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UPDATE 1-Disney's 'Oz' prequel scores box office gold

* Strong $80.3 mln opening in U.S., Canada * Domestic debut is biggest so far in 2013 * International sales for 'Oz' add $69.9 mln By Lisa Richwine and Andrea Burzynski LOS ANGELES, March 10 (Reuters) - There was no place like "Oz" at the weekend box office.

Troubles mount up for Hagel on first Afghan visit

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's first trip to Afghanistan was overshadowed on Sunday by a contentious speech by President Hamid Karzai and a security scare that forced their press conference to be cancelled. Karzai and Hagel's appearance in front of the cameras was to be a key part of the Pentagon chief's visit to Afghanistan as strained US-Afghan relations focus on the withdrawal of NATO-led foreign troops by the end of 2014.

GLOBAL ECONOMY-Shafts of sunshine try to pierce thick clouds

* Robust U.S. jobs report unlikely to shift Fed thinking * Stagnant industry output underlines euro zone, UK woes * Government, household deleveraging form brisk headwinds By Alan Wheatley, Global Economics Correspondent LONDON, March 10 (Reuters) - Global economic news is improving here and there, but a batch of data due this week is unlikely to shake financial markets' conviction that major central banks are not about to take away the punch bowl.

Britain, Italy, Greece say hostages killed in Nigeria

Britain, Italy and Greece on Sunday said that a claim by a Nigerian Islamist group that it had killed seven foreign hostages appeared to be true, while London denied it had sought to stage a rescue. Restive northern Nigeria has seen scores of people killed from Islamist-linked violence, but the hostage executions marked the deadliest kidnapping targeting foreigners in the region in recent memory.

Britain, Italy, Greece say hostages killed in Nigeria

Britain, Italy and Greece on Sunday said that a claim by a Nigerian Islamist group that it had killed seven foreign hostages appeared to be true, while London denied it had sought to stage a rescue. Restive northern Nigeria has seen scores of people killed from Islamist-linked violence, but the hostage executions marked the deadliest such incident targeting foreigners in the region in recent memory.

RugbyL: Collis, Sykes help Wakefield snatch draw

Dean Collis and Paul Sykes played the crucial roles as Wakefield Wildcats battled back to rescue a dramatic 23-23 draw at home to Salford City Reds on Sunday. Collis, a 2012 signing from Cronulla Sutherland-Sharks, crossed for the hosts and Sykes kicked the last-gasp drop goal to secure a share of the spoils. Salford, who had Jodie Broughton, Lee Jewitt, Theo Fages and Jack Murphy on the scoresheet, came within seconds of securing their second victory of the season but still climbed above London Broncos at the bottom of the standings.

Obama in Jerusalem March 20: Israel

US President Barack Obama's three-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories will begin on March 20, Israel said on Sunday, in the first official announcement of the much-anticipated visit. A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bureau said Obama was due to arrive Wednesday, March 20, at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv and then head to Jerusalem for talks with President Shimon Peres and a dinner meeting with Netanyahu. The White House has not announced specific dates for the Obama visit, his first to Israel and the West Bank as president.

Mandela leaves hospital after tests

Global peace icon Nelson Mandela was back home on Sunday after spending a night in hospital for a "scheduled medical checkup", the president's office said. "Former president Nelson Mandela has this afternoon... returned to his Johannesburg home following a successful medical examination at a Pretoria hospital," said presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj in an emailed statement. "The doctors have completed the tests. He is well and as before, his health remains under the management of the medical team," said Maharaj.

The top films at the North American box office

LOS ANGELES, March 10 (Reuters) - Following are the top 10 movies at North American box offices for the three-day weekend starting March 8, led by "Oz the Great and Powerful" at No. 1, according to studio estimates compiled by Reuters.

Syrian rebel fighters break through Homs siege - opposition

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis AMMAN, March 10 (Reuters) - Syrian Sunni Muslim rebels have launched a counter-offensive to ease an army siege on their strongholds in the central city of Homs, breaking through government lines in the north and west, opposition sources said on Sunday. Homs, 140 km (88 miles) north of Damascus, lies at a vital road juncture linking army bases on the coast, where a large proportion of President Bashar al-Assad's minority Alawite sect live, and government forces in the capital Damascus.
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