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By Piya Sinha-Roy LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Country-pop star Taylor Swift scored big at the American Music Awards on Sunday, taking home four wins including the night's top prize for artist of the year, as some of pop music's biggest names came together for the fan-voted awards ceremony. Swift, 23, beat out Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, Bruno Mars and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis to win artist of the year for the third time, the most times an artist has won the category. Timberlake, 32, who returned to the musical spotlight this year after a five-year hiatus with "The 20/20 Experience," was nominated in five categories and won three, including favorite male pop/rock artist. Newcomer hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, who led the nominees on Sunday with six nods and came away with two wins including best rap/hip-hop artist, used their acceptance speech to address a social issue.
President Hamid Karzai has hedged on signing a vital security pact, putting himself at odds with Washington and an Afghan grand assembly that endorsed the deal setting terms for a future US military presence. "Very significantly, the loya jirga also urged that the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) should be signed before the end of the year," he said. Supporters say the BSA is vital for the period after 2014, when the bulk of NATO's 75,000 remaining troops will pull out, as the Afghan government remains fragile despite 12 years of war against Taliban insurgents. The Taliban, who before the assembly had threatened to target delegates if they backed the agreement, condemned the pact.
Kashgar (China) (AFP) - A Chinese government worker in the ancient Silk Road oasis of Kashgar beckons two women to her streetside stand and logs their details under the gaze of a surveillance camera. The "Project Beauty" campaign aims to discourage women from covering their faces -- a religious practice for some Muslim Uighurs, the largest ethnic group in China's Xinjiang region -- in an attempt to improve security. Xinjiang, a vast area bordering Pakistan and Central Asia in China's far west, beyond the furthest reaches of the Great Wall, has followed Islam for centuries.
By Maggie Fick and Yasmine Saleh CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's president passed a law on Sunday making it illegal to hold demonstrations without the approval of the police and banning protests in places of worship, a move rights groups condemned as a blow to political freedom. As the law was being announced by state media, thousands of anti-government protesters were on streets in Cairo and other cities, as they have been regularly in the nearly three years since a popular uprising ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The number of protests and the scale of political violence have grown since July when the army removed elected Islamist President Mohamed Mursi following mass protests against his rule. The bill signed into law by interim President Adli Mansour requires people to secure police permission for protests at least three days in advance, said presidential spokesman Ehab Badawi.
By Tiemoko Diallo and Adama Diarra BAMAKO (Reuters) - Low turnout and vote abuses marred Sunday elections meant to complete democratic transition in Mali, after a coup last year led to an Islamist takeover of the north that was crushed by French military intervention. Officials said armed men carried off ballot boxes from some bureaux in the Timbuktu region of northern Mali, preventing some people from casting their votes in the legislative poll. The West African country has suffered a surge in Islamist violence since President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was elected in August in a vote that marked a return to democracy after the March 2012 coup. The military putsch plunged Mali into chaos and allowed al Qaeda-linked fighters to seize the northern two-thirds of the country.
The Democratic Republic of Congo arrested a senior opposition politician on Sunday after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant accusing him of trying to influence the war crimes trial of former presidential candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba. The ICC said in a statement that Fidèle Babala Wandu's arrest was part of a wider operation to bring other Bemba associates based in Europe into custody for allegedly influencing witnesses in his case. Bemba faces trial at the ICC for crimes against humanity and war crimes because of actions allegedly committed by his rebel group in neighbouring Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003. The ICC said that Judge Cuno Tarfusser had issued arrest warrants for Wandu, deputy secretary of Bemba's opposition MLC party, two members of Bemba's defence team - Aimé Kilolo Musamba and Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo - and defence witness Narcisse Arido.