World briefs: Syrian rebels make last stand

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BEIRUT -- Weakened Syrian rebels are making their last desperate stand in Homs, as forces loyal to President Bashar Assad launch their harshest assault yet to expel them from the central city, once known as the capital of the revolution.

Some among the hundreds of rebels remaining in the city talk of surrender, according to opposition activists there. Others have lashed back against the siege with suicide car bombings in districts under government control. Some fighters are turning on comrades they suspect want to desert, pushing them into battle.

The fight for Homs underscores Assad's determination to rout rebels ahead of presidential elections now set for June 3.

Sherpas abandon Everest

KATMANDU, Nepal -- Most Sherpa mountain climbers have decided to leave Mount Everest, a guide said Tuesday, confirming a walkout certain to disrupt a climbing season that was already marked by grief over the 16 lives lost Friday in Everest's deadliest disaster.

Earlier Tuesday, Nepal's government appeared to agree to some of the Sherpas' demands in the threatened boycott, such as setting up a relief fund for Sherpas who are killed or injured in climbing accidents, but the funding falls far short of the Sherpas' demands.

After the avalanche, the government quickly said it would pay the families of each Sherpa who died about $415. The Sherpas said they deserved far more -- including new regulations that would ensure climbers' rights.

Bravery on ferry

MOKPO, South Korea -- As the ferry sank, some crew members gave their lifejackets to passengers. One refused to leave until she shepherded students off the ship, and was later found dead. Others worked from rescue boats to break windows with hammers and pull people trapped in cabins to safety.

Nearly a week after the sinking of the South Korean ferry, with rising outrage over a death count that could eventually top 300, the public verdict against the crew of the Sewol has been savage and quick.

Some fled the ferry, including the captain, but not all. At least seven of the 29 crew members are missing or dead.

Search for missing plane

SYDNEY -- The unmanned submersible scouring the ocean floor for wreckage from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is nearing the end of its underwater search, having covered 80 percent of an area authorities believe to be the most likely resting place of the plane and its 239 passengers.

The Bluefin-21, on its ninth mission Tuesday, was searching an area of the Indian Ocean.

Lawmakers visit shrine

TOKYO -- A group of nearly 150 lawmakers visited the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, after China and South Korea rebuked Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for sending a traditional offering to the site that honors Japan's war dead.

Mr. Abe sent an offering during the annual spring festival that runs until today. Yasukuni honors war dead including 14 World War II leaders convicted as Class-A war criminals.

Scientists predict El Nino

SINGAPORE -- An El Nino will probably start as soon as July, according to the Australian government forecaster, strengthening predictions for the event that can affect weather patterns worldwide and roil commodity prices.

El Ninos can bake Asia, while bringing wetter-than-usual weather to parts of South America and the U.S.


-- Compiled from news services


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