Darko Vojinovic, Associated Press
Ali Hassan al-Majid, aka "Chemical Ali," is Saddam Hussein's cousin.

Iraq: Execution dispute

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi government is refusing to execute the Saddam Hussein henchman and cousin known as "Chemical Ali" unless the death sentences of two other Saddam-era officials also are approved.

The dispute pits the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki against the three-member presidential council, which moved last week to block the two other executions in what was seen as a possible attempt to appease minority Sunni Arabs.

The standoff underscores the often unclear lines of authority in Iraq and is another blow to Iraq's beleaguered judicial system.

China: Hostage-taker killed

SHANGHAI — Police shot and killed a man armed with explosives who took 10 Australians hostage on a tourist bus Wednesday in northern China, a state news agency reported.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said Thursday that the hijacker's motives were not known. "There is no indication this was particularly aimed at Australia or Australians," he told Australia's Nine Network television.

China is normally a safe destination for tourists, but more problems have arisen recently, especially robberies of foreigners.

Israel: 'Honor-killing' sentence

JERUSALEM — A Tel Aviv court has sentenced an Israeli Arab man to 16 years in prison in the so-called "honor killing" of his sister after several female relatives took the rare step of testifying against him.

Hamda Abu Ghanem was the ninth woman in the clan killed in recent years by male family members. She was shot in January 2007 as she slept at her parents' home in a Muslim neighborhood of Ramla, a mixed Jewish-Arab town of 65,000 in central Israel.

"Honor killings" refer to the murders of women by relatives for allegedly sullying the family name, usually because of sexual misdeeds.

Japan: Marines face trial

TOKYO — The U.S. military says it will court-martial four U.S. Marines in Japan in the rape of a Japanese woman.

Master Gunnery Sgt. John Cordero of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni in southern Japan said Thursday that the courts-martial are to be held beginning next month.

The four Marines, accused of an attack on a 19-year-old woman in October, were charged by the military in December.

Puerto Rico: Teachers strike

SAN JUAN — Public school teachers voted Wednesday to suspend a 10-day strike in the U.S. Caribbean island that shuttered classrooms and sparked clashes between protesters and police.

About 10,000 teachers nearly unanimously approved the recommendation of their union's leadership to suspend the weakening strike, which began Feb. 20 after 30 months of negotiations with the U.S. territory's government fell through. Teachers are seeking pay raises and better working conditions, including more books and computers.

South Korea: North criticized

SEOUL — South Korea's new conservative government is already making good on its promise to take a tougher line on North Korea by calling on Pyongyang to improve its widely criticized human-rights policies.

The remark was just a single sentence in a speech by a South Korean diplomat at a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday. But it represented a major change after a decade in which South Korea largely refrained from criticism of its nuclear neighbor, fearful of upsetting reconciliation efforts.