Australia: Torch relay

CANBERRA — Runners bearing the Olympic torch completed a 10-mile relay through the Australian capital's crowd-lined streets Thursday, unimpeded by sporadic anti-China protests that left several people arrested.

Thousands turned out for the Canberra relay on the cool and sunny autumn day as police manned crowd-control barriers and vowed that nothing would stop the torch from completing its three-hour journey.

The event began without major incident as a half-dozen officers — in jogging pants, T-shirts and baseball caps — formed a loose cordon around the runner. Overhead, an airplane sky writer wrote the words "Free Tibet" in white letters.

China: Religious anxiety?

SHANGHAI — Chinese authorities are trying to limit access to a Catholic shrine in Shanghai during pilgrimages next month, in an apparent sign of anxiety over large religious gatherings.

While such restrictions are common, this year's May pilgrimage to Sheshan's Marian shrine is considered especially significant and the crowds are expected to be much larger than usual.

Pope Benedict XVI mentioned the shrine in a letter to Chinese Catholics last year calling for unity and renewed ties between China and the Vatican. He designated May 24 as a day of prayer for the church in China.

Iraq: Oil windfall outlook

New data on Iraq oil revenues suggests that country's government will reap an even larger than expected windfall this year — as much as $70 billion — according to the special U.S. auditor for Iraq.

The previously undisclosed information is likely to strengthen the hand of U.S. lawmakers complaining that Iraqis aren't footing enough of the bill for rebuilding their nation — particularly in light of rising oil production and world prices.

Oil prices Wednesday hovered near $120 a barrel.

Sri Lanka: Deadly battle

COLOMBO — Tamil rebels and government troops waged a fierce battle in northern Sri Lanka on Wednesday, killing 52 guerrillas and 38 soldiers in one of the island's deadliest clashes this year, the military said.

The rebels said government forces suffered hundreds of casualties.

Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said the battle broke out about 5:30 a.m. when rebel forces overran government front lines in the Muhamalai area of the Jaffna peninsula, north of the rebels' de facto state.

Syria: Iraq artifacts returned

DAMASCUS — Syria handed over a trove of some 700 looted artifacts to Iraq on Wednesday after seizing the items from traffickers since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

The head of the Syrian Antiquities Department said some of the objects were from the Bronze Age and early Islamic era.

Zimbabwe: Unity proposal

HARARE — Zimbabwe's ruling party floated a proposal Wednesday for forming a government of national unity led by President Robert Mugabe as a way out of a political crisis that has dragged on for weeks.

The overture, given a prominent place in the state-owned Herald newspaper, could create room for discussion and diplomacy — but the opposition's leader rejected any role for Mugabe in a coalition administration for this struggling southern African country.