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      Murdoch's News Intl. offers compensation for hacking victims

      Rupert Murdoch

      LONDON (AP) - Victims of phone hacking at the News of the World are now invited to apply for compensation, Rupert Murdoch's News International said Friday.

      The company said in a statement it had set up the compensation plan as "a speedy, cost effective alternative to litigation" and launched a new section of its website to handle applications.

      Murdoch was forced to close the News of the World in July after it emerged that staff at the paper had routinely conspired to intercept the cell phone voicemails of public figures - including celebrities, sports stars, politicians, and even crime victims.

      News International urged anyone previously contacted by the police or who believes they are a victim to look into applying for compensation.

      The company said former High Court judge Charles Gray agreed to act as the independent adjudicator for the payment plan.

      "It should provide very significant benefits to applicants such as avoiding the enormous expense of court proceedings," the statement quotes Gray as saying. He said he will always safeguard "the fairness of the process and the rights of applicants."

      British police say they have identified 5,795 potential victims of phone hacking by journalists at the now-shuttered tabloid.