Thatcher's coffin taken to Parliament

LONDON - The body of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was taken Tuesday to the Houses of Parliament in London, where it will rest overnight before her funeral.

The coffin, draped in a red, white and blue Union flag, was driven to the Palace of Westminster and carried into the crypt chapel of St. Mary Undercroft, where about 100 family members, colleagues and senior politicians attended a private service Tuesday for the late British leader. She died on April 8 at age 87.

This morning, her coffin will travel by hearse to the Church of St. Clement Danes before being borne on a horse-drawn gun carriage to St. Paul's Cathedral. Some 2,000 family members, politicians and dignitaries from around the world are planning to attend.


Quake kills dozens on border with Pakistan

TEHRAN - An earthquake toppled homes and shops on both sides of the Iran-Pakistan border Tuesday, killing dozens of people and causing skyscrapers to sway in Dubai.

At least 34 people were killed in a single village in Pakistan, a military official said. But the overall death toll became clouded after conflicting reports from Iran.

At first, Iran's state Press TV said at least 40 people died - which would push the two-nation tally to 74. But it later retreated from its account, and other Iranian outlets stepped in with a far less dire picture.

The website of the Tehran Geophysics Center said the quake, measured at least magnitude 7.7, lasted 40 seconds and called it the strongest in more than 50 years in one of the world's most seismically active areas. Press TV called it "massive" but likely far less menacing than lesser quakes in far more populated areas.


Amnesty could free up to 7,000 inmates

BEIRUT - Syrian President Bashar Assad issued an order Tuesday freeing up to 7,000 prison inmates, but it was not clear whether the decree would apply to any of those jailed for participation in the rebellion that is seeking to overthrow his regime.

Assad issued a combination of commuted sentences and a general amnesty for selected prisoners, according to the official state news agency. The amnesty did not include people convicted of "crimes of treason, espionage and terrorism," the news agency's English-language website said, so it presumably excluded opposition activists, whom the government labels terrorists. However, the decree in Arabic said some convicted of terrorism could receive a commuted sentence, though it did not make clear if that included people arrested since the uprising began in March 2011.

Assad has offered amnesties in the past that critics considered to be largely cosmetic.


War games with US canceled over rights

RABAT - Morocco on Tuesday canceled its annual military exercises with the United States after the Obama administration backed having the U.N. monitor human rights in the disputed territory of Western Sahara, U.S. officials said.

The 13th annual "African Lion" exercise - involving 1,400 U.S. servicemen and 900 Moroccan troops, as well as foreign observers from places like France and Germany - had been set to start today with many personnel already in place.

The troops and equipment were now in the process of being redeployed, according to Eric Elliott, a spokesman for the U.S. Africa Command, or Africom.


Musharraf barred from election run

PESHAWAR - High court judges disqualified former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday from running in the parliamentary election, likely ending any hope of a political comeback.

The ruling was the latest blow for Musharraf, who has faced paltry public support, a raft of legal challenges and Taliban death threats since he returned to Pakistan last month after years in self-imposed exile.

Many experts predicted this would be Musharraf's fate if he came back and have been scratching their heads at what drove his decision. Some have speculated he misjudged how much public backing he would get, while others guessed he was simply homesick.


Boat wreck exposes pangolin poaching

BEIJING - A boating accident off the Philippines coast has exposed Chinese poaching of a protected species of scaly anteater, or pangolin, prized in traditional medicine.

A 500-ton Chinese fishing vessel, the Min Long Yu, crashed into a coral reef April 8. When the boat was inspected, authorities found more than 2,000 butchered pangolins rolled up and packed into 400 boxes. It is one of the largest hauls of the species, which is subject to an international trade ban.

Pangolins are long, lizardlike land mammals covered with scales, which make them look like pine cones when they roll themselves up for protection.

Wire reports