World briefs: Japan seeks free-trade deal

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TOKYO -- Japan will seek to join negotiations for a wide-ranging, multilateral free-trade pact with the United States and other Pacific nations, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday, giving heft to trade talks that could encompass two-fifths of the world economy.

In an impassioned televised address, Mr. Abe portrayed the Trans-Pacific Partnership as Japan's "last chance" to remain an economic power in Asia and shape the fast-growing region's economic future.

With strong opposition from Japan's farming lobby and other powerful interest groups, Mr. Abe takes a big political risk in embracing the free-trade talks. Japan's largest agricultural cooperative has actively campaigned against trade liberalization, saying such a change would decimate the nation's farms, a plea that has resonated among the wider public.

India bars envoy's exit

NEW DELHI -- India ratcheted up its diplomatic standoff with Rome over a shooting incident last year, issuing orders at major airports and seaports Friday that the Italian ambassador was not allowed to leave the country without permission.

The move could send relations into uncharted territory given international conventions against detaining diplomats.

Relations spiraled downhill when two Italian marines on a passing oil tanker shot and killed two Indian fishermen in February 2012, reportedly mistaking them for pirates. Indian prosecutors have charged them with murder.

Libya accused of torture

CAIRO -- Dozens of Coptic Christians were tortured inside a detention center run by a powerful militia in eastern Libya, two of the recently released detainees told The Associated Press on Friday amid a wave of assaults targeting Christians in Benghazi and the latest instance of alleged abuse by Libyan security forces.

Militias have been targeting Christians, women, journalists, refugees and those considered former loyalists of Moammar Gadhafi, who was toppled and killed in Libya's 2011 civil war. The state relies on the militias to serve as security forces since Libya's police and military remain in shambles.

Fathi Ubaidi, one of the top commanders of Libya Shield, denied abusing the Coptic Christians.

Israeli coalition formed

JERUSALEM -- Political leaders on Friday signed agreements to form a new Israeli government that would almost certainly complicate the prospect of jump-starting a moribund peace process, focus attention on the economy and widen the rift between the ultra-Orthodox and more secular communities.

After weeks of tough negotiations, Naftali Bennett, a former leader in the settler community, and Yair Lapid, the founder of a new party focused on domestic affairs, on Friday agreed to join Mr. Netanyahu's coalition, giving Israel a new government just ahead of today's legal deadline.

Zimbabwe holds election

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Zimbabweans vote today in a referendum on a new constitution that restricts the president to two five-year terms and requires a two-thirds vote by members of parliament to approve a state of emergency.

Both President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled the southern African nation since independence from the U.K. 33 years ago, and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, 61, are calling for a yes vote, indicating the constitution will probably be approved.



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