World briefs: Blasts kill 25 in Syrian city

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DAMASCUS, Syria -- Two car bombs exploded Wednesday in a government-held district of Syria's battleground city of Homs, killing at least 25 people and wounding more than 100, state media said.

The blasts hit a commercial street inhabited mostly by members of President Bashar Assad's minority Alawite sect in the central city, where government forces have been imposing a heavy siege on rebel-controlled districts.

Homs, a city of about 1 million, has shown great sympathy for the opposition since the early days of the uprising. The city was once known as "the capital of the Syrian revolution" before government forces captured large parts of once rebel-held neighborhoods such as Baba Amr and Khaldiyeh.

Bombing kills 22 in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD -- A powerful explosion ripped through a crowded fruit market in Islamabad on Wednesday, killing at least 22 people and injuring about 100 in the deadliest attack in the Pakistani capital in more than five years.

The attack coincided with government efforts to negotiate a peace deal with the Pakistani Taliban, which was officially observing a cease-fire until today. A spokesman for the Taliban immediately denied responsibility in the bombing.

Instead, a man identifying himself as a spokesman for a little-known separatist group, the United Baluch Army, claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Hopes rise for finding plane

PERTH, Australia -- The frustrating monthlong search for the Malaysian jetliner received a tremendous boost when a navy ship detected two more signals that most likely emanated from the aircraft's black boxes.

Angus Houston, head of a joint agency coordinating the search for the missing plane in the southern Indian Ocean, said on Wednesday that the Australian naval vessel Ocean Shield picked up the two signals on Tuesday, and that an analysis of two sounds detected on Saturday showed they were consistent with a plane's black boxes.

Israel cuts off contacts

JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his ministers Wednesday to cut off contact with their Palestinian counterparts, an official said.

The move is retaliation for a Palestinian bid to join United Nations agencies, which the official said was a violation of the Palestinians' commitment in the peace talks. The Palestinians dismissed the Israeli move, saying both sides rarely meet now as it is.

The latest Israeli-Palestinian spat came as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sought and secured a renewal of political and financial support from his Arab brethren at a meeting Wednesday in Cairo.

Greece back in bond market

ATHENS, Greece -- Four years after Greece became the epicenter of Europe's debt crisis, officials Wednesday announced plans to sell long-term bonds for the first time since Greece was granted 240 billion euros' worth of international bailouts.

The Greek Finance Ministry gave no details about the size and exact timing of the debt offering. But the Greek media put it at 2.5 billion euros ($3.45 billion) and said the offering would begin today.

Rival factions agree to talks

BOGOTA, Colombia -- In what might be the first step toward ending Venezuela's two-month-long political crisis, the government and opposition leaders agreed Tuesday to begin formal peace talks that will be mediated by the Vatican and the foreign ministers of Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador.

The agreement came after the two sides held an "exploratory meeting"' earlier in the day.

Also in the world...

Britain's culture secretary, Maria Miller, resigned from the Cabinet on Wednesday after angering colleagues by making only a brief, 32-second public apology over her handling of an investigation into her parliamentary expenses, which she was forced to repay... A disease damaging banana crops in Southeast Asia has spread to the Middle East and Africa, posing risks to world supply and trade totaling $8.9 billion, according to the United Nations' Food & Agriculture Organization.


-- Compiled from news services

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