World briefs: Revised charter passing in Egypt

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CAIRO -- A revised constitution validating the military takeover in Egypt this past summer appeared headed for lopsided approval with as many as 98 percent of the votes cast, according to early tabulations in the official and private news media Thursday, as international monitors raised alarms about the fairness of the plebiscite.

Ratification by a wide margin was universally expected, but the turnout and credibility of the referendum are important tests for Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the defense minister who removed President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Approval of the charter will set the stage for Gen. Sissi to run for president.

EU poised to lift sanctions

BRUSSELS -- In Tehran, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency are expected to certify Monday whether Iran is respecting its engagement to rein in its nuclear program, which the Obama administration and U.S. allies fear is directed at producing a bomb.

If the inspectors are satisfied the Iranians are keeping their word, European Union governments, with the White House's blessing, are poised to order a six-month suspension of some of the sanctions that are hobbling Iran's economy.

Mass executions in Syria

GENEVA -- A recent series of mass executions attributed to jihadist rebels in Syria may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, Navi Pillay, the U.N. human rights chief, said Thursday.

The executions appear to have coincided with a succession of fierce battles between opposition groups in northern Syria since the start of the year as moderate and Islamist factions try to drive out hard-line fighters linked to al-Qaida.

Blast in Lebanon kills 3

BEIRUT -- A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden car in Hermel, a town in northeastern Lebanon on Thursday, killing at least three people and wounding more than 20, Lebanon's National News Agency reported.

The bombing is the latest in a string of attacks on civilian areas across Lebanon that many have interpreted as targeting groups backing opposite sides in the civil war in Syria.

End insults, N. Korea says

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea made what it called an "important proposal" Thursday, suggesting a pact with South Korea to stop all cross-border slandering as of Jan. 31.

In return, North Korea also called for an end to the annual joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States -- a long-standing demand that the South has said it had no intention of accepting.

Looting spree in S. Sudan

JUBA, South Sudan -- The U.N.'s top aid official in South Sudan watched helplessly as armed men in uniform stole a car from an aid group. Thugs took $50,000 of goods from Mercy Corps. Tons of food have been stolen, and $500,000 taken from a bank.

With renewed warfare reverberating throughout the world's newest country, wholesale looting of vehicles, equipment and supplies belonging to aid groups is crippling humanitarians' abilities to help.

Also in the world ...

Ukraine, battling the biggest anti- government demonstrations in almost 10 years, passed a slew of legislation Thursday that would curb people's ability to protest. ... Julie Gayet, the actress reported by Closer magazine to be having an affair with French President Francois Hollande, has sued the weekly for breach of privacy.


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