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World Briefs: Women protest plans to curb abortion

- - Sunday, June 3, 2012

TURKEY

ANKARA — Thousands of demonstrators staged the largest protest yet against plans by Turkey's Islamic-rooted government to curb abortion, which critics say will amount to a virtual ban.

Nearly 3,000 women - age 20 to 60 - gathered Sunday at a square in Istanbul's Kadikoy district carrying banners that read "my body, my choice," while shouting anti-government slogans.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called abortion "murder," and his government is working on legislation to ban the procedure after four weeks from conception, except in emergencies. Abortion currently is legal in Turkey up to 10 weeks after conception.

EGYPT

Prosecutor to appeal Mubarak trial verdicts

CAIRO — Egypt's top prosecutor is appealing the verdicts in the trial of Egypt's ousted president that acquitted Hosni Mubarak and his two sons on corruption charges and clearing senior police officers of complicity in killing protesters, an official said Sunday.

Under Egyptian law, the prosecutor must appeal the entire verdict, which included convictions and life sentences for Mubarak and his former security chief for failing to stop the killing of protesters in the uprising that ousted him last year.

Six top police commanders, who faced the same charge of complicity in killing protesters, were acquitted for what the judge said was lack of concrete evidence.

The verdicts triggered a wave of street protests Saturday.

VIETNAM

Panetta sends message to China on Vietnam visit

CAM RANH BAY — Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta used a visit Sunday to Vietnam to make clear Washington's intent to aid allies in the Asia-Pacific region develop and enforce maritime rights in the South China Sea, which China largely claims.

On a historic stop in Cam Ranh Bay, the strategic deep-water port that was a U.S. base during the Vietnam War, Mr. Panetta told reporters: "The new defense strategy that we have put in place for the United States represents a number of key elements that will be tested in the Asia-Pacific region."

He said the U.S. would "work with our partners like Vietnam to be able to use harbors like this as we move our ships from our ports on the West Coast toward our stations here in the Pacific."

Mr. Panetta never mentioned China as he spoke to crew members on the USNS Richard E. Byrd and later to reporters. But with the South China Sea as a backdrop, he left no doubt that the U.S. will maintain a strong presence in the region.

IRAQ

Religious edict seen as aiding prime minister

BAGHDAD — An Iranian-based Shiite Muslim cleric on Sunday published a religious edict that could undermine efforts to unseat the Iraqi prime minister and also signaled Iran's growing influence over Iraq's politics.

The ruling was issued by Ayatollah Kazim al-Haeri, spiritual mentor of anti-American Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

In recent weeks, Mr. al-Sadr has aligned himself with opponents of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is facing mounting allegations from members of his broad unity government of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds that he is monopolizing power.

The prime minister's critics are trying to gather enough backing to bring him down with a no-confidence vote in parliament.

In a religious ruling published Sunday, Mr. al-Haeri, who lives in Iran, said it is forbidden to vote for secular politicians in Iraq's government - an apparent reference to Mr. Maliki's opponents.

Mr. al-Sadr's followers hold 40 seats in the 325-member parliament and are part of the ruling coalition.

JAPAN

Japan arrests cult member in '95 sarin attack, reports say

TOKYO — One of the two remaining fugitive members of the doomsday cult behind the 1995 nerve gas attack on Tokyo subways was arrested Sunday, Japanese media reports said.

Naoko Kikuchi, 40, was spotted in Sagamihara, a city 20 miles southwest of Tokyo, and acknowledged she was the former Aum Shinrikyo cult member when approached by police, according to NHK-TV and other media reports, citing investigative sources. She was wanted on charges of murder in the 1995 attack.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports