William tops queen in poll

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LONDON -- Prince William is Britain's most popular royal and is regarded more favorably by the public than either Queen Elizabeth II, his grandmother, or Prince Charles, his father and heir to the throne, a poll showed Sunday.

The poll, by ComRes for The Independent on Sunday newspaper, canvassed more than 2,000 Britons and showed that Britain's royals are more popular than any of the country's politicians, including Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron.

Sixty-eight percent of those asked said they had a favorable view of Prince William, 63 percent of the queen, 43 percent of Prince Charles, and 28 percent of Mr. Cameron, the country's most popular political party leader.

Pakistan launches offensive

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan's military announced a full-scale operation in North Waziristan, a tribal region the U.S. has called the "epicenter" of terrorism, after an attack on the country's biggest international airport last week.

The army said Sunday that it would target local and foreign terrorists in North Waziristan, a move the U.S. has sought for years. The operation signals an end to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's peace talks with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, which has been at the forefront of an insurgency that has killed 50,000 people since 2001.

As Islamic militants capture cities in Iraq, and the U.S. draws up plans to withdraw from Afghanistan, public opinion in Pakistan is shifting in favor of stronger action against fighters who previously were seen locally as more of a threat to America's interests.

Afghans counting ballots

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghan election officials began counting votes from a presidential runoff two days ago as the world waits to see whether it can complete its first peaceful transfer of power since the U.S. invasion in 2001.

Abdullah Abdullah, who won the most votes in the first round of the election April 5, is trying to stave off ex- finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai in a runoff. Partial election results will start to be released July 2, with final results announced July 22.

The winner faces the challenge of boosting growth in one of Asia's poorest economies while fighting Taliban insurgents as the U.S. reduces troops in the country. Both candidates have pledged to sign a deal rejected by President Hamid Karzai that will keep American soldiers in the country beyond this year.

Israel blames Hamas

JERUSALEM -- Israel said Sunday that Hamas militants had abducted three Israeli teenagers in the occupied West Bank, warning of "serious consequences" as it pressed on with a search and detained dozens of Palestinians.

The two 16-year-olds and a third man aged 19, seminary students in a Jewish settlement bloc, disappeared Thursday.

There has been no public claim of responsibility. Asked about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's charge, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri stopped short of a clear denial or confirmation the group was involved.

Since the three teenagers vanished, apparently while hitchhiking, the Israeli army has carried out house-to-house searches.

Also in the world ...

Juan Manuel Santos won re-election Sunday after Colombia's tightest presidential contest in years, an endorsement of his 18-month-old peace talks to end the Western Hemisphere's longest-running conflict. ... Pope Francis said Sunday his first trip to a European country would be to Albania in September to pay tribute to those who suffered under communism.

— Compiled from news services

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