World briefs (9/9/12)

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3,000 evacuate after eruption

MANAGUA, Nicaragua -- The San Cristobal volcano spewed out a column of ash and gas 21/2 miles high Saturday, leading Nicaraguan authorities to evacuate about 3,000 people from nine communities around the country's tallest mountain.

Residents reported hearing three powerful explosions in the volcano as the cloud began billowing skyward and ash drifted over nearby villages. Civil defense personnel said 300 soldiers were sent to evacuate people and care for them.

Nicaragua has been on alert since a strong earthquake shook neighboring Costa Rica on Wednesday and then a swarm of 17 minor tremors were recorded in the area around Lake Managua next to the capital the following day.

Agreement to ease travel

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan and India signed a new visa agreement Saturday, easing restrictions for travelers in what was seen as a step toward warming relations between rival South Asian countries after years of mistrust and hostility.

Among changes, the agreement will exempt travelers older than 65, children younger than 12 and businessmen from reporting to police during their travels.

Hu: China faces 'pressure'

BEIJING -- Chinese President Hu Jintao pledged to boost domestic demand and promote more balanced growth in the face of an export slowdown for the world's second-biggest economy.

"Economic growth is facing notable downward pressure, some small and medium enterprises are facing a hard time and exporters are facing more difficulties," Hu said Saturday at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit in Vladivostok, Russia. "We have an arduous task of creating jobs for new entrants to the labor force."

China is boosting spending in infrastructure, including 800 billion yuan ($126 billion) in new subway and rail projects, as economic growth slows.

Pakistan frees girl

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan -- A young Christian girl accused of burning pages of Islam's holy book was freed Saturday from a jail near the capital where she had been held for three weeks, a Pakistani jail official said.

The release a day after a judge granted her bail is another step closer to ending an episode that has focused an uncomfortable spotlight on Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws, which can result in life in prison or even death for defendants. Many critics say the laws are misused to wage vendettas or target Pakistan's vulnerable minorities like the Christians.

Madrid chosen for casino

MADRID -- Sheldon G. Adelson, the U.S. billionaire casino magnate, is set to build a giant gaming and leisure resort on the outskirts of Madrid, ending a bidding battle between the Spanish capital and Barcelona, Spain's second-largest city.

Mr. Adelson's company, Las Vegas Sands, offered few clues on how the project, EuroVegas, would be financed amid a deepening recession and banking crisis in Spain, how big it would be or where it would be situated.

'The Master' wins big

VENICE, Italy -- Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix shared the Venice Film Festival's best-actor trophy for playing a Scientology-style cult leader and his follower in "The Master." Paul Thomas Anderson clinched the best-director prize for the same movie.

The best-film award, or Golden Lion, went to Korean Kim Ki- Duk's "Pieta," about the encounter between a young loan shark and a woman claiming to be his mother.

-- Compiled from news services

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