- Russia's Lavrov says difficult to solve peace treaty issue with Japan
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday it would be difficult to close the gap in positions over a peace treaty and territorial dispute with Japan, two weeks before President Vladimir Putin visits. A territorial dispute between Tokyo and Moscow over a chain of western Pacific islands, seized by Soviet troops at the end of World War Two, has upset diplomatic relations ever since, precluding a formal peace treaty between the two countries. "It's not easy to bridge the gap in the principal positions of both sides, the problem is difficult," said Lavrov at a joint briefing with Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Moscow.
- Syria army retakes over half of rebel east Aleppo
Syria's army advanced overnight deeper into east Aleppo where it now controls more than half of the former rebel stronghold after a fierce assault that has sparked an international outcry. Tens of thousands of civilians have fled eastern neighbourhoods of the battered city since President Bashar al-Assad's regime began its latest offensive in mid-November. Overnight, government troops and allied forces seized the district of Tariq al-Bab where heavy fighting had raged a day earlier, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday.
- Russia's Lavrov says ready for talks with U.S. on rebel pullout from Aleppo
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday Moscow was ready for talks with the United States about a complete withdrawal of all rebels from Syria's eastern Aleppo. Syrian government forces have captured 60 percent of the area previously held by rebels in eastern Aleppo after gaining new ground on the city's eastern edge, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday. [nL5N1DY05N] (Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
- China's Xi says military must be smaller, but more capable
China's armed forces must be smaller but more capable, and if reforms are not properly carried out the military risks falling behind, affecting its ability to wage war, Chinese state media on Saturday cited President Xi Jinping as saying. The cuts come at a time of heightened economic uncertainty in China as growth slows and the leadership grapples with painful economic reforms. Speaking at a two-day meeting on military reform, Xi said militaries must never stick to their old ways and need to change with the times.
- China coal mine blasts kill 38: report
One blast occurred late Tuesday at a private mine in Qitaihe City, Heilongjiang province, trapping 22 workers, Xinhua news agency said. Twenty-one were confirmed dead Friday night, it said, citing provincial authorities. Rescue efforts were hampered by debris from the blast in some of the tunnels, according to an earlier report.
- Indonesia police release treason suspects, continue probe
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian police said they released eight people Saturday who were arrested a day earlier for suspected treason and other crimes. They said they were continuing to investigate the eight, who include prominent citizens, and that three others who were arrested were still being held for questioning.
- Important to solve dispute over Russian islands - Japan's foreign minister
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said on Saturday it was important to solve the issue over disputed Russian islands and to continue talks with Moscow. The chain of western Pacific islands, seized by Soviet troops at the end of World War Two, has precluded a formal peace treaty between the two countries. (Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by Susan Thomas)
- Mass protest demands ouster, arrest of S. Korea president
Hundreds of thousands of protestors marched in Seoul for the sixth-straight week Saturday to demand the ouster and arrest of scandal-hit President Park Geun-Hye ahead of an impeachment vote in parliament. It was the latest in a series of massive anti-Park demonstrations and came just hours after opposition parties filed an impeachment motion that will be put to a vote by lawmakers on Friday. Whether the motion is adopted or not, Park is firmly on course to become the first democratically-elected South Korean president not to complete a full, five-year term.
- Sri Lanka police clash with protesters outside parliament
Police fired teargas and water cannon to disperse thousands of opposition-backed protesters outside parliament Saturday as lawmakers debated the annual budget. Demonstrators led by loyalists of former president Mahinda Rajapakse held up traffic and blocked the main access to the parliament complex for several hours in the capital. Opposition lawmaker Ranjith Soysa said protesters were demanding local elections which were due last year, but postponed to devise a new electoral system.
- S. Koreans rally for 6th weekend calling for leader's ouster
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Rallying for the sixth straight weekend in what has become perhaps South Korea's biggest protests ever, demonstrators in Seoul on Saturday got the closest yet to the president they desperately want removed.
- EU's Mogherini says fall of Aleppo won't end Syria war
By Isla Binnie ROME (Reuters) - European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini is convinced the fall of rebel-held areas of Aleppo to the government would not end the war in Syria, she said on Saturday. "I'm convinced the fall of Aleppo will not end the war," Mogherini said during a panel discussion at a conference in Rome war with U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura. Syrian government forces backed by allied militia have captured swathes of Aleppo from rebel groups over the last week in a ferocious offensive.
- Syrian rebels lose more ground in Aleppo - monitor
Syrian government forces have captured 60 percent of the area previously held by rebels in eastern Aleppo after gaining new ground on the city's eastern edge, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday. At least seven plumes of smoke were seen rising from rebel-held areas of the city on Saturday morning as the sound of jets could be heard overhead, a Reuters witness in the government-held western Aleppo said. The Syrian army backed by allied militia has captured large areas of rebel-held eastern Aleppo in the last week in a ferocious campaign that threatens to deal a major defeat to the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad.
