World briefs: Two Koreas agree to talks

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SEOUL -- North and South Korea agreed to minister-level negotiations this week to discuss reopening a joint industrial park as both sides seek limited rapprochement following heightened rhetoric over the North's nuclear program.

South Korea will send Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl Jae to the talks Wednesday and Thursday in Seoul, the ministry said today in an emailed statement. The agenda will focus on reopening the Gaeseong factory shut in April as well as resuming tourism at a North Korean luxury resort, according to the statement.

The meeting offered evidence Kim Jong Un's regime is looking to ease tensions heightened by its threats of pre-emptive nuclear strikes after the United Nations tightened sanctions for its rocket launch and atomic bomb test.

Spike in settlement starts

JERUSALEM -- Official Israeli figures show housing starts in West Bank settlements rose significantly in the first three months of 2013 compared to the same period last year -- numbers that are likely to cast a shadow on the upcoming visit of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

A document on housing starts released by the Central Bureau of Statistics showed that building in the West Bank jumped from 313 housing starts between January and March last year to 865 the same period this year.

Tough sentence given

BEIJING -- A Chinese court on Sunday sentenced a brother-in-law of a persecuted Nobel Peace Prize winner to 11 years in prison on charges of financial fraud, according to friends of the laureate, Liu Xiaobo.

The sentence against Mr. Liu's brother-in-law, Liu Hui, was extraordinary for its severity and is widely viewed as an instance of political persecution. Liu Xiaobo is himself serving an 11-year prison sentence for inciting subversion of state power.

That sentence was handed down in December 2009, after Liu Xiaobo was detained in the wake of writing and circulating an online petition that called for China to gradually adopt constitutional democracy.

Prayers for ailing Mandela

JOHANNESBURG -- Members of former President Nelson Mandela's family visited him at a hospital Sunday as South Africans prayed for him in churches around the country.

Mr. Mandela, revered around the world for his role in winning democratic rights and freedoms for black South Africans, was admitted to a Pretoria hospital early Saturday, suffering from a recurrence of a lung infection that struck in December. He was said to be in serious condition.

His daughter Makaziwe Mandela was among the family members visiting him Sunday. His wife, Graca Machel, was at his bedside.

Roadside bombs kill 2

PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- Two roadside bombs killed two soldiers in a restive northwestern region of Pakistan on Sunday while a gun attack in the country's south killed two more, officials said.

Intelligence officials said three soldiers sweeping the road ahead of a military convoy on the road between the towns of Miran Shah and Razmak in North Waziristan were hit by a bomb planted near an intersection. Two died and one was wounded. They spoke anonymously because they weren't authorized to speak to media.

The Pakistani army recently carried out several offensives in tribal regions along the Afghan border but is reluctant to conduct a massive sweep of North Waziristan, despite the U.S. urging it to do so.

-- Compiled from news services

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