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TOP STORIES

China says North Korea tension has to be stopped from reaching 'irreversible' stage

BEIJING/PYONGYANG - China says tension over North Korea has to be stopped from reaching an "irreversible and unmanageable stage" as a U.S. aircraft carrier group steams toward the region amid fears the North may conduct a sixth nuclear weapons test. (NORTHKOREA-USA/ (WRAPUP 6, PIX, TV, GRAPHICS), moved, by Dominique Patton and Sue-Lin Wong, 900 words)

U.S. Vice President Pence heads to Seoul as North Korea tensions flare

WASHINGTON - U.S. Vice President Mike Pence travels to South Korea on Sunday in what his aides say is a sign of the U.S. commitment to its ally in the face of rising tensions over North Korea's nuclear program. (PENCE-ASIA/ (moved), by Roberta Rampton, 473 words)

+ See also:

- NORTHKOREA-USA/JAPAN, moved, 446 words

"Right time" to use huge bomb in Afghanistan - U.S. general

KABUL - The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan says the decision to deploy one of the largest conventional bombs ever unleashed in combat was purely tactical and made as part of the campaign against Islamic State-linked militants. (USA-AFGHANISTAN/BOMB (UPDATE 7, PIX, TV, GRAPHIC), moved, by Hamid Shalizi and Josh Smith, 1,000 words)

See also:

+ USA-AFGHANISTAN/BOMB-VILLAGE (PIX, TV, GRAPHIC, moved, 565 words)

+ USA-AFGHANISTAN/MOAB (PIX, TV), by David Brunnstrom, 771 words

In historic referendum, Turkey's Erdogan faces biggest test

ISTANBUL - Much like the vast mosque he commissioned atop one of Istanbul's higher hills, President Tayyip Erdogan's supporters hope a referendum on Sunday will be the crowning achievement in his drive to reshape Turkey. (TURKEY-REFERENDUM/PREVIEW (TV, PIX, GRAPHIC), moved, by Nick Tattersall and Humeyra Pamuk, 923 words)

+ See also:

- TURKEY-SECURITY/ISLAMIC STATE (UPDATE 1), moved, 263 words

- TURKEY-REFERENDUM/ (FACTBOX), moved, 464 words

MIDDLE EAST

Iranian President Rouhani to run for second term, faces conservative challenge

ANKARA - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani registers to run for a second four-year term, state television says, buoyed by Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers but facing a hard-line conservative challenge over his economic record. (IRAN-ELECTION/ROUHANI (UPDATE 3, PIX, TV), moved, by Parisa Hafezi, 400 words)

+ See also:

- IRAN-ELECTION/ROUHANI (NEWSMAKER, PIX, TV), moved, by Parisa Hafezi, 675 words

Evacuation of Syrian rebels, Shi'ite villagers begins under swap deal

BEIRUT - Buses evacuate thousands of people from two rebel-besieged Shi'ite villages in northwest Syria while hundreds of rebels left a town near Damascus with their families, under a deal between the government and insurgents. (MIDEAST-CRISIS/SYRIA-EVACUATION (UPDATE 4, PIX), moved, by Laila Bassam and John Davison, 575 words)

France's Ayrault says Assad's comments on Syria chemical attack are "lies"

BEIJING - French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault dismisses as "lies and propaganda" comments by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that a poison gas attack last week that was blamed on his government in Idlib province was "100 percent fabrication". (MIDEAST-CRISIS/SYRIA-FRANCE (UPDATE 1), moved, 360 words)

Palestinian fatally stabs British woman on Jerusalem train -Israeli police

JERUSALEM - A Palestinian man fatally stabs a British woman on Jerusalem's transit network, Israeli police say, as Christians mark Good Friday and Muslims hold prayers at respective holy sites nearby. (ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS/VIOLENCE (UPDATE 1, TV, PIX), moved, 340 words)

Iraqi Christians return to ransacked town with fear and hope

QARAQOSH, Iraq - With Islamic State expelled, Iraqi Christians are trickling back to the ransacked town of Qaraqosh, beset by anxiety for their security and yet hopeful they can live in friendship with Muslims of all persuasions. (MIDEAST-CRISIS/IRAQ-CHRISTIANS (PIX, TV), moved, by Ulf Laessing, 1,052 words)

UNITED STATES

Hackers release files indicating NSA monitored global bank transfers

Hackers released documents and files that cybersecurity experts said indicated the U.S. National Security Agency had accessed the SWIFT interbank messaging system, allowing it to monitor money flows among some Middle Eastern and Latin American banks. (USA-CYBER/SWIFT (UPDATE 1), by Clare Baldwin, 842 words)

