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World Briefs: Religious police losing some powers

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RIYADH | The director of Saudi Arabia's powerful religious police says his forces are losing some of their key powers, including arrests, investigations and raiding houses.

Abdul-Latif al-Sheikh was quoted Wednesday by the Saudi pan-Arab online newspaper Al-Hayat as saying some powers will be reassigned to regular police or to judicial authorities.

He admitted that there have been complaints about his force's behavior.

The religious police enforce a ban on mingling by unrelated men and women, and they patrol public places to ensure women are dressed modestly and that men go to mosques for prayers.

Saudi authorities instructed the religious police, run by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, to draw up guidelines to keep individual officers from imposing their personal interpretations of Islamic rules.

BANGLADESH

Court: Why weren't Buddhists protected?

DHAKA | Bangladesh's High Court asked the government Wednesday to explain why local officials failed to provide security to minority Buddhists whose homes, temples and businesses were attacked over a picture of a burned Koran posted on Facebook.

A two-judge panel asked top bureaucrats of the Home Ministry and local administrators to reply within a week, and ordered authorities to ensure safety in troubled areas of southern Bangladesh.

The judges ruled after a lawyer presented several newspaper reports on last weekend's attacks.

At least 10 temples and 40 homes were torched, looted or vandalized in the coastal district of Cox's Bazar.

The court also asked a government-formed investigative committee to submit its findings to it by Oct. 17.

The government already has removed a local police chief for failing to thwart the attacks.

JORDAN

Capital city braces for rival rallies

AMMAN | A showdown is looming between Jordan's government and the Islamist opposition, with two massive rival demonstrations slated for Friday in the capital, Amman, raising fears of an escalation of tension.

According to organizers, about 200,000 supporters of King Abdullah II's plans for reforms will rub shoulders with an expected 50,000 backers of the Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition bloc.

The rallies are set to take place at the same time at the same location.

"Our demonstration will be peaceful and civilized," Brotherhood official Zaki Bani Rashid said, as he dismissed "provocative rumors" that the rally would call for the king to leave power.

In response to a protest movement that since January 2011 has called for political and economic reforms, King Abdullah has announced elections due to take place before the end of the year.

The Muslim Brotherhood has said it will boycott the polls, as they did in 2010, to protest a lack of reform, arguing that the electoral system favors rural regions seen as loyal to the government.

AUSTRIA

Ancient remains show woman in male trade

VIENNA | An Austrian museum says skeletal remains found in an ancient grave are that of a woman metal worker -- the first indication that women did such work thousands of years ago.

The Museum of Ancient History says the grave originates from the Bronze Age, which began more than 5,000 years ago and ended 3,200 years ago.

In a statement Wednesday, it said that although the pelvic bones were missing, examination of the skull and lower jaw bone shows the skeleton is of a woman.

The museum says tools used to make metal ornaments also were found in the grave northwest of Vienna, leading to the conclusion that it was that of a female fine metal worker.

It says such work had been commonly presumed to be in the male domain.

INDONESIA

2 million-plus workers strike in Indonesia

JAKARTA | More than 2 million factory workers went on a one-day strike across Indonesia on Wednesday to demand better benefits and protest the hiring of contract workers, union officials said.

Hundreds of thousands of laborers from more than 700 companies in 80 industrial estates also took to the streets to demonstrate, national police spokesman Col. Agus Rianto said.

About 200,000 workers marched in the industrial city of Bekasi, just outside Jakarta, while waving flags and chanting "Workers unite! We can't be defeated!"

The workers want an increase in the minimum wage, health insurance and social security for all employees, and a revision of government policies that allow companies to hire temporary workers without benefits, said Yoris Raweyai, chairman of the Confederation of Indonesian Workers' Union.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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