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Spain arrests terror suspects

Madrid, Spain Police have arrested at least seven people suspected of financing and giving logistical support to an Islamic extremist group with links to al-Qaida, officials said Friday.

Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso said police who made the arrests late Thursday and early Friday in the Costa del Sol region had turned up no evidence that the detainees were planning an imminent attack in Spain.

Alonso said the detainees were suspected of aiding an Algeria-based Islamic extremist organization, the Salafist Group for Call and Combat.

Seismic activity easing on Pacific volcano

Ambae Island, Vanuatu The eruption of a South Pacific volcano eased slightly Friday, and thousands of villagers who fled to temporary evacuation centers returned to their deserted gardens for food.

Seismograph readings Friday showed that volcanic activity was dropping on Vanuatu’s Mount Manaro, but the peak was still “trembling constantly,” said Morris Harrison, a vulcanologist monitoring the island nation.

With the specter of a large eruption decreasing, some of the 5,000 residents ordered to evacuate this week returned to their homes briefly Friday, saying they did not have enough food at their makeshift evacuation camp.

Ambae Island – said to be the inspiration for the idyllic Bali Hai in James Michener’s book “Tales of the South Pacific” – is in northern Vanuatu, a volcano-studded archipelago of 80 islands about 1,400 miles northeast of Sydney, Australia.

Irish protest hiring of low-wage workers

Dublin, Ireland More than 70,000 labor union members brought Irish cities to a standstill Friday to protest a plan to replace ferry workers with low-paid Eastern Europeans – the most bitter industrial showdown Ireland has suffered in decades.

More than 40,000 trade unionists and their supporters marched down Dublin’s main thoroughfare to the parliament building behind a banner that read “Equal Rights for All Workers.”

The company, Irish Ferries, began introducing new laborers – mostly from Latvia – two weeks ago, working for $4.25 an hour, less than half of Ireland’s minimum wage.

David Begg, secretary-general of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, said protesters weren’t hostile to immigration, which has soared in the past decade as Ireland’s economy surged ahead of other European countries. He said unionized workers wanted to stop “the suppression of wage rates in this country.”

Irish Ferries in September offered the 543 unionized workers on its main Britain-Ireland routes $30 million if they quit voluntarily.

Hamas raises specter of renewed bombings

Damascus, Syria Hamas will not renew its truce with Israel when it expires at the end of the year, the political leader of the Palestinian militant group told a rally Friday.

The comment by Khaled Mashaal raised the threat of renewed suicide bombings in Israel. Hamas carried out dozens of such attacks, killing hundreds of people, before the informal truce came into effect earlier this year.

Mashaal claimed Israel has failed to honor the truce’s provision on prisoner releases and said the number of detainees increased to 9,000.


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Early exit polls show strong support to lift Ireland ban on abortion

UPDATED: 3:05 p.m.

Ireland’s referendum Friday represented more than a vote on whether to end the country’s strict abortion ban. It was a battle for the very soul of a traditionally conservative Roman Catholic nation that has seen a wave of liberalization in recent years.