World Briefs: South Sudan faces 'emergency'

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JUBA, South Sudan -- South Sudanese President Salva Kiir declared an emergency in two states as the government prepares for peace talks with rebels to stop violence that's brought the country to the brink of a civil war since it began in mid- December.

The order applies to oil-rich Unity state and the Jonglei region, the government said on its Twitter account.

Fighting erupted in the world's newest nation on Dec. 15, when Mr. Kiir accused former Vice President Riek Machar of trying to stage a coup. Wednesday the rebels won control of the key eastern town of Bor, Jonglei's capital. While the South Sudanese army has withdrawn partially from the town, fighting continues in some suburbs, the government said. Rebels are in full control of Unity, according to the Kenyan government.

Putin to beef up security

MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin, visiting the site of the suicide bombings that killed more than 30 people this week, called for increased security nationwide before the Sochi Winter Olympic Games in February.

Mr. Putin spoke to some of those injured during the attacks in Volgograd and met with local officials Wednesday, according to a statement on the Kremlin's website.

Mr. Putin's government, which will seal off Sochi, a city of 345,000 people, had planned to beef up security starting Jan. 7, a month before the Games start. Russia is spending at least $48 billion to stage the Olympics, making them the most expensive Winter Games.

Kerry still hopeful

JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted his Palestinian partner in peacemaking efforts on Thursday, accusing him of embracing terrorists "as heroes," harsh words that clouded the start of Secretary of State John Kerry's 10th trip to the region to negotiate a peace deal he claims is "not mission impossible."

Mr. Kerry arrived in Israel to broker negotiations that are entering a difficult phase aimed at creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel. He had dinner with Mr. Netanyahu and planned to be in the West Bank on Friday to talk with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Musharraf no-show at trial

ISLAMABAD -- It is Pakistan's biggest trial in years: The country's former strongman, a veteran of the powerful military, faces charges of high treason in a case that could result in the death penalty. But so far authorities can't get former President Pervez Musharraf into the courtroom.

Mr. Musharraf was on the way to the latest session Thursday when his heavily secured convoy suddenly turned to speed to a military hospital after he suffered a heart problem..

His lawyers said Thursday that the 70-year-old general was not well and was in intensive care. But the latest detour raised skepticism among some Pakistanis, believing that he was avoiding the embarrassment of appearing in a civilian courtroom.

Also in the world ...

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has put his name on the ballot to run for another term in October, defying repeated calls for him to step down after admitting he smoked crack "in a drunken stupor."...Myanmar's president said Thursday that he backed changing the country's constitution to allow "any citizen" to become president, an apparent reference to Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Prize-winning democracy advocate whose political ambitions have been thwarted for decades by the military.

-- Compiled from news services

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