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Obama-Romney rumble

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- U.S. President Barack Obama plunged into his campaign for a new term and tore into rival Mitt Romney on Saturday as a willing and eager "rubber stamp" for conservative Republicans in Congress who want to cut taxes for the rich.

Six months before election day, the polls point to a close race between Obama and Romney, with the economy the overriding issue as the U.S. struggles to recover from the worst recession since the 1930s. Unemployment remains stubbornly high at 8.1 per cent nationally, although it has receded slowly and unevenly since peaking several months into the president's term. The most recent dip was due to discouraged jobless giving up their search for work.

Bomb kills five in Syria

BEIRUT -- A bomb struck a car wash Saturday in Aleppo, killing at least five people, a day after government troops opened fire to break up large protests against a violent university raid in Syria's largest city.

Aleppo, an important economic hub, has largely stayed out of the revolt against President Bashar Assad that erupted nearly 14 months ago, but the raid on Aleppo University that killed four students earlier in the week has swelled the crowds of protesters.

On Friday, thousands marched against the university crackdown in what activists said were the largest protests in the city yet. However, it remained unclear if the regime is losing major ground in Aleppo.

Egypt quashes protesters

CAIRO, Egypt -- Egypt's military officials moved swiftly Saturday to prosecute protesters they blamed for an attack on the Defence Ministry, in an attempt to put down increasingly violent protests against their authority just weeks before the country's presidential election.

The fierce street battles on Friday raised to new heights the tension between the generals, who assumed power after Hosni Mubarak stepped down last year, and their critics, predominantly secular and liberal groups but now spearheaded by hard-line Islamists.

At least a hundred protesters have been killed in confrontations with security agencies since Mubarak's ouster. But the military's response to Friday's demonstration near its headquarters was significant in how swiftly they moved to detain protesters.

Election begins in France

PARIS -- Voters in France's overseas territories began casting ballots for Nicolas Sarkozy or Francois Hollande on Saturday in a presidential election that could affect everything from Europe's efforts to fight its debt crisis to how long French troops stay in Afghanistan.

The final polls show Sarkozy making up ground on his Socialist challenger before today's election in France -- but still suggest a Hollande victory. Campaigning and the release of poll data have been suspended until the results of the run-off election come in this evening. Sarkozy predicts a "surprise" and Hollande is urging voters to avoid complacency as the bitter campaign neared its climax, driven by fears about joblessness, immigration and France's economic future.

-- from the news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 6, 2012 A4

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