World briefs: Bombers kill 31 in Iraqi capital

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BAGHDAD -- Suicide bombers killed 31 people Friday at a sports stadium hosting a campaign rally for thousands of supporters of a militant Shiite group before parliamentary elections, authorities said -- an attack that could unleash more sectarian violence.

An al-Qaida breakaway group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, claimed responsibility for the attack at the Industrial Stadium in eastern Baghdad, which drew about 10,000 backers of the Iranian-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq group.

It said on a militant website that the bombings were to avenge what it called the killing of Sunnis and their forced removal from their homes by Shiite militias.

Chinese tackle pollution

BEIJING -- China's lawmakers approved sweeping new environmental protections this week amid mounting concerns over pollution poisoning the nation's air, water and soil.

The amendments, approved Thursday by the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress, are the first revisions to China's environmental protection law since it took effect in 1989, Chinese state media reported Friday.

Hardly a day passes in China without the revelation of another large, looming environmental problem. On Friday, reports surfaced that batches of rice grown in Hunan province were contaminated with cadmium.

China warns Hong Kong

HONG KONG -- In the bluntest warning yet from a Chinese Communist Party leader about possible protests in Hong Kong's financial district, Vice President Li Yuanchao has called the "Occupy Central" movement an illegal initiative that would threaten the prosperity of the former British colony.

Mr. Li's comments, which were reported in Hong Kong newspapers Friday, enumerated the Chinese government's worries about "Occupy Central," a group seeking to ensure that efforts to liberalize Hong Kong's electoral system are not diluted by demands from Beijing.

The organizers of "Occupy Central with Love and Peace," to use its full name, have warned that if they conclude that proposed electoral changes that emerge from consultations fall short of genuine universal suffrage, they will hold civil disobedience protests in Central, a district crowded with the offices of banks and businesses.

RBS to drop bonus plan

LONDON -- The Royal Bank of Scotland said Friday that it would drop a plan to pay its bankers bonuses of up to two times their annual salaries after an agency that manages the British government's stake in the lender refused to back the proposal.

The decision by United Kingdom Financial Investments, which oversees the government's 81 percent stake in the bank, adds to a firestorm over pay in Europe.

RBS, based in Edinburgh, Scotland, had hoped to put the plan--which would have allowed the maximum bonuses permitted under European rules -- to a vote by shareholders at its annual meeting in June.

150 lashes for driving

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- A woman in Saudi Arabia was sentenced this week to 150 lashes and eight months in jail for driving and striking police officers who arrested her, news websites in the kingdom reported.

Women in the conservative country are prohibited from driving. It appeared that the particularly harsh sentence was handed down because of the charges of resisting arrest and attacking police officers, according to various reports.

-- Compiled from news services



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