World briefs: Vote won't alter Iran nuke policy

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TEHRAN, Iran -- Just hours after Iran's presidential candidates bickered over nuclear policies during a televised debate, the country's foreign minister stepped in with a comment of his own: Nothing will change regardless of the winner.

It's a political fact of life in Iran, where the president is squarely on the world stage but holds little power to sway key policies such as Tehran's nuclear development or relations with the West. Yet as the six candidates -- including a current and former nuclear negotiator -- wrapped up their campaigns Wednesday, perhaps no issues define their immediate challenges more than the nuclear standoff with Washington and its allies and the related economic sanctions strangling Iran's economy.

The overall decisions are firmly in the hands of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the hugely powerful Revolutionary Guard. That message was reinforced after the final presidential debate last week when Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi thanked the candidates for their "perspectives" but noted they "will not impact Iran's foreign policy after the election."

Pakistan drops Iran pipeline

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan's newly elected government Wednesday unveiled its first budget, which gave the go-ahead for buying two new nuclear power plants from China but made no allocation for a long-proposed natural gas pipeline from Iran that had sparked complaints from the United States.

In not budgeting for the Iranian pipeline, agreed to by his predecessor in February, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif tactfully sidestepped a potential diplomatic clash with the United States, which had warned that the pipeline, if it were ever built, could lead to sanctions on Pakistan. The deal also was criticized as a trap for the new administration by Mr. Sharif's brother and de facto deputy, Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab province.

The $35.5 billion budget, which was presented to Parliament by the new minister for finance, Ishaq Dar, suggested that the new government would follow through on Mr. Sharif's plan to resolve the country's power shortages that Mr. Dar said had cut the country's economic growth by 2 percent in the outgoing fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Greece TV-radio upset

ATHENS, Greece -- Greeks were in shock and the fragile coalition government was in disarray Wednesday, a day after Greece unexpectedly shut down the state broadcaster, the most drastic move to slash the country's bloated public sector since Athens applied for a foreign bailout in 2010.

Thousands of protesters, including many of the 2,900 workers laid off from the Hellenic Broadcasting Corp., known as ERT, rallied outside its headquarters northeast of Athens early Wednesday as ERT's symphony orchestra played for them. The crowds dispersed and reassembled later in the morning.

The surprise decision Tuesday to shut down ERT came a day after representatives of the troika -- the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund -- returned to Athens on Monday for new talks on the progress of the country's efforts to overhaul its economy.

EU air travel plan opposed

PARIS -- Air traffic controllers in France kicked off a series of strikes against a European plan to overhaul their industry, forcing the country's main airports to cut their flight timetables in half on Tuesday.

The Civil Aviation Authority said some 1,800 flights were cancelled at Charles de Gaulle, Orly, Beauvais, Lyon, Nice, Marseille, Toulouse and Bordeaux airports.

The strike was called to protest against a European Union plan to centralize control of the continent's air space to eliminate duplication of work across the bloc's 27 countries.

Unions fear the plan will cost jobs and reduce pay for air traffic controllers. They called for more strikes in other countries throughout the EU on Wednesday.

Death camp exhibit to open

AUSCHWITZ, Poland -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will open a new exhibit today at the Auschwitz- Birkenau Nazi death camp, focused both on Jewish prewar life and a book of 4.2 million names of those murdered in the Holocaust.

Located in Block 27 of what was the largest of the death camps operated by Adolf Hitler's Third Reich, the "Shoah" exhibition was designed, curated and built by the Yad Vashem Institute for Holocaust Research.

It replaces a communist-era display which most of nearly 1.5 million people who visit Auschwitz every year chose not to enter, according to the Jerusalem-based institute.

Mandela shows 'progress'

JOHANNESBURG -- Former South African president Nelson Mandela, 94, "is responding better to treatment," President Jacob Zuma said in remarks to Parliament in Cape Town on Wednesday.

It was the first report of an improvement in Mr. Mandela's condition since he was admitted to a hospital in Pretoria on Saturday after suffering a recurrence of a persistent lung ailment, a legacy of the tuberculosis he contracted during the 27 years he was imprisoned for opposing apartheid. His health has been frail lately.



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