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World Scene

- - Wednesday, March 9, 2011

MOROCCO

King announces constitutional reforms

RABAT | King Mohamed announced constitutional reforms Wednesday and appointed a committee to draw up proposals to be presented by June.

The king, in a televised address, said the reform would include plans for an independent judiciary, a stronger role for political parties and a program to give more powers to local officials.

The draft constitution will be submitted to a referendum, he added.

RUSSIA

Biden: Russia WTO bid is top priority

GORKY | Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has told Russia's president that bringing the country into the World Trade Organization is a top priority for Washington.

Mr. Biden was meeting Wednesday with President Dmitry Medvedev on a trip focusing largely on economic issues.

The Obama administration regards integrating Russia into the world economy as key to its development and stability, and that has moved some traditional hot-button issues such as human rights to a lower priority.

MEXICO

Police arrest suspect linked to agent's death

MEXICO CITY | Federal police arrested another drug cartel suspect linked to last month's attack in Mexico that killed one U.S. agent and wounded another, authorities said Wednesday.

Mario Jimenez Perez, 41, alias "El Mayito," oversaw finances for the Zetas cartel in the northern state of San Luis Potosi, the Public Safety Department said in a statement.

Police said he ran payroll for cartel assassins, managed income from drug sales and acquired properties and communications equipment for the gang.

Federal police arrested him March 5 along with 16 other suspects with ties to the Zetas.

UNITED KINGDOM

Businessmen arrested in bank fraud probe

LONDON | Police arrested nine people, including two of Britain's wealthiest entrepreneurs, on suspicion of fraud in connection with the 2008 collapse of Iceland's Kaupthing bank during the global financial crisis.

Britain's Serious Fraud Office said seven men ages 42 to 54 were taken into custody in raids on two businesses and eight homes in London. The properties were being searched and the suspects questioned at police stations in the city.

Two men, ages 42 and 43, were arrested in the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik.

Entrepreneurs Robert and Vincent Tchenguiz confirmed they were among those arrested in London and said they were "cooperating fully" with authorities.

The Tchenguiz brothers amassed a large property portfolio and had investments in some of Britain's best-known retail brands, including grocer J. Sainsbury PLC and pub chain Mitchells & Butlers.

JAPAN

New foreign minister eyes deepen alliance with U.S.

TOKYO | Japan's new foreign minister promised Wednesday to deepen Japan's alliance with the U.S. and expand free-trade deals as he assumed the post after his former boss quit suddenly amid a political donations scandal.

While Japan's alliance with the U.S. is one of the most enduring in Asia, it has come under stress recently as governments in Tokyo promised to seek a more equal relationship with Washington.

The previous prime minister had pledged to move a U.S. base off Okinawa, where residents have complained about overcrowding and the behavior of U.S. troops.

Takeaki Matsumoto's appointment comes as Japan faces escalating territorial claims from its Asian neighbors, and he told reporters Wednesday that a solid relationship with the U.S. was critical to Japan's security.

ISRAEL

Netanyahu picks hawkish security adviser

JERUSALEM | Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has appointed a former general known for his hawkish views as his new security adviser, a spokesman said Wednesday

Yaakov Amidror, who opposed the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, will replace Uzi Arad, a longtime Netanyahu confidant who resigned.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

King Mohamed announced constitutional reforms Wednesday and appointed a committee to draw up proposals to be presented by June.