World Briefs: U.S. probes Syria poison reports

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DAMASCUS, Syria -- Reports of a poison gas attack in a rural village north of Damascus were so far "unsubstantiated," said Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, during an appearance Sunday on ABC's "This Week," adding that the United States was trying to establish what really happened before it considers a response.

The details of what happened in Kfar Zeita, an opposition-held village in Hama province some 125 miles north of Damascus, remain murky. Online videos posted by rebel activists showed pale-faced men, women and children gasping for breath at what appeared to be a field hospital. They suggested an affliction by some kind of poison -- and yet another clouded incident where both sides blame each other in a conflict that activists say has killed more than 150,000 people with no end in sight.

Government troops have won a string of triumphs against rebels, particularly around the Syrian capital. Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces also have struck local cease-fire agreements with the opposition in a number of neighborhoods, where weary rebels have turned over their weapons in exchange for an easing of suffocating blockades.

State-run Syrian television blamed members of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front rebel group for the attack, saying they used chlorine gas to kill two people and injure more than 100. It did not say how it confirmed chlorine was used.

Deadly Chilean blaze

SANTIAGO, Chile -- A voracious fire that spread through the hills of the port city of Valparaíso left at least 11 people dead and 500 families homeless Sunday, a day after it forced the evacuation of thousands.

By Sunday morning, the fire was largely under control, officials said.

This is the second catastrophe that President Michelle Bachelet has faced since she took office more than a month ago. On April 1, a magnitude 8.2 earthquake struck northern Chile, leaving six dead and much devastation.

Glencore selling Peru mine

NEW YORK -- Glencore Xstrata Plc has agreed to sell its copper mine project in Peru for $5.85 billion in cash.

In an announcement made Sunday, the Switzerland-based company said it signed an agreement to sell its entire interest in the Las Bambas copper mine to a Chinese consortium led by MMG Limited, a mining company whose biggest shareholder is backed by China's government. The other members of the group are Guoxin International Investment Corp. and Citic Metal Co.

Interim Libyan PM leaving

TRIPOLI, Libya -- Libya's government said the Interim Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani announced Sunday that he has declined a parliamentary mandate to form a new government and will instead step down.

The Libyan government has been in turmoil since the overthrow of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

Hunger strike suspended

HAVANA -- U.S. government subcontractor Alan P. Gross, jailed in Havana for more than four years, called off a weeklong hunger strike but said there will be "further protests" against his treatment by the Cuban and U.S. governments.

The 64-year-old development specialist from Potomac, Md., is serving a 15-year sentence for delivering communications equipment, paid for by the U.S. Agency for International Development, to Cuban Jews.


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