South Korea: Meat ban lifted

SEOUL — South Korea lifted an import ban on American beef Thursday, officials said, hoping to move on from a crisis that battered the pro-U.S. government with protests over mad cow disease concerns.

South Korea and the United States agreed last week to restrict U.S. beef exports to younger cattle, modifying an earlier deal that placed few restrictions on meat shipments and sparked widespread outrage against the government.

Korean activists have vowed to keep rallying against new President Lee Myung-bak, calling for a complete renegotiation of the beef accord.

Israel: Cease-fire strained

JERUSALEM — Israel will keep Gaza border crossings closed another day in response to Palestinian rocket fire that had violated a new cease-fire, the Defense Ministry said late Wednesday.

The decision came after Gaza's Hamas rulers said they would not police other militant groups that break the truce that went into effect last Thursday.

It was the first major hitch in the truce and raised questions about its ability to hold.

Islamic Jihad militants fired three rockets at Israel on Tuesday, saying they were retaliating for an Israeli raid in the West Bank, which is not part of the truce accord.

Mexico: Border city violence

CIUDAD JUAREZ — Police say 20 people have been killed in less than three days in this crime-ridden border city's latest wave of violence.

State police spokesman Cesar Ramirez says a father and son who were killed at their home while sleeping were among the victims. A third victim was a man whose body was cut up in pieces and dumped in an empty lot.

Ramirez says that this year alone more than 500 people have been killed in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas.

Pakistan: Anti-militancy vow

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan's new government gave its strongest commitment yet on containing Islamic militancy, vowing Wednesday to prevent attacks on Afghanistan but insisting foreign forces would not be allowed to operate on Pakistani soil.

The statement came as the latest spasm of violence between militants and tribesmen left 37 people dead in tribal regions of northwest Pakistan, a stronghold of Taliban and al-Qaida fighters.

Saudi Arabia: Militants arrested

RIYADH — Saudi authorities have arrested 701 suspected al-Qaida-linked militants in 2008, some of whom planned a car bomb attack on an oil installation, the Interior Ministry said Wednesday.

The kingdom has previously reported arrests of large numbers of militants, including those linked to al-Qaida, but the figure released Wednesday was the highest to date.

Vatican City: Old Communion?

VATICAN CITY — A papal aide says Pope Benedict XVI intends to return to the old way of distributing Communion at Masses.

Benedict's master of liturgical ceremonies said in an interview Wednesday in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano that the pontiff will place the Communion host in the mouths of the faithful who kneel before him.

That's how Roman Catholics received Communion in the years before the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. The reforms made it possible for faithful to take the host in their hands while standing.

Benedict gave Communion to kneeling faithful during his trip this month to southern Italy.