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WORLD: 7 killed in Syria as protests turn violent

7 killed in Syria as protests turn violent

BEIRUT -- Syrian President Bashar Assad's effort to drown out pro-democracy protests exploded into clashes between government supporters and opponents Tuesday, and security forces opened fire and killed seven people, including a teenager, activists said.

It was the latest deadly turn in a 3-month-old uprising that appears unbowed by a relentless government crackdown. The violence flared a day after a speech in which Assad, trying to contain the situation, offered a vague promise of reform, one brushed off as too little, too late, by the opposition, which wants an end to the Assad family's 40-year authoritarian rule.

In an attempt to blunt the uprising's momentum, tens of thousands of regime supporters converged on squares in several major cities on Tuesday, shouting, ''The people want Bashar Assad!'' and releasing black, white and red balloons -- colors of the Syrian flag.

Greek PM faces crucial vote

ATHENS, Greece -- Greece's prime minister was gambling his government's survival and the danger of a devastating debt default on a Tuesday night confidence vote aimed at helping him passing deeply disliked austerity measures that have provoked strikes, protests and a slump in his popularity.

If Prime Minister George Papandreou's new government fails to get the necessary parliamentary support in a midnight vote Tuesday, it would throw into question whether it can pass a new austerity bill by the end of the month as demanded by international creditors.

Expectations that Papandreou would win lifted world markets. His Socialist party holds a five-seat majority in the 300-member legislature, and a simple majority is needed to pass.

The world's oldest person dies in Brazil

SAO PAULO -- A Brazilian woman listed by Guinness World Records as the world's oldest person died Tuesday -- just weeks shy of her 115th birthday. The title now reverts to a woman in the United States.

Maria Gomes Valentim died of multiple organ failure, said Helerson Lima, a spokesman for the nursing home where she lived. Valentim would have turned 115 on July 9.

Guinness said Tuesday on its website that Valentim died at the age of 114 years, 347 days.