Convert to Christianity Abdul Rahman left Afghanistan safely and "is already in Italy," which granted him asylum, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi confirmed Wednesday. Rahman, who was in danger of being killed in Afghanistan for forsaking Islam, had been released from prison earlier in the week and was being held in a secret location for his safety. His departure angered both Muslim clerics as well as members of Afghanis-tan's parliament, who demanded that "his leaving must be prohibited." Meanwhile, US and Canadian troops repulsed a "significant" attack on their base in southern Afghanistan by Taliban rebels. Reports said 32 of the attackers were killed as well as one American and one Canadian.

Labor union and student leaders called for another day of strikes and protests across France next week to pressure the government to kill the controversial youth-employment law. But the government also toughened its stance on the measure, ordering a crackdown by school administrators against students who have been blocking access to classes. A way out of the confrontation could come as soon as Thursday, reports said, if the Constitutional Court rules that the law violates labor codes.

Charles Taylor was en route back to his homeland after being caught late Tuesday night trying to slip across the border from Nigeria into Cameroon. But although the government of Liberia had asked that he be extradited to face prosecution on war-crimes charges, its Defense Ministry said he'd first be transferred to Sierra Leone, where a special UN tribunal has indicted him on the same grounds. Taylor dropped out of sight Monday as authorities in Nigeria, which had granted him asylum in 2003, said they were ready to return him to Liberian custody.

The chief prosecutor of the UN's war crimes tribunal for the Balkans traveled to Serbia and Bosnia Wednesday to press for the arrest and handover of indicted fugitives Radovan Karad-zic and Ratko Mladic. Carla Del Ponte's spokeswoman said "Today, we'll get an answer" from Serbian officials as to whether Mladic will be in the tribunal's custody by April 5, the deadline set by the European Union for handover. If not, Del Ponte will demand the suspension of negotiations for Serbian membership in the EU, she said. Little is known about where Karadzic may be hiding. Both men have been on the run since the war in the former Yugoslavia ended a decade ago.

The second major tropical storm in less than two weeks was bearing down on Western Australia Wednesday with wind speeds of more than 150 m.p.h. Meteorologists said it was too soon to tell where cyclone Glenda would make landfall. But they warned that even if it didn't come ashore, it would pass so close that "substantial devastation" could be expected in coastal communities. The region is west of Queensland, which incurred an estimated $1 billion in damage from cyclone Larry when it came ashore March 20.

The much-anticipated summit Wednesday between the leaders of Uruguay and Argentina to try to end the feud over two wood pulp mills was called off, with no word on when it might be rescheduled. The mills, which are being built near the border, represent the largest investment in Uruguayan history, and President Tabare Vazquez's government contends that they will meet international environmental standards. But Argentines worry that effluent from them will pollute vital farmlands on their side of the boundary. Protesters blocked bridges over the Uruguay River for more than a month, costing the smaller country an estimated $200 million in lost commerce.

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