- - Monday, October 15, 2012

EDINBURGH — Scotland moved a step closer Monday to a vote on independence after Scottish and British leaders signed a deal laying the groundwork for a popular referendum that could alter the shape of the United Kingdom.

Officials from London and Edinburgh have been meeting for weeks to hammer out the details. Sticking points included the date and the wording of the question.

On Monday, British Prime Minister David Cameron met with Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond in Edinburgh to approve the deal.

No date was set, but the vote is likely to be held in October 2014, as Mr. Salmond’s nationalists had wished.

PAKISTAN

Wounded girl lands in U.K. for treatment

BIRMINGHAM, England — A Pakistani teen shot in the head by the Taliban for promoting education for girls and criticizing militants has arrived in Britain, where she is to get specialized care.

The attack on Malala Yousufzai, 14, a week ago horrified people across Pakistan and abroad.

Pakistan’s military said doctors recommended Malala be shifted to a center in the U.K. that has the ability to provide “integrated” care to children with severe injuries.

Malala arrived in Britain on Monday afternoon. She was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham in central England, which is also home to the Royal Center for Defense Medicine.

CHINA

Flight training begins on aircraft carrier

BEIJING — China has begun flight training on its first aircraft carrier, with photographs posted on websites Monday showing navy pilots practicing touch-and-go landing exercises.

Military enthusiast websites posted pictures of a J-15 fighter-bomber executing the maneuver, in which the plane makes brief contact with the flight deck before flying on.

It wasn’t clear when the pictures were taken, and they did not appear on the Defense Ministry’s website or in official media.

The exercises are the latest move to provide a combat capability for the carrier, which was launched last month without aircraft or an accompanying battle group.

The next step would be the launching and recovery of aircraft, a much trickier process that may be years away.

PHILIPPINES

Muslim rebels sign pact as step to peace

MANILA — Muslim rebels and the Philippine government overcame decades of bitter hostility and took their first tentative step Monday toward ending one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies with the signing of a preliminary peace pact that provides both hope and challenges.

The framework agreement creates a road map for a final peace settlement.

It grants minority Muslims in the southern Philippines broad autonomy in exchange for ending more than 40 years of violence that has killed tens of thousands of people and crippled development.

It was signed in Manila’s Malacanang presidential palace by government negotiator Marvic Leonen and his counterpart from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Mohagher Iqbal.

Also witnessing the historic moment were President Benigno Aquino III, rebel chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim — who set foot in the palace for the first time — and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose country helped broker the deal.

LITHUANIA

Lithuanians deal blow to austerity, nuke plans

VILNIUS — Dealing a blow to the conservative government’s vision of becoming a regional energy powerhouse, Lithuanians voted instead for big-spending politicians and rejected plans for a new nuclear power plant.

The populist Labor Party, led by a Russian-born millionaire, won Sunday’s election in this Baltic nation with 20 percent of the vote, while the center-left Social Democrats came in second, with 18.5 percent.

The two have agreed to form a new government to replace a center-right coalition, which managed just over 23 percent of the vote.

The exact composition of the next 141-seat Parliament is still not clear pending some runoff votes on Oct. 28, but Labor and the Socialists are expected to gain a majority.

Still, analysts said Monday that the two parties, which campaigned on exorbitant promises, were unlikely to make any radical policy departures, although they would likely slow down harsh fiscal measures needed to introduce the euro in 2014, one of the conservative coalition’s goals.

ISRAEL

Top rabbi faces house arrest

JERUSALEM — Israeli authorities have placed a multimillionaire celebrity rabbi with a strong American following under house arrest and banned him from traveling abroad as they investigate allegations that he bribed a high-ranking officer for access to his police file, police said Monday.

Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto’s legal saga took a dramatic twist this week: Investigators interrogated Rabbi Pinto for three hours Sunday, a police spokesman said, but cut short the questioning after news came that the rabbi’s wife — also questioned in the affair — had overdosed on pills and was rushed to the hospital.

Rabbi Pinto is under 15-day house arrest and a six-month travel ban, but police allowed him to visit his wife in the hospital.

VIETNAM

Communist Party admits graft failings

HANOI — Top Communist Party officials ended a two-week meeting Monday without directly censuring the embattled prime minister, appearing to secure his position for the near future.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung had been under pressure going into the meeting of the party’s Central Committee because of corruption scandals involving state-owned companies and a slowdown in the once red-hot economy.

Some analysts had speculated that Mr. Dung could be forced to resign during the meeting.

Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong said in a televised speech Monday that the party “sincerely admitted” its mistakes in relation to corruption involving some of its members. He didn’t elaborate.

The statement was seen as a rebuke to Mr. Dung, but not the direct censure that some in the party elite were reported to have been favoring.

From wire dispatches and staff reports