World Briefs: U.S. influence on 'Net faulted

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BERLIN -- The European Union's executive body called Wednesday for new steps to dilute America's broad influence over the architecture of the Internet, exposing a growing trans-Atlantic rift in the aftermath of revelations about U.S. spying in the region.

In a communique presented in Brussels, the European Commission said it would seek a firm timetable to limit U.S. influence over institutions that control the nuts and bolts of the Internet and oversee tasks such as the assignment of .com and .org domain names used to access websites.

Ex-PM accused of bribery

PRAGUE -- Former Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas has been charged with bribery in connection with a political scandal that brought down his government last year and led to early elections, his lawyer said.

Mr. Necas is the highest ranking government official ever to be charged in the Czech Republic. The case relates to an agreement under which three former lawmakers for the Civic Democrats, then headed by Mr. Necas, were offered jobs in state companies in exchange for giving up their mandates and allowing the approval of tax increases they opposed, according to attorney Josef Lzicar.

Protesters targeted

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian Acting Prime Minister Serhiy Arbuzov wants the country's streets and administrative buildings clear of anti-government forces by Sunday as talks with European Union officials continue.

Mr. Arbuzov, who took the reins of government after Mykola Azarov stepped down Jan. 28, said the "political situation" should be stabilizing and urged demonstrators to back down.

Syria conducts air raid

BEIRUT -- Syrian warplanes pounded a rebel-held town near the Lebanese border on Wednesday, activists said, as opposition leaders in Geneva called on Russia to put pressure on the government to prevent the faltering peace negotiations from collapsing.

A second round of talks that started Monday in Geneva is mired in acrimony as government and opposition delegates hurl accusations, unable to agree on a common agenda.

Terror plot thwarted

BEIRUT -- In another sign that al-Qaida-linked groups are moving from Syria into Lebanon, the Lebanese army announced Wednesday that it had intercepted two cars loaded with hundreds of pounds of explosives for suicide attacks, one of which was being driven to Beirut from the Syrian city of Yabroud.

Security officials said the arrest of Naim Abbas, who was described as the mastermind behind several car bombings that have targeted Shiite Muslim neighborhoods in Beirut, also helped uncover a cache of rockets that the group planned to launch to disrupt a memorial service that the militant group Hezbollah had scheduled for Sunday to commemorate fighters who died in Syria and in conflicts with Israel.

Also in the world ...

Vincent Wu, an American businessman who is accused of loansharking, arson, kidnapping rivals and paying thugs to toss acid in the face of a judge, went on trial this week in a case that has raised questions about the use of forced confessions by Chinese courts and prompted concern from U.S. officials. ... U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy on Wednesday pledged to work to quickly reduce the impact of U.S. forces in Okinawa, an island that hosts three quarters of its military facilities in Japan and where doctors once saved her father's life.


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