- - Wednesday, February 29, 2012

TAIWAN

TAIPEI — Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday that an air force officer has been detained on suspicion of passing military secrets to China, the latest case involving the transmission of classified information from the democratic island to the communist mainland.

Taiwan and China split after a civil war in 1949, and, although their relations have improved significantly in recent years, they still mount extensive espionage operations against each other.

In the latest China espionage case, the Defense Ministry said the air force officer detained by the military worked at a ground command center in northern Taiwan. The officer was not identified.

EGYPT

Presidential election set for May

CAIRO — Egypt on Wednesday set May 23 and 24 for its first-ever free presidential election, a much-anticipated vote that would bring to an end the rocky transitional period that followed the ouster of Hosni Mubarak a year ago.

The ruling military has pledged to turn over power to civilians after the presidential election, and that would mean an end of six decades of authoritarian rule during which secretive generals pulled the strings of power from behind the scenes.

If no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote, a runoff between the top two finishers would take place June 16 and 17.

MEXICO

Cocaine seizures drop as traffic moves

MEXICO CITY — Cocaine seizures have dropped in Mexico in recent years, and a top U.N. drug-control official said the trade appeared to be moving to Central America because of law enforcement pressure and infighting among cartels.

Mexican officials seized 53 tons of cocaine in 2007 and only 10 tons last year, according to a report Tuesday from the International Narcotics Control Board, which monitors global drug-control agreements.

Antonio Mazzitelli, a representative in Mexico of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, said traffickers are diverting their cocaine operations elsewhere, but he cautioned that seizures of drugs produced inside Mexico, such as methamphetamine and marijuana, remain stable.

UNITED KINGDOM

Britain restricts visas for foreign workers

LONDON — Britain’s government says migrant workers will in the future need to earn at least $56,000 to qualify for a visa permitting them to settle in the U.K.

Immigration Minister Damian Green announced Wednesday the change in migration rules, aimed at cutting from 60,000 to 20,000 the number of foreign workers and their dependents granted settlement each year.

Currently, no limit on earnings is imposed.

Britain also has imposed tougher limits on the number of non-Europeans allowed to work in the U.K. and slashed visas for overseas students.

WEST BANK

Israeli troops raid private TV stations

RAMALLAH — Israeli troops raided two private Palestinian TV stations before dawn Wednesday, seizing transmitters and other equipment, the military said.

The military said one of the outlets, Al-Watan TV, is a pirate station whose frequencies interfered with legal broadcasters and aircraft communications.

It said several transmitters were confiscated in the operation initiated by Israel’s Communications Ministry.

The military also confirmed a second raid at Jerusalem Educational TV, a Ramallah-based station owned by the Palestinians’ Al-Quds University.

Palestinian officials denounced the raids as aggression and violation of media freedom.

ISRAEL

Sryian rebels want peace with Jewish state, minister says

JERUSALEM — An Israeli Cabinet minister said Wednesday that Syrian opposition leaders have told him they want peace with Israel after Syrian President Bashar Assad falls.

Israel and Syria are bitter enemies and have fought several major wars. Syria also backs violent anti-Israel groups.

Isaac Herzog, welfare minister and a member of parliament’s influence Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said Wednesday that the Syrian opposition want to “be friends” with Israel.

He refused to name his sources because he said they fear retribution by Mr. Assad.

SOUTH AFRICA

ANC expels youth leader

JOHANNESBURG — The African National Congress expelled the party’s youth leader late Wednesday, the latest attempt to control a figure who has angered his elders with his militant rhetoric and persistent questioning of policy.

The timing of the announcement illustrated the rift between Julius Malema and his party. It had been expected much early Wednesday but, according to South African media reports, was delayed for hours because Mr. Malema did not present himself at ANC headquarters to hear his fate before it was released to the public.

Mr. Malema’s Youth League had said its members would have no comment on the announcement. Mr. Malema could appeal or try to campaign as an outsider for influence.

From wire dispatches and staff reports