds blamed for E. coli outbreak still being sold

LONDON — Egyptian sprout seeds blamed for a massive, deadly E. coli outbreak are still on the market and were shipped to more European countries than previously thought, officials said Tuesday, as the European Union banned further imports.

The European Food Safety Authority confirmed in a report that one lot of contaminated fenugreek seeds from Egypt was the probable source of the recent food poisoning outbreaks in Germany and France.

But the number of European countries that received parts of the suspected lot is “much larger than previously known,” and includes Austria, Britain and Spain, it said.

JAPAN

Reconstruction minister resigns after comments

TOKYO — Japan’s embattled government received a fresh blow Tuesday when the new disaster-reconstruction minister resigned, a week after his appointment because of criticism he was rude to officials on a trip to the tsunami-ravaged coast.

The teary-eyed minister, Ryu Matsumoto, apologized and stepped down after a weekend trip in which he berated a local governor for being late to a meeting and threatened to withhold aid.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who created the new Cabinet position last week, had hoped it would help fend off critics who have questioned his leadership in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that wiped out much of the country’s northeast coast.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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