World briefs: U.N. cites rapes by Congo troops

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UNITED NATIONS -- Congolese troops fleeing rebels in November raped at least 97 women and 33 girls, some as young as 6, a U.N. report released Wednesday said.

The U.S. Africa Command trained one of the units involved, Commando Battalion 391, in 2010 to be "a model for future reforms within the Congolese armed forces," according to the AFRICOM website.

The U.N. report said the mass rapes occurred after the Congolese army was defeated by the M23 rebels who seized the provincial capital of Goma, in eastern Congo. The national army retreated in disorder.

Tougher immigration rules

LONDON -- Britain moved to toughen immigration rules as the government tried to regain the initiative after recent electoral gains by a populist party that wants the country to curb immigration and leave the European Union.

The proposed changes outlined Wednesday would make it easier to deport foreigners who commit serious crimes, increase fines on companies that use illegal labor and force private landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants. Temporary immigrants would also be forced to pay for some health care.

Putin adviser resigns

MOSCOW -- The Kremlin on Wednesday announced the resignation of Vladislav Surkov, a longtime domestic policy adviser and architect of Russia's highly centralized political system, now under strain from protests.

Mr. Surkov, a former advertising executive, had coined the phrase "sovereign democracy" to describe the Russian system under President Vladimir Putin, a system that preserved popular elections but stripped them of meaning by closely manipulating the process.

A Kremlin statement said Mr. Putin had signed a decree removing Mr. Surkov from his position "in accordance with his own wishes" and effective immediately.

Berlusconi loses appeal

MILAN -- Former Premier Silvio Berlusconi's tax fraud conviction and four-year prison sentence were upheld on the first appeal Wednesday in a case that could see him barred from public office for five years.

In Italy, defendants are legally considered innocent until all appeals are exhausted, and Berlusconi's lawyers are expected to appeal the case to the nation's highest court.

The ruling, which comes just days before prosecutors wrap up closing arguments in his sex-for-hire trial, raises the question of whether Berlusconi's days as a political force are numbered.

Israelis detain cleric

JERUSALEM -- Israeli police detained the top Muslim cleric in the Holy Land Wednesday in a rare crackdown on a leading religious figure, questioning him for several hours before releasing him without charge.

The detention of Mohammed Hussein, the mufti of Jerusalem, which followed recent unrest at a disputed holy site in Jerusalem, drew harsh condemnation from Palestinian leaders and neighboring Jordan and threatened to complicate U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's latest effort to restart Mideast peace talks.

Candidate injured in fall

LAHORE, Pakistan -- Prominent Pakistani politician Imran Khan is expected to make a full recovery despite fracturing three vertebrae and a rib in a dramatic fall at a political rally, his doctor said Wednesday.

Mr. Khan, 60, a former cricket legend whose party is a leading contender in this week's national elections, toppled about 15 feet off a forklift Tuesday that was raising him and three guards to a stage at a rally in the eastern city of Lahore.

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