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World Scene

- - Wednesday, March 16, 2011


U.S. drones allowed over Mexican territory

MEXICO CITY | The Mexican government said Wednesday it has allowed U.S. drones to fly over its territory to gather intelligence on drug traffickers, but insisted the operations were under its control.

The country's National Security Council said in a statement that the unmanned aircraft have flown over Mexico on specific occasions, mainly along the border with the U.S., to gather information at the request of the Mexican government.

The flights expand the U.S. role in the drug war, in which Americans already have been training Mexican soldiers and police as well as cooperating on other intelligence.


EU proposes rules on international marriages

BRUSSELS | Sometimes it's not just a question of who gets the house and who gets the dog, but of which country's courts get to decide.

The European Commission, saying the number of international couples is on the rise, proposed new rules Thursday that would determine which country's laws apply when such a marriage or civil partnership ends.

The commission, the executive arm of the European Union, said the extra costs for international couples are estimated to be $1.53 billion a year, primarily in legal fees.

It said couples could save between $2,800 and $4,200, depending on the complexity of the case.

"As more and more citizens fall in love and then marry or create partnerships across borders, we need clear rules to decide how joint property is divided in case of death or divorce," said Viviane Reding, the EU's justice commissioner.


Diplomat: Budget fight threatens Iraq gains

BAGHDAD | Eight years of work to stabilize Iraq could go to waste if Congress guts funding to train Iraqi police forces after U.S. combat troops leave the country, a senior U.S. diplomat said Wednesday.

The comments by Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield came on a tense day in Baghdad, where political leaders raised the specter of sectarian tensions in Bahrain boiling over into Iraq.

U.S. combat troops are scheduled to exit at the end of the year, leaving the training of Iraqi security forces in the hands of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

The State Department has asked for $1 billion to assist Iraq's police and legal system in 2012, but Mr. Brownfield said it is uncertain that the money will be approved by Congress, which appears more focused this year on tightening spending than on Iraq's stability.


Brazil curtails foreign land buys

BRASILIA | Brazil has closed a legal loophole used by foreigners to buy farm land, a change of rules that is fueling uncertainty among agricultural investors in one of the world's leading food exporters.

"We simply applied the law," Attorney-General Luis Inacio Adams told Reuters on Wednesday. "Foreigners can buy land up to a certain limit and they can create [minority] partnerships with Brazilians."

Buying local companies with land holdings has allowed foreigners to bypass a law limiting the size of their direct land purchases.

In August, the government interpreted the law to mean that only Brazilian-controlled companies could buy unlimited tracts of land, while foreigners could only do so as minority partners, thus limiting purchases by subsidiaries of foreign firms.


Fourteen killed in prison violence

TEHRAN | Fourteen prisoners were killed and 33 injured in an incident at an Iranian jail on Wednesday. State TV said the incident was a brawl among inmates, but one news agency said it was a foiled escape attempt.

State TV news reported that a brawl broke out at Ghezel Hesar prison in the city of Karaj, just to the west of Tehran, during a recreation period and was broken up by security forces after nine hours.

The semi-official Mehr news agency said the deaths were the result of clashes that ensued after an escape attempt by convicted smugglers who face the death penalty.

From wire dispatches and staff reports