World briefs: Pakistani leader arrested in U.K.

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LONDON -- The British police arrested Altaf Hussain, the leader of a powerful Pakistani political party, on suspicion of money laundering on Tuesday, causing a panicked reaction in Karachi, Pakistan, where businesses closed and residents rushed home fearing possible political violence.

Mr. Hussain was arrested at his home in Edgware in Northwest London early Tuesday as the police began searching the house, said Muhammad Anwar, a senior London-based official with his party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, or MQM. His aides said Mr. Hussain was in too poor of health to be moved, but there were news reports later saying that he had been taken to police headquarters for questioning.

News of the arrest spread rapidly in Karachi, the capital of Sindh province and a city of 20 million that Mr. Hussain's party has dominated for nearly three decades through a combination of electoral politics and street violence.

Syrians vote in election

ISTANBUL -- The Syrian government carried off its anointment of President Bashar Assad to another seven years in office on Tuesday pretty much as everyone had expected it would -- with a huge celebratory turnout in government-controlled areas, angry denunciations from the United States that the exercise was illegitimate, and a surprising lack of rebel efforts to disrupt the balloting.

An Assad victory was a foregone conclusion -- Mr. Assad faced two politically empty candidates with long histories of loyalty to the Assad family -- and it would be difficult to argue with the British Foreign Office's assessment of the polling as "a grotesque parody of democracy."

Rebel stronghold attacked

DONETSK, Ukraine -- After several days of setbacks, Ukrainian security forces sought to take the offensive Tuesday from pro-Russian insurgents in the country's southeast, launching a major assault on a rebel stronghold.

The attack on separatist positions in the city of Slovyansk began at dawn and continued throughout the day, with officials and residents reporting fierce clashes.

Much of the fighting, however, was still conducted from a distance, with Ukrainian forces pounding rebel positions with artillery fire, residents said.

Apostasy death sentence

KHARTOUM, Sudan -- Sudan said the release of a Sudanese mother, whose death sentence for refusing to recant her Christian faith sparked global criticism, depends on the outcome of her legal appeal.

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, will be freed only if the court overturns its apostasy verdict, Sudan's Foreign Ministry said this week in a statement published by Suna, the state-run news agency. It said an undersecretary at the ministry cited by media as saying Ms. Ibrahim would be freed within days was quoted out of context.

Pipeline foes gain support

VANCOVER, B.C. -- A majority of British Columbians want Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reject or delay Enbridge Inc.'s Northern Gateway pipeline amid concern the project could lead to oil spills, a Bloomberg-Nanos poll shows.

Thirty-four percent of respondents want the Canadian government to block the C$6.5 billion ($6 billion) project, which would ship crude from Alberta's oil sands to the B.C. coast for export to Asia, and 33 percent want it delayed for further review. Twenty-nine percent say they want it approved, according to the poll.

-- Compiled from news services

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