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World Briefs: Voters approve measure to become 51st U.S. state

- - Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN — A slim majority of Puerto Ricans sought to change ties with the United States and become the 51st American state in a nonbinding referendum that would require final approval from Congress.

The two-part referendum in Tuesday's election asked whether the island wanted to change its 114-year relationship with the United States. Nearly 54 percent, or 922,374 people, supported the measure, while 46 percent, or 786,749 people, favored the status quo. Ninety-six percent of 1,643 precincts were reporting as of early Wednesday.

The second question asked voters to choose from three options, with statehood by far the favorite, garnering 61 percent. Sovereign free association, which would have allowed for more autonomy, received 33 percent, while independence got 5 percent.

President Obama has expressed support for the referendum and pledged to respect the will of the people in the event of a clear majority.

The island is a U.S. territory whose inhabitants are American citizens but are prohibited from voting in presidential elections. Its resident commissioner in the U.S. House also has limited voting powers.


Citizenship is revoked for 31 Shiite activists

DUBAI — Bahraini authorities have revoked the citizenship of 31 Shiite activists, among them two former members of parliament, for having "undermined state security," state news agency BNA reported Wednesday.

The names of the activists, including brothers Jawad and Jalal Fairuz, both former members of parliament who represented the major Shiite Al-Wefaq bloc, were listed in the report, which quoted an Interior Ministry statement.

Also named was Ali Mashaima, son of prominent activist Hassan Mashaima, who is head of the radical Shiite opposition movement Haq and who is serving a life sentence for plotting against the monarchy.

Late last month, the Bahraini government banned all protests and gatherings to ensure "security is maintained," after clashes between Shiite-led demonstrators and security forces in the Sunni-ruled country.


Suicide bomber kills police officer, four others

PESHAWAR — A Taliban suicide bomber struck a vehicle carrying a senior Pakistani police officer on Wednesday, killing him and four other people in the country's northwest, police said.

The bomber detonated his explosives as Hilal Hyder's vehicle was passing through a crowded market in the city of Peshawar, said police officer Asif Iqbal.

Mr. Hyder, who was investigating cases against terrorists in the troubled northwest, was killed along with two of his guards and two bystanders, said Mr. Iqbal. At least 37 other people were wounded.

Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan claimed responsibility for the attack, saying Mr. Hyder was working against the militant group.

"We killed him today in Peshawar because he was behind the arrest of some of our fighters," he said.

The Pakistani Taliban have been waging a bloody insurgency for the past several years because they oppose the Pakistani government's alliance with the United States and want to enforce Islamic law throughout the country.

Peshawar has experienced many attacks because it is on the edge of Pakistan's tribal region, the main sanctuary for militants in the country.


Peres dismisses talk of run for prime minister

JERUSALEM — President Shimon Peres is playing down speculation that he might run for prime minister.

The 89-year-old Nobel peace laureate said Wednesday that he plans on completing the final two years of his term. The presidency is a respected but largely ceremonial post.

Aides to Mr. Peres said this week that political operatives from various centrist parties have asked him to return to politics as head of a dovish bloc. Mr. Peres is seen as one of the few figures capable of challenging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in January's parliamentary elections.

At a ceremony in Moscow where he received an honorary degree, Mr. Peres was asked whether he would run.

"I've enjoyed serving my country as president for the last five years and will continue to do so," he told reporters.


Ministries ordered to enforce ban on porn websites

CAIRO — Egypt's top prosecutor has ordered several government ministries to enforce a ban on pornographic websites, three years after a court denounced the sites in strong terms.

An official in the prosecutor's office said Wednesday that the order followed a protest by ultraconservative Muslims known as Salafis, who have launched a campaign called "Pure Net" to prohibit the pornographic websites.

In 2009, an administrative court in Cairo ruled in favor of a lawsuit filed by an Islamist lawyer who argued that the sites were destructive to Egyptian social values, calling them "venomous and vile."

Digital rights researcher Ramy Raoof said similar decisions were not enforced because of costs associated with the technical applications.


Intelligence officer assassinated in capital

SANAA — Gunmen killed an intelligence officer Wednesday in the capital city of Sanaa, in the latest attack against security forces in the country.

Officials said Mohammed El-Fil was shot in the head by assailants on a motorbike.

At least 55 military, intelligence and police officers have been killed in Yemen since mid-2011, with most of the assassinations focusing on individuals working in counterterrorism operations.

Last month, two senior officers were assassinated in a drive-by shooting just outside the capital.

Officials say al Qaeda terrorists are waging a retaliation campaign after a military offensive pushed its militants out of their strongholds in southern Yemen.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports