Photo project takes off in Mexico

MEXICO CITY - More than 18,000 people stripped down and bared it all in Mexico City's vast main square yesterday for U.S. photographer Spencer Tunick's biggest nude shoot yet.

Standing up to salute, crouching in fetal positions and lying prone on the Zocalo plaza, the volunteers formed a sea of flesh that Tunick snapped from balconies and a small crane in the morning light.

The New York artist has become famous for photographing thousands of naked people in public settings worldwide. But the Mexico City shoot dwarfed all others. - AP

Peacekeeper plane crashes, killing 9

EL-NAKHL, Egypt - A plane carrying foreign peacekeepers across the Sinai desert crashed yesterday near a highway where it had tried to make an emergency landing, killing eight French soldiers and a Canadian, officials said.

Capt. Mohammed Badr, a police officer in Sinai, said the plane went down 50 miles from the nearest big town, el-Nakhl.

It appeared the Canadian-made DeHavilland DHC-6 Twin Otter tried to land on the mountain highway but crashed nearby after clipping a truck, said Normand St. Pierre, a spokesman for the Multinational Force and Observers, an independent force formed by Egypt and Israel to monitor their Sinai border after a 1979 peace deal. - AP

Opposition leader seeks S. Africa shift

CAPE TOWN, South Africa - Cape Town's respected mayor won the leadership of the white-dominated main opposition party yesterday, vowing to attract more black voters and break the divided African National Congress' hold on power.

Helen Zille will have to work hard to dent the loyalty of South Africa's black majority to the party that ended apartheid. Her Democratic Alliance generally wins less than 2 percent of the black vote. South Africa has been without a strong opposition since the end of white rule in 1994.

But Zille has already made inroads, wresting Cape Town from the ANC last year and winning praise for her governance in a city previously plagued with inefficiency and corruption charges.

Zille, born in Johannesburg to German parents, spoke partly in Xhosa, the tongue of many black South Africans. - AP

Elsewhere:

Muslim extremists in the Gaza Strip attacked a children's festival at a U.N.-run elementary school yesterday, killing a politician's bodyguard, and showing that the Palestinian unity government appears powerless to calm the area.

The Islamic-rooted Turkish government suffered another setback yesterday when parliament failed again to reach a quorum to elect the ruling party's presidential candidate. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, a close ally of the prime minister, withdrew from the presidential race yesterday.

Fire broke out yesterday in a building under construction onDubai's iconic, palm-shaped resort island, sending clouds of smoke over beachfront neighborhoods and injuring three.