World briefs: Chavez getting chemo regimen

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Chavez getting chemo regimen

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is undergoing chemotherapy after cancer surgery in Cuba more than two months ago and is in "good spirits" in spite of the severity of the treatment, Vice President Nicolas Maduro says.

Mr. Chavez is enduring the difficult treatment he is receiving at a military hospital in Caracas, Mr. Maduro said on state television late Friday.

After suffering a respiratory infection in late December that required the insertion of a tracheal tube to aid breathing, Mr. Chavez began to improve, Mr. Maduro said, allowing doctors to begin additional treatments that he said included chemotherapy.

Assad's role affirmed

DAMASCUS, Syria -- Iran and Syria on Saturday condemned a U.S. plan to assist rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad and signaled that the Syrian leader intends to stay in power at least until 2014 presidential elections.

The remarks by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, at a news conference in Tehran, Iran, came against the backdrop of a strategic victory for the regime as the military regained control over a string of villages along a key highway to open a potential supply route in Syria's heavily contested north.

Premier gets extension

JERUSALEM -- Israel's president on Saturday granted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a two-week extension to form a governing coalition.

Mr. Netanyahu, Israeli analysts say, finds himself in a bind as he tries to solve the coalition puzzle. His options have been curtailed by an unexpected alliance between two rising stars bent on preventing his long-standing ultra-Orthodox allies from joining the next government.

Yair Lapid, a former television host, stunned the political establishment when his centrist party, Yesh Atid, placed second in the January elections. It won 19 seats in the 120-seat Parliament, positioning Mr. Lapid as a power broker. Adding to his bargaining power, Mr. Lapid has forged an unlikely negotiating alliance with Naftali Bennett's right-wing Jewish Home, the winner of 12 seats.

Austerity opposed

LISBON, Portugal -- Many thousands of demonstrators held marches Saturday in more than 20 cities in Portugal to protest government-imposed austerity measures aimed at lifting the ailing country out of recession.

Tens of thousands of people filled a Lisbon boulevard leading to the Finance Ministry carrying placards criticizing the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, the lenders behind the country's financial bailout.

Clan urged to surrender

MANILA, Philippines -- Philippines President, Benigno Aquino III called Saturday for the surrender of an armed Muslim clan that took over a Malaysian village, making the plea a day after the group lost several members in a violent clash with Malaysian police officers.

Mr. Aquino's statements appeared to undercut assertions that Friday's gun battle, which left 12 Filipinos and two Malaysian police officers dead, had signaled the end of the group's takeover of the village.

The group represents itself as a royal militia in service of the sultanate of Sulu, and for centuries it had controlled the southern Philippines and part of what is now the Malaysian state of Sabah.

-- Compiled from news services

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