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North Korea threatens to drop out of armistice SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea threatened on Tuesday to abandon the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War, and warned that it will take "merciless retaliatory measures" in response to any economic blockade.

U.S. efforts to pressure the communist state to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program have pushed Korea to "the crossroads of war or peace," said the North Korean military's representative at Panmunjom, a truce village where the U.N. Command and the North's military meet to oversee the armistice.

His statement was carried by the North's state-run KCNA news agency. KCNA did not give his name.

North Korea has recently stepped up its anti-U.S. rhetoric in an apparent attempt to force the United States to negotiate a dispute over the North's nuclear ambitions.

Hong Kong residents protest subversion law HONG KONG - Hundreds of thousands of angry and worried Hong Kong residents marched peacefully Tuesday, the sixth anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China, to protest an anti-subversion measure they fear will undermine freedoms of speech, press and assembly.

"This will push Hong Kong toward an era of tyranny," said W.C. Mak, a 74-year-old retired nurse.

An organizer of Tuesday's protest, Richard Tsoi, said more than 500,000 people had turned out.

Police said 350,000 people were on the streets during the peak of the demonstration.

Hong Kong's national security law, expected to pass in a few days, will ban subversion, treason, sedition and other crimes against the state, giving police more powers and carrying life prison sentences for some offenses.

French arts festivals curtailed by strike PARIS - An American dance show in a Roman amphitheater and a rendition of the classic play "Cyrano de Bergerac" were among the performances canceled Tuesday by a strike by France's artistic community.

The strike threatens to ruin France's summer festival season after the huge CGT union called Tuesday for a wider walkout starting July 8 - the opening day of the Avignon Festival.

The festival in southern France is the country's biggest summer artistic event, drawing thousands people from all over the world, including the United States. Many have planned their vacations around it and already bought their tickets.

Actors, dancers and theater technicians are protesting a government plan to restrict their unemployment benefits. The strike has already disrupted some arts festivals in France.

Disgruntled theater workers canceled a performance by the New York-based Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Roman amphitheater of the southeastern city of Lyon. In nearby Grignan, a showing of "Cyrano de Bergerac" was called off.

Iran blocks dissent, pornography on Internet TEHRAN, Iran - Iran is blocking access to Web sites containing pornographic material and opposition-driven dissent against the country's Islamic establishment, an official said Tuesday.

More than 140 Web sites promoting dissent, dancing and sex have been blocked since the crackdown began last month, said Farhad Sepahram, an official at the Telecommunications Ministry.

Religious hard-liners are increasingly concerned about Iranians' access to information from the outside world, a sign of worry such communications are playing a role in stirring pro-reform sentiment, such as the recent anti-government protests by young people.

Sepahram said most of the blocked Web sites belong to opposition groups.

Among them is one run by Reza Pahlavi, son of the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was toppled by the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and one by Abolhassan Banisadr, Iran's first elected president after 1979 who now opposes the cleric-dominated establishment.

Also blocked are the Voice of America's Farsi-language service and, a U.S.-financed, Farsi audio program.

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