World Briefs: China destroys cache of ivory

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SHANGHAI, China -- China publicly destroyed confiscated ivory for the first time Monday as part of efforts to discourage the illicit trade, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The State Forestry Administration and the General Administration of Customs destroyed 6.1 metric tons of ivory in the southern province of Guangdong. Raw tusks and carved ivory pieces seized by the government over the years were dumped into two crushers.

China has observed an ivory ban for 20 years and imposes strong penalties, according to Save the Elephants, an animal advocacy group. Even so, most of the illegal global ivory trade has flowed toward China, the group said Monday.

About 25,000 of the estimated 500,000 elephants in Africa are illegally slaughtered each year for their tusks, conservationists say.

Merkel injured skiing

BERLIN -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel suffered a pelvic fracture after falling during a cross-country skiing trip, forcing her to cancel appointments during the next three weeks.

Ms. Merkel, 59, is under doctor's orders to spend time lying down after she stumbled during a Christmas vacation that ended Dec. 30 in Switzerland's Engadin region, chief government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters Monday in Berlin. While the chancellor still intends to work, a scheduled visit to Warsaw this week was among the trips that were canceled, he said.

Czechs to get new leader

PARIS -- A leftist former finance minister was expected to become prime minister of the Czech Republic after three political parties signed an agreement Monday to form a center-left coalition government.

Under the agreement, the former official, Bohuslav Sobotka, 42, the leader of the Social Democratic Party, will become prime minister, returning his party to power after more than seven years in opposition. Mr. Sobotka, a longtime member of Parliament who trained as a lawyer, also served as deputy prime minister under a previous government.

2 U.S. climbers killed

BUENOS AIRES -- Two bodies found at the bottom of a 650-foot ravine on a mountain in Argentina are believed to be those of two missing American climbers, a local government official said Monday.

Francis Keenan, 28, of Pennsylvania and Jarod Von Rueden, 22, of Wisconsin were trying to scale Mount Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Americas at nearly 23,000 feet, when Mr. Von Rueden sent out a distress signal from his radio Dec. 31.

Search and rescue efforts, delayed by storms, found only the climbers' belongings and safety ropes. On Sunday, a helicopter sighted two bodies on the mountain's glacial upper slopes. The climbers are thought to have fallen.

Rescue workers were trying to retrieve the bodies, the official said.

Sudan talks to resume

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- The president of Sudan said Monday that 20 years of war with South Sudan taught the people of his country that negotiations are the only way forward for the region.

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir said he feared that after allowing South Sudan to hold a vote to break away from Sudan in 2011, the outbreak of violence could mean "that our huge sacrifice did not bear fruit."

Talks in Ethiopia between representatives of South Sudan President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar have gotten off to a slow start. Officials said late Monday that the two sides have agreed on rules for the talks and that they will resume today.

-- Compiled from news services



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