World news briefs: 12/27/12

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Egypt arrests Morsi backers

CAIRO -- Egypt's security authorities launched a sweep of arrests of Muslim Brotherhood members on Thursday and warned that holding a leadership post in the group could now be grounds for the death penalty after it was officially declared a terrorist organization, stepping up the government's confrontation with its top political nemesis.

The announcement came as a bomb exploded in a busy intersection in Cairo Thursday morning, hitting a bus and wounding five people.

The terrorist labeling of the Brotherhood takes to a new level the government's moves to crush the group, which rode on elections to dominate Egypt's politics the past three years until the military removed Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July after massive protests against him.

Report on Arafat's death

MOSCOW -- A Russian probe into the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has found that his death wasn't caused by radiation but by natural causes -- a finding that comes after a French probe found traces of the radioactive isotope polonium and a Swiss investigation said the timeframe of his illness and death was consistent with that of polonium poisoning.

Teams of scientists from France, Switzerland and Russia were asked to determine whether polonium, a rare and extremely lethal substance, played a role in Arafat's death in a French military hospital in 2004.

Rebel town to get food

BEIRUT -- Residents of a blockaded rebel-held town near Damascus raised the flag used by the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad in a deal that sees them accept symbolic humiliation in exchange for food, activists said on Thursday.

For nearly a year, Moadamiyeh, a sprawling community west of Damascus was shelled and starved, surrounded by government checkpoints that refused to allow through food, clean water and fuel, pressuring residents to expel anti-Assad rebels among them.

Greenpeace activists

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- Russian authorities issued exit visas to 14 of the 30 Greenpeace members on Thursday, a move that will allow them to leave the country and comes after charges were dropped against them over a protest outside an Arctic oil rig in September.

Greenpeace said other foreign members of the crew were expected to get their exit visas today.

Panel urges delay in vote

BANGKOK -- The Election Commission of Thailand urged that national elections scheduled for Feb. 2 be postponed, further clouding the country's future after a month of debilitating street protests.

The proposed delay was rejected by Phongthep Thepkanjana, a deputy prime minister, who said the government had no power to postpone the elections and warned that a delay could lead to "prolonged violence."

Also in the world ...

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid his respects at the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, honoring Japan's war dead, in an unexpected visit Thursday that drew sharp rebukes from China and South Korea, who warned that the move celebrates his country's militaristic past and could further sour relations. ... Shanghai warned children and the elderly to stay indoors as smog enveloped China's commercial hub, sending levels of the worst pollutants surging to more than 15 times World Health Organization guidelines.

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