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Libyan ship won't challenge Gaza blockade

JERUSALEM — A Libyan aid boat carrying supplies for Gaza was sailing toward Egypt late Tuesday instead of trying to run a naval blockade of the Palestinian territory, Israeli military officials said, apparently defusing a potential confrontation on the high seas.

The latest challenge to the blockade came a day after Israel's military admitted mistakes in the May 31 confrontation aboard a Turkish ship that left nine pro-Palestinian activists dead and brought a wave of world criticism that forced the Jewish state to ease restrictions imposed on the Hamas-ruled territory.

A spokesman for the Libyan mission insisted the boat still intended to try to reach the Palestinian territory.

Burqa ban advances in France parliament

PARIS — France's lower house of parliament overwhelmingly approved a ban on wearing burqa-style Islamic veils Tuesday, part of a determined effort to define and protect French values that has disconcerted many in the country's large Muslim community.

Proponents of the law say face-covering veils don't square with the French ideal of women's equality or its secular tradition. The bill is controversial abroad but popular in France, where its relatively few outspoken critics say conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy has resorted to xenophobia to attract far-right voters.

The ban on burqas and niqabs will go in September to the Senate, where it also is likely to pass. Its biggest hurdle will likely come after that, when France's constitutional watchdog scrutinizes it. Some legal scholars say there is a chance it could be deemed unconstitutional.

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