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Sunday, March 6, 2005; Page A21

Egyptian Legislators Vote In Favor of Election Reform

CAIRO -- Legislators in Egypt's upper house of parliament voted Saturday to allow the country's first presidential elections with more than one candidate.

A week after President Hosni Mubarak surprised the nation by ordering a multi-candidate election, legislators in the Shura Council approved the constitutional amendment sanctioning such a ballot. The amendment still needs to be approved by parliament's lower house.

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The new rules would mark the first time in Egypt's modern history that voters could choose from among more than one presidential candidate. Voters in earlier elections could only cast "yes" or "no" ballots for a single candidate chosen by parliament.

Half of the Shura Council is elected by popular vote and the other half is appointed by Mubarak. The body is regarded more as a rubber stamping body than an effective legislature.

There has been no independent monitoring of Egypt's presidential elections since Mubarak, came to power in 1981, but human rights organizations said earlier this week that they had formed a group to monitor this year's vote.


NEW DELHI -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he had evidence that the United States was planning to assassinate him, an accusation that a U.S. official quickly denied.

"We have enough evidence. . . . If anything happens to me, the person responsible will be the president of the United States," Chavez told reporters in New Delhi, where he signed energy and trade agreements with India's government. He did not offer any evidence.

The U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield, told reporters in Caracas that his country had "no plans or thoughts of assassinating either the president here or any other leader."

"That would be a violation of our federal law," Brownfield said.

Chavez on Friday said Venezuela, a major oil exporter, would not stop supplying oil to the United States unless "the U.S. government gets a little bit crazy and tries to hurt us."


MIRANSHAH, Pakistan -- Pakistani soldiers killed two foreign al Qaeda suspects and arrested 11 people in a remote northern village bordering Afghanistan, senior officials said.

The suspects were hiding in the village of Devgar in North Waziristan province, about 185 miles southwest of the capital, Islamabad, a senior official said on condition of anonymity.

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