World briefs (3/17/13)

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Swiss tourist raped in India

NEW DELHI -- A Swiss woman who was on a bicycle tour with her husband along central India's tourist trail was gang-raped by seven men, police said Saturday, highlighting again the issue of poor safety for women in the country's public places.

The incident served as a reminder that neither the national outcry against rape since the deadly assault on a student in New Delhi in December nor recent government efforts to impose a tough law against sexual harassment has reduced crimes against women. On the contrary, the capital witnessed 150 rapes in the first 45 days of this year.

Police in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh said the 39-year-old Swiss woman and her husband were traveling by bicycle to the city of Agra, site of the Taj Mahal, the renowned 17th century marble mausoleum.

Afghans protest presence

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The continued presence of U.S. Special Operations troops in Wardak province, against the wishes of the Afghan government -- which had given the Americans until March 10 to remove all troops -- brought demonstrators to the capital on Saturday and provoked a strongly worded denunciation from Muslim clerics.

Also Saturday, President Hamid Karzai's press office issued a statement saying that the Afghan president spoke with the U.S. secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, who asked Mr. Karzai for another week to complete the handover of Bagram prison to the Afghans.

Zimbabweans hopeful

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Zimbabweans voted Saturday in a referendum on a new constitution that paves the way for elections to be held later this year.

Both President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled the southern African nation since independence from the U.K. 33 years ago, and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, 61, are calling for a yes vote.

The rivals have shared power in a coalition government since 2009 following disputed elections that were marred by violence that killed as many as 200 people.

Chavez is entombed

CARACAS, Venezuela Hugo Chavez's remains were laid to rest in a marble tomb in Caracas on Friday in the last of a series of remembrance events before a snap election triggered by his death March 5.

Chavez's coffin was transported in a hearse through the streets lined with throngs of supporters and followed by a motorcade of motorcyclists clad in red, the color of his "21st century revolution." The body was moved from a chapel in the military academy where it lay in state for nine days as millions of Venezuelans filed to bid farewell.

"If there's someone who has earned his place in heaven to be alongside Jesus Christ then that person without a doubt is Hugo Chavez Frias," acting President Nicolas Maduro said. "Mission accomplished, Comandante."

Italy picks leaders

ROME -- Italian lawmakers on Saturday elected center-left leaders for both chambers of Parliament, paving the way for difficult talks to form a new government to get started.

Filling the positions required four rounds of voting in both the lower house and the Senate, highlighting Italy's political gridlock following February elections that gave no party a clear victory.

Laura Boldrini, a former spokeswoman in Italy for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, was chosen to lead the lower house, while anti-mafia prosecutor Piero Grasso was elected Senate leader.

-- Compiled from news services

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