- - Tuesday, September 25, 2012

TOKYO — Coast guard vessels from Japan and Taiwan dueled with water cannons Tuesday after dozens of Taiwanese boats escorted by patrol ships sailed into waters around Tokyo-controlled islands.

Japanese coast guard ships sprayed water at the fishing vessels, footage on national broadcaster NHK showed, with the Taiwanese patrol boats directing their own high-pressure hoses at the Japanese ships.

The large-scale breach of what Japan considers sovereign territory — one of the biggest since World War II — is the latest escalation in a row over ownership of the islands that pits Tokyo against Beijing and Taipei.

The intrusion complicates an already volatile territorial dispute with China, which is also locked in a separate row over the strategic South China Sea against claims by several nations including the Philippines.

In Tuesday’s dramatic incident, a dozen Taiwanese coast guard and 40 fishing boats spent several hours in Japanese waters, the Japan coast guard said.

Taiwan has said that officers aboard some of the patrol ships sent to the area were fully armed elite coast guard personnel.

VENEZUELA

Polls: Chavez leading rival by 10 points

CARACAS — A new poll in Venezuela indicates President Hugo Chavez has a 10-point lead over his rival Henrique Capriles Radonski ahead of next month’s election.

The survey results were released Tuesday by Datanalisis, one of Venezuela’s most respected polling firms.

The poll found that about 49 percent said they intend to vote for Mr. Chavez and about 39 percent said they plan to vote for Mr. Capriles.

But it also found a sizable percentage remains undecided.

The survey questioned 1,600 people from Aug. 25 to Sept. 5, and had a margin of error of about 2 percentage points.

URUGUAY

Uruguay poised to legalize abortion

MONTEVIDEO — Uruguay’s Congress appeared ready Tuesday to legalize abortion, a groundbreaking move in Latin America, where no country save Cuba has made abortions accessible to all women during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Compromises made to secure votes disappointed both sides of the abortion divide, which gathered in protest.

Once it gets through Uruguay’s lower house, the measure would go back to the Senate for approval of changes, but President Jose Mujica has said he will allow it to become law.

The measure would give women the right to a legal abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and decriminalize later-term abortions when the mother’s life is at risk or when the fetus is so deformed that it wouldn’t survive after birth. In cases of rape, abortions would be legal during the first 14 weeks.

The goal is to reduce the number of illegal abortions in Uruguay, Congressman Ivan Posada of the center-left Independent Party told his fellow lawmakers Tuesday.

SPAIN

Spaniards rage against austerity near Parliament

MADRID — Spain’s government was hit by the country’s financial crisis on two fronts Tuesday, as thousands of protesters enraged with austerity cutbacks and tax increases marched on parliament while its borrowing costs increased in an auction of its debt.

More than 1,000 riot police blocked off access to the parliament building in the heart of Madrid, forcing the bulk of protesters to stay in a nearby square. Police used batons to push back some protesters at the front of the march as tempers flared.

Concerns over the country’s public finances were evident earlier Tuesday, when the Treasury sold $5.14 billion in short-term debt but at a higher cost.

It sold $1.8 billion in three-month bills at an average interest rate of 1.2 percent, up from 0.95 percent in the last such auction Aug. 28, and $3.34 billion in six-month bills on a yield of 2.21 percent, up from 2.03 percent.

GUATEMALA

President endorses legalization of drugs

UNITED NATIONS — Guatemala’s leader is urging nations to legalize drugs. And at the same time he’s ramping up military efforts to combat traffickers, with U.S. help.

President Otto Perez Molina says there’s no contradiction.

The former general tells the Associated Press that it would take time and extensive international cooperation to legalize and regulate drugs.

In the meantime, he says he has to fight violent criminal gangs who have moved into his country.

He says he “is not going to let Guatemala become an open corridor for trafficking and consuming drugs.”

Mr. Perez Molina spoke to the AP on Tuesday, a day before his scheduled address to the U.N. General Assembly.

ISRAEL

Activities halt for Jewish holy day

JERUSALEM — Israel ground almost to a halt Tuesday afternoon in preparation for Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day of the year.

The country completely closed its airspace to airplanes, shut down its buses and trains, and locked its border crossings in preparation the holy day, which began Tuesday evening and ends Wednesday after sundown.

Restaurants, businesses and schools closed, government ministries shuttered, and Israeli television and radio stations went silent. Highways and roads emptied of cars — a convention honored even by most secular and non-Jewish Israelis.

Yom Kippur is Judaism’s day of atonement, when devout Jews ask God to forgive them for their transgressions. They refrain from eating and drinking, and attend intense prayer services in synagogues.

The day caps a traditional 10-day period of soul-searching that began with the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish new year.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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