Dominican President Concedes Defeat at Polls

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- President Hipolito Mejia conceded defeat late Sunday in an election marked by an outpouring of public anger over the Dominican Republic's worst economic crisis in decades. Mejia announced that he was recognizing former president Leonel Fernandez as winner after only about 3 percent of the results were officially released.

An independent exit poll cited by Fernadez's party gave the former president 54.5 percent to Mejia's 31 percent, with Eduardo Estrella trailing at 12 percent. An estimated 70 percent of 5 million registered voters cast ballots.

The vote had been marred by complaints of irregularities and violence that left at least three dead and three wounded. A clash first broke out Sunday in a line of voters outside a school in the southwestern town of Barahona when a Mejia supporter and a backer of his leading rival pulled guns and opened fire during an argument, observers said.

On the outskirts of Santo Domingo, journalists saw armed men in a vehicle fire into the air and unsuccessfully try to steal ballot boxes in a clash that left one man with a stab wound in the thigh.


* KUWAIT CITY -- Kuwait's cabinet approved a draft law that would allow women to vote and run for parliament, moving them a step closer to the full political rights they have sought for decades in the conservative Gulf Arab state. The draft needs parliament's approval to become law. A decree issued by the emir, Sheik Jabir Ahmed Sabah, giving women the vote was narrowly defeated in the 50-man house in 1999 by an alliance of Islamic and conservative tribal lawmakers. Kuwaiti women have been fighting for suffrage for more than 40 years.

* ANKARA, Turkey -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair is set to visit Turkey on Monday to pledge his support for Ankara's bid to join the European Union and to discuss the turmoil in neighboring Iraq.

Late Sunday, four small bombs exploded outside branches of the British bank HSBC in Ankara and Istanbul, but police said there were no casualties.


* MEUNASAH KRUENG, Indonesia -- Rebels in the Indonesian province of Aceh have freed a cameraman working for a private television network, along with several other civilian hostages, witnesses said on Monday. Ferry Santoro of Indonesia's Rajawali Citra television station was freed late Sunday after being taken hostage by Free Aceh Movement rebels last July, not long after Jakarta imposed martial law in Aceh.

* QUETTA, Pakistan -- A Pentecostal preacher was feared kidnapped in Pakistan, apparently by an unknown Islamic militant group, after he disappeared in the southwestern city of Quetta, his friends and family said.

Wilson Fazal, a Pakistani Christian cleric at a city church, had received threatening letters from an unknown group urging him to convert to Islam or face unspecified consequences, his son Jerry said.

The son said the latest handwritten letter was delivered to their house five days ago, asking Wilson to stop preaching Christianity. The letter was apparently sent by a group calling itself Mahaz-i-Jihad, or "Frontier of the Holy War."

* KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Hundreds of Malaysian troops were deployed to newly built outposts along the nation's border with Thailand's Muslim-dominated south, the site of dozens of clashes between suspected Islamic separatists and Thai security forces in recent months, the national news agency reported.

Assaults on Thai military outposts in three provinces on April 28 left at least 107 militants and five security personnel dead. Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim nation, has voiced concern that the violence could spill across its border.


* VATICAN CITY -- Pope John Paul II named six new saints, including a woman who became a symbol for abortion opponents because she refused to end her pregnancy despite warnings that it could kill her.

The Vatican has long championed the case of Gianna Beretta Molla, an Italian pediatrician who died in 1962 at 39, a week after giving birth to her fourth child. Doctors had told her it was dangerous to proceed with the pregnancy because she had a tumor in her uterus, but she insisted on carrying the baby to term. In proclaiming her a saint, John Paul praised her "extreme sacrifice" and her simple but profound message.

John Paul also praised the examples of the five other people canonized Sunday, including two Italian priests and a Spanish monk who founded religious orders, a Lebanese Maronite priest and a wealthy Italian widow who opened her homes to abandoned children.

* BERLIN -- Libya could not agree with German lawyers on how much compensation to pay for claims stemming from a 1986 disco bombing in Berlin that killed three people, including two U.S. soldiers, and injured 229, the lawyers said. Envoys were tens of millions of dollars apart on compensation for 163 non-U.S. victims of the attack blamed on the Libyan secret service, lawyers said.

* PARIS -- Thousands of French activists, artists and politicians protested against anti-Semitism following the desecration of two Jewish cemeteries and a rise in attacks on Jewish people and property.

-- From News Services