Turkish protesters stream into Izmir

IZMIR, Turkey - Choking the highways and crammed onto ferries, hundreds of thousands of Turks streamed into this port city yesterday in an enormous show of opposition to the pro-Islamic ruling party, increasing pressure on the government ahead of early elections.

About 1.5 million protesters carried antigovernment banners, red-and-white Turkish flags, and pictures of Kemal Ataturk, who founded the secular republic in 1923. Turkish flags hung from balconies and windows, as well as from buses, and fishing boats and yachts bobbing in Izmir's bay.

Throughout the morning, thousands were trying to reach Izmir, and highways leading to the city were at a standstill. Municipal authorities said some 200,000 people sailed in on ferries.

The rally was organized as a show of strength ahead of general elections July 22, and follows similar demonstrations in Ankara and Istanbul last month.

The political turmoil displayed the growing secular-Islamic rift in this mainly Muslim country of 75 million that is vying for European Union membership and whose secular laws, enshrined in the constitution, are fiercely guarded by the judiciary and by the military. - AP

Zimbabwe is out, cricket team told

CANBERRA, Australia - Prime Minister John Howard said yesterday that the Australian government had banned the country's cricket team from touring Zimbabwe in September because he does not want to support the regime of a "grubby dictator."

Howard told Australian Broadcasting Corp. television that the Robert Mugabe regime of Zimbabwe "is behaving like the Gestapo toward its political opponents. The living standards in the country are probably the lowest of any in the world; you have an absolutely unbelievable rate of inflation. I have no doubt that, if this tour goes ahead, it will be an enormous boost to this grubby dictator." - AP

Coalition wins Armenian election

MOSCOW - A coalition of pro-government parties took a strong majority in Armenia's 131-seat National Assembly, according to preliminary results of Saturday's election, giving a victory to Prime Minister Serge Sargsyan.

Western observers said yesterday that the parliamentary elections largely complied with international standards, in the first positive assessment of an election in the former Soviet republic since it gained independence in 1991.

In signs of an open campaign, opposition parties held public rallies without police harassment, and were allowed free air time on public television. - N.Y. Times News Service

Elsewhere:

Waves reaching 36 feet high thrashed France's Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean, leaving two fishermen missing and flooding homes and hotels Saturday.

An accident involving three passenger buses killed at least 25 people yesterday in the southern Nigerian city of Port Harcourt. Police said one of the buses burst into flames.