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EGYPT: U.S. slashes democracy aid

President Barack Obama has dramatically cut funds to promote democracy in Egypt, a shift that could affect everything from anti-corruption programs to election monitoring. The cuts over the past year, amounting to around 50 percent, have drawn accusations that the administration is easing off pressure on the autocratic government of President Hosni Mubarak to ensure its support on Mideast policy, including the peace process with Israel. "Obama wants change that won't make the Egyptian government angry," said Ahmed Samih, of a Cairo-based organization that used U.S. aid to monitor parliament elections. Similar cuts have been made in aid to Jordan.

AFGHANISTAN: Italians cleared of death plot

Three Italian medical workers who had been detained for a week were released Sunday, cleared of allegations they were part of a Taliban plot to kill a provincial governor, Italian and Afghan officials said. The intelligence service said the Italians and five Afghan employees of the Italian aid group Emergency were freed because they were no longer believed to be part of the plot. They were arrested April 10 after explosives and handguns were found in an Emergency hospital in Helmand province.

CYPRUS: Hard-liner wins close vote

Hard-line challenger Dervis Eroglu won a key Turkish Cypriot leadership election Sunday, vowing to continue peace talks amid fears his victory could halt reunification negotiations with the Greek Cypriots and scuttle Turkey's bid for European Union membership. Eroglu won just enough votes for an outright victory, with 50.38 percent. Leftist incumbent Mehmet Ali Talat won 42.85 percent, according to results posted on the Turkish Cypriot High Electoral Board's Web site. Eroglu assured supporters in the northern, Turkish-Cypriot half of the divided capital, Nicosia, that he would not abandon the reunification talks.

CUBA: 'Women in White' denied rally

Security agents denied the wives and mothers of jailed dissidents permission to hold their weekly march Sunday, setting off a standoff under the hot sun that ended with the women being led away by officials. After seven years of peaceful, mostly uneventful, Sunday protests, the women, known as the "Ladies in White," were first stopped April 11, and informed they would need permission for future demonstrations. The group, mostly wives and mothers of 75 dissidents arrested in a 2003 crackdown, had been the only one whose protests were tolerated, and they had never requested or received permission before.

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