World

Israel's government said it will release at least $50 million in tax collections to support Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's struggle for supremacy over Hamas. The rest of the funds held in escrow – about $550 million – will be paid over the next sixth months, an aide to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said. The money has been withheld since Hamas won a majority in the Palestinian parliament early last year. The transfer comes after a series of Israeli airstrikes Saturday that killed seven Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

NATO and Afghan government spokesmen were at odds Sunday over the number of civilians who died in an airstrike on a village in volatile Helmand Province. The raid before dawn Saturday killed 62 Taliban militants who'd hidden in a village after ambushing a convoy of coalition forces. But Afghan investigators claimed it also resulted in 45 civilian deaths. A NATO spokesman said the reports he'd seen suggested the civilian toll was "significantly" lower. Afghan President Hamid Karzai and local officials have bitterly criticized allied "carelessness" that results in civilian casualties.

"In the context of the events in Britain," France's senior security officials were meeting Sunday to discuss strategies for dealing with possible terrorist attacks there. The Interior Ministry also said new President Nicolas Sarkozyrenewed France's standing offer of help to British authorities in a letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown. France, like Britain, has a large and often-restive Muslim population.

Streets in Hong Kong had to be closed for hours Sunday as tens of thousands of people marched on government headquarters in a new demand for the right to elect their leaders. The demonstration contrasted sharply with official 10th anniversary celebrations of the transfer of the territory from British to Chinese rule, led by President Hu Jintao. To date, residents have been given only vague projections on when they may be granted the vote.

New flooding inundated six towns in coastal Pakistan over the weekend, killing 30 more people. Authorities estimated 250,000 others now are homeless and as many as 1.5 million have been affected by the flooding and cyclone Yemyin, which struck last week. The storm and flooding are blamed for more than 500 deaths in Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan.

Ending months of speculation, a spokesman for Argentina's government announced Sunday that leftist President Nestor Kirchner won't run for reelection later this year. His wife, Sen. Cristina Fernandez, will seek the office in his stead, the spokesman said. Both have high favorability ratings, and opinion polls have shown that either would be likely to win. The election is due to be held Oct. 28.

Vote-counting was off to a slow start Sunday after East Timor's election for a new parliament, and there were early indications that the outcome would be close. The ruling Fretilin Party took an early lead over former President Xanana Gusmao's National Congress for Reconstruction, but with 14 parties competing, analysts predicted that none would take enough seats to govern without attracting coalition partners. Balloting, under the eyes of hundreds of international monitors, was described as "peaceful, free, and fair."

A consortium led by the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan will pay $48.5 billion for control of Canadian telecommunications giant BCE Inc., the latter announced. The buyout is the largest in Canadian history. The buyers said they intend to take the company private. Despite a long history of flat performance, the former Bell Canada had resisted previous takeover attempts.

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