World Briefs / U.S. plans big arms deal

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WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration plans to announce an arms package to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates worth as much as $10 billion -- the centerpiece of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's visit to the countries next week, according to U.S. officials.

The arms sold to Israel also will include an unspecified number of V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor transport aircraft, air defense radar and KC-135 refueling tankers; the U.A.E. will probably buy 26 F-16 jet fighters, and the Persian Gulf nation as well as Saudi Arabia will each buy precision missiles, said the official who provided details on condition of not being named before the deal is announced.

The missiles being discussed include an unspecified number of the U.S. Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile, a new weapon being bought by the U.S. Navy, the official said. The missile, made by Alliant Techsystems Inc., is capable of attacking ground radar used by countries fielding sophisticated integrated air defenses, such as Syria and Iran.

If the transaction goes through, it will be the first foreign sale of the V-22 tilt-rotor made by Boeing and Textron's Bell Helicopter unit. The U.A.E. already ordered 80 F-16s made by Lockheed Martin Corp. in the late 1990s, and Saudi Arabia operates a fleet of Boeing-made F-15 jets.

London marathon security

LONDON -- Scotland Yard said Friday that it had increased the number of officers assigned to guard the London Marathon on Sunday by several hundred to reassure runners and spectators of their safety.

The London event, one of the world's biggest with tens of thousands of competitors and many more onlookers, is the first major international race of its kind since Monday's bombings in Boston killed three people and wounded more than 170. The 37,000 runners include many stars, like the British Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah who is running only the first half of the race.

Iraq holds regional vote

BAGHDAD -- Iraqis cast ballots in provincial elections today that will test the strength of the main parties and gauge political trends before a parliamentary vote next year.

More than 8,000 candidates are competing for about 400 provincial council seats.

Members of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shiite State of Law Coalition and former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's secular and Sunni-backed Iraqiya are taking part. The Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council and Moqtada al-Sadr's Sadrist Trend, both Shiite and both allied to Iran, are also vying for seats in the vote.

Chavez heir sworn-in

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Nicolas Maduro was sworn in as Venezuela's president after a week in which rising tensions with the opposition over the disputed April 14 vote undermined investor confidence in how the government will manage the world's largest oil reserves.

Mr. Maduro, 50, accepted the yellow, blue and red presidential sash from Maria Gabriela Chavez, the daughter of late President Hugo Chavez, after taking the oath of office at a ceremony in Caracas.

Also in the world ...

Fitch Ratings on Friday stripped the United Kingdon of its cherished top AAA credit score, citing a weaker economic outlook that continues to hinder the country in keeping control of its debt. ... A French family held hostage for two months by Islamist militants in West Africa has been released, French and Cameroonian officials announced Friday. The four young boys, their mother and father and an uncle were kidnapped in February while touring a nature reserve in the far north of Cameroon, near the Nigerian border.

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