Around The World

Netanyahu links West Bank pullout to demand over East Jerusalem

JERUSALEM - A spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today Israel could not meet a Friday deadline to pull soldiers out of the West Bank unless Palestinians close four government offices in Arab East Jerusalem.

David Bar-Illan demanded "reciprocity" from the Palestinian Authority, which has offices in Jerusalem that Israel says violate peace agreements giving Palestinians self-rule over Gaza and parts of the West Bank.

Faisal al-Husseini of the Palestinian Authority said the closure orders, on the heels of Israel's plan to build 6,500 more Jewish homes in the eastern part of the city, were a deliberate provocation.

Netanyahu, who has come under fire from Jewish settlers and other right-wingers ahead of the pullback, has said he had no choice but to honor commitments inherited from the previous government to withdraw from West Bank lands, but has vowed to stand firm on developing Jewish housing in Jerusalem, which both Israel and Palestinians claim as their capital.

12.7 percent boost for military, more jobless aid in China's budget

BEIJING - China will boost official military spending by 12.7 percent this year and set aside $3.6 billion to help find jobs for people laid off during the restructuring of state-owned industries.

The budget allocations, revealed yesterday during the annual two-week session of the National People's Congress, are attempts to pacify soldiers and state workers - two powerful, potentially disruptive constituencies.

The sentiments of those groups will be crucial as China's leaders seek to maintain political and social stability after the death last month of senior leader Deng Xiaoping.

Spiritualist from India is honored with religion's Templeton Prize

NEW YORK - Pandurang Shastri Athavale, 76, the founder of a spiritual movement that has reached nearly 100,000 villages in India with the message that God is greater than class or religious divisions, won the $1.21 million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion today.

Athavale was honored for his leadership of a self-knowledge movement based on the Bhagavad Gita, one of Hinduism's holiest texts.

The Templeton Prize, established in 1972 by investment manager John Templeton, is the largest monetary prize for achievement in any field. It will be awarded at Westminster Abbey on May 6.

Two former Berlin Wall guards are convicted in 1962 slaying of teen

BERLIN - A Berlin court has convicted two former East German border guards of manslaughter for the 1962 killing of Peter Fechter, a mason who was shot and bled to death at the Berlin Wall as his cries for help went unheeded.

Rolf Friedrich, 61, was sentenced to 21 months probation, and Erich Schreiber, 55, was handed a sentence of 20 months probation. Fechter, 17, was shot while trying to climb over the Berlin Wall near an Allied checkpoint. He called in vain for help for about 50 minutes as he slowly bled to death.

Police, protesters continue battle over nuclear waste in Germany

DANNENBERG, Germany - Police broke up a sit-in and battled protesters throwing firebombs and stones today, clearing the way for the last leg of a nuclear-waste shipment that has attracted demonstrations all along its route.

Six trucks finally reached their destination, a storage site at Gorleben.

Thirty thousand police were deployed to protect the shipment - the biggest security operation in postwar Germany.

`Finally, a new car!' pope jokes: It's a black Mercedes S500 limo

VATICAN CITY - Pope John Paul II took delivery of a sleek, black convertible limousine today.

"Finally, a new car!" the pontiff joked when Jochen Prange, chairman of Mercedes-Benz Italia, handed over the Mercedes S500, which is fitted with two telephones, white leather upholstery and an image of the Madonna.

Afghanistan's religious rulers say they'll punish men without beards

KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghanistan's purist Islamic Taliban said today the militia would start punishing men who had trimmed their beards.

The Taliban, who captured Kabul in September and now control more than two-thirds of Afghanistan, have vowed to impose strict Islamic Sharia law. They announced that it was an Islamic obligation of all Muslim men to grow a beard.