EUROPE
Berlin, Paris to weigh non-U.S. network

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday that she plans to talk with French President François Hollande about building up a European communication network to avoid e-mails and other data passing through the United States.

Merkel, who visits France on Wednesday, has been pushing for greater data protection in Europe after reports last year about mass surveillance in Germany and elsewhere by the U.S. National Security Agency. Merkel’s own cellphone was reportedly monitored.

Merkel said in her weekly podcast that she disapproved of companies such as Google and Facebook basing their operations in countries with low levels of data protection while being active in countries such as Germany with high data protection.

“We’ll talk with France about how we can maintain a high level of data protection,” Merkel said. “Above all, we’ll talk about European providers that offer security for our citizens, so that one shouldn’t have to send e-mails and other information across the Atlantic.”

Hollande’s office confirmed the governments’ discussions on the matter and said Paris agreed with Berlin’s proposals.

— Reuters

LEBANON
Cabinet formed after 10-month impasse

More than 10 months after taking office, Lebanon’s prime minister formed a cabinet Saturday, tapping a wide range of political groups after bridging serious divisions among them, mostly over Syria’s civil war.

Tammam Salam’s 24-member national unity cabinet was announced at the presidential palace and includes members of the Western-backed coalition as well as those of the Iran-backed Hezbollah group and its allies.

Fears of a spillover of Syria’s civil war to its smaller neighbor have intensified pressure on Lebanon’s rival factions to make concessions, facilitating Salam’s task.

The cabinet is not expected to remain in office long, as a new government should be formed after President Michel Suleiman’s six-year term ends in May.

— Associated Press

VENEZUELA
Arrest order issued for opposition leader

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said Saturday that a police manhunt was underway for Leopoldo López, the hard-line opposition leader behind anti-government demonstrations that ended with three deaths.

López “ordered all these violent kids, which he trained, to destroy the prosecutor’s office and half of Caracas and then goes into hiding,” the socialist president told thousands of supporters at a rally in Caracas to denounce what he called a U.S.-backed, “fascist” plot to oust him from power. “Turn yourself in, coward.”

The president said security forces­ acting on a Feb. 12 arrest order are now looking for López, who hasn’t been seen since a Wednesday night news conference in which he vowed that anti-government street protests would continue.

— Associated Press

Turkish lawmakers pass controversial bill: Turkey’s parliament approved a bill that would tighten the government’s grip on a judicial body after a tense, all-night session that saw two legislators injured in a brawl. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government proposed the legislation, which would increase the Justice Ministry’s control over a council that appoints and oversees judges and prosecutors, as it fights a corruption scandal in which people close to him have been implicated.

As Bahrain protests continue, injured officer dies: Thousands of Bahraini protesters clashed with security forces for a second day, paralyzing the capital, Manama, and authorities announced the death of a police officer injured in an earlier bombing. The Interior Ministry said the officer was one of two injured in what it called a “terrorist blast” on Friday in the village of Dair, near the country’s main airport.

London taxi driver killed in windstorm: Strong winds that pummeled Britain killed a taxi driver whose vehicle was crushed by falling chunks of stone from a building and an elderly man who died after a “freak wave” struck a cruise ship in the English Channel, officials said. The 49-year-old taxi driver was killed late Friday in central London near Holborn subway station.

Fossil found in China shows reptile birth: Scientists have discovered the fossil remains of an icthyosaur, an ancient marine reptile, in the act of being born, with two other icthyosaur embryos waiting their turn. The rare fossil was discovered 150 miles east of Shanghai in what was once an inland sea that split China in two.

— From news services