- - Thursday, March 8, 2012

RUSSIA

BRUSSELS — NATO’s top official plans to meet with Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin to discuss ties that have deteriorated over the alliance’s plan to deploy a missile shield.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Mr. Putin agreed during a telephone conversation on the need for good and stable ties, the alliance said Thursday.

“It was a constructive conversation,” NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said. “Both [men] stressed that they’re determined to continue cooperation and to meet bilaterally in the not-too-distant future.”

The Western military alliance says its planned missile defense program is aimed at potential threats from nations that have, or are acquiring, missile technology.

But analysts believe the shield is meant to protect Europe from Iran’s medium-range missiles.

Still, Russia has objected to the program, fearing it will eventually grow powerful enough to intercept Russian missiles, thus undermining its nuclear deterrent.

EGYPT

Court again postpones trial of nonprofit groups

CAIRO — A Cairo court Thursday delayed once again the case of 16 Americans and 27 other employees of nonprofit groups accused of fomenting unrest in Egypt.

The case has plunged U.S.-Egyptian relations to their lowest point in 30 years and has led to American threats to cut off $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt.

The pressure was alleviated somewhat when Egypt allowed the American defendants to leave the country after posting nearly $5 million in bail.

But Egyptian officials, who were sharply criticized for allowing the Americans to leave Egypt, have continued to pursue the case.

Only one of the American defendants was in court during Thursday’s session, along with 14 of the 16 Egyptians charged in the case. After about 20 minutes of procedural matters, the judge ordered the prosecutors to ensure that all defendants attend the next hearing on April 10 and adjourned the trial.

Nine of the 16 Americans were outside Egypt when the case was referred to court for trial and did not return to the country. Six more left last week when Egypt unexpectedly lifted a travel ban on all non-Egyptian defendants.

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