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Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Sharon pledges work on settlements to continue JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pledged Monday to continue removing unauthorized settlement outposts from the West Bank, but warned against equating them with settlements built with government approval.

Sharon was called into the parliament to answer opposition motions criticizing his government for failing to remove dozens of tiny outposts put up on West Bank hilltops in the past two years. The U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan requires Israel to remove all the settlement points put up since March 2002.

Sharon said that Israeli governments in the past have removed illegally built settlements, "and this is how we intend to act in the future."

The parliament approved Sharon's statement by a vote of 47 in favor, 27 against and one abstention, reflecting the division of forces between Sharon's coalition government and the opposition.

Guatemela adoption law targets youth gangs GUATEMALA CITY — A new law that will require DNA testing of children before they are adopted went into effect Monday, a federal lawmaker said.

"Now you (will) have to pass before a judge to carry out an adoption, whereas before a public notary was sufficient," Guatemalan Federal Deputy Nineth Montenegro said. "Also, you will be asked for a DNA test to prove where the child came from."

The provision on adoptions is part of a law designed to crack down on crimes that target children and that are committed by children.

A prolific source for adoptions, Guatemala is struggling to bring under control a surging number of youth gangs.

Conservative groups opposed an early draft of the legislation that would have allowed homosexual couples to adopt children.

"The part about same-sex couples being able to adopt was taken out," Montenegro said.

Guerrillas suspected in Kashmir attack JAMMU, India — Two grenade blasts by suspected Islamic guerrillas killed seven pilgrims and wounded 25 others on their way to one of the most revered Hindu shrines in Indian-controlled Kashmir, police said.

The explosions occurred at a community kitchen as thousands of people were making the steep climb to the mountaintop shrine of Vaishno Devi.

"This is the work of miliants," Inspector-General P.L.Gupta, the head of police forces in the Jammu region, told The Associated Press.

Swami Chinmayananda, India's junior interior minister, blamed Pakistan for the blasts. India freqently blames its South Asian rival for militant attacks. There was no immediate comment from Islamabad.

"It has become a tradition that whenever relations are improving between India and Pakistan, things like this take place," Chinmayanand told the private Aaj Tak channel. "This has been done to wreck religious harmony between Hindus and Muslims."

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Attacks on the Hindu pilgrims in Jammu-Kashmir in the past three years have left 59 people dead.

New U.N. health boss vows bigger AIDS fight GENEVA — The new head of the United Nations health agency took office Monday, pledging to boost the fight against AIDS and other global killers.

World Health Organization director-general Dr. Jong-wook Lee also said he wanted to improve international monitoring to help tackle outbreaks of diseases such as SARS.

Lee, a South Korean tuberculosis expert, was elected in January by the executive committee of the 192-nation agency. He replaced Gro Harlem Brundtland, a former Norwegian prime minister, who announced last year that she did not want a second five-year mandate.

Brundtland, 60, stepped down after successfully transforming WHO from a disillusioned and badly managed organization to a high profile agency.

Lee, 58, has spent 19 years at WHO and is the first South Korean to head a U.N. agency. He won praise for his low-key but efficient management style as head of the agency's Stop TB program. Addressing about 500 WHO staff attending his inauguration, Lee said his mandate would be defined by the fight against HIV/AIDS — particularly in poor countries.

Of the 42 million people worldwide infected with HIV — the virus that causes AIDS — 29 million live in sub-Saharan Africa. AIDS has already killed more than 17 million in the region.

"The international community must act now," he said.

Lee said he had created a new AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis "leadership team" to boost WHO's role in the battle against the three diseases, which often strike together.

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