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Israel's Labor Party chose a former general and newcomer to national politics as its leader Tuesday, hoping he can bring the party back to power in the general elections.

Amram Mitzna, the liberal mayor of the coastal city of Haifa, won 54 percent; incumbent party leader Binyamin Ben-Eliezer captured 37 percent; and legislator Haim Ramon took about 7 percent of the vote, with a record 65 percent turnout among party members.

Mitzna declared that if he becomes prime minister, he will reverse Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's course by withdrawing unilaterally from the Gaza Strip and resuming negotiations with the Palestinians.

While surveys had indicated Mitzna would win the Labor primary, polls also pointed to the Likud Party winning the most seats in Jan. 28 elections, benefiting from the Israeli public's shift to the right after two years of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Sharon faces an election Nov. 28 for the Likud leadership, and recent polls show he has a solid lead over his challenger, Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Russian trawler reportedly
seized by gunmen at sea

MOSCOW (AP) -- Gunmen seized a Russian trawler Tuesday in the Sea of Japan, media reports said.

The press service of the Federal Border Guards confirmed a Russian vessel was seized in the Sea of Japan but would not confirm that it was a trawler or give other details. The press service said Russian border guards were informed of the incident by Japanese and South Korean authorities.

Interfax said the 178-foot trawler with about 20 crew members was seized 460 miles southeast of the Russian far eastern port of Vladivostok. It quoted an unidentified official at the Transport Ministry's rescue coordination center as saying evidence showed the gunmen came from a Cambodian ship.

Russian navy spokesman Igor Dygalo said the navy would free the ship if asked.

"If a request is received from the organization that owns the vessel, the navy will be ready to help and, if necessary, to give armed rebuff to those who attacked the Russian vessel," Dygalo told NTV television. "The Russian navy will not allow the transfer of terrorist activities to the sea."

Iranian students protest
professor's death sentence

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Hundreds of students protested Tuesday in Tehran, the Iranian capital, calling on the hard-line judiciary to apologize to the nation for ruining Iran's human rights reputation by sentencing a prominent professor to death for insulting Islam.

"This is the Islamic Republic of Iran: Execution, lashes and exile," read one banner carried by students at Tarbiat-e-Modarres University in Tehran, where Hashem Aghajari taught history.

While visiting Belgium, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said he was encouraged by the protests, which have snowballed into some of the largest demonstrations in more than three years.

"People feel free to express themselves, and it portrays a sort of balanced system that is evolving," he said at a news conference after two days of meetings with European officials.

On Nov. 6, a court in western Iran sentenced Aghajari to death after he was convicted of insulting Islam and questioning the rule of hard-line clerics.

Caracas mayor protests
takeover of city police

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- National guard troops fired tear gas Tuesday to keep pro-government militants away from thousands of whistle-blowing, flag-waving marchers protesting President Hugo Chavez's military takeover of city police.

Having prevented a street battle, soldiers with riot shields hurriedly prodded opposition mayors and governors into Congress to deliver a petition demanding Chavez restore autonomy to the 9,000-strong police department.

Caracas Mayor Alfredo Pena warned that Chavez could order similar takeovers of other local police forces to consolidate power and avoid an early vote on his rule.

Contending that city police routinely repress pro-government protests, Chavez had the army take over 10 police stations Saturday.

The move sparked protests that have rocked Venezuela, the world's fifth largest oil exporter and a major supplier to the United States.

Chavez said the failure by Pena, an opposition member, to resolve a police labor dispute jeopardized public security. Pena has asked the Supreme Court to void the takeover.

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