World briefs: Koreas approve family reunions

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SEOUL -- North and South Korea said Friday that they will go ahead with planned reunions for families separated since the Korean War, an agreement that comes in spite of Pyongyang's protests over "hostile" South Korea-United States military drills.

Though the agreement had little additional substance, it marks a step toward civility following a particularly testy year of nuclear threats. It also suggests a softening of the North's stance. Only two days earlier, North Korea had demanded that South Korea delay the drills, which are scheduled to begin Feb. 24, coinciding with the Feb. 20-25 reunions.

South Korean government officials describe the reunions, which haven't been held since October 2010, as an urgent humanitarian program, pairing up long-lost relatives who haven't seen one another in six decades.

Iran to improve Internet

TEHRAN, Iran -- Only a handful of countries rival Iran for having the slowest Internet speeds in the world. Simple online tasks can take hours, infuriating some who see the sluggishness as emblematic of a broader paralysis.

By the end of March, the government says, average bandwidth will double -- though even that step would leave Iran ranked about 135th in the world, up from its current 170th, according to comparisons published by Netindex.com.

Privatization plan faulted

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan's government is bracing for criticism when it sells a planned record amount of state assets as Mian Mohammad Mansha, a tycoon linked by the opposition to the ruling party, warns he may be a bidder.

Mr. Mansha, 66, hails from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's home province, expanded his Nishat Group through state asset purchases during Mr. Sharif's first term in office, and opposition party leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has repeatedly claimed Mr. Mansha has benefited from government policies.

Opposition fears reprisals

CARACAS, Venezuela -- A day after national protests left at least three dead and more than 60 injured, Venezuela's opposition on Friday blamed the government for instigating the violence, and President Nicolas Maduro accused foes of trying to topple his administration.

With scattered protests still simmering around the country, both sides were calling for calm even as the government issued arrest warrants for a handful of opposition figures. There were also suspicions that higher-profile targets might be in the crosshairs.

Anti-gay bill advances

KAMPALA, Uganda -- Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni plans to sign a bill into law that prescribes life imprisonment for some homosexual acts, officials said Friday, alarming rights activists who have condemned the bill as draconian in a country where homosexuality already has been criminalized.

Mr. Museveni's decision was based on a report by "medical experts," saying that "homosexuality is not genetic but a social behavior," officials said.

Slain girlfriend mourned

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Just weeks before South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius is due to face trial on charges of murdering his girlfriend, he posted a Valentine's Day message Friday on his website, calling the shooting a "devastating accident."

The killing of Reeva Steenkamp, which took place on Valentine's Day last year, and the subsequent charges against Mr. Pistorius shocked South Africans.



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