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Italy and Greece confirm hostages killed in Nigeria

ROME/ATHENS - Seven foreign hostages kidnapped last month by a Nigerian Islamist group from a construction firm compound have been killed, the Italian and Greek Foreign Ministries say. (NIGERIA-HOSTAGES/ (UPDATE 4), moved, by Gavin Jones and Renee Maltezou, 726 words)

Venezuela's Capriles joins race, tussles with Chavez heir

CARACAS - Venezuela's opposition leader vows to fight late Hugo Chavez's preferred successor for the presidency next month and the pair quickly lock horns in an angry war of words. (VENEZUELA-ELECTION/ (UPDATE 6, PIX, TV), moved, by Andrew Cawthorne and Marianna Parraga, 764 words)

Cardinals pray before conclave to choose new pope

VATICAN CITY - Roman Catholic Cardinals pray for spiritual guidance ahead of a closed-door conclave to choose a new pope to lead the Church at one of the most difficult periods in its history. (POPE-SUCCESSION/ (UPDATE 1, PIX, TV), moved, by Philip Pullella and Crispian Balmer, 753 words)

Afghanistan's Karzai blasts U.S., marring Hagel visit

KABUL - Afghan President Hamid Karzai ratchets up his criticism of the United States, marring a debut visit by the new U.S. defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, and highlighting tensions that could undermine Washington's strategy to wind down the unpopular war. (AFGHANISTAN-USA/TALKS (UPDATE 6, PIX, TV), moved, by Mirwais Harooni and Phil Stewart, 852 words)


Japan pauses to pray for victims of 3/11 tsunami

TOKYO - Japan pauses to pray for victims of its worst disaster since World War Two: the huge March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis that killed almost 19,000 people and stranded some 315,000 evacuees, including refugees from radiation spewed from the devastated Fukushima atomic plant. (JAPAN-DISASTER/ (PIX, VIDEO), moving shortly, by Linda Sieg, 900 words)

Man accused as ringleader in India gang rape hangs himself

NEW DELHI - The driver of the bus in which a young Indian woman was gang-raped and fatally injured in December, one of the country's most notorious crimes, hangs himself in New Delhi's Tihar jail, police say. (INDA-RAPE/ (UPDATE 3), moving shortly, by Annie Banerji, 550 words)

Khmer Rouge genocide: justice delayed may be justice denied

PHNOM PENH - Under Cambodia's murderous Khmer Rouge, Meas Mut and Sou Met, now two-star generals in their 80s, are said to have hauled prisoners to S-21, a torture centre that symbolised the horrors of a regime that wiped out nearly a quarter of the population. (CAMBODIA-COURT/ (UPDATE 1, FEATURE, PIX), moved, by Prak Chan Thul, 1,142 words)

New rules may ease China pollution from steel sector

BEIJING - New rules aimed at making China's sprawling steel sector greener will do little to tackle rampant overcapacity or help Beijing protect its big state-owned mills from smaller, nimbler rivals. (CHINA-POLLUTION/STEEL (PIX), moved, by David Stanway and Ruby Lian, 967 words)


Syrian rebels pierce Assad's siege lines in Homs -opposition

AMMAN - Syrian rebels break through government lines to ease a siege of their positions in the strategic central city of Homs on Sunday despite coming under fierce aerial bombardment, opposition campaigners said. (SYRIA-CRISIS (WRAPUP 2, PIX, TV), moved, by Khaled Yacoub Oweis, 1,033 words)

- SYRIA-CRISIS/REFUGEES (UPDATE 3), moved, by Jonathon Burch, 709 words


Grillo to tell Italy president party can lead government

ROME - Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement says it wants to lead Italy's next government following last month's inconclusive election and reiterates that it will not agree to an alliance with any other party. (ITALY-VOTE/GRILLO, moved, by Gavin Jones, 478 words)

- ITALY-VOTE/LEFT, moved, by Gavin Jones, 513 words


Ryan says U.S. budget deal possible

WASHINGTON - The Republicans' point person on fiscal issues in Congress says compromise with President Barack Obama is possible on taxes and spending even though his soon-to-be-unveiled budget plan faces certain rejection from Obama's Democrats. (USA-BUDGET/RYAN, moved, by Andy Sullivan, 730 words)

- USA-BUSH/, moved, by John Whitesides, 481 words