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Hopes for peace in the disputed state of Kashmir gained new momentum after India extended its unilateral cease-fire by four weeks and rival Pakistan responded by ordering a partial troop withdrawal from the tense Line of Control between them. Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said the truce would be reviewed after Republic Day, Jan. 26. But a spokes-man for the United Jihad Council, the umbrella group of militants active in Kashmir, called the latest developments "the second scene of the same old drama." Above, an Indian soldier watches Kashmiri Muslims shop for winter clothes in Srinigar, the state capital.

Former Prime Minister and 1994 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres appeared on the verge of declaring himself a candidate for the leadership of Israel in the Feb. 6 election. Reports said Peres had asked the left-leaning Meretz Party for its support, although his aides declined to confirm them. He needs the signatures of 10 members of parliament by tonight to qualify for the race against caretaker Prime Minister Ehud Barak and opposition Likud Party leader Ariel Sharon. A new opinion poll showed Peres would win 41 percent of the vote in a hypothetical runoff against Sharon.

Calling a toughened slate of UN economic sanctions "cruel, unjust, and irrational," Afghanistan's Taliban movement vowed to retaliate by expelling the agency's peace mediators. The sanctions, imposed by the Security Council, mostly tighten previously imposed restrictions on air travel, sales of certain goods to Afghanistan, and Taliban assets held overseas. They're to go into effect next month unless the Taliban closes suspected terrorist training camps and hands over alleged terrorism-financier Osama bin Laden for trial in the West.

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By a 366 to 174 vote, the lower house of Britain's Parliament OK'd a controversial measure to allow the cloning of human embryos for medical research. Legislators were freed to vote outside party lines because of the ethical nature of the issue. The bill must pass the House of Lords before it can become law, and Britain's top Roman Catholic leader and the chairman of a prominent anti-abortion group quickly began lobbying for its defeat there.

Two more stars from Cuba's top baseball team have defected and hope to try out for Major League clubs in the US as soon as next month, a professional sports agent said. Mayque Quintero and Evel Bastida were suspended from the Havana Industriales in September on suspicion of planning to leave Cuba and could not represent their country in the summer Olympic Games in Australia. Agent Joe Kehoskie of Syracuse, N.Y., said the players were granted residency status by an unidentified third country.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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