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AROUND THE WORLD

Town commemorates World War II ordeal

CISTERNA di LATINA, Italy (AP) -- For American forces fighting their way north to Rome, it was the site of a heroic but hopeless stand, where only eight men out of two Ranger battalions escaped German troops.

For Italians caught in the fighting, it was the place where they lived underground for months before being sent on a forced march north by the Germans. Friday, the anniversary of the 1944 roundup, this town between Anzio and Rome held its annual commemoration of the bloody events of World War II with ceremonies beside a monument to victims of all wars and children visiting grottoes where their grandparents took shelter from the bombing.

This town of 32,000 people, once a manufacturing center but now the heart of kiwi production in Italy, has not forgotten the elite U.S. Army Rangers, who fought to liberate them from the Nazi occupiers. The town has a street named Via dei Rangers and a school named after William O. Darby, the Rangers' commander. Surviving Rangers, mostly in their 80s, generally visit around the U.S. Memorial Day.

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Dutch decry remark about gay soldiers

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- The Dutch prime minister Friday denounced as "irresponsible" a claim by a retired U.S. general that gay Dutch soldiers were partly to blame for allowing Europe's worst massacre since World War II.

Dutch officials, from the Cabinet to the military, were outraged by retired Gen. John Sheehan's remarks Thursday at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C.

Sheehan claimed that Dutch military leaders had called the presence of gay soldiers in the army "part of the problem" that allowed Serb forces to overrun the Srebrenica enclave in Bosnia in July 1995 and kill some 8,000 Muslim men.

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende called Sheehan's comments irresponsible and said at his weekly news conference that "these remarks should never have been made."

"Toward Dutch troops -- homosexual or heterosexual -- it is way off the mark to talk like that about people and the work they do under very difficult circumstances," he said.

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Talks fail to avert strike by airline cabin crews

LONDON (AP) -- A three-day strike by British Airways cabin crew affecting thousands of travelers is going ahead today after last-ditch talks between the airline's management and union leaders collapsed.

The walkout has forced the airline to cancel thousands of flights, but it still hopes to operate around 65 percent of its international schedule over the period.

The union Unite has gathered some support from unions in the United States, Germany and Spain for its action -- taken to protest a pay freeze and changes in working conditions -- but the other unions so far have stopped short of pledging direct action that would affect the airline's ability to refuel and service its planes.

A total of 1,100 out of the 1,950 flights scheduled during the walkout period will be canceled, but the airline has leased planes and crew from rival carriers to take up some of the shortfall.

At its Heathrow base, the airline will operate more than 60 percent of long-haul flights, but only 30 percent of short-haul.

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