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Two U.S. astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut were officially welcomed back to Earth on Monday, two weeks after their rough landing in the Kazakh steppe from the international space station.

Russian cosmonaut Nikolai Budarin and U.S. astronauts Kenneth Bowersox and Donald Pettit laid flowers below a statue of the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin. They received flowers and the traditional Russian welcome offers of bread and salt.

Russia's space program traditionally offers cosmonauts an official welcome about two weeks after they return from space, after they undergo physical and medical tests, and get rest and recuperation.

The three landed nearly 300 miles off course in Kazakhstan on May 4 after an unexpectedly steep descent aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule.

China releases two who
commemorated Tiananmen

BEIJING (AP) -- A Hong Kong-based human rights group said Monday that Chinese authorities had released a pair of veteran dissidents imprisoned for commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protest.

Authorities in the southern province of Guangdong released Yang Tao on Monday afternoon.

Jiang Qisheng was released Saturday. ~ Incoming Dutch government
vows to be tough on crime

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) -- The incoming Dutch government has pledged to take a tough line on crime and immigration, but its drugs policy will remain liberal compared with other Western nations.

A new policy, if adopted, would require everyone over 14 to carry an identity card and would give police increased authority to carry out random spot searches on the street.

A center-right, three-party coalition approved the policy guidelines over the weekend. Parliament is scheduled to debate the policies today, clearing the way for the coalition to be sworn in by June 1.

The coalition proposed heavier sentences for repeat offenders, suggested expanding prison space and putting more prisoners in one cell, and called for a new "national bureau of police investigation."

The coalition said it would continue to follow immigration guidelines set by its predecessor and would ensure illegal immigrants and refugeeswho are refused asylum will be deported quickly.

Striking French teachers
disrupt high school exams

PARIS (AP) -- Striking teachers in France prevented students from taking part of their high school graduation exams Monday, disrupting the centerpiece of the country's education system.

The action, part of nationwide protests by public sector workers against government pension reform plans, split the union movement and drew angry reactions from government leaders.

At the Deodat de Severac high school in the southern city of Toulouse, about 100 teachers padlocked the entrance and urged colleagues not to supervise the exams, known as the baccalaureate.

The action prevented students from taking elective sports tests that are part of the high school graduation exams.

Education Minister Luc Ferry denounced the teachers. "We cannot accept that they take students hostage by boycotting exams," he said Monday. He threatened punitive action for dereliction of duty.

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