World Briefs: Security high for Egyptian election

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CAIRO -- Egyptians are being asked to vote this week on a vision of their nation's future sponsored by the powerful military, a two-day election widely seen as a referendum on a likely presidential run by the country's top general -- but held in a climate of fear and intimidation.

An astounding 160,000 soldiers and 200,000 policemen were expected to deploy across Egypt today and Wednesday to guard polling stations and voters following months of violence that authorities have blamed on Islamic militants.

The referendum is the sixth nationwide vote since the 2011 ouster of longtime authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak, with the five others possibly the freest ever seen in Egypt. While unlikely to be stained by fraud, this week's vote is taking place at a time when many of the freedoms won in the uprising that toppled Mr. Mubarak have vanished in the months since Mr. Morsi was removed after just one year in office.

Protesters seize streets

BANGKOK -- Anti-government protesters seized key intersections across Thailand's capital Monday, blockading major roads into the heart of Bangkok's downtown districts at the start of a renewed push to derail elections next month and overthrow the prime minister.

The protesters vowed to "shut down" the city of 12 million people, but life continued normally in most places, with the majority of businesses and shops open.

The demonstrators are demanding that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's administration be replaced by a nonelected "people's council" that would implement reforms they say are needed to end corruption and money politics. The main opposition party is boycotting Feb. 2 elections that Ms. Yingluck has called in a bid to ease tension -- and which she would almost certainly win.

Mild praise for nuke deal

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iranian hardliners on Monday cautiously welcomed the completion of an interim nuclear agreement that will provide Tehran with some relief from Western economic sanctions in return for suspending certain nuclear activities for six months.

"This is the first step toward a cease-fire," Rasoul Sanaeirad, a political assistant to the Revolutionary Guard Corps, told the semi-official Fars news agency Monday. "It seems the Americans are determined to overcome the atmosphere of conflict."

The agreement, reached on Sunday, came after seven weeks of negotiations over the details on how to put in place the compromises in principle outlined in November by Iran and the so-called P5-plus-1, the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany.

Groups fight drug cartel

MEXICO CITY -- Armed vigilante groups who have risen up to combat the vicious Knights Templar drug cartel in the Mexican state of Michoacan were surrounding the city of Apatzingan, a main cartel stronghold, Monday morning and were threatening to invade the city, as Mexican government officials scrambled to defuse the situation.

The security Cabinet of President Enrique Pena Nieto was meeting with state officials, including Gov. Fausto Vallejo, late Monday morning.

The federal government has sent troops and police to the region in recent days as the self-defense groups have essentially gone on the offensive, seizing control of a number of towns surrounding Apatzingan. Federal officials have given a kind of tenuous, de facto approval to some of the groups, in some cases allowing troops and police to work alongside the armed peasant groups at checkpoints in the region.

-- Compiled from news services


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