World news briefs: 2/22/14

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U.K. planning new rail route

LONDON -- Britain is stepping up plans to redraw its rail map with a new route to southwest England after storms that swept a historic coastal line into the sea left more than 1 million people cut off from the rest of the system.

Network Rail Ltd., which maintains Britain's tracks, may reopen a disused line to help bypass the ruined Dawlish seawall, a top official said. The plan would most probably cost in excess of 100 million pounds ($167 million), he said.

Storms that battered Britain this month destroyed the Dawlish defenses that protected the Great Western line for 150 years, leaving track dangling above the waves and isolating most of Devon and neighboring Cornwall, including Plymouth with 250,000 people.

Italy's new prime minister

ROME -- Matteo Renzi accepted the mandate to become Italian prime minister a week after toppling Enrico Letta's government in an intra-party dispute.

Mr. Renzi named a 16-member cabinet, with the finance ministry going to Pier Carlo Padoan, chief economist of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The cabinet will be sworn in today in Rome.

Mr. Renzi, 39, is a step away from becoming the youngest head of government in post-World War II Italy.

Corruption probe in China

HONG KONG -- A politically fraught Communist Party corruption investigation focusing on the former head of the domestic security apparatus, Zhou Yongkang, has reached into the sensitive realm of the Chinese intelligence services, with the detention of a senior official, people close to party and military leaders said this week.

Liang Ke, director of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of State Security, was taken into custody last month by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party's arm for investigating official misconduct. The allegations against Mr. Liang are said to involve corruption as well as his ties to Mr. Zhou, whose former portfolio included the Ministry of State Security.

S. Korea approves aid

SEOUL -- South Korea on Friday approved a shipment of $988,000 worth of medicine and powdered milk for North Korea and promised more humanitarian aid as the two Koreas continued emotional reunions of families separated by the Korean War six decades ago.

The Seoul government's approval of the aid shipment by two civic relief groups came a day after the two countries began the family reunions in an event widely seen as easing tensions on the divided peninsula. President Park Geun-hye has promised to increase humanitarian aid if the North improves ties with the South through "trust-building" projects like family reunions, which were last held more than three years ago.

Blast, firefight in Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- Nine al-Shabab militants wearing military fatigues and carrying guns and grenades died after attacking the presidential palace with two car bombs on Friday, in an assault the president called a "media spectacular" by a "dying animal."

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was unharmed, but two government officials were killed.

The attack underscores a worrying new trend in Mogadishu: That despite a period of relative calm following al-Shabab's ouster from Mogadishu in August 2011, militants have carried out a series of deadly assaults in recent weeks that have seen the city hit with mortar fire and pitched battles.

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