- - Wednesday, June 6, 2012

RUSSIA

MOSCOW — A retired colonel from Russia’s counterintelligence agency was convicted Wednesday of spying for the United States and sentenced to 18 years in prison in the latest in a string of spy cases amid tensions in Russia-U.S. relations.

District Military Court spokeswoman Irina Zhirnova said the Moscow court had convicted Valery Mikhailov of passing state secrets to the CIA. She said Mikhailov will be stripped of his rank and sent to a high-security prison.

She said Mikhailov, a retired colonel in Russia’s Federal Security Service, had contacted CIA representatives in Moscow and handed them confidential information. Ms. Zhirnova declined to say when Mikhailov passed the data, or give any further details about Mikhailov or detail the charges against him.

Mikhailov’s case is the latest in a raft of espionage convictions in Russia this year.

Last week, a retired Russian military officer also was found guilty of spying for the U.S. and handed a 12-year prison sentence. In February, a military officer who oversaw missile tests at the Plesetsk launch pad in northern Russia was convicted on charges of providing the CIA with secret information on new missiles and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

AZERBAIJAN

Clinton meets activist, urges more rights

BAKU — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met Wednesday with a prominent Azerbaijani opposition activist who was just freed after serving a year in prison. She also prodded the oil-rich Caucasus nation to do far more to advance democracy and human rights.

Nearing the end of a weeklong Europe trip, Mrs. Clinton spoke with the Harvard-educated Bakhtiyar Hajiyev and urged him to continue his pro-democracy campaigning. She expressed hope that Mr. Hajiyev “will be able to continue his work without interference.”

Mrs. Clinton also met several other political opposition members after eating lunch with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and other top government officials and stressing “the importance of fostering a vibrant civil society and embracing democratic reforms.”

FRANCE

Socialists lowering retirement age

PARIS — France’s new Socialist government moved Wednesday to lower the retirement age to 60 from 62 for certain workers, bucking the trend in developed countries in a gesture to unions that critics say is a costly mistake.

Governments from North America to Europe have been pushing retirement ages higher in recent decades, as people are living longer and spending more years on state-sponsored pension checks.

Raising France’s general retirement age to 62 was a key reform of conservative former President Nicolas Sarkozy. The 2010 measure was aimed at reducing heavy government debts as Europe sunk into a continentwide debt crisis.

New President Francois Hollande, who unseated Mr. Sarkozy last month after riding a wave of voter anger at austerity measures, pledged during his campaign to reconsider the retirement reform.

On Wednesday, Mr. Hollande’s government presented a draft decree at a Cabinet meeting that reverses the retirement age to 60 for some workers, such as those who enter the workforce at 18 or 19 years old, or mothers who leave the workforce to have three or more children.

MEXICO

Leftist accuses rivals of dirty tricks

MEXICO CITY — Mexican leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Wednesday accused his rivals of using dirty tricks and attack ads against him, as his popularity increases ahead of the July 1 presidential election.

Most polls show Mr. Lopez Obrador gaining on front-runner Enrique Pena Nieto of the old ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party.

Mr. Lopez Obrador said Wednesday that Mr. Pena Nieto has grown desperate because a rival has been rising in the polls.

Meanwhile, third-place candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota of the ruling National Action Party has temporarily focused her fire on Mr. Lopez Obrador, instead of the front-runner.

PHILIPPINES

Congress OKs bill to outlaw terror financing

MANILA — The Philippine Congress approved a bill Wednesday that makes terror financing a crime with a long prison term in a Southeast Asian nation that has long been roiled by bombings and kidnappings by extremists.

Financiers of terrorism were previously treated as mere accomplices, but the bill considers them as key players in terrorism. Aside from a 40-year prison term, convicted offenders will be fined up to $23,255, according to a copy of the bill.

It also empowers the government’s Anti-Money Laundering Council to examine assets and bank accounts of suspected financiers of known terrorists and extremist groups even without a court order, Sen. Teofisto Guingona III said.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports


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