Rafsanjani off Iran's ballot list

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's election overseers removed potential wild-card candidates from the presidential race Tuesday, blocking a top aide of outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a former president who revived hopes of reformers.

Their exclusion from the June 14 presidential ballot gives establishment-friendly candidates a clear path to succeed Ahmadinejad, who has lost favor with the ruling clerics after years of power struggles.

The official ballot list, announced on state TV, followed a nearly six-hour delay in which the names were kept under wraps. That raised speculation that authorities allowed some time for appeals by the blackballed candidates and their backers to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say in all matters.

But the official slate left off two prominent but divisive figures: former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad protege Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. - AP

N. Koreans free Chinese boat

BEIJING - Gunmen wearing North Korean military uniforms released a Chinese fishing boat Tuesday after holding its crew for two weeks, beating up the captain and stealing the vessel's fuel, the boat's owner said. He added that the hijackers did not get the $100,000 ransom they had demanded.

The seizure May 5 in what boat owner Yu Xuejun said were Chinese waters was the latest irritant in relations between North Korea and a Chinese government increasingly frustrated with its neighboring ally over tests of its nuclear and rocket technologies in defiance of U.N. bans. One of China's North Korea watchers said rogue border guards were probably responsible.

Yu said in an interview that the men were allowed to move around the boat while they were held captive, but were locked in a room at night. He said the captain suffered an arm injury when he was beaten, but he has since recovered. They now planned to stay out at sea for another 10 days.

- AP

Man shoots self in Notre Dame

PARIS - About 1,500 visitors were cleared out of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris after a man put a letter on the altar of the 850-year-old monument Tuesday, pulled out a gun and shot himself in the head.

It's the first suicide in decades at the landmark site, said Msgr. Patrick Jacquin, the cathedral's rector. "It's unfortunate, it's dramatic, it's shocking," Jacquin said. The motives for the suicide, and the contents of the man's letter, were unclear.

The Paris prosecutor's office identified the man as 78-year-old Dominique Venner. Venner's blog describes him as a historian and essayist, and includes description of his involvement in the campaign against France's new law authorizing gay marriage.

- AP