World Briefs

Raul Castro gives retirement timetable

HAVANA – Raul Castro announced Sunday he will step down as Cuba’s president in 2018 following a final five-year term, for the first time putting a date on the end of the Castro era. He tapped rising star Miguel Diaz-Canel as his top lieutenant and first in the line of succession.

The 81-year-old Castro also said he hopes to establish two-term limits and age caps for political offices including the presidency – an astonishing prospect for a nation led by Castro or his older brother Fidel since their 1959 revolution.

The 52-year-old Diaz-Canel is now a heartbeat from the presidency and has risen higher than any other Cuban official who didn’t directly participate in the heady days of the revolution.

U.S. special forces must leave Afghan province

KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghanistan’s president ordered all U.S. special forces to leave a strategically important eastern province within two weeks because of allegations that Afghans working with them are torturing and abusing other Afghans.

The decision Sunday seems to have surprised the coalition and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, a separate command. Americans have frequently angered the Afghan public over issues ranging from Qurans burned at a U.S. base to allegations of civilian killings.

“We take all allegations of misconduct seriously and go to great lengths to determine the facts surrounding them,” the U.S. forces said in a statement.

Italians vote seen as key to finance crisis

ROME – Will Italy stay the course with painful economic reform? Or fall back into the old habit of profligacy and inertia? These are the stakes as Italians vote in a watershed parliamentary election Sunday and today that could shape the future of one of Europe’s biggest economies.

Fellow European Union countries and investors are watching closely, as the decisions that Italy makes over the next several months promise to have a profound impact on whether Europe can decisively put out the flames of its financial crisis. Greece’s troubles in recent years were enough to spark a series of market panics. With an economy almost 10 times the size of Greece’s, Italy is simply too big a country for Europe, and the world, to see fail.

Leading the electoral pack is Pier Luigi Bersani, a former communist who has shown a pragmatic streak in supporting tough economic reforms spearheaded by incumbent Mario Monti. On Bersani’s heels is Silvio Berlusconi, the billionaire media mogul seeking an unlikely political comeback after being forced from the premiership by Italy’s debt crisis. Monti, while widely credited with saving Italy from financial ruin, is trailing badly as he pays the price for the suffering caused by austerity measures.

Associated Press