World briefs (4/25/13)

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Kerry holds Afghan talks

BRUSSELS -- Secretary of State John Kerry brought senior Afghan and Pakistani officials together Wednesday for talks aimed at improving relations between the two nations ahead of next year's withdrawal of NATO combat forces from Afghanistan.

Mr. Kerry met Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani military chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani at Truman Hall, the secluded estate on the outskirts of Brussels that is home to the U.S. ambassador to NATO. Mr. Kerry said as he opened the meeting that the talks were important, as Afghanistan is currently in a "critical transformational period."

The meeting lasted about three hours, but apparently did little to ease the tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan as all sides try to lure the Taliban to peace negotiations.

North Korea topic of talks

BEIJING -- After three days of talks, America's top military officer said Wednesday that he believed that China wanted to limit the nuclear ambitions of North Korea but that it remained unclear how China would work toward that goal.

Contrary to suggestions by some in the United States that China was not interested in solving the North Korean problem, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the "Chinese leadership is as concerned as we are with North Korea's march toward nuclearization and ballistic missile technology."

Gen. Dempsey met with the Chinese leadership Tuesday, including President Xi Jinping, and Gen. Fan Changlong, the vice chairman of the Central Military Commission.

Putin opponent on trial

MOSCOW -- The judge warned the anti-corruption blogger charged with embezzlement not to turn the proceedings into a political trial. The blogger -- Alexei Navalny, a leader of Russia's protest movement -- responded by denouncing the "corrupt, usurping regime" of President Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Navalny's trial began in earnest Wednesday in Kirov after a brief opening a week ago. The activist is accused of embezzling $500,000 worth of timber in 2009 when he was working as an adviser to the local governor.

No nuke program accord

SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea said Wednesday that it had failed to reach a compromise with the United States on its civil nuclear energy program, forcing the two allies to delay the deadline for a deal by two years.

Secretary of State John Kerry had called for an agreement before the planned summit between President Barack Obama and his South Korean counterpart, Park Geun-hye, on May 7.

Differences between the allies remained deep over South Korea's demand that the U.S. lift a ban on enriching uranium and reprocessing spent nuclear fuel.

Also in the world ...

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Wednesday named Enrico Letta, 46, a high-ranking official in the center-left Democratic Party, to form a broad coalition government to try to steer Italy out of political chaos and its worst recession since World War II. ... At least 21 people were killed Tuesday in fighting in western China between security officers and "gangsters," according to the regional government of Xinjiang. ... WikiLeaks said Wednesday it has secured a victory in Iceland's Supreme Court against the financial blockade imposed by Visa and MasterCard on donations for the secret-spilling site. The two were among a half-dozen major U.S. financial firms to pull the plug on WikiLeaks after its decision to begin publishing about 250,000 U.S. State Department cables in late 2010.

-- Compiled from news services

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