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World Briefs

- - Monday, November 21, 2011

TUNISIA

Assembly's inauguration establishes 'legitimate rule'

TUNIS — A buoyant Tunisia is to enter a new phase of democratic rule Tuesday with the inauguration of its elected constituent assembly, 10 months after a popular uprising ended years of dictatorship.

"This event is like a second independence for Tunisia," said Ahmed Mestiri, an iconic figure in Tunisia's struggle to gain its 1956 independence from France.

"It's the symbol of the break with the old regime and the establishment of legitimate rule," said the respected 86-year-old former politician.

A popular uprising that started in December over unemployment and the soaring cost of living ousted Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who had been in power 23 years and was thought to be one of the world's most entrenched autocrats.

The revolt touched off a wave of pro-democracy protests across the region known as the Arab Spring, and Tunisians anchored their revolution last month with a historic election for a constituent assembly.

The 217-member body, which will be tasked with drafting a new constitution and picking a new executive, is dominated by Ennahda, a party inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood.

UNITED KINGDOM

Country cutting ties with Iranian banks

LONDON — The U.K. will cut financial ties with Iranian banks because of fears about its nuclear program, Britain's Treasury chief George Osborne said Monday.

Mr. Osborne said all U.K. financial institutions will cease business relationships and transactions with all Iranian banks, including the Central Bank of Iran on Monday.

The ban extends to all branches and subsidiaries of Iranian banks.

Mr. Osborne said this is the first time the government has cut off an entire country's banking sector from the U.K.'s financial sector.

The British government acted after the International Atomic Energy Agency highlighted fresh concerns about the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program.

ARMENIA

Defense ministry threatens retaliation for Azeri killings

YEREVAN — Armenia threatened Monday to retaliate for the weekend killings of two ethnic Armenian soldiers by Azeri snipers who fired into a disputed breakaway enclave.

Nagorno-Karabakh is a mountainous enclave within the Caspian Sea nation of Azerbaijan, but it has been under the control of Armenian troops and ethnic Armenian forces since the end of a six-year separatist war in 1994.

Violations of the 1994 cease-fire have been frequent, and Armenian authorities said two servicemen from Nagorno-Karabakh were killed Sunday and Saturday.

Armenia's Defense Ministry spokesman David Karapetian said the retaliation for the soldiers' deaths will be "disproportionate." His Azeri counterpart, Teymur Abdullayev, said a shootout at the border was provoked by Armenians.

CUBA

Direct farm sales allowed to tourism sector

HAVANA — The Cuban government is authorizing farmers to sell their products directly to state-run tourist hotels and restaurants, eliminating the need to go through a government redistributor, authorities said Monday.

The measure also lets buyers and sellers negotiate their own prices, according to the Official Gazette, a government publication that disseminates new laws.

The latest in a series of economic changes pushed by President Raul Castro, it aims to "reduce losses by simplifying the links between primary production and the final consumer," according to the Communist Party newspaper Granma.

Beginning Dec. 1, independent growers, rural co-ops and state-run agribusinesses will be able to sell "agricultural products without industrial processing, rice for consumption and charcoal to hotel and restaurant establishments in the tourism sector," the Gazette said.

IRAQ

U.S. general: Iraq set for 'turbulence' as U.S. departs

BAGHDAD — Iraq's security situation is likely to see "turbulence" as U.S. forces depart and groups including al Qaeda seek to take advantage of this, the top U.S. general in the country said Monday.

Army Gen. Lloyd Austin also said that while Iraqi security forces have generally proven competent in internal security, they still have a long way to go on external defense.

"I think as we leave, you can expect to see some turbulence in security initially, and that's because you'll see various elements try to increase their freedom of movement and freedom of action," Austin told reporters in Baghdad.

Gen. Austin also pointed to Iranian-backed militias as a threat to stability.

"When you look at the environment in the south, we've seen activity over the last several months that are from the Iranian-backed militants," he said. "We expect that that type of activity could possibly continue into the future."

All U.S. troops are set to leave Iraq by the end of the year.

From wire dispatches and staff reports