World

Rainy weather didn't appear to be keeping Israelis from voting Tuesday in a national election that tightened in the hours before polls opened. Final opinion surveys showed the Kadima party of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni closing the gap with presumed favorite Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, with 15 percent of voters saying they still were undecided.

Emergency crews struggled against strong winds to control "about 25" wildfires still raging Tuesday in southern Australia. Authorities raised the number of human deaths so far to 181 and projected that it would exceed 200. They also began a wide-scale investigation to catch suspected arsonists and charge them with murder or at least manslaughter.

Nineteen refugees were shot to death by Tamil rebels as they fled Sri Lanka's war zone, a military spokesman said Tuesday. Citing reports by other noncombatants, he said 69 more were wounded. If confirmed, the attack would be the second in two days by separatist rebels against civilians trying to escape fighting with government forces.

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An estimated 10,000 antigovernment protesters were back on the streets of Madagascar's capital Tuesday. But the rally, called by opposition leader Andry Rajoelina, was peaceful in contrast to the violence of Saturday in which at least 25 people died and 167 others were hurt. Rajoelina also scorned President Marc Ravalomanana's plans to hold his own rally Wednesday in a stadium in the capital. "We'll see if he can fill the seats," Rajoelina said.

April 22 was announced as the date of South Africa's intensely anticipated national election. It is expected to be the most hard-fought since 1994, when Nelson Mandela became president, ending white minority rule. Only the efforts of a small political party to extend voting rights to South Africans living abroad are seen as causing a potential delay, reports said.

For the first time, China moved ahead of the US in new-car sales, January figures showed. The China Association of Auto-mobile Manufacturers said 735,500 vehicles were sold last month. In the US, demand fell to 656,975 units, a 26-year low, according to the market research firm Autodata. The Chinese government has abolished highway tolls, lowered retail gasoline prices, and halved the excise tax on small cars to try to stimulate demand in the face of rising unemployment.

Eluana Englaro, the woman at the center of Italy's euthanasia controversy, died Monday night, ending debate in Parliament on a bill aimed at forcing doctors to reconnect her life-support system. Word of her passing angered conservative legislators, the Vatican, and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who'd tried unsuccessfully to decree that she be kept alive. Lawmakers said they'll now introduce a bill that would allow Italians to craft "living wills," specifying what medical treatment they want should they lose the ability to communicate.

Another delay is necessary to finish repairs to the giant particle collider beneath the French-Swiss border, reports said. According to the European Organization for Nuclear Research, the Large Hadron Collider won't be restarted until the end of September. The repairs, which became necessary only nine days after last September's start-up, originally were expected to be finished by November. Later, the date was pushed back to April, then to June, and, most recently, to late summer.

Mining giant Anglo Platinum Ltd. will cut 10,000 jobs this year, executives said, citing rising costs and a drop in demand. The Johannesburg, South Africa, company is the world's largest producer of the metal.

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