- - Thursday, March 10, 2011

INDIA

Dalai Lama to cede political role

DHARMSALA | The Dalai Lama said Thursday that he will give up his political role in the Tibetan government-in-exile and shift that power to an elected representative, as the 76-year-old Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader struggled with growing worries about who will succeed him when he dies.

Speaking on the anniversary of the failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule in his Himalayan homeland that sent him into exile, the Dalai Lama said the time had come “to devolve my formal authority to the elected leader.”

While he has long said that he wants the exile government to take on some of his powers, Thursday’s announcement appeared to mark the beginning of a countdown.

The Dalai Lama said he would propose amendments to the exile constitution during the parliament’s next session, which begins Monday in this Indian hill town where the exiles are based.

SAUDI ARABIA

Police open fire at protesters

CAIRO | Saudi police opened fire at a rally in the kingdom’s east in an apparent escalation of efforts to stop planned protests.

Government officials have warned they will take strong action if activists take to the streets after increasing calls for large protests across the oil-rich kingdom to press for democratic reforms.

A witness in the eastern city of Qatif said gunfire and stun grenades were fired at several hundred protesters marching in the city streets Thursday. The witness, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he feared government reprisal, said police in the area opened fire. The witness said he saw at least one protester injured.

MADAGASCAR

New government to form within days

ANTANANARIVO | Madagascar’s president said a multiparty transitional government will be formed within days to help resolve the Indian Ocean island’s political crisis.

Andry Rajoelina on Thursday said the country’s prime minister and his government have resigned. Mr. Rajoelina can stay in power until the elections, but he must choose a prime minister and government from candidates proposed by all the parties.

Thursday’s resignations follow an agreement Wednesday signed by all parties except that of ousted President Marc Ravalomanana. That party approved the mediation process but said the agreement gives the president too much power, especially that of choosing a premier from nominations put forward.

Mr. Rajoelina took power in Madagascar with military backing in 2009.

LEBANON

3 Syrians missing after protest call

BEIRUT | Three Syrian brothers have been missing for two weeks after handing out pamphlets in Beirut urging demonstrations for democratic change in Syria, an international human rights group said Thursday, calling on Lebanon to investigate.

The men’s family said they disappeared early on Feb. 25 after they distributed fliers in the Lebanese capital calling for change back home, where the regime of President Bashar Assad closely controls the media and routinely jails critics of the regime.

Family members told Human Rights Watch they are concerned the men might have been forcibly transferred to Syria.

Syria, a predominantly Sunni country ruled by minority Alawites, has been spared the wave of uprisings sweeping the Middle East. An online attempt to organize protests in February failed because of a host of factors, including intimidation by security agents.

MEXICO

Banners announce ‘Knights Templar’ gang

MORELIA | Banners hung in a western Mexican state Thursday announced a previously unknown gang calling itself the “Knights Templar,” less than a month after La Familia drug cartel said it intended to disband.

The signs said the “Knights” will replace the cartel and fend off any other gangs looking to make inroads in Michoacan state.

“To the people of Michoacan, we inform you that starting today we will be carrying out here the altruistic activities previously realized by La Familia Michoacana,” read one sign, hung on the fence of a school.

There was no immediate comment from police, who quickly removed the banners from footbridges, in a public square, on a monument and elsewhere in cities including the state capital of Morelia, as well as in Zitacuaro and Apatzingan.

It is the first public mention of a group by that name, and the authenticity of the banners could not immediately be confirmed.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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