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Sharon Elected – Fires – Child Abuse – Fresh Charge – English Deputy – PM At Waitangi

- SHARON ELECTED: Hard-line Right Wing Likud Leader Ariel Sharon has been elected Israeli Prime Minister, a result that many fear will be at the detriment of the Middle East peace process. Ariel Sharon immediately phoned current Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to offer him a job in a new Government. Mr Barak would not say he will join a Likud led Government. Palestinians declared a day of rage against the election result, with fresh clashes in the West Bank and other hot spots. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark extended her congratulations, and said she hoped the peace process would continue under his Government.

- FIRES: A huge scrub fire is threatening homes on the outskirts of Picton. A Picton fire officer says extremely dry conditions in the area are fueling the blaze. Another fire near Makara in Wellington today is being contained.

- CHILD ABUSE: Details are emerging about another appalling case of child abuse. A mother has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of her five-year-old boy last November. A vicious beating was dealt out to the boy after he refused to eat his dinner. The boy had only just returned to New Zealand to live with his parents, after being raised in Samoa. The mother will be sentenced next month. A man has been charged with cruelty in relation to the incident.

- FRESH CHARGE: Another charge has been laid against Hugh Gordon Bryant, the man accused of murdering his 2-year-old cousin, Masterton toddler Thomas Schumann. He is now accused of trying to kill a nine year old female relative in the days leading up to the Thomas Schumann murder. He is currently undergoing psychiatric assessment.

- ENGLISH DEPUTY: National Finance spokesman Bill English has been voted the new National Party Deputy Leader by a special National Party caucus today. Mr English says he has committed himself to Jenny Shipley’s leadership, and that making the leadership secure was foremost on the minds of the caucus.

- PM AT WAITANGI: There is a split among northland Maori over the future attendance of Prime Minister Helen Clark at Waitangi on Waitangi day. Some are offering an olive branch, while other say she is no longer welcome.

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