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International news in brief

Musharraf announces vote to extend his term ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan's military leader launched a campaign Friday to extend his hold on power, setting a referendum for early May to determine whether voters want him to remain in office after the restoration of civilian rule.

President Pervez Musharraf said the referendum would be aimed at introducing "real democracy" in Pakistan, which has lived under military rule for half of its 54-year history.

Musharraf did not specify an exact date for the referendum nor spell out the wording on the ballot during his more than 90-minute speech. The government-run news agency said those details would be determined later by the Election Commission.

Musharraf seized power in October 1999 in a bloodless coup but agreed later to accept a Supreme Court ruling and restore democracy within three years. Parliamentary elections have been announced for October in line with the pledge.Oil workers set free by Nigerian villagers ABUJA, Nigeria - Villagers freed 10 international and Nigerian oil workers who were held hostage two days after being captured while servicing an offshore drilling rig, Shell Oil said Friday.

The workers were freed late Thursday after talks between government representatives and captors in the village of Amatu, in the swampy coastal Bayelsa state where the men were held, Shell International spokeswoman Kate Hill said in London.

The kidnappers on Tuesday demanded employment, oil contracts and other help from Shell in return for the workers' safe release.

The hostages - one American, four Ghanaians, one Filipino and four Nigerians - are employees of a Shell subcontractor, Tidex Marine. Their identities were not released.

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None of them were harmed, Hill said, adding she did not know or whether Tidex had met any of the demands. The captors and government representatives agreed to hold follow-up talks next week in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital, Hill said.Gulf War POWs sue Iraq, alleging torture WASHINGTON - Seventeen U.S. servicemen held prisoner during the Gulf War have filed a lawsuit against Iraq alleging torture and seeking $910 million in damages for themselves and their families.

The prisoners of war endured severe beatings, starvation, electric shock, threats of amputation and dismemberment and continual death threats, according to Stephen Fennell, lead attorney representing them.

The suit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court and also names Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi Intelligence Service.

Nearly 125 pages of the complaint chronicle the soldiers' stories, including those of Marine Maj. Michael Craig Berryman, who said his legs were beaten with a metal pipe and a wooden ax handle; Marine Col. Clifford Acree, who said he was so near starvation he could "feel his body consuming itself;" and Navy Cmdr. Lawrence Slade, whose body was described as so blue from bruises that it was "as if he had been dipped in indigo dye."

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