World news briefs: 4/27/14

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Turkey widens spying powers

ISTANBUL -- Turkish President Abdullah Gul has signed into law a new bill that expands the powers of the National Intelligence Organization, local media reported Saturday.

The bill was passed by parliament last week, despite privacy concerns over new powers being granted to the spy agency, including eavesdropping rights, access to consumer data and the ability to conduct more operations abroad.

The law also provides for prison terms of up to 10 years for journalists who publish leaked classified documents. Sources would also face similar jail time.

Palestinian overture

JERUSALEM -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday that he is willing to continue negotiations with Israel, speaking two days after Israel broke off the latest round of peace talks following the conclusion of a deal between Mr. Abbas's moderate Fatah faction and the militant Islamist group Hamas to form a unity government.

Addressing the Palestine Liberation Organization's Central Council in Ramallah, West Bank, Mr. Abbas said that Israel is negotiating with the PLO and the Palestinian Authority as a whole and that "any government formed would comply with our national agreements ... to recognize the State of Israel and renounce terror."

Israeli officials, however, contend that including Hamas in a Palestinian government would make peace negotiations impossible. Israel holds Hamas responsible for almost daily rocket fire into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip that it rules, and both Israel and the United States have labeled the group a terrorist organization. Hamas refuses to recognize Israel's legitimacy and refuses to talk directly to Israeli officials.

Missing plane search

SYDNEY, Australia -- The Australian authorities are likely to widen the underwater search for wreckage from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 after an unmanned search vehicle has failed to find any trace of the missing jet on the seabed in a remote patch of the Indian Ocean, officials said Saturday.

The Joint Agency Coordination Center said in a statement that the submersible Bluefin 21 had searched 95 percent of an area around where the authorities detected the last acoustic ping believed to have come from the jet, which disappeared March 8 with 239 people on board. "No contacts of interest have been found to date," the statement said.

Launched from the Australian naval vessel Ocean Shield, the Bluefin scoured the seabed in a circle with a radius of 6.2 miles around that last ping, which was believed to have come from the plane's black box data recorders.

15 in ferry crew held

SEOUL, South Korea -- All 15 people involved in navigating the South Korean ferry that sank and left more than 300 people dead or missing are now in custody after authorities on Saturday detained four more crew members, a prosecutor said.

Yang Jung-jin of the joint investigation team said two helmsmen and two members of the steering crew were taken in on preliminary arrest warrants issued late Friday. Eleven other crew members, including the captain, had been formally arrested earlier.

All are accused of negligence and of failing to help passengers in need as the ferry Sewol sank April 16.

Ten days after the sinking, 187 bodies have been recovered and 115 people are believed to be missing, though the government-wide emergency task force has said the ship's passengers list could be inaccurate. Only 174 people survived, including 22 of the 29 crew members.

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