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Test of stealth fighter undermines Gates visit

BEIJING -- In a rebuke to U.S. efforts at mending ties with China, the Chinese military reportedly staged its first test flight of a stealth fighter jet Tuesday, even as Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met with China's top civilian leadership.

Later, Gates told reporters that he now thinks that North Korea, a nation backed by China, could develop intercontinental ballistic missiles within five years and pose "a direct threat" to America.

Gates had traveled to China on Sunday for three days of talks that he had hoped would lay the groundwork for a formal strategic dialogue between the countries' militaries. Instead, the trip now appears to be echoing the very tensions and misunderstandings that led China to cut off military exchanges with the United States last January.

The test of the J-20 stealth fighter was apparently a shock to Gates and his party, who had received a tepid reception the day before by the Chinese defense minister. The flight, lasting less than 20 minutes, represented a significant step forward for China's development of advanced weaponry.

-- McClatchy Newspapers


Hamas regime urges cessation of violence

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- The militant Hamas rulers of Gaza appealed to other armed Palestinian groups in the territory Tuesday to halt a recent spike in violence, fearing an all-out Israeli invasion in response.

In the latest incident, a missile fired by an Israeli aircraft Tuesday killed an Islamic Jihad militant who was riding a motorcycle in southern Gaza, the Israeli military said. The violent group vowed revenge "at the right time." The military said the militant was planning a major attack on Israel. During the two years since Israel's bruising invasion of Gaza to stop daily rocket attacks, airstrikes aimed at individual militants have been rare.

Hamas spokesman Taher Nunu called on militant Gaza factions to stop firing rockets at Israel and refrain from other attacks on the border as well. He said a cease-fire that has been in place for two years serves Palestinian interests and prevents Israeli counterattacks.

Hamas has made similar appeals for calm in the last few weeks, but rocket fire and Israeli retaliation have continued.


Strangling called cause of Irish bride's death

PORT LOUIS, Mauritius (AP) -- A young Irish teacher killed while honeymooning on this island nation was strangled, officials said Tuesday.

Michaela Harte's body was found by her husband Monday, according to a statement by the four-star Legends Hotel where the slaying occurred.

The bride, 27, was the daughter of a prominent manager in Gaelic football, Mickey Harte. She had married Gaelic footballer John McAreavey on Dec. 30. The couple had checked in at the hotel Saturday.

"We are advised that a number of staff members are being interviewed by the police," the statement by the hotel said. "An investigation is under way."

Michaela Harte's husband was ruled out as a suspect after a lengthy interview during which he was cooperative and said he would take a DNA test if needed, a Mauritius police official said.

The woman left her husband in a restaurant as she returned to their room, Police Superintendent Yoosoof Soopun said, adding that the killer entered her room by using an electronic key card.


Social networks used in mobilizing protests

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) -- In the cruise ship brochures, Tunisia is a land of endless sandy beaches and warm Mediterranean waters. But behind the facade, legions of jobless youths who see no future are seething under the iron-fisted leadership of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, 74.

Worried fathers wonder how they'll feed their families, and their despair over Tunisia's soaring unemployment and food prices has fueled more than three weeks of deadly riots.

What has helped break the barrier of fear that kept Tunisian anger bottled up for so long?

Social networks such as Facebook that have facilitated protests and fueled online rage across this North African nation.

Police have fired repeatedly on protesters. The government says that 23 people have died in the riots -- 21 in the last three days -- but unions and witnesses say at least 46 have died.

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