- China lodges protest after Trump call with Taiwan president
By Ben Blanchard BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China lodged a diplomatic protest on Saturday after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump spoke by phone with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, but blamed the self-ruled island Beijing claims as its own for the "petty" move. The 10-minute telephone call with Taiwan's leadership was the first by a U.S. president-elect or president since President Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, acknowledging Taiwan as part of "one China".
- Intense Syrian bombing of besieged Aleppo, troops advance
ALEPPO, Syria (AP) — Syrian warplanes, artillery and mortar rounds have pounded areas in the eastern rebel-held Aleppo enclave, killing at least three, according to opposition activists.
- Beijing protests to US over Trump Taiwan call
Beijing has lodged a protest with the United States over a call between US President-elect Donald Trump and Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen, the foreign ministry said in a statement Saturday. It must be pointed out that there is only one China in the world. Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's territory," the statement said.
- Website seeks to match migrants with employers in Germany
A startup company in Berlin is trying to help integrate last year's flood of migrants into the German workforce with a tailor-made online job market for new arrivals. The website www.MigrantHire.com was ...
- May's Brexit plans face British Supreme Court test
By Michael Holden LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Theresa May's government launches a challenge on Monday against a court ruling that it requires parliamentary approval to start the process of leaving the European Union, a decision that could upset Britain's Brexit plans. If the Supreme Court, the United Kingdom's highest judicial body, dismisses the government appeal it could derail May's timetable for triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and leaving the EU. The government's legal fight comes against a backdrop of claims by some politicians and newspapers that establishment judges want to thwart the Brexit process.
- Malaysia hits out at Myanmar over 'ethnic cleansing'
Malaysia accused Myanmar of engaging in the "ethnic cleansing" of its Rohingya minority Saturday, as former UN chief Kofi Annan visited a burned out village in strife-torn Rakhine state. Tens of thousands of Muslim Rohingya have fled their homes since a bloody crackdown by the Myanmar army in the western state of Rakhine sparked by a string of deadly attacks on police border posts in early October. "The fact that only one particular ethnicity is being driven out is by definition ethnic cleansing," Malaysia's foreign ministry said in an unusually strongly-worded statement.
- Le Pen victory would be 'body blow' to Europe: ex-British PM
Britain's former premier said Saturday the election of France's Marine Le Pen would be a "big body blow" for Europe, saying he hoped for the victory of a mainstream party. David Cameron said the recent rise of "anti-system, populist" and "quite extreme political parties" in western Europe did not mark the end of globalisation, but warned of the immediate need to make a "major course correction" to address related economic and cultural challenges. "If France were to elect Marine Le Pen, that would be obviously a very big body blow for the European project," he said at a Hindustan Times organised conference in New Delhi, hoping for a victory of "a mainstream party that can unite people behind their candidacy".
- South Koreans march close to presidential Blue House demanding Park resign
By Joyce Lee SEOUL (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of South Koreans rallied in Seoul on Saturday in the sixth straight weekend of protests demanding the resignation of scandal-tainted President Park Geun-hye that took them closer than ever to the presidential Blue House. The march came after three opposition parties introduced a bill for parliament to impeach Park, who could become the first democratically elected leader to leave office early in disgrace. The bill, signed by 171 members of the 300-seat unicameral assembly, said Park had violated the constitution and criminal law by abusing her power in the influence-peddling scandal.
- Najib: You can always turn down BR1M
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 ― Malaysians who do not want the government’s cash aid are not forced to accept it, Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak said at the close of his party’s general assembly...
- Hollande vows to fight for weakest until he steps down
French President Francois Hollande vowed Saturday to spend the final months of his presidency fighting to protect the rights of the most vulnerable in society and the world. Speaking on his first foreign trip since announcing he would not stand for re-election, the socialist president also hit out at the policies of the conservative candidate who is now favourite to succeed him in May. "My decisions as president have been based first and foremost on protecting," Hollande said, adding that he had always sought to look out for the "most vulnerable" and "civilian populations threatened by wars and terrorism". "This will be my task until the month of May." Hollande took issue with a campaign pledge by conservative frontrunner Francois Fillon to shed 500,000 public sector jobs if he becomes president.
- The Latest: China lodges 'solemn representations' with US
BEIJING (AP) — The Latest on President-elect Donald Trump's phone conversation with Taiwan's leader (all times local):
- Najib says Malaysia not meddling with Myanmar as Rohingya is ‘universal’ issue
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 ― Malaysia is not attempting to intervene in the sovereign affairs of Myanmar but is taking a strong stand against its treatment of the Rohingya people because of universal...
