World briefs: New Chavez photos shown

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CARACAS -- Venezuela's government Friday showed the first photos of President Hugo Chavez in more than two months, as pressure builds to obtain more information about the leader's battle with cancer in a Cuban hospital.

In one photo, a smiling Mr. Chavez is propped up on a pillow, his face puffy and flushed, reading Thursday's copy of the Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma in the company of his daughters Rosa and Maria.

The photos were released as the government struggles to manage the aftermath of a 32 percent currency devaluation that went into effect this week. A group of students opposed to the government were jailed Thursday after trying to chain themselves to the gates of the Cuban embassy in Caracas to demand a truthful account of Mr. Chavez's illness, which has plunged Venezuela into a period of uncertainty.

EU to check for horsemeat

LONDON -- The European Union agreed Friday to begin random DNA checks on meat products in a bid to put a lid on a spreading scandal over horsemeat, while British authorities announced traces of horse had been found in school meals, restaurant dishes and hospital food, as well as supermarket products.

EU experts also agreed that horse meat should be tested for possible residues of phenylbutazone, an anti-inflammatory drug that is illegal in animals intended to be eaten, proposing that one sample be tested for every 50 tons of meat.

Court stays out of election

NAIROBI, Kenya -- The presidential election is less than three weeks away, yet a major question that could decide the outcome still hangs in the balance: Should two top candidates accused of committing grave crimes be allowed to run?

The two candidates are Uhuru Kenyatta, whose father was Kenya's first president, and his running mate, William Ruto. They have been charged with crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, in connection with the violence that erupted after Kenya's last election, in 2007, when more than 1,000 people died.

But a Kenyan court on Friday declined to intervene in the hotly contested presidential race, saying it did not have the jurisdiction to decide whether the politicians should be disqualified.

Hollande to tackle pensions

PARIS -- President Francois Hollande is preparing to take on a French sacred cow: pensions.

Facing European Union pressure to reach budget targets, the Socialist president is risking the wrath of his core supporters to shrink the pension system, which had a deficit of 14 billion euros ($19 billion) in 2011.

Mr. Hollande may propose separating pension increases from inflation, while leaving the issue of fixing the retirement age to representatives of employees and employers.

He's venturing upon a pension overhaul -- which few of his predecessors have managed without drawing millions into the streets -- as his government says it's unlikely to meet this year's budget-deficit target.

Clashes in Syria kill 150

BEIRUT -- Intense clashes between the Syrian army and rebel fighters near the country's second-largest airport killed around 150 people in recent days, anti-regime activists said Friday.

Elsewhere, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Friday that rebels has seized an air defense base in the village of Hasil, southeast of Aleppo, and were clashing with the army at the nearby Kuwiras air base and around the Wadi al-Deif army base in Idlib province.

-- Compiled from news services



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