World briefs: U.S. pledges more typhoon relief aid

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TACLOBAN, Philippines -- At the typhoon-ravaged airport where Secretary of State John Kerry landed Wednesday, he announced an additional $24.6 million in humanitarian aid designed to help provide clean water, sanitation supplies and temporary shelter.

That pledge comes on top of the $62 million the United States has provided in the most extensive cooperation between Washington and Manila since the U.S. Navy and Air Force closed major bases in the Philippines two decades ago.

Mr. Kerry is the highest-level U.S. official to visit Tacloban since the super-typhoon, which displaced some 3.9 million people and killed more than 6,000 last month in the deadliest Asian disaster since Japan's earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

Syrian rebels reject U.S. talks

BEIRUT -- The most powerful coalition of Syrian rebels, the newly formed Islamic Front, has rejected talks with U.S. officials just days after seizing control of warehouses apparently filled with American military equipment destined for more secular rival rebel groups.

The U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, told Al-Arabiya, a Saudi-owned Arabic language news service, that the leadership of the Islamic Front had refused to meet with U.S. officials, a day after Secretary of State John Kerry opened the door to such negotiations.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Military Council had previously represented the main rebel factions in the international community before spectacularly collapsing in the wake of American refusal to attack the regime for repeatedly using chemical weapons against rebel and civilian targets. Most of the effective rebel units eventually disbanded or joined the Islamic Front, which has called for Islamic rule in a post-regime Syria and has expressed a willingness to work with two al-Qaida-linked factions designated as terrorists by the U.S.

Palestinians may extend talks

BEIT JALLA, West Bank -- The Palestinians are ready to extend current peace talks with Israel beyond an April deadline if a detailed framework agreement is in place by then, the chief Palestinian negotiator said Wednesday.

The comments by Saeb Erekat marked the first time Palestinian negotiators endorsed the U.S. idea of seeking a preliminary rather than a final deal by the end of a nine-month period of negotiations to which both sides agreed at the outset.

Violence spreads in S. Sudan

JUBA, South Sudan -- South Sudan's army lost control of the capital of Jonglei State to militia loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar, who is being hunted by security forces on allegations he helped stage a failed coup this week.

Thousands of residents fled as gunmen went through the town of Bor shooting, Defense Minister Kuol Manyang Juuk said by phone Wednesday. Earlier, forces allied with Mr. Machar took control of two other areas in Jonglei State known as Malual Caat and Panpandia, according to army spokesman Philip Aguer.

While violence erupted outside the nation's capital, Juba was calmer as many shops and the main airport reopened Wednesday after fighting broke out Sunday among soldiers at an army barracks, leaving as many as 500 people dead, Mr. Juuk said. At least 20,000 people are being sheltered at three United Nations compounds.

Obama to name China envoy

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama plans to nominate Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, as his next ambassador to China, according to three officials familiar with the pending announcement.

Mr. Baucus, the chief Capitol Hill architect of Mr. Obama's health care overhaul, had already decided not to seek re-election next year. He has served six terms and is Montana's longest-serving senator. He said in a recent interview that he was not certain of his plans but was looking forward to "a whole new adventure."

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