World Briefs: NATO chief, Putin agree to meet soon

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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.

One American, Robert Becker, opted to stay behind and was in court on Thursday.

PAKISTAN

Pakistan charges bin Laden’s widows

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has charged Osama bin Laden’s three widows with illegally entering and living in the country, the interior minister said Thursday.

The three women have been in Pakistani detention since May last year, when U.S. commandos raided the house where they, bin Laden and several of their children were staying. The commandos shot and killed bin Laden, and then buried his body at sea.

Rehman Malik said the three had been charged in court, but he did not say when. It was unclear if they had a lawyer.

He said their children were free to leave Pakistan, but could stay with their mothers for the duration of the trial.

LIBYA

Militia hands over airport to government

BENGHAZI — A powerful Libyan militia that took over the country’s busiest airport when Moammar Gadhafi was deposed said Thursday it will hand over responsibility for the airport to the government, which is struggling to assert its control over militias across Libya.

The decision by the Zintan forces to relinquish such a powerful symbol, the airport in the capital of Tripoli, represents a victory for Libya’s central government, which has been heavily criticized for failing to rein in the various militia groups operating across the country.

The test, however, will be whether government forces will be able to ensure the security and safety of airport operations.

A spokesman for the Zintan militia, Khaled Kar, said Thursday that commanders will hand over the airport to the Ministry of Interior within a week in an official ceremony. He vowed the handover would be permanent.

TURKEY

New laws to guard women from abuse

ANKARA — Turkey’s parliament marked International Women’s Day on Thursday by approving a package of laws aimed at better protecting women and children from abuse.

As it vies for European Union membership, Turkey - a predominantly Muslim country - is struggling to discard long-held cultural practices that denigrate women in a largely patriarchal society.

It also is fighting to curb “honor killings” and murders of women deemed to have tarnished the reputation of their relatives, sometimes by having a premarital affair or a child out of wedlock.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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