Trump White House will not make visitor logs public, break from Obama policy

PALM BEACH, Fla. - The Trump administration will not make public White House visitor logs, the records that detail who has visited President Donald Trump and his staff on official business, his office confirmed, in a departure from a practice that was established under former President Barack Obama. (USA-TRUMP/VISITORS (moved), by Ayesha Rascoe, 364 words)

Ex-NFL star Aaron Hernandez cleared of 2012 double murder

BOSTON - A Boston jury on Friday found former New England Patriots football star Aaron Hernandez not guilty of murdering two men outside a Boston nightclub in 2012, following what prosecutors described as a dispute that began over a spilled drink. (USA-CRIME/HERNANDEZ (UPDATE 2, PIX), by Scott Malone, 506 words)

Apple receives permit in California to test self-driving cars

Apple Inc has secured a permit to test autonomous vehicles in California, which allows it to conduct test drives in three vehicles with six drivers, the state Department of Motor Vehicles said on Friday. (APPLE-CAR/ (UPDATE 2), moved, by Jessica Resnick-Ault, 397 words)

VW says bought, fixed more than half of polluting 2.0-liter diesels in U.S.

WASHINGTON - Volkswagen AG says it has bought back or repaired more than half of 475,000 polluting 2.0-liter diesel vehicles under a U.S. government settlement, just six months after it launched the largest-ever automotive repurchase offer. (VOLKSWAGEN-EMISSIONS/ (UPDATE 1), moved, by David Shepardson, 376 words)

California judge questions Trump's sanctuary city order

SAN FRANCISCO - A California federal judge strongly questions the U.S. Justice Department over whether to suspend an order by President Donald Trump to withhold federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities for immigrants. (USA-IMMIGRATION/SANCTUARY (UPDATE 1), moved, by Robin Respaut, 397 words)

EUROPE

French presidential race tightens as vote nears

PARIS - France's presidential race looked tighter than it has all year on Friday, nine days before voting begins, as two polls put the four front-runners within reach of a two-person run-off vote.(FRANCE-ELECTION/ (UPDATE 3, PIX, TV, GRAPHIC), moved, by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Sarah White, 500 words)

German police arrest 3 suspected of helping plan Islamist attack -magazine

BERLIN - German police have arrested three people on suspicion of helping a suspected Islamist militant prepare a bomb attack on police or soldiers, Focus magazine says on its website. (GERMANY-ARRESTS/ (UPDATE 1), moved, 230 words)

Turkey says may suspend EU migrant deal if no progress on visas

ANKARA - Turkey could re-evaluate or suspend all agreements under its migration deal with the European Union if the bloc does not give a positive response on visa-free travel for Turks, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says. (TURKEY-EU/MIGRANTS (UPDATE 1), moved, 407 words)

Uzbekistan says told West that Stockholm attack suspect was IS recruit

TASHKENT - Uzbekistan's security services warned a western ally before last week's deadly truck attack in Stockholm that the suspected perpetrator was an Islamic State recruit, Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov says. (SWEDEN-ATTACK/UZBEKISTAN (UPDATE 2, PIX, TV), moved, 211 words)

Russian newspaper fears for staff after Chechen clerics vow vengeance

MOSCOW - Russia's most famous campaigning newspaper says it has appealed to the Kremlin to protect its staff after Chechen clerics warn the paper faces "retribution" for alleging that gay men in Chechnya were being tortured and killed. (RUSSIA-CHECHNYA/NEWSPAPER-THREAT, moved, by Andrew Osborn, 469 words)

Russia to boycott Eurovision song contest due to Ukraine row

MOSCOW - Russia's state broadcaster says it will boycott this year's Eurovision song contest after the host country, Ukraine, said it would bar entry to the Russian contestant and Moscow rejected two possible compromises suggested by organisers. (UKRAINE-EUROVISION/RUSSIA (UPDATE 1), moved, 418 words)

AFRICA

Two suspects in Congo murder of UN workers arrested; one escapes

KINSHASA - Congolese authorities have arrested two people suspected of involvement in the murder of two U.N. workers in central Democratic Republic of Congo, but one of the prisoners has escaped, a senior prosecutor says. (CONGO-VIOLENCE/ (UPDATE 2), moved, by Amedee Mwarabu Kiboko, 416 words)

ENTERTAINMENT

Next 'Star Wars' feature to feature new female character

ORLANDO, Fla. - The largely testosterone-fueled Star Wars movie franchise has added an important new female character in the eighth film, "Star Wars: The Last Jedi", director Rian Johnson said on Friday at a fanfest in Orlando. (FILM-STAR WARS/ (moved), by Barbara Liston, 365 words)

See also:

+ (DISNEY-STARWARS/COLLECTORS (moved), by Lisa Richwine, 769 words)

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