- Iran's supreme court upholds tycoon's death sentence for graft
Iran's supreme court has upheld the death penalty against Iranian businessman Babak Zanjani for corruption, the judiciary said on Saturday, a sentence critics say will mask the identity of senior officials who supported him. By his own account, Zanjani had for years helped circumvent sanctions by arranging billions of dollars of oil deals through a network of companies stretching from Turkey to Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates. Prosecutors accused Zanjani of owing the government more than $2.7 billion for oil sold on behalf of the oil ministry.
- Najib: 2016 Umno assembly is the best
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 ― Buoyed by a surge of support, Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak declared his party’s general assembly this year to be the best. Najib whose political career in Umno...
- India, Afghanistan plan air cargo link over Pakistan
By Sanjeev Miglani AMRITSAR, India (Reuters) - India and Afghanistan are likely to announce an air cargo service on Saturday to help increase trade that both say is stymied because of their tense political relations with Pakistan that lies between them. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were meeting in Amritsar, a short distance from the Pakistan border, for the Heart of Asia conference aimed at stabilising Afghanistan. Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have gone to war three times and remain bitter foes while ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan have become strained despite their shared religious and cultural identities.
- Putrajaya forms taskforce to probe foreign meddling into Malaysia’s affairs
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 ― The government has formed a federal taskforce to investigate allegations of foreign interference into sovereign matters, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi...
- Nations set to approve heritage protection fund
Representatives of around 40 countries are expected to approve on Saturday establishing a fund to protect heritage sites in conflict-ravaged areas and a network of safe havens for endangered artworks. From Syria to Mali, Afghanistan to Iraq, jihadists have targeted priceless cultural heritage sites that they deem un-Islamic. French ex-culture minister Jack Lang, who heads the Paris-based Institut du Monde Arabe, said the heritage protection fund and safe haven network would be included in a declaration at the end of the Abu Dhabi conference.
- Jury going into next week in ex-officer's murder trial
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — The jury in the murder trial of a former South Carolina police officer charged with gunning down a black motorist will continue deliberating next week, despite at one point Friday appearing deadlocked by a juror who told the judge he could not "with good conscience approve a guilty verdict."
- It's a squeeze, but Paris Impressionist mecca is still a hit
Thirty years after the Musee d'Orsay opened its doors for the first time, it has become as much a Paris landmark as its big sister the Louvre just across the River Seine. An average of 3.5 million visitors a year pour through its spectacular vaulted nave, making it the "most dense museum in the world", according to its director of collections Xavier Rey. Although the Musee d'Orsay is one of the top 10 most visited galleries in the world, it is several times smaller than its rivals.
- Dazed Tennessee residents get first look at wildfire rubble
GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) — Charlotte Moore needed a phone charger.
- Shahrizat: Speed up political funding law to probe anti-govt plotters
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 ― Putrajaya must expedite the legislation of the proposed Political Donations and Expenditure Act (PDEA), Wanita Umno chief Tan Sri Shahrizat Jalil said today. She said...
- US warns crackdown in Myanmar could radicalize Rohingya
WASHINGTON (AP) — It's a scene straight out of Myanmar's dark past: a military offensive waged beyond world view that forces ethnic minority villagers from the smoldering ruins of their homes.
- Fed-up MH370 relatives head to Madagascar
Relatives of missing MH370 passengers were headed to Madagascar Saturday, harbouring hopes of finding seaborne debris, 1,001 days since the mysterious disappearance of the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines jet. Four Malaysians and two Chinese nationals left from Kuala Lumpur and will be joined in Madagascar by other MH370 next-of-kin travelling from France. The Boeing 777 jet was carrying 239 passengers and crew when it disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014.
- For Russia, Trump presidency offers hope of sanctions relief
WASHINGTON (AP) — Russia's government staunchly denies reports that it tampered in the U.S. election or supported either candidate, but once the results were in, members of President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party didn't hold back.
- Iran says extension of sanctions act shows U.S. unreliable
A U.S. Senate vote to extend the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) for 10 years shows the world that Washington cannot be relied upon to act on its commitments, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Saturday. Iran has vowed to retaliate against the ISA extension, passed unanimously on Thursday, saying it violated last year's agreement with six major powers to curb its nuclear programme in return for lifting of international financial sanctions. "To the world community, the extension of sanctions against Iran shows the unreliability of the American government," state broadcaster IRIB quoted Zarif as saying upon arrival in India for an official visit.
- Panel urges better cybersecurity to President-elect Trump
WASHINGTON (AP) — A presidential commission on Friday made 16 urgent recommendations to improve the nation's cybersecurity, including creating a nutritional-type label to help consumers shop wisely and appointing a new international ambassador on the subject — weeks before President-elect Donald Trump takes office.
- The "Two Trumps" surface in president-elect's transition
NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump's skeptics hope the presidency will reveal a serious side of the brash businessman. His supporters want him to keep the freewheeling style that rattled Washington.