World briefs: Israel probes NSA spying

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JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that he has ordered a probe into reports that the United States and Britain had monitored communications of the previous prime minister and defense minister, calling the actions unacceptable.

Mr. Netanyahu also reiterated Israel's call for the release of Jonathan Pollard, an American Navy intelligence analyst sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for spying for Israel.

Documents leaked by Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the National Security Agency, which detailed surveillance by the agency and Britain's eavesdropping agency, the Government Communications Headquarters, showed that in 2009 they had monitored email traffic of several Israeli officials, including Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister at the time, and the defense minister, Ehud Barak.

Elusive U.S. troop deal

KABUL, Afghanistan -- With about a week left in the year, the Obama administration is backing away from a Dec. 31 deadline for securing a deal to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014, though it is standing by its warning that a total military withdrawal is still possible if delays continue, American and Afghan officials said.

The decision is a tacit acknowledgment of what has become obvious in both Kabul and Washington: Neither a hard sell nor soft persuasion has yet persuaded President Hamid Karzai to go along with the U.S.-imposed timeline for the agreement.

Syria bombing widened

BEIRUT -- Government forces widened a bombing campaign Monday in rebel-held areas of northern Syria, striking Aleppo and a town on the Turkish border in raids that left an estimated 45 people dead, activists said.

The attack on the border town of Azaz was the latest attack using powerful but inaccurate "barrel bombs" on the Aleppo region, said an activist who goes by the name of Abu al-Hassan Marea. He said residents in the town told him that 15 people were killed in the strike. Another activist group, the Local Coordination Committees, gave the same death toll.

The Azaz attack suggests the government is expanding its range of targets a week after it began an unusually heavy air offensive against Aleppo on Dec. 15, dropping barrel bombs on rebel-held areas from helicopters. Aleppo, Syria's largest city, is divided into government-and-rebel-ruled areas.

Election sign-up goes on

BANGKOK -- Representatives of Thailand's governing party slipped past a cordon of protesters Monday to register for the coming election, infuriating the party's detractors, who have vowed to suspend democracy until "reforms" are carried out.

In a signal that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra most likely will return as prime minister if the party wins another majority in the Feb. 2 elections, the governing party put her at the top of its electoral list.

Rolls-Royce probed

LONDON -- Britain's Serious Fraud Office said Monday that it had "opened a criminal investigation into allegations of bribery and corruption at Rolls-Royce," the maker of jet engines and other power systems.

The government agency responsible for prosecuting large-scale corruption and other crime is stepping up a long-running inquiry into the company, which is one of the largest in Britain. The agency had spent about a year weighing the evidence before its director, David Green, decided there were sufficient grounds to go ahead with a criminal investigation.



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