World briefs: U.S. Navy ship to be scrapped

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MANILA, Philippines -- The U.S. Navy has decided to scrap the $277 million minesweeper stuck on a Philippine reef, a spokesman said Thursday, while Philippine officials examined potential legal violations and fines to be levied against the United States.

The complete loss of a Navy ship due to an accident during peace time "is a rarity," said Lt. Cmdr. James Stockman, a Navy public affairs officer temporarily based at the U.S. Embassy in Manila.

The ship, the 224-foot USS Guardian, struck the Tubbataha Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the southern Philippines, on Jan. 17. According to UNESCO, the reefs are home to more than 350 species of coral and almost 500 types of fish, including a wide variety of creatures, like whales, dolphins, sharks and turtles.

The Navy is investigating the cause of the incident, including the possibility that inaccurate digital navigation charts were a factor.

14 killed in Pemex blast

MEXICO CITY -- An explosion at the headquarters of Mexico's state-owned oil company killed 14 people and injured 80 Thursday as it heavily damaged three floors of the building, sending hundreds into the streets and a large plume of smoke over the skyline.

There were also reports that as many as 30 people were trapped in the debris from the explosion, which occurred in the basement of an administrative building next to the iconic, 52-story tower of Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex.

There was no immediate cause given for the blast, which also damaged the auxiliary building. But Pemex had said earlier it had evacuated the building as a precaution because of a problem with the electrical system.

Political rivals meet

CAIRO -- Egypt's rival political groups held talks Thursday after days of political chaos and urged continued dialogue to counter widespread violence.

But a statement after the meeting of prominent secular opponents of President Mohammed Morsi and his Islamist allies made no direct reference to a call Wednesday by some of Mr. Morsi's critics for the creation of a government of national unity.

The talks were held under the chairmanship of the country's leading Muslim cleric, Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayyeb of Al Azhar mosque and university, one of the highest seats of learning in the Muslim world.

New Lockerbie probe

LONDON -- British Prime Minister David Cameron made an unexpected visit to the Libyan capital of Tripoli on Thursday and announced that U.K. police will travel to the North African nation to investigate the Lockerbie bombing.

He also held bilateral talks to explore what support and expertise Britain can offer to Libya to strengthen its security and defeat terrorism.

Mr. Cameron said he was "delighted" police would be able to visit Libya and "look into the issues" around the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland. The attack killed 270 people, many of them American.

Self-immolation sentenced

BEIJING -- A court in China gave severe sentences Thursday to two Tibetans found guilty of urging eight people to self-immolate, three of whom died, Xinhua, the state news agency, said.

Lorang Konchok, 40, was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve, which often means an eventual lifetime sentence. His nephew, Lorang Tsering, 31, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The sentencing took place in Aba Prefecture of Sichuan province, an area at the heart of the recent wave of self-immolations by Tibetans. Nearly 100 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009 to protest Chinese rule in Tibetan regions.



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