- - Tuesday, April 10, 2012

RASQUERA — What about growing marijuana to pay off municipal debt? One Spanish village is putting the idea to a vote.

The referendum Tuesday in Rasquera, population 960, in the northeastern Catalonia region is a quirky, legally touchy illustration of Spain’s deep financial woes.

The seven-member Town Council first approved the idea in March, but it ignited such controversy that the mayor agreed to put it to a referendum in the hamlet of mostly retirees.

At least 75 percent must be in favor for the plan to go forward. If that happens, a plot of land will be leased to an association of marijuana buffs in Barcelona who would grow the plants and pay Rasquera $1.7 million.

The creation of 40 jobs - growing, harvesting and packaging the weed - has been estimated.


Bombers kill 18 at government offices

KABUL — Suicide bombers struck two government offices in southern and western Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing 18 people as militants step up attacks across the country with the arrival of spring weather, authorities said.

Insurgents have been targeting Afghan and NATO security forces as they fight to assert their power and undermine U.S. efforts to build up Afghan forces.

Afghanistan’s police and army increasingly are shouldering the job of providing security before the exit of most foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.


Suu Kyi to meet with president

YANGON — Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will see President Thein Sein on Wednesday for what a spokesman describes as a very important meeting before she takes her seat in parliament.

National League for Democracy spokesman Nyan Win said Mrs. Suu Kyi would fly to the capital Naypyitaw to talk at the president’s invitation. He said Tuesday they may discuss democratization and the peace process with ethnic rebels, as well as parliamentary affairs.

The parliamentary session opens April 23.


Official says diplomat freed from kidnappers

CARACAS — Venezuela’s justice minister said a diplomat from the Costa Rican Embassy was freed hours after he was seized by kidnappers.

Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami said in a message on his Twitter account that Guillermo Cholele, the trade ambassador for the Costa Rican Embassy, had been freed and was in good health.

Mr. El Aissami said in the message Tuesday morning that the diplomat was with police and being taken to be reunited with his family.


6 arrested over IRA rally in Londonderry

DUBLIN — Northern Ireland police said they were interrogating six suspected Irish Republican Army dissidents after a masked man declared that attacks against police, security bases and other British targets would continue.

Police said Tuesday that all six men were arrested after a public rally beside an IRA memorial in a cemetery in Londonderry, Northern Ireland’s second-largest city and a power base for IRA splinter groups.

During Monday’s rally, a masked man representing the Real IRA faction told about 200 supporters that its members would keep targeting Northern Ireland police and British soldiers, their bases and unspecified “British interests.”

The Real IRA is one of three splinter groups opposed to the IRA’s 2005 decision to disarm and renounce violence.


Japan, Britain agree on joint arms development

TOKYO — Japan and Britain agreed Tuesday to develop defense weapons together in Tokyo’s first such arrangement outside of its security alliance with the United States.

Japan has cooperated exclusively with the U.S. on missile shield development and other equipment under their long-standing alliance.

Easing its decades-long weapons export ban in December allowed Japan to extend the exception to other defense partners, including European nations and Australia.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his visiting British counterpart, David Cameron, agreed to cooperate in research, development and production of defense equipment.

The leaders agreed to find at least one program as soon as possible in areas that will “contribute to both our countries’ security and peaceful intent.”

They did not elaborate on what kind of weapons would be developed.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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