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Rival clergy brawl at Church of Nativity

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) -- The annual cleaning of one of Christianity's holiest churches deteriorated into a brawl between rival clergy Wednesday, as dozens of monks feuding over sacred space at the Church of the Nativity battled each other with brooms until police intervened.

The ancient church, built over the traditional site of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem, is shared by three Christian denominations -- Catholics, Armenians and Greek Orthodox.

Wednesday's fight erupted between Greek and Armenian clergy, with the two sides accusing each other of encroaching on parts of the church that they claim to own.

The monks were tidying up the church ahead of Orthodox Christmas celebrations in early January, following celebrations by Western Christians last Sunday. The fight erupted between monks along the border of their respective areas. Some shouted and hurled brooms.

Palestinian security forces broke up the melee; no serious injuries were reported.


Commander of prison clamps down on mail

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- The commander of the U.S. military prison on the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has signed an order requiring a security review of legal mail to prisoners facing charges of war crimes, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Rear Adm. David B. Woods rejected defense attorneys' arguments that the new rule would violate attorney-client privilege and undermine long-delayed tribunals for five men charged in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Navy Cmdr. Tamsen A. Reese, a spokeswoman for the prison, said Woods made some modifications to the rule, but critics said the changes did not address the central complaints.

Woods retained a provision creating a "privilege team," which would include law enforcement or intelligence officials, as well as Defense Department attorneys, and would review legal communications between lawyers and clients.

Reese said the order seeks to prevent prisoners from receiving prohibited material without placing the burden for deciding what is appropriate on guards or other staff at the prison.


2-part referendum set on isle's political status

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Puerto Rico's governor Wednesday approved scheduling of a two-part referendum to help decide the island's political status, but both votes would be held the same day.

The original proposal was to hold the first part of the referendum in August 2012, and then, if the majority sought a change in status, a second referendum on that status would be held during the November 2012 general elections.

The two-part referendum will now be held Nov. 6, said Gov. Luis Fortuno.

The first part asks voters if they want a change in status or prefer to remain a U.S. commonwealth. The second part asks voters to pick from three options: statehood, independence or sovereign free association. Regardless of what voters decide, any change requires U.S. approval by Congress and the president.


Guardian law waived for women in '15 vote

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- Women in Saudi Arabia will not need a male guardian's approval to run or vote in municipal elections in 2015, when women will run for office for the first time, a Saudi official said Wednesday.

The change signifies a step forward in easing the kingdom's restrictions on women.

Shura Council member Fahad al-Anzi said that approval for women to run and vote came from the guardian of Islam's holiest sites, the Saudi king, so women will not need a male guardian's approval.

Despite the historic decision by the king to allow women the right to participate in the country's only open elections, male-guardianship laws here remain largely unchanged.