World briefs (12/15/12)

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Egypt tense ahead of vote

CAIRO -- A deeply polarized Egypt was poised Friday to vote in a referendum that is likely to give the country a new constitution but that risks provoking even greater turmoil after weeks of jousting between onetime revolutionary allies.

With voting due to begin today, the Islamists who back the draft charter and the loose coalition of liberals, leftists and Christians that opposes it were scrambling Friday to mobilize supporters. Most analysts said the superior organization of the Muslim Brotherhood would probably deliver a critical victory for President Mohamed Morsi, who was a longtime leader of the Islamist movement and has called on Egyptians to approve the document, which was largely drafted by his allies.

But few here believe that the vote will do anything to heal the political divisions that have exploded into deadly street clashes in recent days.

The prospect of a "yes" vote on the charter has particularly enraged the young, secular Egyptians who were at the heart of the revolution early last year that drove out President Hosni Mubarak. Since Mubarak fell, they have been consistently outmaneuvered by the Islamists, who belatedly joined them in the streets during the revolution.

Man stabs 22 children

BEIJING -- A man stabbed 22 primary school children in the Chinese province of Henan, according to a statement posted on, a website run by the propaganda bureau of Guangshan county, where the attack took place.

The man, a 36-year-old local resident, was detained, the report said.

Greece unveils tax bill

ATHENS, Greece -- Just a few hours after gaining approval for crucial rescue loans to avoid a messy default, Greek authorities late Thursday unveiled a new tax code demanded by the country's foreign creditors that will increase the burden on middle-income families, self-employed professionals and farmers.

The bill has been the subject of vehement media speculation in recent weeks, with austerity-weary Greeks in no mood for more financial pain.

The government hopes to raise 2.5 billion euros, or $3.25 billion.

Police target dissident

MOSCOW -- The police opened a new criminal investigation on Friday against Aleksei A. Navalny, the street protest leader and anticorruption activist, who is already being questioned in two other cases.

The new charges became public the day before a planned opposition rally in front of the Federal Security Agency that Mr. Navalny said in an interview he would lead despite the announcement.

Reporter's killer sentenced

MOSCOW -- Six years after the death of crusading Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, a former senior police officer was found guilty in Moscow City Court on Friday for his role in the slaying and was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, formerly a police lieutenant colonel and head of the Moscow police surveillance department, was found guilty of ordering subordinates to trail Politkovskaya, providing information to hit men from the northern Caucasus and procuring a hand gun with a silencer for the attack.

Politkovskaya, 48, a New York City-born investigative reporter with Novaya Gazeta known for her scathing attacks on President Vladimir Putin, was shot in the head and chest in the elevator of her apartment house in downtown Moscow on Oct. 7, 2006.

-- Compiled from news services



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