Pope Beatifies Five,

Including 'Mel's Muse'

VATICAN CITY -- Pope John Paul II, looking tired and speaking with difficulty, put five Catholics on the road to sainthood on Sunday, including the German mystic nun who inspired Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ."

At the same ceremony in St Peter's Square, he beatified Austria's last emperor, Karl I. Some of Europe's current crowned heads and members of Italy's former monarchy attended.

The most controversial of the five who were beatified -- the last step before sainthood -- was Anne Catherine Emmerick, a sickly German mystic nun who lived from 1774 to 1824 and has been called "Mel's muse."

Gibson used her book, "The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ," for inspiration in some scenes of the film.

THE MIDDLE EAST

* TEHRAN -- Iran's parliament voted to dismiss the country's transport minister, the first member of reformist President Mohammad Khatami's cabinet to be impeached since conservative lawmakers won a majority in February. Legislators voted overwhelmingly to remove Ahmad Khorram, accusing him of failing to improve Iran's dismal air, rail and road safety record.

EUROPE

* LONDON -- Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott warned potential Labor Party rivals of Tony Blair that they would not be forgiven if they challenged the prime minister for the leadership spot. Conservative Party opponents said the prime minister's announcement that he intended to serve a full third term but not a fourth would leave Blair, who is recuperating from a heart procedure, in political limbo.

* SUKHUMI, Georgia -- The breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia defiantly voted for a new president, injecting further tension into relations between Georgia and Russia.

Georgia's president, Mikheil Saakashvili, elected after a bloodless revolution, has pledged to return the mountainous sliver of land bordering Russia to Georgian rule.

ASIA

* SEOUL -- The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, arrived in Seoul to discuss South Korea's nuclear experiments after last month's inspections. He was scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon and Prime Minister Lee Hae Chan.

* GAUHATI, India -- Suspected tribal rebels stormed a remote village in India's northeast on Monday and shot dead six people, police said, raising to 62 the death toll in a new wave of violence that erupted in the region over the weekend.

* PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Cambodia's legislature on Monday approved a long-delayed agreement to put surviving Khmer Rouge leaders on trial for atrocities that claimed nearly 2 million lives during their murderous rule in the late 1970s.

* BANGKOK -- An 9-year-old Thai girl and a dog were confirmed to have been infected with the deadly bird flu virus as the country battled a second major outbreak of the disease this year, authorities said.

-- From News Services