CANBERRA, Australia

Qantas grounds all flights, striking workers locked out

Qantas Airways grounded its global fleet Saturday, suddenly locking out striking workers after weeks of flight disruptions that an executive said could close down the world’s 10th-largest airline piece by piece.

The Australian government called for an emergency arbitration hearing, which was adjourned early today after hearing evidence from the unions and airline. It will resume this afternoon when the government will argue that the airline be ordered to fly in Australia’s economic interests.

When the grounding was announced, 36 international and 28 domestic Australian flights were in the air, said a Qantas spokeswoman, who declined to be named, citing company policy.

Qantas said 108 planes were being grounded but did not say how many flights were involved. The spokeswoman could not confirm an Australian Broadcasting Corp. television report that 13,305 passengers were booked to fly Qantas international flights within 24 hours of the grounding.


Strike by attendants causes some flight cancellations

Air France says it has canceled about 20 percent of its flights because of a strike by flight attendants.

The strike is affecting mostly short- and medium-haul flights out of French airports, but 10 long-haul flights were also canceled Saturday. One out of five flights today are also expected to be canceled, the airline said.

The airline said the situation at Paris’ main airport, Charles de Gaulle, was largely normal, with most passengers on canceled flights rebooked on other airlines. At Paris’ Orly airport, however, about 200 passengers were waiting to be rebooked.

The strike, in protest against cuts to cabin crews, comes during an extended school holiday and at the start of a long weekend in France.

RABAT, Morocco

All defendants convicted in April cafe bombing

After five hours of deliberation, a Moroccan court Friday convicted all defendants for their role in an April 28 cafe bombing that killed 17 people, mostly tourists, sentencing the chief suspect to death.

Prosecutors had accused Adel al-Othmani of dressing like a tourist and planting the bomb in the Argana cafe, before setting it off with his mobile phone. He was convicted of premeditated murder and building explosives, among other charges.

The court handed down a life term for al-Othmani’s associate, Hakim Dah, and gave four-year terms for four other defendants charged with having knowledge of the crime. Three were given two-year prison terms.

Abdel Hamid Bettar, the spokesman for the defendants’ families, said they would appeal the sentence.


Floodwaters recede, dikes and barriers hold at peak tide

Defenses shielding the center of Thailand’s capital from the nation’s worst floods in nearly 60 years mostly held at critical peak tides Saturday, as the waters began to recede after killing almost 400 people. But the threat to central Bangkok was not over, the prime minister said, and the city’s northern districts remained submerged along with much of the countryside.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra urged citizens to let the crisis run its course as the floodwaters slowly drain to the sea, with Bangkok lying in their path. The floods that have besieged central Thailand for weeks submerged entire towns across the country’s heartland.

Bangkok residents watched the city’s dikes and sandbag barriers warily as the high tide pushing up the Chao Phraya River from the Gulf of Thailand peaked Saturday morning.

The tides fell short of forecast highs, and there was no major breach. Higher-than-usual tides will continue through Monday but are predicted to be lower than Saturday’s.


Syrian forces kill at least three as crackdown continues

Syrian troops shelled a restive district and conducted sweeping raids Saturday, killing at least three people one day after 40 were reported to have died in one of the deadliest crackdowns in months in the country’s uprising, activists said.

The violence prompted strong criticism from the Arab League, which issued a statement expressing “disgust” at Friday’s killings. An Arab League committee was set to meet today in Qatar with a Syrian delegation over ways to solve the crisis stemming from the seven-month uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also urged “military operations against civilians to stop at once.”

ERCIS, Turkey

Rescue effort in final day, 230 total survivors dug out

Rescue teams Saturday were digging through the remains of four collapsed buildings in what the deputy prime minister said would be the final day of the search for survivors of a devastating earthquake six days ago.

The death toll in the 7.2-magnitude earthquake, which also rattled parts of Iran and Armenia, rose to 582, of whom 455 were in the eastern city of Ercis. Close to 4,000 were injured, and some 230 were brought out of the ruins alive, authorities said.

On Saturday, rescuers pulled the body of a 27-year-old female teacher from a crumbled building and continued searching the wreckage for two other missing people.


Sweep targets former Baath party members, 615 detained

Iraq’s prime minister said Saturday that 615 people have been detained in a security sweep targeting members of the former ruling Baath party.

Arrests on this scale are likely to alarm Sunni Arabs, who consider use of the term “Baathists” by Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government to be a coded way to refer to prominent members of their community.

Sunnis say that Baghdad sometimes uses crackdowns on Baathists to exert political pressure. The arrests coincide with a recent autonomy push by a mostly Sunni province in north-central Iraq, the latest bone of contention between Sunni political blocs and the Baghdad government.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki revealed the size of the sweep in comments released Saturday by the state-run Iraqiya TV channel during which he defended the detentions.

He said officials had reason to believe the people arrested were a threat to security, but he gave no further details.

— From news service reports