World briefs: Japan will get U.S. facility

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TOKYO -- The Japanese and U.S. governments have broadly agreed that the Makiminato Service Area in Okinawa, one of the five U.S. military facilities and precincts in the southern part of the prefecture, will be returned to Japan in the mid-2020s, government sources said Saturday.

Tokyo and Washington will continue talks on the other four facilities, eyeing their return by 2030, the sources also said.

The timing of the return of the facilities and the land on which they sit-- Camp Zukeran, the Makiminato Service Area, the U.S. Army tank farm, Camp Kuwae and the Naha port facility area -- will be set out in a plan to be announced by the two governments in early April.

As for the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa, the governments have begun considering the return of the facility's land in the early 2020s on condition that its functions are relocated within the prefecture, according to the sources.

Rebels enter strategic part

BEIRUT -- Syrian rebels pushed into Sheikh Maqsoud, a strategic neighborhood in the northern city of Aleppo, after days of heavy clashes, seizing control of at least part of the hilltop district and killing a pro-government cleric captured in the fighting, activists and state media said Saturday.

Aleppo, Syria's largest city and a former commercial hub, has been a key battleground in the country's civil war since rebels launched an offensive there in July, seizing several districts before the fighting largely settled into a bloody stalemate.

U.S. transfers some control

KABUL, Afghanistan -- U.S. military leaders on Saturday formally handed over security responsibilities to Afghan troops in an area of Wardak province that was the focus of claims by President Hamid Karzai that American troops were responsible for kidnappings and human rights abuses.

Mr. Karzai initially wanted all American special forces personnel out of Wardak, but later agreed to limit the immediate handover to the Nerkh district.

Shorter Easter Vigil service

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis celebrated a trimmed back Easter Vigil service Saturday at St. Peter's Basilica after having reached out to Muslims and women during a Holy Week in which he began to put his mark on the Catholic Church.

One of the most dramatic moments of the Easter Vigil service -- when the pope would share the light of his candle with others until the entire basilica twinkled -- was shortened this year as were some of the Old Testament readings. The Vatican has said this was in keeping with Francis' aim to not have his Masses go on too long.

Mandela has pneumonia

JOHANNESBURG -- South African officials for the first time Saturday confirmed the seriousness of Nelson Mandela's illness -- pneumonia -- as the former president prepared to spend a fourth night in a hospital.

Mr. Mandela, 94, who has a history of respiratory problems, had a pleural effusion, or fluid in or around the lungs, which had been drained, according to the president's office.

Jamaica to target scams

KINGSTON, Jamaica -- The House of Representatives in Jamaica has passed a bill this week calling for tougher prosecution of those involved in multimillion-dollar lottery scams that mostly have targeted elderly Americans.

Authorities say at least 30,000 calls are made daily from Jamaica to the U.S. as part of the scams.

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